The newly formed “Liberty and Health Alliance“, headed by Dr. Lela Lewis and Scott Ritsema, just put out a new 2.5 hour video (August 15, 2021) entitled, “The Surge, Early Treatment and Religious Exemptions” – regarding COVID-19, vaccines, natural remedies, government mandates to take the vaccines or face a loss of various freedoms, and religious exemptions to these mandates.
After watching this video, I have to say that there were quite a few things with which I personally agree. However, there were a number of claims and statements made, particularly with regard to the vaccines against COVID-19, that aren’t accurate in that they misinterpret the data that is currently available.
Table of Contents
- 1 Mayo Clinic Study:
- 1.1 mRNA vaccines lose effectiveness against Delta Variant infections:
- 1.2 Differences between Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines against Delta Variant:
- 1.3 mRNA vaccines more effective than no vaccines against infection:
- 1.4 mRNA vaccines still very effective against hospitalizations and death:
- 1.5 Antibody-Dependent Enhancement of Vaccines due to Delta Variant:
- 2 Masks and vaccines “ineffective”:
- 3 Other treatment options better than vaccines:
- 4 Religious Freedom and Freedom of Conscience:
- 5 Legal Opinions:
- 6 Bio of Dr. Sean Pitman
Mayo Clinic Study:
mRNA vaccines lose effectiveness against Delta Variant infections:
Dr. Jonathan Freed started off with a recent pre-printed study by the Mayo Clinic (Arjun Puranik, et. al., August 8, 2021). Dr. Freed pointed out that this study (carried out from January to July 2021) showed a decreased effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines against “breakthrough infections” of COVID-19, particularly the Delta Variant, with Pfizer showing the largest decrease in effectiveness. Initially, during the study period, both mRNA vaccines were highly effective against SARS-CoV-2 infections (86% for Moderna and 76% for Pfizer) and hospitalizations (91.6% for Moderna and 85% for Pfizer). However, in July of 2021, the effectiveness against infection suddenly declined for the Moderna vaccine to around 76% with an even bigger drop in effectiveness for Pfizer at 42%. This is thought to be due to the rise of the “Delta Variant” of COVID-19 – since the “Delta variant prevalence in Minnesota increased from 0.7% in May to over 70% in July whereas the Alpha variant prevalence decreased from 85% to 13% over the same time period.”
This is interesting since it appears to conflict, somewhat, with the findings of another recent study (Jamie Bernal, et. al., May 24, 2021) which showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta Variant 2 weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% effectiveness against the Alpha Variant. Also, just one dose was found to be 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta Variant after 3 weeks and 50% effective against the Alpha Variant.
On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic data is similar to data from Israel – which had one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world. According to data published in late July, the Pfizer vaccine was just 40.5% effective at preventing symptomatic disease.
Differences between Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines against Delta Variant:
In any case, the Delta Variant of COVID-19 is far more infectious and transmissible compared to the original or “wild type” COVID-19 virus (Link). Early in the infection, when people are most likely to be contagious, the Delta variant seems to replicate in amounts that are perhaps 1,000 times as much as those seen in people infected with other variants, defeating immune defenses in the nose and throat for many people. It is 50% more contagious than the Alpha Variant, which was, in turn, around 50% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain, with an incubation period of four days rather than six days – meaning people are contagious earlier. Preliminary studies also suggest that it may lead to more severe disease in the unvaccinated population. Additionally, the Delta Variant is resistant to some antibody treatments previously used to help very sick patients. Perhaps this is why a recent study from the United Kingdom showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with the Delta Variant. And, since the mRNA vaccines were created to target the original COVID-19 virus, it is no surprise, then, that mutational variants will come along that are more resistant to the immunity produced by the mRNA vaccines.
But what is the reason for the difference in immunity, against the Delta Variant, between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines? Why does the Moderna vaccine appear to have superior activity against the Delta Variant as compared to the Pfizer vaccine? Well, consider that each dose of Pfizer’s contains 30 μg of vaccine while each dose of Moderna contains 100 μg of vaccine – which translates into more than 3x the number of mRNA molecules injected for Moderna as compared to Pfizer. This is the primary difference between these two vaccines. Otherwise, the mRNA sequence, itself, is identical for both vaccines.
Number of Spike Proteins via Vaccines vs. Infection:
As an interesting aside, on average, a single mRNA is used to manufacture about 900 copies of the corresponding protein within a given cell (Link). Now, one Moderna vaccine dose contains about 4 ×1013 mRNA molecules (~40 trillion) while one dose of the Pfizer vaccine contains about 1.2 ×1012 mRNA molecules (~12 trillion). If each one of these molecules produces, say, 1000 spike proteins, that can end up producing up to ~1 ×1016 spike proteins (Link).
Now, in comparison, an infected person carries 109–1011 virions during peak infection with a total of up to 3×1012 virions over the complete course of a characteristic infection (Link). Each of these viruses has around 24 spike proteins on its surface (Link), for a total of ~1×1014 spike proteins.
