Why Vaccinated People Are Getting COVID at Higher Rates Than The Unvaccinated?

This is a must-watch and an excellent summary of most things I have read from prominent experts on this subject over the last two years.

If you don’t want to take the time to watch it, at least read the transcript, as it is that important.

“The vaccines have done damage to the immune system such that it makes people more likely to get COVID over a longer term, not the short-term vaccine benefit period, but after that more likely to get COVID infections, and more likely to get other respiratory infections.”

I sit down with Dr. Harvey Risch, professor emeritus of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

We discuss why vaccinated individuals appear to be getting COVID-19 infections at higher rates than the unvaccinated, and how much of our policies over the last two years were based on flawed science—from lockdowns to the vaccine rollout for children.

We also reflect on the recent passing of Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, who pioneered the use of early COVID treatments. Doctors all over the country are now prescribing these sorts of treatments—mostly quietly, for fear of losing their medical licenses.

Click here for an article that provides a high-level summary of what is discussed here.

A Transcript Is Provided Below

Jan Jekielek:
Dr. Harvey Risch, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.

Dr. Harvey Risch:
Great to be with you.

Mr. Jekielek:
I want to do a catch up from our last conversation many months ago, looking at the newest information around vaccine efficacy in children, for example, because these vaccines have now been authorized in the US for six months and above. And also you wrote a pretty remarkable tribute to Dr. Zelenko who recently passed. I want to discuss that and your thoughts about him and his work.

Dr. Risch:
Sure.

Mr. Jekielek:
Let’s start with the genetic vaccines being authorized for six months and up.

Dr. Risch:
Well, so these vaccines were not shown to have efficacy in the six months to five-year-old children, or the five-year-old to twelve-year-olds for that matter. They were looked at with what’s called immuno-bridging studies, which measure antibody levels. And what we’ve learned over the last two years is that antibody levels are not very good proxies for immunity, that you really only know about the effects of a vaccine when you study the outcomes that you’re trying to prevent, either infection or hospitalization or mortality. And those were not outcomes that they studied for children. They only had their antibodies measured.

And as much as you think that an acute increase in antibody levels reflects immunity or a certain kind of immunity, it’s not really enough to know how well the vaccines work, so it’s a supposition. And that supposition doesn’t stand the evidential standard for other things. But somehow in the last two years, we’ve been led to believe that you didn’t need to measure actual immunity, you could measure antibody levels instead. And I think that is not well established criteria or a substitution, that certainly for adults, antibody levels have not shown to be that strong of a correlate with a protection from serious outcomes, for example.

Mr. Jekielek:
And also these antibodies actually wane pretty quickly. I mean, they’ve been shown to wane in adults. What’s the situation with children?

Dr. Risch:
I don’t think we know that very well yet. Of course, antibodies have to wane. If they didn’t wane, then our blood wouldn’t flow. It’d be all clogged up with antibodies of every infection we’ve ever had. So they wane, but there are memory cells in the immune system, the memory B cells that go into quiet rest in the bone marrow ready to be alerted to start making those antibodies when challenged with the same or very similar infection. And so you expect them to wane over time, but that doesn’t mean a person loses immunity. That’s the point, that there’s memory, and T-cells as well have memory for making antibodies and immune function once again, when necessary.

Mr. Jekielek:
Is this functionality the same with natural immunity from natural infection and the vaccines, or how does that play out?

Dr. Risch:
It’s roughly similar. Natural immunity is diverse. The immune system makes antibodies to every provocative component on the surface of every offending molecule. And so the viruses have a number of different proteins and carbohydrate things, basically sticking out of the surface, including the spike protein and others. And the immune system sees all that and makes antibodies for all of that, what are called neutralizing antibodies that bind to the virus and help to terminate their life and survival in the human.

However, the vaccines only make a very narrow range of antibodies to the spike protein because the vaccines are making spike protein, are making the body make spike protein, which is not the same as a whole virus being seen by the immune system. So it’s a much narrower range of antibodies that’s made post-vaccine. And the problem with that is, of course, that when the spike protein changes because of new strains of the virus, that the ability of the immune system to make antibodies that correlate to the new strains becomes reduced to the point where it may be almost ineffective over longer periods of time.

Mr. Jekielek:
Well, so how does that look right now? I mean, the vaccines that we have were designed for, I guess the initial variants and pre-Delta, they’re a variant. And now we’re at Omicron, which is actually quite different.

Dr. Risch:
So that’s a very good point. Up to Delta, the changes in the spike protein were relatively few. And so the antibodies that were made for the original strain had enough of a benefit against Delta, that there were still some reasonable amount of immunity. For Omicron things went haywire. That Omicron started off with more than 50 changes to the spike protein, and then the sub variants of Omicron have had 30, or more than that. So it’s a very different spike protein compared to … I mean, it has the same overall structure, but because the way, the angles of all the different parts of it changed because of all the mutations, then the antibodies don’t bind so well. And in particular, the old antibodies that are made from the original strain that see the new spike protein, they bind, but not strongly enough, so they’re not neutralizing anymore.

What that means is they become interfering antibodies instead of neutralizing antibodies. And that’s the reason, I believe that we’ve seen what’s called negative vaccine efficacy over longer time, over 4, 6, 8 months after the last vaccine dose, that one sees the benefit of the vaccines turn negative. And it’s because the immune system is still making antibodies to the original strain, which aren’t neutralizing the new strains, and the new strains, therefore are protected from the immune system trying to make new antibodies to the new strains, because some of the places where it would bind those new antibodies are blocked by the old antibodies from the original strain that were made, but not effective.

