Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics

“Poor, poor pitiful me”: Was Martin Kulldorff fired by Harvard?

Martin Kulldorff, co-author of the eugenicist Great Barrington Declaration that advocated a “let ‘er rip” strategy to address the pandemic to achieve “natural herd immunity,” laments being “fired” from Harvard. Is it possible to know what really happened? Orac provides educated speculation. (NOTE ADDENDUM.)

Well, I advocated letting COVID rip
Waiting on herd immunity
But COVID kept mutating more and more
Poor, poor, pitiful me

Poor, poor, pitiful me
Poor, poor, pitiful me
Libruls at Harvard done fired me
Lord have mercy on me
Whoa, woe is me

(With apologies to Warren Zevon and Linda Ronstadt)

If there is one narrative that is a constant among purveyors of misinformation, pseudoscience, quackery, and conspiracy theories, it’s a persecution narrative. In the realm of medicine and health, for instance, brave maverick doctors (like, for example, Martin Kulldorff) promoting antivaccine views and quackery, as well as the conspiracy theories that undergird them, always portray themselves as the hero persecuted by the medical and scientific establishment. While it is true that there have been physicians with alternative medical theories who were unfairly ostracized and persecuted but turned out to be right (e.g., Ignaz Semmelweis), in the vast majority of cases, the immortal words of Carl Sagan apply: “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”


As I’ve related before, it never applies to crank, quack, and antivax academics, scientists, and physicians that the reason they are “persecuted” by their peers is not because they are correct and hated for it but because they are so very, very wrong. A perfect example is the aforementioned Martin Kulldorff, co-author of the eugenicist Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), who is now loudly lamenting that he has been “fired” by Harvard University, his lament being amplified by Fox News and the antivax crankosphere, such as Steve Kirsch.

You remember Martin Kulldorff, his co-authors Jay Bhattacharya and Sunetra Gupta, and the GBD, right? It was the the eugenicist document published in early October 2020 (before vaccines) that advocated a “let ‘er rip” approach to the COVID-19 pandemic among the young and “healthy” population in order to achieve “natural herd immunity,” while protecting the vulnerable through strategies that were never really described in sufficient detail to determine if they would work. More than just being a co-author, Kulldorff was a co-instigator of the GBD, along with far right-wing Neo-Confederate Jeffrey Tucker, who had identified Kulldorff as a useful idiot who could help him spread the free market libertarian message of “we don’t need no steekin’ lockdowns” of his then-employer, the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER). And, wow, did Kulldorff deliver! He recruited his co-authors and pushed for an earlier meeting than Tucker had planned, after which he became a vocal proponent of the GBD and “natural herd immunity” approaches to the pandemic; i.e., doing nothing but somehow “protecting the vulnerable” without specifying how as the virus spread unchecked through the population. It was a deeply eugenicist “screw the elderly and medically vulnerable” strategy.

After the vaccines, he continued to advocate a “natural herd immunity” strategy to the pandemic because (or so he claimed) “natural immunity” is superior to vaccine-induced immunity, even though the evolution of variants, such as Delta and Omicron, that could evade immunity due to infection from prior variants soon demonstrated that “natural herd immunity” against this virus was always a pipe dream. The GBD never would have worked, regardless of how much Tucker denies it. One of the GBD’s own flacks even (sort of) admitted it. It was always nothing more than an attempt to place a scientific veneer on a libertarian “open it all up” strategy that would ignore the harms of the pandemic in favor of economics. It arguably did help achieve the cherished aim of anti-government activists and antivaxxers by, in essence, seriously degrading governments’ ability to institute public health measures during a pandemic. Through it all, going on for months and months, Kulldorff kept promising that “natural herd immunity” was just 3-6 months away.

But back to Martin Kulldorff, who took to X, the hellsite social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to promote his article lamenting his sorry fate:

I had to include Debunk the Funk’s response to Martin Kulldorff, because it cites an example from two years ago that Jonathan Howard and I have both cited frequently.

I think it’s an instructive exercise to go through Kulldorff’s article, because it is basically a “greatest hits” of his antimask, anti-lockdown, and antivax “natural herd immunity” nonsense, all leavened with a heaping helping of self-pity and persecution complex. Also, I sense that he left out a lot of context, the better to promote a narrative in which he portrays himself as the perpetual brave heroic victim.

Quoth Martin Kulldorff: “Poor, poor, pitiful me”

The title of Kulldorff’s op-ed, published in City Journal is, as you might expect, Harvard Tramples the Truth, complete with the blurb:

When it came to debating Covid lockdowns, Veritas wasn’t the university’s guiding principle.

Or maybe it was, and Kulldorff just can’t admit that he was on the wrong side of the “debate.” Be that as it may, he wastes no time in painting himself as the victim of ideology-based “persecution” by Harvard:

I am no longer a professor of medicine at Harvard. The Harvard motto is Veritas, Latin for truth. But, as I discovered, truth can get you fired. This is my story—a story of a Harvard biostatistician and infectious-disease epidemiologist, clinging to the truth as the world lost its way during the Covid pandemic.

