Fact check

Governments Worried About Covid Misinformation Should Start With Their Own Lies and Distortions, Says U.S. State Attorney General

Governments concerned about Covid misinformation should start with their own lies and distortions, Indiana’s Attorney General has told the U.S. Government. In a submission to the U.S. Surgeon General, who had requested information on the impact of online health misinformation during the pandemic in the United States, Todd Rokita joined with leading scientists Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dr. Martin Kulldorff to set out nine examples of disinformation propagated by the CDC and other health organisations that have “shattered the public’s trust in science and public health and will take decades to repair”. Read their full submission below.

May 2nd 2022

Agency: Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General 

Action: Request for Information (RFI)

Subject: Impact of Health Misinformation in the Digital Information Environment in the United States Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Response: COVID-19 Misinformation from Official Sources During the Pandemic

Submitting parties: Todd Rokita, Indiana Attorney General; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine; and Dr. Kulldorff, Senior Research Fellow at the Brownstone Institute and former Professor at Harvard University School of Medicine.

The Office of the Surgeon General requested information on the prevalence of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of such misinformation on the U.S. public health system in order to be better prepared to respond to a future public health crisis.

We agree that misinformation has been a major problem during the pandemic. The spread of inaccurate scientific information has made it difficult for the public to make the right decisions to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from COVID-19 and the collateral public health damage arising from the pandemic countermeasures. As such, the disinformation has led to great harm in the lives and livelihoods of Americans. We submit the following examples of disinformation from the CDC and other health organisations that have shattered the public’s trust in science and public health and will take decades to repair. 

Three Disinformation Strikes For Rowlatt, the BBC’s Climate Activist-in-Residence

The BBC’s green activist-in-residence Justin Rowlatt has had two complaints upheld against him, following the broadcast last November of his absurd “Wild Weather” Panorama programme. The latest upheld complaints followed a similar rebuke last year, after Rowlatt described offshore wind as “virtually subsidy-free”.

The Panorama programme was an hour long, emotion-charged rant that tried to show human-caused climate change was behind a series of recent bad weather events. It featured a man with vascular dementia being helped into a boat from his flooded home. Improbable stories of 6°C rises in temperature were illuminated with a Met Office globe turning deep red. Not a scintilla of scientific proof was supplied to back up most of the improbable claims.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit found that the wording of the introduction, which stated “the death toll is rising around the world and the forecast is that worse is to come”, risked giving the impression the rate of deaths from extreme weather-related events was increasing.

“Risked” is an interesting turn of phrase. The BBC said the wording “was not as clear as it should have been”, and accepted the obvious fact that deaths have actually been falling for many years

The Guardian Rewrites the Facts

The Guardian has been running a series to mark the second anniversary of the first U.K. lockdown called “Rewriting COVID-19”, billed as examining the “narratives and received wisdom of the first two years of the pandemic”. It aims to ask “experts what we’ve got wrong and how to move forward”.

“Rewriting COVID-19” seems an apt title, with one contribution, from anthropologist Devi Sridhar, criticised for literally rewriting the history of the pandemic by claiming she only advocated Zero Covid before the vaccines arrived, when she is on record promoting it subsequently.

Despite the Guardian saying the series is about asking “experts”, it begins with a scurrilous piece by science journalist Debora MacKenzie, proclaiming, “False narratives about Covid left us with millions of deaths.” Criticising lockdown scepticism as “libertarian” (boo, hiss!), MacKenzie argues: “Infectious disease is always profoundly collective, whether or not leaders find that ideologically congenial… The many people whose age or medical condition makes them more likely to die if [infected], or who have suppressed immunity – perhaps only because they need an arthritis drug – cannot take ‘personal responsibility’ for avoiding Covid if they must return to the office, surrounded by maskless people exercising their ‘individual freedom’ to exhale asymptomatic Omicron.” According to Ms. MacKenzie, then, we must all change the way we live forever in case we inadvertently infect others with our asymptomatic bugs. But don’t worry, if we all wear masks then no one will get infected!

