#MSCOVID19 info wars

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It is one thing calling for scientists to turbocharge the development of a coronavirus vaccine but quite another to get the population to have the vaccine. The anti-vaxxers are organising rapidly and have started circulating content with false information to achieve their aims. The movie plandemic is one example and is covered in a very good article in the New York Times today.  

The primary reason I started this blog was to counteract anti-science movements and to provide people with MS and their families a rational interpretation of MS-related research. It is interesting to note that there is now good data science to show how anti-science movements, despite having very few initial supporters, get their message across and sow enough confusion to get undecided people to support their movement. 

What I find fascinating, albeit scary, is how dynamic and multifaceted the anti-vaccination campaigns are, which explains their explosive growth in recent times (see figure and paper below). It also shows how gullible people are in general. The study below highlights why we scientists need to fight back using the same tactics. Simply sitting in our ivory towers using traditional media and unidirectional channels will not be good enough to fight the anti-vaccination and other anti-science movements. 

I have a vested interest in this. One of our lines of research is to use an anti-EBV vaccine to prevent MS. If people don’t want vaccines how are we going to get this prevention strategy adopted by funders, ethics committees and more importantly the general population? 

Can you help? Yes, please help fight fake news, by reporting it and calling it out for what it is. And don’t believe the fabricated conspiracy theories that are peddled to support these anti-science movements. The vast majority of conspiracy theories are wrong.

Image from Johnson et al. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views. Nature published: 13 May 2020.

Johnson et al. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views. Nature published: 13 May 2020

Distrust in scientific expertise is dangerous. Opposition to vaccination with a future vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent of COVID-19, for example, could amplify outbreaks, as happened for measles in 2019. Homemade remedies and falsehoods are being shared widely on the Internet, as well as dismissals of expert advice. There is a lack of understanding about how this distrust evolves at the system level. Here we provide a map of the contention surrounding vaccines that has emerged from the global pool of around three billion Facebook users. Its core reveals a multi-sided landscape of unprecedented intricacy that involves nearly 100 million individuals partitioned into highly dynamic, interconnected clusters across cities, countries, continents and languages. Although smaller in overall size, anti-vaccination clusters manage to become highly entangled with undecided clusters in the main online network, whereas pro-vaccination clusters are more peripheral. Our theoretical framework reproduces the recent explosive growth in anti-vaccination views, and predicts that these views will dominate in a decade. Insights provided by this framework can inform new policies and approaches to interrupt this shift to negative views. Our results challenge the conventional thinking about undecided individuals in issues of contention surrounding health, shed light on other issues of contention such as climate change, and highlight the key role of network cluster dynamics in multi-species ecologies.

CoI: we are planning to do an anti-EBV vaccine study to prevent MS

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

19 comments

  • I’m pro science and pro robust medical research (particularly MS research which I suffer from).

    However, many researchers / research teams shoot themselves in the foot by submitting research proposals which promise the world and then don’t deliver. Your hypothesis that the real MS is smouldering MS / SELs and that anti-relapse therapies are just shifting RRMS to PPMS upset my neuro (who called your position extremist). But it does undermine confidence in patients when the “experts” who treat us have such different views about this disease.

    MS researchers need to regain the confidence of MSers or the CCSVI type phenomena will keep reappearing. Time to walk the talk not keep talking / planning:

    “we are planning to do an anti-EBV vaccine study to prevent MS“

    GET ON WITH IT

    • Re: “I’m pro science and pro robust medical research (particularly MS research which I suffer from).”
      Do you suffer from MS or MS research?:-) I think most of us suffer more from the former but the latter may be catching up.

    • We are not vaccinologists. Give us an effective sterilising immunity EBV vaccine and we will do the trial.

      Sterilising immunity means the vaccine has to prevent you from getting infected with EBV. The last attempt at developing an EBV vaccine failed in this regard; although it was effective at preventing infectious mononucleosis.

      • “Give us an effective sterilising immunity EBV vaccine and we will do the trial.“

        A bad workman always blames his tools!

        Looks like you’ve given up on the EBV vaccine route. Given that the current therapies (in your view) aren’t addressing the real MS, do you have anything else in the pipeline that could address the real MS. You’ll need to get your skates on as that NHS / Academic pension gets closer every day.

        • Cec
          We have certain skill sets and to think we can magic vaccines is dream land, this is the realm of people with an interest in vaccines

          • Not only that, EBV may be an important co-factor in the development of a competent immune system and the rare instances of the development of MS and potentially other autoiimunities an unfortunate side-effect.
            It’s a poser isn’t it and not only that, when would you immunise and how long is it effective for as there is a definite danger signal in developing EBV in adulthood.

    • Your hypothesis that the real MS is smouldering MS / SELs and that anti-relapse therapies are just shifting RRMS to PPMS upset my neuro (who called your position extremist)

      Wonder whose pockets your neuro is dipping into…

      Bit behind the curve anyway.

  • Its the final clash of science and religion. As the later becomes more irrelevant, the zealots will target those that make belief in the supernatural unnecessary. That’s why there is a nutcase in the white house, who insists on not wearing a mask knowing full well he has the best medical care at his disposal while asking those who support him to risk their lives whilst cutting the medicare. That’s a free and high quality education isna must in a modern world and likes of Trump will never rise. As Einstein said evil rises when good people turn a blind eye.

    • Quite right but Einstein didn’t say that, it was misattributed to Edmund Burke by John F Kennedy but the original proposition was by John Stuart Mill.
      I will now remove my pedant cap.

      • Thanks MD2. Nothing better then someone improving your knowledge. Thats why Education is the best gift you can give humanity. Enlightens and makes you want the truth even at the risk of being corrected.

  • Every year there are many who do not receive the flu vaccine. These anti-vaxxers contribute directly to the spread of influenza throughout the population and the subsequent death of many. Why would there be any difference when it comes to coronavirus? Unless it is mandated some of the young and healthy will opt not to receive a vaccine. The importance of the vaccine will be in the vulnerable groups that account for the majority of deaths.

  • The vast majority of conspiracy theories are wrong.

    Yep….

    But ” 2 planes hit, 3 building fall”

    Explain that

    🙂

      • “We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.”
        ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

        • Which is why the book is in my top 10 reads of all time. The book has had a profound effect on how I see and interpret the world.

  • You say ‘Distrust in scientific expertise is dangerous’ and also ‘how dynamic and multifaceted the anti-vaccination campaigns are’.

    By its very nature the beast of peer reviewed research is slow. There are so many hoops to jump through, problems getting funding and multiple layers of bureaucracy. It must be very frustrating. You have a hunch but how many years does it take before the hunch becomes reality.

    These various malevolent campaigns do not need to go through the processes of genuine research. They can throw a spanner in the works without getting the nod of approval from anyone else, Yes it is time to show that the possible is feasible, speed is of the essence. This pandemic is showing how quickly things can happen. The speed of research in MS is painfully slow and I believe there is too much silo thinking.

    Put your foot down on the accelerator, get on with it and show us some positive results.

By Prof G

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