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Friday, June 25, 2021 | Science commentary

The legacy of the virus lab leak cover-up

The credibility of science took a huge beating over the past year. Advocacy science is the main culprit

Y ou might think the science press would have learned from the example of the Wuhan lab leak theory coverup. They haven't. There are rumors out there in the blogosphere, based on people interpreting the CDC's statistics, that the death rate from vaccines is as high 21 per 100,000 fully vaccinated individuals. Another rumor is that Russia and Spain are advising people not to fly after being vaccinated because of the increased risk of blood clots.

One guy named Dr Peter McCullough says that 50,000 Americans, or 28 per 100,000, have already been killed by the vaccine. Scientific journals aren't covering any of this. Part of the reason is that the subject has become disreputable, with websites saying things like this:

This presentation PROOVES [sic] WITHOUT DOUBT that America is in for a major fight that will put you and your family in the firing line, literally. So make sure you watch this presentation while it's still online.

But the history of scientific cover-ups shows that sometimes even people whose Caps Lock keys are clogged up with Diet Coke Pepsi are right and science is wrong. Take a look at two headlines at Science magazine (sciencemag.org):

'It's a tipping point': flood of covid-19 vaccinations buoys mood at WHO
'I'm still feeling that we're failing': Exasperated WHO leader speaks out about vaccine inequity

Science is better than some, but even here there is mostly cheerleading. And indeed, a search of recent articles shows that “vaccine hesitancy” is the principal concern in the medical literature [1–6]. Of the articles highlighting a risk, most are case reports [7–9].

Take this descriptive study of adverse events from Mexico, which studied 704,003 vaccine recipients and reported only a single death [10].

We conducted a prospective observational study including data from 704,003 first-doses recipients; 6536 AEFI [adverse events following immunization] were reported, of whom 65.1% had at least one neurologic AEFI (non-serious 99.6%). Thirty-three serious events were reported; 17 (51.5%) were neurologic (observed frequency, 2.4/100,000 doses). At the time of writing this report, 16/17 cases had been discharged without deaths. Our data suggest that the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is safe; its individual and societal benefits outweigh the low percentage of serious neurologic AEFI. This information should help to dissipate hesitancy towards this new vaccine platform. [emphasis added]

This paper claims the death rate is 197 times lower than the number cited by skeptics, but that last line discredits the entire paper. Vaccine skeptics will say these authors are not dispassionate scientists looking for the truth, but advocates. Vaccine hesitancy—a political issue—seems once again to be driving much research, almost as if the scientists were all working for Big Pharma.

Here's what one person with far-left political views who wrote to me last week sees it:

Anti-Maskers & Anti-Vaccers [sic] are selfish people who risk other peoples lives, all in the service of their freedom. They put everybody at risk. They are ignorant in thinking their freedom=no obligation for the public good. Their denial is like addicts denial, twisting truths to meet their needs.

While vaccine advocates like this person emphasize a collective and coercive approach, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are reacting to what they see as people being misinformed about the dangers of vaccin­ation and the uselessness of masks. They see scientific articles that state contrary conclusions being ignored by the press and dismissed by scientific leaders. Sooner or later they'll think it's all a joke and start paying attention to that guy who thinks the vaccine causes prion diseases like CJD.

According to the Worldometer website, as of today there have been 179,238,118 Covid cases and 3,881,421 deaths, or 2,165 per 100,000 worldwide. Even if we omit the USA, where cases and deaths were probably overcounted, many other countries report similar numbers, while China reports 5,059 per 100,000. It is unlikely that the virus is 2.24× more deadly in China than everywhere else. Rather, it illustrates that there are differences in how the disease is measured and how deaths are counted.

These discrepancies highlight a problem in science: We are too upbeat about our supposed successes and too ready to dismiss concerns from non-scientists and skeptics. Scientific estab­lish­ments appear to be more concerned with protecting and defending science and ensuring compliance than investigating it. But circling the wagons only feeds the suspicions of science skeptics. Skeptics would say it is proof that any information harmful to the status of the elites of society will be suppressed.

If we pretend vaccines are 100% safe, people will figure out they're not and they'll assume everything we ever said is a lie. And then they will believe the anti-vaxxers.

