Discovering my Family are Conspiracy Theorists

I think it’s actually more like 65%. But that’s not a huge number, about 25 people, being 7 of the ~15 families that regularly attend.

In Connecticut 82% have received at least one shot.


Grateful for each one who has replied so graciously.

@Chris_Falter there are a number of subtleties we could debate, but this seems like the page of the playbook I’m reading.

That’s true, but I would add here that it’s not just the vaccine hesitant who may be ignorant of important facts. Bringing up inconvenient truths to vaccine evangelists also confirms their bias.

I recently listened to Dr. John Maxwell, a leadership expert, talk about evangelism. One of his points is that Christians tend to “connect to correct” and people in general feel it, and don’t like that. He suggested to find the 1% of agreement and 100% focus on it. Wait until they ask you what you think, if they ever do.

Regarding the issues you raised, I’m going to engage with more detail here:
Is it a vaccine?
Agree with your parents that the definition has changed. Normally in the past with a vaccine we have taken the species, made sure it was non-viable, and injected that. This gave people’s immune systems exposure to most of the proteins in the disease. For covid it is just exposure to the spike protein, which is almost certainly why the vax is far less effective than having had covid. In addition, we don’t really know how to “dose” with mRNA because some people may create 10X the number of spike proteins others create from the same amount of mRNA (someone can update me here if this has been done). The definition of “vaccine” has indeed been changed to include this previously untested approach.

Masks don’t work
Well, you can mostly agree with your parents. Masks don’t do much to protect the person wearing it from getting it. And the psychological effects are utterly ignored, for children in particular. We’re not robots and are deeply invested in seeing faces! If you’re symptomatic, please don’t go out and if you see someone who is, stay away!

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine
Since covid makes hearts misbehave, and hydroxychloroquine has many contraindications including heart conditions, this may be inadvisable. But Ivermectin has rare contraindications, so banning it is simply anti-science because it utterly ignores the placebo effect! If someone wants it, give them hope! Banning it is so over-the-top heavy-handed and anti-science that to me it smells political.

Along the same lines is ignoring natural immunity. That stinks to high heaven of being political. How can you blame people for thinking it’s intentional government overreach? It is, and it’s bad science!

I could go on for a while, but this is enough. The problem is not the science, but that neither “side” is engaging with all the data, the CDC has indeed blown it badly, and one side is defending them while the other is focused on their screw-ups. The disease and the vaccines are a feather in the storm of establishing a narrative that the “other” side is evil. The best summary I have found (don’t judge it by it’s title) is here Lose the Mask. Eat the Turkey. And Other Sane Advice For This Thanksgiving. - by Bari Weiss - Common Sense with Bari Weiss

Hope that helps.

I’m jealous.


A lot of my recent past has involved me laboring to stop doing that so much. I’m working on it still - varied success (or not) as you can tell.

Having read some of Nadia Weber Bolz lately - I’ve been convicted (on my own behalf, as well as on behalf of the evangelical movement that people like me ostensibly represent) by her words about the difference between “purity” and “holiness”. We (every one of us - religious or not, liberal or conservative) are super addicted to the idea that we are better than somebody else. Our notions of “purity” help us draw those lines. And every line we draw separates us from others. The problem with doing that is that Jesus will inevitably be found on the other side of any line we try to draw. Purity leads to separation. Whereas holiness (using Nadia’s insights) leads to connection and relationship - even relationship while still in the middle of messy sin and real life. Holiness is when Jesus connects with us - even there. And stays connected with us even if we don’t emerge victorious and “all cleaned up” from the encounter.

I know this isn’t really on-topic as far as vaccines go - maybe it’s a little closer to the subject of conspiracy. But as far as relating to others and family? I think she nails it.


Marty, thank you for your note. These points are well addressed at the CDC website–have just read some of them again last night.

You might enjoy them. It is at public level discussion, but if you want to read the research, you can connect to MMWR if it’s not on the first level. That includes the research on whether vaccine is as good as previous infection. Thanks.

CDC is an excellent resource for public healthcare–as a family doc who communicates with patients on healthcare all day, I use it for depression, parasites, etc. It is proven very scientifically reliable, far beyond Covid.



Hi @randy, and thanks for your thoughtful and caring engagement, not only here but also with your patients.

You almost make my case with this. Almost nobody among “the public” knows these things. Consequently I’m convinced the covid facts are lost in the political noise.

Links to my points on the CDC site would be helpful, if you know easily how to find them. The website looks mostly self-promotional to me, not much different from any company website.

1 Like

You make some good points, Marty. I would take a little exception to your statement that :

It is a strange disease, and there has been evidence that having Covid is in fact far less effective in preventing reinfection than the vaccine. Perhaps those who had a mild case do not develop a good immune response, and there are many who had mild cases. Perhaps something else is going on. In any case, there is sound rationale to having those previously infected get a vaccine, which probably functions like a booster. But to state in a blanket statement that the vaccine is not as effective as getting the disease is unsupported and against the evidence, not to mention the cost in dead bodies and chronic disease.