Such a brave “truth teller,” you know, one who promised that “natural herd immunity” was just 3-6 months away:

Wow, was he wrong. After all, some countries (e.g., Brazil) did essentially this (without the part about protecting the vulnerable). Did the pandemic end there by mid-2021, at which time Kulldorff and Bhattacharya were saying that the pandemic was “on its way out“? Whoops! That was when the Delta wave was really getting going in its spread to all over the world.

And in his City Journal article he’s still advocating for “natural herd immunity” as he was doing two years ago:

The beauty of our immune system is that those who recover from an infection are protected if and when they are re-exposed. This has been known since the Athenian Plague of 430 BC—but it is no longer known at Harvard. Three prominent Harvard faculty coauthored the now infamous “consensus” memorandum in The Lancet, questioning the existence of Covid-acquired immunity. By continuing to mandate the vaccine for students with a prior Covid infection, Harvard is de facto denying 2,500 years of science.

Since mid-2021, we have known, as one would expect, that Covid-acquired immunity is superior to vaccine-acquired immunity. Based on that, I argued that hospitals should hire, not fire, nurses and other hospital staff with Covid-acquired immunity, since they have stronger immunity than the vaccinated.

Ugh. No, Mr. Kulldorff (you’re not a professor anymore). No. I also note how he is citing a preprint from nearly three years ago that was apparently never peer reviewed or published in the peer-reviewed literature to support his claim. Again, I have two words for the claim that post-infection immunity is “superior” to vaccine-induced immunity: Delta and Omicron. Even if post infection immunity were longer-lasting, it is not lifelong (or at least very long-lived), the requirement for “natural herd immunity” to a disease. At best it’s somewhat longer-lasting than vaccine-induced immunity. That’s a huge reason why the GBD never would have worked.

Also, let’s just say that Kulldorff has always played rather fast-and-loose about specifics of how the GBD would “protect the vulnerable,” as well:

Just trust Prof. Kulldorff. Seriously, he never shows his work when he makes these claims.

Kulldorff continues his lamentations:

On March 10, 2020, before any government prompting, Harvard declared that it would “suspend in-person classes and shift to online learning.” Across the country, universities, schools, and state governments followed Harvard’s lead.

Yet it was clear, from early 2020, that the virus would eventually spread across the globe, and that it would be futile to try to suppress it with lockdowns. It was also clear that lockdowns would inflict enormous collateral damage, not only on education but also on public health, including treatment for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mental health. We will be dealing with the harm done for decades. Our children, the elderly, the middle class, the working class, and the poor around the world—all will suffer.

It was “clear”? Was it, though? Was it really? Well, I’ll give him that it was definitely clear that the pandemic would almost certainly spread all over the globe, but the rest is a very disingenuous and incredibly biased account of what happened next—or a total straw man, take your pick. For one thing, epidemiologists and public health officials were not claiming then that “lockdowns” would suppress the spread of COVID-19 completely., as Kulldorff seems to be characterizing their view here. The idea was to slow the spread enough so that hospitals wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed by floods of severe cases of COVID-19, their ICUs full to beyond the capacity of staff to care for the critically ill, and potentially collapse. For another thing, no one “ignored” the collateral damage that lockdowns could cause. Quite the contrary, collateral damage was endlessly discussed and debated.

This was Detroit in early April 2020.

I also note that, even with the “lockdowns,” there were a depressing number of hospitals that did teeter on the brink because of the flood of patients. (There was one in my city that ran out of space to store all the corpses of victims of COVID-19 and repurposed their sleep lab and other empty rooms, which had been shuttered because of the pandemic, as temporary storage for corpses because the morgue was full.) This was all Public Health 101 for outbreaks of infectious disease that an epidemiologist should know, but ideology is a hell of a drug.

Kulldorff then goes on to use the example of Sweden, whose initial COVID-19 policies are a favorite of GBD fans because they were supposedly so much less strict. Never mind that schools were indeed closed in Sweden. As Jonathan Howard noted, Sweden’s pandemic policies were not radically different than elsewhere:

Despite this, Sweden has many admirers around the world. In their fevered imagination, Sweden was a pandemic paradise, which never imposed restrictions on its citizens or closed schools. This is all false. In reality, as with nearly every other country, Sweden took drastic measures to control the virus at times, though it was too late for many of its most vulnerable citizens.

David Steadson, a public health researcher who co-authored the investigation referenced above, noted that Sweden’s restrictions on elderly and vulnerable people led to what he called “the longest continuous lockdown in the world.


Indeed, while Sweden never officially closed schools for younger children, overwhelming COVID outbreaks caused many school closures at the local level, as was true in the US (KentuckyFloridaTexasGeorgiaNorth CarolinaMississippiAlabamaSouth CarolinaTennesseeMissouriWest Virginia). Mr. Steadson, who lives in Sweden himself, told me about his experience with his own children.

As well as:

In a long Twitter thread, a user named Annika compiled dozens of articles showing the many schools closures in Sweden while noting, “These examples don’t even include anything from early 2022, when omicron shut down even more schools.”

You get the idea. Whatever the pros and cons of Sweden’s response to the pandemic, it was not some sort of “open” paradise where public health restrictions were never imposed and the results were so much better than comparable nations.

None of this stops Kulldorff from writing:

Yet on July 29, 2020, the Harvard-edited New England Journal of Medicine published an article by two Harvard professors on whether primary schools should reopen, without even mentioning Sweden. It was like ignoring the placebo control group when evaluating a new pharmaceutical drug. That’s not the path to truth.

