Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Poor, poor, pitiful Prof. Gøtzsche: Antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks are quoting him in support of their pseudoscience

Prof. Peter Gøtzsche really, really doesn’t like that COVID-19 deniers and antivaxxers are quoting him to support their misinformation. He has no one to blame but himself. He is a useful idiot for such people.

Remember those halcyon days over a year ago, back before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and became the number one medical topic in the world for months on end? Back in those days, antivaxxers, although still a threat to public health, weren’t the existential threat that they are today, given their ability to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the vaccines that are one of the major weapons that will eventually bring about the end of the pandemic. Back then, they spread fear mainly about the measles vaccine and HPV vaccines, while falsely claiming that vaccines have rendered our children the “sickest generation” and have been responsible for the obesity epidemic. (Well, that and trying to frighten people out of vaccinating in the middle of a deadly measles epidemic.) Back in those days, I once took the very eminent former director of the Nordic Cochrane Collaborative, Prof. Peter Gøtzsche, to task for having agreed to speak at a conference organized by Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC), a virulently antivaccine physicians group. True, he did ultimately back out, but only after a social media firestorm that took him to task for having agreed to appear on the same bill with antivax leaders Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (RFK Jr.) and Mary Holland, along with a veritable rogues’ gallery of mid-level antivax activists.

Since the pandemic, I haven’t really paid much attention to Prof. Gøtzsche’s activities, and he really hasn’t given me much reason to; that is, until now. I recently became aware that Prof. Gøtzsche is unhappy. What is he unhappy about? Apparently antivaxxers quoted him extensively to support their antivaccine views and COVID-19 pseudoscience in a letter to Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro. Gøtzsche made his displeasure known on Twitter:

Poor, poor, pitiful Prof. Gøtzsche! How on earth could this have happened? Actually, what happened? I’ll explain briefly. Apparently a group called United Health Professionals wrote an open letter to the leaders of 30 countries. A quick perusal of the UHP Facebook page and Twitter feed reveals that the group is a pretty standard bunch of COVID-19 cranks, with its page being dominated by antimask and anti-“lockdown” propaganda and disinformation, along with—of course!—antivaccine propaganda.

For example, here they urge people not to use masks and to refuse to be tested for COVID-19:

Here they refer to lockdowns as “crimes against humanity”:

And here they are denying the number of deaths that COVID-19 has caused:

Quoting Didier Raoult? The grifter who early in the pandemic was most responsible for the evidence-free promotion (and promotion based on awful “evidence”) of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, a drug that quite expectedly turned out not to work? That’s who is being quoted? The man known for being a crank and for bullying his underlings and attacking critics?

You get the idea. Then there’s the fear mongering about COVID-19 vaccines:

So, a couple of weeks ago, these cranks apparently sent an “open letter” to the governments of 30 nations:

This letter demands nine actions of these governments, and I quote:

  1. Lift all restrictions.
  2. Open up economy, schools, universities, air transport and hospital units.
  3. Exclude your experts and advisers who have links or conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies.
  4. Require an international and independent investigation and that those responsible for this scam be tried.
  5. No longer blindly follow the recommendations of the WHO and require that it be totally reformed.
  6. Use the recognized measures for the management of epidemics.
  7. Make the media aware of their responsibilities.
  8. Remove the requirement for tests.
  9. Stop the vaccination campaigns and refuse the scam of the pseudo-health passport which is in reality a politico-commercial project.

The wag in me can’t help but point out the similarity between #4 and antivaxxer Kent Heckenlively’s demand that provaccine doctors, politicians, and health officials be tried in a Reign of Terror-like purge; that is, unless they “surrender” to antivaxxers. As for the rest, I can’t help but also note that #1 and #2 are becoming closer to potentially possible, thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, while #8 would make the goal in #1 far more difficult. #3 might be a problem, but does not change the science showing that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and that restrictions imposed by public health authorities (and are actually part of an evidence-based implementation of #6) do work, but at a price. Seriously, these anti-“lockdown” activists seem to think that public health officials, governments, and the medical profession aren’t aware of the potential prices of “lockdowns” and don’t try to balance potential harm of such interventions in terms of economic damage and other health issues compared to the overwhelming imperative from tens of millions of cases and millions of deaths due to COVID-19 in a short period of time. Finally, #9 conflates antivaxxer claims that COVID-19 vaccines are not safe and effective with a different concern entirely, how proof of vaccination against COVID-19 might be used politically. The latter is not an unreasonable concern. The form is unreasonable, given the safety record of the vaccine after nearly a hundred million doses administered in just the US alone.

Before I look at Prof. Gøtzsche’s response to UHP, let’s look at how UHP used some of Prof. Gøtzsche’s own words to promote its message:

Remove the following illegal, non-scientific and non-sanitary measures : lockdown, mandatory face masks for healthy subjects, social distancing of one or two meters. These crazy and stupid measures are heresies invented in 2020 that do not exist in medicine or public health and they are not based on any scientific evidence. 

This is not how we manage an outbreak :

– « The world went mad » with coronavirus lockdowns which « fly in the face of what is known about handling virus pandemics » (Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, June 24, 2020).

– « The infection fatality rate seems to be about the same as for influenza, but we have never introduced these drastic measures before, when we had influenza pandemics. And we cannot live with them for years to come » (Prof. Peter Gøtzsche, December 1, 2020).

– « The decision of lockdown as the decision of wearing masks…are not based on scientific data…» (Prof. Didier Raoult, June 24, 2020).

– « The natural history of the virus [the coronavirus] is not influenced by social measures [lockdown, face masks, closure of restaurants, curfew, etc.]…The lockdown did not trigger the decrease in cases…As for the closure of restaurants which had very strict health protocols in place…of course, I have no way of defending it…it has not influenced the epidemic at all…The lockdown has not changed anything…» (Prof. Philippe Parola, December 3, 2020).

– « There is no scientific evidence to support the disastrous two-metre rule. Poor quality research is being used to justify a policy with enormous consequences for us all » (Professors Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, June 19, 2020).