So, isn’t this a problem? given that the mRNA vaccines end up producing around 100x more spike proteins within the human body as compared to an actual COVID-19 infection? Well, remember that more than 99% of the spike proteins produced by the mRNA vaccines remain at the injection site. Less than 1% makes it to the bloodstream, and most of these spike proteins are filtered out by the liver (Link). In comparison, an infection by COVID-19 spreads throughout the body with active viral replication destroying tissues and targeting the cells that line blood vessels, producing blood clots everywhere. These blood clots end up damaging various organs, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, and brain.
mRNA vaccines more effective than no vaccines against infection:
So, while the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines against being infected by COVID-19 has dropped, it hasn’t dropped to zero. In other words, getting the Pfizer vaccine, for example, is still 42% more effective at blocking an infection by the Delta Variant of COVID-19 as compared to those who haven’t been vaccinated at all (76% better for those fully vaccinate with Moderna vs. no vaccine).
mRNA vaccines still very effective against hospitalizations and death:
What is also very important to remember here is how the mRNA vaccines affect the rate of serious sickness – i.e., hospitalizations and deaths. Those who are fully vaccinated are far far less likely to be hospitalized or die due to a COVID-19 infection as compared to those who are not vaccinated – or even compared to those who only have “natural immunity” following a previous infection with COVID-19 since natural immunity isn’t very effective against the Delta Variant (Link).
Before the Delta Variant came long, fully vaccinated people accounted for less than 3% of coronavirus hospitalizations nationwide and less than 1% of virus deaths. By the end of July, the Delta Variant was the cause of more than 80% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases. So, how has this affected the hospitalization/death rates of the fully vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated?
The authors of the Mayo Clinic study themselves concluded that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines “strongly protect” against severe disease via the Delta Variant; “The difference appears to be more about whether people get infected at all in the first place.” (Link) Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center noted that the mRNA vaccines, while showing reduced effectiveness against infection, retained effectiveness against hospitalization of “over 95%” (Link). This is in line with another pre-print paper showing that the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization after 2 doses (Julia Stowe, et. al., June 2021). This is comparable with vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization from the Alpha Variant.
Dr. Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, noted that, “These hugely important findings confirm that the vaccines offer significant protection against hospitalization from the Delta variant.” (Link)
Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic, points out that the vaccines against COVID-19 are “extraordinarily effective against death, hospitalization, and severe disease.”
Antibody-Dependent Enhancement of Vaccines due to Delta Variant:
Here’s his summary paragraph:“In my view, the Yahi et al. paper is not aligned with reality. They do work in a line about how “although the results obtained so far have been rather reassuring. . .” with a reference to the Li et. al. paper, but they should also refer to the massive amount of real-world evidence now available. We have hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated to produce antibodies against the non-Delta coronavirus protein domains and who are now being exposed to the Delta variant.To reiterate, there is (to the best of my knowledge) no evidence whatsoever of ADE in this situation. In fact, we see the opposite: people who have been vaccinated are far less likely to become infected with the Delta variant, and if they become infected, they are far less likely to experience severe disease. These trends have been seen over and over in different populations, and they are the exact opposite of what you would see if ADE were operating. If the mechanism proposed by Yahi et al. were happening in the real world, then we should see higher Delta infection rates among vaccinated people, with more severe disease. We are not. We are seeing the reverse. The vaccines simply to not appear to be causing ADE, no matter how many reasons one might be able to spin for them to do so.In short, get real.”Derek Lowe received his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He’s worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases.
Masks and vaccines “ineffective”:
Next in the program, Dr. Andrew Chung points out that the majority of those in Israel who are being admitted to the hospital are those who were vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines. Dr. Chung compares this to the situation in Sweden where they “ignored many of the mask mandates, draconian laws, lockdowns, and many of these other strategies that have proven ineffective” yet still ended up with very few hospitalizations and/or deaths due to the Delta Variant, concluding that vaccines and masks are “ineffective”.
Sweden as a model to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:
There are multiple problems with these claims. First off, Sweden doesn’t seem to be escaping the Delta Variant quite yet. Sweden reported 1,855 new cases of COVID-19 within one week in mid-July – a 24% increase compared to the previous week. By the last week in July, this number had increased to 2,637 confirmed cases. The incidence calculated over 14 days was 43 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The highest incidence was in the group 20-29 years, followed by the groups 10-19 years and 30-39 years (Link). Around a quarter of new cases were linked to travel abroad, the health authority said. “The number of cases nationally of Covid-19 continues to be at a low level, but an increase is seen in all metropolitan regions” – despite the fact that 77% of Sweden’s adult population had received at least one dose of a vaccine by this point in time and just over 50% has received two doses (Link, Link).
