Change country:

Nicki Minaj isn’t anti-vax, exactly. That’s why her vaccine resistance is so concerning.

Nicki Minaj sitting alone at a cafe table. Nicki Minaj attends the Marc Jacobs Fall 2020 runway show during New York Fashion Week on February 12, 2020, in New York. | Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs

Minaj, under the guise of urging vaccine caution, is helping mainstream a dangerous form of anti-science.

For many people, Nicki Minaj’s scene-stealing tweets about why she chose not to attend the Met Gala Monday night were peak comedy. Minaj told several people on social media she’d chosen not to attend the haute couture event because of its requirement that attendees be vaccinated against Covid-19. After she explained her hesitancy in a baffling, instantly viral tweet involving swollen testicles and a canceled wedding, some ignored the more concerning parts of Minaj’s argument in favor of laughing.

While it’s tempting to just focus on the absurdist meme potential of Minaj’s tweets, Minaj’s approach to the vaccine is deeply concerning, both because it reflects a widespread distrust in public policy, health, and science experts and because it presents a cautionary mindset regarding vaccines as a sort of reasonable “middle ground” in the fight between science and anti-vax ideology.

So far, about three-quarters of US adults are at least partially vaccinated against Covid, but many of the rest remain reluctant. As vaccinations become mandatory in many workplaces and schools, and people who are reluctant start discussing their anxieties, Minaj’s cautionary, individualistic approach to getting vaccinated might seem relatable and even reasonable. But this is still a highly dangerous approach rooted in misinformation and a concerning distrust of science.

We might think of it as the mainstreaming of “vaccine caution,” and it’s arguably just as dangerous as outright vaccine science denial.

Did Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s fiancée really call off their wedding because he got vaccinated?

On Monday afternoon, Minaj responded to a tweet from a fan lamenting her lack of recent public appearances by noting she didn’t want to risk her infant’s health during the pandemic. A few interactions later — including one in which she claimed Drake told her he contracted Covid-19 despite having gotten the vaccine — she tweeted, “They want you to get vaccinated for the Met. if I get vaccinated it won’t [be] for the Met. It’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research. I’m working on that now.”

They want you to get vaccinated for the Met. if I get vaccinated it won’t for the Met. It’ll be once I feel I’ve done enough research. I’m working on that now. In the meantime my loves, be safe. Wear the mask with 2 strings that grips your head & face. Not that loose one ♥️

— Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) September 13, 2021

Since it’s combined with the invocation to wear a mask — advice given by experts who’ve endorsed vaccines — Minaj’s wary approach to the vaccine is a bit confusing. However, it’s nothing compared to what she followed it up with. Apparently, a big part of her reluctance to get vaccinated was based in part on the fate of her Trinidadian cousin’s friend’s nuptials:

My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied

— Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) September 13, 2021

Just to spell it out, known side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine do not include testicle swelling (although unfounded concerns about the vaccine and female fertility have circulated). Without more context about Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s illness, it’s impossible to know more — but it seems highly unlikely his situation had anything to do with Covid-19.

Naturally, this kind of left-field reasoning was widely ridiculed across social media, and Minaj quickly made headlines for peddling coronavirus conspiracies. Yet even as people were lining up to make STD references and Met Gala memes, many of Minaj’s fans were responding supportively — especially to her statement about “doing the research.”

“I read up on all the research for MONTHS before I chose to get it,” one reader responded, referring to the vaccine. “Everyone has the right to read the information given by the FDA and doctors before they take the shot right?”

This belief underlies Minaj’s argument, and it seems to be one that’s held by many other people with similar levels of mistrust in vaccine science.

Minaj’s insistence on doing her own “research” reflects widespread Covid-19 anxiety

The problem with “doing one’s own research” is that, as Minaj’s tweets reveal, many people — who haven’t spent years researching viruses and vaccines — don’t have the scientific knowledge needed to evaluate vaccine efficacy without the help of experts. A huge part of the effort to curb Covid-related misinformation has been about trying to get people to understand that vaccination “research” isn’t something many people can just sit down and do on their own. Trying to do so may lead the researcher to pockets of misinformation that result in a citizen being more poorly informed, not better informed, about the actual health risks of vaccines.

