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Name-Calling and Hand-Waving Don’t Constitute an Argument
Nor will they lead to an effective covid-19 response
I apologize for the length of this piece. But as you know, untangling a can of worms is much harder than creating one.
On November 26, 2021, the Socialist Action website published an article by Cliff Connor entitled, Critique of “Leftwing” Antivax Disinformation: Antivaxxers of All Stripes Pose a Serious Threat to Public Health. Connor’s piece was a putative rebuttal of an essay by Julius Ruechel entitled, The Snake-Oil Salesmen and the COVID-Zero Con: A Classic Bait-And-Switch for a Lifetime of Booster Shots (Immunity as a Service).
Connor begins by labeling the Ruechel piece “a relatively slick piece of virulent antivax propaganda.” This is a slander. Ruechel supports many common vaccinations and notes that “vaccination has been successfully used to control measles and even to eradicate smallpox.” But Ruechel distinguishes between sterilizing vaccines – those that fully prevent infection and transmission – and so-called leaky vaccines like the current covid vaccines which protect the vaccinated against severe symptoms but neither prevent the vaccinated from being infected nor prevent them from spreading the disease. Citing long understood epidemiology, Ruechel explains that the current covid vaccines have a role to play but notes that, “A leaky vaccine used sparingly to protect small pockets of vulnerable individuals is very different than a leaky vaccine applied to everyone.” So according to Connor if, like Ruechel, you support vaccines in general but caution against the epidemiologically inappropriate use of some vaccines in particular, that makes you a virulent antivaxxer.
It's worth noting that Ruechel’s views on this exactly parallel those of Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer jabs, who has spent his entire career researching and developing vaccines. As regards covid and the current vaccines Malone argues,
Prong One of our strategy [should be] to vaccinate only the most vulnerable – primarily the elderly and individuals with significant comorbidities such as lung and heart disease or diabetes…As reflected in the WHO’s concerns, sound science strongly suggests that the more you vaccinate, the more likely you will spawn vaccine-resistant mutations… Sound science likewise informs us that universal vaccination is foolish because it imposes unnecessary risks on a substantial fraction of our population – think children, the young, the healthy, and previously infected who have developed what are likely to be a more robust, diverse, and long-lasting protective immune response.
The same views are shared by Dr. Peter Doshi, associate editor of the British Medical Journal, the over 2,000 physicians and health practitioners affiliated with the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), the over 59,000 medical practitioners and scientists who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, and the 12,700 signers of the declaration of the International Alliance of Physicians and Medical Scientists.
By Connor’s logic, every one of these is a virulent antivaxxer.
Connor goes on to claim that “The bulk of [Ruechel’s piece] consists of mansplaining the ABCs of immunology, much of which is not controversial.” This is a remarkable sentence. In the first place, in what universe is presenting relevant information about science and immunology “mansplaining”? Used in this context the word is a slur employed to dismiss facts and arguments without directly addressing them. Connor tells us that the “ABCs of immunology” Ruechel presents are largely “not controversial”. Really? Because the thrust of Connor’s piece directly contradicts them. He accomplishes this without reference to any of the specific ABCs presented in Ruechel’s piece because, “To deconstruct it in its entirety would be an oppressive chore…”
Let’s take a look at some of those “ABCs of immunology” which Connor deems uncontroversial but with which he clearly disagrees. Ruechel summarizes as follows:
[A] tour through pre-COVID science demonstrates that, from day one, long before you and I had even heard of this virus, it was 100% inevitable and 100% predictable that these vaccines would never be capable of eradicating this coronavirus and would never lead to any kind of lasting herd immunity. Even worse, lockdowns and mass vaccination have created a dangerous set of circumstances that interferes with our immune system's ability to protect us against other respiratory viruses. They also risk driving the evolution of this virus towards mutations that are more dangerous to both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike. Lockdowns, mass vaccinations, and mass booster shots were never capable of delivering on any of the promises that were made to the public…
The story tells itself by diving into the long-established science that every single virologist, immunologist, evolutionary biologist, vaccine developer, and public health official had access to long before COVID began. As is so often the case, the devil is hidden in the details.
