The responses to Covid-19 by rich countries across the world include some strange and inexplicable events. In the face of a new infectious disease, governments should seek to minimise infections, find treatments for infections that do occur and increase the broader population’s resistance to infection. But the Australian government’s over-reliance on lockdown measures, and the pursuit of vaccines as the sole medical treatment for Covid-19, fails to achieve these three objectives.
Lockdowns were never an appropriate long-term solution to Covid-19 because they inflict too much damage. They cause enormous harm to small business owners, low income earners, school children and those who miss medical treatment or diagnosis for other illnesses.
Despite this, Australia’s political class remains wholly committed to the use of lockdowns as its primary strategy. This strategy prevails even though we know far more about the virus than we did in March 2020. We know that old, sick and obese people are particularly at risk of adverse health effects. We also know that young and healthy people are generally not at risk of significant adverse outcomes after contracting the virus. Children are at exceedingly low risk.
One of the gambles with lockdowns was that they could be used until a vaccine was developed. Several vaccines have been available for most of 2021, but they do not appear to have made a dent in the current strategy. Scott Morrison has admitted that higher vaccination rates are unlikely to prevent state governments implementing lockdowns. The goal posts are continually shifted and Australians are being told that unless almost everyone is vaccinated, including those to whom vaccination provides no benefit, we will have to put up with restrictions indefinitely.
The series of strange events surrounding the pandemic began with the willingness to bet the farm on a vaccine. When countries first decided to lockdown, it was not known when vaccines would become available, how effective they might be against the original virus or any mutations, or if they would be safe.
The primary medical treatment in Australia was oxygen supplementation, offered only to those who had contracted the virus and fallen ill enough to require hospitalisation. This may help patients to survive while their immune system attacks the virus but does not pose a threat to the virus itself.
How appropriate it was to lock down until a vaccine was developed in the early days of the pandemic is debatable, but we have always known that there are other options available for both preventing and treating Covid-19. Intravenous vitamin C, for example, is effective at treating a range of viral and infectious diseases. It has been used effectively against Covid-19 in China, but there have been no trials in Australia.
High-dose vitamin D has also been demonstrated in a number of studies to be an effective treatment against Covid. Vitamin D is an effective immune stimulant and healthy people with adequate levels of it do not get seriously sick from Covid. Ivermectin is another safe, cheap, and effective drug which could be used in the fight against Covid. We should have looked to countries where these treatments were used, for example in Zimbabwe and some states in India, to see if there were lessons to be learned from countries that did not have widespread access to vaccines but a spike in infections.
These treatments have often been dismissed on the basis that their effectiveness in the context of Covid-19 has not been demonstrated using randomised controlled trials (RCT). Putting aside the fact that the very governments who told us not to use these treatments on the basis that they are unapproved are now encouraging uptake of vaccines that have also not been approved by conventional drug development standards, this argument does not hold water. RCTs are needed when treatments have similar outcomes, not when the test treatment is vastly superior to the control treatment. And in an emergency situation, there is no time for RCTs; we need to conduct simple trials of treatment protocols and if they produce the desired results they should be used.
Additionally, we know that intravenous vitamin C, high-dose vitamin D, and ivermectin cause no harm.
The denial of such treatments is undoubtably a public health issue, but the main mechanism for preventing discussion about them has exposed a serious cultural rot. The censorious suppression of debate and information across the West is uncharacteristic of liberal democracies. Big Tech companies have taken it upon themselves to suppress information that does not come from an ‘official’ government or bureaucratic source. YouTube removed videos of Dr Richard Cheng discussing his results using intravenous vitamin C to treat Covid-19 patients in Wuhan because they did not ‘meet community standards’.
This issue goes beyond medical treatments. Raising questions about the efficacy of lockdowns or vaccines is enough to see one cancelled by the mainstream media. The editor of the Daily Mail Australia, Barclay Crawford, recently told his journalists that they should ‘make sure your stories are rubbishing their ridiculous claims’, referring to those who raise concerns surrounding vaccines.
The government in New South Wales is currently struggling to control the spread of the Delta variant. It might not be possible to control Delta using lockdowns. Even if it is, it might not be possible to control the spread of future mutations which are bound to emerge. Governments need to consider alternatives to their current strategy based solely on lockdowns and vaccinations.
We have already lost the better part of two years to the pandemic and have failed to develop different strategies. The tragedy is that many lives, much time, and hundreds of billions of dollars have already been wasted.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
Dr Douglas Mitchell is a retired medical research scientist. He has a PhD in chemistry from the University of London and worked at the New York State Department of Health. From 2002 to 2005 he was the Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.
Dr Jake Ames is a practising pathologist. He has treated thousands of patients with viral diseases such as the common cold, polio, Ebola, and corona viruses
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10