Another quality independent news source is London Real TV. I discovered another interview with Robert F Kennedy Jr, speaking in May 2020 with Brian Rose at London Real. Kennedy has spent years developing a comprehensive understanding of the politics behind the Covid-19 pandemic crisis being experienced today. He is articulate and courageous. He also spoke to New Zealand yesterday via Voices for Freedom, a growing movement addressing the breakdown of democracy occurring now.
Harvard University Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff gave an excellent interview on Real Talk With Zuby a few days ago which I’ve tried to transcribe below, for safekeeping.
Professor Kulldorff has worked on disease surveillance, developing and applying methods in disease detection and monitoring, for about two decades. He has also worked a lot on methods for vaccine safety, exploring ways to quickly detect adverse reactions. When the pandemic hit he was very surprised because the official narrative was very different from what he thought was the best approach, as an infectious disease epidemiologist working on disease outbreaks.
Two factors struck Professor Kulldorff early on. Firstly, as soon as Covid hit Italy and Iran, the two first countries outside of China that were hit badly, it was clear there was going to be a worldwide pandemic that would spread to the rest of the world sooner or later, that we could not avoid.
Secondly, while anyone can get infected, it was very clear from the data that this was very different in terms of risk of mortality by age, with more than a thousand-fold difference between the youngest and oldest members of society. So the natural thing to do, as per established pandemic preparedness plans, was to protect older, high risk people, as they are at risk of dying from Covid, whilst not limiting lives of children and young adults who are at minscule risk in terms of death. They can get Covid, and do get it, but in terms of mortality they’re at miniscule risk.
It didn’t make any public health or scientific sense not to focus on those at risk, and we’re still living with this now, with emphasis on vaccinating children or putting mandates on working age adults, while there are still older people who have not been vaccinated. The emphasis should be to vaccinate those older groups who have not yet either been vaccinated or had Covid. Kulldorff has no idea why people don’t see the very clear risk differentiation by age.
Whenever you have a new drug or vaccine, it takes a couple of years before you get a complete picture of adverse reactions. For older people who haven’t had the virus, it’s a no-brainer that they should get the vaccine, even if there are some unknown risks. For children it is not at all clear-cut as the risk of dying or hospitalisation with this disease is tiny, so whether the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks remains unclear.
We have known about natural immunity since at least 430BC, during the Athenian Plague. This is not a new concept. At that time, people who recovered from the plague, took care of the sick. Suddenly, last year we seemed to forget about natural immunity, which is truly astonishing. We are behaving in public health policy as though it doesn’t exist. If you are vaccinated you have 27 times higher risk for symptomatic disease than if you had prior Covid disease.
In the US many essential workers who worked throughout the pandemic, servicing the Zoom class with such things as pizza delivery, electricity maintenance, garbage collections, as well as personnel in nursing homes and hospitals, contracted Covid as part of their work. Now they have superior immunity. But these nurses are now being fired by those hospital administrators who were sitting at home, even though the nurses have better, stronger, longer-lasting immunity than the vaccinated administrators. Kulldorff describes this as very discriminatory and unscientific. He suggests that in fact the opposite response is required, using nurses with natural immunity to specifically care for high risk patients as they are the least likely to infect others.
Many health care needs were ignored during the pandemic. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, travel vaccinations and so on. We need health care personnel to take care of that also, to catch up, so we need people working in the health care sector.
In 2020 it was very frustrating to be a scientist because of the perceived consensus that everybody in public health agreed with lockdowns as the way to go. When Professor Kulldorff talked to his colleagues, he found that most did not approve of lockdowns and thought we should focus on protecting the older, high risk people.
This motivated Kulldorff, with two fellow academics, Jay Bhattacharya and Sunetra Gupta, to collaborate on writing the Great Barrington Declaration. They could see that lockdowns were not going to protect those at highest risk. This has borne true, with over 700,000 reported deaths in the US alone. These people were not protected by general lockdowns such as school closures. The Great Barrington Declaration listed several dozen very concrete examples of what needed to be done to protect high risk groups.
Simultaneously, closing schools had no benefit on the pandemic, whilst creating collateral damage on education for children, who have carried the biggest burden of these lockdowns. Young adults should also be able to continue living their lives while older people are protected. There is nothing new in these very basic public health principles which have been established in pandemic preparedness planning for many years. The Great Barrington Declaration received a lot of support, but it also received a lot of pushback from more politically oriented people.
