John Oliver doesn’t want you to show your vaccine-hesitant friends and family this video.
And fair enough. HBO’s Last Week Tonight AKA Shouty British Man Calls Pretty Much Everyone A Fucking Idiot For Half An Hour can be one of the most fun ways to learn about boring but important things, but it’s not for everyone. Your nana needs to hear that Tucker Carlson is not a reliable source of medical information, but she probably doesn’t want to hear it from another TV host who has a person in a giant cicada costume gesticulating frantically behind him, right after making a JFK joke that even made me wince.
In all seriousness, the problem of vaccine hesitancy — people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t feel sure enough that the COVID vaccines are safe to go along and get a precious and potentially life-saving jab — is a serious one.
“Our best way out of this mess long term is clearly vaccines,” Oliver said at the beginning of Sunday night’s show. “And it’s worth remembering we in the U.S. are incredibly fortunate. We currently have access to a lot of vaccines, and more than half of U.S. adults have now gotten at least one dose, which is great. The bad news is some vaccination locations have already gone from having not enough supply to not enough demand.”
Oliver went on to dive into some of the most damaging myths about the miraculous range of vaccines currently available, as well as the worst perpetrators of those myths. He covered everything from the actual origins of the “Bill Gates is going to implant a tracking device in you” batshittery, to the understandable perception that the vaccine development process was “rushed” and fear-mongering headlines about people who happened to die after being vaccinated.
“Correlation isn’t causation. The vaccine protects against COVID, not the concept of mortality. It is weird that I have to clarify this but you are, in fact, going to die one day, Mike. Yeah, Mike, stop listening to what Joe Rogan tells you. He’s a fucking moron. And those are his words, not mine.“
Importantly, Oliver did also take a sympathetic look at some of the factors behind public suspicion of mass vaccination — from the constant firehose of misinformation in right-wing media to historical government abuse like the Tuskegee experiment. And at the end of the video, he issued a call to action.
“Because the truth is, I’m not going to be able to convince the people in your life who are hesitant,” he points out. “The person with the best chance of doing that is you. So if you know someone who is worried for whatever reason, and you want to convince them otherwise, don’t show them this video, but maybe do try and use some of the information inside it to tell them yourself. And when you are trying to do that, don’t dismiss or judge them for having doubts.”