I also note that the NEJM article cited notes that other countries that had reopened schools had already managed to achieve relatively low community transmission rates and that its recommendations were actually fairly nuanced. Not for Kulldorff is anything resembling nuance. Oh, no. In his mind the GBD approach was the right approach all along, and he has been “persecuted” and, of course, “silenced” for his views. Never mind that his article about how he had been “silenced” has gone viral and he has been a regular guest on Fox News and other right wing anti-“lockdown” media outlets for the last three-and-a-half years, rather like Scott Atlas, whom he cites:

I was not the only public health scientist speaking out against school closures and other unscientific countermeasures. Scott Atlas, an especially brave voice, used scientific articles and facts to challenge the public health advisors in the Trump White House, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, and Covid coordinator Deborah Birx, but to little avail. When 98 of his Stanford faculty colleagues unjustly attacked Atlas in an open letter that did not provide a single example of where he was wrong, I wrote a response in the student-run Stanford Daily to defend him. I ended the letter by pointing out that:
Among experts on infectious disease outbreaks, many of us have long advocated for an age-targeted strategy, and I would be delighted to debate this with any of the 98 signatories. Supporters include Professor Sunetra Gupta at Oxford University, the world’s preeminent infectious disease epidemiologist. Assuming no bias against women scientists of color, I urge Stanford faculty and students to read her thoughts.
None of the 98 signatories accepted my offer to debate. Instead, someone at Stanford sent complaints to my superiors at Harvard, who were not thrilled with me.

I must admit that Kulldorff has serious cojones to cite that article by Gupta, which is entitled We may already have herd immunity. The date? July 21, 2020. That hot take sure didn’t age well.

I also learned from this article that the impetus for his enthusiastic embrace of the opportunity to help pen the GBD was Kulldorff’s being so pissed off by the lack of interest from other epidemiologists in accepting his “Debate me, bro!” challenge:

I had no inclination to back down. Together with Gupta and Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford, I wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, arguing for age-based focused protection instead of universal lockdowns, with specific suggestions for how better to protect the elderly, while letting children and young adults live close to normal lives.

With the Great Barrington Declaration, the silencing was broken. While it is easy to dismiss individual scientists, it was impossible to ignore three senior infectious-disease epidemiologists from three leading universities. The declaration made clear that no scientific consensus existed for school closures and many other lockdown measures. In response, though, the attacks intensified—and even grew slanderous. Collins, a lab scientist with limited public-health experience who controls most of the nation’s medical research budget, called us “fringe epidemiologists” and asked his colleagues to orchestrate a “devastating published takedown.” Some at Harvard obliged.

Of course, Kulldorf, Bhattacharya, and Sunetra were indeed “fringe epidemiologists” on this one topic. Just because you might have been respected beforehand, that doesn’t mean you should be taken seriously when you embrace fringe views. Note, however, the way that Kulldorff seems to think that the statement of three epidemiologists—actually just one epidemiologist, given that Kulldorff is a biostatistician by training and Bhattacharya is not really an epidemiologist (his PhD is in economics) but rather a professor of health research policy and economics whose Stanford profile describes his research as focusing “on the economics of health care around the world with a particular emphasis on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. A better characterization would be that the GBD represents the views of one theoretical infectious disease epidemiologist in a department of zoology (Gupta), one physician and health economist (Bhattacharya), and one biostatistician (Kulldorff). Moreover, the John Snow Memorandum, written in response to the GBD, demonstrates quite well that the scientific consensus was in favor of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), of which “lockdowns” were just one part, to slow the spread of the pandemic until vaccines could be developed and distributed. The above passage is just Kulldorff trying to portray a manufactroversy as a legitimate scientific controversy; either that, or by advocating a “herd immunity” approach he was just ignoring the collateral damage that would result from the unchecked spread of COVID-19, just as he accused public health scientists of supposedly ignoring the collateral damage of “lockdowns.”

Cue the “poor, poor, pitiful me”:

A prominent Harvard epidemiologist publicly called the declaration “an extreme fringe view,” equating it with exorcism to expel demons. A member of Harvard’s Center for Health and Human Rights, who had argued for school closures, accused me of “trolling” and having “idiosyncratic politics,” falsely alleging that I was “enticed . . . with Koch money,” “cultivated by right-wing think tanks,” and “won’t debate anyone.” (A concern for those less privileged does not automatically make you right-wing!) Others at Harvard worried about my “scientifically inaccurate” and “potentially dangerous position,” while “grappling with the protections offered by academic freedom.”

Here’s the funny thing. Kulldorff was undeniably cultivated by a right wing think tank. There is no debating this. The editorial director at the time (Jeffrey Tucker) of the very think tank that enticed Kulldorff (AIER) even bragged about it on a libertarian podcast, relating how Kulldorff had exceeded his hopes in terms of promoting his message. Then in late 2021, after Tucker had moved on from AIER to form another right wing think tank that he dubbed the “spiritual child of the GBD,” Kulldorff was recruited to be its senior scientific director. While Kulldorff no longer serves in that capacity, it is rather hilarious to see him denying having been “cultivated by right wing think tanks” and even “enticed by Koch money,” given that the Koch brothers did help fund AIER. As for that last part, it sounds as though faculty at Harvard were acting reasonably, wondering how to balance academic freedom with academic responsibility.

