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No Pandemic Amnesty: Those in Power Need to be Held Accountable

Last week, an article published in The Atlantic titled “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty” argues for forgiving one another for what we said or did when we supposedly were ignorant of all covid science. The article was written by Emily Oster, a professor of Economics at Brown University.

I entirely disagree with the article. Those in power made inexcusable errors when better information was available, and there has been no apology from these elites for being wrong. We should neither forget nor forgive how our leaders and the medical establishment failed us during this time. Forgiving these travesties will allow them to happen again. It also ignores the fact that unscientific policies continue to be enforced in the United States because of the misinformation spread by the same individuals that we are supposed to forgive. I also believe that everyday people who were catastrophically wrong about covid science should apologize to the friends and neighbors whom they demonized and called conspiracy theorists, but this essay will primarily address elites in power rather than regular citizens.

The theme of categorizing any critique of government policy as “conspiracy theories” appeared again and again over the course of the past two years. Now, there is a trend among those who wholeheartedly and uncritically embraced government narratives to pretend that “back then, we just didn’t have the information.” But the fact is, the information was there. It was just that anyone who brought it up was smeared as a monger of dangerous conspiracies, banned from social media, or both.

Take the efficacy of masks, for example. In spring of 2020, when the virus was just beginning to spread in the US, Anthony Fauci made a few media appearances where he said that people shouldn’t be walking around wearing masks and that masks wouldn’t do much to stop the spread. The cloth masks people were wearing indeed were basically just facial decorations. Yet this information was considered a conspiracy up until about a year ago, when public health authorities in the US finally admitted to the public that only the high-grade respirators were effective in reducing the chance of contraction. Why did it take so long for health authorities to admit the obvious?

In her article, Oster portrays getting something right or wrong during covid as pure chance and that those who got things wrong acted in good faith. How, then, do we explain the fact that during the pandemic the entire medical community seemed to forget about the concept of natural immunity? Indeed, natural immunity was branded as a “conservative conspiracy theory” by some publications.

The concept of natural immunity should be understood by anyone who has taken a basic science class. Your body catches a virus, makes antibodies against the virus, and then your body knows how to fight the virus in the future. Does that sound familiar? If so, congratulations, you know more about natural immunity than many public medical figures did during the pandemic!

 Many people who caught the virus and recovered were still required to get vaccinated. In some European nations, previous infection was categorized as immunization on vaccine passports, yet the US didn’t do this. People who had already been infected with the virus lost their jobs because of their refusal to get what was an unnecessary vaccine for them. Is the public health establishment’s strange amnesia about a basic medical concept due to chance? Or is it due to the fact that acknowledging natural immunity would have meant less money for Pfizer? This blunder should not be forgiven.

Let us also not forget the way that certain therapeutic treatments were pushed on the people with no evidence of efficacy. Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, was quickly pushed onto the market. Yet for adults between the ages of 40 and 65, the medication had absolutely no effect. The study examining Paxlovid’s effectiveness only sampled adults over the age of 40, so we cannot conclude anything about its effectiveness for those under 40. But I would guess there’s a better chance than a coin flip that it does nothing for that category either.

Remdesivir is another drug that was released as an unquestionable boon to the pandemic in 2020 when there was no evidence for its effectiveness. Indeed, in mid-2020 a WHO study found that Remdesivir did not reduce covid mortality. In fact, there were concerning reports of liver and kidney damage and bradycardia from Remdesivir use in 2020.

At the same time as the medical establishment was promoting Remdesivir, it demonized anyone who dared suggest that Ivermectin could treat covid. Major media outlets referred to Ivermectin as a horse medication after famous podcaster Joe Rogan took it when he caught the virus. The so-called “horse-paste,” as one MSNBC host called it, is on the WHO’s list of essential human medicines and is quite safe, as far as pharmaceutical products go. Major medical professionals seemed to develop amnesia about the long history of Ivermectin being used to treat parasitic infections in humans for decades. Was this just another innocent mistake?

Another common claim by people today is that we had no choice to keep schools closed for so long, as there was no data to suggest that keeping them open would be anything short of reckless. In fact, Sweden was one of the few countries in the world that kept its schools open with no masking in the spring of 2020, and proved that doing so could be done safely. In addition, it was also evident early on that covid deaths were primarily among the elderly, with the average death occurring to an 81.5-year-old with 3-4 comorbidities.