Mr. Jekielek:
You’re saying that the effect is negative. Now, what does that practically mean?

Dr. Risch:
So what this means is that we see in the public health UK data, that through March, when they stopped reporting this in March, but into March of this year, they were reporting infection rates per 100,000 population people, according to vaccine status and by age. And they compared people who had been triply vaccinated, and who had a booster with people who were completely unvaccinated by age group. And what they showed is above age 18 in every age group the rates of symptomatic infection in each age group were approximately threefold higher in the vaccinated people than the unvaccinated people.

Now, you could say, well, vaccinated, unvaccinated people live different lifestyles and so they’re likely to get infections more, or one way or the other. I think you can rationalize almost anything doing that, but that still wouldn’t account for a threefold difference. It might account for one and a half fold, something like that, as we epidemiologists believe.

So there’s still a higher rate of infection post some amount of time after each dose. So after the second dose of the mRNA vaccines, it looks like they provide a benefit against symptomatic infection for maybe for most people for maybe 10 to 12 weeks. After the first booster, the third dose drops to six to eight weeks. After the fourth booster, it may be as short as four weeks before the efficacy wears off and begins to turn negative.

Mr. Jekielek:
So the bottom line is you become more susceptible to infection after, in this case, say the fourth booster after four weeks, is that right?

Dr. Risch:
Correct. And in fact, the first week or 10 days after each dose, you’re more susceptible to infection also because it takes that amount of time for the immune system to process what it’s doing. The vaccines have an initial reducing effect on the immune system that it’s like the immune system goes into shock for a week after the vaccine. And then it comes out of that and the benefit occurs then, and then that benefit lasts for a variable amount of time, 12, 10, 8, 6 weeks, depending on which dose booster of the vaccine we’re talking about.

Mr. Jekielek:
This is very important. I haven’t talked much about this with folks on the show yet, there’s this first week during which you’re actually quite susceptible to infection, not just by a coronavirus, but other things too. And this isn’t, I mean, generally talked about from what I know.

Dr. Risch:
Well, there’s been a very strange anti-scientific publicity propaganda campaign against talking about this. And the reason is that we’ve seen conflated the idea of what’s the best the vaccine can do with what the vaccine does in real life. When one does a randomized controlled trial, if you know that a drug can’t possibly work for two weeks after it’s given, and you ask what’s the best that the drug could do? Then you say, well, I’m not going to count the first two weeks because we know it can’t work in those two weeks. Right? That’s okay if you’re looking for efficacy, but if you’re looking for hazards those first two weeks count.

If you take a drug and you say, I’m going to just hold up in my house for two weeks until it’s safe to go out because of this drug people count that. That’s the experience you get when you take a drug or a vaccine. So what they’ve done is they’ve misrepresented the theoretical efficacy of the vaccines with the practical one and therefore have eliminated that period of time when these vaccines are actually causing an increased risk of getting infections. And they have certainly not told people, “Stay home for 10 days after you get your vaccine until it’s safe to go out,” so to speak, because of that period. And one sees this in a lot of data that is in the first seven days, the benefit is slow to accrue and there are other infections in addition to COVID that have been occurring in those people.

Mr. Jekielek:
So are you saying that they are measuring vaccination status only after that period of one or two weeks?

Dr. Risch:
They’re calling people vaccinated after, depending on the study, the manufacturers, say 10 days or two weeks after receiving the vaccine. Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:
So doesn’t this create some sort of spurious data or something of this nature during that time, because people will have been vaccinated? And then who knows what happens during the first week, but all those people would be classified as unvaccinated, is that right?

Dr. Risch:
They’re classified as unvaccinated and they have a higher risk of becoming infected, which puts more COVID hazards into the unvaccinated people spuriously. That’s right.

Mr. Jekielek:
That’s incredible.

Dr. Risch:
Well, we spent two years living with plausibility and being claimed it was science. And it’s a problem when lay people can’t tell the difference between plausibility and science. They believe the plausibility is science, but it’s not. Science is when you actually go and you make the measurements and you study the people and you see in a randomized trial or a non-randomized, but controlled trial, you see what actually happens in people and you acquire enough studies with enough evidence, then you’ve done your science. Just saying that something should work because we have a biological mechanism is plausibility.

Mr. Jekielek:
I think this concept of plausibility is being used as an efficacy?

Dr. Risch:
Well, a substitute for evidence.

Mr. Jekielek:
As a substitute for evidence. Okay. Explain that.

Dr. Risch:
Well, we’ve been told that social distancing reduces transmission risk, mask-wearing reduces transmission risk, and lockdowns reduce transmission risk. These are all plausibility arguments. What did the studies show? The only way to know whether these things do that is by actually doing good, high-quality studies. Nobody’s done a study of social distancing that I know of. Certainly not a good one because it’s very difficult to measure in large numbers of people, consistency over time, and so on. You can figure out … how would you actually try to do a study like that?

The masking studies, masking has two different outcomes of relevance. The first is, what benefit does masking have for the wearer? And the second is, what benefit does masking have for source control? Meaning the people around the wearer. And the importance for us as a society, as a government that has an interest in protecting us, is source control. That if you wear a mask to protect yourself, that’s a treatment question. That’s your individual choice. It has no bearing on the rest of society. You’re not putting the rest of society at increased risk because of that choice.

Whereas if you’re wearing a mask to prevent you from spreading an infection that you didn’t know you had, that’s where the government has a potential compelling interest. However, the studies for that, there are only three or so of them and they show at most, a very slight benefit, which has been taken to task by a number of scientists. So it looks like at best, there’s very, very weak evidence. If not, no evidence that wearing masks were to prove it, to help with source control. And that’s the science part. So the plausibility is you put something in front of your face to stop things from getting out of your nose and mouth, it looks like it should block it, but it would be like putting up a chain link fence to block ping pong balls from going through, so.

