Dr. Sanjay Gupta on antivaxxers: ‘I’ve sat in my basement and screamed’

Dr. Gupta on Colbert, via Instagram
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, was on Colbert promoting his new book, World War C. It’s about the covid pandemic and what we need to do to prepare for the next pandemic. We need to regulate Facebook and other social networks for allowing misinformation to spread and brainwash people, but that’s a separate and very related issue. Dr. Gupta talked about vaccine hesitancy and told a personal story about trying to convince a repairman, whose daughter had just died from covid, to get vaccinated. The repair person seemed open to it because of his loss, but he still needed to be convinced. Gupta admitted being incredibly frustrated by the large amount of people refusing to get the shots, but he was gracious about it. Here’s some of what he said.

On breakthrough cases
Your chance of getting infected if you’ve been vaccinated is about eight to ten times lower. If you do carry the virus you could [be contagious] but [the contagiousness] comes down faster. An unvaccinated person could be contagious for seven to ten days, but for you it might be two to three days.

On healthcare professionals who refuse to get vaccinated
There’s times that I’ve sat in my basement and literally screamed at the top of my lungs. It’s hard to fathom when this is available and could really help end this collective trauma. Healthcare workers are subject to the same ideological pressures as everybody else. It sort of tracks with the vaccine hesitancy in the population, 20 to 30 percent.

He talked to an air conditioning repairman whose daughter died of covid but he still hadn’t been vaccinated
I had this guy come by to fix the air conditioning the other day, in his mid 70s, wore a mask. He knew who I was so he said… ‘should I get a vaccine?’ I said ‘yeah, absolutely.’ He said, ‘the reason I ask is I got a stent in my leg. I thought [blod clots] might be a problem.’ I said ‘You’re right, that was a problem. I said you’re 80 times more likely to develop blod clots from the disease vs. the vaccine.’ He said ‘Oh thank you, I appreciate that. The reason I ask is because my daughter died of covid last week. The last thing she said before she went on the ventilator was please get vaccinated. But I’ve been worried about clotting so I called my doctor and my doctor hadn’t called me back.’

There are some people who still have legitimate concerns and I hope we reach those folks.

[From Late Night with Stephen Colbert on YouTube]

My mom has a similar story about a window installation guy who was not vaccinated and said he had “natural” immunity because he’d already had covid. She was not going to convince that ex cop, and in Florida he’s likely doomed unless he gets vaccinated. Imagine being a scientist and/or doctor on the frontlines and still being so calm and patient with people. That’s Gupta’s job but I know I would not be that nice.

I just read an interview with Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, one of the developers of the Moderna vaccine. She said essentially the same thing as Dr. Gupta, that people have questions about the vaccine and she is there to answer them. She calls it “vaccine inquisitiveness,” not vaccine hesitancy and said that “a lot of people have questions about the vaccine they want answered before getting it.” As an everyday citizen who drove over two hours to get my first shot, I do not understand or sympathize one iota with those people. They can read a legitimate news source instead of just scrolling through Facebook mindlessly. These public health professionals who are still working hard to convince them have my full respect. I would completely understand if they said “f*k it, you people are on your own now” too.

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41 Responses to “Dr. Sanjay Gupta on antivaxxers: ‘I’ve sat in my basement and screamed’”

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  1. LadyE says:

    I think these distinctions about why people are hesitant are really important to bear in mind. Some people, yes, are ridiculous or driven by overtly political messaging. But, and this has been extremely well documented in the UK, there’s also a problem with people receiving mixed messages from medical providers, particularly primary care physicians, about the risks of the vaccine. Particularly in terms of pregnant women, we’ve seen decent messaging from the NHS and CDC, but so many women have reported that their doctor (or a nurse) advised them to wait on the vaccine. And, I have a lot of sympathy for those people. I get why it is confusing about who to believe and why a ‘trusted’ source expressing hesitancy would seem like a reasonable basis to wait. In Dr. Gupta’s story, the man is trying to do the right thing. Questions that I have- why the hell has his doctor not discussed this with him?? He’s in a priority vaccine group. He’s calling his doctor, yes and that’s good, but how is it that his primary physician didn’t go “oh this patient is over 70, let’s check if he’s been vaccinated”? Why has his doctor not discussed blood clot concerns with him?? Like LAST YEAR. A more proactive approach from his doctor and this could have been (and should have been) resolved a long time ago.

    • Arpeggi says:

      Exactly! My cousin became an antivax nutcase and we cut ties with her because she has access to all the info (I’m a virologist/immunologist scientist, my brother is a ER MD and her mom is a retired RN) and yet believes we’re all part of a huge conspiracy that tries to harm ppl. That’s unacceptable.

