Podcast host, Joe Rogan has offered to put up $100,000.00 to the charity of choice of Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, a vaccine scientist from Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, to debate on air, fixture in the anti-vaccine movement, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about vaccines and vaccine “misinformation”.
Sounds good? Sounds reasonable? However, for some reason, Hotez doesn’t appear interested? Instead, he tweeted in response to Rogan’s offer–“Joe, you have my cell, my email, I’m always willing to speak with you”.
He also tweeted:
There are many thoughts from other Twitter users ranging from “Debating science deniers actually distorts public perceptions and makes it worse. It’s never a debate. It’s a venue for propagandists to promote their ideas under the illusion of false balance” to “He doesn’t deserve the legitimacy you’d confer on him” to “The argument that you shouldn’t debate someone who is getting everything completely wrong, in your area of expertise, because you would be legitimizing a conspiracy theory, is so pathetically weak. If they are so catastrophically wrong, it should be easy to expose them. It’s fear.“
I believe their should be a debate. If you know this website or the podcast, it’s clear I have disagreements with RFK Jr, aka I’m not anti-vaxx (however, I do have doubts and questions on the various COVID-19 vaccines, just as Dr Hotez did in 2020). Still I believe Dr Hotez, with his alphabet soup after his name, should debate Mr Kennedy.
I think the case is strong concerning the effectiveness of most vaccines. Not too many years ago, a paper was published by the great Leonard Hayflick that stated concerning the morbidity and mortality of certain diseases:
The number of preventable cases and deaths in the U.S. and across the globe was assessed by holding prevalence rates and disease-specific death rates constant from 1960–2015. Results indicate that the total number of cases of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A averted or treated with WI-38 related vaccines was 198 million in the U.S. and 4.5 billion globally (720 million in Africa; 387 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 2.7 billion in Asia; and 455 million in Europe). The total number of deaths averted from these same diseases was approximately 450,000 in the U.S., and 10.3 million globally (1.6 million in Africa; 886 thousand in Latin America and the Caribbean; 6.2 million in Asia; and 1.0 million in Europe).
In addition, the safety of vaccines is well documented–whether it be the so called autism link, Thimerosal, adjuvants, etc, so all in all, Hotez SHOULD have no problem in a debate.
This is why he should take Rogan up on his offer. Playing social media influencer and cable news star and calling people anti-science, conspiracists, neofascist or using the latest popular term, misinformation/disinformation on Twitter is useless.
You want to change hearts and minds, a “side-by-side debate” with your position opponent is the way to go …and what people need to see and hear.
For example…Hotez make his case, Kennedy rebuts, Hotez rebuts Kennedy’s rebuttal, and reverse.
Both men make their case. You want to hear it, I want to hear it.
If Mr Kennedy is hyperbolic, sensationalist or emotional, it should be easy to knock it out of the park with scientific facts and data. To deprive the public of that is wrong and does make it look like you fear debating him.