Mr. Jekielek:
Okay, so we have plausibility in mask-wearing. We have plausibility in social distancing. Where else do we have this plausibility?

Dr. Risch:
Lockdowns.

Mr. Jekielek:
Okay.

Dr. Risch:
Lockdowns have never been used in the history of pandemics. Quarantines have been used in pandemics. Quarantines sequester people who are sick, and who are potentially transmitting the infection. Lockdowns, lockdown everybody, mostly healthy people. And all this does is delay the inevitable, that lockdowns will prevent transmission except within the family. If somebody in the family is got it, then everybody in the household is likely to get it. But outside of that, all they do is prevent the reemergence of the infection until the lockdown is eventually released. And then the population is sitting there as a sponge, ready to soak up all that infection because they have very little immunity. And that’s what happened in Australia, for example.

Mr. Jekielek:
Right. And so now we have these three areas, but now plausibility in vaccines. Let’s take this to the next step because this is what you’re talking about. How does that work exactly?

Dr. Risch:
The vaccine question requires a level of expertise. That’s really not my area as an epidemiologist, but we’ve learned a lot about what the vaccines do in terms of how they function, in terms of how the immune system responds, in terms of whether that response is beneficial or harmful, how that can change over time, and so on. There’s been a lot of measurement and understanding of all of that. And what we see is that it’s a complicated story with nuance. It depends on risk. The risk-benefit calculations depend on age. That the infection itself has more than a 1,000-fold difference from old to young in its risks of serious outcomes and death.

That dramatic change in risk means that what might be a positive benefit-risk equation in elderly people is not a positive benefit-risk equation in young people. And so all of this has to be worked out in a knowledgeable and objective way with all this information for the person at hand, so to speak. For the consideration of the age, gender, comorbidities, chronic disease, and so on for the individual who’s considering this.

Mr. Jekielek:
I mean, basically, you’re saying that at this point, because as we mentioned, the viruses changed considerably from the beginning when these vaccines were designed, when basically, it becomes a plausibility argument for the use of the vaccines right now? Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Risch:
Well, at the basic level, people think vaccines save lives. We’ll use them. Period. Vaccines are good. I think a lot of the childhood vaccines are on average, the prevailing viewpoint. And so people accept this is just another vaccine, therefore it must be good. Now people forget that there were a number of vaccines that were pulled off the market. The Dengue Fever vaccine was pulled off the market. The SARS-COV-1 vaccine never made it anywhere. The MERS vaccine, I think also. These were self-limited pandemics, so to speak that did not require vaccination.

The vaccinologists know this better than I do, there are a number of vaccines that were pulled off the market because of adverse events that they caused and not providing enough benefit. So it’s not an all-or-nothing idea that vaccines are uniformly good. They have benefits and hazards like most things, especially in medicine. And one has to evaluate that trade-off. That’s what doctors are supposed to be for, is evaluating trade-offs for their patients and helping the patients understand with informed understanding how to figure out what the risks are and how they could best manage them.

Mr. Jekielek:
So what’s the bottom line at the moment with the state of the data, the state-of-the-art data that’s out there when it comes to the risks for children and the vaccination of children to protect them?

Dr. Risch:
In my opinion, healthy children and adolescents should not be vaccinated. There are children and adolescents who have serious chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, immune compromise, chronic kidney disease, and cancer. That’s a different question. They require a personal evaluation to see what their hazards are. We know from the study of the Italian data from studies elsewhere that young children, 5 to 12 years old have about a 1 in a million chance of dying from COVID unvaccinated, have a 1 in a million chance of dying from COVID.

So the vaccines we have seen have much greater risks of serious adverse events and death. They’re rare, it’s infrequent, but it’s not zero. And so the question is which of these rare events would you choose to have, a rare event from the vaccine that’s maybe 10 or 50 fold larger than a rare event from getting COVID? And so, even though both are uncommon, one is much larger than the other.

So as a public health person, I say you choose the one with a lower risk of the same or a similar outcome, even though both are infrequent. So even though most children could probably be vaccinated without that much harm, still there’re going to be some. And if it’s your family and it’s your child it’s 100%, not zero, not 1 in a million. And so those people have to pay attention to that and make rational calculations based on the fact that dying from COVID or having a very serious outcome from COVID in very young children is essentially less likely than being struck by lightning, being injured, or killed in an automobile accident or something like that. Those are risks we take for granted in society, put out of our minds because they’re so infrequent. The same would be true for COVID. It’s in that range of things.

Mr. Jekielek:
So given all the information you just gave me, and also, especially this element that we’ve been using antibody production as kind of, I guess, a proxy for the efficacy of the vaccine in the first place, how is this, that these things got approved?

Dr. Risch:
Well, these various government scientific agencies like FDA, CDC, and so on, have very highly trained scientific people doing the work. However, they are in a very narrow employment field. And that means that if they want to move up in their employment pyramids, most of them won’t eventually be able to do that, to become department chairs and heads and things like that. They have to go outside the government institutions and the only place for that is to pharma. And so if they make decisions that are against the companies that they regulate, then they have no opportunity to move up by and large in their employment. And so their people are reticent to do that. Sometimes it happens, but by and large, there’s a psychological force on people to be compliant in these agencies.