      But my BFF’s sister hasn’t been vaccinated yet because she became pregnant at the time her age group could get the shot and while the risks of issues with covid are much greater than of the vaccine, I understand the hesitation and I hope she would have received better advices, it makes me want to scream. That part is on the medical community: we have to be a united front and give the most up to date information, we have to call back patients when they reach out and we need to reach out to people in their communities, not expect them to come to us. Snake oil salesmen are good at that, we have to be better. We can’t sit in our ivory tower and simply tell people to trust us.

      • LadyE says:

        Same! My uncles have not been vaccinated because they’ve become heartbreakingly radicalized by FOXNews and there is no point trying to discuss with them.

        However, a cousin is pregnant/unvaccinated and, as I am not a medical professional at all (lawyer), it is super problematic for me to say “that nurse is wrong, please don’t listen to her”. Of course I understand why my cousin thinks I am being arrogant and “know less” than her about the risks. I really do get it and, again not having any medical background, it’s frankly dicey ground for me and makes me uncomfortable in those conversations to be disparaging a nurse. If I step back and imagine a different scenario where it was my medical issue, I would find it a huge overstep and intrusive for family to be intervening and trying to get me to not listen to medical advice. Ugh

      • Guest says:

        I was 12 weeks pregnant when the option to eat vaccinated came up. Being pregnant was considered a pre-existing condition that causes a compromised immune system and pregnant people were prioritized for vaccination. I got vaccinated as soon as I could get an appointment. I wanted to protect myself and my baby and every piece of advice I heard was that covid was way worse than any potential unknown side effects. My pregnancy went on to be totally uneventful and I have a healthy newborn. In fact my toddler got covid at daycare when I was 37 weeks and neither my vaccinated husband not I ever tested positive. So PLEASE get vaccinated!!!

      • Sigmund says:

        The ball was really dropped with pregnant women, unfortunately. They were not included in the trial groups originally, so when the vaccine was released, the official recommendation was basically “do what you want” for pregnant women. Zero guidance. As a result, less than one-third of pregnant women are currently vaccinated, even though the official recommendation from the ACOG now is to get vaccinated if you are pregnant.

        There is misinformation out there, and any delays in information allow it to spread. It’s frustrating.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ LadyE, my son and DIL are living with her parents, and they are all enormous MAGA supporters. My DIL is pregnant and it is causing me great concern. I just hope that they all survive, as we are in Texas.

        The unvaccinated are keep those that want to return to a new normal are holding ALL of us hostage. They are living their lives without a care in the world, but the rest of us are staying in our homes, or are wearing double masks to keep others safe. Those that work in grocery stores, big box stores, the UPS and every other service industry. They have been on the frontlines as well, but the anti-vaxxers don’t care.

        As long as their needs are met, they ONLY care about themselves!!

      • LadyE says:

        @Sigmund- Yes, it is incredibly frustrating. And, while I’m glad that they’ve now revised the guidance and given clear statements about how important it is for pregnant women to get vaccinated, I think the delay, but way more importantly not intervening much sooner when it was clear that doctors and nurses (and midwives in the UK- huge issue) were advising against getting the vaccine, has caused a really big problem. Now it gets twisted into “the advice keeps changing, I don’t know who to trust” and seems to be fueling seeking out alternative advice, all of which is a scam/false. My cousin is legitimately scared and confused because of what she was told by a nurse! In that state, the safest from her view is to do nothing and wait it out. I don’t agree, but I also am more upset for her than at her

      • Moxylady says:

        My Bff is an ob/gyn and the covid complications she has seen in her patients are horrific. Please – if you are pregnant – please please please get vaccinated. Her patients have lost so many babies due to covid and many have lost their lives.

      • Arpeggi says:

        @Moxylady: yeah, a friend of mine works as an OB/Gyn in a public hospital in NYC and I’ve heard horrors… It’s why I was shocked to learn that my friend’s sister was unvaxxed “as a precaution”. It’s a terrible idea. But I also know that no pregnant person will ever react well to unsolicited advices so I kept my mouth shut. I understand being scared, she had so much trouble getting pregnant and keeping it I guess it can feel safer not doing anything, but gosh! All the data so far points it’s a mistake. 1/6 of the very ill in the UK are pregnant persons right now, getting the vaccine while pregnant is the safest option!

    • Kristic says:

      My 78yo mother isn’t vaccinated. She’s on “immune boosting and ivermectin protocols.” It’s maddening and scary to me. I had her convinced to get vaccinated last May. She called her doctor’s office but they told her to go to the county website to find where to get vaccinated. Then she got on Facebook or Parler or some other crazy place and went back to her antivax position. I’m so angry at the people pushing this disinformation and profiting from it.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ Kristic, I am so sorry. I don’t know why we are allowing FB, and any other massive network to continue placing peoples lives in danger. FB should be shut down and completely revamped to the point that only solid, true medical statements may be made. No more of this First Amendment BS! You lost that privilege as soon as you spewed “actual truth” regarding vaccinations. It’s full stop slander and lies, no misinformation. Call it what it is, LIES!!