I mean, after all…guillotines for public health officials?

What really happened?

Kulldorff continues on and on about his “persecution” and resistance to vaccine mandates, characterizing them as “religion” rather than science, but by this point I was getting bored. His article is long on lamentations about “persecution” but short on specifics of what the actual circumstances of his losing his position at Harvard, other than the claim that it was the vaccine mandate that got him fired. So what happened?

First of all, one can’t help but note that Harvard will likely never say anything about what happened or, if it does, will only be very vague about the circumstances surrounding Kulldorff’s separation from the University. (HR departments generally behave that way in order to avoid litigation.) However, an observant person (like me) also can’t help but note that Kulldorff said that his employer was Mass General Brigham hospital system, not Harvard itself. This piqued my interest. As a physician, I am familiar with being employed by two entities. In my current position, I receive two paychecks, one from the University for my academics and teaching and one from the university physicians practice plan for my clinical activity. As is the case with many, if not most, academic physicians, the practice plan pays the bulk of my salary, the university contribution being less than one-third. However, Kulldorff is not a physician, but he did work at Mass General Brigham, which was apparently his primary employment. That might have made it easier for Harvard to get rid of him.

Indeed, there is this passage from his City Journal op-ed that gives a hint as to what might have happened:

For scientific, ethical, public health, and medical reasons, I objected both publicly and privately to the Covid vaccine mandates. I already had superior infection-acquired immunity; and it was risky to vaccinate me without proper efficacy and safety studies on patients with my type of immune deficiency. This stance got me fired by Mass General Brigham—and consequently fired from my Harvard faculty position.

So, by his own account, it was Massachusetts General Brigham that fired Kulldorff, not Harvard. He also claims that it was his stance of refusing to be vaccinated that got him fired and that he only lost his Harvard faculty position because he no longer worked for Mass Gen. This got me thinking. When I commented on Kulldorff’s having joined the Brownstone Institute as its new senior scientific director, I had been assuming at the time that he was a tenured professor of medicine at Harvard, which is why I wondered why on earth he would give up such a position to join a new right wing think tank This was a speculation fueled by how (as I documented in my post) by November 1, 2021 Kulldorff was no longer listing his Harvard faculty position in his social media profiles. In retrospect, I now wonder if my assumption that he was a tenured professor was incorrect.

Martin Kulldorff on Twitter
Where had the reference to being a professor of medicine at Harvard gone…in November 2021?

I also noted how Kulldorff’s profile at the Brownstone Institute website described him at the time it was announced that he had been hired:

Martin Kulldorff at the Brownstone Institute
This was Kulldorff’s profile on the Brownstone Institute. Most recently he was a professor at Harvard Medical School?

Note the past tense. So what was (and is) going on? Kulldorff now says he was fired as though the firing happened recently, but two and a half years ago he was already referring to his time as professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the past tense. Something odd is going on here but what could it be. One big hint is his profile on the Harvard website, which lists him as being “on leave,” which led me to immediately recognize that trying to figure out when Kulldorff went on leave was a job for the almighty Wayback Machine at There, I found that, as early as December 2021, Kulldorff’s status had already been listed as “on leave.” So where did Wikipedia get the idea that he had only been on leave since 2023? Whatever the case, it’s clear that before his “firing,” Kulldorff had not been working for Mass General Brigham or Harvard since at least November or December 2021, given that the last archive of his webpage showing him not on leave is dated October 20, 2021 and the next one on December 20, 2021 shows his status as “on leave.” This time period aligns very nicely with his move to the Brownstone Institute.

However, it also aligns with the Harvard vaccine mandate for the fall 2021 term. So maybe Harvard did fire him for refusing to be vaccinated and raising all sorts of nonsensical objections, such as his claim that it was against his religion because the vaccine mandate was more religious than science-based? If that was the case, though, then why was he listed as “on leave” on the website, rather than as suspended? Let’s look further.

Here’s yet another hint. If you look at Kulldorff’s Harvard listing, you’ll see that it includes his research support, specifically his grant support. This listing indicates that he has not had NIH grant support since 2019. To understand why this is important, you need to know that lots of universities, but in particular Harvard Medical School-associated positions, require faculty to maintain grant support sufficient to cover a specific percentage of their salary. This percentage can range from a relatively modest 30-50% to a rather draconian 100%. (If you have to get grants to cover 100% of your salary, I always wonder, what good is the university?) While it is true that there is some wiggle room in that if you lose grant funding for a while usually the university will support you until you reacquire funding, but the university won’t support you forever. Kulldorff’s leave started a bit more than two years after his NIH R01 grant support expired, which is a fairly reasonable period of time for Harvard to support whatever percentage of Kulldorff’s salary that had been grant-supported, in the hopes that he would reacquire NIH funding.

