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The problem of hyperbole in our current time
I read the posts of Alex Berenson and Vinay Prasad on substack and find their postings to be provocative. I do not agree with either one all the time. Let me tell you about their virtues.
Alex Berenson has been fearless and independent from the beginning of the pandemic. He has been willing to doubt the establishment views first set by Tony Fauci. Early on, Alex was willing, just as the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration did, to doubt the efficacy and safety of strict lockdowns. In his book Pandemic, it is clear that Alex was basing his opinions on a thorough review of the published literature. It appears that Fauci was going with his gut instinct and advice from associates. When Alex persisted, he was cancelled. That is Alex’s second great contribution — calling out all the forces (media, academia, establishment) who went along with silencing dissident voices. In 2021, Alex was an early voice in pointing out that the effects of the mRNA vaccines were not only wearing off but with new variants, the vaccines were less effective, at the same time that the government was recommending mandated vaccines.
Vinay Prasad is a politically liberal adult hematologist-oncologist who has attempted to point out the success of the mRNA vaccines early in the pandemic and then, like Alex, pointed out that they become less effective. He has also strongly called out censorship and has been voice in the wilderness criticizing medical journals for publishing so many flawed studies.
In this posting, I would like to summarize some of the hyperbole that my fellow readers have embraced from the skepticism expressed by Alex, Vinay, and others.
I am troubled by the ideas expressed and do not how broadly these opinions have spread in our citizenry but I will do my best to express how I feel about these positions.
1. Tony Fauci has been eviscerated by many conservatives and substack commentators. Fauci continues to have many admirers in the medical community but he has clearly stumbled on a number of issues. However, he has gotten wealthy by his positions. I believe that he has been lazy and no longer has the independent curiosity and openness to other opinions that he might or might not have had as a younger man. Scott Atlas, a Hoover Institute public health policy expert, served in the Trump administration for several months in 2020. I recently read his book, A Plague Upon Our House. He documents how Deborah Birx and Fauci not only ignored Atlas’s opinions and the research that he did to support his opinions, they showed no interest in reading the papers and considering that the lockdowns might be destructive. Fauci was no criminal. He was a compromised, arrogant, self-important man with no understanding of areas outside his expertise.
The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines were produced and approved in an expedited manner. The studies which led to approval for emergency use were first rate and just what would be expected. There were no lies, no surreptitious manipulation of data. The conclusions were based on six months of data. It is not surprising as Paul Offit has written that the durability of vaccine efficacy would fade. The emergence of new strains, which could not have been predicted, resulted in decreasing efficacy.
Pfizer and Moderna have done relatively well on the stock market in the last three years but have NOT far out-performed other companies putting a lie to the allegation that they were unscrupulous. Sadly, even Alex Berenson emphasized their high income without having access to the costs of manufacture and research which would be needed to compute a profit.
A related charge by many commentators is that “Big Pharma” is corrupt and has bought off an entire generation of gullible physicians. I retired from a 40+ year career in academic medicine. I was a salaried employee and each year I had to substantiate that neither any family member or I had investments in or took royalties, consulting fees or any other gift from a pharmaceutical company. There are so many drugs that have been developed and now are commercially available that have saved the lives of people with cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension (two diseases I spent much of my career treating) as well as auto-immune diseases and cancers. The pharmaceutical industry is far from perfect but its good accomplishments have been improperly smeared by its critics, conservative and liberal.
All vaccines have now become suspect. I answered a fellow substack commentator last week who wondered if any vaccine was really effective. This accusation ignores a well documented story over decades which has clearly saved millions of lives from smallpox, polio, measles, Hemophilus influenzae type B, and so many other infections. The biology of SARS-CoV2 is fascinating and we are still learning. A more effective vaccine may be forthcoming. At this time, the first vaccine for malaria is in final stages of study before its anticipated release. There have been vaccine misadventures which are documented well in the medical literature.
It is just sad that so many public figures and athletes have proudly stated that they will not permit some foreign substance to be instilled into their bodies. Most of these people still get tetanus shots. Many of them would accept medications, which are foreign substances administered into the body. There has been a great deal of fundamental ignorance uttered without comment in these last three years. Every time we eat, we take foreign substances into our bodies!
Too many physicians have remained silent which has implied support and deference for the medical establishment. Clearly, many physicians are employed as salaried employees and do not want to rock the boat. As well, there are physicians who have taken very critical positions who, in fact, did lose their jobs. Nonetheless, many in the public have made what I consider to be an incorrect judgment — that most doctors are lemmings following the establishment through all its missteps and errors. I worked with hundreds of fellow pediatricians and pediatric specialists my whole career and believe that most are committed to honesty and ethical positions.
Primary care pediatricians are in a tough position. The CDC and AAP support COVID vaccines in young children but most parents are clearly not convinced. Those pediatricians who are willing to listen to parents and accommodate to the informed positions of parents must have a forum in which to speak and support each other. Right now I am not aware of such a forum.
Alex has highlighted information that there have continued to be “excess deaths” not accounted for by COVID deaths the last three years. The implication is that perhaps there is an unreported link to deaths related to vaccine administration. He never has said that there is such evidence. However, many of his followers and commentators have taken it all the way. I have been told that I am a fool for having been vaccinated five times and an idiot for not realizing the genocide taking place. It greatly bothers me that some reasonably educated people really believe that our media, our medical establishment, the FDA and our politicians would allow this kind of phenomenon to be suppressed.
Other vaccine opponents really believe that older adults are dying of heart disease and women are becoming infertile because of late effects of the vaccine. I have read a good deal about the mRNA vaccines. I am convinced that like the toxins and proteins in other vaccines, the mRNA is eliminated from our bodies in a matter of weeks. Immune stimulation definitely occurs and the most convincing untoward longer term impacts would be the inadvertent development of auto-immune disease. There does not seem to be any significant outbreak of such diseases, but at least, there is a plausible mechanism. Infertility is just beyond the wildest kind of speculated mechanism. If there is, I am certainly open to considering.
Let me end this already long speculation with a few important lessons from the pandemic.
a. We should never let a small group of “experts” with conflicts of interest, real or possible, manage public policy again. We need a broad group of individuals with experience and common sense help guide our politicians.
b. Lockdowns should be avoided if at all possible and lifted at the earliest possible time.
c. We must embrace a public forum in which dissenting voices are heard. There will be some misinformation but we should be slow and reluctant to label dissenters.
d. We must understand that acute illness is always followed by a period of rehabilitation and be weary of inventing new disease entities like long COVID. There are many reasons that ill people have for not recovering or wanting to recover in a short period of time. We should be sensitive to these people and not diminish their suffering.
e. When the government issues large amounts of money to aid the public, we need to do a better job of insuring that it does not lead to such widespread fraud as has happened with this pandemic.
f. We should encourage physicians, apart from appointed and self-appointed leaders, to get their houses in order and recapture the respect of the American public. Some of the finest people are know are physicians, most of whom kept their noses down and did not pay attention to the missteps and wrongful policies endorsed by people at the top.
g. There needs to be a deep and honest review of vaccines with publication of the great success and occasional serious problems that have occurred over the last 75 years.
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