– « Grotesque, absurd and very dangerous measures…a horrible impact on the world economy…self- destruction and collective suicide… » (Prof. Sucharit Bhakdi, March 2020. He also sent, at the time, a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel).

In addition, these tyrannical measures violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its articles: 3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 26, 27, 28, 30 and the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child in its articles : 28, 29, 32, 37.

– « When the state knows best and violates human rights, we are on a dangerous course. The pandemic has led to the violation of basic human rights…There has not been the slightest ethical analysis of whether this was justified. It is not» (Prof. Peter Gøtzsche, December 4, 2020).

Wait, what? Prof. Gøtzsche was repeating as late as December the scientifically incorrect statement often used as propaganda by antimaskers and COVID-19 cranks that the infection fatality rate of COVID-19 is about the same as for influenza? And using it the same way COVID-19 cranks do, to rail against restrictions imposed by governments and public health authorities to slow down the spread of the virus? He even published his claim in a BMJ Rapid Response, the favored medium of cranks and antivaxxers who like to use such “letters to the editor” to make it seem as though their claims have been published in the BMJ, citing, John Ioannidis, of all people! (He’s someone I used to admire, but whose own science the pandemic has revealed to be just as bad as the science he criticized, and in many of the same ways.) What is he complaining about?

Actually, Prof. Gøtzsche didn’t complain about the passage above. He simply copied it into his response, without complaining about the use of his quotes and even linked to his BMJ Rapid Response, which vastly underestimated the infection-fatality rate of COVID-19 and ignored how deadly the disease is to those over 50, and particularly over 65. I can only assume he is still standing by them. And he wonders why COVID-19 cranks and antivaxxers love him?

Let’s see what did get Gøtzsche sufficiently riled to add his own comments in the text of the letter. Under #4:

The famous international slogan:

“Stay home, save lives” was a pure lie. On the contrary, quarantine has not only killed many people, it has also destroyed physical and mental health, the economy, education and other aspects of life. For example, quarantine in the USA killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients who also died far from their families. In the UK: the quarantine killed 21,000 people.

The effects of the quarantine «were absolutely harmful. They did not save the lives they had announced that they could save … It is a weapon of mass destruction and we see its health … social … economic effects … that form the real second wave ” (Prof. Jean-François Toussaint, September 24, 2020).

Arresting your people is a crime against humanity that not even the Nazis committed!

Gøtzsche: This is blatantly false. The Nazis arrested and murdered their own people, e.g. 200,000 people with disabilities.

It’s nice that Prof. Gøtzsche finally got upset enough by an overblown analogy of the sort beloved by antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks to react to it and refute it, given that he himself likes to use them himself, such as when he referred to big pharma as even “worse than the mafia.”

I laughed out loud, though, at this:

«This country is making a dramatic mistake … What are we going to suggest? Will everyone be locked up for a lifetime because there are viruses out there?! You’re all crazy, you’re crazy! … We are setting fire to the planet ” (Prof. Didier Raoult, 27 October 2020).

“It is a great delusion, but it is instrumentalized by large pharmaceutical industries and also by politicians … It is an organized fear for political and economic reasons” (Prof. Christian Perronne, 31 August 2020).

“It is just a global coup to make big profits, rescue the banks and, meanwhile, ruin the middle classes in the name of an epidemic … made destructive by libertarian measures, allegedly sanitary” (Dr. Nicole Delépine, December 18, 2020).

Gøtzsche: Conspiracy theories are not helpful.

“We have medical evidence that this is a scam” (Dr Heiko Schöning, July 2020).

Gøtzsche: What exactly is claimed to be a scam? The two million deaths so far are real.

Seriously? The eminent Prof. Gøtzsche certainly isn’t above invoking conspiracy theories himself in his speeches and books, or at least blurring the line between real conspiracies of big pharma to promote its drugs and unfalsifiable conspiracy theories. Basically, from my perspective Gøtzsche is someone who started out as a mostly reasonable, if vociferous, critic of big pharma but then devolved into a bit of a crank. His entire attack on the Nordic Cochrane review of the HPV vaccine even bordered on leaning into antivaccine tropes about placebo controls. It was widely agreed at the time that Gøtzsche and colleagues (including Tom Jefferson, whom we’ve criticized before) had vastly overplayed its hand and massively overstated problems with the review. The end result of the kerfuffle was that Gøtzsche was removed from the board of directors of the Cochrane Collaboration, with some leaving with him. From my perspective, basically, Gøtzsche has become a bit of a crank and conspiracy theorist on some issues, including psychiatry, the HPV vaccine, and, arguably, mammographic screening. Heck, in his book on vaccines he even seems to buy into at least a couple of antivaccine tropes:

The book focuses on measles, influenza and HPV but discusses also childhood vaccination programmes and whether mandatory vaccination can be justified. Raising critical questions to vaccines is essential because there are still many unresolved issues. For example, we know virtually nothing about what happens when we use many vaccines and what the long-term effects are on the immune system.

That sure does sound like the “too many too soon” antivaccine trope, along with the antivaccine false claim that vaccines cause widespread autoimmune disease. And, of course, according to Prof. Gøtzsche, big pharma is in a conspiracy with governments and the medical profession to cover up the evidence of these “harms.” I suppose I should be grateful that he accepts that the deaths and horror caused by COVID-19 thus far are “real,” but come on!

And Gøtzsche is still virulently against “lockdowns,” as we see in his response to #7:

The media should, for example, stop talking about the coronavirus.

Gøtzsche: This could be interpreted as censorship, which we should avoid at all costs. The media have not lived up to their responsibilities, as they have mainly been mouthpieces for our governments, and they virtually never comment on the opportunity costs, the many lives lost due to our lockdowns and the huge damage to our national economies.

