One of the most famous guitarists of the past half-century has been making headlines lately, but not because of his recently announced North American tour. Instead, 76-year-old Eric Clapton has become a vocal opponent of the COVID-19 vaccine after receiving one himself.
He alleges that the drug is responsible for “disastrous” side effects that caused numbness to his hands and feet.
Even before making these dubious claims, Clapton had been outspoken against Britain’s shutdown measures. In December 2020, two months before his injection, he appeared on Van Morrison’s anti-lockdown song “Stand and Deliver,” which accused the U.K. government of stripping away personal freedoms to contain the spread of the virus.
Clapton penned his diatribe about the vaccine in a letter to his friend Robin Monotti Graziadei, an architect and fellow anti-lockdown activist who shared the letter on Telegram with the artist’s permission in May. The letter has since been verified for authenticity by Rolling Stone.
“In February of this year, before I learned the nature of vaccines, and to be 76 years old with ephezyma [sic] I was at the forefront. I took the first jab of [AstraZeneca] and straight away had severe reactions which lasted ten days,” Clapton wrote. “I recovered eventually and was told it would be twelve weeks before the second one.”
“About six weeks later, I was offered and took the second AZ shot, but with a little more knowledge of the dangers,” he continued. “Needless to say, the reactions were disastrous; my hands and feet were either frozen, numb, or burning, and pretty much useless for two weeks, I feared I would never play again.”
Clapton added that he suffers from peripheral neuropathy and therefore “should never have gone near the needle.” However, he said, “the propaganda said the vaccine was safe for everyone.” (He also discovered “heroes” like anti-lockdown U.K. politician Desmond Swayne and other conspiracy-leaning YouTube channels.)
Common side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine include fever or flu-like symptoms, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, nausea, tenderness, bruising, and pain on or around the injection site. The AstraZeneca vaccine also has suffered from plenty of PR problems based around rare cases of blood clots.
“Then I was directed to Van [Morrison]; that’s when I found my voice, and even though I was singing his words, they echoed in my heart,” Clapton continued. “I recorded ‘Stand and Deliver’ in 2020 and was immediately regaled with contempt and scorn.
“It’s not aggressive or provocative; it just asks ‘Where have all the rebels gone? Hiding behind their computer screens. Where’s the spirit, where is the soul? Where have all the rebels gone.’”
“I’ve been a rebel all my life, against tyranny and arrogant authority, which is what we have now,” Clapton concluded. “But I also crave fellowship, compassion, and love … I believe with these things we can prevail.”
However, as the Poynter Institute for Media Studies points out, Clapton has had issues with peripheral neuropathy dating back to 2016. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, more than 20 million Americans suffer from some form of peripheral neuropathy.
Clapton also canceled concerts due to back pain in 2013.
On June 13, Clapton spoke with the U.K.-based Oracle Films (which bills itself on Twitter as “a platform for those who #DareToThink”) to double down on his remarks. During the interview, he also made unfounded claims that COVID-19 vaccines can cause fertility problems. He said vaccine information equated to “brainwashing.”
Clapton also reiterated that his beliefs are causing him to get shunned by his famous friends. “I’ve tried to reach out to fellow musicians,” he acknowledged in the Oracle interview. “I just don’t hear from them anymore. My phone doesn’t ring very often. I don’t get that many texts and emails anymore. It’s quite noticeable … I was ostracized. And I could feel that everywhere.”
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