In fact, this kind of thinking can be a direct route to begin interacting with and possibly believing in a wide range of conspiracy theories, mainly because there is so much misinformation and disinformation about highly complex subjects, including Covid-19.

It doesn’t help that some of that disinformation has come from trusted public institutions — including, during the Trump administration, directly from the US president.

What Minaj’s opinions represent, then, isn’t just her individual lack of knowledge giving rise to wariness over the vaccine. Her fear has been bolstered by years of anti-vax campaigns, as well as general public lethargy about actually getting vaccinated.

Minaj’s pushback against pro-vaccine rhetoric isn’t unique to her by any means. Black communities have endured centuries of being ruthlessly exploited, lied to, and sometimes used in unethical medical experiments without their knowledge or consent. They’ve been subjected to blatantly racist medical practices, all while continually bearing some of the worst effects of health epidemics, including Covid-19.

With systemic factors leading to a hugely unequal Covid-19 death toll among Black people last year, and false claims about Covid vaccines continuing to spread, there is substantial mistrust of Covid-19 science among some Black Americans. If Nicki Minaj among that group, can she really be blamed for it?

Well, yes and no — because Minaj’s tweets arguably have a powerful influence over the way her 22 million Twitter followers approach the subject of vaccination. If Minaj’s faith in science and health officials has been undermined, and she’s subsequently encouraging followers to trust their intuition over that of health experts, she’s promoting a distrust of science in general that could have seriously damaging repercussions.

What Minaj seems to be arguing for, however, isn’t outright vaccine rejection. She even went on to say, “I’m sure I’ll [be] vaccinated as well cuz I have to go on tour.” Her cautionary, individualistic approach to getting vaccinated, however, might still do damage.

Minaj’s ambivalence is part of a wider problem in conversations around Covid-19 vaccines

Minaj immediately began attempting to soften her harsher statements about the vaccine. She asked her followers which vaccine they’d recommend, and commented that taking the vaccine with no side effects is “the norm.” She also went on to say she “def recommend[s]” that people whose jobs or countries mandate vaccination do so, and admitted she’d probably get the vaccine herself. She also reiterated that her main reason for skipping out on the Met Gala was to protect her 1-year-old son.

She then pointed to a couple of her own tweets to argue that she had never expressed opposition to the vaccine. Minaj’s support clearly seems to be aimed at preventing job loss in circumstances where the vaccine is mandatory. The subtext seems to be a reluctant acceptance that workers can’t always be able to choose to go unvaccinated, rather than Minaj enthusiastically supporting vaccination itself.

Minaj’s overall attitude seems to be a kind of wary caution and a “DIY” approach to science. That might reflect a new “wave” of vaccine rhetoric adopted by many people who don’t strictly identify as anti-vax but who are still reluctant to actually get their shot.

Surveys have found that most unvaccinated adults say they are unlikely to change their minds and get the vaccine. Others who have not gotten the shot may be “in-betweeners” — people who aren’t anti-vax but who are still in a kind of wait-and-see holding pattern.

These holdouts could make a substantial difference in how effective the Covid-19 vaccines can be. The higher the vaccinated population, the more the vaccines can reduce transmission of the disease. Fully vaccinated people can resume living their lives somewhat normally, and their confidence and health may likely help sway even those who’ve firmly decided against the vaccine.

Instead, Minaj’s “middle-of-the-road” approach might become a new avenue for expressing distrust in science while still acquiescing to the necessity of vaccination.

The problem with this is that the efficacy of vaccines never has been, and shouldn’t be, a matter of public debate. With the exception of the original scientific study that began the modern anti-vax movement, which used false and fraudulent research to create fear, vaccines have always been part of scientifically established medical practice. They are safe, effective, and necessary for combating the spread of countless viral diseases.