So, the Delta Variant is rising in Sweden, primarily in the younger age categories. Yet, the death rate from the Delta Variant, particularly through July and August of 2021 is still quite low – close to zero in fact. Why might this be when so many other countries have seen an increase in hospitalizations and deaths along with the rise of the Delta Variant? Consider that those primarily affected right now in Sweden are less than 50 years old. Also, Sweden previously had high death rates in its elderly population due to earlier strains of COVID-19, and those who are left are getting vaccinated at much higher rates. Around 91% of those who were actually born in Sweden (i.e., primarily the elderly population) have been vaccinated (Link) along with almost all those living in care homes for the elderly (Link). Back in April of 2021, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said that the vaccination campaign had already dramatically reduced the number of deaths in the country, with around 100 deaths a week at that time (Link).
Note that before this time, COVID-19 had rapidly made its way into Sweden’s nursing homes, spreading from staff and visitors to residents, until the government, too late, banned visits on April 1, 2020. A month later, nearly half of the 2,075 deaths in the country — one of the highest per-capita death rates in Europe — had occurred in nursing homes, and 90% had happened among those aged 70 and above (Carl-Johan Karlssonin, What Sweden’s COVID Failure Tells Us About Ageism, July 8, 2021).
It only stands to reason, then, that with the elderly and those most at risk being heavily vaccinated in Sweden, finally, that the death rate would continue to fall even as the rate of the Delta Variant continues to rise – since the remaining younger and vaccinated at-risk population is much less likely to die of the disease. Naturally-derived immunity (i.e., from a previous infection with COVID-19) is also likely playing a role here since natural immunity, combined with just one vaccine dose, is more effective against the Delta Variant even compared to those who are “fully vaccinated” – particularly given the more recent increase in vaccinations in Sweden as compared to countries like Israel, England, or the United States. In other words, the more recent the vaccination, the more effective the immune response against the Delta Variant (Link).
In this light, consider also that Sweden’s COVID-19 policies have not caused it to do very well compared to its closest neighbors since the beginning of the pandemic. By April 2021, the New Yorker reported that Sweden’s per-capita case counts and death rates were many times higher than any of its Nordic neighbors, all of which imposed lockdowns, travel bans, and limited gatherings early on (Link). Our World in Data’s measure of the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people shows that Sweden had higher spikes than those in the EU and the U.S. at several points during the pandemic, including early 2020 and early 2021. And, for most of this year, its per capita confirmed cases have exceeded the figures for the U.S. and the EU.
Overall, Sweden’s COVID-19 death rate of 142.5 per 100,000 population is well above neighbors Denmark (43.89), Finland (17.84), Norway (15.03) and Iceland (8.3), according to Johns Hopkins University.
As for infections, after a wave in the spring of 2021, Sweden saw its infection rate drop, which officials attributed primarily to vaccinations and to people being outdoors more. But now it’s on the rise again. In its latest weekly report, on Aug. 5, the Swedish Public Health Agency reported 3,451 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a 30% increase over the previous week (Link).
In short, it’s far from a solid argument to claim that Sweden is somehow a clear model of how to deal with this pandemic – especially when it comes to claims that vaccines are “ineffective”. Given all of the data, worldwide, that we currently have in hand, even within Sweden itself, that claim simply isn’t true. It is clearly because of the vaccines, in Sweden’s population of just over 10 million, that its hospitalization and death rate during this pandemic is finally starting to come under control.
Iceland as a better model:
Now, if you really want to see how best to deal with the pandemic, Iceland is a far better model of what to do as compared to the failures of Sweden.
Iceland reported 2,847 new infections over the past month (July-August of 2021), mostly from the highly infectious Delta variant and mostly in fully vaccinated people, official statistics indicated. This is the highest number of new infections in a month since the start of the pandemic, but vaccines appear to be doing their job. The vast majority of new infections are mild at worst – with just 3% hospitalized during this time. And, most importantly, Iceland hasn’t recorded a single COVID-19 death since May 25, 2021 (according to government statistics and Oxford University’s Our World in Data).
Iceland ranks fourth in the world in vaccination rollout, having fully vaccinated 70.6% of its population. The three countries with higher vaccine rates are Malta (80.5%), United Arab Emirates (73.7%), and Singapore (73.1%). For comparison, just 50.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated. The world average is 23.6%. (Link)
The majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are vaccinated:
But what about the claim of Dr. Chung that the majority of those who are currently being hospitalized and/or dying due to COVID-19 infections are those who are vaccinated? Well, this is based on a misunderstanding of the available statistics.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts:
As an example of this, consider a series of large public events that occurred over several days in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (from July 3–17). This “event” or “series of events” if you prefer, resulted in 469 people being infected with Covid-19 (as initially reported by the CDC). Of this number, 346 (74%) occurred in fully vaccinated persons!
That sounds like a problem until one realizes that 72% of the population in Massachusetts has received at least one vaccine dose, and, overall, 4,389,137 people or 63% of Massachusetts’s population has been fully vaccinated. Of those 75 years of age and older, the rate of full vaccination is 81.7% and for those 50-74 years of age, the rate of full vaccination in this state is over 80%. And, the vaccine rate is even high for those who are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s in this region (Link). Only the children have a low rate of vaccination because the vaccines are not available to children yet. And, those attending these large events were supposed to be vaccinated.
