Curtain up

On Monday 5th July 2021 I watched the live broadcast from no. 10. I sat by myself on the same sofa on which I watched that seminal broadcast when the Prime Minister put us on war footing back in March 2020. Back then I was flanked by my husband and son as we stared at the phone screen with a sense of unreality and growing dread. Yesterday only the dog kept me company. It has been almost a year since I have bothered to watch a live broadcast, and despite the ostensibly good news contained within this one I was left with a disquieting sense of unease. I am still trying to unravel why.

The participants all played their expected parts with gravitas, alternately evincing concern and stout resolve where appropriate; graphs were shown; scenarios were hypothesised; generally-held opinions were reinforced; expectations were primed. In accordance with the formula, supposedly challenging questions from members of the public and journalists were welcomed, the answers gravely reassuring, and the parameters for our future behaviours explained, guided and nudged, all in the most reasonable of terms.

And yet.

Try as I might, I cannot shake the feeling that it is pure political theatre. Granted, it is exquisitely stage managed and just dull enough to be convincing, and we watch it without ever articulating to ourselves that while the performance is masterful, the premises on which it is based are simply not credible.  For over a year we have bought into this gripping horror story broadcast to us on every media channel, with its subplots of fear, tedium, mistrust and despair, the invisible threats and unthinkable disruption to daily life, the rituals of protection and of salvation, the good guys and the bad guys, the raising and dashing of hopes, the climaxes and anti-climaxes, all internalised to such an extent that we have willingly suspended our disbelief without ever realising it.

Caught up in the grip of this compelling narrative, we fail to notice the glaring plot holes and we swat away those who point them out, annoyed at the niggling interruption to our communal all-consuming emotional rollercoaster. And it’s not just the audience that is entranced: many of the principal actors appear to be likewise swept up in their own drama.

While COVID-19 can be fatal and inexplicably and ominously complex, the two most obvious plot inconsistencies apparent almost since the outset of this saga are that a) COVID-19 is survivable by 99.7% of people who encounter it; and b) the average age of death from it is 82 years old. If this were fiction, those two facts alone would be enough to have the scriptwriter sent back to her desk to come up with something with more dramatic potential which posed a real threat to a larger section of the populace, and one that might justify hitherto-inconceivably extreme measures in response.

Instead, we unthinkingly masticate on the false underlying premise that SARS-CoV-2 presents such an acute danger to every single one of us that it justifies the wholesale shutting down of our social, educational, economic, artistic and spiritual systems, and from this erroneous assumption follow all the ghastly ramifications of our warped response.

The single most chilling element of yesterday’s performance was the continued endorsement of a massive, oozing, pulsating falsehood: that in The Vaccine alone lies our salvation.

The development and roll out of the vaccines has attained almost holy status, and the Prime Minister emphasised repeatedly how any lifting of restrictions, any escape back to our civil rights, was solely and entirely down to our vaccination success to date and contingent on the continued uptake by those still to receive the jab. When it’s your turn, do the right thing.

We are well on the way to unquestioningly worshiping the vaccine: people post their vaccination status on social media with relief and as a badge of pride; the narrative is inching towards vaccination as a moral choice; the ‘double-jabbed’ will be granted rewards for their good behaviour; Dame Sarah Gilbert, co-developer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, was identified over the PA when she attended Wimbledon last week and given a spontaneous reverent standing ovation from a grateful and emotional public.

I have no reason to think that those involved in the actual research and development of these novel vaccines are not people of the highest moral and professional standing, working to the limits of their considerable expertise, against the clock, with the heartfelt intention to develop a product to the benefit of all mankind. That in such a short time they have developed a number of vaccines which appear to be extremely effective in both reducing the severity of symptoms of those afflicted by the current strains of SARS-CoV-2, slashing hospitalisations and deaths, and in reducing onward transmission of the virus, is a notable feat and something which I applaud. This success must be tempered with grave concerns about the increasing number of severe side effects of the various vaccinations – perhaps acceptable for those of us at greater risk from the virus but not for those at low risk – but that’s outside the scope of this piece.

They were not to know, as the tens of billions of dollars poured into the labs and they set to work in desperation against a terrifying daily global bodycount, that there already existed a humble little drug, created 40 years ago for the eradication of parasites and now out of patent, cheap as chips and easy to manufacture, already used in complete safety to the tune of some 4 billion doses worldwide, that could knock the pandemic into touch. Nobody knew this, back in March last year. The whole world held its breath and pinned its hopes to the shoulders of those magnificent scientists, doing the impossible against all the odds.

But by the winter of 2020, doctors and clinicians who had used this humble little drug successfully for decades in treating parasites that caused river blindness, and who had noticed from 2012 onwards that it possessed anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties that also worked against viruses such as Zika and Dengue, were deploying it in the fight against COVID-19, and the results surpassed everyone’s expectations, for both the prevention and the treatment of both mild and severe disease.

The drug is ivermectin.

World-renowned pulmonary and critical care specialist Dr Pierre Kory, one of the founder members of FLCCC – Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, and another nine colleagues worldwide, conducted a review of observed repeated, consistent, large magnitude improvements in clinical outcomes in multiple, large, randomized and observational controlled trials in both prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and produced a paper* updated in January 2021 that concluded:

“In summary, based on the existing and cumulative body of evidence, we recommend the use of ivermectin in both prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19. In the presence of a global COVID-19 surge, the widespread use of this safe, inexpensive, and effective intervention would lead to a drastic reduction in transmission rates and the morbidity and mortality in mild, moderate, and even severe disease phases. The authors are encouraged and hopeful at the prospect of the many favorable public health and societal impacts that would result once adopted for use.”