One expert who has contributed is Dr. William Hanage, Professor of the Evolution and Epidemiology of Infectious Disease at Harvard University. It’s not a great start, however, when he cites a figure of 160,000 U.K. pandemic deaths, even though the number of excess deaths during the pandemic is more like 133,000 (a figure which includes collateral deaths). He also claims herd immunity has “stubbornly failed to arrive and expel the virus from the population”, despite that being, as he should know, a caricature of what scientists say about herd immunity.

Of Course Vaccines Still in Phase 3 Clinical Trials Are ‘Experimental’

‘Fact check’ website Lead Stories (which Facebook and others rely on to guide censorship) has published an article by journalist Ed Payne claiming to ‘fact-check’ a recent Daily Sceptic article by retired Pharmaceutical Researcher Dr. John D. Flack. The ‘fact check’ is headlined: “Covid Vaccines are NOT Experimental Gene Technology – they ARE Fully Authorised.” Here Dr. Flack responds.

I think Mr. Payne and I are jousting around semantics – none of which addresses my fundamental concerns as to whether appropriate preclinical regulatory test protocols were conducted prior to MHRA/FDA/EMA approval of these novel gene-based ‘vaccines’. In his own admission, “they’re still under trial for about three years after being given the OK”. Under the emergency powers these gene-based ‘vaccines’ were authorised by the Government health regulatory bodies during the clinical trial phase of medicine development. Many products that have yielded promising results in early clinical trials with limited patient numbers have failed in the ‘field’ when larger patient numbers are involved. Therefore, to those practised in the art of pharmaceutical development, an experiment is still being conducted until the trials are fully completed and reported. To date, only interim analysis of the Phase 3 study results has been published, meaning the Phase 3 studies are ongoing (and are now unblinded so the quality of any final results is questionable). Will the product meet or fail to meet the agreed clinical end points? These are very large clinical trials of products however one wants to describe them.

I did make a mistake in saying: “Under the emergency laws surrounding the pandemic, these new injections were not approved but licensed as experimental medicines so there is no transparency as to the regulatory toxicology studies conducted.” Mea culpa. I should have said: “Under the emergency laws surrounding the pandemic, these new injections were approved as experimental medicines and not as licensed medicines.” (This has now been amended.) The MHRA in its statement says its authorisation was given “following a review of safety, quality and efficacy information from the clinical trials”. This begs the question – which is the main thesis of my article – of what preclinical studies were conducted to identify the toxicological profile of the both the gene sequence in the injection and the spike protein that it induces? I think we should know. Frankly, a ‘trust me’ statement that “there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the safety, quality and effectiveness of the vaccine” is not good enough.

Publisher Retracts 24 Scientific Papers for Being “Nonsensical” – What Happened to Peer Review?

This is a guest post by contributing editor Mike Hearn.

Last August, a cluster of fake scientific papers appeared in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. Each paper now carries a notice saying that it’s been been retracted “because the content of this article is nonsensical”.

This cluster appears to be created by the same group or person whom Daily Sceptic readers previously encountered in October. The papers are scientific-sounding gibberish spliced together with something about sports, hobbies or local economic development:

Therefore, the combination of LDPC and Polar codes has become the mainstream direction of the two technologies in the 5G scenario. This has further inspired and prompted a large number of researchers and scholars to start exploring and researching the two. In the development of Chinese modern art design culture, traditional art design culture is an important content…

Linlin Niu

This sudden lurch from 5G to Chinese modern art is the sort of text that cannot have been written by humans. Other clues are how the titles are obviously templated (“Application of A and B for X in Y”), how the citations are all on computing or electronics related subjects even when they appear in parts of the text related to Chinese art and packaging design, and of course the combination of extremely precise technical terms inserted into uselessly vague and ungrammatical statements about “the mainstream direction” of technology and how it’s “inspired and prompted” researchers.