Clearly, then, as in the UK, the significant majority of those older than 30 years of age have been fully vaccinated. So, it only stands to reason that the majority of infections, and even deaths, would be among those who have been vaccinated since the effectiveness of the vaccines is not 100%. It’s very good, but not 100%. When it comes to the original type of COVID-19, vaccines not only provide significant protection against hospitalization and death, but also significantly reduce the transmission rate of the virus to others.
What is different, then, about this Massachusetts data, is that the delta variant seems to have a much higher infection rate, even among those who have been vaccinated, as compared to the original COVID-19 virus of 2020. Just watch Dr. Roger Seheult’s video (linked above), where he explains that the only group of people that has a decreased risk of severe infection requiring hospitalization and/or death from the Delta Variant is not the unvaccinated group, or even the partially vaccinated group, but the fully vaccinated group (within a particular age category).
Again, when it comes to the severity of illness and deaths, all of the data worldwide, the UK data included, strongly supports the conclusion that the unvaccinated, within a particular age category, are at a far far higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infections (particularly the delta variant now) as compared to those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – via the mRNA vaccines in particular. More than 99% of those who are dying of COVID-19 right now, within a particular age category, are the unvaccinated – in this country and around the world (Link, Link).
More vaccinated than unvaccinated dying in England:
But what about the data from the UK that shows a higher death rate among the vaccinated? Sure, more vaccinated people are dying in the UK compared to unvaccinated. However, the risk of hospitalization and death is still much higher in the unvaccinated. How can that be?
Imagine everyone is now fully vaccinated with COVID vaccines – which are excellent but can’t save all lives. Some people who get infected with COVID will still die. All of these people will be fully vaccinated – 100%. That doesn’t mean vaccines aren’t effective at reducing death.
The risk of dying from COVID doubles roughly every seven years older a patient is. The 35-year difference between a 35-year-old and a 70-year-old means the risk of death between the two patients has doubled five times – equivalently it has increased by a factor of 32. An unvaccinated 70-year-old might be 32 times more likely to die of COVID than an unvaccinated 35-year-old. This dramatic variation of the risk profile with age means that even excellent vaccines don’t reduce the risk of death for older people to below the risk for some younger demographics.
PHE data suggests that being double vaccinated reduces the risk of being hospitalized with the now-dominant delta variant by around 96%. Even conservatively assuming the vaccines are no more effective at preventing death than hospitalization (actually they are likely to be more effective at preventing death) this means the risk of death for double vaccinated people has been cut to less than one-twentieth of the value for unvaccinated people with the same underlying risk profile.
However, the 20-fold decrease in risk afforded by the vaccine isn’t enough to offset the 32-fold increase in the underlying risk of death of a 70-year-old over a 35-year-old. Given the same risk of infection, we would still expect to see more double-vaccinated 70-year-olds die from COVID than unvaccinated 35-year-olds. There are caveats to that simple calculation. The risk of infection is not the same for all age groups. Currently, infections are highest in the youngest and lower in older age groups (Link).
More vaccinated than unvaccinated dying in Israel:
This very same thing is true in Israel right now.
In a July 5 statement (2021), Israel’s Ministry of Health addressed the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in light of the spreading delta variant made the following statement:
“The vaccine maintains an effectiveness rate of about 93% in preventing serious illness and hospitalization cases.” (Link).
By mid-July this hadn’t changed much:
The vaccine was 91% effective at preventing severe illness in the same period between June 20 and July 17, the ministry said (Link).
Sure, the rate of infection by the delta variant is much higher compared to previous variants. However, even here there still appears to be some enhanced protection. A report from July 23 showed that:
After two shots the vaccine was 39% effective at reducing the risk of infection and 40% effective at reducing the risk of symptomatic disease during a period when the Delta variant dominated cases in Israel, according to the country’s Health Ministry. (Link)
While being down from an earlier estimate of 64% two weeks prior, this still isn’t bad or “negligible”. So, why are many interpreting the data coming from Israel as indicating that the vaccines are pretty much worthless now?
The key factors here that contribute to this confusion are:
High vaccination rates in the country (nearly 80% of all residents >12yr)
Age disparity in vaccinations, including
Nearly all older people being vaccinated (>90% of residents >50yr) and
The vast majority of unvaccinated being younger people (>85% of unvaccinated <50yr)
Older people are orders of magnitude more likely to be hospitalized with a respiratory virus than young people (residents >50yr are >20x more likely to have hospitalized serious infections than residents <50yr, and residents 90+ are >1600x more likely to have hospitalized serious infections than residents 12-15yr)
After accounting for the vaccination rates and stratifying by age groups, from these same data it can be seen that the vaccines retain high efficacy (85-95%) vs. severe disease, showing that when it comes to preventing severe disease, the Pfizer vaccine is still performing very well vs. Delta, even in Israel from whence the most concerning data have arisen.
