Albert Einstein said, “the important thing is not to stop questioning,” but something strange and unhealthy has unfolded before our eyes during the pandemic. It has become commonplace to see people shamed and even cast out of their social networks for simply asking questions about decisions made by our public health and elected officials. This phenomenon of dismissing and even smearing people as “anti-vax” or “anti-science” for simply asking questions or raising concerns is not only unsettling but also counterproductive. Shame is the least effective way to persuade people that you are right and they are wrong. It is not a way to move the ball forward.

Some of us have more inquiring minds than others. We simply aren’t satisfied with “because the CDC says so.” Let’s remember, the CDC also tells us to cook all meat well done and have children wear hats and sunglasses at recess. How many people do you know that order their burgers well done? Or wear sunglasses during a heated game of kickball in 3rd grade? There has long been a consensus in this country that asking questions and following a “trust but verify” strategy is not only wise but essential. That consensus seems to have evaporated under the weight and polarization of COVID-19. Now we see local and national examples of reasonable and fair questions being ignored, silenced and even ridiculed.

Remember when anyone who gave an ounce of credence to the lab leak theory was censored on social media and looked upon with disdain? Fast forward and Dr. Anthony Fauci has now admitted the virus could have leaked from the lab. That only happened because people kept asking questions.

To add a bit of potentially helpful context here, I write this column as a fully vaccinated person. I only share that so readers don’t assume something about me that isn’t true. But far too many people, especially when they are online, plug their ears and ignore these types of relevant truths. They are so blinded by their own moral certainty that anyone who asks questions or expresses skepticism becomes the enemy.

During a public health crisis, the public needs and deserves answers to basic questions. I have some questions that have been rattling around in my head, and perhaps they are ones that you have as well:

I’d like to know why we’ve decided to force vaccination on people (and potentially fire them!) if they are already protected by natural immunity.

I want to better understand why public health officials in the United Kingdom came to such different conclusions than the U.S. about masking children under age 12.

I’d like to hear an explanation of Rhode Island’s decision to quarantine students who are “close contacts” for 10 days while providing no access to remote instruction.

From an ethical perspective, can we even justify booster shots for older people in high-income countries such as ours when 3.5 billion people still have not gotten a first dose?

Is there any chance we may shift to a one-dose strategy for kids?

Every decision made during this pandemic has come with trade-offs, and it only makes sense to ask ourselves which of these trade-offs ultimately made sense and which ended up doing more harm than good. Efforts to discourage or silence those questions are a major red flag in my book.

Sanzi is the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education and a former educator and school committee member. She writes at Sanzi.substack.com.

(26) comments

Bob Leahy

A federal district court judge has rejected a claim by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine being administered under Emergency Use Authorization is interchangeable with Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine, which in August was fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

https://childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/judge-allen-winsor-pfizer-eua-comirnaty-vaccines-interchangeable/

There are key differences between fully licensed vaccines and those authorized under EUA. EUA products are considered experimental under U.S. law. This means they cannot be mandated, and everyone has the right to refuse such vaccines without consequences.

mkelly

I agree we should never stop asking questions and engaging in debate. Early treatment protocols for Covid-19 are an area we definitely need to improve upon.

Can the new anti-viral pill by Merck be a great candidate , we will see. I certainly hope so, I hope there are others forthcoming also. Early treatment can help both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated folks lessen the duration and severity of infection. I believe, it is also possible Ivermectin could be a viable candidate. I have found this interesting paper with several links ( and no I have not time nor the expertise to vet them all) but what I have read it seems there is merit here that should be looked into more closely, especially since the medical establishment of other countries, and doctors right here in the USA are employing this drug with some success. So I personally will not dismiss it out of hand.

https://covid19criticalcare.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SUMMARY-OF-THE-EVIDENCE-BASE-FINAL.pdf

MBrown864

There is a new Covid drug that shows promise in mild cases (not hospitalized). Current price is $700 for a 5 day course. More research is needed and from the few articles I read there may also be a chance of using it as preventative in people who have been exposed. They are also trying to make sure it doesn't cause mutations in sex cells (male and female) or birth defects in babies.

