Scott Atlas is this year’s leading lionheart in my view. He is an academic with zero political aspirations who entered the White House at significant personal cost. Regardless of which political side he appears to be on, the reason he entered the White House was “because the President of the United States asked me, a health care policy person who understands medical science, to help in the biggest health care crisis of the century. There’d be something wrong with you if you said no to that. My position is not political. My position is looking at the data, figuring out the right policy“.
Five other lionhearts who come to mind are Michael Levitt, John Ioannidis and Jay Battacharya from Stanford University, Martin Kulldorff from Harvard University and Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University. They have all spoken out objectively in favour of following established and evidence based public health practices. With the exception of Michael Levitt who is a computational biologist, they are all infectious disease epidemiologists. Martin Kulldorff has said that whilst “scientists” don’t seem to agree, that in fact infectious disease epidemiologists who are specialised in interpreting and understanding pandemics, do agree but that many of them are afraid to speak out. This is understandable given the risk of silencing, shunning, accusations and intimidations.
John Ioannidis speaks informatively at this two hour Plenary Session podcast, about his experiences as a medical doctor, infectious disease epidemiologist and evidence based health care researcher. He is a delightful genius but for daring to question mainstream narrative he has faced malicious opposition and intimidation, including his elderly mother living alone in Greece having been a target. He most recently had his paper on the infection fatality rate of Covid-19 published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, estimating a median infection fatality rate for Covid-19 (dependent on factors which he discusses) of between 0.09% to 0.23%. The paper discusses the differences being seen across populations and age structures and is a very worthwhile read.
It probably won’t happen until after the American election, but I feel hopeful that these lionhearts of 2020 are going to claw us out of this terrible and terrifying year. Atlas shines in this interview with Freddie Sayers.
I have been incredibly confused by WHO over the past six months. Their 2019, well-researched systematic review on appropriate pandemic responses was completely disregarded. Their lack of leadership was surpassed only by their contradictory messaging. Their focus on one virus to the detriment of all else whilst occasionally making announcements of poverty doubling, 120 million extra starvation deaths or 1.5 million extra TB deaths, felt like a deliberate attempt to gaslight us all.
Stacey Rudin is a writer, activist, community leader, volunteer, and former litigator active in the grassroots movement to ensure future pandemics are managed in accordance with established public health guidelines.
She wrote this article for the American Institute for Economic Research.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Dr. Nabarro’s position aligns with the Great Barrington Declaration, of which he spoke favorably, in which 30,000 scientists and public health experts have joined in advocating an immediate return to normal life for those at low risk. Nabarro and the thousands of signees of the Declaration opine that this approach will minimize overall mortality and lessen the disproportionate burden of lockdowns on the working class and underprivileged.
The day after Nabarro made his remarks, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flatly contradicted him, declaring that lifting lockdowns would be a recipe for “unnecessary infections, suffering and death.” Tedros claims that herd immunity can only be “safely” achieved through vaccination, a conclusion premised upon the frightening assumption that the development of a safe and effective vaccine is guaranteed, and the dubious premise that natural infections can be held back “as long as it takes” to prepare and distribute the vaccine. However, according to Tedros, there is no other way: “allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option.”
It’s difficult to reconcile this stance with the data from states and nations which did not lock down for COVID19. For example, Swedish all-cause mortality is on average for 2020 — incredibly, the nation had higher per-capita mortality just five years ago, in a year in which there was no pandemic. This undeniable, easily-verifiable fact is shocking in light of the decimation of world economies on the premise of “stopping” a “highly deadly” pathogen. Far from “unethical,” allowing the virus to “run free” produced a much better result than tight lockdowns such as those imposed in Argentina and Peru — yet Tedros is ignoring this. The question is: why?
