COVID's collateral damage

Several weeks ago, on my way to lunch, I stopped at the testing facility in our hospital for my weekly COVID test.  This has been a requirement of my employment for at least the last year and a half, after I refused vaccination.  The pretty young woman who has been assisting me collected my sample.  She then informed me that the testing facility was closing for good later today.  Subsequently, the hospital administration minimized the requirements for masking within the facility.  With these developments, it felt as though the COVID debacle had finally ended.

Reflecting on this, I think back over the three-plus years and cannot escape the profound effect it has had on my life both during the pandemic and now afterward.  I have seen death, certainly particularly in the older patients and those with comorbid problems.  But I have also seen fear and anxiety as a catalyst of social change, and generally not for the good.  I have seen factionalism develop over differences in one's level of vigilance and concern over the disease burden, and later about attitudes toward treatment and vaccination.

I lost friendships, in the beginning over fear of being in contact with me as a caregiver for these patients, and later because I invoked natural immunity and avoiding vaccination.  I endured their ridicule and even anger about my quaint notions of viral immunity that would have seemed completely rational two years before.

Now things are changing.  Very quietly, I think people have grown to accept the notion that this virus was born in the Wuhan lab and that the draconian lockdowns were of little help, and left a lot of economic, social, and educational damage.  They are finally beginning to understand that natural immunity, though not perfect, is likely to be more durable than that provoked by "boosters."

It is also beginning to sink in that the vaccines were untested, were minimally helpful, and are likely to an extent unsafe, especially for the young.  The lack of acceptance of the new bivalent injection, I think, confirms a new public wariness.  Likewise, there has been a pronounced lack of enthusiasm for pediatric inoculation.

But for me, there have been much broader revelations.

As a physician in my 40th year of practice, the events of the past several years have had a profound effect on the way I think of the care I have been rendering.

The CDC and NIH manipulated the government and the willing press into supporting incredibly corrupt behavior.  Prestigious medical journals such as the Lancet suspended their usual stringent review processes to publish fraudulent data.  The regulatory agencies, and Big Pharma acting in concert, punished non-doctrinaire opinions.  They manipulated our academic institutions by the issuance and withholding of grant money.  Leaders such as the beloved Dr. Anthony Fauci promoted phony letters to the editor decrying the lab leak origin story.  This was done to protect the NIH, and its likely illegal contributions to the Wuhan Institute of virology for gain-of-function research.

Because of all this, I looked back and wondered about my entire career.  Was everything a lie?  Were there medications, perfectly adequate, that I was convinced to discontinue in favor of newly patented and expensive medications, with less well understood safety profiles?  How many of the other articles that I had read over the years were corrupt documents, meant to bolster the profits of the pharmaceutical industry?  Just how badly have I been manipulated?

As a physician, particularly at my age, I have tried hard to remain current with my specialty.  But how much of the latest information I absorbed served only to support the lucrative relationship between academic medicine and their sponsors at the pharmaceutical companies?  I never meant to bring too much drama to this pandemic, which I was fairly sure, even early on, would not be as severe as the doomsayers predicted.  But I failed to anticipate the more profound interpersonal, economic, and professional impacts it would have on my life and the lives of others.

There is a punch line here.  Despite being completely asymptomatic, and despite the fact that months ago, the CDC declared random testing to be useless, my last test was...positive.

Henry F. Smith, Jr., M.D., FCCP is a pulmonary and sleep physician.  He practices in Northeastern Pennsylvania.


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