Confirmation bias. Attribution fallacy. The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. That's why you're seeing anti-COVID-19 vaccination supporters drumming up conspiracy theories about why Damar Hamlin collapsed. To be clear, what transpired during the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game Monday night has absolutely nothing to do with Hamlin's vaccination status -- full stop.
Why Damar Hamlin's Vaccination Status is Becoming Controversial
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When the Bills safety -- who remains in critical condition days after the incident -- collapsed on the field, many fans, pundits and amateur medical personnel took to social media to give their takes on the situation. As the NFL player lay on the field with 10 athletic trainers working on him and his teammates in shock and disbelief, right-wing Republican personality Charlie Kirk kicked off a campaign of misinformation.
And to be explicitly clear, that opinion was based completely on conjecture. It isn't publicly known whether Hamlin has taken the vaccine, which vaccine or any boosters, and how many doses he's had, if any.
"This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now: Athletes dropping suddenly," the Turning Point USA founder tweeted as trainers used a defibrillator to reverse Hamlin's cardiac arrest. What Kirk is alluding to is that Hamlin's vaccination status may have caused the Bills player to collapse -- instead of a collision with Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins -- in the first quarter of a Monday Night Football game.
Instead, Kirk and others have implied other potential issues with Hamlin's heart. The main source for such claims is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found myocarditis to be a potential side effect in rare cases. It should also be mentioned that the CDC has found that those suffering from myocarditis have responded well to treatment following a visit to the doctor.
Regardless, as cardiologists pointed to commotio cordis and arrhythmia as the main possibilities for why Hamlin collapsed and was sent to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, conspiracy theorists continue to question Hamlin's injury, some even wondering if his heart attack was was part of a larger trend they've been tracking.
These theories are often brought up by those pushing the idea that young men, young athletes and others who have decided to take the COVID-19 vaccine have all died suddenly without warning over the last year. However, without public health records, it is difficult to make that determination with anything other than a less-than-educated guess.
After millions of people watched a professional football player collapse on TV, the time to spread misinformation and falsehoods appears to be at hand. And, unfortunately, it appears that each time a tragedy like this happens, we'll have to wade through another sea of misinformation and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories to get to the other side.
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