Vaccine efficacy vs. severe disease for younger (<50yr) = 1 – 0.3/3.9 = 91.8%
Vaccine efficacy vs. severe disease for older (>50yr) = 1- 13.6/90.9 = 85.2%
Since the <50yr and >50yr groups are quite heterogeneous in terms of vaccination rates and risk of severe disease, it is instructive to stratify by even finer age groups:
Jeffrey Morris, Director of the Biostatistics Division at the University of Pennsylvania (August 17, 2021)
Still, the rather sudden decrease in the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines against the Delta Variant is a serious turn of events. A preprint study published last month by physician Tal Patalon and colleagues at KSM, the research arm of MHS, found that protection from COVID-19 infection during June and July dropped in proportion to the length of time since an individual was vaccinated. People vaccinated in January had a 2.26 times greater risk for a breakthrough infection than those vaccinated in April. – suggesting a need for a third “booster” shot. And, that’s just what Israel is starting to do. Israel has turned to booster shots, starting on 30 July with people 60 and older and, last Friday, expanding to people 50 and older. As of Monday, nearly 1 million Israelis had received a third dose, according to the Ministry of Health (Link).
And, it appears to be helping. The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be 86% effective in preventing infection among those ages 60 and older after a third dose, according to initial results published Wednesday by Maccabi Health Services. (Hoffman, August 18, 2021)
Other treatment options better than vaccines:
Dr. Margaret Song:
But what about the argument made that other treatment options exist that are better and safer than the vaccines against COVID-19? – to include the Delta Variant? In the video, Dr. Margaret Song says that she has successfully treated around 200 outpatients as follows:
- Ivermectin (0.2 mg/kg or 12-15 mg for women and 15-18 mg for men)
- Hydrotherapy (Hot/Cold showers with 3-5 minutes of hot followed by 1 minute of cold) or hot packs with cold friction rubs
- No Tylenol or Advil (avoid blocking fevers)
- Go outside for fresh air
- Herbal Therapy
- Oregano essential oil lozenges with honey
- Rosemary + Clove oil
Dr. Lela Lewis also supported the use of Ivermectin as well as hydroxychloroquine at this point.
Certainly, there does seem to be evidence for the usefulness of hot/cold “fomentations” (Link), and even for the use of various kinds of “essential oils” and outside activities such as “forest bathing” (Link). Unfortunately, the initial hope that Ivermectin and/or hydroxychloroquine would offer some significant benefit (Link) hasn’t been demonstrated by various scientific studies into this question (involving far more than 200 people). (Link, Link, Link). It was also originally hoped that perhaps adding zinc to hydroxychloroquine therapies would improve the clinical course of COVID-19 patients – since hydroxychloroquine is a “zinc ionophore” (it helps zinc enter the cells of the human body to produce the anti-viral effects associated with zinc). Unfortunately, however, this hypothesis wasn’t supported by real-world scientific studies into this question. As it turns out, “Zinc supplements did not enhance the clinical efficacy of HCQ.” (Abd-Elsalam, et. al., November 2020).
Dr. Jonathan Freed:
Dr. Jonathan Freed also promoted hydrotherapy, which is good, but then went on to claim that those who have “natural immunity” to COVID-19 (from a previous infection) gain no advantage to being vaccinated – that the government is “lying to people” when it tells those with natural immunity that they would benefit from getting vaccinated as well. Now, there is evidence that those with natural immunity to the original type of COVID-19 virus, and some of the original variants, were equally resistant to breakthrough infections as compared to those who were vaccinated (Florian Krammer, The Lancet, April 9, 2021). However, unfortunately, this does not appear to be true when it comes to the Delta Variant (Link). It just isn’t like getting natural immunity to chickenpox, which Dr. Freed says is always the best way to gain immunity.
Sometimes, it just isn’t that way. Sometimes, vaccines really are much safer than gaining natural immunity via infection. Also, sometimes, contrary to the claims of Dr. Freed here, “good health” won’t necessarily save a person from a pandemic like this one. I personally know quite a number of young, healthy, even vegan SDAs, who have been seriously sicked, with long stays in the MICU due to blood clots throughout their bodies, by COVID-19. Many have suffered long-term, even permanent injuries. And, many older friends of mine and my family (older than 65) have been killed by COVID-19 infections despite following the Adventist Health Message very closely. Just this week, in my hometown, seven people died in three days due to the Delta Variant – to include one woman in her 40s and a 52-year-old man (both were otherwise healthy). Seventeen more are currently in the MICU. We are currently experiencing our highest levels of hospital and ICU admissions due to COVID-19 ever – because of the Delta Variant (Link).
