COVID-19 Pandemic; Anti-Vaxxers Right and Left

 

We at the Justice Integrity Project present another guest column on a timely topic by Dr. Steven Jonas, right, MD, MPH, MS, a professor emeritus stephen jonasof Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine (NY) and author / co-author / editor / co-editor of over 35 books. He has been published also on many current affairs news sites. His own political website,stevenjonaspolitics.com, will eventually archive the close to 1,000 political columns he has published since 2004.

He was also a stony brook medicine2career triathlete (36 seasons, 256 multi-sport races), who is now retired from the sport.

His latest book is Ending the ‘Drug War’; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach, Punto Press Publishing, (Brewster, NY, 2016). It is available on Kindle from Amazon, and also in hardcover from Amazon. In 1996, he published a ‘future history’ of the United States entitled The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel (Third Edition published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and also available on Amazon.

 

By Dr. Steven Jonas

The political (and it is primarily political) controversy over vaccination continues apace in this country. Of course, it is led primarily by the Republo-fascist Party because, in my view, they want to make things as bad as they can for the Biden Administration. There is also a small (but noisy) anti-vaxx cadre on the Left which cadre is sure that the vaccines which have been produced in this country will produce major harms down the road (that is WAY down the road -- 15 years [easily tested-for, of course]). Further, like the much noisier ones on the Right they confuse the word "mandate" with the concept of forced vaccination (which NO one is proposing).

 

An Introductory Historical Note

Not too many people, other than students of Nazism, know that there was a "left-wing" of the Nazi Party. It was headed by the Strasser brothers, Otto and Gregor. As the beginning of the Wikipedia entry on them says:

"Strasserism (German: Strasserismus or Straßerismus) is a strand of Nazism that calls for a more radical, mass-action and worker-based form of Nazism hostile to Jews not from a racial, cultural or religious perspective, but from an anti-capitalist basis to achieve a national rebirth. It derives its name from Gregor and Otto Strasser, two brothers initially associated with this position." This is a subject to which I shall return at the end of the column.

Some Comments on Vaccination, its Effectiveness, and Side-effectsDoes vaccination work to prevent acquisition of this highly infectious disease, transmitted through the air? Yes, most of the time. And when it doesn't prevent infection of a specific individual, in most of those cases it diminishes the severity of the resulting illness.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Does vaccination have side-effects? Yes, it does. In most cases, beyond short-duration tenderness and redness at the injection site, are they primarily annoying rather incapacitating? Yes. As an example, I had the "tireds" for about two weeks after I received my second shot last spring. I had them again for a shorter period of time after I received my booster at the beginning of October. (Oh yes. I received the Pfizer vaccine.)

Have a significant number of people died after receiving the vaccine? The anti-vaxxers say "yes," but don't seem to be able to provide any data supporting their position (at least I haven't seen any, and I am on a couple of left-wing anti-vaxx listservs, so presumably if there were any, it would have been sent around).... . But one wonders, in this country why would the CDC not respond as vigorously to that situation as they have to the pandemic? Oh, I know. Because each and every employee at CDC is part of the "plandemic" plot and they really want to kill people beyond those who the virus has killed (at least according to cause-of-death reports, which are "obviously" false).

Might there be some very long-term side effect[s], resulting from this vaccine which is based on an entirely new and different mode of vaccine production? Yes, we are told by the anti-vaxxers, 15 years down the road there is going to be some significant damage, of some (unknown) kind, to the human population who took the vaccine. But of course, we do not know that to be true. It is indeed speculation. And if that speculation (which has no scientific basis, it's only speculation) proved to be entirely incorrect, then possibly hundreds of millions of persons would have died unnecessarily. Hmm.

On the anti-Vaxxers

From the Left, there are folks like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Well, at least he's consistent. He is against all vaccination, of children anyway, because of the association of certain child-hood vaccines (required for school entrance, by the way) which cause autism. That that is an hypothesis which has been proven to be entirely wrong seems to make no difference to Mr. Kennedy and his allies.

But at least he's consistent. Most other anti-vaxxers, whether from the Left or from the Right seem to be entirely happy with traditional, required, pre-school vaccination programs, and with certain required vaccinations for certain kinds of employment or travel to certain locales (e.g., for Yellow Fever or polio).

