By Richard Moskowitz MD
Hunkered down at home like everyone else, I feel blessed and deeply grateful to be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive and well among friends and loved ones, and to share these reflections on the present emergency, what led up to it, and where we may be headed with it. They fall into two general categories: first, it's the real thing, not a hoax; and second, there are plans to make long-term use of it in ways that are both seriously unhealthy and unacceptably repressive.
- It's the Real Thing.
In several respects, the illness we know as COVID-19 resembles and follows the pattern of the generic "flu syndrome" that the United States and much of the world experiences very year, notably in winter, consisting of various combinations of fever, fatigue, weakness, muscle aches, URI symptoms, and/or GI upset, and linked to an array of familiar viruses, including influenzas, coronaviruses, and others, as well as a definite risk of complicating bacterial and viral pneumonias, with tens of thousands of deaths in the US alone, according to the CDC.
These are considered par for the course, and not thought to require any quarantine, extreme social distancing, hand-washing, or any other emergency public health measures, other than the annual flu shot, which is said to be the only thing we need to protect ourselves, despite the facts that
1) the flu vaccine doesn't work well, because influenza viruses are notoriously mutable, even within the same season; and because
2) it doesn't even cover the other viruses responsible for "the flu;" and
3) the new coronavirus is actually more virulent in flu vaccine recipients.
In any case, the illness known as COVID-19 is more dangerous than the seasonal flu in several important respects. First, it is extremely contagious, more so even than the measles, which has an attack rate of nearly 100%, but can only spread by the sneezing and coughing of infected droplets through the air. This new strain of coronavirus remains infective for hours or even days on various surfaces after being deposited by hand contact, and is commonly spread that way as well, onto the hands of those who touch it and then carry it up to their nose and mouth.
Second, to an equally unprecedented extent, this virus very often, indeed most often, produces no symptoms and no illness at all, or one with mild symptoms that never needs medical attention. More so than for any other infectious disease, this means that measuring its true virulence and death rate, and accurately tracing the trajectory of the outbreak, depend on identifying and isolating these asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic cases, especially wherever significant clusters of the illness appear.
Containment has been accomplished quite effectively in countries with previous experience that were well-prepared with adequate testing materials, like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as in small communities, like one in northeastern Italy with a population of 3000, where in response to its first confirmed case an alert microbiologist tested and isolated the entire town, identified a large number of asymptomatic cases, and successfully brought the outbreak to a halt within a few weeks. Even a huge and populous country like China, notwithstanding a delay of several weeks when the government minimized it and tried to cover it up, eventually succeeded in containing the outbreak by enforcing strict quarantine of large segments of the population. In all of these cases, the outbreak lasted about 3 months, and has so far not reappeared since the restrictions were lifted.
The third distinctive feature of the outbreak, which is equally surprising in view of the large majority of cases with very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, has been the relatively small number of cases requiring hospitalization among children and healthy adults, and with deaths observed predominantly in the elderly and those weakened and immunocompromised with pre-existing chronic diseases, especially in nursing homes and extended-care facilities with residents in close contact.
A related finding is the distinctive "ground-glass" appearance of the lungs in many fatal cases at autopsy, with bronchioles and alveoli completely occluded by thick, tenacious mucus, which may help explain their often remarkably sudden deaths, sometimes with no advanced warning, even when the clinical picture had actually been improving. A fibrosing pneumonitis has also been identified as a chronic complication in some of those who survived.
So far, it has spread to all continents and many if not most countries around the world, most rapidly in developed countries with large, crowded urban centers, clustered in places where people typically congregate, and particularly among the elderly and the chronically ill, which has led to some uncertainty about how to define and properly calculate the death rate. In Northern Italy, for example, its unusually large proportion of old people has led a number of epidemiologists to distinguish between those dying with the virus and those dying from or because of it, even though the virus was clearly implicated to some degree in both. A similar ambiguity confuses our reporting of flu deaths, which typically includes those from the bacterial pneumonias that often complicate it.
In any case, COVID-19 clearly qualifies as a pandemic, having spread widely and rapidly throughout the globe. At the moment, the United States has become the epicenter of the outbreak, with the largest number of confirmed cases of any country so far, even as it appears to be receding in places that were maximally threatened before, like China, Italy, and Iran.