Dr. Mark Sandoval:
Dr. Mark Sandoval, from Uchee Pines Institute, presented a good list of natural remedies for viral infections, including COVID-19 infections that have been used on about 100 COVID-19 patients at Uchee Pines, that could be used “before oxygen supplementation is needed” as follows:
- Prayer to God for help
- Vitamin C (2000 mg/day)
- Zinc (75 mg/day x 5-6 days, then 25 mg/day)
- Quercetin (500 mg twice a day) – a zine ionophore that helps zinc get into cells
- Echinacea (800 mg 4-5x/day (antiviral properties)
- Vitamin D3 (50,000 IU x 3 days, then 10,000 IU/day till blood levels 60-75 ng/mL)
- Contrast Showers (3 minutes Hot, then 30 seconds Cold, in 5-7 cycles per day)
- Hot Applications (3-5 minutes Hot, then ice water clothes for 30 seconds in 5-7 cycles per day)
- Onion Poultice for Lung Congestion (on the chest to breath fumes x 4 hours or overnight)
- Deep Breathing x 10 per hour
- Nature’s Penicillin (blended drink – 1 Cup Daily)
- 1 Grapefruit
- 2 Oranges
- 1 Lemon
- 3 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 Onion
- 3 Drops of Peppermint Oil
- Recovery Phase: Continued rest following last symptoms of COVID-19 for 42-72 hours
Now, I’m not opposed to any of these therapies – or to the Adventist Health Message in general. I think that such things are very useful and helpful for those who have already been infected with COVID-19 and are suffering symptomatic disease from this virus – as well as a few others (Link). Vitamin D and hot/cold or even “heat therapy” show some particularly interesting and useful effects against COVID-19 (Link). However, this does not discount the need or effectiveness of also educating the human immune system to more effectively attack the virus without the body having to go through the sickness first – with all the risks involved with going that route. In other words, none of this discounts the usefulness and amazing effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines when it comes to the fight against COVID-19 and its spread to others.
In short, why not take advantage of every opportunity that God has given to us? After all, Ellen White, our source for our information on the Adventist Health Message, also supported the vaccine against smallpox in her day for her own son, William, and his as well as her own associates. She herself was also vaccinated during an outbreak of smallpox and encouraged the use of other useful modern medical therapies of her own day. For example, she promoted the use of quinine to fight off malaria in various regions of the world and the use of blood transfusions to save lives. She also personally had radiation therapy to treat a skin lesion on her face. (Link)
So then, it isn’t like we have to choose “one or the other” here. We can take advantage of all of the good opportunities set before us. We should strive to be as healthy and as fit as we possibly can. However, as already mentioned, sometimes this just isn’t enough during certain types of pandemics, like smallpox in Mrs. White’s day or even like COVID-19 in our day. I’ve seen many healthy Seventh-day Adventists living by the Heath Message, get sick and die of COVID-19. I’ve even seen quite a few young and very healthy men and women get seriously sick and suffer long-term injuries even if they didn’t die (i.e., Long-Hauler’s Syndrome). Again, sometimes the human immune system, weakened by thousands of years of sin and decay, just isn’t up to the task and needs a little extra help. Vaccines, to include the mRNA vaccines, are a proven way to do this in a very safe and effective way. This isn’t to say that vaccines have absolutely no risk. They do have a number of known risks – including serious risks and even the risk of death. However, every single one of these risks is very rare compared to the risks of COVID-19 producing the very same thing at much higher levels and with much greater severity.
Religious Freedom and Freedom of Conscience:
Setting all of the science for or against vaccines, diet, and health aside, what about a person’s individual freedom to choose what is best for him or her?
Pastor Wyatt Alan:
I personally thought it was very interesting when Pastor Wyatt Alan explained that it is the duty of governments to protect people, even when it comes to limiting certain religious beliefs. For example, Pastor Alan brought up the illustration of “child sacrifice” as a type of religious belief that good governments would be bound to outlaw with the use of force. And, I would think such examples would be quite obvious for most.
Of course, Pastor Alan went on to argue that governments must also walk a fine line between limiting various freedoms that go too far when it comes to risking the lives or general well-being of one’s neighbors and limiting legitimate freedoms of religion and conscience.
But what about government mandates regarding vaccines? The argument often used, of course, is that vaccines help to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, thereby protecting the neighbors of those who might be infected but who don’t yet have symptoms and don’t know that they are infectious. Well, Pastor Alan argues that if it could be conclusively shown that the mRNA vaccines are 100% effective and 100% safe, then it would be reasonable for governments to enforce their use on the public. However, short of this, governments are overstepping their authority to mandate vaccines on those who have religious or conscientious problems with them – that the “Second Beast” is “whispering right now” through such mandates.
Now, I do sympathize with many of the points made by Pastor Alan here. Religious freedom is one of the key pillars of our country, our Constitution, and our society. The Bible strongly promotes religious freedom as well. On the other hand, as Pastor Alan points out, the Bible also strongly speaks for the idea that God has given governments civil authority – that they “do not bear the sword for nothing” (Romans 13:4). So, what is the balance here? Personally, it seems to me as though the argument that, “Unless something is 100% definitive, without any risk whatsoever, that the government should have no say” goes too far since nothing in this world is 100% safe or effective. Take, for example, the government laws regarding the use of seatbelts (which Pastor Alan also uses as an example). Most would agree with these laws. Yet, seatbelts are not 100% effective nor are they 100% safe. They are very good, but not 100%.