However, the undisputed facts depict a Health Minister who is doing one of two things: grossly neglecting cholera testing, or intentionally prioritizing his nation’s economy over protecting people from cholera. Tedros claimed that outbreaks of what he called “acute watery diarrhea” in 2006, 2009, and 2011 were not cholera, although he could not produce a test ruling out the deadly pathogen, and neighboring Somalia and Kenya disclosed cholera as the cause of their own simultaneous outbreaks. Tedros claimed that testing in his country was “too difficult,” but this was belied by the fact that outside experts were able to test and find the cholera bacteria in stool samples. Testing for cholera bacteria is simple and takes less than two days. It is hard to fathom why outside experts and other countries would be able to test while the Ethiopian government could not.
Cholera can kill a person in as little as five hours. News of cholera outbreaks can have a quick and devastating impact on a country’s economy, so African nations sometimes fail to declare cholera emergencies even when they know for a fact that they have one. During the 2006 outbreak, for example, Ethiopia “did not share the results of lab tests since [the outbreak started]” because “it can mean some serious economic losses, especially in terms of international trade and tourism,” said Kebba O. Jaiteh, emergency officer in Ethiopia with the WHO.
Tedros’s strongest and most important backer throughout these controversies was not an individual, but a government: China. As an opinion writer in the Indian press described it, “China propped Tedros.” American apathy in the public health arena had allowed China to “colonize” global health:
“One reason that Tedros has gotten away with so much brazen cronyism is that America pays little to no attention to global public health, save pouring in money as a sugar daddy . . . China started a scheme for global health colonisation and won because America didn’t think it was important enough. The Chinese leveraged their investments across Africa to force the African Union to back Tedros, [and] also got Pakistan to withdraw its candidate who was opposing him, sources say . . . India’s diplomatic credentials helped in covering up Tedros’ shady past and the fact his main backer was a Communist dictatorship.”
“I’ve Got Your Back, and You’ve Got Mine”: Tedros Backs the Chinese COVID19 “Supression” Strategy
Fast-forward to the COVID19 epidemic. In early 2020, Tedros went to great lengths to congratulate China on its response to the “novel coronavirus.” On January 30, the WHO issued a statement effusively praising China’s response, highlighting the Chinese government’s “commitment to transparency” and efforts to “investigate” and “contain” the outbreak. The statement declares that China’s novel “lockdown” strategy — wherein dictator Xi Jinping welded people inside their apartments in the name of “disease control” — are “good not only for that country but also for the rest of the world.” Tedros followed this up with a tweet: “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.” During this time period, hundreds of thousands of social media posts later traced to China praised the lockdown, and criticized and ridiculed world leaders who failed to follow suit.
The WHO’s resounding praise of China continued into February 2020, when it convened a “Global Research and Innovation Forum” on the novel coronavirus to study “the origin of the virus, natural history, transmission, diagnosis, infection prevention and control,” among other things. On February 24, the group’s Joint Mission held a press conference to report on its findings, during which it declared, “there is no question that China’s bold approach to the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of what was a rapidly-escalating and continues to be deadly epidemic.” The stated basis for this unequivocal declaration on the effectiveness of lockdowns was as follows:
“And there’s a couple of other graphics . . . here’s the outbreak that happened in the whole country on the bottom. Here’s what the outbreak looked like outside of Hubei. Here are the areas of Hubei outside of Wuhan. And then the last one is Wuhan. And you can see this is a much flatter curve than the others. And that’s what happens when you have an aggressive action that changes the shape that you would expect from an infectious disease outbreak.
This is extremely important for China, but it’s extremely important for the rest of the world, where this virus you’ve seen in the last few days is taking advantage to explode in certain settings. And it wasn’t easy because what I didn’t mention on this slide is every one of these lines represent a huge decision by policy makers and politicians in this country and leaders to actually change the shape with big measures such as, you know, the suspension of travel, the stay-at-home advisories, and other incredibly difficult measures; to make decisions about, but also to get a population to follow. And that’s why, again, the role of the individual here in China is so important as well.”
