Open Letter To An Anti-Vaxxer

On Tuesday, a flyer titled “The Replacement Game,” was taped to a lamppost directly in front of my building. There’s no sugarcoating it. The message was racist, homo/transphobic, and Anti-Semitic. The “designer” relies on a smug false equivalency to plead their case, portraying anger toward anti-vaxxers as bullying and akin to discrimination against the Black, LGBTQ+, and Jewish communities. Hashtag: NoMandates, StandUpToBullies. If you’re curious, a photo of the flyer is posted at the very end so as not to feed it extra oxygen. But, if you’ve seen it in Brooklyn Heights and/or elsewhere, drop the location(s) in the comments. 

Buckle up. This is gonna be a long one. What follows is an open letter to the individual(s) who perpetrated this act. Because hate, or in this case, hate masquerading as snarky indignance, has no place in Brooklyn Heights. Or anywhere.

The opinions expressed here are mine alone. They do not represent or reflect those of the Brooklyn Heights Blog.


False Equivalency #1: Refusing to get vaccinated or to follow mask mandates is a choice. Being Black, LGBTQ+, or Jewish (unless you’ve converted) is NOT. The bigotry, defensiveness, selfishness, willfully ignorant, and deeply entrenched anti-vax ideals illustrated in your flyer are anathemas to me. Newsflash: You’re not being bullied. People are PISSED at the stubbornly unvaxxed. Not people who can’t get vaxxed, just the ones who flat-out refuse. Sorry, not sorry.

As reported by WPIX 11, on Tuesday alone NYC had 53,276 new cases of Covid, and 10,411 had been hospitalized. Those numbers are higher than the same day during last winter’s surge. And that’s the problem. We are STILL dealing with Covid two years later. What did you hope to accomplish with this? Your message is not provocative, clever, or effective. It’s an 8 1/2 x 11 temper tantrum. I feel ZERO empathy for your “plight.”  But getting angry at you is bad for my mental health. So I chose to write a PSA instead. 

PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR ON TOP, #GETVAXXED, #WEARAMASK  (KF94 or KN95’s, and keep your nose covered at all times, please)  

1. THE GREATER GOOD: It’s not about your feelings. Feelings are not facts. There should be zero debate about this. It’s called Public Health policy for a reason. Feelings are not logical. Science is. And Public Health is not political or partisan. Complying with CDC guidelines, getting vaccinated, and being boosted is not only about protecting oneself. These measures protect everyone around you, and everyone around them, and so on and so on. Think of it like ripples on a pond. This is how one participates in polite society. We are supposed to take care of the most vulnerable among us. No matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, class or creed.

False Equivalency #2: When anti-vaxxers co-opt the Pro-Choice clarion call, “My Body, My Choice,” it is equally as deserving of the public’s ire as the “arguments” on your flyer. By definition, Public Health is not about any single individual’s rights. Yes, you have a right to do with your body as you choose. Just as women, for now, have the right to decide when and if they want to carry a child. And just as denying women access to medical care creates a cascading public health crisis, so does remaining unvaccinated. You do NOT have the right to put other people at risk and/or get them sick by remaining unvaccinated.

2. VACCINES WORK: When enough people get vaccinated we reach a tipping point of protection called herd immunity. Herd immunity prevents us from infecting those who cannot be vaccinated-the elderly, very young, and those who have pre-existing conditions or are immuno-compromised. Without herd immunity, viruses continue to mutate-it’s literally their job. And the unvaccinated become walking, talking biological weapons by carrying a full-strength version of the virus to people who have very few defenses against it. The longer we go without herd immunity, the more strains emerge and the longer it will take to get Covid under control. Case in point, in recent years several large-scale Measles outbreaks occurred in NYC because these particular communities were overwhelmingly and willfully unvaccinated.

First came Delta and now with Omicron, Covid has mutated faster than we could develop a revised vaccine. Omicron is SO contagious, the fully vaccinated and boosted are now faced with breakthrough infections. Yet another reason vaccinated people are PISSED. It’s the same concept for why we are told to finish a course of antibiotics. If we only partially knock out the bacteria, it has a chance to bounce back, mutate and become drug-resistant. Hello MRSA, I’m looking at you!

Truly, madly, deeply, double pinky swears, I swear on my life, my child’s life, vaccines work! There hasn’t been a case of Smallpox or Polio in the US since 1979 and 1980, respectively. They have been eradicated through the use of vaccines. The specter of Ebola is also largely under control because of the vaccine introduced in 2003. Vaccines work! It shouldn’t be so hard for me to help you understand this. Yet another reason the public is PISSED.

3. SCIENCE PROGRESSES & SOCIETY ADAPTS: Every day there are new threats to our existence, both biological and man-made. Fortunately, we make scientific discoveries and technological advances to counter-balance them. New drugs and treatments are formulated. We adopt new methodologies, and ideologies. And, we also pass new laws and update legislation already on the books to curtail dangerous behaviors or ban toxic substances or products. Because laws take a long time to pass, in emergency situations like Covid, mandates are necessary to protect the public because time is of the essence.