The same can be said for the mRNA vaccines. Still, regarding the mRNA vaccines, in particular, I would personally favor individual choice and freedom for most of the population – with the exception of those who work with those who are most at risk. For example, I would not oppose vaccine mandates for those who work with the sick and/or the elderly – such as in hospitals or nursing homes since these people have much higher risks when it comes to COVID-19 infections. However, overall, since vaccines are now available to all (who are older than the age of 12), it seems to me that the protections provided by these vaccines should allow for increased freedoms for both the vaccinated as well as the unvaccinated. The vaccinated are protected from severe sickness, hospitalizations, and death to a significant enough degree that fear regarding the unvaccinated seems largely unwarranted at this point – even with regard to the Delta Variant. Of course, those who are younger than 12 years of age do not yet have access to the mRNA vaccines. So, those dealing directly with children (who are showing increased risks when it comes to the Delta Variant) may be required to wear masks or to be vaccinated, and I would not object in such situations.
As an aside, Pastor Alan’s claim that the COVID-19 vaccines are produced with “fetal cell lines” isn’t true of the mRNA vaccines. Fetal cell lines, that are many decades old now (not necessarily derived from deliberate abortions) are used to produce the DNA-based vaccines (J&J and AstraZeneca), but not the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) since these vaccines are entirely synthetically produced without the use of cell cultures (further discussion of this below: Link).
Dr. Greg King:
Dr. King also presented a similar argument to the one presented by Pastor Alan – that the Bible, the Gospels, in particular, show great respect for the freedom of personal choice while also pointing out that “I am my brother’s keeper”. He also cites the Adventist Review (December 18, 2020) with the point being made that “individual choice is primary”. Again, this presents a fine line that we must strive to walk as carefully as possible.
Pastor Ric Swaningson:
Pastor Swaningson referenced Romans 14:5, noting that it is very important, right or wrong, that everyone be fully convinced in their own mind. And, for the most part, in most situations, I would agree – with limits of course when people go “too far”.
Pastor Rob Bernardo:
Pastor Bernardo presented the argument that the church should shape culture, not the other way around – that the church should be “counter-culture”. He quoted E. J. Waggoner (who would eventually leave and be strongly opposed to the SDA Church) when he said that calling a conscientious objector against vaccines a “mad dog” (during a smallpox epidemic) is part of the “Spirit of the Catholic Inquisition”.
Again, I might disagree with a person regarding their views on vaccines, thinking their understanding to be mistaken or misguided. However, for the most part, I think it good to strive to convince rather than to force action when it comes to vaccines and the like.
Scott Ritsema pointed out that the CDC says that, “Our vaccines can’t prevent transmission”. Therefore, Scott concludes, it makes no sense anyway to force vaccines. Then, interestingly, he goes on to cite the argument made earlier by Dr. Freed that the Pfizer vaccine is “only 42% effective” while a plant-based diet has been associated with a 72% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths (Hyunju Kim, et. al., June 2021).
Already there are a few problems with the arguments made here. First off, just because the mRNA vaccines aren’t 100% effective in preventing serious infection or transmission of the COVID-19 virus doesn’t mean that they are not at all effective or beneficial along these lines. As explained above, the mRNA vaccines are still amazingly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and death – and also reduce the rate of transmission.
But what about good health and veganism? Sure, I’m a big fan. As I’ve said before, do it all! Be as healthy and as fit as possible, but then go and get the vaccine at the same time. Look, if you’re healthy enough where you think you can survive a COVID-19 infection without serious injury or death, then you’re more than healthy enough to do just fine with the vaccines. It can only add additional protection to your body by educating the immune system without having to take the risks associated with the live viral infection – even for very healthy vegan people.
It always amazes me how people think that a small part of a virus acting in a small part of the body is somehow more dangerous than a very large amount of a fully intact and active virus replicating throughout the entire body – particularly attacking the lining of blood vessels and creating blood clots all over the place. How does that make any rational sense? Where is the biological mechanism of enhanced injury for the mRNA vaccines? – as compared to a full-blown infection? There just isn’t any reasonable means by which the mRNA vaccines would be remotely as dangerous to the human body as compared to a full-blown COVID-19 infection.
However, I do generally agree with Scott that no one should be forced to be vegan or otherwise healthy, nor should anyone be forced to take a vaccine against their will (with some limits as described above).
Pastor Ron Kelly:
Pastor Kelly cites James 5:13-16, noting that prayers for the sick and having the sick come for anointing before God, is something important to remember. Both of my own young sons have been anointed by the elders of the church, according to the advice of James, when they were very sick. And, both started to improve afterward.
The FDA’s “Emergency Use Authorization”:
Three lawyers were also interviewed to give legal advice regarding religious liberty options and exemptions (Mat Staver, Jonathan Zirkle, and Jonathan Cherne).
