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Passing up approved coronavirus vaccine for horse dewormer is nuts

For months after the coronavirus vaccines were released, many Americans who refused to take them cited the fact that they were initially approved by federal regulators on an emergency fast-track basis rather than under the normal drug-approval process. That fear, never fully valid to begin with, should have finally been laid to rest by the recent full, formal approval of the first of the vaccines.

Yet even now, significant numbers of vaccine-skeptical people are instead turning to a drug meant to deworm horses, which has repeatedly failed to protect against the coronavirus in clinical trials and in some cases has proven dangerous. This should stand as further evidence (if any was still needed) that the anti-vaccination movement lacks any credibility whatsoever and should have no sway over public policy.

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Ivermectin has been effectively used in small doses in humans to treat parasites, but human trials haven’t produced evidence it’s effective on the coronavirus. That hasn’t stopped people from buying up the human version to the point that pharmacies are running out. Worse, some are turning to veterinary supply sources for the livestock version — which is not merely ineffective against the coronavirus but dangerous. Ivermectin-related calls to poison control centers have risen fivefold in recent months.

It’s reminiscent of the controversy over hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication that, like ivermectin, has shown scant actual evidence of effectiveness against the coronavirus and has potentially dangerous side effects.

But with backing and misinformation from right-wing media and some Republican politicians (including, in the case of hydroxychloroquine, former President Donald Trump), too many Americans are viewing these unproven, unlikely remedies as silver bullets, while continuing to reject vaccines that have been proven for months to be both highly effective and safe.

It’s not putting it too strongly to suggest that this is madness.

What social, political or psychological factors would cause large numbers of otherwise rational Americans to reject vaccines that have earned provisional and now formal approval by the Food and Drug Administration, while embracing drugs that the FDA and other experts warn are ineffective and dangerous?

It’s almost as if, having staked out the bizarre position that vaccine acceptance is a violation of conservatism, those adherents are suddenly recognizing that the crisis is real and lunging for whatever vaccine alternative they can find.

Declaring an entire segment of society to be so outside the pale that their voices should be deliberately ignored isn’t something that should be done lightly — but on the issue of these snake-oil alternatives, the time has come.

Vaccine mandates, vaccine passports and other proposed policies are centered on the simple scientific fact that vaccines work. Like all public policies, these ideas must be open to debate.

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But there should be no seat at that table for those who pass up medically approved vaccines in favor of a horse dewormer.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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