A BLOG ABOUT SCIENCE IN A WORLD OF UNTRUE FACTS.

Fact-Checking Plandemic

By Kristen Panthagani

I have been getting questions about the scientific claims in the Plandemic video going around, so I watched it. Here are my thoughts for anyone who is interested.

 

Claim: Wearing masks and staying home hurts the immune system because it reduces your microbiome (implying that people are in immunological danger by staying home and/or wearing masks).

This is square in my area of expertise (the microbiome and how it interacts with the immune system) and this claim is total rubbish. First: where this claim is probably coming from — there are some data to suggest that microbial exposures in early life (like exposures to the microbes on pets, farms, etc.) play a role in shaping your microbiome in ways that might help the immune system function better. And it’s also true that your microbiome plays a role in regulating your immune system (part of my thesis!) What’s not true is that your microbiome is so fragile that staying home or wearing a mask is going to somehow severely mess it up. The microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria and other microbes that primarily reside in a person’s gut and is relatively stable over time to all sorts of things. Putting a mask on for a couple of hours to go grocery shopping is not going to hurt the bacteria in your colon. And staying at home is not going to deplete your microbiome or somehow make you immunocompromised — the bacteria in your gut aren’t going away just because you didn’t leave the house today. They’re going to keep doing their thing inside of you, even at home. (And if you’re really worried about getting enough microbial exposures, know that your house is full of microbes! Microbes are everywhere.) Diet is the thing that is known to have a big impact on your microbiome (what you eat, your microbiome eats), so if you really want to do something nice for your gut microbes this quarantine, eat a healthy diet.

 

Claim: Wearing a mask reactivates your own viruses.

There are no data suggesting that wearing a mask reactivates viruses in your body, this is biologically implausible.

 

Claim: People should be going to the beach because there are healing microbes in the ocean.

While the ocean is pretty great, there are no healing properties of microbes in the ocean that can be transferred by swimming in it. Yes, if you go swimming in the ocean it will probably change your skin microbiome for a little while (as would showering, rolling in the mud, or letting a pack of Labrador puppies lick you from head to toe), but any changes to your skin microbiome from a day trip to the ocean are unlikely to have a significant health effect, nor are they something you are in dire need of during a pandemic.

 

Claim: “There is no vaccine currently on the [vaccine] schedule for any RNA virus that works.”

This is false: we have effective vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, poliovirus, influenza, and yellow fever, all of which are RNA viruses.

 

Claim: It is clear the virus (SARS-CoV-2) was manipulated in a laboratory, if it was from natural occurrence it would take up to 800 years to occur, but this occurred from SARS-1 within a decade.

This is false, she seems to not understands how novel zoonotic viruses occur. There is no reason to assume that SARS-CoV-2 directly evolved from the SARS-1 virus. There are lots of novel coronaviruses circulating in animal populations, and SARS-CoV-2 likely occurred due to a recombination event (genetic shuffling) between two of these viruses (genetic evidence suggests it may be derived from a bat coronavirus that recombined with a pangolin coronavirus). But what are the chances of this happening? Because there are so many different viruses circulating in animals, and so many random chance encounters and recombination events, the chances of it happening are small (which is why we don’t have a pandemic every year) but not infinitesimal (maybe once in 10-100 years). Just like if you flip 25 quarters every minute for 100 years, chances are that at least once they will all turn up heads. Scientists have known the potential for a novel coronavirus strain coming into the human population for years, which is why this pandemic was not a surprise for many. Check out A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence published in Nature Medicine in 2015.

 

Claim: COVID-19 deaths counts are skewed, if her husband who has COPD were to die, because COPD causes fibrosis in the lungs, his lungs would look like the lungs of someone with COVID-19.

No — COPD and COVID-19 are very different diseases. Please remember that doctors spend years learning how to tell apart all sorts of diseases, including the difference between infections (COVID-19) and chronic inflammation (COPD). They have more tools than just the coronavirus test to figure out who may have COVID-19 and who doesn’t (like thermometers, CT imaging, etc.) While it’s almost certain that our death count isn’t perfectly accurate, we do know that all-cause mortality has increased dramatically during the pandemic. (Check out 63,000 Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Outbreak in the NYTimes for data.) So while it’s likely that some cases were not accurately counted, it is undeniable that way more people than normal are dying right now.

 

Claim: At the beginning of 2019, Italy got an untested new form of the influenza vaccine that had four different strains of influenza including the highly pathogenic H1N1. That vaccine was grown in a cell line, a dog cell line, dogs have lots of coronaviruses, and that’s why they’re not testing [for SARS-CoV-2] there [in Italy]. You could just say oh it was that.

It is confusing what she is alleging here. I think she is basically saying that Italy got COVID-19 through the flu vaccine? This is impossible, because it didn’t exist at the time she said the vaccine was given (and in this scenario, cases should have started showing up shortly after the vaccine was given, not months later). Or maybe she was saying that because there was allegedly other coronaviruses in the flu vaccine, that made people at higher risk of getting SARS-CoV-2? This also doesn’t make any sense; there is no reason to think that being exposed to other coronaviruses would make people at higher risk for getting SARS-CoV-2 (if anything, it would likely make no difference or be protective). Or maybe she is saying that people in Italy don’t actually have SARS-CoV-2, they actually have other strains of coronaviruses that they got through the flu vaccine? This is also inaccurate, because the other common circulating strains of coronaviruses are not nearly as dangerous as SARS-CoV-2 and don’t kill thousands of people over the course of a couple weeks. Also it’s not true that they’re not testing for COVID-19 in Italy, they have done thousands of SARS-CoV-2 tests. Finally, it is exceedingly unlikely that vaccines are contaminated with viruses… this would be a basic quality and control step to make sure there’s not contamination.

 

Claim: Because we have data suggesting hydroxychloroquine works against other viruses, we should treat that as evidence it will work against SARS-CoV-2. “It’s not storytelling [anecdotal evidence] if we have thousands of pages of data saying it’s effective against these families of viruses.”

Nope, SARS-CoV-2 is obviously very different than other viruses, even viruses in the same family. I’m not sure what “thousands of pages of data” she is referring to, but regardless, there is no guarantee that a drug that works against one virus will work against another. This is why any drug we are considering for SARS-CoV-2 (including hydroxychloroquine) has to be properly tested in SARS-CoV-2 patients (and there have been lots of studies right doing just that.) (Btw, hydroxychloroquine is primarily used to treat malaria, which is not caused by a virus. Not even close.)

 

Claim: Doctors are giving the wrong treatment to patients without COVID-19 (putting them on ventilators), which is killing them, so that doctors can get medicare payments for coding COVID-19 treatment (I think implying this is partly why the COVID-19 death counts are so high.)

Think about this accusation for a second… this isn’t an accusation that some CEO is doing something shady for money, it’s accusing doctors all across the country of purposefully giving the wrong treatment, which is then killing people, so their hospitals can get a few more thousand dollars of medicare payments. No. (Btw falsely assigning a COVID-19 diagnosis would be medicare fraud, and doctors who did this would lose their license to practice.)

 

I did my best to summarize the scientific claims in the video by considering what was said explicitly and what was implied based on the context. If anyone sees claims from the video that they think I summarized inaccurately, please comment, and if your argument is reasonable, I will edit the post. It is not my goal to take things spoken in the video out of context, that does not help anyone.

 

Check out this post or this post or this post for some more fact-checking of the Plandemic video.

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