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4/28/2020 Science should not be suppressed

Over the course of the last two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have shared the scientific observations and opinions of Dr. John Ioannides, a Stanford University professor of Epidemiology, Infectious Disease, Biostatistics and Population Health. He presented a partly contrarian viewpoint to our current pandemic approach.  His opinions appear to be grounded in fundamental epidemiological and statistical principles.  He was a coauthor of a recent Stanford antibody study in Santa Clara County, California.  Other recent antibody studies evaluating the antibody prevalence in L.A., Miami, Germany, Boston, New York and the Netherlands have corroborated the Stanford antibody data.  These data confirm that the prevalence of COVID-19 is much higher than the daily updates displayed on the Johns Hopkins Dashboard.   Dr. Ioannides’s previous concerns about the WHO using mathematic models that severely overstated the mortality rate of COVID-19 are being validated.  Yet, these models continue to shape many of the policies and protocols of our public health response during this pandemic. 

The antibody studies are also supported by superior South Korean data that reflected population testing early and often since January.  As of today, South Korea has still not registered a single death under the age of 30 despite 3,678 confirmed positive results and for those under the age of 60, there have been 20 deaths out of 8,210 confirmed positives (0.2% infection lethality rate). 

There have been valid selection bias criticisms and concerns about false positive results in the Stanford antibody study (also present in the other antibody studies).  This is fair and the peer review process will continue to determine if they are meaningful.  Dr. Ioannides has said that he accepts that the study is not perfect.  Nevertheless, he believes that the essence of these numbers will hold up. It is interesting that the mortality rate of less than 0.2% suggested by these antibody studies is consistent with the South Korean PCR test results for those under the age of 60.  I find it concerning that critics highlight Dr. Ioannides study for selection bias but I have not seen as much concern about the Boston study where authors found a prevalence of approximately 31% among those passing by on the street – many in a homeless shelter. Real population testing results are better than mathematical predictive modeling.  A virus is a virus; it does not think or care about your sex or ethnicity. However, population density, health and age of the individual appear to be very important determinants of the disease’s impact.  This is precisely why a “one size fits all” solution to respond to the pandemic does not seem to be indicated.

 I am writing this perspective today because I am concerned about the increased political posturing during this pandemic.  Science should never suppress observations and data.  Most importantly, science should never attack the scientist, only the value of their data.  I am very concerned about the recent marginalization of Dr. Ioannides by the media and even by some in the scientific community.  This is not science; it is politics.  We need to recognize the difference.

I have included the Wall Street Journal article below about the political backlash against Dr. Ioannides.  We need to move forward with data -not feelings, hysteria or politics.

John Powell M.D. 

“The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News”


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