The second thing that we’ve observed is that Dr. Fauci has put in the approval panels of these agencies, many people who have conflicts of interest with pharma, no university, and no IRB would allow an advisory committee to make decisions with all that conflict of interest. But apparently, in NIH, there’s no pushback from that because the ethics department is apparently run by Dr. Fauci’s wife. And so what we’ve seen is the capture of all these regulatory approval panels. EPA is another one where this has happened, that there is a lot of regulatory capture in all these scientific agencies.

And it’s a problem that it’s going to be difficult to solve because the people who are actually doing the work are very well trained and highly efficient and experts at doing their jobs. And just don’t see that they’re doing anything untoward compared to the actual evidence that’s out there. What that really means is that they are selectively looking at the evidence without doing a representative sampling of all the evidence that they should be paying attention to. And that’s how they can come up with decisions with evidence favoring one side or the other by ignoring evidence that they don’t want to consider by calling it weak evidence or poor quality evidence. That using subjective methods in evaluating evidence, you can get rid of the stuff that’s inconvenient.

Mr. Jekielek:
It’s interesting, you mentioned the EPA. Of course, there’s this recent Supreme Court decision. I’m guessing this is what you’re getting at, so tell me about what you’re seeing here.

Dr. Risch:
Well, I think that what we’ve seen is the growth of the administrative state that I believe was established by Woodrow Wilson and his known elitism against the general population. And it grew with FDR to the point where the massive administrative state of the United States now is a virtual additional arm of government.

Now, I believe if you read the Federalist papers, you’ll see that it was philosophically established that Congress is the only one who has the power to make laws. That Congress can’t delegate making laws to administrative people. Basically, the administrative state was set up to do work to bring to Congress so that Congress could make the laws. But what happened is they started making the policies and the laws, and Congress abdicated that responsibility even though it was illegal to do that. And that’s what the Supreme Court finally pushed back on, that it said that EPA can’t be making such a wide policy, a policy that has national implications. EPA can make minor policies that are in the realm of what administrative bodies should be doing, but not ones that are tantamount to congressional law.

Mr. Jekielek:
Our mutual friend, Jeffrey Tucker argues that this decision, Gorsuch’s opinion has broad ramifications well beyond the EPA and to these and other agencies. What are your thoughts?

Dr. Risch:
Well, not being an attorney, I can’t really tell because a lot of these things play out in the details of the case, but the general principle seems right. And seems that our administrative state has had a massive overreach in terms of making policies that are tantamount to law between CDC, FDA, and so on with their policies about recommendations for drug use or drug not use and so on, which become de facto policies and laws across an entire medical establishment. I’m hoping that the court will take this up and look at these and see whether these agencies are really entitled to be making what are tantamount to laws that Congress should be making.

Mr. Jekielek:
I want to jump back to COVID directly. And so recently, you’ve been critical of this JAMA study about vaccination, basically modeling and vaccination rates and so forth. So tell me about your thoughts here.

Dr. Risch:
I started my Ph.D. career after medical school in the mathematical modeling of infectious epidemics. And this is right at the time of the toxic shock syndrome epidemic. And I was trying to get data from all the states through the CDC to be able to model this. And I started doing that. And then I was in touch with one of the state epidemiologists who told me, “Oh, by the way, about a third of the states aren’t actually submitting their data to the CDC.” And so I realized pretty quickly that with four parameters in a model, I could fit anything. That means that what matters most are the assumptions in the model.

Now, the modeling that we’ve seen for COVID that you were talking about assumed a vaccine efficacy that was constant over time. And we had a discussion earlier today about how vaccine efficacy is small or zero for the first 7 to 10 days, then rises quickly to its peak benefit, lasts for 12, 10, 8, and 6 weeks before heading down to zero, and then can go negative after that period of time, depending on which dose of the vaccine we’re talking about. This is totally different than if an assumed 50% or 75% or 80%, or whatever percent efficacy occurs over all time across all people. So the assumption that the vaccine efficacy is constant is a fatal flaw in these models.

Mr. Jekielek:
And well, so how does this change the result, I guess?

Dr. Risch:
Well, if you assume that a vaccine present prevents 75% say of infections of symptomatic infections overall time, and what it does really is it prevents 75% for about six weeks and then about 40% for about another four weeks and then 0% after that. And it’s negative after that, you can see that it’s a great overstatement of the benefits of the vaccines. And so the number of people whose infections you’ve prevented or hospitalizations you’ve prevented, or deaths you’ve prevented is going to be dramatically overstated with that model.

Mr. Jekielek:
Have you seen studies that look at this in what you feel is a reasonable way?

Dr. Risch:
I think that it’s very difficult to do credible modeling studies because there’s so much room for the selection of these assumptions, the numerical parameters that go into these models have a lot of room for subjectivity that even the studies that go and say, “Well, we reviewed all the studies that measured that. And we took an average of that. And so on. That’s what we used,” that adds a little bit of plausibility to it, but it’s still … modeling is only suggestive. It’s not convincing evidence. And so I take issue with the seriousness of the claims that these models prevented 20 million deaths or something like that when the assumptions were unverified and inaccurate, as I’ve said.

Mr. Jekielek:
So let’s switch gears and let’s talk about doc Dr. Zelenko recently passed, and you have a lot of thoughts about this so tell me.

Dr. Risch:
Well, Dr. Zelenko was a hero to our society. He was on the front lines, in the trenches of treating COVID patients at the very beginning of the pandemic. He lived and practiced in a community in upstate New York. That when the pandemic happened patient after patients started coming to him and he had no idea really what was going on, other than that it was this potentially serious upper respiratory infection. And so we started investigating the literature he found that the Koreans, the South Koreans had been using hydroxychloroquine, apparently effectively, that he knew that zinc could work. There were some equivocal evidence, zinc lozenges, and all these things that had made the rounds about flu maybe a decade ago that people had tried and didn’t work very well, but maybe might be beneficial. And that Dr. Raoult in France had been using azithromycin also, and thought that was beneficial.

