Im glad to say that I’m far from alone when it comes to a sense of sadness at the avalanche of opinion masquerading as fact which has been such a big characteristic of this pandemic, indeed our times. One thing I once hoped was that once data rolled in those who opposed vaccination and public health measures in principle might soften their tone if these interventions were shown to be helpful, but it seems the opposite has happened.
When it comes to vaccines, for example, the data steadily grows and shows that they have been a success. Office of National Stastics data shows pretty clearly that mortality is reduced by vaccinations and that is really good news”. Put simply…..
In other words, vaccination is associated with a big reduction in risk of dying from COVID and indeed any other cause. See here if you want more detail.
That is really good news. Does it stop the antivaccine lobby? Not for a second. Picking apart the daily nonsense from Mercola and others, while not beyond even my admittedly modest intellectual abilities, would take a huge effort. Revealing the various biases, the misrepresentations of their own references, cherry picking data, exaggerations and outright lies might be interesting but way beyond my available time or commitment. If I did a really good job, I would be labelled a Big Pharma shill, in the pocket of Bill Gates and worse. My audience tiny, theirs huge. Yet the threat to personal and public health is real and has significantly grown with the infodemic of superficially impressive nonsense; so I’d still like to do my bit…..
You may disconcerted by that habit of doctors to not look at you in the eye as much as you might like. Doctors mumbling “Hummm, go on…” while more than glimpsing at the now ubiquitous screens, or in the past thumbing through written notes.
This might leave you with the unsettling feeling of talking to someone whose eyes are elsewhere, so I’ll explain. On the screen or old style written notes is information about you, your history, medical details as well as infinite online information which can be fused with what you are telling the doc so you can together arrive at the best information based conclusions and make good decisions about your health care. Getting it all right is like assembling a jigsaw, some simple, others tricky. All need concentration and information. Ideally we achieve “GRIFT”,the latest management gobbledegook to describe Getting It Right FIrst Time.
Of course sometimes a listening ear is all thats needed, but more often than not the doctor is assembling that jigsaw of information about you and your problem, and all in less than 15 minutes. In other words, information is critical to good decisions making. So, do forgive the lack or eye contact, it does signify some complex thinking going on and not simply looking at the cricket highlights while you bare your symptoms and soul. Information matters….
Misinformation matters too
Now having retired, Ive been disturbed by the antithesis of this; really bad decisions being made on the basis of information which is simply wrong. Not getting vaccines when they are beneficial; relying on non existent “Alternative Medicine” (there is only medicine – one that works) while avoiding getting effective help and placing hopes in supplements and dubious therapies which almost always only work well in terms of extracting money from your pocket. All very well, unless you have a real health problem which needs real help.
COVID 19 has provided fodder for an ongoing avalanche of misinformation which for many millions of people, are way more prominent that the real stuff. Information has been twisted to create ideas about medicine and health in people minds which are damaging. Not to mince my words, peoples minds are being damaged.
Thats a serious thing to say, but I think it’s real and has consequences. Decision making when facing an illness or a threat of illness is critically important and this is being compromised by belief in nonsense which is sadly absorbed by far too many people. Ideas, sometimes called ‘memes’ become embedded in the mind and like musical ear worms, can be hard if not impossible to get rid of.
The garden path…
Leading the way up this garden path has been the well organised antivaccine industry in the USA, but over here too commentators have been jumping on the bandwagon. Dr John Campbell, a nurse educator who initially seemed sensible enough and with a style which is easily warmed to has slowly become another internet sensation, but unfortunately does rather mix science with hype.
His friendly avuncular style has thus far, got an astonishing 2.75 million subscribers (!) on his you-tube channel with regular output of well presented but too frequently poorly analysed pandemic related stuff. As with all such purveyors, there is good stuff mixed in with the bad, but like food, that is not a recipe for success in terms of informing and helping people.
When helping a individual patient, huge amount of care and effort is needed to get things right and ensure the best decisions are made which lead to the best outcomes. Adding to the horrible feeling of having got it wrong, which of course does happen, there are multiple complaints systems in place when errors are made, and if a doc gets things really wrong due to laziness or shoddy thinking, then they can be sanctioned and struck off.
