ANDERSON –  I’m still getting the occasional email from defenders of coronavirus vaccine critic Dr. Michael Yeadon. The most recent noted that my column in mid-April had relied on Snopes, “a known purveyor of disinformation.” That’s actually the opposite of what Snopes does.
The article I cited pointed out that Yeadon was never actually the chief science officer at Pfizer and he had no real expertise in vaccines. The division he once led focused on developing drugs to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The library at American University has assembled a guide for identifying fake news. It calls Snopes “an independent, nonpartisan website that researches urban legends and other rumors.” “It is often the first to set the facts straight on wild fake news claims,” the library says.
Snopes got its start in 1994, before many of us even knew about the internet, and it soon built a reputation as a reliable place to go for the real scoop on urban legends, hoaxes and folklore.
“When misinformation obscures the truth and readers don’t know what to trust, Snopes’ fact-checking and original, investigative reporting lights the way to evidence-based and contextualized analysis,” the site says. “We always link to and document our sources so readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds.”
My reader suggested I was being snarky by pointing out that LifeSiteNews, the website reporting on Yeadon’s claims, had, by its own admission, been banned from YouTube.
“Yes, there is a reason for that,” she wrote. “It is called CENSORSHIP of anything that goes against what the Communist/Leftists/Democrats want to hear and want the public to hear!”
The website PolitiFact put together a primer for folks trying to sort through the disinformation surrounding the COVID vaccines. “As evidence that vaccines are lethal or otherwise dangerous, vaccine skeptics commonly cite reports from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, a national vaccine safety surveillance program set up by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA that records health issues that arise after vaccinations in the U.S.,” the website says, “But the agencies that run the tracking system warn that the reports shouldn’t be misinterpreted. VAERS records adverse events without confirming whether the vaccine caused them or even if they actually happened. Search results on the system come with this caveat: ‘VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness.’”
More than 320 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 151 million have been fully vaccinated. Public health experts generally agree that Americans are almost always better off with the vaccines than without them.
“Vaccines are by no means perfect,” PolitiFact’s Angie Holan wrote in an email to subscribers. “They can have minor temporary side effects. A small number of vaccinated people will get breakthrough infections and get sick anyway. But for most people, vaccines keep you from getting seriously sick and dying of COVID-19.”
Holan admits it’s hard to talk to people who believe the scary stories circulating on social media, but she recommends a friendly approach using “solid, science-backed information.”
I’ll admit I didn’t really try that with my latest critic. I just didn’t think I’d be able to win her over. Perhaps it was the way she closed her message. “It is irresponsible of you and others in the media to try to suppress and discredit anyone who speaks out about the damage that is being done by these ‘vaccines,’” she wrote. “If you have any desire to be a credible source of news, you will need to do better than this!!”
I decided not to engage her. “I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” I wrote. That was probably an understatement.