Dr. John Ioannidis once proclaimed “science is the best thing that has happened to human beings … but we can do it better.”
As one of the most cited physician scientists in the world, Dr. Ioannidis is known to have advanced “metascience” which is the use of scientific methodology to study science itself.
Here is what he had to say when asked about the pushback he received for his views on Covid-19:
“I welcome academic discourse and disagreement. I have no doubt that I know very little and that I make mistakes, but I am just trying to learn a bit more and to make fewer mistakes, if possible. I consider that people who criticize me with valid scientific arguments are my greatest benefactors. But the outrage propagated by social media is a force of its own, and destroys any intelligent discourse, civil or uncivil. Once the outrage gets going, platforms for academic discourse censor and the discourse just doesn’t happen. I was unable to publish my essay about nosocomial spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and hospitals. I submitted to many outlets. I suspect the editors feared social media backlash against my raising an uncomfortable issue. Fear isn’t healthy for science.”
Nosocomial infections that Dr. Ioannidis was referring to are new infections that are acquired in a hospital setting. It is now known that unfortunate errors occurred early on during the pandemic which resulted in more deaths. For example, a major policy blunder that occurred in New York as well as Quebec led to Covid-19 patients being sent back to their nursing homes, resulting in more outbreaks. The question we must ask is whether focusing too much on the whole population, including low risk groups, resulted in a loss of focus, attention and resources where they were needed the most. After all, the majority of deaths occurred in long-term care facilities.
“In our approach to controlling coronavirus we made no distinction between teenagers partying on beaches in Florida and debilitated, frail residents living in congested nursing homes in NYC. Our uniform approach was neither scientific nor safe.” Dr. Ioannidis.
When it was announced that 81% of deaths in Canada were occurring in long term care facilities, it should not have been controversial to suggest that 81% of our resources, social media outcry, and focus should have gone to these homes. By focusing on the public at large we risked lowering the level of protection for our most vulnerable population, while increasing the suffering that general lockdowns cause to people who are at very low risk for Covid-19.
It is becoming clearer each day that this virus is acting more as an agent of death than as a cause of death, and the weaknesses that allowed it to destroy lives have been a long time in the making. Improving our overall state of health while protecting our most vulnerable is the path forward most supported by the evidence. And while I agree with the Prime Minister of Quebec, Mr. Legault, who suggested that we should take it easy during the holidays and take more naps, I also believe that at some point we do need to wake up.
Naturopath, Health Educator
Nutrition & Exercise Specialist
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