“Hello, Dr. Are you a Republican or a Democrat?”
This may appear to be an odd question to pose to your doctor. What impact will their political views have on the care of your medical problems?
A patient recently asked that question to a Montana emergency room physician who was overloaded with COVID-19 cases in her ICU.
During an interview with the Missoulian, Dr. Sara Nyquist stated she told the patient, “I am your doctor.”
She thought, “You do wonder how we got here.”
We don’t have to wonder, though. We live in a time when political divisiveness is at an all-time high. And social media is adding fuel to the fire. With the COVID-19 epidemic, there are passionate conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else you go online about people foregoing a life-saving vaccine in favor of eating horse paste from their local animal feed store.
Medicine is increasingly political on social media.
The horse paste debate
Joe Rogan, a podcaster, revealed that he had COVID-19 in early September. The popular but divisive presenter revealed his diagnosis in an Instagram video, which was accompanied by a list of meds he was taking to combat it.
Ivermectin, a Nobel Prize-winning antiparasitic medicine that has long been used to treat roundworms and other parasites, is one of his treatments.
While Ivermectin is regularly used to treat humans in underdeveloped countries, another type of medicine is more commonly used to deworm livestock. The drug is available in paste form, which may be purchased at animal feed stores, in order to get horses to take it.
Anti-vaxxers and other COVID doubters have been hailing Ivermectin as a COVID-19 miraculous cure in recent months, which it is not.
In fact, both the FDA and the CDC have issued comments emphasizing the dangers of using Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. Merck, the largest producer of Ivermectin in the United States, has also issued a statement cautioning against taking the medicine to treat COVID-19. Merck referred Mashable to the same statement when contacted for comment.
Because many doctors will not prescribe Ivermectin because it is not considered a COVID-19 medication, some people have been utilizing the horse paste form as a workaround.
For months, anti-vaxxers have flooded the internet with Facebook Groups and other online forums dedicated to taking the horse-paste form of the vaccine. People will even describe their daily “regimen” of eating Ivermectin horse paste as a prophylactic against obtaining COVID-19 in the first place in these online communities.
Poison control centers have received an influx of calls claiming Ivermectin overdoses from people ingesting the farm animal equivalent. The FDA even issued a statement emphasizing that consumers should cease using horse paste.
The Ivermectin matter then flared up on social media when Rogan said he was taking it after testing positive for COVID-19.
Rogan had previously stated that the vaccine was unnecessary for his youthful audience. Throughout the pandemic, he had been propagating numerous COVID-19 conspiracy theories. In fact, months before his Instagram post, he hosted major Ivermectin proponents on his show, one of them was Dr. Pierre Kory of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC).
However, it was his remark of Ivermectin in his Instagram video that went viral and sparked a fury online.
Rogan, for one, claims that the Ivermectin he took was for humans and that it was prescribed by a doctor, implying that he did not consume horse paste.
The search for a “wonder cure” is on.
As COVID-19 cases increased, some developing countries with nowhere else to turn and plenty of Ivermectin opted to try it as a COVID-19 treatment. Without any serious research or credible data, word of Ivermectin’s success in treating COVID-19 in those nations swiftly spread among individuals looking for alternate treatments.
The FLCCC, a group of medical experts led by Dr. Pierre Kory, quickly became Ivermectin’s most ardent supporter in the United States as a COVID-19 treatment.
In fact, that might be an exaggeration.
Kory is frequently cited by those who believe Ivermectin is a “wonder treatment” for COVID-19 because he has himself labelled it a “miracle cure” – in his testimony before a Congressional committee, no less. There is no proof to support his claims.
In March 2020, the FLCCC was created in the early days of the pandemic. When COVID-19 patients began flooding hospitals in the United States, doctors were unsure how to treat them. Kory, a former critical care expert, founded the FLCCC to figure out how to manage these patients.
Because of their efforts, Dr. Eric Osgood, an internal medicine doctor who patients COVID-19 “long haulers” – people who still have debilitating symptoms and diseases after surviving the virus – became associated with the group.
Osgood told Mashable that he joined the FLCCC because they were “forward thinking doctors who were able to get ahead of the profession” on a few hospital treatments for the coronavirus, like the use of blood thinners on COVID-19 patients.
Osgood, on the other hand, left the company earlier this summer. What is the explanation for this? The FLCCC’s determination on promoting Ivermectin over life-saving COVID-19 vaccinations, led by Kory.
Dr. Osgood informed me, “We now have vaccines that are widely and inexpensively available that have been overwhelmingly demonstrated to save lives.” “The group’s clout isn’t being used to help people overcome their vaccine anxieties and apprehensions.”
There is no mention of the COVID-19 vaccines on the FLCCC website, let alone any promotion of them. Ivermectin, on the other hand, is featured prominently as a whole website topic on the FLCCC homepage’s main menu at the top of the page. It’s immediately next to the “About” and “FAQ” pages on the website.
Osgood is arguably one of the most influential figures in the Ivermectin debate. In COVID-19 patients, he is not opposed to the use of Ivermectin. He claims to have observed its efficacy in treating some symptoms in these people, such as working as an anti-inflammatory. Once a large enough trial is conducted, the New Jersey doctor feels we will know more about the potential benefits of Ivermectin treatment in COVID patients. And, based on that information, he’s willing to be proven wrong.