The Joint Mission’s conclusion that China’s actions “worked” is a perfect depiction of the classic logical fallacy post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Latin for “it happened after, so it was caused by.” While it is indeed possible that a “more flat” curve in Wuhan could be attributed to government mandates, there are equal or greater possibilities: one, that testing protocols differed; two, that China simply witnessed the natural course of this “novel” pathogen. The latter is particularly likely since there was no baseline with which to compare the proffered epicurves.
It should be obvious that the mere issuance of government mandates does not automatically mean they were effective — this is particularly true here, since the global scientific community had previously considered and rejected large-scale quarantines as a method for controlling epidemics. Respiratory viruses never spread evenly throughout countries, provinces, or states, so it was nothing short of reckless to conclude that the noted variance in spread — which again, could be nothing but a recording error due to testing aberrations — was due to anything but natural factors. It was criminal to summarily conclude on this evidence that the Chinese government’s draconian actions led to a “favorable outcome,” and then use that patentily illogical conclusion to sell lockdowns to the rest of the world. But that’s just what the WHO did.
“China didn’t approach this new virus with an old strategy for one disease or another disease. It developed its own approach to a new disease and extraordinarily has turned around this disease with strategies most of the world didn’t think would work . . . What China has demonstrated is, you have to do this. If you do it, you can save lives and prevent thousands of cases of what is a very difficult disease.”
The Joint Mission repeated this assertion — “lockdowns work, they can and do save lives” — in various ways throughout its press conference, recalling to mind the words of a famous propagandist named Joseph Goebbels: “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” Research shows that this illusion of truth effect “works just as strongly for known as for unknown items, suggesting that prior knowledge won’t prevent repetition from swaying our judgements of plausibility.” Our parents never heard of lockdown, and understood and accepted that humans sadly cannot “stop” a highly contagious infectious disease like the flu — even with a vaccine — yet suddenly most of the planet was behaving as if this were not only a reasonable mission, but something for which it was rational and desirable to sacrifice social lives, relationships, smiles, businesses, and educations in service of.
At the helm of the WHO, Tedros undoubtedly played a key role in the creation of this perception. Thanks to the many individual worldwide lockdown experiments, we now know that he was dead wrong: no lockdown was ever needed to “flatten the curve” — in fact, lockdowns spiked the curve. No-lockdown Sweden’s epicurve was much flatter than many areas with tight lockdowns, including New York City, Italy, and Spain. While this may be adequately explained by Hanlon’s Razor, it is very interesting that the Joint Mission took great pains to protect China’s trade and travel interests despite advocating simultaneous lockdowns for other nations:
“And this brings us to what I think is one of the most important recommendations we would make in respect to getting China fully back on its feet after this crisis. The world needs the experience and materials of China to be successful in battling this coronavirus disease. China has the most experience in the world with this disease, and it’s the only country to have turned around serious large-scale outbreaks. But if countries create barriers between themselves and China in terms of travel or trade, it is only going to compromise everyone’s ability to get this done. And those kinds of measures need to be anything that goes beyond what’s been recommended by the IHR committee, has got to be reassessed, because the risk from China is dropping, and what China has to add to the global response is rapidly rising.”
The human rights community did not share this enthusiasm for China, its draconian lockdown, or its offer to “help” other nations contend with the virus. On February 2, The Guardian published an opinion piece by a human rights advocate outlining the lockdown’s serious human rights violations and opining that the WHO broke its own commitment to “human rights and health” by praising China. The WHO’s commitment reads in part:
“Human rights are universal and inalienable. They apply equally, to all people, everywhere, without distinction. Human Rights standards — to food, health, education, to be free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment — are also interrelated. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others”
“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
“Lockdown” goes far beyond these basic human rights boundaries. They are proven now to only damage societies — they even worsen COVID19 outcomes. When The Economistanalyzed all recorded epidemics since 1960, it concluded that “democracies experience lower mortality rates for epidemic diseases than their non democratic counterparts.” This finding holds true at all levels of income.
