Emails Reveal That Anthony Fauci And Ex-NIH Director Francis Collins Shut Down Differing Views Among American Scientific Community On Covid-19 Response

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 27, 2021 04:59 PM +05:30 IST
Emails Reveal That Anthony Fauci And Ex-NIH Director Francis Collins Shut Down Differing Views Among American Scientific Community On Covid-19 ResponseDr Anthony Fauci.
Snapshot
  • The 'Great Barrington Declaration' was a statement against lockdown measures endorsed by scientists, including a Nobel laureate.

    Emails that have recently come to light reveal that Fauci and Collins worked to quash the views in the declaration and even discredit the scientists who supported it.

As Omicron triggers new healthcare threats around the world, in the United States, recently obtained emails through a Freedom of Information Act request — made by the American Institute for Economic Research in the fall of 2020 — revealed what is believed to be concerning exchange between Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Francis Collins, MD, and former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The ‘Great Barrington Declaration’, an open letter, was issued in October 2020 and signed by thousands of scientists, including a Nobel Prize winner. It contends that Covid-19 policy should prioritise the protection of the aged and vulnerable while reopening society and schools for the general public.

In an email, dated 8 October 2020, Collins wrote addressing Fauci and others that the ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ from the “three fringe epidemiologists who met with the Secretary seems to be getting a lot attention — and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Levitt at Stanford. There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises. I don’t see anything like that online yet — is it underway”.

Collins appeared on television to affirm that the email was genuine and that he stood by his words. He thought the Great Barrington Declaration's philosophy of targeted protection would result in more deaths than the opposite position of one-size-fits-all restrictions at the time. Collins also reiterated his belief that the declaration's three writers were "fringe" scientists.

Collins wrote that email in October 2020, a time when there was a lot of uncertainty. Pfizer's continuing vaccine trials were still four weeks away from yielding positive results. Many Americans were fed up with continual restrictions, whether imposed by the government or enforced by themselves.

The Great Barrington Declaration and the John Snow Memorandum, two competing texts, were released and received thousands of signatures. The proclamation urged for targeted protection and the restoration of the normalcy of many people. Meanwhile, long-term one-size-fits-all restrictions were supported in the memorandum.

According to Wall Street Journal, Fauci responded to Collins’ email by saying that the takedown had already begun.

Spotlight On Fauci

Fauci’s position and point-of-view have raised questions in the United States.

Earlier too, Fauci has been accused of flip-flopping decisions, especially regarding mask usage. He clarified in a June 2021 interview: “[earlier in pandemic] We were told that there was a shortage of PPE and masks, and we felt that we don’t want to take it away from others. Secondly, there was no data meta-analysis at the time that masks were effective outside of the hospital setting. And then three, importantly, we didn’t fully realize how pervasive asymptomatic spread was.”

“So what changed. It was clear there was no shortage of masks, cloth masks work, meta-analysis showed that in fact even outside of the hospital settings masks work. [Then] We were hit with the realization that anywhere from 50 to 60 per cent of transmissions occur from asymptomatic people. That’s the reason why we went from saying ‘you don’t really need to wear a mask’ to ‘you should really wear a mask’”, he said.

A Scientific Solution Through Discussion

The worrisome fact about the email from Collins to Fauci and back clearly indicates that he was unwilling to engage in the conversation with other experts who were labelled as “fringe” scientists.

Vinay Prasad MD MPH is a hematologist-oncologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco said, “Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, and I called for dialogue and debate among scientists without demonization in April 2020. I’m disappointed to see a few months later that the NIH director, a man uniquely positioned to foster such a debate, had actively sought to thwart and discredit scientists with alternative ideas to the pandemic response.”

Prasad wrote that Collins’ “ad-hominem comment that the authors were ‘fringe’ was unnecessary and unhelpful.”

According to him, in the weeks that followed, more dirt was thrown at the Authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, as well as experts who held opposing policy views and advocated for greater and harsher restrictions. He said that “the vitriol ensured that the country would not have the dialogue it so desperately needed”.

“Had Collins, a man who has contributed greatly to science, chosen dialogue instead of contributing to animosity and combativeness, we might have been in a better place today,” he added.

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