The overall narrative is that the reason that Kulldorff had to go on leave was because of Harvard’s vaccine mandate for its fall 2021 term, which somewhat fits with the timeline. However, what doesn’t make sense (at least to me, at least) about this potential explanation. Harvard got rid of its vaccine mandate a week ago. Would Harvard decide to fire Kulldorff now, given that it had progressively decreased its requirements for boosters and now has eliminated the COVID-19 vaccine mandate altogether? Possibly. I can’t rule it out entirely. Certainly, that’s what Kulldorff appears to be claiming, that he was fired because he refused to be vaccinated. However, it seems rather excessive that it took over two and a half years. I also believe, based on my experience observing him, that Kulldorff is not to be trusted, which is why I’m skeptical of his explanation.

Here’s my educated guess as to what really happened, and I freely acknowledge that it is nothing more than an educated guess. However, it is a guess that makes sense given the timeline and what we know. My guess is that in late 2021, having failed to garner any new NIH RO1 grants, Kulldorff saw the writing on the wall and decided to go on leave in order to accept Tucker’s offer to become senior scientific director of the new right wing think tank that Tucker was forming, the Brownstone Institute. (It is also possible that Harvard’s imposition of a vaccine mandate for fall 2021 might have played into his considerations.) My further guess is that Brigham has a limit to how long you can be on leave before you lose your position. Here we are, over two years since Kulldorff went on leave, and Kulldorff shows no signs of renewed academic activity that might allow him to score new NIH or other government grant funding. Assuming that Kulldorff was not tenured, which now seems likely, that meant that it was time for him to go.

Of course, I still can’t totally rule out the possibility that he was actually canned because he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that he was tenured, which somehow allowed him to drag out the process two and a half years. However, it still seems unlikely (to me, at least) that he would have been able to drag out the appeals process that long even as a tenured full professor, particularly given that in the intervening time Harvard has progressively decreased its vaccine mandate until it got rid of it altogether a week ago. Still, it seems rather implausible that it would take two and a half years from his refusal to his being fired, and it seems even less plausible that Harvard would go through with firing Kulldorff after that long given how much the political winds have shifted with respect to mandates and how much heat Harvard would face for doing so, in particular after its president Claudine Gay was forced to resign over her testimony regarding campus free speech plus plagiarism charges.

If my educated speculation about why Kulldorff was let go is totally off-base—which is entirely possible, but I have my reasons for thinking it possible—Kulldorff can easily prove me wrong by providing documentation. Maybe Harvard did fire him for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 all these many months later and the process just took over two years. Or maybe it was his lack of academic productivity, grant-wise, over the prior two years. Or maybe it was a combination of the two. One might easily envision a scenario in which, faced with an unfunded faculty member who was causing all sorts of headaches for the university due to his unscientific and highly political stances on COVID-19, Harvard administration might have been looking for a way to get rid of him. I’d be willing to bet that, even if Kulldorff did refuse to be vaccinated, he probably would not have been fired if he had one or two big, juicy RO1 grants that would be jeopardized.

Whatever the case, Kulldorff could easily demonstrate that I am wrong and his version of events is true by publicly sharing the letter that he no doubt received that officially informed him of his firing from Mass General Brigham and describing the reasons why he was being let go. My prediction is that he will not, because my further guess is that the contents of that letter are not at all flattering to him and very likely provides context that would make his martyr act much less convincing, at least to anyone with any knowledge of how medical academia works.

That just wouldn’t do. Such context might even interfere with Kulldorff’s ongoing right wing “truth telling” persecuted scientist martyr grift, even if his willingness to share articles calling for retribution against scientists who disagreed with him didn’t. For people like Martin Kulldorff, the “persecuted truth teller schtick” is such a part of their identity that nothing that might interfere with it can be allowed to come to light.

In the meantime, here’s the shorter version of Kulldorff’s lament.

ADDENDUM 3/14/2024: There’s an accompanying fawning interview by Manhattan Institute senior fellow John Tierney with Martin Kulldorff that wasn’t there when I did this post.

First, here’s the question of tenure:

John Tierney: Just to be clear, people may wonder, listeners, if you had tenure. Well, at the Harvard Medical School, most professors do not actually have tenure, right? They work on contracts that are just routinely and automatically extended year after year, and you’d been there for, what, 18 years, I think? Is that right?

Martin Kulldorff: Full professors at Harvard, which I was a full professor, have appointment of indefinite duration.

John Tierney: Oh, I see. Oh, okay.

Martin Kulldorff: So, that’s sort of equivalent to tenure.

Translation: Kulldorff didn’t have tenure. If he did have tenure, he would have simply answered that he was a tenured professor, but he didn’t. He said he had an “appointment of indefinite duration.” Guess what? Untenured professors in some medical schools have appointments of indefinite duration as well; they can just be fired much more easily than tenured professors.

One further bit of context comes from this story:

Harvard’s chief communications officer, Laura DeCoste, told ‘Harvard Medical School has affiliation agreements with several Boston hospitals which it neither owns nor operationally controls.

‘Hospital-based faculty, such as Dr. Kulldorff, are employed by the hospital and not Harvard Medical School.

‘Therefore, when a faculty member’s hospital employment ends, their academic appointment at Harvard Medical School also ends.’

So, basically, it was Brigham that fired Kulldorff. But why?