And so he said, “Let’s use all three at once,” that they can not be used at one at the same time. And that was his initial recipe. And what he found is quite dramatically, the people that he started treating were recovering in 2, 3, 4, and 5 days when he got to them early in this in 2, 3, 4 days after the symptoms started and put them on these regimens, these are what he called high-risk people, people with older age or obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, some things we talked about before. Those people, he treated and they did very well in a very short time. And so he treated 400 patients and only 1 was hospitalized. And that person started the medications too late and didn’t even finish them. It started after five days and so on.

So with that kind of a dramatic record, he started telling other doctors that this was working and he in fact sent information to president Trump, to the point that President Trump got up and in March of 2020 made a public statement that this medication or this regimen may be beneficial. Game changer, as he said, or something like that. This was claimed to have politicized outpatient treatment. However, that was a false claim. It was a convenient claim. Again, plausibility because it was already known before Dr. Zelenko had even discovered that hydroxychloroquine works, that the French in the fall of 2019 had already started taking action against hydroxychloroquine.

The Minister of Health in France in September, and October of 2019, changed the status of hydroxychloroquine from over-the-counter to prescription only citing fake genetic evidence of harm when there was no such evidence. This is a medication that’s been used in tens of billions of doses by hundreds of millions of people for more than half a century, to know how safe it is, among the safest medications on the planet. And suddenly this was genotoxic? This is nonsense.

So there were already moves afoot to limit this, that pharma knew this stuff worked. And some in the medical community know that it worked. And they had to take action to prepare the field for patented medications and vaccines that would eventually show up. And so this was before Dr. Zelenko would even discover hydroxychloroquine. However, that did not deter him. He kept treating his patients and he had treated 1,200 patients, with very similar results. It got to the point where he had treated a few thousand patients, and you would send your grandpa to him because he was the one who was succeeding when every other doctor said, “Stay home. And if you can’t breathe, go to the hospital.” And he said, “No, come here, I’ll treat. You’ll get better with a $20 treatment.”

And that’s what he did. And he stuck to his guns because he knew he was right, that his force of personality, his character was such that when you know what the truth is … we’re talking about scientific truth, not personal spiritual truth, scientific truth. Nature is speaking louder than lies being told, suppression against it. And he, like I, have stuck to the same truth, that the scientific evidence shows what it shows.

If somebody had presented him with credible studies showing that it didn’t work for what he’s saying it does work then he would’ve reevaluated just the way I would reevaluate, but that has never happened because the medication works for this usage. And he stayed with that in spite of all of the suppression, of all the de-platforming and all the censorship, and all the negative things that were said about him because his force of personality was such that he knew he was right. And he stuck to that and battled this to the end of his life.

Mr. Jekielek:
So and I know that you’re not doing COVID treatment, but how much of an impact did his protocol have on some of these other groups that are doing the early treatment?

Dr. Risch:
Well, towards the end of January, Dr. Ben Marble reported on his telemedicine group, that they had treated 150,000 people with negligible numbers of deaths. There are probably 50,000 or 100,000 people who have been treated with hydroxychloroquine-based regimens, and ivermectin for that matter in other telemedicine groups. I’m sure by now there are a quarter of a million Americans who have been treated successfully with these medications. They know that they were treated with these things and they worked.

Mr. Jekielek:
Basically, so are you saying that it was Dr. Zelenko who originally developed this formulation that everyone else picked up? I just don’t know.

Dr. Risch:
He did. He did. I mean, I think that Peter McCullough in his two papers on early outpatient treatment elaborated on the Zelenko protocol, Dr. Raoult in France had a very similar protocol that was developed at the same time in parallel with Dr. Zelenko. They both have the same basic structure, Hydroxychloroquine, maybe ivermectin, azithromycin, or doxycycline as an antibiotic, zinc, vitamin D, maybe vitamin C, there are steroids to be used. And now we’ve got a whole bunch of other drugs that also work in the same timeframe that can be used that there’s evidence for.

So outpatient treatment is a reality, and it’s up to the clinician to use what they’re able to use based on what pharmacies will fill and what they know works. And this is a remarkable state of affairs compared to two years ago when we were searching for medications and only the Zelenko protocol started things off, really.

Mr. Jekielek:
What impact?

Dr. Risch:
Well, a quarter of a million Americans is a big impact. It’s relatively small compared to the damage that’s been done to the country, by the infection and the vaccines, but still, that’s still a lot of people whose lives were saved basically.

Mr. Jekielek:
So what about these places that did lock down like Australia, like New Zealand experiencing huge surges and basically COVID cases and so forth, but we’ve been told not to count cases, right? Because it’s really just symptomatic infection that matters. So what are they in for here?

Dr. Risch:
Well, I’ve said that cases don’t matter altogether. I’ve been saying this since the very beginning of the pandemic, that you don’t manage a pandemic from the cases. You manage a pandemic from what happens to the cases, which is hospitalizations, mortality, and maybe long COVID. That’s what you need in order to know whether what you’re doing is good or bad. And the cases, if anything, give you information about population immunity. So more cases with no deaths is actually a good sign because, at least for that strain of the infection prevalent at that time, you’re generating a large amount of immunity, which allows people to go back to normal life.

