Ashland Memes: An Examination and Debunk of Their Vaccine Claims

An Instagram page called Ashland Memes Official, dedicated to posting and sharing memes about Ashland, had quite the controversial post on Saturday, February 5th. The page posted on its Instagram story where it stood in solidarity with people who went to downtown Ashland protesting mandatory vaccines and advocating for bodily autonomy. Given Ashland Memes’s history of posting progressive-related topics, this created controversy and sparked backlash towards the account. The controversy this generated has resulted in Ashland Memes losing over 2,000 followers, going from roughly 7,000 followers to 5,000. The backlash was so bad, the people who run Ashland Memes have now locked down the account and made the page private. Unless it approves a follow request, an individual can no longer follow or see the page’s content. Despite supporting them in articles in the past, such as when they got suspended in October of 2020, the Siskiyou staff does not support the actions taken against the page’s critics and dissenters, which included disrespectful attacks on those who chose to DM the beloved community page with concerns about the spreading of false information regarding COVID-19.

A source who wishes to remain anonymous has provided the Siskiyou with screenshots showing interaction between the source and the Ashland Memes’ page. These screenshots contained Ashland Memes both supporting the protests. They even provided us with DM’s that some of Ashland’s Memes followers had sent them about their stance. To which, Ashland Memes had responded with some concerning replies. 

The argument these protestors made against mandatory vaccines was that it was their body and they should have the right to do what they want with it. They went as far as comparing their arguments to the same arguments one sees in abortion debates, where pro-choice individuals argue that women should have the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies. At first glance, one might think both arguments are kind of similar on a surface level. However, if one thinks for just a few seconds about how viruses and vaccines work, then the argument goes completely out the window.

First, when you catch a virus and go out spreading it to other people, then you aren’t just affecting your body, but the bodies of others. The second is that, while vaccines are not fool-proof in catching viruses or even spreading it to others, they still greatly decrease the odds of catching said virus or spreading it to others. While breakthrough cases with any of the Covid vaccines are very much possible, it is important to remember that with all vaccines in general, none of them are truly 100% protection against viruses. They do, however, give you a much better chance at dealing with them if you are infected. The health department of Minnesota has an excellent page on vaccine breakthrough rates. This shows how even getting a vaccine and later catching that virus you are supposed to be protected from, is still better than the alternative of catching the virus unvaccinated, as the symptoms are regularly much milder.

Ashland Memes has also been caught being very condescending and lacking in concern towards the complaints it has received. In one instance, an individual had messaged the account about their step-mother who had a kidney transplant and cannot develop antibodies, therefore, can’t get the vaccine. The only way for her life to return to normal is if the area she lives in has a high vaccination rate.

However, the account responded with: “That is horribly sad and I feel for her, but it is one cherry picked scenario that many use to coerce people into a pharmacological intervention that is inherently risky and unnecessary for so many. What about her right to exist in the world because going outside could kill her? I suppose we should take away everyone’s drivers license so she doesn’t get hit by a car, and ban food so she doesn’t choke, turn off the sun so she doesn’t get skin cancer? It’s a ridiculous stance to take. Contributing to mass blind obedience to authority, and putting tens of billions of dollars into Pharma’s pocket for extraneous treatments isn’t virtuous. More vaccinated individuals does not equal slower spread, nor does it mean fewer variants. Over and out.” 

This attitude has been concerning for many of those who follow the formerly beloved community page. It dismisses concerns and even the well-being of others; this is something that many in the Ashland community consider being dangerous. One person even compares the account to Joe Rogan, a comedian and podcaster who had said similar things about vaccines, and the person who runs the account took this as a compliment, which sparked even further concerns about the danger this account may cause due to a lack of credible information being spread about the virus and the effect of its vaccines.

After facing all of this backlash it was getting, one of the account’s administrators made a public statement. The account, while supporting things like wearing masks whenever necessary, went on a long rant about “big pharma”, governments, vaccines, and so forth. A screenshot of their statement can be found below.

An screenshot of Ashland Memes Instagram story

Now there is a lot to unpack here, most of all the “big pharma” complaints. Just looking at the statistics from hospitalizations in the US shows the majority of people who go to the ICU because of catching Covid are unvaccinated. Another big fault in this argument is the fact that countries that have a much better healthcare system than the US have shown that vaccines are much more effective to prevent adverse side effects, including death. For example in Japan, health care over there is free to all citizens, including foreigners. Their vaccination rates are at 72% in terms of getting the first two shots. While cases are currently far higher than they ever have been due to the Omicron variant, they have had 19,000 people die from Covid-19, a number much lower than their American counterparts. This is real-world evidence on how effective the vaccine is at preventing death and hospitalization. 

As for the FDA being funded by “Big Pharma,” this claim has already been debunked by an excellent USAToday article which proves that only a small percentage of vaccine funding comes to these companies, which are for things like the review process of drugs and medicine. 96% of scientists and doctors, who went to school for medicine and have been in the medical industry for years, support getting vaccinated.

After facing so much backlash, the owners of the account have now gone into lockdown, and it’s even impossible to reach out and message them to see if their stance has changed. It’s also unknown if the account will unlock again or if the glory days of Ashland Memes are now really, truly over. [Editor’s note: as of February 23rd, the page is no longer private.]

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