It does look as though it was probably the vaccine mandate that done Kulldorff in:

Martin Kulldorff: Yeah. First of all, I mean, many nurses, for example, were fired, and then it was hard time to keep the hospitals up and running because of that. That’s very strange because these were nurses who, in 2020, they were taking care of Covid patients. Many of them got infected. They were home for a few days, or a week or so, and then they came back. Then, even though they had better immunity than those who never had Covid, including the administrators who made this decision, they were fired. After taking care of Covid patients for a year, getting Covid, now they have superb immunity, they were still fired.

To me, that’s unconscious and unethical, for the hospital and university administrators to do that. I didn’t take care of patients because I’m not a clinician. I’m not a physician, but I had Covid, so there was no reason for me to get the vaccine. I have a genetic immune deficiency, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that makes me very sensitive to infections so that complicates further, so there was no reason for me to get the vaccine. There were certain risks with it so I chose not to take the vaccine, and because of that, I was fired.

John Tierney: Now, you applied for an exemption. You say Harvard did give some people exemptions, is that right?

Martin Kulldorff: Yes. They gave medical exemptions to, religious exemptions, to some people. I did not get either.

John Tierney: I mean, aside from the fact that you had natural immunity, which was reason enough not to get it, but I mean, you had a reason. You had this immune deficiency yourself that certainly gave Harvard very reasonable grounds for giving you an exemption, right?

Martin Kulldorff: I agree with that, yes.


John Tierney: Now, finally, they’ve stopped requiring faculty to have the shot, and they could hire you back then, right?

Martin Kulldorff: If they wanted, yeah. Sure, they could do that.

However, this was published in the news today:

Two of Boston’s biggest and most prominent academic medical centers on Wednesday promised to work more closely together, merging clinical departments in what they’re describing as an effort to improve care and appeal to patients from across the country.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are founding members of the same parent organization — Mass General Brigham — but they largely operate independently. Now, health system leaders say, the two hospitals will work to streamline and unify their approaches to medical care in every department including medicine, surgery, pediatrics, cardiology, cancer and more.

It’s quite possible that MGH and Brigham and Women’s were looking for dead weight to cut. Kulldorff would be an obvious target for any number of reasons.

My takeaway from this is simple. Harvard quite understandably wanted to get rid of Kulldorff because (1) he was no longer bringing in grant money and (2) he was a big pain in the administration’s posterior and bringing disrepute upon the university. What probably happened is that Kulldorff made it easier for Harvard by being so vocally opposed to vaccine mandates and playing the martyr refusing to be vaccinated in the fall of 2021. There are still strange things about his case, not the least of which is its apparently having taken Harvard more two and a half years to finally pull the trigger and officially fire him after letting him be “on leave” for that long. However, Kulldorff’s self-portrayal as a martyr for free speech and science just doesn’t jibe. All I can say is: Good riddance. Kulldorff and whatever right wing think tank or university finally hires him will deserve each other.

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.

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57 replies on ““Poor, poor pitiful me”: Was Martin Kulldorff fired by Harvard?”

From his statements about vaccine mandates, natural immunity and the need for studies before someone with his “immune deficiency” (and if you’re immune deficient, you probably should not be trusting to natural immunity), I also wonder if he went on leave for refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate without a medical exemption (I don’t know).

I would add to your well-made criticism that the U.S. response came after the very, very bad experience in Italy, where we did see the pandemic raging in hospitals that were not prepared, with horrible results. He advocated for doing nothing on that background.

I also wonder if he went on leave for refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate without a medical exemption (I don’t know).

Interesting thought, although I’m not sure that the timeline aligns. Wasn’t the vaccine mandated earlier than fall 2021?

I do note, however, that it’s telling how Kulldorff also failed to mention that Harvard recently changed its policy and no longer mandates COVID-19 vaccination.

Probably depends when he went on leave. The hospital’s vaccine mandate was announced in June 2021, according to the internet,

And by the end of November it, apparently, already terminated plaintiffs whose exemption requests were rejected.

So if he requested a medical exemption, he may have been able to draw out the process until November, and consequences were later.

All speculation, of course. I just do not know.

And yes, that omission is telling.

It’s possible that that was the reason, but I strongly suspect that it was his lack of academic productivity after his RO1s ran out. Maybe it was both.

Note my addendum. There’s a fawning interview that was published yesterday. My takeway is that likely Harvard did want to cut ties with Kulldorff and Kulldorff’s refusal to be vaccinated made it easier for them.

Reading this “I have a genetic immune deficiency, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that makes me very sensitive to infections so that complicates further, so there was no reason for me to get the vaccine,” seems like another reason to get the vaccine, if infections are especially dangerous for him – I don’t see how he gets from this to not getting it. I can completely see why they denied his medical exemption.

I don’t think we should dignify the Great Barrington Press Release with the title of “declaration”.

Can a man be found, but a court of law, to be “unfit for trial” due to finding of being “incompetent”, and yet at the same time give informed consent to be a study subject?

Exactly that happened to our 217-times vaccinated man.

I was finally able to open the German webpage in an incognito window withint a paywall, and here’s the english translation of the last paragraph:

==> It is not known why the 63-year-old was vaccinated so often. The Erlangen scientists could not be reached for further comment. Incidentally, nothing came of the Magdeburg public prosecutor’s investigation into fraud. As Senior Public Prosecutor Frank Baumgarten stated upon request, the proceedings were discontinued because the accused was incompetent. (with dpa)

So yes, the accused was brain damaged to the point of being incompetent to stand trial.