I don’t know what planet Prof. Gøtzsche is living on, but commenting on the harms of “lockdowns,” real (the severe economic consequences) and imagined (the “many lives lost”) dominates the pervasive right-wing media, led by Fox News, OAN, NewsMax, and the many news media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch. You can’t escape it. I haven’t been able to escape it for a year, as the propaganda against public health interventions and “lockdowns” began very soon after the pandemic hit, never mind that, outside of authoritarian regimes, nothing resembling a true “lockdown” has ever been implemented. Maybe things are different in the Netherlands, but in much of the world there is a relentless disinformation campaign falsely claiming that “lockdowns” cause far more deaths than COVID-19. When Donald Trump was still President, he even promoted such disinformation himself.

What really seems to have bothered the eminent Prof. Gøtzsche the most is the antivaccine disinformation in the “open letter.” That’s good! But he is either incredibly naïve or totally disingenuous to express such alarm now, given his history with vaccines, particularly the HPV vaccine. In any case, this rapid-fire bit is as good a place to start as any:

“We don’t need it [the vaccine] at all … All of this has to do with purely commercial objectives” (Prof. Christian Perronne, 16 June 2020).

Gøtzsche: This statement is appallingly false. We desperately needed good vaccines, and they seem to have lowered hospital admissions and deaths dramatically already.

«It is an old marketing principle of pharmaceutical companies: if they want to sell their product well, the consumer must be afraid and see it as their rescue. So, we created a psychosis for consumers to collapse and rush into the vaccine in question.” (Prof. Peter Schönhöfer).

Gøtzsche: Two million deaths and dramatic effects of the vaccines can hardly be called a psychosis.

«As a doctor, I have no hesitation in anticipating government decisions; we must not only refuse these vaccines [against COVID-19], but also denounce and condemn the purely commercial approach and the abject cynicism that guided its production.» (Dr. Pierre Cave, 7 August 2020).

Gøtzsche: Having come this far in the document, I have had enough of all the totally false “anti-vaxxer” statements. I hope people will read my vaccine book, which has a chapter on COVID-19 that I updated in January 2021 for the US print version that comes out on 1 June. The updated chapter is already out in the German translation.

Yes! I wondered when it was coming, a plug for his book! I also can’t help but remind you of how much Prof. Gøtzsche gives credence to the “too many too soon” antivaccine trope and the false claim that we do not know the longterm effects of “so many” vaccines on the immune system. Also, it’s clear from the reviews that in the book Prof. Gøtzsche gives credence to what he considers the more “reasonable” concerns promoted by antivaxxers while attacking the straw man that “vaccine advocates” are as rigid and fundamentalist as “antivaxxers,” portraying us as, in essence, mindless drones of big pharma:

Gøtzsche’s book therefore raises many serious concerns about the validity of a handful of widely used vaccines. Nevertheless, he is absolutely clear that science is not on the side of the fundamentalists who reject all vaccines, as in any given country “It is vastly better to get all the recommended vaccines than to refuse all of them.” Still Gøtzsche correctly asserts that “we can do much better than to simply accept everything that is recommended,” which unfortunately is often the default position of the fundamentalists on the other side of the vaccine debate, people Gøtzsche refers to as “vaccine advocates.” Although he adds that this descriptor may be “too kind for those of them who are similarly unreasonable as the vaccine deniers when they say we should accept all vaccines without asking questions.” So, contrary to holding either fundamentalist positions, Gøtzsche emphasizes the role of dissent and public debate in informing public health measures. But, as he argues, for such dissent to be effective it should be informed by the best available evidence on a case-by-case basis, and this is exactly the position from which Gøtzsche’s book approaches the question of vaccines.

No, it is not the “default position” of vaccine advocates to “accept everything that is recommended.” That is a straw man. If you don’t believe me, just look at the reaction of many provaccine advocates, myself included, to Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s effort to speed the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, when it was announced. We were alarmed at the name and the promotion and very concerned that there was a push to get vaccines approved fast, whether they had been adequately tested for efficacy and safety or not. Look at how alarmed I was when a colleague suggested that it would be safe to bypass the phase 3 clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines and just start using them. Given how much the previous administration tried to politicize the CDC and FDA, I even at one point asked whether we could trust these agencies any more. Guess what, though? We followed the evidence. When COVID-19 vaccines were shown through science to be safe and effective, we embraced them. After close to 100 million doses administered in the US alone without any alarming safety signals, we’re even more confident that these are very safe and effective vaccines. Science, Prof. Gøtzsche! We pay attention to it.

As for “many serious concerns about the validity of a handful of widely used vaccines,” primarily he’s clearly referring to the HPV vaccine, Gøtzsche’s criticisms of which have already been revealed to be based on ideology and truly awful science, and the influenza vaccine, a favorite target of methodolatrists like Gøtzsche’s fellow Cochrane member, Tom Jefferson, whose critiques of the influenza vaccine have been dubious. Indeed, this review describes how Gotzsche’s vaccine book includes the false claim that influenza deaths are “vastly overcounted.” I had to laugh when the fawning reviewer referred to Gøtzsche as the “objective scientist.” He is anything but.

Then there’s this:

Nevertheless, at this point in time, despite the sizable vote that the popularist far-right obtain in Denmark, public trust in vaccines appears to remain reasonably high with polls showing that only 4% of the population agree with the statement that “vaccines are not effective”.[7] So while Gøtzsche can say that he has “never heard about any anti-vaxxer movement” in Denmark, you couldn’t rule out that one might be in the process of developing.

That’s right. Gøtzsche appears to have seriously argued that because only 4% of the population truly believe that vaccines don’t work, that must mean that there isn’t an antivaxxer movement and that it isn’t a major problem.

Here’s one last hilarious example I can’t resist:

If people accept the COVID-19 vaccine, it will be: «A mistake because we run the risk of having absolutely unpredictable effects: for example, cancers … We are playing the total sorcerer’s apprentice … Man should not be a guinea pig, children should not be a guinea pig, it is absolutely unethical. There should be no deaths from vaccines ”(Prof. Luc Montagnier, Virologist and Nobel Prize in Medicine, December 17, 2020).