Tedros aligned himself not with democracies and their fundamental principles but with an autocratic dictatorship, the same dictatorship that helped him assume power within the WHO. Together, using logical fallacies and pseudo-science, they betrayed international law governing human rights, the WHO’s own stated principles, and committed crimes against humanity on a massive scale. Should we continue to listen to Tedros, or should we turn to Dr. Nabarro, another qualified expert who — like the thousands who signed the Great Barrington Declaration — urges a return to democratic norms as necessary to minimize human suffering?
“Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer. Just look at what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year.” — Dr. David Nabarro
It is no longer possible to ignore Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s long history with suppressive autocratic regimes, including China. Whatever the motivation behind his advocacy for continued lockdowns, the data invalidates his position unequivocally. Lockdowns do not save lives — lockdowns kill. The reign of tyranny must end, immediately and forever, with a full restoration of the rights and privileges of each individual citizen to choose what level of risk he or she will accept as a law-abiding member of a functioning, democratic society.
WHO, what, where, and why? We don’t yet have all of the answers, but we do know that the WHO director-general is on the wrong side of the lockdown debate.
These two words are allegedly synonymous with genocide in 2020. Surreal to say the least.
The ability of the human immune system has ensured survival of the human race. Today however, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation stated that “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic“. It’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t understand the dishonesty in his statement. As Martin Kulldorff has stated, herd immunity is no more a “strategy” in public health, than gravity is a strategy in aviation. Just as pilots use gravity to do their job, so do public health programs use herd immunity.
Every disease is unique, so that the concept of herd immunity differs with different pathogens. For example, there is no herd immunity for HIV, a virus which attacks the immune system and makes us vulnerable to multitudes of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Immunity against HIV is very rare and in 40 years HIV vaccine development has not been successful. There is no herd immunity for TB even though there’s a vaccine. The TB vaccine reduces severity of disease in very young children but it does not prevent transmission of disease. This vaccine took more than 15 years to develop (between 1905 and 1921) and has not been improved upon much in the century since. TB remains one of the main infectious threats to human life on the globe.
The fastest development of any vaccine to date, was Mumps vaccine which apparently took five years. This is an important consideration in claims that we must continue to lockdown our world “until a vaccine is developed” for Covid. This may quite clearly never happen, especially not a safe and effective vaccine.
Herd immunity for Measles requires that around 95% of people in a community are immune (by infection or vaccination), to protect 100% of that community. By comparison, Pertussis requires about 80% of people to be immune. Whilst Measles infection or vaccination confers lifetime immunity, Pertussis infection or vaccination confers temporary immunity. Evidence is now showing that herd immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus can occur with much lower rates than required for Measles or Pertussis.
Decisions about who should be vaccinated and who is safe to risk infection with vaccine peventable disease are made in public health all the time. In Australia we use the “HALO” acronym to help with this decision making process, being Health, Age, Lifestyle, Occupation. For each vaccine preventable disease the significance of these factors is quite different. Vaccination against Pertussis is recommended repeatedly throughout our lifetime, but changes according to risk. Newborns and very young children are at greatest risk of severe disease so the vaccine schedule is age targeted towards them. Parents and other adults, including the elderly, with newborn children at home are recommended repeat Pertussis vaccination as a way of “coccooning” young children with household immunity. However the elderly who have no close contact with newborns are not recommended Pertussis vaccination because their risk of disease, and of spreading disease to the vulnerable, is not considered significant. This is a public health intervention which focuses on targeted herd immunity.
The idea that herd immunity is not a consideration in outbreak responses, as announced by the Director General of WHO, is completely incorrect. Another example is Hepatitis A which often causes outbreaks. We don’t vaccinate people who are considered immune to Hepatitis A from natural infection. Hepatitis A does not feature in most vaccination schedules throughout the developing world because it is an infection which spreads quickly where living conditions are crowded and unhygienic. The young in these communities, when infected with the Hepatitis A virus, tend to be asymptomatic or only mildly symptomatic. Their robust response to infection leads to lifelong immunity. This is a clear example of natural infection conferring herd immunity to control outbreaks.