Though Ruechel backs up the assertions in the above paragraphs with references to accepted immunology, Connor rejects them wholesale without undertaking the “oppressive chore” of countering any of the scientific underpinnings cited. The devilish details of those uncontroversial ABCs of immunology include the following:
“[M]ost respiratory viruses including SARS-CoV-2 (a.k.a. COVID) come from animal reservoirs: swine, birds, bats, etc. As long as there are bats in caves, birds in ponds, pigs in mud baths, and deer living in forests, respiratory viruses are only controllable through individual immunity, but it is not possible to eradicate them… In other words, it was clear by January/February 2020 that this pandemic would follow the normal rules of a readily transmissible respiratory epidemic, which cannot be reined in the way SARS was.”
“RNA respiratory viruses (such as influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses) all mutate extremely fast compared to viruses like smallpox, measles, or polio.”
“[The] never-ending conveyor belt of mutations means that everyone's immunity to COVID was always only going to be temporary and only offer partial cross-reactive protection against future re-infections.”
“Genetic drift caused by mutations is much slower in viruses like measles, polio, or smallpox, which is why herd immunity can be used to control these other viruses (or even eradicate them as in the case of smallpox or polio).”
“The current crop of COVID vaccines was never designed to provide sterilizing immunity - that's not how they work. They are merely a tool designed to teach the immune system to attack the S-spike protein, thereby priming the immune system to reduce the severity of infection in preparation for your inevitable future encounter with the real virus. They were never capable of preventing infection, nor of preventing spread. They were merely designed to reduce your chance of being hospitalized or dying if you are infected. As former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is on Pfizer’s board, said: ‘the original premise behind these vaccines were [sic] that they would substantially reduce the risk of death and severe disease and hospitalization. And that was the data that came out of the initial clinical trials.’ Every first-year medical student knows that you cannot get herd immunity from a vaccine that does not stop infection.”
“The take-home lesson is that vaccines will, at best, only last as long as immunity acquired through natural infection and will often fade much faster because the vaccine is often only able to trigger a partial immune response compared to the actual infection.”
There’s a big difference between sterilizing and non-sterilizing (leaky) vaccines.
Mass vaccination into a raging pandemic with leaky vaccines is bad public health policy.
Mass vaccination with leaky vaccines, combined with lockdowns and isolation, raises the risk of encouraging the virus to become more virulent and to develop vaccine resistance. “It is therefore highly likely that the 1918 Spanish Flu would never have been more than a really bad flu season had it not been for the amplifying effect of lockdown conditions created by a world at war… The deadly second wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu and its causes are hardly secrets in the medical community.” (My emphasis.)
The Marek affect: “What has been done by temporarily blunting the risk of hospitalization or death, but without stopping infection among the vaccinated, is to create a set of evolutionary conditions where a variant that is dangerous to the unvaccinated can spread easily among the vaccinated without making the vaccinated very sick.” This syndrome is widely understood by epidemiologists, with prominent cases occurring in livestock and animal studies.
Leaky vaccines can lead to antibody dependent enhancement (ADE). If the vaccine doesn’t completely kill the virus (is non-sterilizing), in some cases the virus can hijack the vaccine particles and force them to participate in replicating the virus. It can take years to determine whether a particular vaccine is susceptible to this outcome. “Antibody-dependent enhancement is a well-documented phenomenon in attempts to develop vaccines against the RSV virus, dengue fever, and other coronaviruses. This is one of the reasons why previous attempts to develop a human coronavirus vaccine against the SARS virus failed.”
The importance of cross-reactive immunity. What the Diamond Princess cruise ship taught us: “The virus [covid-19] circulated freely onboard the ship, yet age corrected lethality remained between 0.025% and 0.625% (that's on the order of a bad flu season and nothing at all like the fatality rate of the 1918 Spanish Flu, which was between 2% and 10%). Only 26% of the passengers tested positive for the virus and of those that tested positive 48% remained completely symptom free despite the advanced age of most of these passengers!”