When the COVID-19 illness was first identified in January, the CDC seemed relatively unconcerned about it, while the President publicly downplayed its severity and the threat it posed to us, although we have since found out that he tried and failed buy the exclusive rights to the WHO-approved test kit from the German company that developed it, and then retaliated against them -- and us -- by refusing to order it from them when the virus went global.
As we saw, the resulting scarcity of test kits made it impossible to identify the asymptomatic and mildly ill cases, and thus contain the spread of the virus in its early phase, when it first appeared in small, scattered clusters of cases and might have been stopped in its tracks. Above all, the lack of organized, competent, and closely coördinated leadership at the national level has left states, municipalities, health centers, and individuals having to fend for themselves, which they have done quite splendidly and even heroically on the whole, with some notable exceptions.
In any case, we soon learned that the best we could hope for was "mitigation," i.e., slowing rather than arresting its spread, by staying home, avoiding large gatherings, social distancing from neighbors, handwashing, wiping down surfaces, and the like, which immediately led to panic buying of toilet paper, handiwipes, hand sanitizers, masks, and some food staples, followed by their disappearance from store shelves.
In rapid succession, the implementation of these measures then caused most non-emergency economic activity to grind to a halt, with closure of non-essential businesses, massive layoffs and loss of income, food shortages, widespread panic, and the dramatic plunging of the stock market to its lowest levels since President Trump took office, a ratings catastrophe which finally commandeered his attention to the extent of his grudging acceptance of the CDC's belated emergency measures.
Meanwhile, as the dramatic rise in confirmed cases threatens to outrun the availability of inpatient beds and ICU's, the lack of ventilators, masks, and protective garments has put doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers at high risk, such that many hospitals and clinics already are or may soon become short-staffed, while the continuing lack of adequate testing, and the resulting policy of testing only those who are sick, have prevented any accurate measurement of the death rate and the actual trajectory of the outbreak. As more tests become available, and more cases are discovered, we still don't know for sure whether and how far along we are on the upside or downside of the curve; and the more successful we are in slowing the spread and flattening the curve, the longer our emergency measures will have to last, since we won't know for sure that the outbreak is receding until more and more people are tested, and fewer and fewer are confirmed to be infected, which will clearly require many months at least, during which time many more thousands will fall ill and die.
- Beware of the long-term agenda that's likely to follow it.
Immunization Agenda 2030 envisions a world where everyone, everywhere, at every age, fully benefits from vaccines to improve health and well-being. -- WHO Prospectus
In recent years, the regular, predictable threat of seasonal flu-type viruses has been further exacerbated by the official agenda of our current Administration and its allies in Congress to defund and downsize the Federal civil service and the career professionals who staff its various agencies. In lieu of its traditional priorities of promoting good sanitation and protecting the environment from toxic products in our air, water, soil, food, and livestock, most of what's left of our public health infrastructure is packed into an originally independent agency, the CDC, which was created to oversee and regulate the health care system, especially the drug industry, but has become little more than a public-relations satellite of that industry.
Especially keen on promoting vaccines as their minimalist, cost-effective strategy for preventing infectious diseases, and, more recently, chronic diseases as well, the CDC, in addition to owning and profiting from a considerable number of them, promotes vaccines by rubber-stamping the industry's safety and efficacy trials, and appointing top industry executives to its advisory committees, while the industry returns the favor by offering CDC officials six-figure salaries and generous stock options to occupy those same executive positions. They've even managed to get a law passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court that absolves them of any legal or financial liability for the deaths and serious injuries that they cause, a free ride granted to no other industry.
Long before Trump was elected, more and more vaccines were manufactured, promoted, and eventually mandated for children; and the mounting outcry of more and more parents with vaccine-injured sons and daughters motivated both industry and the CDC to urge states to enforce their mandates ever more strictly, in order to vaccinate as many people against as many diseases as possible. After a small measles outbreak in 2016 spread from Disneyland visitors back to their home states, and again in 2019, when the CDC sounded the alarm over a larger-than-usual but still modest outbreak of measles nationwide, a carefully-orchestrated hysteria in the news media persuaded several states to pass stricter laws eliminating all non-medical exemptions, despite massive protests that continue to this day.
In October of 2019, this agitation provided the backdrop for a closed, unpublicized meeting in New York, organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, bringing together top executives and officials from CDC, the CIA, UPS, and various banks, hotels, airlines, drug companies, and news media. Drawing on the lingering memory of SARS, MERS, and the emergence of this new group of viruses in recent years, the organizers invited the participants to envision a massive coronavirus pandemic of global proportions, and to imagine what life would be like in the grip of it, a scenario uncannily similar in so many details to both the one that the Gates Foundation has been prophesying and warning us about for the past year or so, and the actual plague we are now living through.