As a public health scientist, it has been absolutely stunning to Kulldorff, watching the implementation of lockdowns. As a native of Sweden he was very supportive of keeping the schools open there. They have a social democratic government, so in Sweden he appears to be a socialist fanatic. At the same time in the US he supported Florida who kept schools open, and they have a Republican governor, so in the US he appears as a Republican fanatic. However, to Kulldorff these are basic public health principles, unrelated to political preferences.
Sweden has been in the news but other Scandinavian countries also didn’t lock down. Sweden has good epidemiologists in Anders Tegnell and Johan Gisecke, who kept their heads cool. They were very honest about public health, and so they maintained trust between public health authorities and the population. It’s a two way street, where if public health officials want the public to trust them, then public health officials have to trust the public.
Zuby: trust has been significantly eroded over the past 20 months. One of the things that’s been extremely concerning about this whole situation has been lack of honesty, lack of transparency, unwillingness and even push back against people thinking, speaking, debating or having conversations. YouTube can deplatform, even doctors, scientists and experts are having videos removed. People are being bullied, shamed, coerced, threatened to have their medical licences revoked and being pushed out of communities. This is concerning from countries which are supposed to be free, and supposed to support scientific inquiry and freedom of speech. And the nature of science and medicine itself is based around conversation, inquiry and challenge, not just going along and “trust the experts and follow the science”, but to me it should be “question the experts and challenge and question the science”. Especially when it’s very obvious even to someone who’s not a virologist or epidemiologist, can look at the evidence and say wait, that doesn’t seem to make sense or that looks contradictory. Instead of saying, this is the explanation, they’re just saying shut up, you’re not allowed to say that, don’t talk about it, don’t even think about it.
Professor Kulldorff has observed enormous censorship and has experienced it himself, on YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. People with long standing experience with infectious disease outbreaks are censored, which seems amazing and does not follow the principles or methods of science.
LinkedIn removed a couple of Kulldorff’s posts. Twitter removed one post and put a warning on a different one. Professor Kulldorff participated in a roundtable discussion organised by Florida Governor De Santis and YouTube removed it. Facebook removed the Great Barrington Declaration because they shared a pro-vaccine message. Whilst serving on the CDC Committee for safety of Covid vaccines, Kulldorff argued against CDC’s decision to forgo the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. As a one-dose vaccine Kulldorff argued it would be better for older and harder-to-reach people and he wrote about this as an OpEd in The Hill. Consequently CDC removed him from the committee. “So I’m probably the only scientist to have been kicked out of CDC for being too pro-vaccine”.
We know of some adverse reactions to these vaccines. There may be others that we don’t know about yet. Most of the adverse reactions are in younger people, while most of the benefits are in older people. Older people, if they haven’t had Covid, should get the vaccine. On the other hand, Kulldorff does not agree with vaccinating children. Soon almost everyone will have natural immunity, moving into an endemic stage, and we will live with Covid as we do with other coronaviruses. Exposure in childhood is very low risk, with no symptoms or maybe a cold, leading to lifetime immunity. It is clear that children don’t need the vaccine.
Zuby: In so many countries they don’t differentiate between age related risk and prior immunity from infection, and this is so obviously dishonest. This has eroded trust in media, politicians, and unfortunately the medical and scientific world itself. There are many honest and ethical doctors and scientists out there, but the few who they put on the podium to represent the scientific or medical community, these are often not people who are honest and not people who deal with this disease, but mouthpieces for the government.
This threatens trust in all vaccines. Fringe groups arguing that we should not get any vaccines at all have had no power or influence in the US, but these vaccine fanatics who now think everyone should get vaccinated, even those who don’t need it, are creating a lot of distrust in public health authorities and vaccines. Professor Kulldorff suggests that “pro-vaccine fanatics are the biggest anti-vaxxers out there”.
Zuby: Prior to this year I’ve never been called an anti-vaxxer in my life but they’ve expanded the definition so wide, it includes people who have taken the vaccine, those who are in favour of it, and those who are in favour but don’t agree with coercion. They just call everyone an anti-vaxxer, so if you have any trepidations or questions or feel you don’t need this particular one, they accuse you of anti-science. It polarises people, pushes them to the fringes, and removes all the nuance in the middle.
Maybe they don’t understand it? Maybe they don’t care about it because for them it’s politics? Or they want to feel righteous? But what they are doing is damaging to public health, for sure.