To wit, cigarettes were previously advertised as “healthy.” Now we understand they cause cancer so it’s illegal to smoke in public spaces. We can’t drive drunk, distracted, or otherwise impaired. Infants, toddlers, and small children ride in car seats. Adults wear seat belts. WHY? Because science, statistics, and data overwhelmingly demonstrate taking these measures saves lives. And again, it’s to protect public health. It’s not ok to drive drunk, plow down a pedestrian, or smash into another car. But if you do, your seatbelt will likely save your life. And, if you survive the accident, there would be legal consequences.   

Vaccinations, masks, et. al. are no different. For decades and with very few exceptions, before a child can walk through the door of a public or private school in the United States they are required either by law or the institution itself to be vaccinated against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), Whooping Cough, Diphtheria and Tetanus (DipTet), Tuberculosis, and likely more. In our lifetime, additional vaccines for Flu, Meningitis, HPV, Chicken Pox, and Shingles have been developed. Covid is just the latest threat.

The virus changes quickly. So until we can formulate new versions (just as we have the different flu shots each year to address new or dominant strains) we must get two doses and a booster of whatever is available. 

4. VACCINES ARE SAFE: The good news is, the current vaccines have worked well enough to prevent fully vaccinated and boosted individuals from being hospitalized or dying. And, not only are their symptoms less severe, they may resolve more quickly. But that does NOT mean it’s advised or safe for a person to remain unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. Ninety percent of hospitalizations are among under or unvaccinated patients.

Craig Spencer, MD is the Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia, Twitter sensation, and an Ebola survivor. He gave Channel 4 news a full breakdown of symptoms attributed to each level of vaccination. Bottom line, the fewer doses you receive, the more severe your illness, making it exponentially more likely you will be hospitalized, intubated, will experience long-haul symptoms, or die.

Equally important to understand, Covid vaccines are not experimental. Pfizer+BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines utilize Messenger RNA (mRNA), a delivery system used since the 1970s. So do Flu, Zika & Rabies. Like the Ebola vaccine, J&J’s is a viral vector vaccine, also time-tested since the ’70s. Furthermore, millions and millions of people have been vaccinated against Covid globally in the past year. That is a living, breathing, ever-expanding wealth of real-time scientific data from multiple sources. This alone demonstrates Covid vaccines are safe.

5. VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM: The British “doctor” who perpetrated the dangerous and egregious lie of “vaccine injury” had his medical license revoked for misconduct in 2010 by the  UK’s General Medical Council. Do some folks have adverse or allergic reactions to vaccines. Absolutely. There are always outliers. But we hear about them 2nd, 3rd, and 4th hand through a big game of telephone. Meaning, your best friend’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s UPS guy is not the most reliable source. So, sorry Jenny McCarthy, once and for all, vaccines do NOT cause Autism!

So how does misinformation take such a strong, stubborn foothold among otherwise intelligent people? The 2020 book, “The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Andrew Wakefield’s War on Vaccines” traces how a “privileged man with charisma and big ideas” employed “apples-with-brussels-sprouts comparison” in his studies. (There are those pesky false equivalencies again.) The pressure of desperate parents seeking cures for their childrens’ afflictions created urgency. But multiple conflicts of interest among his benefactors, some of them anti-vax politicians or industrialists propelled Wakefield to publish faulty studies. He drank his own Kool-Ade. He wanted to cash in. Sound familiar? Hydroxychloroquine anyone?

6. THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY: Each Covid variant behaves differently. So yes, the messaging from Government health agencies has been ever-changing and confusing at times. As reported by The Hill, CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky admitted this on Face the Nation. Yes, there are communities that (in my opinion) are rightfully vaccine-hesitant. They don’t trust Medicine or Big Pharma because of institutional racism. And, yes Big Pharma is greedy. Newsflash #2: Water is wet.

I assure you though, there is no scientist alive who is in it for the money. It takes 12- 14 years to earn a Ph.D. Being a Bench Scientist for the Pharmaceutical industry requires hours and hours of meticulous experimentation carried out in obscurity. It is not sexy, nor will it make anyone a millionaire or famous. The bottom line is scientists who conduct medical and pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) are brilliant individuals who want to save lives.

Hopefully, this missive is more effective than say, me launching a pro-vax guerilla counter-marketing campaign. Some might ask, “Why even bother?”  Truth be told, I’m exhausted. I shouldn’t have to work this hard to motivate someone to get their Fauci Ouchies. (It doesn’t hurt by the way). It’s our civic duty to get vaccinated. That should be enough. And true, I may not get through to you, dear Replacement Gamer. But if ONE person has a change of heart my efforts here will have been worth it. But just in case I haven’t broadened any horizons, perhaps some of the most recent news coverage will move the needle.