When talking to millions of people online about matters that affect their health related decision making, surely far more care is needed. Despite this there are pretty much no sanctions available apart from blunt and usually ineffective censorship. So its disappointing that Campbell (and others) have got it so wrong on HCQ, Ivermectin, Vitamin D, COVID death counting and much more. He is, of course, caught in a trap of satisfying his followers whose frequently nutty anti-vaccination characteristics are so well revealed in the comments section after each presentation. John is charming, avuncular, with a refreshingly simple presentational technique, but none of that means he is correct.
His celebrity has now extended to appearing at conferences which are avowedly anti-science with the speakers dedicated to grinding their fixed anti jab axes. An antidote is needed….
Fighting back can be fun
My effort are of course, a tiny drop in the ocean, so how glad I am to see some young bright scientists fighting back. Lets have a look at some of them – if you have the time to spare, they are not only on the button with information and science – they are a hoot!
One early contributor to Campbell’s videos was Dr Susan Oliver, an Aussie scientist who now mixes analysis of Campbell’s worst posts with humour and has developed a series of funny and interesting You Tube videos called “Back to the Science”. These feature her bubbly character, brilliant mind, out of control hands (she admits) and background dog on all things pandemic which are based on sound science. An internet minnow compared to JC, but at least the 5,000 subscribers can have a chuckle while learning.
Another is Culture Catz presented by a former science teacher who again mixes hilarity with cutting analysis who has also focused on Campbells incomplete information to his other work debunking nonsense. He only has 10,000 followers which is dwarfed by Campbell’s or Mercolas following, but thats the way of the internet – good information is less marketable.
There are other antidotes to gibberish, prominent among which is Susan Levenstein and her “Stethoscope from Rome” blog which regularly updates the reader with just about anything you might want to know about the pandemic and is the go-to place for advice on vaccines, vaccinations and treatments. Another is David Gorski, an oncologist and professor of surgery with his Respectful Insolence blog and website Science Based Medicine. McGill university have nobly put efforts into countering bad information with regular posts on the latest scams from their Sense About Science department. COVID data science is good at picking apart the data which anti-scientists use in their on line recipes. Paul Offit knows more about vaccines than just about anyone and has saved the lives of countless children with his rotavirus vaccine.
For parents looking to find out more on vaccination, VIncent Iannis is a paediatrician who has invested much time in writing Vaxopaedia which is a rich mine of accurate information.
That is some of the sources of good information I would recommend to keep thinking clear and the mind healthy.
Money, of course, does make a difference. The above scientists on YouTube admit their posts are monetised and thank their followers for the occasional coffee that the payments allow they to make. If they were to get to the sort of following that John Campbell has, they will be making a good deal more with estimates that his 2.5 million followers and regular postings will be making him a small fortune of between £2-4million per year. I cannot help but wonder as to this huge conflict of interest both in trying to satisfy his subscribers and keeping the lolly rolling in. It might also explain how he just has to keep going on and on and on. I know I do as well, but the nearest we can get to scientific truth is usually a good deal more dull and reassuring than John and others would like you to think. Outrage makes money.
Just for a giggle, my sad daily glimpse at the arch anti vaccine Mercola yielded this wonderful juxtaposition of madness. The main headline read “Dirty Rotten Liars, Tricking Us Into Global Slavery, an essay on a grim future being created by various “Thems”. So far so bad, but to have it followed immediately by the next headline which read Feel Younger with the finest source of collagen (yours for just $40/month for ever) just about says it all. Eating collagen to improve skin might seem like putting rubber in your fuel tank when your tyres are bald, but it has been shown to reduce wrinkles by 9% in women aged 40-60, thus creating a cash cow for the supplement industry who will sell it to anyone anytime who will part with their cash.
When facing the spectre of grim unremitting slavery and global depopulation, one really wants to look ones best.
Thanks again for getting this far. Any questions or comments will be gratefully received and answered as soon as I can.