Try as They Might, Facebook ‘Fact-Checkers’ Cannot Refute the Dire Scottish Vaccine Data

Ever since I realised the devastating effects lockdowns would have all over the world, I have actively fought them. My first task, in October 2020, was hosting an interview with world-renowned epidemologist Martin Kulldorff, one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which argues for focused protection instead of blanket lockdowns.

Incidentally, Kulldorff was involved also in my first really memorable encounter with the so-called fact-checkers. Last summer the Icelandic Chief Epidemiologist said in an interview he believed herd immunity would never be reached by vaccination, only through infections. I posted a link to the interview on LinkedIn. Kulldorff shared my post, and the next thing he knew his reshare had been removed. Clearly a fact-checker hadn‘t liked what our Chief Epidemiologist said, and decided the public shouldn‘t know.

Part of my activities as an active lockdown sceptic has been managing a large and fast-growing local Facebook group, dedicated to providing a broad view of the Covid situation, including negative effects of lockdowns, and later on, growing concerns with the effectiveness and safety of mass-vaccination. This is a difficult task as we must always be very careful not to accept posts that for some reason contain material that doesn‘t comply with the worldview of the fact-checkers. We get a few strange conspiracy theories of course, but mostly the material we have to reject is simply inconvenient facts or well-argued opinions, even by respected scientists, that just happen to go against the official narrative.

Fact-checking is nothing new, and until recently it was just that, checking for facts. But since very early in the pandemic, fact-checkers have become less concerned with facts, but more, and in some cases exclusively, with censoring anything that goes against their own opinions. Every day, hundreds of such articles are published and then used to justify censorship. The following example is a typical one.

Joe Rogan is Right That mRNA Vaccines Are Gene Therapy – And Other Ways the BBC’s ‘Fact Check’ Fails

The BBC has used some of its taxpayer funding to ‘reality check‘ Joe Rogan’s Covid ‘misinformation’. The state-funded broadcaster claims some episodes of the popular podcast have featured “false and misleading claims” and states: “Here are four of them fact-checked,” implying all are false. Let’s see.

Claim: A vaccine can alter your genes

Mr Rogan said: “This is not a vaccine, this is essentially a gene therapy.” But this is not true.

None of the Covid vaccines change your genetic material or DNA – essentially the recipe book containing the instructions of how to build your body.

The vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna harness a different molecule called messenger RNA.

If DNA is the blueprint, RNA is the messenger, carrying instructions to your cells.

In the case of the Covid vaccine, the message to your cells is to turn the RNA into copies of the virus’s spike protein.

That’s what fires your immune system up to start producing antibodies and other cells to fight off the virus.

When the message has been received, the RNA is broken down and disposed of.

First of all, note that the claim the heading says is being ‘fact checked’ is not the same as the claim it quotes Joe Rogan making, which is: “This is not a vaccine, this is essentially a gene therapy.” Perhaps the Reality Check team think gene therapy is synonymous with altering genes, as their ‘fact check’ implies they think if they show the mRNA in the vaccine does not alter genes they have successfully proved it is “not true” to say it is gene therapy. This assumption is false – though it does appear to have become the official line and has started appearing in every ‘fact check’ on the topic. A Reuters fact check‘ from August, for instance, concludes: “Scientists told Reuters that while mRNA vaccines can be considered ‘genetic-based therapy’ because they use genetic code from COVID-19, they are not technically gene therapy. This is because the mRNA does not change the body’s genetic makeup.”

If you think this sounds like dancing on the head of a pin, you’d be right. In fact, it represents a sleight of hand introduced during the pandemic, in part at the behest of vaccine-maker Moderna in order to avoid the new vaccines having the negative associations of gene therapy. And while it’s awfully nice of media corporations like the BBC and Reuters to do the bidding of pharmaceutical companies, it doesn’t make the claim true. You might have thought the fact that virologist and mRNA expert Dr. Robert Malone is one of the people implicated in their ‘fact checks’ as referring to the vaccines as a form of gene therapy would have given them pause for thought. But he is persona non grata and they have their alternative experts to do the requisite pin-dancing, so they plough on regardless.