Mat Staver initially brought up the legal position that under the FDA rules of “Emergency Use Authorization”, which forms the basis for the general public use of the mRNA vaccines in this country at this point in time, that there is always a solid legal argument to refuse any such vaccine or medication or medical treatment of any kind. The problem here, of course, is that the FDA is planning to give “Full Approval” to the Pfizer vaccine by September 2021, removing this legal argument.
Right of Conscience Laws:
Of course, the right of conscience laws remain. The legal counsel here is to argue for the personal conviction that one’s body is the “Temple of God” and that one is morally opposed to the use of “fetal cell lines” in the production or testing of the vaccines being used. Of course, fetal cell lines were not used in the production of the mRNA vaccines – although some initial mRNA vaccine testing was done using fetal cell lines that are many decades old (no longer being done with either of the mRNA vaccines).
Fetal Cell Line Testing:
As far as the morality of using vaccines or medications of any kind that have, at some time in the present or past, been tested on fetal cell lines, if one is to be consistent on this issue, it would end up removing access to a great deal of modern medicine. Consider, for example, that are 66,000 published scientific studies in literature based on the use of the HEK-293 fetal cell line and its derivatives (“HEK” stands for “human embryonic kidney” cells – an “immortal” cell line that was started in 1973). The top 20 medications currently used in the United States were all tested using HEK-293 – to include Tylenol, Aspirin, Aleve, Sudafed, Benadryl, Claritin, Robitussin, Maalox, Synthroid… and on and on. In fact, the only medication currently on the market that wasn’t tested on the HEK-293 cell line is Simethicone (Gas-X) – since it never actually enters human cells (Link).
The origin of the HEK-293 cell line is not entirely clear, but was derived from the kidney cells of a female fetus from either a spontaneous miscarriage or elective abortion that occurred in the Netherlands in 1973.
“I received an e-mail a few months ago from Professor Frank Graham, who established this cell line. He tells me that to the best of his knowledge, the exact origin of the HEK293 fetal cells is unclear. They could have come from either a spontaneous miscarriage or an elective abortion. Regardless, the abortions that gave rise to the three cell lines—or in the possible case of HEK293, the miscarriage—happened decades ago.”
Now, while deliberate abortions are always a tragedy, the estimated frequency of spontaneous abortion is between 12% and 24% of all clinically identified pregnancies (Link). While also tragic, would it be unethical to use such a tragedy to save lives? Adults who die often volunteer to have their organs harvested in order to save the lives of others who might need them. In this way, a tragedy can be used to prevent other tragedies. Of course, a fetus cannot “consent” to do this. However, parents can consent, on behalf of their children in such tragic situations. As hard as it is to even think about, I certainly would consent, in such a situation, regarding the lives of my own two sons.
The fact is that the HEK-293 cell line has improved and saved many millions of lives. Should we, therefore, stop using it, because of its tragic origin? Or, should we, as we move forward, be more diligent in how we view and protect human life? Either way, let’s at least be consistent in what we’re doing. After all, an inconsistency here may come back to bite us, legally, and in other important ways as well, later on down the line…
Jonathan Zirkle pointed out that medical exceptions are generally not allowed when it comes to preventing one from being terminated from their job, given a vaccine mandate. However, religious exemptions are more effective.
The question of a required “pastoral letter” to support one’s religious exemption request was discussed, with Mat Staver explaining that such a letter is not required and is irrelevant to the claim of a religious exemption.
Required PCR testing:
Regarding mandated PCR testing, Jonathan Cherne noted that it is common for employers to require various medical tests, even some that are a bit invasive, such as various drug tests. Most of the time, there is nothing a person can do about this, not even with regard to claims of religious exemptions. However, often, some sort of compromise can be reached, such as an employee “bringing their own Q-tip” to use for PCR testing, etc – as long as it does not produce an “undue hardship” for the employer (as defined by national and various state laws).
Religious Liberty in the Military:
The question of religious liberty options while serving in the military was brought up, but without much knowledge from this legal team regarding military law. However, I’ve personally served in the US Army and I can say, by personal experience (being brought up for court-martial twice over Sabbath observance issues), that many military commanders will really push and test a soldier to see if he/she is really sincere in his/her religious beliefs and convictions – particularly regarding consistency of action. However, if the soldier continues to hold under pressure, this is generally highly respected by commanders – as long as it is done with respect and courtesy and as long as the soldier is a very good soldier in every other way (as was demonstrated by Daniel and his three friends as described in the Bible). I would say that the significant majority of the military commanders will end up strongly supporting the soldier in the end. One of my own commanders ended up telling me, after I had passed his own tests on me, that he specifically joined the Army in order to support those with sincere religious convictions like mine. My own experiences in this regard ended up being very very positive.
Bio of Dr. Sean Pitman
Dr. Sean Pitman is a pathologist, with subspecialties in anatomic, clinical, and hematopathology, currently working in N. California.