Q: My uncle says scientists never isolated the virus and that therefore the vaccine is a hoax. What do I say to this?
A: We recommend serving up a tasty truth sandwich.
🍞 First, state the truth: “That’s not true. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was isolated way back in January 2020 by separate teams of scientists all around the globe. It was isolated by a US team from the very first case in the United States on January 22, 2020. And by China, Italy, Korea, and half a dozen other countries around the world within the first months of the pandemic.”
❤️ Then, put a little something in the middle of your sandwich. Name the common ground. Encourage your uncle to apply his great instincts for critical thinking to this myth. “You’re right that without isolating the virus, it would be impossible to make a vaccine. I agree that it’s important to check your facts and think critically about what you hear, especially on social media. I looked for fact checkers on this, and learned that a Canadian environmentalist made this claim on a talk radio show. The same person also claimed that AIDS, West Nile Disease, and polio are not caused by viruses. He based his arguments on scientific theories from over 100 years ago before viruses were even discovered.”
🍞 Then top it off with another slice of truth: “It’s just not true that scientists never identified the virus. They’ve even sequenced its genetic code and taken pictures of it with an electron microscope. You can check this out yourself. Just google “have scientists isolated the COVID-19 virus?” and then the words “fact check.’”
Then change the subject. It probably won’t help to get into the weeds here. You can say “I don’t want to talk about this any more–it upsets me to see how you’ve been misled.” or “let’s just talk about this later, ok? I didn’t come here to start a fight.”
Remember that yelling, shaming, and calling names are not good ways to change minds. Lead with love, follow up with truth, and leave before it gets ugly.