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An Open Letter to Dr. Francis Collins

Dr. Francis Collins, Director
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Dr. Collins:

In your interview yesterday with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday you rightly complained that “the evidence and the basis for making decisions on facts has gotten pushed aside by politics.” But you, sir, are as guilty as anyone of politicizing this disease by distorting the presentation of facts.

Numbers – quantitative facts – are meaningful only in proper context. Yet in this same interview with Wallace you ignored this reality when you announced that “more than 400 children [in America] have died of Covid-19,” and then concluded from this ‘fact’ that “the evidence” shows that Covid poses a great risk to children.


Ignore the fact (!) that the number of “deaths involving Covid-19” in America, as of August 11th, 2021, of persons under the age of 18 is reported by the CDC as 353; let’s take 400 as the correct number of children who’ve so far died of Covid. Aren’t you, as a public-health official, ashamed that you didn’t bother to observe that 400 children deaths from Covid is a paltry 0.76 percent of the total number of children deaths in America (52,672) over the same time period? Aren’t you embarrassed that you forgot to note that, over this same time period, the number of children in America whose deaths are classified as “involving pneumonia” is 859 – that is, more than double the number whose deaths are classified as “involving Covid-19”?

Are you not mortified that you neglected to say that the number of children who are killed each year in motor-vehicle accidents is multiple times higher than is the number who’ve died since January 2020 of Covid? Do you regret forgetting to reveal that in 2019 the number of children in the U.S. who died from cancerous tumors was, at 1,060, more than 150 percent higher than is the number who have so far died of Covid? (These data are available here.) And are you not overwhelmed with remorse that you said not a word about the number of children (and adults) who’ll die unnecessarily of cancer and other non-Covid illnesses because of treatment delays sparked by disproportionate fears of Covid – disproportionate fears that you consistently stoke?

You’re no longer promoting public health; Dr. Collins; you’re peddling panic porn – which has become a lethal collective addiction.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030