Dr. Michael Rousse: COVID Misinformation Hurts People
Dr. Sandy Reider wrote a lengthy Guest Commentary in the CR on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 entitled “COVID and our youth.” The article was written to discourage parents from having their children vaccinated against COVID-19. COVID vaccines are safe and effective in preventing COVID infections, including in children. This is a fact, proven by well controlled studies that have been and are being published in peer-reviewed medical jounals every day. Most recently, a study was published that shows the mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11.
Dr. Reider’s article has the potential to do severe harm to our public’s health and cannot stand as stated. Dr. Reider went to great lengths to disparage COVID vaccines and discourage parents from having their children get vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the use of often used misinformation available on the internet, and only on the internet. The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a British non-profit, has dedicated a website on exposing this misinformation. Please visit www.counterhate.com to look up some of Dr. Reider’s “evidence.” Also, take a look at www.NEJM.org/COVID to see some of the finest research being done on COVID-19.
COVID-19 infection has caused 730,000 deaths in the U.S. and 5,000,000 deaths worldwide. This pandemic is like nothing we have ever experienced on earth, including the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919, which the COVID-19 Pandemic surpassed in deaths and disability last month, and is still continuing. The worldwide medical community has responded to this pandemic with heroic efforts. Healthcare workers have held the line and cared for hundreds of millions of people stricken by this illness. I have personally been involved in this battle for the past 20 months at NVRH. I can tell you first hand what this virus does to people. Hearing people that are not on the front line making up theories about how to treat this disease and disparaging the treatments that have been proven to help patients based on their “internet research” is infuriating and a great disservice to all of the healthcare workers that have toiled on the front lines since March of 2020.
Dr. Reider used a barrage of misinformation about the COVID pandemic and COVID vaccines to make his argument that everything the world has been doing to combat this virus has been wrong and probably harmful. His most damaging statement was that “harms from the vaccines are greater than the risk of contracting and recovering from COVID-19.” He makes this baseless claim using VAERS data, a voluntary submission service provided by the CDC to look for trends in side-effects, adverse reactions, and deaths from the vaccines. These numbers are not verified, they are subjective reports. Used incorrectly they can be used to misinform people about vaccine effects and make outlandish statements such as those made by Dr Reider.
Comparing the efforts of the worldwide medical community to combat COVID-19 to the Nuremberg experiments in Nazi Germany would not normally engender a response from a physician working daily to help people suffering from this terrible disease but not only Dr. Reider uses this analogy. Another promoter of misinformation uses this analogy to help her argument, Allison Despathy, an author of a similar treatise meant to confuse and discourage people from getting medical treatment. What is the motivation for this activity? How did these beliefs get started? Apparently the roots go back to 12 key people on the internet. They sell products on their websites, they sell books, they get asked to do speaking engagements, they have become folk heroes to people of like-mind.
What would be the motivation for the worldwide medical community to deceive and harm the population of the world with harmful vaccines? Given the enormous time, effort, and resources being put into this vaccination effort by all of society, does it make sense that a few “internet researchers” have somehow been able to disprove all of our efforts? Does it make sense that we want to ignore their “facts” for some ulterior motive? Why do healthcare workers work tirelessly 24 hours per day to keep people alive if we have such ulterior motives?
Dr. Reider and Allison Despathy are quite open about their skepticism and their alternative belief system, which they are certainly allowed to have. I just wish that they would keep their views confined to their followers and avoid trying to dissuade people that would otherwise benefit from the proven treatments available to the general public. Our Public Health system has saved millions of lives over the past 2 centuries. There have always been skeptics of handwashing, of isolating people with tuberculosis, of smallpox inoculations, polio vaccines, hepatitis B vaccines, HPV vaccines, varicella vaccines, of the isolation and handling of Ebola cases. We in Public Health have a thick skin when it comes to the skeptics. Social media and competition for readership have driven the appetite for controversial news and given people with alternatives beliefs a large platform to disseminate their views. My skin is wearing thin with some of these crazy theories.
Please be very careful where you get your COVID facts from and please consider the research and news from your topnotch public health agencies before you believe your local “internet researchers.”
Michael Rousse, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Officer at NVRH.