Gøtzsche: It is tragic that Montagnier is so far-off reality in relation to COVID-19. He got the Nobel Prize for discovering the virus that causes AIDS. I have written about this in my book about mammography screening: “John Crewdson from the Chicago Tribune had already contacted me in November 2000 and asked to have a meeting, which became several meetings. Crewdson won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on US immigration injustices and has a reputation for a Columbo style of information gathering where he feigns confusion and keeps asking questions.1 He also worked on a case where the evidence strongly suggested that the American Robert Gallo had stolen the credit for the detection of the AIDS virus from the Frenchman Luc Montagnier, who sent specimens of his discovery to Gallo; an affair that was settled at presidential level to save faces.2 Crewdson reported that Gallo’s laboratory was not forthcoming, and that doors closed and the lights went out once the NIH figured out what Crewdson was doing.”

I’ve often referred to Luc Montagnier as a cautionary example of the “Nobel Disease,” in which a Nobel laureate becomes a total crank or quack later in life. In recent years, Montagnier has not only embraced The One Quackery To Rule Them All (homeopathy), but also a wide variety of autism quackery as well, including (of course) the scientifically discredited idea that vaccines cause autism, as well as pseudoscience claiming “DNA teleportation.” He’s even spoken at the autism quackfest known as AutismOne and appeared in Andrew Wakefield’s antivaccine propaganda “documentary” VAXXED, after having started a pseudoscientific and unethical clinical trial of long term antibiotics to treat autism. Basically, Luc Montagnier has gone full antivax, having appeared with Henri Joyeux to promote the idea that vaccines cause sudden infant death syndrome. It is utterly unsurprising that, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he’s embraced conspiracy theories such as the claim that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was “engineered” in a Wuhan laboratory.

I would suggest to Prof. Gøtzsche that there’s a lesson for him there, that Luc Montagnier should serve as a warning to him regarding the direction he is moving in.

In the meantime, as I was proofreading this early this morning, I saw this followup Tweet by the eminent Professor:

I’d like to think that maybe there’s hope for Prof. Gøtzsche yet, given that antivaccine disinformation in which he was prominently quoted spurred him not only to counter it, but to finally admit that there is such a thing as antivaxxers and the antivaccine movement. However, I have a hard time doing that, given his continued rhetoric about other, non-vaccine, mitigation efforts against COVID-19, his continued demonization of pro-vaccine advocates as, in essence, propagandists and drones of big pharma, every bit as mindless in his estimation as antivaxxers.

Luc Montagnier is indeed an excellent cautionary example that Prof. Gøtzsche should heed before it’s too late and he, too, has gone so far beyond being a harsh but not entirely unreasonable critic of pharma into the realm of conspiracy theorist and pseudoscience promoter that it is too late for him to come back. I thought at one time that maybe his brush with PIC and almost having stood on the same stage as RFK Jr. might have been that wakeup call, but it clearly was not. I can’t help but hope that this brush with COVID-19 cranks and antivaxxers might now be the wakeup call he needs, but fear that now, as a couple of years ago, it will not. It is likely that he will continue to be a useful idiot for antivaxxers and COVID-19 deniers.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

68 replies on “Poor, poor, pitiful Prof. Gøtzsche: Antivaxxers and COVID-19 cranks are quoting him in support of their pseudoscience”

Quoting him in support of pseudoscience again. (emphasis on last word).

Like you, I hope that this indicates some hope for him. And like you, I doubt it.

As to uncritical acceptance, you yourself – and our friend Skeptical Raptor – had posts expressing concerns about Covid-19 vaccines not long ago, just this summer. So clearly no uncritical acceptance. But unlike anti-vaccine people, you people follow the data. Which is currently showing these vaccines safe and effective, at least effective for a time (we still don’t know how long immunity will last – we can’t, by the nature of it – and we will have to learn that over time).

[[lockdowns] are heresies invented in 2020 that do not exist in medicine or public health

Err… In old Europe, the authorities certainly enforced curfews and lockdowns during various epidemics – restrictions on trade and travel, encouraging (or forcing) people to stay home, walling cities, etc.
It was not just isolating the sick or quarantining the suspected “contact cases”.

I guess one can nitpick as to whether these were true lockdowns, but I feel a no true Scotsman coming by.

Lockdowns are certainly found in fiction.
Poe’s tale “The Masque of the Red Death” is about a self-imposed lockdown that works until it is penetrated. (My apologies for the spoiler.)

If I recall correctly, the term “quarantine” finds its origin in the requirement that ships arriving in a port from an area with a communicable disease/with a communicable disease on board remain isolated, nobody going on or off, for 40 days, and goes back to 1609 according to Webster’s. Sure sounds like a lockdown to me.

The distinction public health law people have been making is that quarantine tends to be more individualistic, stay-at-home measures broader.

But broad measures to combat infectious diseases aren’t new, either (and you’re completely right about quarantine). the scale for Covid-19 may be larger, possibly because we can do things we couldn’t in the past.

Eyam is well known for locking itself down in 1665 to prevent the spread of plague. No one in, no one out for 14 months.

Didn’t 90% of those people of the locked down village of Eyam die?
While in the rest of England only 15-20% died from the plague.

@Clint, no. Numbers are over the place, but I’ve seen as low as 33% and as high as 66%. Death rate in London, I’ve seen 15-30%, but it’s generally accepted that the high end is probably more accurate, due to first, the record keepers dying themselves, and second, loss of records in the Great Fire, which would cause an undercounting. So Eyam was higher because people didn’t flee, but if you count the region, it becomes lower than London, because there was no spread.

Terrie, the death rate was between 30% and 66% by your figures. Eyam death rate was 74% (260 people died out of a population of 350).
So even if one were to use your top percent, Eyam self quarantine did nothing and depended on others to expose themselves to the plague to provide food for the citizens of Eyam.
That is a good example to use in the US as other essential workers were exposed to the covid so other people could quarantine.

@Clint: How was anyone risking the plague by selling food to the town of Eyam?