Both the anti-vaxx Left and the anti-vaxx Right talk about refusing vaccination as a matter of "personal freedom." Well first of all, it should be made clear that no one, at least on the Public Health side, is taking the position that people can be forced to be vaccinated. (And I have seen folks on the Left accidentally or purposefully confuse the public health position that vaccination can be required for, say, certain kinds of employment or entry into certain kinds of public spaces with a foreced-vacciantion position). . . .

 

The anti-Maskers

As for anti-maskers, for a disease transmitted entirely through the air, it is the most effective means for reducing transmission. Can masks be uncomfortable? They sure can (I wear mine every time I go outside, double-vaxxed and boostered or no. Comfortable? No. But I wear it.) Ah ha, you might say, so you don't trust the vaccine, eh? Well, no I don't not trust it, but there are exceptions to every rule, so why take a chance? As for right-wing anti-mask mandates/laws, I dealt with that subject at length here: Click Here. As for left-wingers who are against mask mandates because they interfere with their personal freedom, I haven't dealt with that open in any detail, although I do bring up the defecation-in-a-public-water-supply Comparo with them on occasion.

As for the Governor who claimed that masks inhibit God's love from getting into the person (sorry; misplaced that reference) how does he know that God is not a mask-wearer? Then apparently there are one or more anti-mask physicians who refuse, for example, to wear a mask when talking with, for example, an immune-compromised patient, because wearing a mask in any situation makes the doc uncomfortable. Must have forgotten the Hippocratic oath to which one has sworn: "First, do no harm."

As for "do no harm," on a Chris Hayes telecast, at a right-wing talker's "town hall" a questioner asked, in reference to school board mask-mandates, "when do we start using our guns?"

 

Various Treatments

On ivermectin, and other proposed treatments, as THE approach to the pandemic in general, in order to avoid some negative effects that MIGHT (or might not) occur 15 years from now, they all rely on waiting until a patient becomes sick (and infectious). Furthermore, there is the matter of proof, or more important, being able to prove. Randomly allocated/double-blind studies which have to take place in persons already ill (where the alternative to ivermectin or other is hospital care which is known to be effective in most cases if caught early enough) cannot be carried out, for obvious ethical reasons. Even if it works, and no even semi- controlled studies to date have shown that it does, it does NOT, indeed cannot, prevent transmission. And further, on the subject, a controlled double-blind study would be very difficult to carry out. In what randomized group of sick patients will be found one-half who will be getting nothing to help them deal with the disease they already have (different from clinical trials of vaccines, where everyone is healthy to begin with). . . .

In summary, the Left anti-vaxxers think that they would be supporting/benefiting the public's health according to some version of public health science. That version must come from another planet, and maybe the crew of the Good Ship Enterprise will find it someday. It is simply not the public health science to which virtually all public scientists (including myself, M.P.H., Board-certified in Preventive Medicine) subscribe. Are there a few exceptions here and there? Surely. Tell me of a human endeavour in which that sort of thing doesn't occur. As for the political Right, it cares not a whit about the public's health (see the cited columns above). It's all about politics, right-wing politics of course, and at this stage of the pandemic, with Joe Biden in the White House, doing anything they possibly can to make him look bad.

 

Be Careful Who You Ally With

Finally, as for allies in the anti-vaxx struggle, of the two "Left-wing" Strasser brothers mentioned at the beginning of this column, Otto left the Party and Germany in 1930 (and somehow managed to survive the War). Gregor remained a Nazi through the early days of the Hitler Dictatorship, while still pronouncing his "left-wing" views.

On the Night of the Long Knives, many of Hitler's enemies both within and outside of the Party, but still right-wingers, were killed. One prominent example was Ernst Roehm, the Commander of Hitler's private army, the Sturmabteilung, which had fought street battles for him from the early 1920's. He was killed, as the price to be paid for the continued support of the Military and the German ruling class. E.g., the SA's dissolution (remember, it was a private army, directly loyal to Hitler) was demanded by the German armed forces as the price of their support for Hitler and his dictatorship. On other side, the "leftie" Gregor Strasser, Hitler supporter from the early days in the 1920's, was also murdered.

 

 Editor's note: This column was previously published here by OpEdNews, which also published extensive links for reference purposes as well as a reader comment section.

