Being a person with a left-leaning ideology, the subject of prejudice has always intrigued me. Understanding society, how people think, and how people react to social changes and progress is challenging. With that in mind, out of nowhere, without being Black, I begin to advocate for affirmative action for Black individuals in universities. Without being gay, I start supporting gay marriage. Without being a woman, I advocate for women’s autonomy over their bodies and criticize the structural sexism in society.
As the conversation evolves and there is some resistance on these points, people like me, who champion the social struggles of others, remain steadfast and support our arguments with theory. We reference ideologues, philosophers, numbers, and studies. With this, we explain how society is prejudiced. We always conclude that progress is necessary. Ultimately, our goal is to sensitize those who resist the reality faced by victims.
But it’s all theory-based. It’s the banner of others, without experiencing it firsthand. This is where the fragility presents itself. It’s not uncommon for someone with a different perspective to accuse us of not being directly involved in our own battles and, therefore, not fully understanding the problem. After all, we are not experiencing discrimination firsthand. I admit that, at the very least, this accusation has some validity.
However, during COVID-19, I saw an opportunity to conduct a significant personal experiment on prejudice. The idea for this arose when I read a scientific article published in Nature titled “Discriminatory attitudes against unvaccinated people during the pandemic.“
In summary, this article, published at the end of 2022, concluded that at the height of the vaccination campaign, there was strong intolerance and discrimination based on the COVID-19 vaccine status. Researchers found that in most countries, vaccinated individuals held negative attitudes toward unvaccinated people. However, surprisingly, there was minimal evidence of the reverse, meaning that unvaccinated individuals were not prejudiced against the vaccinated.
And the prejudice observed against the unvaccinated was far from minimal. It was two and a half times greater than the exclusionary attitudes toward immigrants from the Middle East. Researchers discovered that the unvaccinated were as disliked as individuals struggling with drug addiction and significantly more so than people who had been released from prison.
The research was extensive. Researchers found that many vaccinated individuals would not want their close family members to marry someone who was unvaccinated. They also tended to view the unvaccinated as incompetent or less intelligent. A significant portion of the vaccinated population believed that unvaccinated individuals should face restrictions on their freedom of movement. A smaller percentage advocated for restrictions on the freedom of expression for the unvaccinated, even going so far as to suggest that they should not have the right to speak.
And all of this prejudice was deliberately ingrained in society. This is what can be deduced when reading another study conducted before the vaccine products were released: “Persuasive messaging to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake intentions.“
The aim of this research was to determine which messages were most effective to use during the COVID-19 vaccine marketing campaign. Based on this, people were intentionally programmed like robots later on: “It is even more effective to add language framing vaccine uptake as protecting others and as a cooperative action. Not only does emphasizing that vaccination is a prosocial action increase uptake, but it also increases people’s willingness to pressure others to do so.”
However, there was one problem in this marketing plan. The best advertising messages for the product never represented the product’s qualities. The information that vaccines would help reduce transmission, and therefore, getting vaccinated was a pro-social action, was a lie from the outset. Early on, studies showed that vaccines did not reduce infection waves in countries or reduce household transmission.
In other words, despite the effective marketing strategy based on prejudice against the unvaccinated to boost sales, complete with moralistic rhetoric from political leaders against the unvaccinated, these injectable pharmaceutical products were always an individual decision, not a collective one. In essence, they created a massive fraud that generated social tension without scientific or public health justification, all for monetary gain.
However, for me personally, even though I recognized the fraud, this scenario served as a significant parallel social experiment. I wanted to understand what it felt like to experience prejudice firsthand. After all, being left-leaning and advocating against prejudice but never having experienced it left my understanding incomplete.
The opportunity was intriguing. Unlike a Black person entering a store for shopping, who cannot conduct an experiment to understand what it’s like not to experience prejudice because they can’t change their race and enter a different store to observe different treatment, all I had to do was communicate, within certain groups, that I hadn’t taken any COVID-19 vaccines. It was evident that most unvaccinated individuals simply kept their vaccination status concealed to avoid facing judgments.
However, going unnoticed was not my intention. I wanted to understand what it was like to be treated worse than Middle Eastern immigrants, worse than ex-convicts, and worse than a drug addict. Now, thanks to this experience, I have a collection of personal stories that span from the beginning of the vaccination campaign up to the present.
Initially, when vaccines were distributed in Brazil, priority was given to at-risk groups: the elderly and individuals with comorbidities. As more vaccines became available, the age groups eligible to receive the products started to decrease. The news about the new age groups eligible for vaccination was disseminated through various media outlets.
