We are in mid-June, the lockdown restrictions in N.J. are easing, and businesses will be opening with certain modifications to protect against further spreading of Covid-19 in a second wave of infections.
Amid these positive changes, some troubling facts have come to light in the past few weeks about 1. The statistical analysis used to justify the lockdown, 2. The sudden disparaging attack on the drug HCQ and 3. Operation Warp Speed - the rush for a Covid-19 vaccine.
- Neil Ferguson
You may not know his name but he is the lead scientist at the Imperial College London and it was his team and his computer epidemiological modeling coding that sparked the prediction of millions of deaths that would occur from Covid-19 if a complete lockdown by governments across the globe didn’t occur. Specifically, he predicted 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. His coding analysis was withheld for six weeks for others to peer review, but the lockdowns were already firmly in place as governments around the world took the most extreme precautions. Now, that it has been released, coding experts around the globe are shocked at the dramatic flaws of the model. Ferguson now admits he based it on improper parameters. Sadly, this is just the latest in a few serious mistakes from Ferguson.
- In 2002, Ferguson predicted 150 thousand people could die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. In the U.K., there were only 177 deaths from BSE
- In 2005, Ferguson predicted that up to 150 million people could be killed from bird flu. In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease from 2003-2009.
- In 2009, a government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice said a “reasonable worst-case scenario” was that swine flu would lead to 65,000 British deaths. In the end, swine flu killed 457 people in the U.K.
Ferguson resigned from his position on May 5th, but it was as much for the public revelation that he had broken his own lockdown rule to see his married lover.
- The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine retractions
When the Covid-19 crisis started it soon became apparent that the anti-malarial drugs Chloroquine (CQ) and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) used along with an antibiotic azithromycin and high dose zinc were an effective treatment, especially if used early. In late April, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) in a report to Governor Ducey of Arizona, reported just over a 90% success rate with CQ and HCQ with or without zinc and azithromycin. At the time of the report, observational data out of China, France, S. Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. showed out of 2333 cases, 2137 clinically improved. There were 63 deaths, but in all but 11, those patients were severely ill. HCQ is often used in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis predominantly because it controls an inflammatory cytokine called interleukin 6. It is also a zinc ionophore, which means it can transport an ion (zinc) across a lipid membrane into a cell. By bringing zinc into a cell, the zinc can stop the virus from replicating. In other words, zinc is a key part of this as a treatment. The HCQ or CQ acts as the gun and the zinc acts like a bullet. Perhaps one reason why NYC was the epicenter for the Covid-19 outbreak is that Governor Andrew Cuomo ruled in late March that HCL and CQ could not be prescribed for Covid-19 because it needed to be studied. Dr. Joseph Varon chief of medicine at Memorial Medical Center in Houston used a cocktail of vitamins, blood thinners, steroids and HCQ for his Covid-19 patients. He said, “none of his 40 plus patients with Covid-19 died.”
There are side effects to HCQ, and for people with pre-existing heart issues it might be contraindicated but overall, it has a mostly safe and effective clinical profile. It has also been used since 1955.
On May 22nd, the prestigious medical journals, The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine published research articles on the dangers of Hydroxychloroquine. The lead authors Mandeep Mehra and Amit Patel supposedly analyzed data from hundreds of hospitals worldwide with those patients treated with HCQ. However, it was quickly retracted when 182 scientists took issue with the findings. Some of the points were:
The authors did not release the code that would explain the conclusions in the article.
There were no mention of the countries or hospitals that contributed to the data.
Scott Sutton one of the authors of the study, received funding from Gilead who makes remdesivir a newer anti-viral medication believed to help with covid-19 in a clear conflict of interests.
At the center of the study is a company called Surgisphere Corporation and its CEO Sapan Desai that has just a handful of employees. One employee was a science fiction author, and another is listed as a marketing executive but is really an adult model and events hostess. How would a company with so few employees let alone qualified employees be able to collate data from hundreds of hospitals from around the world especially cardiac arrhythmia data from hospitals from places like Africa. Additionally, hospitals in Australia admitted that they had no relationship to Surgisphere.
On June 7th, The University of Utah terminated its faculty appointment of Amit Patel for his role in this controversy.
- Operation Warp Speed
On May 15th President Trump announced “Operation Warp Speed” with the goal of having a vaccine ready for all Americans by the end of 2020. Normally it would take as many as five years to get a vaccine approved. Of the one hundred companies working on a vaccine, one of them is a company called Moderna a relative newcomer to the established pharmaceutical giants. Moderna is well funded and has already received 20 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, with more being promised. Additionally, President Trump named Moncef Slaoui a director on the board of Moderna to head operation warp speed. While Slaoui has resigned from that position, he still has 10 million dollars in stock options. With all this positivity surrounding Moderna, its stock price has doubled in the past few months.
Just a few weeks ago Moderna completed a phase 1 trial for its Covid-19 vaccine. The study had 45 people aged 18-55 with no health problems and on no medications. The press releases were put out and the trial was hailed as a success on every news show you could think of along with their medical advisors. However, many are questioning the press releases and the lack of transparency in the data. One of them is Harvard professor William Haseltine PhD. On closer examination of the findings of the 45 people in the study, it was found that only 8 developed neutralizing antibodies to covid-19 and 3 people had a grade 3 adverse reaction. A grade 3 reaction is not life-threatening but could require hospitalization.
I do not claim to be an epidemiologist or a computer modeler, but the result of the Neil Ferguson fiasco certainly instilled an overwhelming amount of fear into many people. I understand that the lockdown had its benefits, but might things have been done differently with less intrusive restrictions if proper modeling had been done at the start?
I do not often defend a medication, but in the case of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and azithromycin it appears to have a decent track record as a medical approach to Covid-19. The sudden bashing of it leads me to assume that there are nefarious forces at work (for their own self-interest) to promote a newer drug or drugs.
Fast tracking a vaccine that in preliminary testing has already shown a 6% adverse reaction in healthy people, does not bode well if this were to be given to millions of Americans with underlying health problems. On May 21st, the U.S. spent 1.2 billion dollars to secure a third of the first 1 billion doses of another Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca with a promise to include a phase 3 clinical trial with 30,000 people in the U.S. On June 5th, President Trump announced that “we already have 2 million vaccines ready to go if it checks out for safety and effectiveness.” Do we know what level of risk is acceptable? Is it 6%, 15%? Does an 8/45 (17%) success rate in antibody production constitute effectiveness while some scientists are saying that the vaccine may only give immunity for 6-12 months?
The messianic enthusiasm invoked by the mass media, politicians, health officials, and the pharmaceutical industry about a Covid-19 vaccine should be restrained with the sobering realization that an unsafe vaccine could be more damaging to the health of our country than Covid-19 itself. But do not count on restraint. It will be business as usual, with the pharmaceutical companies getting their product to market, and putting the profits securely in their pockets before the backlash of the vaccines side effects wind up on a 60 Minutes broadcast 2 years from now.