Not a single one of the above facts is countered by Connor who, nonetheless, is certain that Ruechel’s piece is an “erroneous critique of Big Pharma.” Ruechel goes on to make additional points which Connor does not deign to address:
“By now it is abundantly clear from the epidemiological data that the vaccinated are able to both catch and spread the disease. Clearly vaccination isn't going to make this virus disappear.”
“Equally devastating is that, by disrupting our normal social contacts, we have reduced how much training our immune system is getting through repeated exposure to other respiratory viruses…For example, New Zealand was praised internationally for adopting a COVID-Zero policy and for the low COVID cases that resulted. But the lockdowns, social distancing measures, and border closures also had another effect ― there was a 99.9% reduction in flu cases and a 98% reduction in cases of the RSV virus… Now New Zealand's myopic focus on COVID as the one and only risk is coming home to roost. Its hospitals are overflowing with children. But they're not being hospitalized by COVID. They are falling ill with RSV virus because of the "immunity debt" that built up from not being continually exposed to all the respiratory viruses that make up normal life.”
Connor points an accusing finger at Ruechel and declares that his views on political topics invalidate any evidence he might bring to bear on scientific matters:
Although I have characterized this blog piece as an example of leftwing antivax propaganda, a qualification is necessary. The erroneous critique of Big Pharma is counterfeit leftism; its underlying ideological inspiration is of solid rightwing provenance.
Does Ruechel have some right-wing beliefs? Does Anthony Fauci? Do some FDA or NIH officials? Do some contributors to scientific journals? Maybe. Who cares? Scientific arguments stand or fall on their own merit, regardless of the political beliefs of the person proffering them. Attacking a scientific argument by focusing on the person’s political beliefs is the basest kind of subterfuge; it’s a form of guilt by association offered to cover for one’s own inability to present a cogent counter argument. If a political conservative were to argue that the oceans are wet and the earth orbits around the sun, would Connor urge us to reject their reasoning and ignore their conclusions because of the person’s political beliefs?
What We Know Now
Since the publication of Ruechel’s essay, new data has affirmed much of his argument. We now know that:
The spike protein produced by the Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines is toxic to humans.
The adverse reaction profile for the covid vaccines used in the US is troubling. Increased reports of Acute Coronary Syndrome after vaccination is just one example. The data for Vaccine Adverse Events Reports System (VAERS) – a system prone to serious underreporting – shows more deaths from the covid vaccines than for all vaccines in the past thirty years combined.
Ventura County, CA nurses report being pressured to look the other way as the number of cases of rare conditions has risen. “[D]octors are at a loss to explain the increase in non-COVID-related ailments, including a reported increase in heart attacks in young people, mainly men, who received the COVID-19 vaccines.”
The original data used to evaluate the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use included only three months of information. In July 2021, Pfizer released a full six months of data from its clinical trials. The results are not good. According to the full six months of data, more people died of all causes in the vaccine group than in the placebo group.
The BMJ substantiated the claims of a former regional director and trained clinical trial auditor Brook Jackson of Ventavia Research Group, which was running a portion of the Pfizer Covid-19 clinical trials in several sites in Texas. In the two weeks she was involved, she saw data falsification, unblinding, poorly trained vaccinators, negligence via not following up on some serious adverse events, and large scale failure to complete test on participants who reported Covid-type symptoms.
Efficacy for the current covid vaccines fades significantly within 4 months and almost completely by 6 months. “[I]f the trials had been required to run for six months before presenting results instead of only running for two months, then the vaccines would have been considered too ineffective to be worth bothering with, and would never have been approved.” An FDA advisory group voted against authorizing boosters for the general public. The Biden administration ignored this advice, prompting two senior FDA officials to resign.
“An unvaccinated child is at less risk of serious Covid illness than a vaccinated 70-year-old,” declared The New York Times on October 2021. For those under thirty, the risk of adverse reaction from the vaccines exceeds the risk of contracting severe covid. For this reason, several European countries are opting not to vaccinate youth.
Sweden, while having a relatively high vaccination rate, has rejected lockdowns and mask mandates. Contrary to the expectations of many, Sweden now has one of the lowest covid case and death rates.