So populations like Australia, and New Zealand, places that had strong lockdowns, they displaced when they became available to have all these large infection waves after they opened their lockdowns. What this means are two things. One is that instead of getting exposed to the original strain of the virus, they got exposed to what was the strain in circulation at the time they reopened the lockdowns. Now, if a lockdown is six months later, that would matter. If the lockdown is a month later or three weeks later, maybe not so much. It also allowed those populations, those countries to wait until some newer method of treatment or prevention becomes available.

So if you lockdown for a year until vaccines became available, then you could suddenly mass market vaccines in an attempt to prevent infection or damage from infection going on when you reopen. But that really didn’t happen all that much. And as we’ve seen, the vaccines are a complicated story and not necessarily a clear benefit for many people in the way they were mass-marketed to entire populations.

So the gist of the lockdowns is that it’s not really a strong benefit and created a lot of non-COVID harm and damage to the society economically, psychologically, and educationally, for children, adolescents, and college students in trying to cope with two years of lack of involvement with their peers, their educational experiences in the real world, not on video and so on has done incredible economic damage to middle America, so to speak. The people whose livelihoods have been terminated because of government policies that were counterproductive in the long term.

Mr. Jekielek:
But I guess my question is, so a place like Australia, okay. They delayed. They had very, very strict lockdown policies for a long time. They did successfully prevent the virus from circulating for a while, but now it is circulating like crazy. I mean, basically, right?

Dr. Risch:
Right.

Mr. Jekielek:
And so given this reality, what can they expect at this point? Because I mean, they’ve been told, the population has been told that we won, we had the right policy, and now…

Dr. Risch:
Well, every country says we have the right policy because they’re in control of the microphone. I think Sweden is the only one that actually has some semblance of a claim to that, maybe South Dakota, places that didn’t really lock down. I think that what we know is that in spite of bad policy, these medications still work, that people who may have been vaccinated or not, and are getting COVID and are having serious COVID can still, and should be treated with hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and the other medications ASAP after they become symptomatic.

You get people like Tony Fauci who got COVID after his fourth booster. So a lot of good his boosters did. Well, of course, he didn’t run to the hospital claiming that the boosters helped for that. But so he got symptomatic COVID and treated himself with Paxlovid which didn’t work well enough. And he had Paxlovid rebound, which made his second bout of COVID more symptomatic and harder to get through than the first one.

Mr. Jekielek:
And just very quickly, what is Paxlovid rebound?

Dr. Risch:
In somewhere between 10% and 15% of people who are treated for COVID with Paxlovid, if they’re only treated for five to seven days, after a few more days, that percentage of people will have … the infection reoccurs. That it doesn’t completely go away. There’s enough of the infectious virus still in the person that when the Paxlovid is stopped, that virus regrows and becomes a second symptomatic infection. And in many cases, many instances are more symptomatic, and harder to tolerate than the original one that the Paxlovid treated.

Now, the FDA never approved Paxlovid for a second course. It approved it for a five or seven-day course, and that’s the official approval. So to use it twice or to use it for 10 days or something is off-label. Not approved for that. And nevertheless, that’s what people have been doing, I think. Whereas had they used hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, and all the other things that we know work, they could have done that from the beginning, cost them $20 instead of $700 or whatever Paxlovid costs. And would’ve worked as well or better. And in general, does not lead to a rebound as long as those medications are used until symptoms disappear.

Mr. Jekielek:
So it’s interesting that you mention off-label because from what I understand, the vast majority of drugs are actually used off-label, but this has become some sort of anathema in the popular consciousness.

Dr. Risch:
Right. This is another plausibility argument, that off-label means unproven. Well, of course, it’s unproven because doctors find lots of things work for various uses that were never contemplated originally, and never had large randomized $10 million trials to show that they worked and doctors are not going to say, “Oh, I can’t use it because it’s never been proven.” They use it because they’ve had massive personal experience in treating patients with these drugs that work for them. That’s how medicine works. That’s how medicine has always worked. And that this is how individualized medicine works. When the doctor is treating the patient and not treating a policy, so to speak.

A protocol from the hospital or a medical group says you can only use these medications for this outcome when doctors know what they’ve been using their whole careers. And so it’s a false assumption to say that everything must be used on label or not. That drugs are freely available to be used off-label, and the doctor and the patient take the risk. And mainly the doctor, because if it didn’t work, the doctor would have a risk of being sued for something that didn’t work out. But that rarely happens because doctors have experience knowing that these things work, or they inform the patients that maybe there’s only a 30% chance that this will work, but it’s worth a try if you think that you want to take that risk, that’s informed consent. That’s how the practice of medicine should work.

Mr. Jekielek:
How much do you think this growth of the administrative state that we discussed a little bit earlier is connected to this weird centralization of basic medical procedures?

Dr. Risch:
Well, I think that maybe if I could philosophize, I think our whole society is stuck on trying to document everything and trying to claim that everything’s objective when in real life, in the professions, there’s still a lot of subjectivity. And I think that it’s very hard to be confident when you go to a doctor and the doctor is making a diagnosis because his subconscious is telling him that this looks like it fits a pattern of this disease. And not that disease, even though if I really had to quantify it and I have to run 20 biochemical tests and do these invasive procedures to prove that what my hunch is telling me is likely I think that level of subjectivity feels uncomfortable to people now, whereas we trusted doctors before, and it’s a lack of trust in our society that’s causing the urge to documentation for proof of everything.

I think that’s a problem, that if you can’t trust doctors or you can’t trust professionals, you rely on objective proof instead. And that subverts the whole body of knowledge in a field that’s gained from the expertise, why professions are professional. It’s not because they went to school and got a degree and suddenly they’re stamped out and know how to do everything. That it comes with … a lot of it is professional experience that builds. Okay, but there are better doctors and worse doctors. Better doctors have more nuance and understanding of their fields from long experience and understanding which things worked and which didn’t in subtle ways that matter to patients and provide more likelihood of better outcomes that are very hard to quantify.