But it also doesn't change the fact that the efficacy of any drug increases in vaccinated people. So this really doesn't change the fact that the best way to prevent getting Covid is getting vaccinated and preventing the spread by wearing masks.

I teach in a high school. We try to distance as much as possible, enforce mask wearing, have weekly testing done, contact tracing and quarantine when needed. In the event of quarantine, the student has the option to meet with teachers after school using Meet. We are already 1:1 so they have access to the assignments but not the full class experience. Is it a pain? Oh heck yes but I'll put up with this and more if it keeps kids in school and distance learning becomes a footnote to history. Last year was making the best of a bad situation. We have tools that remove the necessity to do that again (at least until Epsilon or Mu or...). I didn't start teaching to become an infectious disease expert or public health researcher. I just want to teach math. And the numbers are still going the wrong way.

https://www.statnews.com/2021/10/04/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-mercks-new-covid-19-pill/

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/aurobindo-pharma-stop-molnupiravir-trial-moderate-covid-19-patients-2021-10-08/

Bob Leahy

There is little information on the long term efficacy of the vaccine. This makes it difficult for some parents when it comes to vaccinating their children, myself included. My understanding is that the new treatment is similar to Ivermectin which has been hugely successful in some countries. It sounds promising but much more expensive. Hopefully politics will not suppress alternative treatments and options and we will be free to choose what works best until the long term risks and effectiveness of the vaccines are more clearly understood.

Thank you for your thoughtful contribution.

albion123

No, Bob. Repeating it over and over again does not make it true. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic. Molnupiravir is an anti-viral. They're not alike in any way.

I've thoughtfully included some citations for you to ignore:

https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-ivermectin-molnupiravir/fact-check-mercks-experimental-covid-19-antiviral-drug-is-not-repackaged-ivermectin-idUSL1N2R32JP

https://health-desk.org/articles/how-does-merck-s-molnupiravir-differ-from-ivermectin

Bob Leahy

Albion123 thinks ridicule and insults pass for debate. Grow up.

albion123

No, Bob. I don't think that. I've tried to engage with you in reasonable debate. Instead, you've resorted to Ad Hominem attacks, false equivalencies, straw men, and the ever popular "just asking questions" informal fallacy.

You're not having conversation-- you're repeating nonsense you hear in your OAN/FOX echo chamber and repeating it, then acting surprised when anyone with a notion of logic tries to test you in your arguments.

What you cannot deny:

1) Millions of people worldwide have received the vaccines and have had no serious side effects.

2) The FDA has, indeed, approved an mRNA vaccine for use in the US. Not EUA, full approval.

3) Ivermectin is not approved for COVID 19 treatment by the FDA.

4) all of the major vaccines are >90% effective in preventing deaths from COVID 19.

I'm ridiculing you because your "arguments" are ridiculous. I am not insulting you-- you're doing that to yourself with your pedantic and transparent talking points.

The scary part here is that 1200 voters in my neighborhood almost made you a Town Council member. What the heck has the world come to?

Bob Leahy

My argument is that the left can't tolerate when people disagree with them. If anything, you have proven that repeatedly, all while hiding behind a screen name.

Scrutiny of science is a good thing, especially when it has been compromised by politics.

Transparency is a good thing, even when it embarrasses policy makers and the pharmaceutical industry.

There are many reasons people do not trust the official narratives. I don't watch Fox or any of the corporate owned media. I seek out the whole truth. I would respectfully suggest that you do the same, and lay off your reliance on insults.

albion123

No, Bob, you can't just back out of what you've said previously, it's written right here on this page.

You started this with an ad homenim attack, the very first comment on this thread: "The left can't tolerate when people disagree with them, or when we dare to weigh the actual risks for ourselves based on our own unique circumstances."

If you are unaware of a what an ad homenim attack is, it when you insult the bearer rather than the message.

Then you moved on to a straw man: "Whether we are talking about the science of "man-caused global warming" or the risk factors associated with vaccines, if you scrutinize the politically correct narrative you are attacked by their mob whether you are a scientist, a physician, or private citizen."