When it got closer to my age group, a friend, slightly older than me, called me on Zoom, something he had been doing occasionally throughout the pandemic. He took the stay-at-home order seriously. During the call, he mentioned that the next day he would drive for two hours to a health center in a distant city to get his vaccine. I found it curious that he had to go so far to obtain the vaccine he wanted. He explained that it was the only health center that would accommodate his comorbidity. In our city, it would take a few more weeks.
This friend had a medical certificate confirming high blood pressure. “This health center accepts your comorbidity as well,” he stated. “What comorbidity? I don’t have a comorbidity,” I replied. He insisted that I did have a comorbidity and that this was the only way he had figured out to get a vaccine earlier. Furthermore, he knew of a doctor who could provide me with the comorbidity certificate.
I explained that I didn’t want any certificate, and I didn’t even need one if I wanted the vaccine because I’m a pilot and was on the government’s priority list. I could simply go to any airport and receive the vaccine on the spot. However, I hadn’t done so because I didn’t desire the vaccine in the first place. By being clear about this, the information that I had no intention of getting vaccinated began to spread.
The rejection was immediate. There was a stark contrast between someone who was willing to obtain a medical certificate for priority, had researched a location that aligned with his medical condition, and was willing to drive two hours to another city to get the vaccine, all just to advance by two weeks. Meanwhile, his interlocutor belittled all of these efforts.
After some time, when life in the city appeared to have returned to normal, I encountered another friend at a bar. He was excessively consuming alcohol daily and expressed with despair, “I’m going to die.” Intrigued, I inquired about the reason, and he explained that he was dealing with a severe leg thrombosis. He limped and feared that his life was hanging by a thread at any moment.
When I asked which vaccine he had received, he mentioned that he had taken the Janssen vaccine, which was known for serious issues of this kind. To such an extent that, shortly after, this vaccine had been suspended in much of Europe, although it was still in use in Brazil. The people around us were astonished by the notion of someone attributing his condition to a vaccine.
Throughout the entire vaccination marketing process, when the age groups for vaccination were gradually lowered, I refrained from interfering when adults chose to receive the vaccines. However, when it came to individuals outside the high-risk group, such as healthy young people and children, I felt it was my duty, at the very least, to issue a warning.
The numbers presented in the study conducted by Vinay Prasad’s team at the University of California and published in the BMJ journal were alarming: the risk of a young person being hospitalized due to vaccine side effects was higher than the risk of being hospitalized with a potential COVID-19 infection.
At the time, a friend insisted on taking his healthy, young son to get vaccinated. I explained the study’s findings and said it wasn’t worth the risk. He insisted that he would go ahead. For some reason, right from the start, the procedure involved not only receiving the vaccine but also posting a photo on social media while consuming the product or displaying the vaccination card. “If you’re going to do that, and if you want me to be the photographer, I’ll come along,” I stated. A bar stool flew in my direction.
Some months later, I was in another bar with several people, and the friend who had the leg thrombosis, after a long treatment, was doing better and joined us. When he arrived, the first thing I asked was about the progress of his treatment. While he explained, I remarked that the Janssen vaccine was really lousy. In a fascinating and coordinated move, everyone else at the table started interrupting, proposing new topics, confirming the research that people want to censor the unvaccinated.
The impression one gets is that everyone is aware that issues can occur, but they adopt a similar attitude to fanatical followers of religions that carry out sacrifices of animals or people. They understand that some individuals will be sacrificed during the process, the aim of which is a “greater good” that will result in the salvation of all humanity, following the will of gods who demanded these sacrifices. Therefore, the matter should not be discussed or questioned.
It seems that people trust that someone is conducting a sound risk-benefit calculation and believe that if the government, the media, and the sellers continue to recommend it, it’s because it’s undoubtedly worth it. It would be unprecedented because, for the first time in the history of the pharmaceutical industry, no one would willingly put their lives at risk with a bad product solely for profit.
A few months ago, with the pandemic no longer dominating the headlines, I was at another bar with a left-leaning friend. An acquaintance joined us and, after making a statement, ended a topic by saying an accusatory phrase: “The murderer you support.” I didn’t attempt to clarify the accusation, and my friend also pretended not to hear.
With Brazilian politics polarized for many years and people engaging in confrontational and oversimplified arguments, I’m used to this. It’s not uncommon in the past decade for someone to accuse me of supporting Stalin, Mao Zedong, or Pol Pot just because I advocate policies against hunger or for inclusion. For some reason, people believe that this is a definitive argument in their favor. Obviously, when the conversation reaches this kind of fanatical argumentation, it’s best to ignore it.
