The United States made multiple mistakes in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including widespread lockdowns and the aggressive promotion of faulty vaccines, experts testified to a new congressional panel on Feb. 28.
“During the last three years, we have seen the worst public health mistakes in history,” Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine on leave from Harvard University, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in Washington.
The mistakes included not crafting policies focused on protecting those highest at risk—the elderly and otherwise infirm—and the denial and downplaying of post-infection immunity, Kulldorff said.
He and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, are two of three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which called in 2020 for focused protection of those at high risk while allowing others to live their lives normally.
Instead, U.S. officials backed harsh restrictions like the forced closure of schools and businesses, as well as the mandated vaccination of tens of millions of Americans.
Bhattacharya told the panel that there needs to be an “honest, scientifically-minded evaluation” of the pandemic response, asserting that “there is near universal agreement that what we did failed.”
He pointed to how more than one million deaths in the United States have been attributed to COVID-19 and how the overwhelming majority of Americans still contracted the illness.
The lockdowns “failed to contain the spread of COVID,” he said. “At best, they temporarily protected the laptop class who could work from home without losing their jobs, perhaps 30 percent of the population, while being served by the working class.”
“The way we dealt with the pandemic was the worst assault on poor people, working Americans, and middle-class Americans since segregation and the Vietnam War,” Kulldorff said.
Dr. Marty Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University, said making toddlers wear masks, pushing for healthy, young people to get boosters, and telling people to “wash their hands like crazy” were among the issues he sees as having unfolded.
The trio was called as witnesses by Republicans, who control the House and chair each panel.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a doctor who chairs the subcommittee, said in opening remarks that the panel is going to investigate the pandemic response.
Decisions like sending COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, vaccine mandates, and shutting down schools “will be investigated thoroughly,” he said, adding, “The American people deserve to know and understand how and why these impactful decisions were made.”
Democrats called Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, as their witness.
Benjamin asserted that lockdowns “saved lives.” He said that focusing on protecting the elderly would have “put more people at risk.”
The others noted that the lockdowns led to delayed medical appointments, a rise in suicides, and other negative effects.
“We were thinking short term instead of long term. Yes, you can do lockdowns and reduce short-term infections of COVID. But that has long-term consequences,” Kulldorff said.
He noted that Sweden, which largely adopted the strategy outlined in the declaration, ended up faring well, with fewer excess deaths than many other countries.
Denial of Natural Immunity
Data on the strength of post-infection immunity, or natural immunity, emerged shortly after the pandemic started; but that didn’t stop the federal government, universities, and other entities from requiring the naturally immune to get vaccinated.
The experts lamented the widespread denial and downplaying of natural immunity, including how U.S. officials repeatedly declined to alter guidance to specify that the naturally immune should receive no or fewer vaccine doses.
Makary noted how Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top officials gathered in secret to hold a vote on whether natural immunity should count as one or more doses, and after a two–two vote, opted to continue as they were.
The lack of recognition of natural immunity “eroded trust” in public health, said Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), a doctor.
Kulldorff said that forcing children to get the COVID-19 vaccine has undermined trust in other shots like the measles vaccine.
“During the last several decades, the ‘never vaccinate’ people, the anti-vaccine people have tried to undermine the trust in vaccines but with very little success,” he said. “But the vaccine fanatics who want to vaccinate every person in this country—even though they have very little risk … even though they’ve already had COVID—that has undermined the trust in other vaccines enormously, creating enormous vaccine hesitancy.”
Adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the routine vaccination schedule was another mistake, Bhattacharya said.
“Putting the vaccine on the childhood schedule, this vaccine where there’s deep distrust, essentially sends a signal to the American public that these [vaccines] are equivalent to the polio vaccine, the measles vaccine, the DPT vaccine, all of which are absolutely essential for the health of children,” he said. “If putting this on the childhood schedule decreases the uptake of those, then we’ll look back on this as a seminal mistake in American public health.”
From The Epoch Times