Mr. Jekielek:
But it becomes a vicious cycle, doesn’t it? Because on the other hand there is this lack of trust, but after these two years, a lot of people will say, this lack of trust has been earned because of a lot of decrees, a lot of being told things are one way, turns out they’re a different way, policies changing without reasonable explanation. And frankly, I think there was this recent congressional testimony from Deborah Birx where she’s, as far as I could tell, she said, we did it on a hunch. I mean, those are my words.

Dr. Risch:
She said, “We hoped it would work. We made a policy hoping that it would work.” Well, right. There should be a lot of mistrust, institutional mistrust, government mistrust, agencies mistrust. However, at a personal level, if your doctor told you when you asked the doctor because you were sick with COVID and would you prescribe hydroxychloroquine and the doctor said to you, “I’d rather you die than I prescribed you hydroxychloroquine,” you got a problem there. There’s a problem for the doctor in the medical field. There’s a problem for the patient in using that doctor and so on.

And this is not an arbitrary thing. I’ve heard instances of this early in the pandemic, that doctors were being threatened, their careers were being threatened. They’re still being threatened. Doctors who treat patients early are being threatened by their medical licensing boards against using these medications without evidence. Without evidence of harm.

And so there’s a very great reason to understand that even doctors who are not functioning as doctors, but as representatives of state agencies this way are not doing it voluntarily. And sure, they’re being silent about it and choosing, “I can’t stand up for doing the right thing, because I’d lose my job. I’d lose my career.” Well, I mean that might have flown in 2020. It doesn’t fly today because I know dozens and dozens of doctors who’ve quit their jobs and their hospitals over these policies and taken up telemedicine careers and are doing just fine and have the freedom to practice the medicine they want to.

So what was once a limitation that doctors couldn’t find a way of getting out of now is no longer the case. Whether doctors see that or not, it’s because they’re stuck in their blinders largely and are just hoping it’ll all go away. I mean, I don’t think there’s much they feel they can do about it.

Mr. Jekielek:
Well, so this is the thing, right? There are a lot of doctors out there that actually believe that some of these medications which have helped a lot of people don’t work because it’s been, for lack of a better term … I mean, essentially been a large-scale media effort. You could call it propaganda.

Dr. Risch:
Correct.

Mr. Jekielek:
To demonize these things, as opposed to allowing doctors to figure things out, based on the literature available to them and their knowledge of the patient, which would’ve been the traditional norm. Right? Yeah.

Dr. Risch:
Well, I know hundreds of doctors through email who are using these medications just quietly as best they can, and their patients receive that benefit and there’s no need for them to publicize it if their role is to treat their patients. The problem is patients finding out about them, that they can get treated this way, and finding pharmacies that are willing to prescribe, to fill these prescriptions. There are pharmacies that are willing to do that. And there are ways of getting the prescriptions filled so that they don’t trigger all these warning bells from the chain pharmacies, for example. And so on.

This is practicing medicine in a totalitarian tyranny is really what this boils down to. People are creative and ingenious and figure out ways to get around the limitations and treat their patients and cure their patients basically and treat them properly so that the patients recover. That’s the bottom line.

Mr. Jekielek:
So we’re getting back to Dr. Zelenko here, I guess.

Dr. Risch:
Yes. And well, he was more public, I think because he was in the early stage where doctors didn’t know that this would work and he felt it was important to get this information out. And he did not realize like most of us didn’t realize that there was this move afoot, even before he even knew about hydroxychloroquine to suppress it.

He didn’t realize that this was going on until well into the period when he was being told and I was being told that all these non-randomized, but controlled trials were anecdotal. That anything that wasn’t a randomized controlled trial was anecdotal. This is a scientific falsehood that again works into … it’s plausible to think that anecdotal, but anecdotal just means junk science to the people who say that. And it’s not true because calling something junk science is not science. If you want to take a part in a study and say, this study has a fatal flaw because it only recruited 8% of the eligible people or any of the other myriad ways that one can distort scientific studies, that’s how you say a study is of poor quality. But not just throwing a pejorative label, junk science on something, anecdotal on something that has no meaning. That’s not scientific criticism.

Mr. Jekielek:
It’s slander, basically.

Dr. Risch:
Yeah. Right. It’s slandering science. That’s right.

Mr. Jekielek:
You know, it’s very interesting to think about how these methodologies that were developed … I mean, essentially they’re being developed by trying safe drugs that are known to be safe, relatively than have a plausible efficacy. They might work, they’re relatively safe. And just basically trying it out with a patient to see if it helps. I mean, that’s how it worked, one by one.

Dr. Risch:
Well, we’ve been doing that from antiquity. Right? I mean, how do we even know what foods are safe to eat? We’ve been doing that over the whole human species. You build up a culture of institutional knowledge that accretes over time and builds up over time to have that knowledge of what works. And there’s only … over a long enough time, it will become known that hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and these other things work. You cannot suppress it. The truth eventually, no matter how much money, how many billions of dollars that pharma pours into this suppression, it eventually will become known. And they will have to maintain the suppression indefinitely in order to keep it from becoming more widely known.

Mr. Jekielek:
As we finish up, I understand that the genetic vaccines are being redesigned for these new variants, Omicron, and newer variants. Any final thoughts?