      • petee says:

        It really isn’t Facebook that is the problem it is the people that post what they have heard.And trust me there are alot on there that still believe that the shots are dangerous.The same with You Tube.A freind of mine sent me a video of nothing but conspiracy theories.I told her sorry I don’t believe in that crap.

  2. ML says:

    Please forgive me if this is off topic: my 3 teens have been vaxxed. My eldest is happy about this, but the youngest two are not. Their friends are mostly not vaccinated, and they’re hearing lots of stories about how the vaccines aren’t entirely proven or safe from their peers, their friends and their friends’ parents, and social media. Clearly my kids cannot (thank goodness!!) get “unvaxxed,” however, most of their concerns have been scientifically disproven and yet my kids believe that they might have made a mistake. Misinformation has to stop, as does giving antivaxxers huge amounts of attention.

    • Mel says:

      Give them the science to read and if you can, steer them away from those friends….

    • Katie says:

      OMG, that is so hard. That is all I have to say about that. Last night my 5 year old asked why we say “bless you” after sneezing, and I was like because people used to believe some crazy about spirits and whatnot. But the collective we still believe dumb dumb things.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ Katie, you are right! We still say “bless you” after all of these years when it has no merit.

    • Teebee says:

      I’m so sorry to hear! But I can see how confusing it can be when you’re bombarded with opposing information. I was told by a very rude stranger that roped me into a lecture on the sidewalk how all his medical problems (and he had a laundry list) were from getting the H1N1 vaccine way back in 2009. I told him I was sorry for his woes, but I was happy to be vaccinated against COVID and I was fine. His response? “for now…”

      Seriously what was his point? To make me regret my decision, to scare me? To make me feel bad? All I did was commiserate with how difficult it must be to be sick and dying, and all he did was screech at me about educating myself with Google, that I should start dosing magnesium, that doctors are murderers…he went off the rails. Total stranger. And I was nothing but polite until I told him enough, and made him walk away. And you know he thought I was the crazy one.

      I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for children to face the same assault to their sensibilities. My kids are adults and able to protect themselves, young children are so vulnerable.

      Stay strong, and sleep well knowing you have done the best for your family!

      • Katie says:

        A somewhat nicer but still A LOT man stopped me the other day (when I was with my kid) to tell me about the health dangers of having my cellphone in my back pocket.

  3. Anne says:

    I absolutely adore Sanjay Gupta. That is all.

  4. Gil says:

    What proof do people in countries like America need? You just lost 600,000 people to this virus. If that is not enough proof that this virus can be mortal, i would not even bother to argue with them. I just have come to terms that we might be better off without the crazy antivaxxers. If they don’t want to get vaccinated so be it.

    • Joanna says:

      I think they don’t believe the news so they don’t believe the numbers they are shown. Sadly they have been convinced it’s “fake news.”

    • Willow says:

      A lot of people need to see proof in front of their own eyes before they believe it. Plus, America was built by stubborn independence. Our culture is about helping others when needed but ‘show me’ before I trust you. AND that was before this ‘fake news’ myth from politicians and then all the misinformation on social media.
      So that individual spirit that has helped us so much in the past, is now a huge barrier to getting a lot of people to trust the medical advisors our country.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      @ Gil, and sadly that is an estimated number as it has come out that it is probably 10%-15% higher than that. It’s hard to ignore the numbers when you put faces to the casualties though. That’s why so many people are putting the faces of their loved ones, front and center. I can’t imagine thinking that you are too special not to be infected. Coronavirus will also continue to evolve as well, so we will still be fighting for our lives. But you are right, if you refuse to be vaccinated, that was your choice. Should you die, we will not mourn you. The only problem is that they are refusing to vaccinate their children as well. They will be the innocent victims here, not their caregivers. Such an awful mindset to purposely place your child into harms way.

  5. Traci says:

    Most of these idiots wouldn’t understand the science behind the vaccines even if it was explained to them in great detail by someone who helped develop them. Just dumb! Acting like they are doing something by taking a stance when they really need to sit down somewhere.

  6. MaryContrary says:

    I have a family friend, whose degree is in biology from great science school no less, who refuses to get vaxxed or have her teens vaxxed because the vaccine was “rushed” and “down the road when you guys have health problems from the vaccine I’ll say I told you so.” There is no reasoning with this insanity so I’ve just cut her out.

  7. Busyann says:

    My good friend has a blood clot disease and she’s interested in the vaccine but even her doctors are not sure if this would cause a problem for her. It’s just not clear cut in some cases and it saddens me that for some….they don’t even have a choice not to get the vaccine. This is the reason people that can get the vaccine should. Not only for themselves but for the person that can not.