The “do your research and decide what’s right for you” approach that celebrities like Minaj seem to be endorsing is a disingenuous view. It undermines centuries of epidemiology and important work to fight diseases by suggesting that vaccine safety boils down to how you, personally, feel about vaccines. But the question of whether vaccines are safe isn’t up for debate. The answer is simple: yes.

Minaj’s reluctance to say yes is unfortunate — but it’s important to note she’s far from the only celebrity who’s waffled about vaccine efficacy, spread misinformation, or outright rejected the vaccine. Minaj’s tweets are particularly significant, however, because they weren’t totally anti-vax — and because they came at a moment when all eyes were on her because of her absence from the Met Gala. Thus, many, many people saw Minaj presenting personal ambivalence as an alternative to promoting and trusting science and being responsible about getting vaccinated.

We may be making “My cousin in Trinidad” jokes for a long while to come. The unfortunate influence of Minaj’s vaccine resistance could last even longer.

Read full article on:
A royal night out at the Bond premiere
William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the world premiere of 'No Time to Die' at Royal Albert Hall in London. It's the 25th 007 movie and Craig's last turn as the iconic spy. (Sept. 28)
Danny K. Davis Says Women Must Be 'Protected' After Suggesting R. Kelly Could Be Redeemed
As an artist, one gifted, I think he'll be welcomed back into Chicago as a person who can be redeemed," Davis said on Monday.
WATCH: Police officer pulls driver from burning car
Police in California are praising the rookie officer who rushed to pull a driver from a burning vehicle after a crash on a San Jose freeway.
5 Boarding School Employees Charged With 13 Felony Assault Counts, Some Against Students
The prosecutor in charge of the case said his office believed "these to be the appropriate charges under the fact of the investigation."
Conservative watchdog pressures Biden admin for answers on trafficking of unaccompanied minors
The conservative group America First Legal (AFL) is pushing the Biden administration for answers on reports that unaccompanied minors have been released from federal custody into the hands of traffickers.
The Biden Administration Is To Blame for the Del Rio Immigration Crisis | Opinion
Illegal entry is a lot more attractive to foreign nationals thinking about coming to the United States now.
January 6 rioter who said she looked for Pelosi 'to shoot her in the friggin' brain' pleads guilty to misdemeanor for illegally protesting
A Pennsylvania woman who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 and said she had been looking for Nancy Pelosi "to shoot her in the friggin' brain" pleaded guilty Tuesday to a low-level misdemeanor for unlawfully protesting on restricted grounds.
Man who killed Florida deputy caught, sheriff laments not shooting him
Patrick McDowell was nabbed Tuesday at a Callahan sports field concession stand, Sheriff Bill Leeper said.
What Time Does ‘What If…?’ Episode 8 Come Out on Disney+?
What If...? is in the endgame now.
Javier Mendez: Jake Paul shouldn't fear Conor McGregor, 'has so many advantages' over him
Javier Mendez thinks Jake Paul would give Conor McGregor a run for his money in the ring.       Related StoriesJavier Mendez: Jake Paul shouldn't fear Conor McGregor, 'has so many advantages' over him - EnclosureCory Sandhagen targeted to slide into UFC 267 opposite Petr Yan for interim titleCory Sandhagen targeted to slide into UFC 267 opposite Petr Yan for interim title - Enclosure
Engineers 3D-Print Chicken and Cook It with Lasers
The future may see a 'Photoshop' of digitized recipes for printing food.
Joe Biden could be tempted to reach for the platinum coin
Enabled by a quirk in the law, Biden could use an unusual workaround to head off a debt ceiling standoff with Republicans that could send the US into catastrophic default, writes economist Dean Baker. Such a move would be ridiculous, of course, but the periodic debt crisis is a ridiculous charade put on by America's politicians, he writes.
‘Britney vs. Spears’ on Netflix: The 3 main takeaways from the new documentary
The Netflix film finds documents that shed light on Britney Spears's conservatorship.
Sorry, Joe: Turning US into European-style welfare state won’t cost ‘zero dollars’
President Joe Biden is prone to blatant whoppers, but his claims that turning America into a European-style welfare state via the biggest expansion of federal government in decades will cost nothing are truly in a league of their own.
