It does not reflect well on Fox News that they have had this clown on their channel so often.
I followed Berenson on Twitter for about nine months because I saw him on Tucker Carlson’s show repeatedly and I thought he might be an important contrary voice, but when he started going off on the covid vaccines earlier this year, I unfollowed him because he was obviously wrong and irresponsible.
On February 11, Berenson warned his followers that early data from Israel proved that vaccine advocates “need to start ratcheting down expectations.” This was a strange claim to make at the time: An Israeli health-care provider had reported no deaths and four severe cases among its first 523,000 fully vaccinated people. But the claim seems even more ridiculous now, in light of Israel’s incredible success since then. New positive cases in Israel are down roughly 95 percent since January. Deaths have plunged, even though the economy is almost fully open.
When I asked Berenson to explain his beef with Israel’s vaccine record, he sent a link to a news story in Hebrew that, he said, reported “several hundred deaths and hospitalizations and thousands of infections in people who have received both doses.” I can’t read Hebrew, so I reached out to someone who can, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel. He replied by email: “This link actually shows that the vast majority of those who died were NOT vaccinated.” By Segal’s calculations, the vaccines have reduced the risk of death by more than 90 percent in the Israeli population. Segal also said that “numbers of infections only went down, and even more so among the age groups who were first to vaccinate.”
Berenson is wrong about all sorts of little things when it comes to Israel, but I want to emphasize how straightforward and obvious the big picture is here. Israel is a world leader in vaccinations. Its COVID-19 cases have plunged, and its economy is roaring back to life.
Berenson’s claim: Healthy people under 70 shouldn’t get a vaccine.
The reality: Outside of extremely rare cases, every adult should get a vaccine—and if it’s authorized for children, children should get it too.
I wanted to know where Berenson stood on the most important question: Who does he think should get a vaccine, and who does he think shouldn’t? This was the core of his answer:
For most healthy people under 50—and certainly under 35—the side effects from the shots are likely to be worse than a case of Covid. Over 70, sure. The grey zone is somewhere in the middle and probably depends on personal risk factors.
This response has two huge problems. First, although the disease clearly gets more severe with age, drawing a line at 70 is nonsensical. Those in their 50s and early 60s are three times more likely to die from this disease than a 40-something, and 400 times more likely to die than a teenager, according to the CDC.
Second, the suggestion that the vaccine’s side effects are worse than having COVID-19 is ludicrous. The vaccine can cause chills, fever, and other symptoms in the first few days. That’s just the immune system doing its job; severe illness from the vaccines is vanishingly rare. But severe illness in a pandemic is not rare. More than 40,000 people under age 50 have gone to the hospital with COVID-19, according to COVID-NET, a surveillance network that captures hospitalization data. Several studies have indicated that at least one-third of hospitalized people suffer from long-term symptoms of COVID-19. (Guess what seems to alleviate the symptoms of some of these patients? Getting vaccinated.)
The idea that the vaccine is worse than the disease for the under-70 crowd falls apart utterly when we consider the “side effect” of death. Roughly 100,000 people under 65 have died of COVID-19. Meanwhile, out of more than 145 million vaccines administered in the U.S., a CDC review of clinical information found no evidence that they had caused any deaths. The current score in the competition between non-senior pandemic deaths and conclusive vaccine deaths is 100,000–0.
One hundred thousand to zero. That might be the most important statistic in this whole mess. Berenson doesn’t tweet blatantly falsifiable statements about the vaccines every day. For the most part, he peddles doubt, laced with confusing and expert-sounding jargon, which may seem compelling at first but can’t survive contact with expert opinion.
To be honest, I initially had serious doubts about publishing this piece. The trap of exposing conspiracy theories is obvious: To demonstrate why a theory is wrong, you have to explain it and, in doing so, incur the risk that some people will be convinced by the very theory you’re trying to debunk. But that horse has left the barn. More than half of Republicans under the age of 50 say they simply won’t get a vaccine. Their hesitancy is being fanned by right-wing hacks, Fox News showboats, and vaccine skeptics like Alex Berenson. The case for the vaccines is built upon a firm foundation of scientific discovery, clinical-trial data, and real-world evidence. The case against the vaccines wobbles because it is built upon a steaming pile of bullshit.