And yet he somehow “gave informed consent” to be a study subject…

“Brain Damage?”

There are multiple upon multiple reasons why someone would be found incompetent to stand trial.

Your response smacks of ableism at its worst…and it’s off-topic.

Warum der 63-Jährige sich so oft impfen ließ, ist nicht bekannt. Die Erlanger Wissenschaftler waren für
eine weitergehende Stellungnahme nicht erreichbar. Aus dem Ermittlungsverfahren der Staatsanwaltschaft
Magdeburg wegen Betrugs wurde übrigens nichts. Wie Oberstaatsanwalt Frank Baumgarten auf Anfrage
mitteilt, wurde das Verfahren eingestellt, weil der Beschuldigte schuldunfähig war. (mit dpa)

You should be more careful of how you use Google translate. Camera translate gives you ‘incompetent’ but the word itself translates as ‘incapable of guilt’ or ‘culpability’.

Find someone who speaks German and understands the way the language is used in a legal sense.

4/10 – Must try harder.

Well, according to what I know about the case, he didn’t sell vaccination-passports.
Unfähig just means not being able. So I suppose if there is no proof he did anything wrong, they can’t proof he is guilty of wrongdoing.

I haven’t studied law, but I’m quite good in reading German.

In think the criteria for ‘first to stand trial’ and ‘fit to give permission for access to medical records and a few blood tests’ might be a little different.

Interesting how desperate Igor gets though. It’s like he’s clutching at straws, straw men that is.

This is a start. Now Harvard needs to fire Harvey Rich who spouts all manner of lies about COVID-19, the vaccine and ivermectin/HCQ

And Harvard needs to ossify their still rather cartilaginous spine and publicly state why they are firing these reckless disinformers.

Predictably, anti-vax grifter Lyons-Weiler twitted yesterday that poor Martin is welcome at IPAK to be an editor of his supposedly- soon-to-be-revised journal blog “Science, Public Health Policy and the Law”. How low will Martin go?

Sorry my mistake. I’m not keeping track well of which Ivy’s are worst. Plus I went to Harvey Mudd College which everyone thought was Harvard Med College and then postdoc at Yale and my dog is named Harvey and I’m old.

The Great Barrington Declaration is spot on. Ideas of controlling an airborne virus are as delusional as controlling the climate.

Funny how climate science denial and public health science denial go together hand in hand.

Still, it has been demonstrated that the GBD could never have worked:

Even one of the GBD’s flacks basically admitted that the GBD was wrong and couldn’t work:

That, of course, is why we still have annually millions of children infected with measles in the U.S. and other highly vaccinated countries around the world, rather than just seeing relatively small outbreaks, especially in under-vaccinated communities and unvaccinated families.

Oh, wait.

Cute how he suggests that if you don’t respect Gupta’s views, it’s because she’s a woman of color. It couldn’t possibly be because she profoundly, demonstrably wrong.

Yep. I’ve seen GBD supporters play that card before. Seriously, though. Gupta was claiming in July 2020 that we “might already have reached” herd immunity. That’s a take that was so wrong it wasn’t even wrong. It has NOT aged well.

I will give Sunetra Gupta credit for one thing. Unlike her co-authors Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya, she at least has mostly disappeared from public view and has not turned into an antivax, anti-mask, anti-public health influencer and martyr, as her co-authors have. In fact, I don’t recall having heard much from her in at least a couple of years. Maybe she learned her lesson…unlike her coauthors, who have doubled down and then doubled down again.

It’s especially galling because it isn’t our side that routinely dismisses people based on their demographic group. Ask Nikki Haley. It has been suggested that her demise on the road to the nomination is at least in part due to her being a woman.

I suspect that’s partly because she’s over in the UK, and she’s doing fair amount of academic work. Pubmed shows 10 pub’s since 2022 as well as one by Sunetra G instead of Gupta S.

She still pops up from time to time.
For instance, here’s an article she wrote for the Telegraph.
I’ll note three parts for convenience. (It’s behind a paywall.)

what was Jenny Harries thinking when she wrote in March 2020 that “the reality will be we need to discharge Covid-19 positive patients into residential care settings”.

Ms Harries, currently the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, argued in an email that “this will be entirely clinically appropriate because the NHS will triage those to retain in acute settings who can benefit from that sector’s care”. At the same time, she recognised that “families and care homes will not welcome this in the initial phase”.

How could a senior scientist support this strategy at all, given that it was bound to lead to an increase in infections among vulnerable residents? The answer is that she was acting in the absence of government guidelines to direct our resources to minimise the risk of infection among those who were at highest risk of severe clinical outcomes.

First, her link goes to a November 2023 article about government hearings on what went wrong and what should have been done instead in the early months of the outbreak.
Second, a google search turned up an email linked on Twitter/X where she wrote

“I think we need to strongly challenge the idea that doing something sooner is better — it is genuinely potentially quite dangerous, which is why a responsible government taking decisions based on evidence would want to make sure the timing is as good as it possibly could be for maximum effect. Applied too early we risk trying to suppress the peak too early for it to bounce back later having enduring social and economic demise for absolutely no health or mortality benefit at all.”