 

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Related News and Commentary

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post). The symbolic heart of Washington has been covered by nearly 700,000 white flags, each about a foot tall, representing the American lives lost to covid-19 and holding written memories from loved ones. The flags have been packed tightly into 60-foot-by-60-foot quadrants on 20 acres near the Washington Monument and the National Museum of African and African American History and Culture.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What the 700,000 flags I put on the National Mall really mean, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg (a social practice artist), Oct. 1, 2021. Twenty-five years of hospice volunteering has taught me that the most important thing we can afford people is their dignity.

That lesson formed the backbone of “In America: Remember,” my art installation that for the past three weeks blanketed Washington’s National Mall with 700,000 fluttering white flags, each one representing an American lost to the coronavirus pandemic. The art is an effort to reclaim the dignity of 700,000 people who have become reduced to a single number, a number too large to fathom.

My project began with outrage. I was outraged we had elected officials who would devalue the lives of the elderly, the poor and people of color in their approach to managing the pandemic. I was outraged we had allowed the death toll here in the United States to become so large as to be incomprehensible.

But the deeper meaning came when I heard the stories. In person, they poured out. Many visitors used the Sharpies we offered them to write their own dedications directly onto the flags. With each of their stories, my anger gave way to their outcries of grief.

 

 

Research On Virus Origins

Feb. 27, 2022

ny times logoNew York Times, New Research Points to Wuhan Market as Pandemic Origin, Carl Zimmer and Benjamin Mueller, Updated Feb. 27, 2022. Scientists released a pair of extensive studies over the weekend that point to a large food and live animal market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

Analyzing a wide range of data, including virus genes, maps of market stalls and the social media activity of early Covid-19 patients across Wuhan, the scientists concluded that the coronavirus was very likely present in live mammals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019 and suggested that the virus spilled over into people working or shopping there on two separate occasions.

The studies, which together span 150 pages, are a significant salvo in the debate over the beginnings of a pandemic that has killed nearly six million people across the world. The question of whether the outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market, a leak from a Wuhan virology lab or some other event has given rise to pitched debates over how best to stop the next pandemic.

“When you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started at the Huanan market,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of both new studies.

Several independent scientists said that the studies, which have not yet been published in a scientific journal, presented a compelling and rigorous new analysis of available data.

“It’s very convincing,” said Dr. Thea Fischer, an epidemiologist at the University of Copenhagen, who was not involved in the new studies. The question of whether the virus spilled over from animals “has now been settled with a very high degree of evidence, and thus confidence.”

But others pointed to some gaps that still remained. The new papers did not, for example, identify an animal at the market that spread the virus to humans.

“I think what they’re arguing could be true,” said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “But I don’t think the quality of the data is sufficient to say that any of these scenarios are true with confidence.”

In a separate study published online on Friday, scientists at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed genetic traces of the earliest environmental samples collected at the market, in January 2020.

By the time Chinese researchers arrived to collect these samples, police had shut down and disinfected the market because a number of people linked to it had become sick with what would later be recognized as Covid. No live market animals were left.

The researchers swabbed walls, floors and other surfaces inside the market, as well as meat still in freezers and refrigerators. They also caught mice and stray cats and dogs around the market to test them, while also testing the contents of the sewers outside. The researchers then analyzed the samples for genetic traces of coronaviruses that may have been shed by people or animals.

Although the Chinese researchers conducted their study over two years ago, it was not until Friday’s report that they publicly shared their results. They reported that the Huanan market samples included two evolutionary branches of the virus, known as lineages A and B, both of which had been circulating in early Covid cases in China.

These findings came as a surprise. In the early days of the pandemic in China, the only Covid cases linked to the market appeared to be Lineage B. And because Lineage B seemed to have evolved after Lineage A, some researchers suggested that the virus arrived at the market only after spreading around Wuhan.

But that logic is upended by the new Chinese study, which finds both lineages in market samples. The findings are consistent with the scenario that Dr. Worobey and his colleagues put forward, in which at least two spillover events occurred at the market.

“The beauty of it is how simply it all adds up now,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, who was not involved in the new studies.

