As a doctor, I am not usually moved to write articles, but an episode in the media this week has changed that. And my turn to penmanship has been inspired, solely, by RTÉ’s Claire Byrne, and an interview she conducted this week.
She was interviewing Sam McConkey (again) who you know is an Infectious Disease ‘Expert’ that has been rolled out across Irish media with such frequency that it is difficult to see how he also finds the time to practice Infectious Disease Medicine. I would have thought that our front-line workers deserved all the practical help they could get during this Pandemic.
Anyway, what was notable, and indeed remarkable, was that Prof. McConkey (and Claire Byrne) both denied knowing who Prof. John Ioannidis was. Prof. John Ioannidis’s title at Stanford University is Professor of Medicine (Stanford Prevention Research), of Epidemiology and Population Health, and by courtesy, of statistics and of biomedical data science.
Even I, a humble doctor, know that Prof. Ioannidis is widely regarded as the greatest Epidemiologist in the World not to mention one of the most published Doctors in the history of Medicine. He has been very involved in the Covid-19 story around the World and his peer reviewed work has been published far and wide.
That one of the ‘Experts’ that has commanded the airwaves in Ireland over the last 12 months (and who, amongst others, provided wildly exaggerated predictions of over 100,000 deaths during the initial epidemic phase of the virus) claims not to know who Professor Ioannidis is, is not plausible. It is like asking me to believe Eamon Dunphy does not know who Lionel Messi is.
It is troubling, too, because there are only two possible explanations:
-Sam is being dishonest about not knowing who the Professor is – in which case why?
-Sam genuinely does not know — in which case this is extremely worrying as many of my non medical friends and family know who he is, and someone of Sam’s stature should know his work off by heart.
And by the way, whatever about Sam McConkey, Claire Byrne as a leading broadcaster during the Pandemic clearly does not know who one of the leading researchers on Covid in the World is. That is remarkable.
This one-sided narrative that the Irish population has been subjected to over the last 12 months hardly speaks to balanced broadcasting or Journalism. On a nightly basis we are subjected to members of ISAG and their external advisors such as Gabriel Scally who (by their own admission as evidenced by the Gript.ie e-mail leaks) have intentionally tried to increase anxiety and stress in the Irish population through the induction of fear.
After being subjected to the Longest, Hardest and most degrading Lockdown in the World (words of the International Media), I think the Irish Population (now that the at-risk group from Covid are largely vaccinated) deserve a break, or at least some balance in the debate. There are multiple World experts you could draw on (I would suggest Prof. Jay Bhattarcharya for one) and the wonderful work they have accomplished using a ‘Focused Protection’ strategy in Florida (and Texas, and approximately 1/2 of US States) who have seen cases (and impacts) fall to the floor to the dismay of the ‘Lockdown’ fraternity in the US.
The reality (as per the data) as covered brilliantly by Prof. Martin Feely among others in recent days is that ‘Lockdowns’ do little to change the Covid outcome, and they do incredible damage on the other side of the equation (non-covid healthcare including cancer care and mental health, economic destruction and societal collapse). This is what the data tells us and yet people like Sam continue to terrify people as he did the other morning with the claim we need another 3-5 years of gradual easing and that there would not be 10,000 people at a gathering for many years.
Maybe, Sam (and the Irish Media) should come straight out and tell the young people of Ireland that their short responsibility-free years have been cancelled, for a condition with an Infection Fatality Rate (most recent data) of 0.15% across all age groups and an IFR in the under 70s of 0.05%.
The Irish population has suffered enough. I have no doubt that the other troubling elements in this (such as the labelling of non-Covid deaths as Covid deaths etc, as well as the nursing home calamity) will be exposed in the fullness of time.
In the meantime, it would be great to see Irish Broadcast Media look at other experiences around the World and see who truly ‘got this right’. Many of these experts have already appeared on Irish media so it would be great to compare the outcomes where their advice was followed with the outcome of Ireland’s Political leaders and ‘Expert’ advisors who now seem intent on continuing with a uniquely draconian and anti-scientific approach to exiting the Pandemic.
Finally, let’s be clear: Yes there is a virus, yes it has significant impact (like many respiratory viruses) and this is heavily stacked towards the elderly, it is not ‘novel’-it shares much in common with other coronaviruses. Lockdowns and other NPIs (non pharmaceuctical interventions) do little to change the outcome. It displays Seasonal qualities (like it is currently doing in Ireland). Vaccinations should be given as quickly as possible to those that need and want them in parallel with an irreversible reopening of society for the benefit of all Public and Societal Health.
That is a consistent, and, I think, sensible position. But people who hold to it don’t get on RTÉ. It pretends instead not to know their names.