Trump campaign loses NDA case it brought in arbitration against Omarosa Manigault Newman for tell-all book
Former Trump campaign and White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has defeated an arbitration case brought against her by the Trump campaign, which alleged that she had violated a non-disclosure agreement with public comments and a book critical of former President Donald Trump.
Three Washington State frat members get probation in alcohol-related death of freshman
Three former members of a fraternity on the Washington State University campus were sentenced last week to eight months of supervised probation for the death of a 19-year-old freshman who died after consuming drinking a large amount of liquor.
Just 80 Capitol Riot Cases Have Entered Guilty Pleas So Far, More Than 600 Arrested
Washington's federal court is clogged with Jan. 6 cases, which more than double the total number of new criminal cases filed there all of last year.
Proof of Vaccination App Possibly Revealed Hundreds of Thousands Users' Personal Info
Portpass CEO Zakir Hussein slammed the reports, criticizing people who "shame and crucify" the upstart.
Haley calls on Biden to explain contradictions by Generals; says Milley should know not to talk to authors
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told "The Story" Tuesday that America needs answers from President Biden about the recommendations he was given by military leadership regarding Afghanistan.
Senators introduce cyber bill to mandate reporting on ransomware and critical infrastructure attacks
The top senators on the Homeland Security Committee introduced legislation on Tuesday to require critical infrastructure companies to report cyberattacks to the federal government and to mandate that most organizations tell the federal government if they make ransomware payments.
Three New Britney Spears Documentaries Tell a Chilling Tale About the Bystander Effect
For years, it seemed that no one knew what was going on with Britney Spears. In fact, many people knew, but nobody managed to stop it
WATCH: New Hampshire hiker captures spectacular fall foliage
A hiker captured spectacular footage of autumn foliage in New Hampshire's Great North Woods.
We Need a Humanitarian Solution to Del Rio | Opinion
Instead of thinking of the Haitians as our enemy, we should think about it as people who can contribute to our economy.
Emu on the Loose Reunited With Owner After Taking Nature Stroll
"He just casually kept strolling right on up to us. He seemed very social," said resident Lydia McCracken after her encounter with the second-largest living bird.
'No Time to Die' cast arrives in style to world premiere'
James Bond is known to be a sharp dresser, so it should be no surprise that the 'No Time to Die' cast arrived to the film's world premiere in London dressed to impress. (Sept. 28)
A Brief History of Adorable, Vaguely Creepy Robot Dogs
Will Amazon's new Astro, like his predecessors, also quickly shuffle off to doggy heaven?
Limited edition Pokémon Oreo cookies are being listed for thousands on eBay
How much would you pay for an Oreo cookie? For some, the answer could be thousands of dollars -- as one hard-to-find Oreo cookie featuring a rare Pokémon is fetching a hefty price tag on eBay.
Limited edition Pokémon Oreo cookies are being listed for thousands on eBay
How much would you pay for an Oreo cookie? For some, the answer could be thousands -- as one hard-to-find Oreo cookie featuring a rare Pokémon is fetching a hefty price tag on eBay.
Kasim Reed Focuses on Crime in Atlanta Mayoral Election
Kasim Reed, the former mayor whose administration was marked by corruption scandals, is running for another term, promising to restore public safety.
After 5-day manhunt, authorities catch suspect in killing of Florida deputy
The suspect in the killing of Deputy Josh Moyers has been apprehended after a five-day manhunt in northeast Florida, the Nassau County sheriff said Tuesday.
After five-day manhunt, authorities catch suspect in killing of Florida deputy
The suspect in the killing of Deputy Josh Moyers has been apprehended after a five-day manhunt in northeast Florida, the Nassau County sheriff said Tuesday.
Brian Laundrie's Florida home flooded with flowers addressed to late fiancee
A flood of flower deliveries addressed to Gabby Petito continue to arrive at Brian Laundrie’s family’s home in North Port, Florida, where she lived for roughly two years before departing on a cross-country road trip with her fiance in June.
Former first daughter Barbara Bush welcomes first child
Barbara Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, has welcomed her first child into the world.