This is a straw man-- no one mentioned global warming except you.

Then you moved on to just sheer nonsense: "...there are no FDA approved vaccines available in the U.S., btw"

You've grown quiet on that one because, well, heck, you're clearly wrong.

Then you said molnupiravir is "similar" to ivermectin and somehow believed that proved your point (I'm still scratching my head on that one.)

You're "just asking questions" stance is laughable-- you're using it to make your wild accusations acceptable somehow. It's not working.

Lastly-- I think it's ironic that 1) you started this with insults (See above) and now that you're being called out on it, you're calling me a meanie. 2) that somehow my ability to scrutinize facts is being called into question. Yes, I believe in science. No, I do not believe in "Facebook" science, which is what you're spouting. Sorry, I'm sticking with the millions of scientists, doctors, and people of good will who trust science, and know when they are not qualified to offer an opinions over those who have dedicated their whole lifes to study and advancing the human condition.

You, sir, are not qualified in my mind over them. Sorry.

But, again, you do you.

Bob Leahy

I stand by every comment. You can't get the FDA approved vaccine in the U. S. "It is essentially the same thing" doesn't cut it. We can agree to disagree like gentlemen, or we can do what people behind screen names tend to ​do, and lob personal insults and ridicule.

My original comment was my opinion and general observation. It was not a person insult. This is the opinion section. The expression of various thoughts and opinions on topics, including how science has been compromised by politics (and yes that includes the non strawman example of global warming science) can be met with a high level of intellectual disagreement, or ridicule and scorn. We all know which path Albion123 took.

This isn't about me personally, as much as some would prefer to make it so.

albion123

I rest my case: Chess with a pigeon.

will j

Sounds like Bob is feeling a little cornered, surrounded by facts and the people that know them. "Grow Up" is another old right-wing trope flung like dung at arguments they don't like. Look in the mirror, friend.

Bob Leahy

There is no FDA approved mRNA COVID vaccine available at this time. The approved vaccine, Comirnaty, is not even being produced for use in the United States to date. The vaccines being administered remain under Emergency Use Authorization.

Captain Cumberland

Chris Beyrer - epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Public Health:

The existing Pfizer vaccines that have been produced and purchased can’t legally be overlabeled with the Comirnaty branding, even as they are the same thing.

“That’s why there may be, for some time, EUA Pfizer doses in use before [fully authorized] Comirnaty becomes more widely available,” Beyrer said. “This is standard, nothing unusual, and it does not void an EUA.”

Bob Leahy

The approved vaccine is not available yet in the U.S. Only the mRNA ones are available, which are still experimental.

Captain Cumberland

This is false. The FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has the same formulation as the vaccine that was made available under emergency use authorization since December 2020.

Bob Leahy

Senator Ron Johnson:

There is not an FDA approved COVID vaccine in the US. The FDA approved the COMIRNATY version (German company BioNTech legally distinct from Pfizer) not available in the US.

albion123

LMAO, great, quote Ron Johnson of all people. You keep being you, Bob Leahy! Keep doubling down on absolute nonsense. Why the heck would the US FDA approve a vaccine that is not available in the USA?

You know, I gotta hand it to you, you don't give up your silly arguments easily do you?

Did you get up to Tractor Supply yet?

Captain Cumberland

To answer a few of your questions:

Q: "I’d like to know why we’ve decided to force vaccination on people (and potentially fire them!) if they are already protected by natural immunity."

A: A CDC study shows that people who were previously infected with SAR-CoV-2 shows that unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus. These data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections.

Q:" I want to better understand why public health officials in the United Kingdom came to such different conclusions than the U.S. about masking children under age 12."

A: The British school system is different than the American one. The UK chose a different safety measure — quarantining — rather than face coverings for young children. Unlike the United States, all public and private schools in England are expected to follow the national government’s virus mandates, and there is a single set of guidelines.

