August 14, 2021

Some guidance to separating the wheat from the chaff

Many of us are now becoming increasingly confused by the wealth of messages and news they are continuously receiving on the evolution of this pandemic and on how to react.

The level of contradiction has sometimes grown to an extent that even the veracity of scientific research and publications has been questioned. If you have been following the science sections of several popular mainstream media or alternative news outlets over the last few months, you will recognize that views and interpretations on mass vaccination campaigns, and all the flanking measures that derive from it, have now turned this initiative into a highly controversial topic. One of the reasons is that the evolution of this pandemic, which is basically a complex interplay between the infectious pressure exerted by the viral population and the immune pressure exerted by the human population, has now become profoundly perturbed by human intervention. Hence, to gain a good understanding of the current situation, and especially of where it is now leading to, one needs to be able to draw from different disciplines. There is no single publication, no single review, no single brilliant mind that has the analysis, let alone the solution, at hand. It’s all about collecting pieces of a complex puzzle and putting them together. If you have only a few pieces, some of which don’t even have to match, you can easily come up with several proposals on how the final image of the puzzle would look like. However, the more pieces you collect, and especially the more they also match each other, the narrower the number of options and the more one will be able to fine-tune predictions on how this final image will look like. If one truly takes the effort of taking a deep dive in the different disciplines that color this pandemic to first find the most critical pieces and to then complement those with additional matching pieces, it is possible to make fairly accurate predictions on how the pandemic is going to evolve. This doesn’t even require to collect every single molecular detail. When it comes to solving complex problems, I’ve always been much inspired by the following statement from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, stated by Sherlock Holmes:  

‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’.

I am telling you this in order for you to understand the following guidance when it comes to gaining a truthful understanding of the debacle that currently unfolds and to be able to navigate your way through the stormy and troubled waters the pandemic is currently sailing. My guidance primarily pertains to learning how to screen and filter opinions and interpretations related to current global health interventions in this pandemic and the overall impact thereof on global health (and by extension on animal health).  

  1. Don’t pay as much attention to the opinion of silo-thinkers as you do to opinions from experts capable of drawing from the following fields: Immunology, Vaccinology, Virology, Evolutionary Epidemiology. Many experts, some of whom are undoubtedly highly reputable, have deep expertise and are highly qualified in one, sometimes even two of the above-mentioned domains. They will inevitably tend to primarily, sometimes even exclusively, focus on the discipline they have deep expertise in. Given the nature of the beast, their insights often times do not connect the dots between all of the critical elements involved. To be able to gain a helicopter view over this pandemic, a multidisciplinary educational background helps a lot, but also the willingness to take a deep dive into disciplines one is less familiar with, may sometimes make the difference. This applies, for example, when one seeks to understand why spike-specific antibodies elicited by immunization can readily outcompete innate, oligospecific antibodies for binding to the spike protein. Explanations for such distinct binding interactions and affinities are to be sought in the realm of biophysics, for example. So, don’t be impressed by big names (you have already been able to witness the many shortcomings and continuous changes in their assessments) but stay focused on the content, the rational and the consistency of the messages experts are trying to convey. A number of folks from the Vaccine Industry are very familiar with the above-mentioned fields. It’s unfortunate, though, that thus far the vast majority of them have remained silent.
  2. Along the same lines, don’t pay too much attention to the ‘expert’ opinions of those who are (but here, I’d now better use ‘past tense’, i.e., ‘were’) too eager to show up all the time on TV shows and mainstream broadcasting media for there is no expert who can, at the same time, be a spotlight hog and do all the hard work required to analyze and digest the current evolution of this pandemic, not just in their small place, but also globally. They may be well surrounded but the exercise of making scientific sense out of all the capricious and, at first glance, mysterious behavior of this pandemic is best served by one’s deep thoughts and extended contemplation. The information spread becomes even less useful when politicians feel called to educate people on how the pandemic is evolving. None of them has any kind of scientific background to even remotely understand the biology behind this phenomenon.
  3. Don’t pay any attention to views, opinions from experts who have a conflict of interest and whose viewpoints may, therefore, be affected by elements that are not purely science-driven. Conflict of interests can easily be uncovered: Refusal of disclosure is the key to everything.
  4. Ignore experts who fiercely refuse to revisit their opinions for fear of shame or losing face. This type of pandemic is completely unprecedented and some experts have jumped too fast to conclusions, short-cuts and predictions. This is understandable, but there is no better way to find peace of mind than to be honest about the things you have been wrong about. This also applies to experts who simply decline providing answers to critical scientific questions. There is nothing wrong with voicing strong opinions. However, the stronger they are, the higher the likelihood they are going to be scrutinized and criticized. Experts who think they can afford to turn away their head from scientific questions and criticism should not be granted much credibility. The same applies to scientific information divulged by experts who refuse to engage in an open scientific debate.
  5. DYOR: Do your own research to find out about people’s background and the veracity of the messages they are conveying. We’re used to doing this in other fields, like when you consider making an important financial investment, for example. Well, all this is about an investment in our health and that of our children and the upcoming generation at large. It’s more than worth taking the time to explore things yourself and connect with people whom you can trust. This is also to say that you should feel confident in the final outcome and conclusions of your own research and stay away from groupthink.
  6. Along the lines of 5.: Do ignore fact checkers. It's obvious that their scientific illiteracy does not allow them to even understand the basics of the dynamics of this pandemic, let alone to validate what experts are saying. But because fact checkers are acting on a political agenda, they have no choice but to vilify and attack people who put their careers on the line, not in exchange for money as they do, but purely out of an ethical and moral obligation. Most of these arrogant but simple minded souls do not even realize that they’ve already ruined their career before they even started one and that their names are deeply engraved in the memory of those whom they defamed or have suffered from unbearable consequences as a result of the misinformation they spread. The incompetence of fact checkers and the credibility of experts they allegedly consult (but don’t name) can easily be ‘fact checked’ using a simple questionnaire as the one I have appended below.
  7. Don’t waste your time paying attention to the rhetoric of experts, politicians or any other person who tends to push some mainstream judgements about vaccinated as opposed to nonvaccinated people. This simply because the arguments they’ll bring to the table in support of their discriminatory judgments and policies cannot be anything else than incorrect. Again, this is because they simply don’t understand how the pandemic is currently evolving and hence, don’t realize that both vaccinees and the nonvaccinated have now become part of the chain of viral transmission and molecular evolution. We’ll soon witness how nature is going to come clean with their short-sighted viewpoints.
  8. Don’t engage with people who support conspiracy theories. These theories are complex, endless, uncertain, not as waterproof as people may try to make you believe and, most importantly... will prevent you from sleeping at night. What the science tells you is already complex and worrisome enough to take this pandemic very seriously. Don’t make things even more complicated by moving on slippery ice. I would definitely agree that there is no smoke without fire. However, the absolute priority is now about being constructive and thinking about how to contribute to protecting yourself and beloved ones. The likelihood that the answer lies in the science rather than in endless debates about evil, pre-mediated strategies is pretty high. We can deal with all this once the storm is over.
  9. Look at trustworthy sources and information as a vaccine skeptic, but not as an anti-vaxxer. It’s always good to not only have an open but also critical mind, but adopting extreme positions can eventually push you in narrow corners that you don’t feel comfortable living in. A predetermined attitude will limit your creativity and sound sense of criticism, whereas an open mind is more amenable to thinking out of the box and coming up with innovative solutions.
  10. If you feel completely overwhelmed by the abundance of information and contradictory messages and have not the energy, resources or capacity to digest it, don’t allow yourself to fall prey to resignation. Don’t lean towards voices preaching inevitable doomsday scenarios. Use common sense and ask yourself about your basic needs, whether vaccinated or not. Be prepared to get back to a healthier lifestyle, healthier nutrition and a higher level of social, logistic and infrastructural independence for when things run out of control.