Dr. Risch:
Well, I think that by the time they become available, they’ll already be out of date. That the reason that flu vaccines could be redesigned every year is that influenza and some other respiratory diseases follow the Northern hemisphere, Southern hemisphere difference where the Southern hemisphere was six months ahead of us. And so the virus strains that we saw prevalent in Australia, for example, in their summer, we could use to make vaccines for our winter or their winter to our winter. And so that gave six months lead time to be able to do that. However, with COVID, we don’t really have that so much. And so we’re having to use the infections now to make vaccines now when by the time the vaccines are out in two or three months, those infections will be gone. It’ll be new infections, new strains that’ll be around.

So already original Omicron is mostly gone. The second strain of it is mostly gone. We’re now into BA.4 and BA.5, BA.5 is overtaking BA.4. And now it’s BA.5.2, which is overtaking BA.5. It’s like you blink and there’s a new strain out. And it only takes a few weeks if it’s a little more infective, and being more infective doesn’t necessarily mean it’s intrinsically more infective. What it means is it escapes the immunity that was created by the previous strain or the vaccine.

This is why herd immunity is a real thing, but it can be transient if the virus evolves fast enough so that it escapes even from herd immunity. So herd immunity can be good for the current strain, but if the new strain is so radically different, it can escape from that. And that’s why you can have multiple waves, even when you get herd immunity. So you can get herd immunity and it can go away also. And that’s what you have to learn how to manage, and getting the previous infection with original Omicron prevents BA.5. Well, it does to some degree, but BA.5.2, maybe it’ll be a little less and so on.

Maybe six months from now, Omicron won’t be useful anymore, but maybe people won’t get deathly ill from it. The main thing is that these new strains are not more toxic than the earlier ones. That’s by and large how we got to Omicron. This is Muller’s ratchet, the theory that viruses over time evolve to be more infectious and less toxic because the viral niche that viruses multiply best at is when people congregate in large groups. And they can only do that when they’re not so sick that they’re staying home. So that means that people have to be symptomatic, coughing and sneezing and things like that, or flushing public toilets, or whatever that spreads the infection well, but not enough that they’re sick, that they have to stay home because of it. So there’s an optimal niche that viruses seek to achieve by being infectious, but not very toxic.

Mr. Jekielek:
So what do you expect based on what you’ve seen now? The virus mutates very quickly. We just talked about that. The vaccines aren’t very effective, especially for young people. What’s the way forward?

Dr. Risch:
So what I think is we’re seeing two things. Number one, it’s my opinion. I’m not saying this based on scientific studies, but it’s my opinion based on discussions with my virology and vaccinology colleagues that the vaccines have done damage to the immune system, such that it makes people more likely to get COVID over longer term, not the short term vaccine benefit period, but after that, more likely to get COVID infections, more likely to get other respiratory infections. And that damage has made a large-scale environment in the population for the viruses to evolve faster into more of these strains, which is causing the pandemic to be prolonged.

So it’s done population damage to the quality of our immune responses by that. I think that’s one problem. So I think that these recurring, annoying strains will be continuing. I think that they’re going to be relatively low level, like Omicron, that they’re all Omicron derived, that they’re not likely to go very far back into being damaging than even BA.5, which is said to be a little more intense symptomatically, getting more into the lungs, having a little bit more people hospitalized, has not shown major increases in mortality in places like South Africa, Portugal, other places that have had their BA.5 pandemic waves, and it has gone down after that.

So, I’m optimistic that these will continue, but at low-level waves and bumps over time as the thing evolves, it makes its way. And I think that we have to recognize that these infections are at the level of flu or cold or other respiratory infections that we tolerate in daily life, that we don’t disrupt our whole societies over these things, that we don’t declare emergencies over these things, that if we declared an emergency over something that killed half a million people year in year out, which is way more than COVID has done in its two years that it’s been with us, that level would be an emergency. Yet, we don’t do that. Half a million people die every year in the United States from tobacco-related diseases. And that’s not a pandemic, that’s not an emergency. The government’s never done anything about that.

Well, if half a million deaths per year from one cause isn’t an emergency, why are we declaring an emergency or something that may lead to 10,000 deaths per year or 50,000 or something like that? That’s similar to traffic accidents or influenza or other things that we tolerate as a society without calling it an emergency. That’s where we are. That’s where it’s likely to stay. And that’s why we are not in an emergency now. And we’re not likely to be in an emergency going forward.

And calling this, maintaining it as an emergency is an abuse of our constitutionally defined rights. That is valid when you’re in a real emergency. If we were in a war, you could understand that. A shooting war, you could understand that, but not at a time when you have an infection that’s causing something that’s at the same level of things that we tolerate in daily life in our society.

Mr. Jekielek:
Just before we finish up, could you just qualify what you mean by half a million? Because I think the official number is I think double that or more.

Dr. Risch:
So the official number, the last I looked was about 1 million or 1.1 million COVID-associated deaths in the United States over the two years or so of the pandemic. And so about half of those are “From COVID” and half are “With COVID” according to three or four studies that have looked at that. And so that means, of the half a million deaths from COVID over two years, half of that per year. So 250,000 per year for the two years have been deaths from COVID in the United States.

So that compares to the half a million deaths from tobacco-related causes year in, year out in the United States. And we don’t do anything about tobacco-related deaths. Our government and our society tolerate it for some strange reason that thinks that it’s self-inflicted when people get addicted to it from factors outside of their psychological control.

Mr. Jekielek:
But in the end, I mean, you’re basically saying that early treatment can prevent a lot of those deaths anyway.

Dr. Risch:
Correct. Most, the great majority.

Mr. Jekielek:
Well, Dr. Harvey Risch, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.

Dr. Risch:
Very nice to be with you.

Mr. Jekielek:
Thank you all for joining Dr. Harvey Risch and me on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

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