In their essay “Covid-19 and the new merchants of doubt” (BMJ Opinion, 9/13/21, https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/09/13/covid-19-and-the-new-merchants-of-d…), Gavin Yamey and David Gorski present themselves as defenders of sound scientific principles in the face of “denialism” related to the Covid-19 pandemic. These authors specifically target the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), and the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) as sources of what they imply is a misinformation campaign about the efficacy of Covid-19 public health measures. Unfortunately, it seems to us that Yamey and Gorski have misrepresented both the GBD and AIER.
We write to set the record straight.
In October 2020, AIER hosted a small academic conference on the costs and consequences of lockdowns with three highly qualified medical scientists, Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya. These scientists received no compensation for their participation, which came about due to a mutual recognition that the medical, social, and economic harms of lockdowns were being neglected as countries around the world pursued an aggressive lockdown strategy. At the time the evidence of the efficacy of lockdowns was being debated (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.22.20160341v3). This novel approach conflicted with existing public health recommendations for respiratory pandemics from as recently as 2019 (https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/pubs_archive/pubs-pdfs/…, https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/pubs_archive/pubs-pdfs/…, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329438/9789241516839-en…).
During the conference, journalists including science writer David Zweig, Forbes’ John Tamny, and Jeanne Lenzer, who reported it for The BMJ (https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3908), conducted a wide-ranging question and answer session with the scientists, which AIER videotaped for release to the public (https://gbdeclaration.org/video/). At the conclusion of the conference, the scientists drafted the GBD as a general statement of public health principles, calling for an end to lockdowns and outlining an alternative strategy of “focused protection” for vulnerable communities (https://gbdeclaration.org/focused-protection/). While AIER is proud to have hosted the conference that produced this document, its text and principles originated entirely with the scientists – indeed, the idea for a general letter came about spontaneously on the afternoon of October 4 as the conference drew to a close.
Yamey and Gorski’s allegations of fossil fuel and tobacco company interests in AIER are unfounded. These stem from their misunderstanding of AIER’s financial assets as independently managed by our investment subsidiary, American Investment Services. As with any investment fund, these holdings inevitably include stocks from hundreds of companies, none of which have any bearing on our editorial positions. This would be akin to suggesting that Yamey’s own pro-lockdown position is tainted by Duke University’s multi-billion dollar foundation – built from the tobacco fortune of James Buchanan Duke – or that Gorski’s medical work is ethically compromised by the presence of fossil fuel stocks in Wayne State University’s $400 million endowment. To portray either as a source of financial influence appears to display a misunderstanding of the very nature of investments, which are a way of ensuring an institution’s long-term financial stability – not a payoff from the firms whose stocks are owned.
Are financial theories about AIER and the GBD really where these authors want to hang their hats? For the record, AIER publishes its own financial reports every year (https://www.aier.org/financials/). Anyone who wants to see where the money comes from, or where it goes can simply navigate to our website and do so. There are no tricks. There is no deception.
Phillip W. Magness
Senor Research Faculty & Interim Director of Research and Education
American Institute for Economic Research
James R. Harrigan
American Institute for Economic Research
So, what is driving the chaos? Government, along with union chokeholds, environmental and labor mandates on truckers, mandates on supply chain workers across the board, crony trade restrictions, and excessive unemployment benefits, nationwide, but especially in California.
Remember, too, that this is all before Biden’s vaccine mandates kick in. California truckers, in particular, have been socked by the state’s notorious AB 5 law restricting gig workers and independent contractors, combined with truck emission mandates introduced just last year that can mean tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Many truckers have already decamped to greener pastures in friendlier states. Finally, crony trade restrictions like the century-old Jones Act can actually make it cheaper to import from China than to ship goods domestically, knocking internal shipping as an option.
Over one million children are facing increased restrictions as rising Covid cases mean some schools have closed early for half-term.
Seventeen local authorities in England are now recommending more stringent rules, affecting 1,098,349 pupils at 3,250 schools, analysis by The Telegraph has found.
Indiana University School of Medicine’s Steve Templeton decries the politicization of immunology. Here’s his conclusion:
Both immunity to vaccination and infection protect against severe disease, but the scope of immunity that develops after infection is broader, generally more durable, and more specific to lung reinfection. Stronger immunity derived from infection comes with increased risk of severe disease and a higher incidence of long-term effects, especially in older people and those with comorbidities.
Despite the obvious downsides, misinformation about the inferiority of “natural” immunity to vaccination persists, likely out of fear that data showing long-lasting protective immunity from infection will promote vaccine hesitancy. However, the pandemic will not end due to vaccination alone, but due to a combination of vaccine-acquired and infection-acquired immunity, despite the unwillingness of politicians, scientists, and public health officials to admit it.