CNN: Mild Covid Doesn’t Always Fell That Way

AP News: Hospitalizations Skyrocket In Kids Too Young for Shots

New York Times: More Patients, Fewer Workers: Omicron Pushes New York Hospitals to the Brink

NPR: Intimate Portraits of a COVID Unit from a Photojournalist-Turned Nurse

So please, for the love of all things holy, be a good citizen, just get vaccinated. Get boosted. And social distance, wear KF94 or KN95 masks (cover your nose or it’s pointless). My December 27th post, Free Covid Testing Near Brooklyn Heights, outlines many convenient locations. LabQ Diagnostics has several testing vans stationed in the surrounding neighborhoods as well. Tests were no-cost with insurance. (And no surprise fees like CareCube.)


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  • Mike Suko

    Beautiful…. My only reservation about your piece is what I’m inclined to think is a severe over-reaction on your part.

    Yes, even a single act of hatred in our community is somewhere between sad and appalling – mostly, depending on who sees it and what their frame of mind & vulnerabilities are.

    But hoping that the world will be free of crazies and haters is a little like hoping that we’ll ever see an interview with X, “the last person on earth to have contracted Covid.”

    I go with the school of thought that says that what a person like whoever dreamed up that flyer & posted them WANTS is to get under your skin AND TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED as having an IMPACT on the people & community they live near and likely envy. (An impact they didn’t have before!)

    To the extent that you granted his/her wish, you may have inadvertently “funded” sequels. Mind you, just as Biden flipped from ignoring “TFG” to taking him on this past week, it’s a very tough call – whether to ignore this or that instance of bad behavior … or to react as you did.

    The “good news” is that I doubt that the flyer changed any minds. The “bad news” is that I have no idea how or even IF the chasm that exists between the 2 “tribes” now at war – even in NY City – will narrow.

  • Andrew Porter

    You’re being logical, but logic has nothing to do with the attitudes of those opposed to getting a vaccine. As that song in “South Pacific” goes, you’ve got to be carefully taught…

    Conspiracy theorists and those who shout “Fake News!” can never be convinced of the error of their ways.

    Darwin Award nominees, all of them!

  • Andrew Porter

    The unanswered question is, who taped this up? I would have thought such views are not shared in our liberal community. Sad that it’s otherwise.

  • SongBirdNYC

    Exactly Andrew, this is why I wrote the piece. And, I believe all acts of hatred and bigotry need to be called out. To ignore them, is to keep these cowardly individuals underground making them more dangerous. I mean look at the turn out when the Adam Yauch playground was spray painted with swastikas.

    The post also gave me a place to vent. Truthfully, I feel much better having done a brain dump, so to speak. Now I if anyone starts spouting Anti-Vaxx BS my way, I can point to this post. Kinda like a Khabe Lame meme.

  • SongBirdNYC

    Yes, I know. That’s why I said “Feelings are not facts…feelings are not logical. Science is.”

  • SongBirdNYC

    Thanks for reading thru to the end, Mike.

  • Arch Stanton

    Smells like the work of our resident nazi and all things conspiracy Mr. Jeff Smith…

  • Arch Stanton

    Come on, You Know Who This It Is…

  • SongBirdNYC


  • Arch Stanton

    Yeah he’s a local screwball. Back in the late 70’s early 80’s, he used to distribute a far right newspaper called the Spotlight, leaving them tucked under the windshield wipers of parked cars, on stoops and in vestibules. He tried to recruit neighborhood teenagers into a Neo Nazi organization called the New Order. That ended when one of my friends threw him a serious beating. He also was a Ham Radio operator, broadcasting under the handle “White Power”. He’d antagonize other ham operators with his racist garbage. He is still around, that flyer is his modus operandi, in spades.

  • SongBirdNYC

    Oh believe me, I KNOW!

  • aeshtron

    It’s usually easy and always satisfying to remove unauthorized physical postings. As a bonus sometimes you even get free zip ties and/or funny looks from passersby.

    “It is illegal for any person to paste, post, paint, print, nail, or attach or affix by any means whatsoever any handbill, poster, notice, sign, advertisement, sticker, or other printed material upon any curb, gutter, flagstone, tree, lamppost, awning post, telegraph pole, telephone pole, public utility pole, public garbage bin, bus shelter, bridge, elevated train structure, highway fence, barrel, box, parking meter, mailbox, traffic control device, traffic stanchion, traffic sign (including pole), tree box, tree pit protection device, bench, traffic barrier, city-owned grassy area adjacent to a street, hydrant, or other similar public item on any street.”

  • Andrew Porter

    In person, though, he’s quite charming. Here’s my photo of him at the annual BHA meeting a year ago or so:

  • Andrew Porter

    In recent years I’ve wandered the Heights with a boxcutter in my pocket, to take down commercial notices; I leave the stoop sale or lost pet ones up.

    What bugs me are all the stoop sale notices that people never take down after the sale is over.

  • Arch Stanton