  • The Huanan market was the epicenter of SARS-CoV-2 emergence, Michael Worobey et al., Preprint, Feb. 26, 2022 • 67 Pages
  • SARS-CoV-2 emergence very likely resulted from at least two zoonotic events, Jonathan E. Pekar et al., Preprint, Feb. 26, 2022, 82 Pages

 

Recent health-related news and comment is provided below in reverse chronological order via selections by the Justice Integrity Project. Dr. Jonas is not responsible for the selections:

 

News Summaries

May 2022

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joe biden kamala harris nancy pelosi state 3 1 2022

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February 2022

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Leading Vaxx Skeptics

April 3

 

robert malone war room

ny times logoNew York Times, The Latest Covid Misinformation Star Says He Invented the Vaccines, Davey Alba, April 3, 2022. Dr. Robert Malone (shown above in a screenshot from right-wing strategist Steve Bannon's radio show "War Room," says he helped invent mRNA vaccines and has been wronged for decades. Now he’s spreading unfounded claims about the vaccines and the virus.

Dr. Malone spent decades working in academic centers and with start-ups seeking to bring new medical treatments to market and to combat the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. But in recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic has persisted, he has taken up an entirely different role: spreading misinformation about the virus and vaccines on conservative programs.

In many of his appearances, Dr. Malone questions the severity of the coronavirus, which has now killed nearly one million people in the United States, and the safety of the coronavirus vaccines, which have been widely found to be safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. His statements in late December on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” one of the most popular podcasts in the country, with 11 million listeners per episode on average, were at the center of the uproar over Mr. Rogan’s role in spreading bad information about the virus.

Dr. Malone also routinely sells himself on the shows as the inventor of mRNA vaccines, the technology used by Pfizer and Moderna for their Covid-19 shots, and says he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for their development. While he was involved in some early research into the technology, his role in its creation was minimal at best, say half a dozen Covid experts and researchers, including three who worked closely with Dr. Malone.

joseph mercolaIn spreading these exaggerations and unfounded claims, Dr. Malone joins medical professionals and scientists, like Dr. Joseph Mercola, left, and Dr. Judy Mikovits, right, whose profiles have grown during the pandemic as they spread misinformation about mask-judy mikovits pandemicwearing and convoluted conspiracy theories about virus experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But unlike many of them, Dr. Malone is quite new to the right-wing media world, first appearing regularly on podcasts last June. Even two years into the pandemic, new misinformation stars are being minted. And in today’s media echo chamber — powered by social media algorithms and a tightknit network of politicians and influencers promoting debunked claims — they can quickly catapult to stardom.

In addition to his regular appearances on conservative shows, Dr. Malone has more than 134,000 subscribers to his Substack newsletter. About 8,000 pay the $5 monthly cost, he said, which would amount to at least $31,200 in monthly revenue. And mentions of him on social media, on cable television and in print and online news outlets have soared — to more than 300,000 so far this year, according to Zignal, a media research firm.

The coronavirus pandemic has “given rise to a class of influencers who build conspiracy theories and recruit as many people into them as possible,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “These influencers usually have a special claim to expertise and a veneer of credibility.”

“And almost without exception, these influencers feel that they have been wronged by mainstream society in some way,” Mr. Brooking added.

Dr. Malone earned a medical degree from Northwestern University in 1991, and for the next decade taught pathology at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Maryland. He then turned to biotech start-ups and consulting. His résumé says he was “instrumental” in securing early-stage approval for research on the Ebola vaccine by the pharmaceutical company Merck in the mid-2010s. He also worked on repurposing drugs to treat Zika.

In extended interviews at his home over two days, Dr. Malone said he was repeatedly not recognized for his contributions over the course of his career, his voice low and grave as he recounted perceived slights by the institutions he had worked for.

Notable Vaxxx-Skeptic Deaths

Jan. 31

chris carswell

washington post logoWashington Post, Patient declines coronavirus vaccine at the expense of a lifesaving transplant: ‘I was born free, I’ll die free,’ Julian Mark, Jan. 31, 2022. For more than four years, Chad Carswell, 38, has suffered from severe kidney disease. In July 2020, he started on dialysis — but now his kidneys are functioning at just 4 percent.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Carswell, above, said he recently applied for a kidney transplant but was turned down because he has not received a coronavirus vaccine. And, despite his hospital’s requirements that organ recipients be vaccinated against the virus, he’s refusing the shots.