The Delta variant tested the guidelines. Starting in June, case numbers quickly increased before peaking in mid-July, which roughly mirrors the last few months of the school calendar. For the 13 million people in England under the age of 20, daily virus cases rose from about 600 in mid-May to 12,000 in mid-July, according to government data. Test positivity rates were highest among children and young adults — ages 5 to 24 — but they were also the least likely to be vaccinated.

The US presumably wants to avoid children getting infected in the first place, rather than just relying on quarantining. Mask have been shown to be effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

Q: "I’d like to hear an explanation of Rhode Island’s decision to quarantine students who are “close contacts” for 10 days while providing no access to remote instruction."

A: State leaders announced that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will no longer be required to provide a distance learning option for students. LEAs will still need to develop plans to ensure services and educational programming will be provided if a student must remain home for short periods of time due to illness, isolation, or quarantine. So there in no longer a remote option, but remote learning will be provided in the event of a quarantine.

Bob Leahy

The left can't tolerate when people disagree with them, or when we dare to weigh the actual risks for ourselves based on our own unique circumstances.

Whether we are talking about the science of "man-caused global warming" or the risk factors associated with vaccines, if you scrutinize the politically correct narrative you are attacked by their mob whether you are a scientist, a physician, or private citizen.

If you dare question their narratives you are labeled a moron, defunded, discredited, trashed, canceled, blocked, censored. They even try to get you fired or hurt your business.

They call that science.

I call it "politically compromised science." It is a new Era of mob rule insanity.

albion123

That's a nice ad hominem fallacy you got there, Bob. Also, a very broad brush.

Even added in a straw man for us, thank you!

The issue here, IMHO, is that once you decide that facts aren't facts anymore, what's the point in having a discussion?

Some anti-vaxxers seem to think that the law protects them from vaccine mandates (spoiler: it doesn't) and that somehow, eating horse de-wormer, nebulizing hydrogen peroxide, and drinking disinfectants are more logical approaches to dealing with this disease then a vaccine that's proven effective and is FREE.

Meanwhile, no one mentions that you need a slew of vaccines just to get a public education: polio, mumps, measles, rubella, HPV, etc. If anyone tried to get out of those, they'd be in for a surprise.

The good news is, gnash your teeth all you want: Private industry, the Federal and State Governments, and the Judiciary all agree: there's nothing you can do to stop it. It's science, it's a miracle and instead of thanking the God of your choice, you're fighting it.

I wish you luck in your fight. I hope you come out of it ok.

Bob Leahy

I am not fighting for or against these experimental vaccines (there are no FDA approved vaccines available in the U.S., btw). Nor am I anti-vax which is a typical label the left loves to use whenever they are met with scrutiny.

I am simply raising questions as to whether the official narrative and science behind current policies and vaccines has been compromised by both politics and billions of government dollars for these vaccines. There is no such thing as FREE, unless you fail to acknowledge the costs passed on to future generations.

Science is worthless without scrutiny. Scrutiny should never be canceled and disregarded. The science is never settled.

Our government is not being transparent with us. Politics has destroyed our confidence in many institutions since President Obama including our intelligence agencies. Just about everything the left touches lately becomes compromised with politics.

albion123

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-covid-19-vaccine

Captain Cumberland

Bob Leahy, the FDA did approve a vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine was approved by the FDA on August 23, 2021.

Bob Leahy

Breaking news: Merck has ‘phenomenal results’ with Covid pill similar to Ivermectin.

Albion123 describes it as "horse de-wormer" to discredit it based on pure politics.

Exactly proved my point.

albion123

Bob, first you say the FDA has not approved a COVID 19 vaccine, which is demonstrably false, as shown by the link I provided. Then you doubled down and said no mRNA vaccine has been approved. Again, demonstrably false, as pointed out by the link.

Now, you're comparing Ivermetcin and molnupiravir and implying they are the same: they're not, not even close. Like I've said about your "hot takes" before: It's like playing chess with a pigeon. Pointless to argue with someone when facts are negotiable.

Hypothetical question: if molnupiravir receives emergency use authorization from the FDA, would you take it? Why? You were against the original emergency use clearance for the vaccines, right?

Anyway, good luck. I hear Tractor Supply up in Mendon still has some sheep dip you could try.

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