Good news, right?

As of December 2020, the UK alone had spent £12 billion on vaccine development, and the worldwide figure was close to £90 billion. The story of rapid, innovative vaccine development and procurement was the triumph of the civilised world, and the UK’s role was ‘world-beating’. However, the only way that these new vaccines – all using gene therapy, whether viral vector or mRNA technology, and all still in trial period – could be authorised for general roll-out to humans is under emergency authorisation which allows for a whole raft of exemptions to be made and which crucially – crucially – requires there to be no existing treatment available.

Awkward. Really, really awkward.

If you had been in charge, what would you have done? And it’s not just about the money – think how much political capital is inexorably bound up in our vaccines programme.

Well, whatever you would have done, this is what happened: as the vaccine roll out gathered steam, any medical or scientific professional courageous enough to advocate for the use of ivermectin was attacked, smeared and discredited. National and international health organisations looked the other way. Media outlets ignored any mention of it. National health services cascaded down instructions and treatment protocols and doctors were forcibly demoted from scientific diagnostic clinicians to mere technicians, bound to follow the official guidance. Any mention of the drug on social media was censored, tagged as false information, shadow banned or removed.

And as terrible as that was, that’s not the worst of it. The real scandal is that because we denied the existence of a hugely effective, safe and fast-acting treatment, we choose not to treat people in the early stages of this potentially deadly disease, when they might most easily have been cured and suffered no lasting effects. We just told them to stay at home, with the official NHS advice being to ‘drink lots of fluids and take paracetamol’ and ‘Try not to panic if you’re feeling breathless. This can make it worse’. And while most people will have been fine after a week, some will not have been, and will have gone on to develop any one of the really nasty progressions of this virus, and only then, when we had let them get seriously ill, did we consent to treat them. Most will have survived to leave hospital – although many with long-lasting and debilitating complications – but it is undeniable, and utterly unforgivable, that people will have died unnecessarily. I dare not think about how many.

Something else to think about: however dangerous we hold COVID-19 to be, if we can treat it quickly, safely and effectively there is no possible need or justification for ANY of the NPI (non pharmaceutical interventions) measures that have inflicted such cruel damage to the most vulnerable members of our society. No school closures, no backlog of hospital treatments, no additional mental health crisis, no crushing burden of debt, no industries trashed.

Hell, if I’d been in charge I might have preferred to feign ignorance of ivermectin rather than accept responsibility for the actions we took, even if we took them with the best of intentions. Especially when against all the criticism from the opposition, the media, our former European partners and the British people, the vaccine development and roll out was the government’s one massive success story, justifying everything. I too would have been tempted to do almost anything to preserve that shining beacon of success, and this is the thread that I detect still running through yesterday’s briefing.

Is there a glimmer of light on the horizon? Oxford University announced in June 2021 that they were running a trial on the effectiveness of ivermectin against COVID-19, as part of the PRINCIPLE clinical study. Since their recruiting parameters are selecting only those in higher risk groups (over 65s or over 18s with underlying health conditions), it would appear they are likely to be evaluating the effects of the drug on the severely ill. From what we know from the protocols of successful treatment of COVID-19 using ivermectin (download all the fact sheets here), for early at home treatment you dose in low amounts for a few days for the anti-viral properties, but for more serious illness usually occurring after 7-9 days you dose in greater amounts and for a much longer period, and the anti-imflammatory properties of the drug kick in. The final report, with details of the treatment protocol, should be read very carefully.

It is exhausting to have to keep striking against the current like this, to keep questioning everything and especially myself, staying alert for changes in tidal pull and what they might mean. I feel wistful for the years when I drifted more or less contentedly, taking for granted that the main societal undercurrents of my times were broadly benign, but who knows? Maybe it was just that the direction of travel suited me, maybe others were splashing impotently against dangerous political and organisational currents just as I am now, I daresay I considered them as misguided and irrelevant as many now consider me. Even after all these past 17 months, after the draconian power grab of our civil liberties, the stay at home orders, all my cake Saturdays, my reading, my talks both with fellow dissenters and regime adherents, my blogging, it is still deceptively easy to get sucked down into the narrative whirlpool because it is everywhere, coming from all directions, and I’m tired.

And then something – big or small – happens that is so unbelievable, so jarringly ridiculous or sinister that I snap back to my senses. Thank you NHS and random celebrities for this latest offering. I don’t know which of the behavioural science advisers thought it a good idea to include the words “Take the jab and crawl to Daddy” in this video, but it certainly broke the spell.

 

 

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If you would like to know more about the development of ivermectin and the process of how scientists realised it was effective in treating COVID-19, this Brett Weinstein interview with Dr Pierre Kory is worth every single minute of the 2.5 hours

Just for reference: a course of Remdesivir (the anti-viral drug under patent used in severe illness from about day 8-9 onwards) costs $3000 per patient. A course of ivermectin costs between $3 and $12 per patient.

* Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19

Edited to add:

In the interests of balance, you might be interested to listen to this short podcast produced by BBC Radio 4’s More or Less, “Is ivermectin a Covid ‘wonder drug’?” which disputes the findings of a recent systematic review that ivermectin is effective in treating and preventing COVID-19.

The BBC programme itself was rebutted point by point in a bulletin by the scientists at HART here.

You will have to come to your own conclusions.

 

 

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