WILL CAIN (HOST): It's been announced that indoor masking will be relaxed for immunized people. I don't know about you, but this feels less like liberation, less like crossing a finish line, and more like science trailing common sense. It feels more like a parent who has told you or a boss, for that matter at your job, that you're incapable of doing something you know that you can accomplish, never giving you the simple opportunity. But then finally, when it's given, you feel like saying, I told you so, I knew all along. It makes me more skeptical of all of the CDC's guidance that has gone back and forth -- from masking to social distancing to the level of needed herd immunity when it comes to vaccinations, to whether or not our kids should be jabbed. It makes me more skeptical of the CDC, not less that they finally admitted what we already knew. Vaccinated people can shed the masks. Let's go deeper into that with our first big story of the week, number one.
There has been no greater source for vaccine hesitancy than from the leadership of the United States of America, from President Joe Biden walking around masked after receiving his immunization to the CDC switching guidance every month or so on what Americans should do to keep safe. The mixed messages have left Americans wondering whether or not a) they need a vaccine, b) whether or not it accomplishes what they're selling it as accomplishing, and c) whether or not it's safe.
This is not anti-vax. I am not anti-vax. I don't know how many vaccines I've received in my lifetime. I don't know how many vaccines I felt were safe to give to my children. I'm anything but anti-vax. In fact I don't think would be even fair to call me vaccine-hesitant. I simply have questions about whether or not a vaccine is needed specifically for my children when I balance knowns against unknowns. But the response from so many hasn't been one of persuasion, it hasn't been one of trying to win an argument or show me or any of you out there to have their doubts, the light. It's increasingly become one of hectoring and name-calling and even falling into the realm of bribery. Let me explain. First, this is I guess they're calling it a PSA from last week, a public service announcement that aired on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night television program. These are from doctors, nurses and scientists telling you why you need to get a vaccine.
CAIN: Why do you need to get a vaccine? Because they told you so. Because they're smart and you're an idiot. Because they have expertise and you have none. This isn't an argument. This isn't persuasion. This is an ad hominem attack against anyone who disagrees with you. And this is the posture of the knowledgeable person in 2021. You don't need to convince somebody. You just need to dunk on them. Grow the F up, they say, and get the vaccine. I don't know about you, but that doesn't do a lot to convince me that the vaccine is the right choice for me or my children. And I'm someone who's already gotten the vaccine. That makes me question the choices I've already made.
On the other end of the spectrum, Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, is taking a different approach in Ohio. Anyone that can prove they've been vaccinated will be enrolled in a special lottery in that state. You could win a million dollars. In fact, they will select five individual winners of an Ohio lottery if you've been vaccinated. Now, this is not hectoring or name-calling. This is bribery. And this also is unconvincing. There was a book that came out during the Obama presidency by an author named Cass Sunstein. He was adviser to the Obama administration. The title of the book was Nudge. In this book, Sunstein lays out, there are many ways the government can manipulate, incentivize, and change your behavior beyond the blunt tool of a mandate, beyond just a law. They can nudge you in certain directions, like placing the salad in front of the jello in a cafeteria line, making it more likely through behavioral economics and behavioral choices, you'll pick the salad over the jello. They can do things not to persuade, but to manipulate your behavior. This is what the Republican governor of Ohio is indulging in. He's nudging you towards the vaccine. He's incentivizing you by the potential, albeit low probability, that you too could become a millionaire if you'll just get vaccinated. And I wonder, why doesn't Governor DeWine, why don't these experts on Jimmy Kimmel just make their case? Why don't they just persuade us? If the evidence is on their side, they should be able to win the argument. By resorting to name-calling or bribery, it weakens the perception that they're right. It makes me question whether or not their conclusions are true, if they have to resort to these kinds of means to convince me to do what they want me to do.
And, you know, I do find it odd that all these comedians, all these sports commentators, all these politicians have so few questions. Forget hesitancy, just questions about this vaccine. I find it so odd that it's become a mark of intelligence to accept what pharmaceutical companies are selling you on blind trust. I mean, this is the pharmaceutical companies, some of the biggest businesses on the face of the planet. These are pharmaceutical industries that, for example, when it comes to Johnson & Johnson, have been the subject of over 20,000 lawsuits of women claiming that baby powder containing talc has caused ovarian cancer. Now, I don't know if baby powder causes ovarian cancer or mesothelioma, as has also been alleged or not. Juries have come back in this country with different conclusions. But I do know this, that in 2020, Johnson & Johnson recalled some 30,000 bottles of talcum powder, of baby powder in the United States, Johnson & Johnson also announced in May of 2020 that they would discontinue selling baby powder containing talc in this country. The claim, as laid out in a 2018 Reuters article and in the plaintiff filings of these 20 some odd thousand lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson is that talc and baby powder contain asbestos -- asbestos, which is a known material to cause cancer. Now, I don't know, again, whether or not that's true or not. But I do know this -- that Johnson & Johnson has set aside $3.9 billion to fight litigation on these claims, $3.9 billion set aside to deal with these allegations. And Johnson & Johnson is not alone in earning your skepticism or your questions when it comes to some of their products.