First, people in the town kept farming, so they provided some of their own food. For the food they purchased, it was left a rock well outside of town, where payment was left in the form of coins soaking in vinegar, so there was actively no contact between the person dropping off the food and the people of the town.

This town took remarkable action, given that germ theory was still centuries away.

(Plagues is spread by fleas, human body lice, and in the case of pneumatic plague, respiratory droplets. Can’t get any of those from coins soaking in vinegar in a stone in a field.)

Justa, the people outside of Eyam had to engage in commerce (that would be trade with outside people) to supply the materials to plant crops, fabric to weave, animals to tend etc. in order to supply Eyam and its diminishing population the resources, it needed to stay alive, thus the outside people, risked coming in contact with the plague. Can you cite the research in which vinegar kills Yersina pestis anymore than mint sauce,mustard,horseradish,applesauce etc.

Much the same as now with low paid essential workers providing food, gas, water and yes, toilet paper so more effluent workers could stay safe at home. Even David Thoreau (and he admitted) had to depend on outside people to supply him with some basic supplies who had to engage in commerce.

Um, “even” Thoreau? I would have thought it to be well known that he mooched off of Emerson during the Walden years. IIRC, this did not please Emerson’s wife.

“…demand that provaccine doctors, politicians, and health officials be tried in a Reign of Terror-like purge;…”

No! Not the comfy chair!

Interestingly, just before reading this post I came across a Facebook post by an avid antivax homeopath (Grace Dasilva-Hill) boastfully listing “professionals, doctors and scientists” who have questioned the official narrative. I was inspired to have a look at her Fb page by a comment on professor Ernst’s blog. Anyway, Professor Gøtsche is right in the middle of this list, in good company. Ioannidis is there too and many other interesting entries. Let’s see if the system allows to paste the list here:

▪︎Dr. Rashid Buttar
▪︎Dr. Andrew Kaufman
▪︎Dr. Annie Bukacek
▪︎Dr. Thomas Cowan
▪︎Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai
▪︎Dr. James Hidrith
▪︎Dr. Bruce Lipton
▪︎Dr. Robert Young
▪︎Dr. Judy Mikovits
▪︎Prof. Dolores Cahill
▪︎Dr. Ericson
▪︎Dr. Ivette Lozano
▪︎Professor Knut Wittkowski
▪︎Dr. Sherri Tenpenny
▪︎Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi
▪︎Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg
▪︎Dr. Joel Kettner
▪︎Dr. John Loannidis
▪︎Dr. Yoram
▪︎Dr Pietro Vernazza
▪︎Frank Ulrich Mongomery
▪︎Prof. Hendrik Streeck
▪︎Dr. Yanis Roussel
▪︎Dr. David Katz
▪︎Dr. Michael Osterholm
▪︎Dr. Peter Goetzsche
▪︎Dr. Sunetra Gupta
▪︎Dr. Karin Molling
▪︎Dr. Anders Tegnell
▪︎Dr. Pablo Goldscmidt
▪︎Dr. Eran Bendavid
▪︎Dr. Jay Bhattacharya
▪︎Dr. Tom Jefferson
▪︎Dr. Michael Levitt
▪︎Dr. Richard Schabas
▪︎Kate Shemirani
▪︎Julian Rose
▪︎Barbara ONeil
▪︎Prof. Yavid Finkelstein
▪︎Dr. Murcato Ravindrefed
▪︎Prof. Graham Axlerod
▪︎Prof. Jennifer Hintze
▪︎Dr. Andreas Grundhaven
▪︎Dr. Merton Yipple
▪︎Prof. Swami Bhakhavavadvad
▪︎Dr. Barton Berstaffler
▪︎Prof. Qiong Hong-Lamin
°U.S. Senator Dr.Scott Jensen
°Dr. Stella Immanuel
°Dr Christiane Northrup
°Mark Devlin
°Dr. Vernon Coleman
°Dr. Muhammad Igbal Adil
°Dr.Kelly Victory
°Francis Abraham
°Dr. Fidel Fernandez
°Edwin A. Burn
°Homer Lim
°Dr.Edwin Bien

Thanks for that list. They are mostly very eminent, highly respected professionals, and opting to simply dismiss them all seems simply ‘partisan’. Since when was science and especially medicine meant to be partisan?
Smearing Prof Gotzche looks puerile to me.
The author of this piece, an oncologist, would do well to contemplate just how many deaths he might be held directly responsible for. Of course, he’ll claim that he’s saved lives, but on balance it seems very likely that the chemotherapy he’s used, over the years, has been so toxic for many patients that they have succumbed to his poisoning. Some will have benefitted from such drugs, no doubt, but many not. But we’ll hear no contrition from him, ever.
I wonder if doctors even consider the ‘First do no harm’ requirement of their profession any more. I doubt it. When the third commonest cause of death is officially iatrogenic illness, it is clear that they do not take Hippocrates’s warning seriously. And I’d suggest that iatrogenic illness isn’t the third commonest cause of death, but the first, because every one of the heart disease and cancer cases that die, or almost every one of them, was also on pharmaceutical drugs. Why do we say their deaths were due to their disease, and not the medications they were on? Truth is, we cannot separate them, but the chances are, the drugs cause at least some of the deaths, maybe most. Hence, it is properly prescribed othodox drugs that are the cause of most deaths.
Show me where I make a mistake please! I love to be wrong, because then I can correct my thinking and be more right.

You really haven’t paid attention. I’m a surgeon, not an oncologist. I do not treat cancer patients with chemotherapy. As for the “eminent, highly respected professionals,” yes, they were. They chose to abandon what made them respected in the first place.

The author of this piece, an oncologist [sic], would do well to contemplate just how many deaths he might be held directly responsible for.

Well, Ms. Herbalist, what conditions do you purport to treat?

It’s admirable how Gotsche has staked out the middle ground between pro and anti-vaccine fundamentalists, putting himself equidistant between lunacy and science-based medicine.

He’s also a founding member of the Half Sphere movement, breaking new ground by putting itself between astronomy and the Flat Earth Society.

So, at the canonical 3/8, the center of mass is, what, about the latitude of Little Rock?

