COVID-19 vaccinations have caused human magnetism, according to one doctor.

Sherry Tenpenny testifying in June to the Ohio legislature on House Bill 248 asserted, “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. … You can put a key on their foreheads; it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over, and they stick.”

Tenpenny, a doctor of osteopathic medicine turned anti-vaccination activist who became well-known for her book, Saying No to Vaccines, has made several disproven claims about the COVID-19 vaccines in recent months.

In February, she claimed the vaccines would lead to autoimmune diseases within a year. In addition, she has claimed that vaccines can damage the surface of sperm causing infertility and birth defects. My favorite claim is that the vaccines might explain the disruption of 5G cellular signals.

Her sensational claims are lacking in significant scientific data.

With nearly half of the country vaccinated, I would think we would be beyond this by now.

The truth is, almost none of the anti-vaccination arguments circulating are new. They have floated around for over a century.

There have historically been three commonly recurring arguments against immunizations. Let me address each of these.

  1. Asserting that vaccines cause illness or some other harm.

Illnesses from tuberculosis and cancer to autism have been blamed on one vaccine or another.

While these claims might have been rooted in reality over 100 years ago – due to poor medical practices, the reuse of needles or the lack of hand hygiene – that is not the case today.

The most common modern version of this argument was a 1998 report published in The Lancet by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism.

While the article has been disproven multiple times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still has to regularly publish statements about vaccinations and autism.

Potential vaccine side effects have been tracked very closely for years. The Department of Health and Human Services maintains the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System created in 1986 with the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.

Vaccines are not produced and then thrown onto an unwitting public. Even with such safeguards, 90% of vaccine-resistant Americans cite side effects as a reason.

  1. Negating the seriousness of the illness from which a vaccine provides protection.

This tactic was common during the late 19th century and during the smallpox scare of the 1920s when mortality numbers were underreported.

The goal was – and is – to imply that the risk of side effects from the vaccine is greater than the disease itself.

During the last decade, Washington state saw a record number of whooping cough cases after a decade-long campaign by anti-vaxxers who argued that the disease was rarely seen any more and not that serious. As a result, a 1,300% increase in cases occurred in 2012, resulting in the highest number of cases since 1942.

We saw this same strategy last year when COVID-19 was compared to the seasonal flu.

To date, the U.S. has seen more than 600,000 COVID-19-related deaths, with COVID-19 cases nearing 34 million. By comparison, during the flu pandemic of 1918-20, it is estimated that the U.S. had 675,000 flu-related deaths.

Anti-vaxxers are quick to point out that the U.S.’s current population is three times that of 1918, but they neglect to point out the medical advances of the 20th century.

Today, we have mechanical ventilation, advanced antibiotics, hemodialysis and artificial heart pumps, yet we have almost as many deaths.

In addition, the 1918-20 flu pandemic lasted for a little over two years. Our current crisis is roughly 18 months old, with a notable increase in cases and deaths from the delta variant. How many more deaths will we have in six more months? In another year?

The argument that it is not that serious does not carry weight. Yes, all vaccines, like all medications, have potential side effects, but for healthy adults the risk of COVID-19 far exceeds any side effect of the vaccines.

  1. Linking mass vaccination to a conspiracy.

This argument has taken many forms, from outlandish scenarios to more insidious assertions.

It is hard to believe that one in five vaccine-resistant Americans are concerned that the government is using the vaccines to implant microchips in the population.

More believable is the idea that the vaccines are just a way to pad the pockets of the health care industry.

Typically, worldwide pharmaceutical companies sell around $24 billion in vaccines a year. That is a lot of money, but vaccines only account for 2% to 3% of the revenue of the pharmaceutical industry worldwide.

Vaccines are far from a cash cow. In truth, the health care industry can make more money from treating illnesses than from offering preventative measures.

These types of conspiracy arguments are not really about revealing nefarious actions; they are nothing more than a red hearing to try to cause mistrust among the general public.

The anti-vaxxer movement is nothing new. Public health officials have been debunking these types of arguments for well over 100 years.

I have always advocated that any vaccination or medical procedure is a decision that an individual needs to make with their primary care provider based on the best science available.

Our public debate about vaccination needs to move beyond the above types of arguments and focus upon the best data and not fearmongering.

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