Former NIH Head Admits to ‘Narrowminded’ Pandemic Response
Last week, reports surfaced that Dr. Francis Collins, the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the COVID pandemic and the current science advisor to President Biden, admitted at an event earlier last year that some government health officials had a “narrow view” of how to make public health decisions during the pandemic. Virologists such as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya are pointing out that the admission is further vindication for their initially scorned arguments against widespread lockdowns.
On October 4, 2020, in the midst of widespread school and business closures across America, which were often mandated by state governments, a group of 46 medical doctors from around the world signed an open letter known as the “Great Barrington Declaration” which argued for a “Focused Protection” approach that would keep schools and businesses open and allow society go about its days while also advising the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus to stay home. As the letter stated, “We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young.” The authors noted that their approach would allow society to reach herd immunity through natural infection, which has close to a 99% survival rate.
Even though the letter was led by three distinguished epidemiologists, including Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, as well as dozens of medical experts from around the world, it was immediately lambasted by White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci as “unscientific, dangerous and ‘total nonsense.’” Major news media outlets soon followed suit in dismissing the declaration. It was later discovered that Fauci and Collins “worked behind the scenes to impose a ‘devastating takedown’ of the Declaration and its highly respected epidemiologist authors.” In addition, Bhattacharya as well as dozens of other experts who spoke against widespread lockdowns were censored and shadow-banned by Twitter.
As feared by the experts who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, as a result of widespread school and business closures and lockdowns, America experienced massive learning loss, the permanent closure of hundreds of thousands of businesses, millions of lost jobs, and approximately 200,000 excess deaths in 2020 and 2021 that may have been avoided without lockdowns.
On Tuesday, Bhattacharya joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss his reaction to Collins’s admission of “narrowmindedness.”
“It’s not surprising that he would have some regrets,” he observed. “Anyone that has any amount of intellectual honesty about the failure of our pandemic response and the devastating harms that it has done to the poor, to the working class, to the vulnerable, would say that that was the case. The issue then is what [is] to be done about it now. If you listen between the lines … he just wants to move on as if nothing really happened. He doesn’t really apologize. He wants to pretend like what we were proposing at the time was somehow still ‘dangerous.’ He even says that in that interview.”
Bhattacharya went on to express concern that despite public acknowledgment of the failure of the pandemic response, it may very well happen all over again.
“I’m afraid, Tony, that the situation we find ourselves in is that there’s pretty widespread agreement that our pandemic response was an utter failure, but that the people that designed and implemented it, people like Francis Collins that … abuse their power to conduct devastating takedowns of scientists that disagree with them, they’re giving themselves awards, pats on the back, and they’ve sort of cemented in place the architecture of the lockdowns that they implemented. And when another pandemic happens, we will do it again.”
Bhattacharya further catalogued a litany of societal damage caused by lockdown policies. “[C]ountless children … lost their birthright to an education, especially poor and minority kids. You look at the learning loss numbers, depression at tremendous levels in young people, cancer diagnoses that were delayed [and] people dying of cancer that should have been picked up with screening earlier, heart attack rates from people that stayed home instead of going to the doctor when they should have … [and] the countless millions of people [around the world] who starved as a consequence of the economic dislocation caused by lockdowns.”
As to what the public can do to help avoid a repeat of what happened in 2020-21 if another pandemic happens, Bhattacharya strongly encouraged voters to fully vet the pandemic policy positions of candidates who are running for public office.
“I think it is very, very important that every single public official be asked, ‘What would you do in the next pandemic?’” he underscored. “‘Would you engage in censorship? Would you rely only on high-level science bureaucrats with conflicts of interest, or would you include a broader set of voices? Would you respect the American First Amendment? Would you put healthy people in quarantine without any recourse? Would you close churches? Would you close schools?’ [Ask them what they would] do during the next pandemic and then vote accordingly. Because if you don’t hear a solid commitment to a much better response, one that respects liberties and respects rights, … then you should just vote for somebody else.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.