Later, I found out he was referring to Jair Bolsonaro, the former far-right president of Brazil. He had learned that I hadn’t been vaccinated and, with astounding logic, concluded that I was a supporter of Bolsonaro. Of course, my absolute disdain for Bolsonaro doesn’t translate into me having affection for Big Pharma. However, this happened with the vast majority.
While I can’t delve into this further at the moment, someday someone should write a lengthy essay attempting to unravel why the entire Western left suddenly turned into defenders of big American imperialist corporations.
However, now we are in October 2023, and I believed that my personal experience was almost coming to an end. After all, no one talks about COVID vaccines in daily life anymore. It was like that until last week when I went to have some skewers at a bar with outdoor seating. With several people at the table, a friend came to give me some news. Aníbal, a mutual friend, Anibinha, had passed away the previous week.
“Heart attack or stroke?” I asked. For a little over two years, whenever I hear about the deaths of young people I know, I inquire whether it was a heart attack or a stroke. In the past, when young individuals passed away, it was usually due to traffic accidents or similar incidents. Since 2021, I’ve grown accustomed to it: it’s always either a heart attack or a stroke.
I have no qualms about asking whether it’s a heart attack or a stroke because, in the initial study of the Pfizer vaccine, the “gold standard,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, with about 44,000 people, approximately 22,000 in the placebo group and around 22,000 in the vaccine group, more people died from all causes in the vaccine group than in the placebo group. Initially, it was 15 to 14. Soon after, when they updated this number at the FDA, the U.S. regulatory agency, it became 21 to 17. Now, with no surprise, in the most recent update, it’s already 22 to 16.
Yes, that’s exactly what you read. When they tallied the deaths in the study, there were more deaths in the vaccine group than in the placebo group: 22 to 16. And there was fraud in the study, according to an investigation published in the BMJ – British Medical Journal, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Not a surprise for a company that has, in its history, the largest corporate fine in US history, specifically for fraud.
Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 22 to 16 situation eventually worsens even further. Additionally, this trend of excess deaths among the vaccinated has been subsequently confirmed by the VAERS, the US government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Now, since 2022, subsequent demographic data have reinforced the presence of excess deaths among highly vaccinated populations. Everything indicates that we are facing another old and traditional case of iatrogenesis, but this time on a global scale.
At the table, they answered my question. Aníbal, in his 50s, had a sudden heart attack. He is the third of the young friends that I know from the bars to die suddenly from cardiovascular disease since the vaccines were introduced. “It’s these damn vaccines,” I replied. They looked astonished. At that moment, I turned into an immigrant from the Middle East, a drug addict, and an ex-convict.
In response, someone with empathy offered to take me to the health center to get vaccinated. Another person asked, genuinely interested in my response, if I believed the Earth is flat, confirming the research published in Nature where vaccinated individuals tend to believe that the unvaccinated are less intelligent.
After a few minutes, everyone acted exactly as they had been programmed to act: the conversation ended. They got up. Only one other person remained at the table with me. This happened at a table full of progressive people who, just before the vaccine topic, were sharing stories of fetish parties and sexual escapades. A woman was discussing her long-standing relationship with a BDSM slave.
My conclusion is that, more than two years later, in October 2023, people are still irrational when it comes to vaccines. After all, I’ve always regarded all forms of prejudice, whether against black people, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants, or those with a libertarian view of sexuality, as irrational.
But there is still a question. I don’t know if these reactions represent only a confirmation of the prejudice found in the Nature study or if there is another component: the fear of being infected with COVID-19. This may happen because they believe that vaccines reduce transmission; after all, discrimination is based on this knowledge, which was soon found to be false.
However, if this were the motivation, and people were well-informed, prejudice today should be against the vaccinated, as long-term data has started to emerge and it’s not looking good: the more doses people have taken, the higher the chance of contracting COVID. The tables have turned.
At the same time that this alienation is happening, now, in 2023, the excess death data continues to reveal horrifying numbers, even causing concern among life insurance companies. There’s no way to hide it. Even the scientists who promoted the vaccines have acknowledged the high numbers. It can’t be concealed. Meanwhile, I watch the news explaining that the increase in heart attacks and strokes since 2021 is caused by global warming, but also by cold weather. That the rise in heart attacks is due to people being single, and it’s also caused by floods and humidity. And not only that, sleeping too little and sleeping too much, according to scientists, are the real culprits.
Well, honestly? That’s not my problem. The only issue is that the robots are buying into all of this. Observing this phenomenon is yet another social experiment. The danger lies in the possibility of a new, slightly more dangerous COVID variant emerging, and all these people deciding for me that I should be vaccinated. After all, it’s wiser for them to make the decision for me since I’m not very intelligent.
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