Obama Presidential Center is Causing Home Prices to Rise Nearby, Activists Say
Obama said the center is one way of giving back and said he hoped it would bring an economic boost to the area and inspire a future generation of leaders.
'We're in AWWW': Rare Baby White Rhino Born at Drive-Through Safari
Aziza the calf is the second for mother Anna, as well as the 37th rhino calf to be born at the park since 1979.
Former Merrill Lynch CEO Dave Komansky dead at 82
There was a time when it didn’t matter what school you went to or whether you had a fancy MBA. If you were smart and hungry, you could have a career on Wall Street — and even run a big firm.
Théoneste Bagosora, Rwandan army officer convicted of genocide, dies at 80
He was a mastermind behind the 100-day-long 1994 genocide of at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and even members of his own Hutu ethnic group.
North Korea Releases First Photo of 'Hypersonic Missile' Launch
Rodong Sinmun reported that North Korea's Academy of National Defense Science "conducted a test launch of the newly developed hypersonic missile 'Hwasong-8.'"
NASA's Lucy mission will observe the earliest 'fossils' of the solar system
The first NASA mission to study Jupiter's Trojan asteroid swarms is getting ready to launch.
NASA's Lucy mission will observe the earliest 'fossils' of the solar system
The first NASA mission to study Jupiter's asteroid swarms is getting ready to launch on October 16. Lucy is the first spacecraft designed to visit the Trojan asteroids and observe these remnants from the early days of our solar system.
Bernie Sanders Urges House Democrats to Vote Against Infrastructure Bill Until Deal Reached
House Democrats' splintering leaves a vote on the bill in the air as the GOP solidifies opposition.
Dismembered Trio Found in Texas Dumpster Were Killed in ‘Bible Sacrifice,’ Cops Allege
Fort Worth Police DepartmentA Texas man accused of killing and dismembering three people before setting them ablaze in a dumpster told police he did it because he had “an in-depth knowledge of the bible and believed he was being called to commit sacrifices,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast.Jason Alan Thornburg, 41, was arrested Monday night by Fort Worth police on capital murder charges, and is being held at the county jail on $1 million bond, according to detention records. Det. Thomas O’Brien, one of the lead investigators on the case, confirmed Thornburg’s arrest to The Daily Beast. It is unclear if Thornburg, an electrician’s apprentice, yet has an attorney to speak on his behalf.At around 6:15 a.m last Wednesday, the Fort Worth Fire Department responded to reports of a trash fire outside a storage facility. While working to extinguish the blaze, firefighters discovered three bodies inside the receptacle, in pieces. One seemed to be a teenage girl or young woman. The second appeared to be a child of unknown age and gender, but was subsequently determined to be an adult female. The third body belonged to an unidentified adult male. All of the victims were badly burned, and some body parts were missing altogether.Read more at The Daily Beast.
Milley admits he spoke with Bob Woodward, other journalists for high-profile Trump books
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley admitted during the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on Tuesday that he has spoken to several journalists for their high-profile books reporting on the final months of the Trump administration.
'Healthy and adorable': Barbara Bush welcomes first child with husband Craig Coyne
Barbara Bush, daughter of former President George W. Bush, is a first-time mother now, after giving birth to a daughter named Cora Georgia Coyne.
Maluma dines with a Doberman in his party at Tao Downtown
“Some guests were startled at first due to the dog’s sheer size,” our spy said. Maluma is "obsessed with his dogs," they continued, and was at Tao "celebrating with his team members."
R. Kelly conviction: Black women, girls suffer the brunt of sex trafficking, exploitation
Our image of a sex trafficking victim is a white girl kept in a basement. But Black women and girls are disproportionately targeted.
Fairfax school system pulls two books from libraries after complaints over sexual content
The books, “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy,” will now undergo a review process.
Trump loses legal fight over tell-all book written by former aide and 'Apprentice' contestant Omarosa
A New York arbitrator ruled that Omarosa Manigault Newman did not violate a non-disclosure agreement in writing her 2018 tell-all book.