I enjoyed reading this (wincingly with one eye open), largely for disturbing reasons. I have to say, anyone that puts something like in the public forum when the vaccine has not been allowed the legal term of vaccine (because it doesn’t vaccinate) is fascinating. Dangerous yet fascinating. You are calling others pseudo scientists whilst purporting to occupy some eerily loose and unstable high ground. You must have tunnelled underneath it to get there, therefore removing any stability. It is almost insatiable in it’s contradiction. Unfortunately for you and your curious ilk, the science is very much against you and we now have governments pointing towards their disclaimers (the UK posted one on 7th January 2021) advising all injection reactions must be investigated (because they knew what was to come from something that isn’t allowed to be called a vaccine away from emergency measures). Even the press are calling them, “Jabs,” now the authorities have had to distance the time between the first and second jab solely because of the reactions (supply certainly isn’t an issue when our PM is discussing sending the excess to Africa where no one will notice the horrific outcomes). This is all built on a bed of PCR and lateral flow fraud, which thankfully the populace of the world is getting to grips with, with thousands of lawyers targeting the fact it is incapable of determining infection and without an infection you have no pandemic. Best of luck trying to get your message out to rational and intelligent people because many, many scientists are being censored so those unable to research outside of their echo chambers will never find out the truth. What a pitiful indictment of the so called free thinking modern mind.

The number of minutes in a year.
The number of Americans who died of COVID-19 between March 11, 2020 and March 11, 2021.

One a minute.

If COVID-19 is not real, then why are all these people dead?

Please explain exactly what you mean by “lateral flow fraud”.

More an indictment of the so-called paragraph in your case, I’m afraid. Where were you exiled from?

1) The various Covid vaccines are allowed to be called vaccines. You have been lied to about this. What else have you been lied to about, shouldn’t you be wondering?

2) Vaccinations have been called “jabs” for decades. This is actually evidence that the media regards these as vaccines.

3) The decision to extend the time between jabs was to make sure as many people as possible had some protection. It was not because of reactions.

4) Sending vaccines to Africa (announce a month after the decision to extend time between jabs) was a political decision to counter the vaccine diplomacy being practiced by Russia and China. Also, equity.

5) The rest of your comment is pure gibberish.

Oh dear…

Jab has been standard UK-ian slang all my life (jag in Scottishland).

No-one has been banned from using the word vaccination nor vaccine.See: I just used then and did when talking to the folk at our local vaccination centre, which has big signs all over the place calling it a vaccination centre. And I can see a letter across the table inviting my other half for her vaccine…

The moving the period between doses out to 12 weeks was a political ploy to get more first doses done quickly to generate some good headlines for the berks in charge, nothing more nefarious thatn that, unless you have access to some super-duper secret DoH files…

I’ll add to that. I’ve received several texts from NHSvaccine about getting a Covid 19 vaccination from the NHS vaccine booking service. Apparently I can book them online at the NHS covid-vaccination website too. Lots of use of the word vaccine.

Also the spreading out of the doses was nothing whatsoever to do with any vaccine reactions. It was because they thought more people partially vaccinated was better than fewer people fully vaccinated. I believe I read recently that the vaccine dose supply has much improved. Should be possible to avoid any more delays in second doses.

Where the f**k do they get these fools?

Similarly in Australia. If you go to the Australian Federal Health Department’s Web site,, there’s a prominent section near the top (just below the section for generic COVID-19 information), titled “COVID-19 vaccines”, and just below that is a link to the info, with the text: “Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines”.

The title of the page it takes you to is “COVID-19 vaccines”. I counted 26 uses of “vaccination”, “vaccine” or of various forms of the verb “to vaccinate”. The Australian Federal Government is obviously very careful to exclude references to “vaccines” in their public information. /sarc (if that was really necessary).

The structure of the site is rather different, but if you follow the “Learn more about COVID-19” link, there’s ample reference to vaccines there, too.

Across the Tasman Sea from where I’m sitting, the New Zealand Health Department ( isn’t shy about using the term “vaccine”, either.

I’d like to be able to say “you couldn’t make up stuff like what James posted”, but obviously someone can.

“Many, many scientists are being censored”
Really? What is it with you people and hyperbole? Did you learn from a recent President, by chance? It’s not enough to say one really fascinating study or scientist is being “Censored.” No. It has to be “Many, many.”

Tell us…who are these scientists? What are they studying? What are their credentials? Do they not own a cellular or computer? Can they not get to a public library? A Twitter account is free. One can bypass “Censorship” and scream it from the proverbial mountains. Look at my study. Look at what it shows! It would be trending in microseconds. Get real.

@ Medical Yeti:

Many of the alt med/ anti-vaxxers I read complain endlessly about being censored YET I, a total outsider/ opponent to their realm, *am able to read loads of articles, hear podcasts, see videos, shop at their stores** or donate to them**”
What ‘censorship’ means is that they can’t use FREE social media as PR and game search engines to benefit their businesses as they have previously, Some of them still use social media despite recent changes ( Del, RFKjr).

** I would never

In other news…

With Trump gone, QAnon believers are now focusing upon anti-vaccine, anti-public health and related CTs say researchers ( WaPo, today):
recent Covid-19 vaccine mis-information discussed by Orac is trending on sites like Telegram, Gab, Reddit and traditional social media, along with the Great Reset, Gates mythos and support for actions like mask burnings, resistance to closures and other PH measures. We can expect demonstrations on March 20.

So, great! Not only do we have anti-vax loons to contend with but Q followers will probably join their ranks in solidarity.. I say this as someone who lives in an extremely liberal area where Q/ rightist support, if it exists at all, remains silent: occasionally, you might see a “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker or a Trump flag ( rare and now totally absent) but amongst the loons I survey, Q material is frequent. I suppose that site owners might think that it will drum up business for their supplements, natural foods, survival gear or charities. Grifters gotta grift!

Rima Laibow better get moving before the bandwagon passes her up. Or she could sue, whatever.