Carswell, of Hickory, N.C., acknowledged his condition is a “ticking time bomb,” and said he’s living every day as though it’s his last. Still, he will not take a coronavirus vaccine — even if that means losing out on a potentially lifesaving transplant.

“There is not a situation in this world that I’ll get a vaccine,” he told The Post. “If I’m laying on my deathbed, and they tell me, ‘You have a kidney waiting on you if you get this shot,’ I’ll tell them, ‘I’ll see you on the other side.’”

david fergusonCarswell is not the only unvaccinated person on a transplant wait list to be denied an organ. Last week, the family of David J. Ferguson (shown at left in a Facebook photo with his wife) said a Massachusetts hospital denied him a heart transplant because he refused to take a coronavirus vaccine, the Associated Press reported. In October, a Colorado hospital said it would deny a kidney transplant to a woman unless she got vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In both cases, the hospitals cited policies that require all transplant recipients to get vaccinated because of research that shows such patients are at a higher risk of dying from covid-19. Studies estimate the mortality rate of transplant patients who contract covid at about 20 to 30 percent, The Post reported.

Jan. 26

 

olavo de carvalho AP photoGuardian, Covid denialist and Bolsonaro ally Olavo de Carvalho died of virus, says daughter, Tom Phillips, Jan. 26, 2022 (print ed.). Olavo de Carvalho, the coronavirus-denying mentor of Jair Bolsonaro and Brazil’s radical right, has died in the United States, with one of his children citing Covid-19 as the cause. He is shown above in an Associated Press file photo.

“The family … asks for prayers for the professor’s soul,” relatives said on Twitter after announcing the death of the 74-year-old polemicist – a towering figure in contemporary Brazilian politics who was adored and abhorred in equal measure by millions of followers and foes.

The statement did not say how Carvalho – a former astrologer who repeatedly trivialized Covid as the “moronavirus” – had died. However, his estranged daughter, Heloísa de Carvalho, said coronavirus was the cause.

“He has blood on his hands,” she told the magazine Veja, blaming her father’s “denialist ideas” and dissemination of fake news for the Brazilian government’s delay in purchasing Covid vaccines. “But I do not celebrate his death.”

Bolsonaro – whose shock 2018 election was turbocharged by Carvalho’s extreme and often expletive-ridden teachings – lamented the loss of “one of the greatest thinkers in our country’s history” and declared a national day of mourning. “Olavo was a … beacon for millions of Brazilians,” Brazil’s ultraconservative president claimed.

The president’s son, Eduardo, also celebrated the pipe-smoking septuagenarian whose influence was such that he reputedly named several members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet despite having lived in the US since 2005.

Progressive Brazilians – disgusted by the leading role they claim Carvalho played in poisoning their country’s social and political life and spreading life-threatening misinformation about Covid – rejected such eulogies.

Before his death Carvalho continually minimized coronavirus – which has killed nearly 625,000 Brazilians and 5.6 million people globally – peddled conspiracies about its origins, and attacked those trying to slow its spread. It is unclear if he had been vaccinated.

In May 2020, as Covid pummeled South America, Carvalho tweeted: “The fear of a supposedly deadly virus is nothing more than a little horror story designed to scare the population and make them accept slavery as they would a present from Father Christmas.”

Carvalho branded containment measures “the most enormous and sordid crime ever committed against the entire human species” and once alleged the global health emergency “simply doesn’t exist”. On another occasion he said only “a perfect fool” would believe the spread of the “Chinese virus” was accidental.

“Does the moronavirus really kill people or does he just help them become statistics?” he wondered last January as Brazil’s death toll rose to over 200,000.

When Twitter deleted one of Carvalho’s posts for violating its rules on spreading harmful or misleading information about Covid, he told the company’s then president Jack Dorsey: “You can stick your network up your” buttocks.

Felipe Neto, one of Brazil’s top online influencers, tweeted: “The far right will now try to turn Olavo de Carvalho into a martyr, a hero. Olavo is one of the main culprits for the sea of mud into which we have sunk.”

For other deaths of prominent anti-vaxx and anti-mask influencers, visit the SorryAntiVaxxer.com site.

 

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