Questionnaire for fact checkers (excerpt from email I sent to XXX , dated 14.04.2021):

> - What's your name?

> - Who's paying/ financing you?

> - What are your credentials and background? Same Q to your 'experts':

> - Who are they? What is their background (especially re: evolutionary biology, immunology, virology and vaccinology COMBINED)? And what are their arguments?

> - Did you check whether your experts are having a conflict of interest (shares/ stock options in the pharmaceutical companies producing current vaccines) or whether they are otherwise affiliated with any other private or public stakeholders of the mass vaccination campaign?>

> If you think your 'experts' merit some credibility, why then don't you set up an open, scientific debate rather than to merely serve as Mr. postman? Unless your 'experts' are willing to publicly declare that current mass human interventions in this pandemic are going to generate herd immunity and control all viral variants so that we can soon turn back to our normal lives, you should be cautious granting them any credibility.

> I've done a proper home-work and have not made any scientifically uninformed statements (you may want to educate yourself a bit on my website). I know too well that if what I am saying would ultimately prove to be incorrect, I will be under even more severe attack and pay a huge price. But how about yourself? Can we agree that that you and your company should be put out of business in case your Fact Check conclusions prove to be 'deadly' wrong? If you don't agree, I recommend you to re-do your homework properly as ultimately and inevitably, the truth about all this will come out.

> I assume you agree that this email exchange can be posted on the web. But maybe you wish to add a comment first?

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Geert Vanden Bossche received his DVM from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and his PhD degree in Virology from the University of Hohenheim, Germany. He held adjunct faculty appointments at universities in Belgium and Germany. After his career in Academia, Geert joined several vaccine companies (GSK Biologicals, Novartis Vaccines, Solvay Biologicals) to serve various roles in vaccine R&D as well as in late vaccine development.

Geert then moved on to join the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Discovery team in Seattle (USA) as Senior Program Officer; he then worked with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in Geneva as Senior Ebola Program Manager. At GAVI he tracked efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine. He also represented GAVI in fora with other partners, including WHO, to review progress on the fight against Ebola and to build plans for global pandemic preparedness.

Back in 2015, Geert scrutinized and questioned the safety of the Ebola vaccine that was used in ring vaccination trials conducted by WHO in Guinea. His critical scientific analysis and report on the data published by WHO in the Lancet in 2015 was sent to all international health and regulatory authorities involved in the Ebola vaccination program. After working for GAVI, Geert joined the German Center for Infection Research in Cologne as Head of the Vaccine Development Office. He is at present primarily serving as a Biotech / Vaccine consultant while also conducting his own research on Natural Killer cell-based vaccines.


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