“With Trump gone, QAnon believers are now focusing upon anti-vaccine”

“South Park” is back with an hourlong special that satirizes QAnon and addresses Covid-19 vaccines.

One of the main antagonists in the special are the conspiracy theorists who call themselves “Tutornon” and their school-aged spawns “Lil’ ‘Q’ties” a nod to QAnon conspiracy theorists. Throughout the episode their goal is to spread misinformation throughout the community about “the elite,” even if that information deters people from getting the vaccine.

I really liked that dance music was always emanating form the vaccine site!
Also, kids’ groups’ names: Qties and Kommunity Kidz ( ” with a K”)

The episode might work for non-viewers except maybe having to explain Mr Garrison’s history as a bad teacher/ former transwoman/ Trump/ using a hand puppet and having an “assistant” albeit a new one.

“and having an “assistant” albeit a new one.”

Funny, I don’t recall what happend to “Mr. Slave”.

But, ahh! That ‘it’s all connected’ board — He has given us a new coded message: “blow S out of your DH”…

I’m not sure if the writers were aware of certain types of fistulas which actually makes such a thing possible. Disappointing, given their prior commanding knowledge of conjoined fetus ladies.

@ DB,

Yeah well. That had nothing to do with the safety of the vaccine. It has something to do with the vaccines being so highly prioritized that a nurse would give an injection that they had not drawn up themselves, to hasten uptake. Quantity vs quality. Or not even having nurses administering the vaccines, as an actual RN would never just start injecting people with unlabeled syringes that they had not prepared.

It’s entirely unclear from the Web page or the video what the qualifications of the person who administered the vaccine at Krogers were.

In the Australian vaccine overdose case, the incorrect dose was administered by a doctor, and the error was noticed (after the fact) by a nurse.

It transpired that the doctor in question hadn’t received what was supposed to be the mandatory training on administering the Pfizer vaccine. Though how he managed to miss the fact that the vials are intended to be multi-shot escapes me. That had been widely aired in media items about the vaccine, even before the rollout started here.

But anyway, qualifications are no absolute guarantee against things being done the wrong way.

It’s a conspiracy of Big Mask. They make more money by selling replacements.

Why do the anti-science brigade never accept personal responsibility? It’s not mask mandates that damage the environment, it’s people. People who don’t dispose of masks responsibly. It’s not vaccines creating an obesity epidemic, it’s people who eat too much or don’t exercise enough. It’s not that lockdowns don’t work it’s that people don’t obey them or don’t enforce them.

It’s always people.

” It’s always people”

Alt med preaches that fast food/ modern diet is the cause of obesity and many other ills BUT they seem to leave out an important part of the equation:
a great deal of the problem is because people choose these foods or overeat
( and yes, I know- who doesn’t? – that healthy foods can be difficult to acquire or very expensive in certain locales) in fact, even the worst fast food companies have been forced by the government to provide healthier options and calorie counts.

So illness/ obesity can’t all be blamed on Big Food, adverts or the government alone
As I’ve often noted:
people like to attribute negative outcomes to external causes in order to preserve self esteem and attribute successful outcomes to their own ability or effort which is also self enhancing. In reality, causes are generally not so simple but a confluence of multiple influences.
Yet alt med proselytisers tell their marks that being overweight is entirely not your fault ( that’s even a book title!), it’s those greedy companies and the corrupt government, And then sell them a diet book/ video, superfood or supplement plan, so they can attribute their weight loss to their brilliant advisor ( also an external source)… ..

“Why do the anti-science brigade never accept personal responsibility?”
“a great deal of the problem is because people choose these foods or overeat”
“people like to attribute negative outcomes to external causes in order to preserve self esteem and attribute successful outcomes to their own ability or effort which is also self enhancing. In reality, causes are generally not so simple but a confluence of multiple influences.
Yet alt med proselytisers tell their marks that being overweight is entirely not your fault ( that’s even a book title!), it’s those greedy companies and the corrupt government,”

Do you always victim blame this way or is this a special case. As I recall the tobacco companies lost their case partly because, “they” caused the issues, they advertised their product, they conformed to government regulations (that were the law at that time) yet lawyers, smokers, and the government all blamed the manufactures of a legal product . So blaming the supplier of the legal products has a history of financially good outcomes for the victims.

“Or do you just want to complain about anything and everything, usually off-topic?”

Someone else brought up “masks”.

My point was the environmental damage from wearing BILLIONS and BILLIONS OF disposable masks.

@Kay West:

As I recall the tobacco companies lost their case partly because, “they” caused the issues…

That is not what happened. The tobacco companies lost their case because they lied.
They knew that tobacco was addictive, they knew that smoking causes cancer, and they lied, denied, covered up, and attacked physicians and scientists who warned that that was the case.
In the 1960’s, in response to claims that smoking causes cancer, the tobacco companies funded research intending to refute these claims. Instead, their own researchers wound up confirming it.
What did these companies do? Come clean and admit it? Nope. They covered up their own results and they lied their faces off in public and in Court. They lied for literally decades, they hired lobbyists to spread uncertainty and doubt, and like I mentioned they directed significant funding to discrediting the research and researchers who showed smoking causes cancer. And when this all came out, they agreed to pay settlements rather than lose in court and pay even more.
Our esteemed host is an oncologist and researcher, and I am guessing he knows the details far better than I do. The fact of the matter is, Big Tobacco originated tactics and strategies used by antivaxxers and alt-med proselytisers today. Their mendacity is what led to them getting nailed, not people refusing individual responsibility.

Learn to read:

” In reality, causes are generally not so simple but a confluence of multiple influences.”

The notion that environmental damage from improper disposal of medical masks is somehow an argument against mask mandates is so silly it barely deerves comment. But if you’re going to reply in the name of “rationality” you need to do better than evoking vapid right-wing talking points about “personal responsibility”, and dropping meaningless generalities like “it’s always people”.