How about Purdue Pharma, one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in this country? Purdue Pharma, over the last several years has pled guilty to three different felonies, two counts of violating an anti-kickback law and another count of conspiring to defraud the United States government. Purdue was part of the opioid crisis taking place across this country. Here is a quick rundown of the largest settlements pharmaceutical companies have agreed to over oh, I don't know the last, let's say, 15 years or so: GlaxoSmithKline, $3 billion; Pfizer, $2.3 billion in settlements; Johnson and Johnson, 2.2; Abbott Laboratories, 1.5 billion; Eli Lilly, 1.4 billion. In all of these settlements, what are the laws allegedly that the pharmaceutical companies violated? False Claims Act. Every single one of them. False Claims Act. Now, of course, this does not mean that everything the pharmaceutical companies does is bad or every product they put out is fraudulent or is ultimately harmful. That is not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is why are we accepting a product that has been approved for emergency use, not sold to us through persuasion, but rather by hectoring, by name-calling, and by bribery.
Now, one of the rebuttals to any kind of questions to the coronavirus vaccine that people have offered is, well, boy, I would have hated to see you during the 1950s. I'm glad you guys, whoever you guys is, weren't capable of convincing people of the problems with a potential polio vaccine the 1950s, as though people that have questions stand in the way of inevitable progress every step of the way.
Let's do that for a moment. Let's examine the polio vaccine and see if it's comparable to the coronavirus vaccine. The polio vaccine took years to develop more than that, decades to research. And in 1953, Jonas Salk finally broke through and developed a potential vaccine for polio. But it was several years more of testing before that vaccine was approved and safe for use for individuals. And even with that, two years later, in 1955, Cutter Industries, which was a pharmaceutical company at the time, their polio vaccine almost undid the entire movement. Some 40,000 people got polio from the vaccine and 10 died. This, of course, sent everyone quickly back to the drawing boards, reformatted, refurbished the vaccine, and made one that was ultimately safe, not just in the short term, but over the long term to eradicate polio. A) The development of the polio vaccine and the coronavirus vaccine simply aren't comparable on a similar time frame. And B), the experience of the polio vaccine itself gives us reason to question what the unknowns are over a longer timeline.
And that's what this is about. It's about knowns versus unknowns. For example, when we debate whether or not to have our 12 or 15-year-olds vaccinated as just approved by the FDA or in a few months when they approve and tell us we need to get our 2 to 12-year-olds vaccinated -- when comparing those risks, we need to be able to balance the known risks of coronavirus for people in that age cohort, what the risk is for young people compared to the unknown risks of the long-term effects of the coronavirus vaccine. Again, I'm not suggesting to you there are long-term bad side effects to the vaccine. But I at least retain some level of humility about what I do not know. And by the way, what any honest scientist will admit, what they do not know about the long-term effects of the vaccine. It could be it is entirely safe. In fact, you could argue that it's probable that it's entirely safe over the long term, but you would have to admit that that is at least an unknown.
Meanwhile, the risk to young people for the coronavirus is known out of five hundred some odd thousand people that have died, 277 were children under the age of 17. This is not an argument against the vaccine. This is not an anti-vaccination stance, whatever that means to be anti-vax. According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary this past week, the definition of an anti-vaxxer has changed and now includes people who oppose a government mandate to the vaccine. So you could be an anti-vaxxer and you didn't even know it. But this is not an anti-vax position. This isn't even a pro-vaccine hesitancy position. This is an honest assessment of what we do not know. This is retaining the ability to ask questions, honest questions that need answers that, believe it or not, no one has the answer to yet. This is an argument for not accepting what a for-profit multibillion-dollar corporation sells you at face value when that same corporation is protected from any downside, when that same corporation has total liability immunity. When has a for-profit company ever not cut a corner when they had potential for zero downsides?
This is an argument for ignoring the quote-unquote, the so-called scientists, the experts, even the medical professionals whose only argument amounts to grow the F up and get the vaccine, whose only argument is I'm smart and you're dumb. This is an argument against the late-night comedians, the sports commentators who know nothing but what they are told from the ever-moving language of the CDC. This is an argument about the ability to ask questions about the health of our children and no amount of bribery, no amount of name-calling, no amount of late-night jokes, and no hectoring should scare us away from caring about the long-term health of our children.
We'll be right back with more of The Will Cain Podcast.
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