It isn’t actually hard to show that mRNA vaccine technology comes under the field of gene therapy, and that the attempt to distinguish the two has been invented in the very recent past as a way of making the vaccines look better. For instance, a 2011 article entitled “mRNA as gene therapeutic: How to control protein expression“, in a section headed “Applications for mRNA as a drug molecule: mRNA vaccination”, says this:

Joe Rogan Apologises to Spotify and Says He Will “Balance Out Controversial Viewpoints”

Despite the very limited extent of the wrinklies’ boycott of Spotify over podcaster Joe Rogan’s alleged vaccine ‘misinformation’, Rogan has apologised for “pissing off” Spotify and said he will “balance out these more controversial viewpoints”. It comes after the streaming service imposed new warnings and rules on content covering the pandemic. The Telegraph has more – though reader be warned this article itself (by unnamed ‘foreign staff’) is somewhat misleading (my comments added in line).

Popular U.S. podcaster Joe Rogan has apologised amid a backlash against COVID-19 misinformation [erm, this should be alleged misinformation – Spotify has said Rogan’s content does not breach its new rules] in his programme, as hosting platform Spotify said it would add a “content advisory” to any episode with discussion of the coronavirus.

Rogan, a prominent vaccine sceptic, has stirred controversy with his views on the pandemic and on vaccines and government mandates to control the spread of the virus aired on his top-rated podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience.

In a 10-minute Instagram video post on Sunday evening, he apologised to Spotify for the backlash but defended inviting contentious guests.

“If I pissed you off, I’m sorry,” Rogan said. “I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view.”

Singer-songwriters Neil Young and Joni Mitchell announced last week that they were removing their music from Spotify in protest at coronavirus misinformation broadcast on the platform.

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have also expressed their concern to Spotify about COVID-19 misinformation but will continue to work with the company, a spokesperson for their Archewell foundation said on Sunday.

Some 270 scientists and medical professionals have also written to Spotify urging the company to prevent Rogan from spreading falsehoods [Actually, of the 270 signatories of the letter referred to, many were not scientists or medics].

Rogan signed a £75m deal with Spotify in 2020 and has an estimated 11 million listeners per episode is, by that measurement, far more popular than any news anchor in the country. [Did a word get left out of that sentence?]

The musclebound UFC commentator says he is not an anti-vaxxer, but he has used his platform to push, and host guests who push, a multitude of baseless ‘theories’ about the pandemic. [This is a smear]

These include the assertion that young and healthy people do not need the vaccine [This is a view shared to varying degrees by, for example, the JCVI and the Swedish health authorities], the idea that “mass formation psychosis” is responsible for people believing in the efficacy of vaccines [The fact that people believe vaccines stop infection and transmission despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary needs some psychological explanation] and that hospitals are financially incentivised to falsely diagnose COVID-19 deaths [That hospitals receive more money for Covid patients was a claim made by Elon Musk on Rogan’s show based on a claim made by U.S. Senator Scott Jensen; it was fact-checked by mainstream outlets and confirmed to be true].

At the time of writing, the top-rated comment by Jonny Chinchen puts it well:

DT please show some professional editorial behaviour!

1) This feels copied and pasted from another news agency.

2) Rogan himself has spread no “misinformation”. If he has, you need to quote it and prove it is misinformation.

3) You are printing misinformation yourselves. The 270 signatories of the petition against Rogan are not all “scientists and medical professionals”. I just looked at the list of signees myself and some were listed as bloggers and podcasters, journalists or students.

4) Re: above – this article is lazy and misinformative journalism. Your standards as a legacy news provider are slipping, this would be shocking if it weren’t already a trend at the DT.

Worth reading in full (well, kind of).

