Dr. Makary Delivers a Dose of Covid Sanity

BUCK: We got Dr. Marty Makary with us now of Johns Hopkins University medical school. He’s been such an important voice of sanity on covid, covid policies and all the rest of it. Dr. Makary, appreciate you coming back.

DR. MAKARY: Good to be with you, Buck.

BUCK: Let’s start with long covid, because there’s been some reports out recently of, “Hey, maybe long covid, not really what we thought it was.” But I’ve also seen some people suggesting not even really a thing. What do we know?

DR. MAKARY: Well, people do get fatigued and feel a little tired weeks after they’re sick no matter what they’re sick with. And what we’re learning is that long covid does not happen in 20% of everybody with covid, as the CDC warns us, but a study from the U.K. found it’s about 3% of people when you look 12 weeks after they were sick. And another study that just came out found that if you came in with some upper-respiratory infection like the flu or RSV, that you had the same rate of long-haul symptoms three months out as you did from covid. So, this tells us that this giant covid industrial complex is something that the CDC and NIH are fixated on, but it may be in part, the medicalization of ordinary life. Now we know you can lose your sense of smell a little bit longer and we know some people get brain fog unique to covid, but it’s not like lightning that strikes people at a rate of one in five Americans, like the CDC says.

BUCK: So, definitely exaggerated and also more in line with what people would see in other respiratory infections as well, right? So, if you get a really bad case of flu, you might have some lingering symptoms. Dr. Makary, I also want to ask you about the Princeton University study that is getting a fair amount of attention right now on masking. First of all, is this a really good and serious and honest study and what does it tell us?

DR. MAKARY: It’s a pretty good study. It basically says that when you’re dealing with highly contagious viruses like covid, that all the mitigation is basically postponing the inevitable. Now, maybe that made sense for a little bit when hospitals were overrun. But, at this point it’s basically telling us that you can do everything you want and you’re going to get covid at some point in your lifetime. And that study did not even factor in something we call immunity debt, which means when your immune system is sheltered from being in lockdown and being isolated and wearing a mask, you’re more susceptible. That’s the theory of immunity. And that’s why many people think we’ve got this massive epidemic of flu and RSV going on right now.

BUCK: Yeah. So, can you explain more on this one? You know, even my family in New York has gone through what feels like a few rounds. They’ve got… there’s a grandchild involved. My parents are elderly and everyone’s been getting sick multiple times this fall and going into winter, all with upper respiratory infections. What is this immunity debt concept again?

DR. MAKARY: So, the immunity debt concept says that when you’re normally living your life, your body and immune system are exposed to low levels of viruses and you build up some immunity. Even though you’re not really sick or you have a minimal illness, you get kind of a transient infection. You hear people say that their wife was sick, but they never got sick. Well, your immune system, though, did get beefed up a little bit because it was around it. So, when you put people in lockdowns and isolate them and, you know, shut kids out of school and then put them all in masks, their immune system is not exposed to that low level pathogen exposure. And the idea is the immune system weakens and then when a virus really crops up like it is right now with flu and RSV, they get hit really hard.

BUCK: Speaking to Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and Dr. Makary, the vaccine side effects that we’ve for a long time, and this brings in the social media discussion, I think as well. You weren’t allowed to talk about vaccine side effects to share data, certainly not to share personal anecdotes about any believed vaccine side effects that a person may have had. What do we know about the vaccines and side effect profiles that they have, now that we’re more able to have that discussion and have more data than ever before?

DR. MAKARY: Well, we’re learning a lot more and one of those studies that is telling us what we’ve been missing has been from Germany, where they actually looked at people who died suddenly, immediately after the vaccine. And in five autopsies, they found that the vaccine was the definitive cause of the death. These were people who didn’t come into a hospital. They were found dead. And it tells us that dying from the vaccine is a real confirmed thing. Now, it’s rare if you’re super high risk and you know, you have not had covid in the past, it’s worth it to get the vaccine to lower that risk.

But when you’re talking about a healthy child or a 25-year-old athlete, that’s when the risk benefit ratio is really in question. Now, public health officials say, “Don’t look at these nuances, stop asking questions. Just, everybody get it. We have to have a simple message in order for the dumb public to understand.” That’s literally what they said and I documented it in a piece titled “Why America Doesn’t Trust the CDC” in Newsweek. That’s their philosophy. It’s very paternalistic. But the reality of that —

BUCK: Is there anything, by the way, that makes you think that the CDC is going to get better? Is there any reason to believe that there will be any effort to actually improve things?

DR. MAKARY: I think it’s going to get worse because a lot of people in Washington are using their only solution to every problem, and that is give them more money, build up the bureaucracy. For example, the CDC has had a center for data forecasting and then they added a whole other center for data forecasting, bringing in some big-name people. So, now we have two centers for data forecasting. They totally missed monkeypox. They totally missed RSV and the flu that are overrunning hospitals right now. So, what do we do, make a third center for data forecasting? I mean, this is the absurdity of throwing money at the CDC, which, by the way, could not even come up with a covid tracker. It was one Johns Hopkins grad student who came up with the Johns Hopkins tracker at our university that did more work than 21,000 employees at the CDC.

BUCK: What is the sense within the medical community in your mind right now that there should be some real introspection about groupthink about policy failures, getting things so wrong so many times over a two year long period. And, you know, what is it going to take for people to feel like they can walk around and no longer be in the grip? You know, some people walk around, they’re still in the grip of fear with regard to covid because their doctors are telling them to still be scared.

DR. MAKARY: Well, doctors themselves are scared. They’re worried about their promotions. They’re worried about their NIH funding. They’re worried about being seen as a pariah. You know, a bunch of us don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care if I get fired. I believe in speaking truth. Life is short. I’ve taken care of enough people at the end of life to know you got to speak your mind. But a lot of doctors reach out to me and they say, “Gosh, everything you’re saying I agree with, but I can’t say anything. I’ll get in trouble. My communications department will hound me. My professional society will expel me.” The California Department of Health is taking away licenses if somebody disagrees with them. So, unfortunately, I don’t see how we’re going to challenge the groupthink unless more doctors just speak openly and honestly.

BUCK: Dr. Makary, where can folks read your work, again?

DR. MAKARY: I post my pieces on Twitter, and the piece in Newsweek is titled, “Why America Doesn’t Trust the CDC.”

BUCK: Dr. Makary, always appreciate you being with us. Thanks so much.

DR. MAKARY: Thanks, Buck.