There are multiple other examples and many infectious diseases are not vaccine preventable, including around 200 respiratory viruses which circulate amongst us. The advice to stay at home when you are sick is common sense for multiple reasons. Influenza is one of the few respiratory viruses for which a (very imperfect) vaccine exists. Vaccination is recommended for high risk groups only, and is known to only confer around 15% to 40% immunity amongst those vaccinated in any given year. Yet targeted vaccination, combined with natural infection among those not vulnerable to severe consequences, confers some level of protective herd immunity. Young and healthy adults exposed to Influenza often have very mild symptoms despite the fact that it holds a risk of serious and potentially fatal infection, particularly for children under 5yo as well as the elderly. The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic occurred decades before the first Influenza vaccine was developed. This pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people globally, ended within 2 years due to herd immunity conferred by natural infection.
Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wrote about herd immunity as follows:
‘Herd immunity’ has been reached during previous epidemics of influenza, measles and seasonal coronaviruses. But it’s subsequently been lost (and then regained). What are some of the reasons for this?
Here we’re using technical definition of ‘herd immunity’, i.e. sufficient immunity within a population to push R below 1 in absence of other control measures. But reaching this point doesn’t mean R will stay below 1 forever. Here four things to be aware of…
A: Population turnover. Over time, new births mean an increase in % of population susceptible. This will eventually lead to R>1 and new (but smaller) outbreaks – the more transmissible the infection, the sooner this recurrence will happen.
The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually end because of accumulated immunity, either following infection or – ideally – from future vaccine. But even if this means R<1 initially, the above shows there are number of long-term possibilities to consider.
Herd immunity is a complex concept that can’t be covered in a simple brief blog and I am sure important points are missing here. Nevertheless, anything has to be better than the *odd* (at best) public health messaging from the Director General of the World Health Organisation who, with advisors at hand, surely knows better?
Meanwhile, the STOP TB Partnership continue to sound the alarm on rising rates of Tuberculosis, as one example of many public health problems that are being overridden by the global pandemic response. Progress against the global TB targets, which was already too slow, has been further stalled by COVID-19. Governments must step up now if they are to fulfill the commitments made at the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB in 2018. Two years on, the global TB response is less then 50% funded, with under US$ 6.5 billion available in funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, despite world leaders having agreed to provide US$ 13 billion per year.
A charming town of 7,000 people in Massachusetts, north of New York and west of Boston, is where three of the world’s most eminent infectious disease epidemiologists from Oxford, Stanford and Harvard Universities met last week to write and launch their call for “Focused Protection” in responding to Covid.
Since launching The Great Barrington Declaration they were initially ignored by mainstream media, but more recently targeted in an apparent smear campaign. Names such as “Dr Johnny Bananas” have slipped through the almost 200,000 online signatures to the declaration, and then touted as proof that the declaration is some sort of hoax. One journalist wrote “NEW: A small band of scientists has been pushing policies reflecting the (unfounded) idea that COVID isn’t a big threat“. They have been attacked for “appearing on Fox News” and speaking on disapproved-of podcasts, when they are in fact appearing on a range of media in order to publicise the message to a wide audience. Not one of these academics appears to enjoy the spotlight and their work in this case appears to come at personal sacrifice aside from the attempts to tarnish their characters and motivations.
Critical thinking and plurality of opinion are not welcome in the Covid era. It seems a revealing sign of a failure in modern day education where the egos of those in control seem more important than exploring ideas and evidence. Nevertheless, the lead signatories on the declaration are an impressive list of epidemiologists, statisticians, microbiologists, geneticists, vaccinologists, physicians, mental health and other specialists from some of the world’s best universities. They will be hard to discredit.