    • TaraBest says:

      Exactly this! There are people out there who cannot get the vaccine, or cannot get it yet, and it is so important that those of us who can DO! My getting vaccinated was to protect myself, but also to protect the people around me who cannot be vaccinated or who live with someone who cannot be vaccinated.

      I’m young and healthy (no side effects from the vaccine whatsoever) and everyone in my immediate family had Covid in 2020 (we don’t live together) weren’t hospitalized and seem fine now, so odds are if I caught it unvaccinated I would have been okay. But it’s not just about me, it’s about my friends and neighbors and coworkers and grocery store employees and everyone I may come in contact with. I really wish people would stop being so self-centered and understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.

    • Arpeggi says:

      Having blood clotting issues makes a person way more at risks of complications if they get covid than another individual. Unless someone is allergic to one ingredient in the vaccine formulation, they should get vaccinated. Vaccine-induced myocarditis is treatable and reversible. Same for AZ-related blood clots: they are manageable if caught up early. Catching covid when you have a serious pre-existing condition is a lottery.

  8. ooshpick says:

    If I had a basement, I would be screaming in it too. But alas, just in my living room. It is a broken ass time for science.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I just can’t stop thinking, how did we get so dumb? How did we lose our understanding of science? How did we lose our respect for science? I really do despair sometimes.

    • Christine says:

      Ha, same! Dr. Gupta is very proper, I scream in my house, with the windows open, frequently.

  9. Ann says:

    This man’s own daughter just DIED from the disease. She asked him to get the shot. Sanjay Gupta told him to get it. And he’s still hesitant?! WTF?! If for no other reason, dude, do it because it was your child’s dying wish!!!

    That is mind-boggling.

    I am with you. I would not blame health care workers if they said “f**k it.” I would not blame any one one who refused to treat a patient who came in with Covid, who had access to the shot and been told and asked to get it over and over but still refused. Why should they risk their own health and lives? They shouldn’t. We need them more than we need these people.

  10. Rise_Above says:

    It’s been my experience that everyone nowadays has access to knowledge through the glass screen we all carry around. The vaccine inquisitive smack of entitlement and privilege. The same privilege which has allowed them to get away being irrational, destructive and immoral in stripping away other’s dignity, devaluing human life and marginalizing others while believing they’re superior is factually now going to threaten, lower their own quality of life and statistically end it much sooner than later. Trouble is they’re selfish to the end and refuse to take any social responsibility or be held accountable. Like your freedom doesn’t extend to putting others in harms way. Now we have all these variants and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a mutation and the vaccine stops being effective. Like thank you very much for taking us down with you. There are people in the rest of the world begging, hoping and wishing for a vaccine you turn your nose up to. Smh I just can’t with these a*holes.

  11. Karelli says:

    Maybe some people are still hesitant because 20 to 30 % of the medical community is hesitant itself. When you go ask for advice to your hesitant doctor/nurse who wants to see the long term effects for themselves, what kind of advice you think they give? To get your shot right away, or do they support you in your hesitation, weighting your concerns in the balance?

  12. Yaya says:

    I am not sure how many of you watch Last Week Tonight on HBO, but John Oliver did a great show on vaccines and hesitancy. My partner was totally against getting the vaccine, then I showed him this and his whole mindset changed, around the 13 minute mark he explains how the vaccine came about so quickly
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPHgRp70H8o
    Its worth a watch!
    I love Sanjay!

  13. ME says:

    Just imagine future generations learning about the Covid-19 pandemic 30 years from now in history books. It’ll be a comedic read for them. They will have a hard time understanding all the stupidity currently going on.

    • Christine says:

      There’s going to be a “What Was Covid-19?”, available at school book fairs near you, 30 years from now. I hope it has a bunch of morons, dying horrific deaths, so future generations respect science over idiocy.

  14. Feebee says:

    Vaccine inquisitiveness is overly kind. At this point if most people wanted to get answers about the vaccine, it’s available. Like from actual health experts not Facebook. I’m over the excuses. There’s a good chance they may never get Covid thanks to the vaccinated but I’m over them in general and they’re definitely on their own.

  15. Gippy says:

    Personally, I think most nurses are wonderful, caring and intelligent. However, and many others who work in medical offices but don’t have much or any schooling, have been taken in by these conspiracy theories. I read an articled that stated it’d been proved that when Russia meddled in the 2020 US election they specifically target nurses and other medical staff. I think that’s been part of the problem since the beginning. I do not get why more nurses and dr aren’t more outspoken encouraging people to get the vaccine. Don’t get me started on chiropractors, I respect their skills but they all seem looney AF now.