The question with Ivermectin is interesting. It is actually considered unethical in give a patient a placebo, even though with many treatments the placebo effect is acknowledged and welcomed. I think you would be ticked off to know your doctor wrote you a prescription for sugar pills that cost you good money at the pharmacy, and rightfully so. Of course, the pharmacy has rows of homeopathic meds on the shelf that are total placebos, but they do not have the same ethical guidelines.


By that definition, standard vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, shingles, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, whooping cough, HPV, hep B and Hib are also not vaccines.

There is very good evidence that masks – at least surgical masks and better-- substantially reduce transmission. That’s of paramount importance in an infectious disease outbreak. So yes, masks work.


I find surgical masks have the advantage of not fogging my glasses.


A well-fitting KN95 is pretty good at not fogging my glasses.


The focus on the spike protein is how the mRNA vaccines and other approved vaccines in the US and Canada work, but other vaccines in the rest of the world use the whole virus, inactivated, just as with other older vaccines. The biggest of these (and the biggest overall) is Sinovac/CoronaVac. While common around the world, in North America it’s only approved in Mexico. It seems to be the McDonalds of covid vaccines with billions served.

Although I haven’t looked into it much, it doesn’t appear to be more effective or lasting than the vaccines we do have easy access to. It seems like immunity wanes quite similarly, also requiring boosters. In fact, the mRNA vaccines seem to outperform it, perhaps explaining why Sinovac is less common in richer countries. Have you heard differently? We don’t seem to be at a disadvantage with our vaccines and the newer methods they use.

As for the effectiveness of having covid, that seems to depend on the severity of the infection. Those who recover after requiring hospitalization do seem to have elevated antibodies for longer. But it’s hardly a winning strategy to encourage people to have a bad case. Even then, the only surefire way to get one’s risk of reinfection to zero is to not survive the first. Vaccines, even with the inconvenience of boosters, seem like a much less costly way to reduce our risk.


Paper I ran across today showing masks and other measures work:


Give them a placebo and tell them it’s Ivermectin.


Responses above (thank you!) are debating details, and I’m not sure how much time we should spend. But I’ll try to clarify a couple of details on my perspective FWIW.

Keep in mind that my point is to help the OP find connection points with her parents. Whether that will lead to a breakthrough infection … sorry, breakthrough discussion, I cannot say. As hard as it can be, conversation requires voluntary participation. Over Thanksgiving dinner yesterday one person in our extended family was pontificating about something, and I chose not to engage because it would be fruitless.

In summary perhaps again, I think the problem is bigger. We are too blinded by confirmation bias, the media has us in a panic, and if you suggest the “other side” has a valid point you’re an enemy. We’re not allowed to think. It’s a sick environment, and the angry division over covid is a symptom.

Sorry to say, but I think that’s just false. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong by posting links to some studies that actually show this. I can give you plenty that show it the other way.

Granted, but remember I said “If someone wants it…” The belief that it will help underlies the Placebo Effect. My position is about doctors being allowed to care for patients, and not forcing all humans into a “one size fits all” CDC bureaucratic approach. Also note that based on African data the Japanese equivalent of our AMA stated basically “feel free to give Ivermectin.” So has the CDC decided that Japanese doctors are stupid, or that American doctors are too stupid to know how to care for their patients? To me, slamming that door is a heartless bureaucratic response.


I’m not saying the old definition is required. Just that the definition has indeed changed. I don’t think it’s a nefarious plot, but some people do have that on their bullet list.

I’m not disagreeing. My preference is that if people have symptoms they stay home! If they can’t, then a mask is better than nothing. But to miss the psychology around this is, to me, ignoring a major dimension of human health.

No, but my point is simply that the definition of Vaccine has changed as new technology has been introduced. The OP’s parents were saying that, and they are correct.

I hope you’re not reading that as a suggestion into my position!

I think we’ve known this for 100 years! Why on Earth even do something as obvious as this, unless it fits someone’s political agenda, so they can repeat it yet again?

Continuing to hammer this issue as “one side” does starts to feel like propaganda because it’s only one dimension of the problem. If all one cares about is “Disease Control” then the concept of “inhuman” may not enter into the discussion. What is the trade-off between these measures and living as a human being? What about the effects on children and the selfish, political stupidity of some teachers’ unions? Failure to fairly engage questions like these leads the “other side” to question the motivation of those pounding out the “Masks work! Masks work! Masks work!” mantra.

Hi Marty, I haven’t been able to comment because of increased work lately, but I have been working on some thoughts. In the meantime, I do think that you would like reading the CDC website, especially the FAQs and Myths and Facts about vaccines. Sorry, but I have been working yesterday, today and expect to most of the weekend.

here’s an article JPM may be referring to. Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 Among Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19–Like Illness with Infection-Induced or mRNA Vaccine-Induced SARS-CoV-2 Immunity — Nine States, January–September 2021 | MMWR (

this is a Forbes “translation.”