Triple-Jabbed Over-30s Have Higher Infection Rates Than the Unvaccinated, UKHSA Data Show

This week’s UKHSA vaccine surveillance report has landed – and this week a change. In the (in)famous Table 12, which shows rates of infections, deaths and hospitalisations per 100,000 by vaccination status, the data have suddenly switched to giving rates for triple-jabbed rather than two-or-more doses, meaning we no longer have continuity with our previous data. So sudden was the change in fact, that the report itself has not kept up with it, and the notes under the table still say the rates are for “people who have received either two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or in people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine”.

The change means we have to start over in our week-by-week comparisons, so the infection rates by age for this period are depicted above and the unadjusted vaccine effectiveness figures are depicted below.

Below is how the total reported infections for the period break down by vaccination status (in this chart vaccinated means one or more doses). While the chart doesn’t take into account the different numbers of people vaccinated and unvaccinated, with over 70% of infections in the vaccinated it does show that the outbreak is predominantly in vaccinated people.

Below is what our previous chart would look like if we just added the new data in, but the trend in the past week is obviously nonsense as they’ve changed the parameters. Still, it gives an indication of the difference between the double and triple jabbed, and note that all but the under-30s are still negative (meaning higher infection rates in the vaccinated than unvaccinated), and the under-30s are still low. Also, the over-70s declined since last week anyway, despite the switch to triple-jabbed only. Makes you wonder what the data for two-or-more doses would have shown.

What the Mail’s Take-Down of Natural Immunity Gets Wrong

Dr. Michael Mosley in the Daily Mail has written a piece criticising those like Novak Djokovic who say they regard themselves as in no need of vaccination as they have protection from a previous Covid infection. In the article Dr. Mosley – who is medically qualified but no longer a registered doctor and has worked as a BBC journalist for the past 37 years – makes a series of claims about the vaccines and natural immunity that don’t withstand scrutiny.

The first is that previous infection provides much less protection against Omicron infection than does vaccination.

Just because you have antibodies against a previous strain of Covid, that does not mean you are protected against catching, or spreading it to more vulnerable people such as patients with cancer or pregnant women. A study published in December, by researchers from Imperial College London, concluded that the protection against Omicron, if you have had a prior Covid infection “may be as low as 19%”. A course of vaccines – the double dose plus the booster – on the other hand, offers something like 75% protection.

What Dr. Mosley doesn’t mention is that the December study from Imperial was a preliminary study that also found no evidence of Omicron “having lower severity than Delta”. Omicron is now known to be considerably less severe than Delta, suggesting the study should not be taken as the final word on Omicron and natural immunity. A more recent study puts the protection provided by natural immunity against Omicron infection at 56%. This is higher than the level of protection reported for the boosters by the UKHSA, which finds just 40-50% protection at 10 weeks. The protection provided by previous infection is also more resilient.

Dr. Mosley’s explanation of why the protection from vaccines is supposedly superior to that from previous infection also makes no sense. He writes:

Why the difference? It appears that our immune systems are very good at learning from experience. The more often your immune system is challenged by a virus (or a vaccine, which is mimicking that virus), the better it gets at defending itself against it.

The first time your immune system encounters a virus it isn’t quite sure how to react and it takes time to start building an effective response. While that is happening, the virus is busy replicating, spreading and doing damage.

If you’re lucky, your immune system will spring into action and you will recover after a trivial illness. If you are unlucky, you end up in hospital, perhaps in intensive care. The idea of a vaccine is that your immune system gets the nudge to start working long before you are exposed to the real thing.

The reason for a second, and even third jab, is this amplifies and refines your immune response to protect you, and others, in the future.

This of course fails to explain why encountering the virus should provide less effective immune protection than a vaccine. Just because while your body is working out how to counter the virus the virus can make you unwell tells you nothing about how strong your subsequent immunity to re-infection will be. It is true that a vaccine mimics a virus to prime your immune system, and the idea of multiple shots is to improve that response. However, there is plenty of evidence that the vaccines are weaker and less resilient against infection than natural immunity. For example, see the chart below from a large Danish study, where the orange line for the previously infected (but not vaccinated) is higher and stays much higher than the green line for the vaccinated (but not previously infected).