Viruses mutate, so it’s inevitable that there are going to be variants. Typically variants that transmit more easily between people, have an advantage over those which are less transmissible. It’s not surprising if new variants are more transmissible than older variants. New variants can be more severe, but there is no reason for it in terms of evolutionary pressure. It is more likely that they are less severe. A virus that kills people cannot transmit between people so easily. If the risk does change, you would expect it to be less severe, although it is possible for a more deadly variant to appear.
Lockdowns are likely to push variant evolution. They can temporarily reduce spread. However, if it’s more difficult for the virus to move from one person to the next, this can theoretically pressure the virus to become more transmissible.
Kulldorff doesn’t know what happened to Influenza, but when there are different viruses they can compete each other out. Within Influenza itself, strains compete and interfere with each other, so this may explain the disappearance of Influenza.
Regarding SARS-CoV-2 testing, it’s important to distinguish at least three different situations. Firstly, someone who is sick and is tested for diagnostic purposes. With an imperfect test, a positive result assists diagnosis by providing an explanation for the illness. Secondly, in nursing homes testing can be useful for staff working with frail patients. Those who receive a false positive result may create a less damaging problem as it would be better safe than sorry in these circumstances. Thirdly mass testing in schools, universities and workplaces, Kulldorff thinks is not recommended at all, due to the false positivity rates and waste of resources searching for presence of viral material in a very low risk population.
Professor Kulldorff describes pre-symptomatic transmission, which can occur in the days prior to someone falling ill. It is probably not an important factor because ultimately the virus is going to spread. Lockdowns did not work, with the virus spreading anyway. The vaccines can prevent hospitalisation and death but the ability of the vaccines to prevent symptomatic disease wanes quite quickly after a few months, so even those who are vaccinated can eventually get Covid.
Vaccine induced immunity is not as good as natural immunity. Preventing symptomatic disease would require boosters about every three months. The current vaccines are useful for preventing severe outcomes and death, but not for transmission, which is only preventable via natural immunity.
Duke University in North Carolina researched the use of masks in school children, which the New York Times wrote about. All schools in North Carolina required masks and there was very little Covid in the children. From this they concluded that masks work. However, there was no control group and so the children were all also wearing shoes, so it could be equally concluded that their shoes protected them.
Sweden did not close schools, and did not require masks, social distancing or testing. Of 1.8 million children they did not have a single death, and their teachers had a lower rate of Covid than other professional groups. This shows that there is no evidence that masks work for children, with strong evidence that in fact they are unnecessary.
There have been two randomised studies on use of masks. The Danish study evaluated whether masks helped the wearer, and the results showed no major benefit, with a possibility of some small benefit, or of some small harm. A community study in Bangladesh randomised villages to encourage mask-wearing vs not wearing masks. Their results showed that masks reduced Covid somewhere between 0% and 18%, meaning either no effect or very marginal effect. If a vaccine was found to be 18% effective it would not be approved for use.
Prior to Covid there were studies on mask use for other viruses, such as influenza, which also showed that they had minimal efficacy. In hospitals however, mask wearing is important, but this is when they are worn properly, fitted properly and used in specific situations where the risk is considered high.
Zuby: the majority of people who have died with Covid have been elderly with comorbidities such as obesity and Vitamin D deficiency, yet there has been very little health education and advice about exercise, weight loss, or vitamin supplementation.
Kulldorff states that while age is by far the biggest risk factor for Covid disease, comorbidities can add or subtract years depending on risk. A pandemic is a good time to promote exercise and healthy lifestyle, which is great for immune systems, rather than locking people in their homes. This was a huge public health mistake.
In conclusion: the pandemic will end, as all pandemics do. The virus will be with us forever, as an endemic virus with seasonal waves, and ZeroCovid is impossible. Some older people who are frail and vulnerable to all viruses, will succumb to it, but this is no different to the many other viruses that we live with. Kulldorff’s concern is that the damage to public health and science is long term and will take a long time to rebuild. The damage to physical and mental health caused by lockdowns will also take a long time to recover from and we will need to help each other through this.
Zuby: families and friends are being torn apart by the division being promoted around who is or is not vaccinated. If someone has immunity then they no longer need to be afraid, but people are fearful and some are calling for segregation, which will destroy the notions in democracy of fair and equal treatment, kindness and non-discrimination, over a virus which is not particularly dangerous to a majority of the population.
Professor Kulldorff works with the Brownstone Institute, a newly formed non-profit organisation with the intent of restoring public health.