What could have been different here? We could have set up fever hospitals where Covid-19 positive patients could convalesce until they no longer posed a risk to other vulnerable people. We could have immediately put in place schemes that allowed vulnerable people to work from home and have their needs met without potentially being exposed. These are the measures that might have worked to reduce deaths rather than the fantasy of infection control.

So it sounds like Harries was opposed to lockdowns or NPIs in general at that early stage in the pandemic.
And Gupta is using 20/20 hindsight based on what we have learned in the last three years about the behavior of the virus and progress of the disease to critique decisions made before we learned that.
IANAD, much less an infectious disease doctor, but is it a given hat recovered patients who no longer need ICU support remain infectious?

Gupta argues that governments should have set up special “fever hospitals” to care for these patients until they were safe to discharge to senior care. But when would that decision have been made, how long would it take to get going, and how would hospitals handle these patients in a situation where people were dying before they could get admitted and bodies were stacking up everywhere?

The idea that this could have been achieved by locking down earlier is entrenched in the standard misunderstanding that the only way to stop deaths is by reducing infection. And yet, even the vaccines that were able to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 did so by offering protection against severe disease rather than infection.

In future, we need to focus our efforts on how to immediately put in place protocols to protect the vulnerable population during a pandemic, rather than attempting to implement impracticable measures to stifle the spread of infection everywhere, while blinding ourselves to the extensive collateral damage that comes in their wake.

And her response to what we should have done is to minimize NPI’s (reducing infection) and denigrate the benefits of the vaccines (offering protection against severe disease rather than infection). Instead she doubles down on the GBD approach (protect the vulnerable population).

Unlike the other side, I’m happy of these disinformers (Gupta) simply fade away from whence they came. Poor poor Martin needs guillotines and other violent rhetoric to stay popular and grift-funded.

“ …‘natural herd immunity’ to a disease. At best it’s somewhat longer-lasting than vaccine-induced immunity.”

I’m surprised you admit this. It means Kulldorff’s position with regard to mandating the “vaccination” of people who’d already had Covid is/was correct. Not bad for a “quack”. Having already survived a more severe variant, there’s no argument for forced “vaccination” even if immunity wanes over time and/or milder escape variants evolve. (The “vaccine” didn’t work against all variants either.)

“I’m surprised you admit this.”

Sigh. Go back and start again. You’ve obviously missed the entire point of vaccination.

OT but possibly good news for sceptics…

As I monitored my usual haunts today** and discovered moon landing hoax presenters ( NN), chemtrail “science” ( The Highwire) and the vicissitudes of energy healing ( PRN) the last outlet included truly some hopeful news…..
Grand Woomeister Null has lost ( fired? quit?) his last terrestrial radio outpost, WBAI, where he provided alt med tomes and supplements for station supporters ( at a 40% cut): in other words, it was his own personal shopping network venue.
Now, he is solely on the net including his own network, PRN, Rumble et al.

** I ran across Shaken Baby Syndrome as vaccine injury- not sure where. CHD?

Hi Denice. I remember seeing anti-vaxxers claiming Shaken Baby Syndrome as a vaccine injury in 2012. Apparently though this claim goes all the way back to early 1990s with paleontologist anti-vaxxer Viera Schiebner claiming vaccination was massively increasing SIDS in Australia (while in reality it had decreased 80%). And unfortunately Neil “I speak to space aliens” Miller somehow got a couple of awful papers published in this last decade claiming that because VAERS reports of death happern more often in the first few days after infant vaccination than it’s somehow proof, which of course it is not, because no one is going to report a SIDS death to VAERS occurring a month after vaccination and the data show overall that rate of SIDS occuring on any given day is independent of when vaccines were given.

Yeah, I saw Kirsch’s Substack blaming shaken baby syndrome as a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury. 1999 called. It wants its antivax tropes back.

Yesterday’s addendum was enlightening. First Kulldorff’s claim of AATD being why he wouldn’t vaccinate stands on thin ice. For–based on a review article in 2021–although one study showed flu vaccination didn’t work as well in AATD patients, another study showed pneumococcal vaccination did (though sadly I couldn’t find any good articles on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in AATD patients). Additionally the offical AATD web site continues to state vaccination remains the best protection for both people with AATD and public health. Finally, we again see how truly whimpy academic institutions like Harvard are when they finally cut loose disinformers like Kulldorff (a previous example would be Cleveland Clinic and Daniel Neides being quietly cast off). Most likely done quietly because their attorneys told them not to disparage poor poor Martin in any way lest he come back with a lawsuit.

Quietly dismissing these disinformers and thereby letting them tell an unopposed version of what happened (and always they are “victims) does not help convince the public to avoid these disinformers.

THere is also a crucial difference between “this condition means the vaccine might not work well for me” and “this condition means the vaccine would be dangerous for me.” I’m on an immune-suppressant drug, so I didn’t make antibodies after being vaccinated against covid. However, the vaccine didn’t harm me. At best, I have some potentially useful T-cells. At worst, the vaccine might as well have been simple saline.

I also have doubts that MGH-Brigham would have fired anyone recently for refusing to be vaccinated against covid, since the only respiratory virus they’re still talking about is influenza.

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