Friends, I Beg You: Stop Passing on Covid Information You’re Not Qualified to Understand
I recently posted on Facebook about getting my second Oxford AstraZeneca jab. As you may know, my wife has been the Lead Statistician on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and I’ve seen close-up the exhausting work done and sacrifices made by medical researchers getting this and other Covid-19 vaccines into the world.
Along with congratulations, the Facebook post attracted a now expected degree of push back from those convinced Covid vaccines are either unnecessary, ‘proven’ to bring harm or death, or part of a covert governmental or big pharma conspiracy involving the mass coverup of adverse reaction and other data. (Others weren’t into the conspiracies but had just been spooked by things they’d read and watched online.)
I’ve spent hours fact-checking many of these claims. Let me hone in on one to explain the severity of the problem we’re facing.
One thing I heard numerous times in comments and DMs was that a drug called Ivermectin had already been ‘proven’ to prevent and cure Covid-19, but the World Health Organisation, America’s CDC and FDA, Australia’s TGA, media organisations and governments were suppressing this knowledge due to the power of big pharmaceutical companies on the medical world. On looking into it, two problems became apparent:
Misunderstanding. Ivermectin, it turned out, was being researched as a potential treatment for Covid-19, not a preventative vaccine. A vaccine helps you not get a virus, a treatment helps when you’ve got it. This rookie-error distinction had been missed by those promoting the claim.
Overstatement. Those researchers looking into Ivermectin’s efficacy as a treatment, like Andrew Hill at the University of Liverpool, all stressed its early positive results were tentative and that it was no replacement for a vaccine. Some of the studies they drew upon hadn’t been peer reviewed, and more thorough research was required. This was also ignored or misunderstood by those who perpetuated the ‘Ivermectin is being suppressed’ story.
And Now This…
And now news has broken that a key study of Ivermectin’s efficacy as a Covid-19 treatment, one foundational to other studies, has been found to be not just flawed but fabricated. All those agencies awaiting further proof were always right to wait, and more than they realised. There was no conspiracy.
(An independent study by Oxford University is underway on Ivermectin and Covid-19, so its effectiveness as a treatment may still be proven. But to date it hasn’t been, and certainly not as a vaccine replacement.)
While scores of sites have promoted the Ivermectin-Covid myth, I’m calling out the Canberra Declaration website for perpetuating these and other errors amongst the Australian Christian community, and the granddaddy of all Covid vaccine misinformation sites, ‘America’s Frontline Doctors’ (a QAnon-influenced anti-vax group) among the US community and beyond.
The Problem as I See it
Here’s the problem with much of the conversation going on: Too many of us are taking on the task of interpreting medical and public health data and procedures we have no knowledge about. Are you qualified to interpret medical papers and research findings? Do you know the difference between a meta-analysis and a randomised control trial, and when one is used versus the other? I’m not, and I don’t, but I happen to married to someone who is and does.
I’m not here to convince you to get a vaccine (please note, there isn’t just one. When accusations are made against ‘the vaccine’ without reference to whether OxfordAZ, Pfizer, Jannsen or Moderna is being discussed, even more confusion follows).
I am however, begging us all to stop claiming to be immunologists, vaccinologists, public health experts and medical statisticians. And I’m begging us to stop passing on information we don’t have the expertise to verify.
Leave these conversations to the qualified.
Lives are at stake.