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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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This Week in Corona Scams: Inoculation vs. Indoctrination

This Week in Corona Scams, are we worried about the COVID-19 vaccines? Before you share that meme your uncle posted on Facebook, please review the actual science and see for yourself how these vaccines work.

Also: If it’s pseudoscience and a scammy “business model”, you know “KM” is on it. This week, we review the latest antics of the notorious former MLM salesperson as we try to understand why “KM” and so many more “corona scammers” seem to get away with their lies.

First, let’s hop across the pond to debunk this anti-vaccine nonsense before it gets plastered all over Facebook.

As the U.S. continues to race towards widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability in May, much of the European Union (E.U.) appears to be backsliding. When a handful of Norwegian patients who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine began to develop blood clots, E.U. member states like France, Germany, and Ireland rushed to suspend administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and countries far beyond Europe (such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have also suspended administration of this vaccine. That, in turn, has provoked anger in Brexit-era Britain over such flagrant snubbing of a British vaccine, as none of these countries can point to any clinical trial results or other studies that tested this theory. Rather, these countries just reacted to limited anecdotal evidence from one small group of patients.

Even though there is no scientific evidence proving that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine actually causes or exacerbates blood clots, and even after Australian health officials quickly fired back at attempts to shut down distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in their country, multiple politicians in E.U. member states continue to insinuate that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is somehow “unsafe”. Yet considering U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s appalling attempt to experiment with non-vaccine “herd immunity” early in the pandemic, we can see why the British government’s current howls of protest over “disregarding science” is being portrayed in the E.U. as the ultimate “boy who cried wolf” situation.

Nonetheless, there’s no actual evidence proving that this vaccine is “unsafe”. Also keep in mind that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t even publicly available here in the U.S. (yet?), and there is no evidence indicating that any of the vaccines that are currently available here cause blood clots or spark any other life-threatening illness. So now, let’s talk about the newest vaccine to come online here in the U.S., and why there’s no need to fear or loathe this new jab on the block.

“All of these vaccines are 100% effective against hospitalizations and deaths. […] Please get any of these vaccines you can get.” 
– Dr. Mark Riddle, University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Caleb Cage, Mark Riddle, Nevada Health Response, COVID-19 vaccines, vaccines
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Last Friday, Dr. Mark Riddle, MD, DrPH, Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the V.A. – Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno, and Professor of Internal Medicine & Associate Dean of Clinical Research at the University of Nevada Reno, School of Medicine, joined the Nevada Health Response press call to help clear the air on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. More pointedly, Riddle declared, “All of these vaccines are 100% effective against hospitalizations and deaths. We really don’t want anyone else to die of COVID-19. All of these vaccines are highly effective. Please get any of these vaccines you can get.”

Riddle also explained how the J&J vaccine works: It’s an adenoviral vector vaccine that utilizes an inactivated adenovirus to carry instructions for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which then allows one’s own cells to present the spike protein on their own surface and develop antibodies to protect one from future exposure to the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. From there, Riddle pointed out, “[SARS-CoV-2] can’t replicate. It can infect the cell, but it can’t use the cell to reproduce.”

Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

Riddle also explained why the J&J vaccine is single-dose and overall cheaper to administer than the mRNA based Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines: “The good thing about the adenovirus vaccine is that it’s a more stable package, so it doesn’t require extra cold storage.” And unlike the mRNA vaccines that may initially provoke a weaker immune response before that critical second dose, Riddle pointed out that with J&J, “It mimics the infection of the cell more like a natural virus. That’s why it only requires a single dose.”

Regarding those initial trial results that appeared underwhelming in contrast to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Riddle confirmed, “It’s really difficult to do direct comparisons. They were tested in different ways and during different timeframes. The variants that were spreading were different.” He then added, “If Pfizer and Moderna had started their trials during the same time period as J&J, their results would likely look different.”

“When the opportunity arose to get the Janssen [J&J] vaccine, there was no hesitation in my mind. I knew it was the right decision to get it.” 
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Caleb Cage, Mark Riddle, Nevada Health Response
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Despite the ample evidence indicating that the J&J vaccine is highly effective against COVID-19, the initial trial results and the lower administration cost have essentially led to the perception that the J&J vaccine is an “inferior” product. In turn, we’re seeing a potentially horrifying side effect to public health authorities’ plans to utilize the J&J vaccine in areas where the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines would be harder to reach: allegations of racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination by sending the J&J vaccine to certain historically underserved areas as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines keep going to places that can provide the necessary extra cold storage.

Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) office confirmed that he personally got the J&J vaccine last Thursday, and last Friday Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage told reporters that he also got the J&J vaccine. In explaining why he got J&J, Cage said, “When the opportunity arose to get the Janssen [as in, J&J] vaccine, there was no hesitation in my mind. I knew it was the right decision to get it. I wanted to get what was available.”

It probably helps that Sisolak and his team set this kind of example in taking the J&J vaccine instead of pulling strings to get two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna instead. But since other politicians, such as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, have echoed misleading claims that the J&J vaccine is “inferior”, public health authorities here in Nevada and elsewhere across America will really need to make it crystal-clear that the J&J vaccine works well and is worth the shot if that’s what’s available in our neighborhoods. In the meantime, please keep in mind that as COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands to Nevadans aged 16+ with underlying medical conditions on March 22, then to all Nevadans+ aged 16+ on April 5, you’ll be winning the medical jackpot no matter which vaccine you get, just as long as you get vaccinated!

Oh, no. “KM” is at it again with the beads. 
Screenshot by Andrew Davey
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Speaking of crystals, we need to revisit one of the most notorious “corona scammers” to ever grace these pages. Even though the ex-Younique distributor known as “KM” and the jewelry company she currently works with received warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last September for using false medical claims to sell “BS Beads”, “KM” and the “BS Beads” company continue to peddle false medical claims.

Late last month, “KM” claimed that certain beads limited her appetite for food and treated her back pain. She actually went on to compare the beads to the main ingredient in Tylenol. Earlier this week, she claimed, “It’s good for cardiovascular health.” Despite the official FTC warning, “KM” continues to claim that these beads have “tangible amounts of energy” that somehow treat and/or cure everything from COVID-19 to blood pressure and back pain

As we discussed in previous stories featuring “KM” and her beloved “BS Beads”, there is zero scientific evidence to back up these claims of “crystal healing”, “natural healing stones”, and “energy healing”. Even her claims regarding “copper for pain” are unfounded, despite the other companies that sell copper products and market them as “pain relieving”. So why are we still talking about “KM” and “BS Beads”? Sadly, she’s far from the only “social media influencer” who’s influencing on the side of dangerous pseudoscience. 

Why are we talking about “KM” again? Sadly, she’s just part of a much larger “Info-demic”.

Far from any kind of isolated incident, “KM” and her nonstop promotion of “BS Beads” are part of a larger trend of celebrities and “influencers” becoming “gurus” who pollute our social media feeds with pseudoscientific “wellness resources”. After all, the highly problematic “spiritual guru” Teal Swan is also a huge proponent of “crystal healing”. “Fitness guru” Vince Sant (aka, “That V Shred Guy”) continues to flood YouTube’s algorithm with terrible “testosterone boosting” “life hacks”. All around “health and wellness guru” Gwyneth Paltrow frequently misrepresents the “science” behind her recommendations on everything from “vampire facials” to “Long COVID” treatment. And when “conspiracy guru” Alex Jones isn’t busy consolidating his power over the Trump-era Republican Party, he’s hawking InfoWars branded “nutraceuticals” that are no more scientifically proven than Paltrow’s Goop branded “wellness supplements”.

These “influencers” love to throw around terms like “vibrational energy”, “intuitive fasting”, “biological loophole”, and “super vitality” to sound “scientific” and erudite, but they’re merely consulting the thesaurus to find ways to mask their lack of scientific evidence to back up their “game changing” promises. 

This is why we always recommend that you consult actual medical professionals, check with the real science, and fact-check with legitimate resources as much as possible before taking the word of any “internet rando” promising “abundance” in health and wealth. “Corona scammers” count on you avoiding the fine print and taking their flowery language at face value. There’s no need to feel shame in proving them wrong.

If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please wear your masks and maintain social distancing from people outside your household.

The cover photo is courtesy of the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak.

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