According to the British Office of National Statistics, the age-standardized all-cause mortality rate per 100,000 person-years from January 2 – September 24 2021 was 2,187 for unvaccinated vs. 3,185 for vaccinated. More vaccinated people are dying from all causes than those not vaccinated. A useful chart is provided by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson:
Apart from vaccines, highly effective therapeutics exist with a proven record of reducing covid case counts and severity. These include vitamin D and ivermectin. India provides the best example. As the Desert Review explains,
[W]e know that India has eliminated its COVID-19 Pandemic after implementing a national Ivermectin policy in the protocol. As a result, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have no more problems with pandemic surges…
Over the last 75 days, Delhi has recorded less than 10 COVID-19 deaths. Likewise, Uttar Pradesh, with more than 230 million people, has recorded fewer than 20 COVID deaths in the past 60 days, while the United States, with a roughly similar population, has recorded some 87,300 deaths - more than 4,000 times as many.
A generalized chill is stifling scientific exchange and discussion about covid. Doctors who question CDC and NIH covid policy are censored. Scientists publishing inconvenient data risk professional fallout. Critical care physicians are being prevented from effectively treating covid patients and are suing hospital conglomerates.
What About Mandates?
Just as someone can support vaccines in general but oppose the overuse of a particular leaky vaccine, one can envision a situation where a universal vaccine mandate might be justified but oppose mandates under less ideal conditions. This distinction completely escapes Connor who ridicules Ruechel’s opposition to vaccine mandates under the current circumstances. Connor’s stance raises important questions:
It’s well established that those who’ve recovered from covid have natural immunity that’s superior to a vaccine. Should mandates apply to these people?
Only 28% of young black New Yorkers are vaccinated. If you support mandates, what consequences should those people face? Should they be fined? Fired from their jobs?
According to the British Medical Journal the vast majority of pregnant woman in Scotland are unvaccinated. Similar results apply to the US. If you support mandates, what punishment do you advocate for these women?
For an excellent discussion on mandates and passports, see Danger to Society: Against Vaccine Passports.
What About Cuba?
In the face of a sixty-year criminal US blockade, Cuba’s ability to develop its own covid vaccines is a remarkable achievement. It’s a testament not only to the scientific prowess but also the revolutionary spirit and determination of the Cuban people and the Cuban revolution.
Cuba faces a unique set of exigencies. Heavily dependent on tourism for foreign exchange and saddled with an economic siege by the bully to the north, taming the pandemic is a matter of national survival. Many non-vaccine therapeutics effective at preventing and treating covid are likely denied the Cubans due to the blockade. The same goes for foreign-made vaccines.
Notably, the Cuban vaccines use tried-and-true technology tested and honed in many different vaccines, in many countries, over many years. This means the Cuban vaccines are likely safer than the Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines.
Having undertaken the “oppressive chore” of examining the details of Ruechel’s essay and Connor’s critique thereof, the reality becomes clear. Ignoring well established science, silencing experts, censoring scientific debate, refusing to promote effective therapeutics and treatments and hamstringing physicians have led to many thousands of needless deaths. That’s not to mention preventable economic disruption, the cost of which is primarily born by the working class. Despite all of this, Connor has the temerity to admonish Ruechel (and anyone else) for having doubts about the safety and efficacy of US covid policy. Don’t question, don’t think critically. If you do, your “inspiration is of solid rightwing provenance”. That’s Connor’s message.
What does the science say we should be doing? Focus vaccination on the most vulnerable: the elderly and those with significant comorbidities. (Anybody not in this group who still wants a vaccination should be able to get one.) Educate the public about how to boost metabolic health. Encourage vitamin D supplementation. Make quality, at-home rapid tests free and widely available. Allow “physicians to freely prescribe a wide range of safe and effective therapeutics in early treatment, outpatient use. Deploying home-based infection detection test kits would allow such treatment to start as early as possible.” (Dr. Robert Malone) The Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance publishes several recommended treatment protocols. Recognize that those who have recovered from Covid have immunity that’s greater than or equal to those who’ve been vaccinated. No widespread lockdowns, school closures, or vaccine mandates.
Correction: An earlier version cited 800,000 signatures of the Great Barrington Declaration. While over 871,000 individuals have signed the declaration, only 59,000 of those are medical professionals or scientists.