Michigan is a big spot for Covid now. I have lost patients to death and intubation in the last few weeks, worse than ever before, but the vaccine has been the big game changer. I am now almost never worried about my patients with the vaccine. To my knowledge, all mine who have died have not been vaccinated. I am limited in what I can say about our practice by rules, but our inpatient census system wide this weekend was the highest it’s ever been. The ratio of those who are admitted without a vaccine, to those who have been vaccinated, is stunning. Those who have had a vaccine but are sick, are not only extremely rare, but already quite sick, with a poor immune response. There is a ton more I’d like to report, but likely can’t on record.

I’m not totally sure of all the reasons, but review of the studies so far show that ivermectin, to date, has not shown a significant benefit (that which did was confounded with steroids, which we do know work, t least in some cases). It does have toxicity. I don’t like to use it for my patients for parasites as a result of that. The level used for in test tube effectiveness is, I think, 4x the safe level for people.

to make an analogy on that vein (my guessing what they mean), if I send someone for vitamin C infusions for cancer (this is done frequently in alt med practices), it definitely won’t harm, but it also won’t help… In Covid, you have about 10 days to get better or worse. You need early intervention to get monoclonal antibodies (that prevent hospitalization, but not death), and close monitoring to decide if and when someone needs hospitalization and remdesivir. My understanding is that we don’t want to give a placebo that delays treatment. The more I read of CDC, the better I respect them.

I’ve been following with Dr Fauci on and off since residency (our main text, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, is in part authored by him, on infectious disease). In 2004, when I presented my residency project on HIV in primary care, he impressed me with his compassion. He helped President Bush (instigated) the project to save millions of widowed and orphaned women and children with HIV in Africa with antiretroviral drugs. That’s one of the reasons some areas of sub Saharan Africa respect the US, I think.
He was known as one of the only doctors that listened to those who suffered from HIV in the '80s and '90s, becoming a friend of one of the leaders of ACT UP.

He often worked late, till 9 pm, and his daughters would wait supper to eat with their dad.

Regarding masks, I don’t know all the reasons, but I found a study from '13 in the PubMed site, (small) investigating if cloth masks would benefit with an influenza type outbreak. it was thought that they were not adequate, except in a last resort… Surgical masks were 3x as good. As you know, in Sweden, they consider masks are a risk for excess mingling. Prior to 2020, I think that data were not as clear.

The fact that Dr Fauci and the others made an about face on masks, based on better data from China and bigger studies, indicates to me that they were humble, apolitical, and scientifically minded.

I am not sure what the self promotionality would be a problem for. I got the impression they were trying to be appropriate for public consumption.

Good question on vaccines.

I agree with @glipsnort , and had a good conversation with someone yesterday about vaccine definitions.



  1. a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease.

One objection this nice person had to a definition of a vaccine was that we need to give another one. Actually, the flu is like that; and very many of our vaccines need boosters (Hep A, B, pneumonia, Hib, etc). Our immune systems are great in that respect–they often respond to a stimulus better a second or third time.

An interesting difference is inoculation. In that case, you give a smaller amount of the real thing to get (hopefully) immunity without severe illness. Covid does seem to be worse with a larger dose, or inoculum.

Cotton Mather and George Washington used inoculation to protect against smallpox. There was no cowpox vaccine (the root word of cow in Latin) that protected against smallpox without risk of death then. Mather lost 10 children to smallpox, and Washington lost many troops, as the Americans were smallpox-naive, coming from the country, as opposed to the British, coming from a more endemic country. Washington noted that inoculation still carried a high risk of death (1%), and resisted it for a long time, relying on strict quarantine, legally enforced. However, eventually he did inoculate American soldiers, and decreased the death rate from 10-20% down to 1%. That was quite a difference from vaccination. :slight_smile:

Anyway–I’m going to have to leave for now, but I’ll try to think over some of the other points.

one of the things that scares me about posting is that, as Paul said, 'knowledge puffs up." Most people here likely know more about many things, including Covid, than I do. I want this to be congenial, where I continue to learn, and where what I post is enjoyable to others. Thank you for your interaction and teaching.

[Edited to add the study on masks I had remembered a little incorrectly, it does show slight benefit, as last resort, but may have been part of overall caution.]


Please don’t stop posting responses, Randy! Sure there are giants among us like Steve or Phil. But to me you are among those. When you speak, the rest of us learn.


So sorry you are going through this, Randy. It is hard when patients get sick and die, especially when they did not have to do so. It appears you guys are having the Delta surge we had in late summer. It is strange but interesting as to why it hits when and where it does. Speculation is that colder weather drives people inside up north, and hot weather drives them inside in the south, but that does not seem to be all that is going on. Unfortunately, it is probably going to keep going until either natural or acquired immunity is attained by a large part of the population.
If it is any help, things seem to be pretty normal once you get to the other side. Our church is getting pretty much back to a new normal, though we have suffered and mourn some losses.


Thanks for your careful point-by-point reply. I learned a lot.


It’s painful to watch most people in Michigan behave as if the Pandemic is either over or never existed. The numbers we see now are a consequence of that behavior. It’s disheartening.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.