They further stipulated that it would cause 65,000,000 deaths, and that the world economy would collapse as a result of it, with enduring effects that would last for many years, including massive disinformation and the imposition of widespread censorship to combat it. Finally, they theorized that it would last 18 months, and end only when an effective vaccine became available, or when 80-90% of the world population had been exposed to it, at which point it would presumably evolve into yet another endemic childhood disease, like the measles and other infections that we already vaccinate against.
Just two months later, as if right on cue, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China; and just two weeks after that, the World Economic Forum reconvened in Switzerland, together with the Director-General of WHO and many of the same participants as in New York. At this second meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation, a vaccine-making affiliate of the Gates Foundation, held a press conference to announce a global consortium for developing a vaccine against the virus as quickly as possible, yet another striking coincidence leading more than a few to speculate that they were already hard at work on it to get a leg up on the fierce competition that was sure to follow. Several days later, the WHO publicly declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic and global health emergency; and before long they officially subscribed to the same timetable and endpoint that the New York organizers had dreamed up, with the vaccine arriving on the scene as the deliverance that by then we'll all presumably be praying for.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the EU had been considering stricter enforcement of its own vaccine mandates, following massive demonstrations in the streets of Italy and France protesting the drastic loss of civil liberties that their existing laws would impose. Their latest proposals involve tracking personal data in order to deny driver's licenses and passports to any citizens who fail to comply with current vaccine requirements. The COVID-19 emergency has heightened the threat and controversy surrounding these issues still further, as in Denmark, where the legislature unanimously passed a resolution giving the government absolute power to enforce any public health measures deemed necessary to combat the outbreak, including quarantine and mass vaccination when it becomes available.
In the United States, likewise, with the CDC predicting a death toll in the hundreds of thousands, the twin prospects of emergency measures continuing for many months, and of the same or mutant strains of the virus returning even after the present outbreak has receded, might well provide the necessary conditions for the government and public health authorities to recommend and enact a new mandate for the coronavirus vaccine when it is thought ready, and to use our personal data to enforce it, with no exemptions of any kind, which would probably convince most people, including more than few who have opposed routine vaccine mandates in the past, to accept and indeed welcome this one, if not eventually relax their opposition to the others as well.
In this way, the present emergency has provided the CDC, the WHO, and the drug industry with the perfect opportunity to achieve their long-standing agenda of vaccinating everybody with everything, and of owning the personal data of every American to use for whatever doubtless worthy purpose they deem necessary or expedient, including the introduction of future vaccines now in the pipeline.
The first COVID-19 vaccine is already being tested on human volunteers without the preliminary animal trials that most epidemiologists insist upon. Even more alarming is the radically new strategy that it introduces, known as Immunoprophylaxis by Gene Transfer, or IGT, which has never before been tested or used in humans at all. Instead of introducing the virus into the blood and stimulating the immune system to make antibodies against it, like all other vaccines now in use, IGT delivers synthetic new genetic material that has been bioengineered to be resistant to the coronavirus and is then incorporated into the DNA or RNA of the host; it bioengineers our response to the virus, rather than the virus itself, by altering the genetic structure of the recipient. Even the people who accept this vaccine, with or without the others, may still balk at having some doubtless well-meaning hotshot monkeying around with their genes.
Nor is it by any means a trifling matter, even to those reconciled to the idea, to give the government unlimited access to our personal information in order to enforce it, a power rightly associated with police states, like Nazi Germany or Putin's Russia. To which the only possible answer is, our government already has it, and has been using it for some time, as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have shown. And even if we were to accept this intrusion as necessary to deal with this genuine public health emergency, most people in their right mind would oppose its being used on a permanent or routine basis, and would rightly suspect that our government, or indeed any government, once given access to it, will want to hold onto it once the emergency is over, and perhaps prolong the emergency long enough for the public to learn to accept it as a basic fact of life. This is my fear, beyond even what I know to be the downside of vaccination, which by now you're most likely tired of hearing me harangue about.
Dr. Moskowitz is a Family physician, semi-retired, living and working in the Boston area, and the author of Vaccines: a Reappraisal, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2017.