Now, I think we can all agree that more could have been done to protect the elderly during the early viral surges. Yet public health messaging, even when we had the data showing exactly who was dying from the virus, suggested that everyone was equally likely to die. At my university, students were certainly exposed to messages from the administration that they should be terrified because they could die too. That is a common theme of the pandemic, where the acknowledgment of differential risk was absent, and everyone was treated as equally at risk. In addition, 78% of the people who died from covid were overweight or obese. Yet there was never a public service announcement that told people they could protect themselves by maintaining a healthy body weight. Nor did authorities share the information that proper vitamin D and zinc intake could reduce severe infection outcomes, as could a plant-based diet. Were health authorities such as Fauci simply unaware of this research? It is doubtful.

There was incredible resistance to the “focused protection” advocated by those who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, a letter to public health and political officials that warned of the severe psychological and economic toll that lockdowns and other broad covid policies would cause, in addition to the long-term negative consequences for people’s health.

We have seen these deleterious consequences. In the US, children’s math and reading scores have plummeted to the lowest points in decades because of years of completely ineffective remote learning. Drug addiction increased as people cut off from socializing despaired, and juveniles in impoverished neighborhoods turned to crime when their schools were shuttered. Poor children and children of color have been hurt the most: they had no choice but to accept ineffective distance learning, while wealthy parents could pay for private tutors for their children.

Communities across the nation were economically ravaged by the lockdowns, suicides have risen, and the consequences of discouraging or preventing people from seeking preventative care for two years are just beginning to be felt. Cancers went undiagnosed, obesity in all age brackets increased. I still know people who are too terrified to go to the dentist because they think they’ll catch covid and die. These people are in good health, have PhDs, and are much smarter than I am.

What the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration predicted has indeed come true, yet these individuals were smeared by the media and the public health establishment as “grandma killers” and as people only concerned with money. There was no attempt to actually engage with the content of their letter; instead, the signatories were just dismissed as “not caring about people’s health and only concerned with the economy.” Tens of thousands of medical practitioners and public health practitioners signed the GBD, with signatories from Oxford, Harvard, and other prestigious institutions. Was refusing to engage with the concerns of these many professionals just another honest mistake?

Finally, we come to the vaccines themselves. We were told in early 2020 that the vaccines would stop the pandemic and that once everyone was vaccinated, covid would go away. When Dr. Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA technology, said that this wouldn’t be the case because the vaccines were non-sterilizing and that it would be impossible to vaccinate our way out of a pandemic of this type, he was smeared by the usual elites as anti-vax. Someone who has dedicated his career to developing vaccine technology became an unmentionable conspiracy theorist overnight. Another honest mistake by the good people in charge, am I right?

The CDC, media elites, and public health figures attempted to keep the “incredibly rare breakthrough case” narrative alive for months, despite the fact that in summer of 2021, there was no statistical relationship between the spread of covid and vaccination rates in US counties. At that time, everyone knew someone who had one of these rare once-in-a-blue-moon breakthrough cases. The narrative finally collapsed later that year when it became too difficult to sustain. I simply cannot chalk this one up to an honest failure. Completely ignoring reality because it makes a profitable pharmaceutical product look bad is simply unacceptable.

Public health authorities and their allies in the media have done so much to destroy public faith in the medical profession over the past two years. This negative effect will be yet another one of the consequences of the choices made during the pandemic. Vaccinations for childhood diseases like mumps and measles are down. Part of this is certainly due to the lack of preventative care taken during the lockdown, but I would wager that some of it is also due to a decreased trust in medicine that public health figures themselves have wrought in recent years.

There should be no amnesty for the elites that did this to people. These individuals are there to make recommendations based on the best available science, not to play politics and only give us information that makes their political party of choice look good.

And a final note about the individuals that Oster is discussing in her article. I know just the kind she is talking about. The vitriol spewed forth from these people’s mouths during the pandemic was shocking to me. These individuals loathed the unvaccinated and treated them and spoke of them as selfish and ignorant members of society. They disowned their relatives that didn’t want to take an experimental medicine, and refused to see them or invite them to family gatherings. They advocated for unvaccinated people being imprisoned, having their children taken away, or being denied all governmental services.

The individuals who held such hatred in their hearts should reflect on how easily they were stirred to despise their fellow human beings. They should face the shortcomings that pulled them to such anger and loathing instead of being allowed to forget about their disreputable behavior. Perhaps they are not as bad as the public figures that willingly spread disinformation to the American people, but they enabled the crimes of the powerful. I am all for forgiveness and second chances, but only when we acknowledge our personal failings can we begin to move forward.


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