Three years after COVID-19 hijacked the world, Hollywood celebrities are mocking the vaccine on “Saturday Night Live,” Bernie Sanders is hauling Moderna’s CEO before Congress, and a member of the Kennedy family is mulling a primary challenge to President Joe Biden by railing on the vaccines that the White House continues to promote.
How times have changed. In three short years, many perspectives dismissed as “fringe” or “anti-science” in 2020 have become obvious and even mainstream. As a doctor whose livelihood has been threatened for challenging some of these points of view, these developments give me no pleasure.
Wherever else we may disagree, we must look to the future and prepare for the next public health emergency. Here are three places to start.
First, when a crisis hits, public health leaders should prioritize transparency and promote open debate. Throughout the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) restricted the flow of information and only published data that supported its narrow political objectives. But as we’ve seen, facts will eventually come to light, and the cover-up is always worse than the crime.
Nowhere is this principle clearer than the origins of the COVID virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci is still saying it’s “very tough to tell” if the FBI and Energy Department are correct about the lab leak theory. He is standing by his claims of “natural occurrence,” and lashing out at those who disagree as “insane.”
Fortunately, his days of running amok with no accountability are over. The House of Representatives voted 419-0 to force the Biden administration to declassify all information about COVID’s origins. Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield has called for a moratorium on gain of function research. These are two important places to start.
Second, don’t pretend there is a silver bullet. Complex public health problems demand complex solutions — every time. Biden, Fauci and crew hung their entire COVID strategy on vaccines. In doing so, they made promises they could not keep and used absurd claims — like CDC Director Dr. Walensky insisting that vaccinated people couldn’t spread COVID or even get sick — to force an agenda that only set Americans against one another.
Of course, Walensky was forced to admit she was wrong on this (and plenty more). Yet the U.S. still requires international visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the world number one tennis player (Novak Djokovic), my favorite athlete, cannot enter our country to participate in upcoming tournaments. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves credit for suggesting he could “run a boat from the Bahamas” for Djokovic to compete in the Miami Open tennis tournament later this month, but it should not come to that.
There are other options to treat COVID, including re-purposing existing generic drugs. This is no longer a fringe cause. Russell Brand generated national headlines for taking the mainstream media to task for dismissing drugs like ivermectin, which have been promoted by the likes of Joe Rogan and Aaron Rodgers.
Third, policymakers must recognize that snap crisis decisions can leave people hurt. No one expects a perfect public response, but there must be safety net for those who get caught up in the single-minded approach. Consider vaccine associated enhanced disease (VAED), the ghastly scenario where a vaccine not only fails to prevent transmission but creates a more serious illness in a vaccinated person than one who is unvaccinated.
According to the CDC’s “V-safe” safety monitoring system, 33% of people who received a COVID vaccine experienced severe adverse effects, and 7.7% have required hospitalization. I have never in my career prescribed any medicine or administered any therapy which even came close to a 1% risk of requiring medical attention as a result of that therapy. This risk of a treatment is unprecedented in the history of modern medicine.
Those daring to raise the alarm on the unproven and dangerous nature of the vaccines have been persecuted relentlessly. The government program compensating those who have been injured by vaccines has been a black hole. As of late February, only 19 of the 11,196 claims — less than 1% — submitted to the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) have been approved. In a time of desperation, Americans are grasping for help only to get mired in the vast government bureaucracy.
Above all, the next public health emergency should be met with more humility and less arrogance. A once-in-a century crisis requires a spirit of open-mindedness.
The same so-called experts who have been sneering about “following the science” need to take a dose of their own medicine. Public trust in medical scientists has plummeted to 29% according to Pew Research.
These numbers must rebound before the next catastrophe strikes. Inviting front-line clinicians with direct experiences in treating the disease to offer guidance on what works and what does not work, would be a start.
No one person, entity or institution has a monopoly on good ideas. Science and medicine are constantly evolving and changing. Policymakers must keep up.
Pierre Kory, M.D., is president and chief medical officer of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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