Opposing the current response to the Covid pandemic does not dismiss the gravity of Covid. Rather it objects to unprecedented draconian measures being implemented which have no evidence to support their use, or for which there is evidence of immense damage being caused. Yet these measures threaten to become a template for future approaches to public health risk. We should all be incredibly concerned about this in my view.
Covid is a serious disease which harms a specific portion of the population who deserve resources to be focused on their protection. Resources and attention are instead being spent imposing unsustainable rules, isolating all of society from normal life, establishing a culture of blame and fear, destroying economies and livelihoods and justifying totalitarian politics. None of this represents a sound public health approach to any infectious disease.
“One of the basic principles of public health is that you do not just look at one disease – you have to look at health as a whole, including all kinds of diseases, over a long period. That is not what has been done with Covid-19.“
Some people are just inspiring. Nick Hudson is an actuary who co-founded the South African non-profit Pandemics – Data and Analytics. The Australian mainstream media have ignored the Great Barrington Declaration which is perhaps one of the most significant movements of this year, if not beyond. Meanwhile, upon signing the Great Barrington Declaration, Hudson had this to say.
This is a turning point. I’ve signed the Great Barrington Declaration and you should too.
We established @Pandata19 in April 2020, because we perceived the global reaction to Covid as overwrought and damaging to the point of causing a great tear in the fabric of society.
Massively exaggerated epidemiological models, social media propaganda and exaggerated reporting struck fear into the hearts of nations. A cry went up to emulate the Wuhan lockdown, though such measures had been eschewed by all pre-Covid science, and for good reason.
The corrupt, the fearful and the inept among scientists and politicians alike heeded and amplified that cry, embarking upon a great intrusion against civil liberties and pursuing health policies that quite clearly would harm more than help.
Courageous voices that spoke out against this derangement were suppressed, and open science, a key contributor the huge progress achieved over the last century, was trampled upon, in favour of trumped up authoritarian measures mired in arbitrary and senseless regulations.
That such voices were silenced is a great tragedy. What they said had the potential to save many lives, because they spoke common sense. To save the vulnerable few, the many needed to carry on with their lives.
By doing so, the vast majority, to whom Covid presents negligible risk, would continue to build the wealth that sustains our healthcare services, and the immunity that would cause the epidemic to wither before it could attack the vulnerable.
Instead, as the evidence rolls in that lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions have yielded no benefits, we now must contend with the reality of livelihoods destroyed, unraveling social bonds, psychological damage and devastating health consequences.
Yet those mistaken scientists and inept politicians double down, spurred on by corporate greed, proposing a “great reset” and a “new normal”, which threaten vast swathes of humanity with a dystopian future.
All around the world, citizens are beginning to conquer the fear that governments told them they must have to be good. They—scientists, doctors and the general public alike—need to unite and push back against the prevailing Covid narrative.
I sign this declaration for the same reason we at PANDA have worked tirelessly against vast arrayed forces; that, knowing what we knew, we would never be able to look our children in the eyes if we did anything else.
I sign this declaration because, in doing so, I stand alongside scientists of courage and integrity. I know, viscerally, the costs their stand entails, and how important it is that they receive our support.
I sign this declaration because it is a crucial step in reasserting open science, liberty and humanity. We must uncancel the cancelled, unsilence the muzzled and order the disordered. There is no more important struggle.
Join authors Professors Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldorff, and initial signatory Michael Levitt. We are grateful to have them not only as PANDA’s Scientific Advisory Board, but as vital inspirers of the foot soldiers in the great effort that lies ahead.
If you are a doctor, look out for the launch of PANDA Doctors, an initiative to unite and support medical professionals who are raising their voices. If you are a lawyer, join PANDA Lawyers, which will be key in providing that support.
Whoever you are, do what you can to promote this message, to calm the fear in your own community and to point its members in the direction of a flourishing future.