The improbable claim that influenza virtually disappeared is a clue that something strange is going on. If this is the result of masks and lockdowns, the logical conclusion is that masks and lockdowns must become a permanent feature. If it's due to the CDC counting flu and Covid together under a new category, the logical conclusion is that masks and lockdowns are ineffectual. Which is correct?

Well, you might say, science will sort out the answer sooner or later. But the politically-motivated virus leak cover-up in the science press that went on for over a year raises the uncomfortable suggestion that even if it does, few will believe it. And that, dear reader, is why when science turns into advocacy, it ceases to be believed. Not because it is science, but because it is not.

1. Vijenthira A, Gong I, Betschel SD, Cheung M, Hicks LK. Vaccine response following anti-CD20 therapy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 905 patients. Blood Adv. 2021 Jun 21;5(12):2624-2643. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2021004629. PMID: 34152403.

2. Tao L, Wang R, Liu J. Comparison of Vaccine Acceptance Between COVID-19 and Seasonal Influenza Among Women in China: A National Online Survey Based on Health Belief Model. Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 Jun 4;8:679520. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2021.679520. PMID: 34150811; PMCID: PMC8211886.

3. Debus M, Tosun J. Political ideology and vaccination willingness: implications for policy design. Policy Sci. 2021 Jun 16:1-15. doi: 10.1007/s11077-021-09428-0. PMID: 34149102; PMCID: PMC8206899.

4. Attwell K, Harper T, Rizzi M, Taylor J, Casigliani V, Quattrone F, Lopalco P. Inaction, under-reaction action and incapacity: communication breakdown in Italy's vaccination governance. Policy Sci. 2021 Jun 15:1-19. doi: 10.1007/s11077-021-09427-1. PMID: 34149101; PMCID: PMC8203395.

5. Xu Y, Zhang R, Zhou Z, Fan J, Liang J, Cai L, Peng L, Ren F, Lin W. Parental psychological distress and attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination: A cross-sectional survey in Shenzhen, China. J Affect Disord. 2021 Jun 6;292:552-558. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.06.003. PMID: 34147967.

6. Curigliano G, Eggermont AMM. Adherence to COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients: promote it and make it happen! Eur J Cancer. 2021 May 24:S0959-8049(21)00311-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2021.05.007. PMID: 34147290.

7. Fowler N, Mendez Martinez NR, Pallares BV, Maldonado RS. Acute-onset central serous retinopathy after immunization with COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Am J Ophthalmol Case Rep. 2021 Sep;23:101136. doi: 10.1016/j.ajoc.2021.101136. 2021 Jun 12. PMID: 34151047; PMCID: PMC8195685.

8. Mack M, Nichols L, Guerrero DM. Rhabdomyolysis Secondary to COVID-19 Vaccination. Cureus. 2021 May 13;13(5):e15004. doi: 10.7759/cureus.15004. PMID: 34150372; PMCID: PMC8202440.

9. Ramírez-García A, Jiménez SL, Ximénez ID, Cacho AG, Aguado-Noya R, Cubero JS. Pericarditis tras la administración de la vacuna de ARNm BNT162b2 contra la COVID-19 [Pericarditis after administration of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine]. Rev Esp Cardiol. 2021 Jun 12. Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.recesp.2021.06.006. PMID: 34149145; PMCID: PMC8196309.

10. García-Grimshaw M, Ceballos-Liceaga SE, Hernández-Vanegas LE, Núñez I, Hernández-Valdivia N, Carrillo-García DA, Michel-Chávez A, Galnáres-Olalde JA, Carbajal-Sandoval G, Del Mar Saniger-Alba M, Carrillo-Mezo RA, Fragoso-Saavedra S, Espino-Ojeda A, Blaisdell-Vidal C, Mosqueda-Gómez JL, Sierra-Madero J, Pérez-Padilla R, Alomía-Zegarra JL, López-Gatell H, Díaz-Ortega JL, Reyes-Terán G, Arauz A, Valdés-Ferrer SI. Neurologic adverse events among 704,003 first-dose recipients of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico: A nationwide descriptive study. Clin Immunol. 2021 Jun 17:108786. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2021.108786. PMID: 34147649.

june 25 2021, 6:24 am

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