By David M. Greenwald
Nashville-based conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine was like any number of skeptics. On his program, he repeatedly downplayed the importance of getting a vaccine. He proclaimed that he believed his personal odds of dying from Covid-19 were “probably way less than one percent.”
In a July 13 message, he wrote: “Well, the first day back went according to plan. Got feeling better and better during the course of the show.”
He continued: “The good news is there are some very effective alternatives to the vaccine.” His recommendation: “Have a doctor on speed dial who will write you a prescription for ivermectin. Then you’re ready to go.”
He did add: “If you’re high risk of dying from COVID, I still strongly suggest you consider the vaccine, but this (is) totally your choice. Just make sure you’re prepared if you decide against the vaccine.”
However, Valentine then took a turn for the worse. By late July, his family announced that Valentine had been hospitalized in “very serious condition” and was suffering from “Covid pneumonia and the attendant side effects.”
His tune changed.
“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” his brother Mark Valentine wrote on July 22.
“He recognizes now that him not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated,” he said in the interview. “And that he regrets.
“This is a real threat, it is a real public health crisis and it is something that if he had to do over again … his cavalier attitude wouldn’t have been what it was and he would have gotten vaccinated and encouraged everybody to get vaccinated,” he added.
The right-wing, for reasons that remain unclear, has been vaccine reluctant—even though Trump pushed through the vaccine and trumpeted it as a major administrative achievement. The right has instead pushed alternative treatments like ivermectin.
But last month, the push for that drug received a major setback when the main study that suggested ivermectin as a treatment against the virus was withdrawn due to “ethical concerns.”
The study, conducted by Dr. Ahmed Elgazzar from Benha University in Egypt, was published on the Research Square website in November.
It claimed to be a randomized controlled study.
The study found that patients with Covid-19 treated in the hospital who “received ivermectin early reported substantial recovery” and that there was “a substantial improvement and reduction in mortality rate in ivermectin treated groups,” by 90%.
But the study was pulled reportedly “due to ethical concerns.”
Research Square did not outline what those concerns were.
According to an article in the Guardian, “A medical student in London, Jack Lawrence, was among the first to identify serious concerns about the paper, leading to the retraction. He first became aware of the Elgazzar preprint when it was assigned to him by one of his lecturers for an assignment that formed part of his master’s degree. He found the introduction section of the paper appeared to have been almost entirely plagiarised.”
They noted: “It appeared that the authors had run entire paragraphs from press releases and websites about ivermectin and Covid-19 through a thesaurus to change key words.
“Humorously, this led to them changing ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome’ to ‘extreme intense respiratory syndrome’ on one occasion,” Lawrence said.
It’s actually worse than that. According to the Guardian, “Lawrence contacted an Australian chronic disease epidemiologist from the University of Wollongong, Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, and a data analyst affiliated with Linnaeus University in Sweden who reviews scientific papers for errors, Nick Brown, for help analysing the data and study results more thoroughly.”
“The main error is that at least 79 of the patient records are obvious clones of other records,” Brown told the Guardian. “It’s certainly the hardest to explain away as innocent error, especially since the clones aren’t even pure copies. There are signs that they have tried to change one or two fields to make them look more natural.”
This is what you are trumpeting as your alternative to the vaccine?
The real problem here is people still are not taking COVID seriously enough. They will often point to the relatively low death rate and the disproportionate impact on people who are older or who have other immuno-compromised. But in a way that makes the disease more insidious.
Every time we have relaxed our guard, case rates have exploded. Cases which were around 14,000 per day in early July are now at 150,000 over the weekend. That’s more than a tenfold increase. The death rate is ramping up as well, as 1000 people died yesterday in the US.
Vaccines and better treatment options are probably holding down the death rate slightly, but, as I have pointed out, death is still a lagging, not leading, indicator.
The NY Times tracks the daily rates—the case rate has only increased by 36 percent over the last two weeks, a sign that perhaps the spread is slowing down, but the death rate is up 95 percent, nearly double what it was two weeks ago.
I have said this for the last 18 months now—people need to take this more seriously. Phil Valentine didn’t and he did not live to truly regret his decision.