An anti-vaccine campaigner who once worked for pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Dr Mike Yeadon, has today been named the 2021 recipient of the “Rusty Razor” award, the prize given by The Skeptic to the year’s worst promoters of pseudoscience.
Yeadon, who left Pfizer in 2011 and has subsequently become a hero of the Covid conspiracy theorist movement for his anti-vaccination scaremongering.
Throughout the pandemic, Mike Yeadon has been a prolific source of viral misinformation, including claiming that masks have no effect on Covid spread, that lockdowns “never slow transmission”, and that asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is a lie. In an October 2020 article for the Daily Mail, Yeadon predicted there would be no second wave of COVID-19 infections, and that deaths would “fizzle out without overwhelming the NHS” – since then a further 100,000 people have died.
Once Covid vaccines became available, Yeadon’s misinformation shifted to their safety and efficacy – in December 2020 he petitioned Europe’s medicines regulator to halt vaccine trials, claiming it could cause infertility in women – a claim he acknowledged was not backed by scientific evidence, but which spread widely on social media. By January, 13% of unvaccinated people in the United States had heard that “COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to cause infertility.” A UK-based study found that 7% of all UK adults had heard Yeadon’s false claim regarding infertility.
More recently, Yeadon has stated that he believes COVID-19 vaccines are “50 times more likely” to kill children than COVID-19 itself, and that vaccines are part of a “serious attempt at mass depopulation” and they represented the “deliberate execution potentially of billions of people”.
The Skeptic Editor Michael Marshall said: “The nominations for this year’s pseudoscience prize were dominated by figures who have spread anti-vaccine misinformation, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, former nurse Kate Shemirani, and US podcasters Joe Rogan and Bret Weinstein. However, it’s Yeadon’s scientific background and the perceived credibility of his past career with Pfizer which we felt deserved the additional recognition of our Rusty Razor Award.
“Throughout the pandemic, Yeadon has been relentless in his consistently misinformed predictions and his baseless scaremongering about COVID-19 vaccines. Each of his claims have spread around social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Telegram – due, in part, to the perceived credibility offered by his status as an ex-Pfizer scientist.
“He has provided some of the most effective ammunition for the anti-vaccination movement, and for that reason we feel he is a very worthy winner of the Rusty Razor award”.
The 2021 Ockham Award for Skeptical Activism went to Dutch microbiologist and scientific integrity consultant Dr Elisabeth Bik, for her work identifying and exposing fraudulent, mistaken, and plagiarised research.