To belabor the should-be-obvious: 1) It’s not merely lapses of individual responsibility that deposit used masks at the bottom of the ocean, but a matter of social policy relating to trash collection and disposal. 2) While vaccines are hardly implicated in obesity, it’s not like the overweight just make stupid choices and corporations have no responsibility whatsoever. There are reasons people make poor choices, and marketing and advertising definitely play a role. Regardless of the basis on which a legal case was adjudicated, the broader analogy to tobacco companies is not entirely off base.

@ Denice
The fact wooists sell snake-oil cures is not evidence the diagnosis of the illness is necessarily false. Poor diets are certainly major factors in many ills. Book titles not withstanding, I think you’ve missed how the ideology of “personal responsibility” works here. If I tell you Big Food, adverts or the government led you to a crappy diet, well, that means you got fooled. No one likes to think they’ve been manipulated. So yes, the wooists take advantage of the desire to “attribute successful outcomes to their own ability or effort which is also self enhancing”. You must choose to buy the book, the superfood, and the supplement. And in doing so, you ‘prove’ you are in control of your life. And certainly you got there by “doing your research”. (The one member of my family who was very into supplements absolutely presented her choices and recommendations in that area as a sign of personal superiority…)

I am like most people here are aware of what big tobacco companies did or did not do.
The issue that I was responding to was that of personal responsibility. Prior to the 1994 national settlement. The tobacco companies successfully defended themselves by basically using the ‘personal responsibility” defense.

I stated ‘personal responsibility’ was no longer needed, as people can now blame fast food or what ever for them being overweight/highblood pressure/heart issues/cancer etc.

The first 4 paragraphs were from posters who wanted people to be personally responsible for their actions. I just showed using the example of the tobacco companies that showed why people think they don’t have to show any personal responsibility.

On a side note big tobacco makes over 600 billion dollars world wide and in the US they make about 50 billion dollars a year. Do you know who makes the most money off of cigarette smokers, that would be the government, in addition to the 206 billion in settlement money and 8 billion a year after 25 years (based on the number of cigarettes sold), they also get cigarette tax money and sales tax. and because of the terms of the settlement the companies are judgment-proof. The companies just raised the price of the product to cover the judgement and went on printing money.

@ sadmar:

In fact, woo-ists tell their marks that after being deceived by corporations, the government, education at al, NOW they finally see the light and eat, act, live correctly and thus, will be rewarded in heav .. I mean, with health because of their actions.
They stress also how following their programme is the mark of individuality and independence even though they tell every one the same message. Some preach that diet and exercise ALONE cause/ conquer all ills- so it’s overly self-determined. ..

(Also what people think causes events and what causes events are not the same thing: attribution theory deals solely with beliefs about causes. Causes themselves are another deal entirely).

@Kay West:

The issue that I was responding to was that of personal responsibility. Prior to the 1994 national settlement. The tobacco companies successfully defended themselves by basically using the ‘personal responsibility” defense.

Irrelevant. Big Tobacco lied about the harms of tobacco, which undermines the argument of “personal responsibility”. If I am reliably informed about the risks of something and I go ahead and get harmed, that’s on me. If I am lied to and told that something doesn’t have a risk and it later turns out it had that risk, the ones who lied to me are responsible.
W.R.T. your comments on fast food, several people HAVE sued fast food chains like McDonald’s. None of those lawsuits succeeded. The difference is that fast food chains have never denied that their food is unhealthy, or attacked nutritionists who said it was unhealthy, or funded denialist groups, or conducted research and covered it up when the results went against them. Big Tobacco lied, attacked researchers, and covered up research. Your analogy fails.

Julian, there were warning labels on each package of cigarettes sold since 1966. It wasn’t until 1994 that they were successfully sued/settled. Until then they had won every lawsuit brought against them, and used the defense of personal responsibility.
In 1994 people had been told for almost 30 years that cigarettes were bad for them, yet they still kept smoking and still won in court, no personal responsibility.

Fast food has won their cases based on the same defense the tobacco companies used, personal responsibility.

The difference is tobacco companies hired researchers to study the issue in an attempt to prove the science was on their side, when the science went against them they tried to hide their own research, which aided the prosecution against them. The fast food companies learned from the mistake of that line of reasoning and have not conducted that kind of in house research but passively accept that their food is not the healthiest and bought off critics by introducing healthy foods (salads/fruit/vegetables etc.). Fast foods also contain addicting chemicals, tomatoes and potatoes contain nicotine and drinks contain large amounts of caffeine even down to the salt they use. So fast food can/are addictive.

But the fast food industry still use the defense at the tobacco companies used. We just provide a legal product, that is regulated by the government, we print the government mandated nutrition on the labels.

On a side note my daughter worked for a year in a fast food restaurant after listening to her and her friends stories about what they did to the food, you would never eat in those places again.

The tragic consequences of the mask mandates are going to kill the environment and have a bigger negative impact then climate change.

Do you go out of your way to find things to carp about, is it fed to you, or does it just come naturally? This is sub-Gerg.

You’re right, Kay. The environment would be much better off if many, many, many more humans died. Human actions are the causes of climate change, after all.

Is that what you want?

Or do you just want to complain about anything and everything, usually off-topic?

In the category of Supplement Dealers In The News, sad times for Marty Hinz, whose list of retracted publications has risen to 20.

“As we have reported, Hinz has a long history of running afoul of regulatory bodies, from the FDA to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, which in March 2020 reprimanded and fined him more than $7,000 following allegations including that he claimed on his website to have “reinvented the medical science foundation of Parkinson’s disease” and to “treat and do things for our Parkinson’s disease patients that most doctors of the world believe are impossible.”

Welp, I’m up. Almost. If they give me shit about it then it gives me cause to loudly proclaim “what happened to life begins at conception, biatch!”

I’ll be going through the hospital rigamarole because otherwise

Other People’s Email… it seems the only way to get by, these days. {sorry, other people; it had to be done. ps your living room Nest is choking because of the visible tv}

It worked. Ohh, goody; it’s not just me. I couldn’t even view Orac’s comment on nothing burger for two days. CF and it’s configuration is a real bugaboo, these days.

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