He explained, “I’m profoundly unhappy with how Ivermectin is being regarded as settled science [by the FLCCC] instead of presenting arguments based on evidence, risk, value, costs, burdens, and the absence of good outpatient alternatives.”
“It’s not a cure-all, and it’s not a vaccination substitute.”
The COVID-19 polarisation
Political polarisation in the United States is not a new phenomenon, exacerbated by social media.
But what about medical treatment polarisation? That’s a first.
According to Mashable, Osgood has never seen anything like it in the medical field. That is, until the onset of the pandemic when then-President Donald Trump sponsored another so-called experimental miracle medicine, hydroxychloroquine.
Despite medical professionals’ skepticism, right-wing COVID doubters eagerly embraced Trump’s claims. Some people even took the wrong type of hydroxychloroquine, which resulted in death, foreshadowing the present horse-paste disaster.
Trump even enlisted the help of a group of fringe doctors to back up his allegations. Those same off-the-beaten-path doctors, dubbed “America’s Frontline Doctors,” are now issuing Ivermectin prescriptions for patients who need it.
Studies would eventually back up detractors’ allegations that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective. Right-wingers and anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, saw anyone criticizing hydroxychloroquine as making a political statement rather than a scientific one.
These anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists were able to exploit social media to their advantage, much like it works with political discourse. They took advantage of filter bubbles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms to amplify bogus claims about miracle treatments and vaccines.
Conspiracy theories are all over the place these days.
Long before COVID-19, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists existed.
As a befuddled population searched online for answers during the epidemic and early lockdowns, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists were ready to counter with their own lies.
During the pandemic, right-wing conspiracy theories like QAnon thrived. COVID-19 was a fraud, according to QAnon supporters, who combined it with their conspiratorial basic beliefs, such as Trump’s political rivals controlling worldwide trafficking rings.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, there have been over 684,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to the CDC. The virus is killing almost 2,000 people every day in the country.
It didn’t take long for conspiracy theorists to persuade others on social media that COVID-19 was invented by Trump’s opponents with the sole purpose of costing him the election. The vaccines, which Trump has claimed credit for, then became a tool for President Joe Biden’s administration to track people using 5G nanochips. (Of course, this isn’t the case.) The COVID vaccination does not contain a 5G chip.
With Trump fans, anti-vaxxers, and other conspiracy theorists in charge of the COVID-19 story on social media, they turn to fake miraculous remedies like Ivermectin.
The issues will soon go offline as well.
One doctor in Idaho recently related how a COVID patient’s son-in-law threatened to kill her if she didn’t take Ivermectin. QAnon members harassed doctors at a Chicago hospital earlier this month for not administering the medicine to save a prominent conspiracy theorist who was sick with COVID-19.
The issue will persist.
Proponents of ivermectin, such as Dr. Kory, have long touted a few studies that claim to illustrate the drug’s effects in COVID-19 patients.
However, many research have been halted as a result of ethical concerns and incorrect data.
Some of the studies on Ivermectin and COVID-19 that were available were “flawed,” “fabricated,” and “done in a manner that is not in keeping with scientific norms,” according to Dr. Osgood.
“There has always been study fraud,” he told Mashable, “but never have I seen such high levels of fraud and scientific misconduct surrounding one medicine.”
Because of how contentious the subject is, even Ivermectin’s adversaries have succumbed to online misinformation. Even after it was refuted, a spurious paper suggesting Ivermectin decreases male sperm count quickly propagated online in recent weeks.
COVID-19 instances are on the rise in the United States. Today, the unvaccinated are the ones who are hospitalised and die from the illness. Anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, will gleefully share conspiracy ideas regarding COVID-19 and vaccines on their Facebook pages.
A new community dubbed “The Herman Cain Award” has arisen on Reddit. The prize is named after Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential contender who refused to wear a mask during a Trump event during the outbreak. He died of COVID-19, a virus he caught as a result of the incident.
On this subreddit, users submit screenshots of anti-vaxxers’ online remarks – image after image of the anti-vaxxer declaring that COVID-19 is a fraud or that vaccines are part of a hidden government surveillance conspiracy.
Finally, there’s “the money shot,” the post that earns that person “The Herman Cain Award,” as some Redditors refer to it: The final Facebook post, sometimes from a family member, announcing that the unvaccinated poster has died from COVID-19.
During my conversation with Osgood, I mentioned a recent study that found a chemical in the venom of a Brazilian viper that could potentially be utilised to combat COVID-19.
I made a joke about how Anti-vaxxers are likely to be bitten by venomous snakes on purpose in the near future.
Osgood forwarded me a link to an article a few days later about how the unvaccinated are now drinking iodine to fight COVID-19, owing to disinformation circulated on social media. Much of what we’re seeing, according to Osgood, is a means for dissenters to defy the system. What better way to annoy the establishment than to go up against officials in the midst of a pandemic?
“Snake venom is on its way, my friend…” he warned.
Sure, healthcare has always been a political issue, particularly in the United States of America, which is the only industrialized country without universal coverage. And, without a doubt, the major pharmaceutical firms and their political lobbying to protect their profits deserve a lot of blame.
Medical treatment, on the other hand, has rarely been a contentious political topic.
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