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Episode Summary

As the Covid-19 infections continue to rise among non-vaccinated people, it’s worth taking a look at the history of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and unqualified media medical advice.

In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield is joined by Richard Carpiano, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside.

Carpiano is a medical sociologist and public and population health scientist who studies how social factors, such as education, income, race-ethnicity, and social connections impact the physical and mental health of adults, children, and the communities in which they live.

In the discussion, Carpiano talks about how conspiracies about medical vaccines have circulated in multiple sub-cultures through quack medical doctors, television programs of people like Oprah Winfrey, and also via Christian nationalist groups that oppose science generally.

They also discuss how political-interest media commentators like Nate Silver and Zeynep Tufekci have unadvisedly expanded their output to include inexpert pronouncements about the pandemic, and in the process undermined public confidence in legitimate medical experts.

Read Carpiano’s essay about amateur Covid punditry and public confusion here or follow him on Twitter.