At the Wuhan Institute of Virology, “they have published data that they were actually introducing furin cleavage sites,” a mutation that would make a virus much more dangerous, said Dr. Nicole Saphier, the director of breast imaging at a major cancer center.
In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Saphier to discuss the Wuhan lab leak theory, Dr. Fauci’s newly released email trove, and her new book, “Panic Attack: Playing Politics With Science in the Fight Against COVID-19.”
“When you have the CDC coming out saying young children still need to be wearing masks outdoors, even when they’re physically distancing, until they’re vaccinated—this makes no sense,” Dr. Saphier said.
Jan Jekielek: Dr. Nicole Saphier, it is such a pleasure to have you on American thought leaders.
Dr. Nicole Saphier: Well, thank you so much for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, I just finished, perhaps an hour before we’re sitting down right now, your really excellent book. We’ve been seeing a lot of discussion of the lab leak theory over past weeks. This has been a taboo subject over the better part of the last year, and now it seems to be everyone’s favorite topic.
And even more recently, we’ve gotten these 3,000 FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] emails related to Dr. Fauci, which of course also inclued discussion of this lab leak theory. Let’s dig into this. What do you make of what you’re seeing right now, this sudden abrupt shift in the narrative around the Wuhan lab leak theory?
Dr. Saphier: I’m glad to see that certain things are now being at least openly discussed and not being silenced. You’ve listened to my book now, thank you. A lot of hours went into recording that audio book, so I’m glad at least someone is listening to it.
But as you know, there’s an entire chapter in my book looking into the possibilities of where this virus came from. I truly believe that question should have been asked. The fact is, anyone who even mentioned the concept that maybe this virus didn’t just come from natural spillover was immediately deemed contrarian, anti-science, and criticized as being wrong.
I, myself was a target of a media hit campaign, because I said that it was a possibility that the virus came from a lab early last summer.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes.There were numerous people. We had a documentary that had over a hundred million views that talked about it as a possibility. No conclusions were drawn, of course.
And I think there seems to be a conflation, sometimes, of this idea that something is a possibility, versus something being an anathema, that can’t be discussed at all. Where does this come from?
Dr. Saphier: It’s interesting, because when it comes to scientific discovery, or medicine in general, discord and disagreement is completely normal. It’s why we tell people to go get a second opinion. And when those two opinions don’t agree, we say, “Go get a third opinion.” And maybe those three won’t agree.
What’s not normal is the way that the media sensationalized any sort of discord that occurred, especially early on in the pandemic, when people were asking questions or not going along with the mainstream popular opinion, They were cast as charlatans who were essentially peddling snake oil, when all they were really doing was just asking questions.
But because the media was putting forth these panic-inciting headlines, it created this perception that there was a level of chaos going on, which really wasn’t the case.
Mr. Jekielek: And also basically shut down numerous people who really appeared to be honest and well-intentioned in their work. I think you actually mentioned Dr. Yan Li-Meng, who escaped from Hong Kong to come with some information that she wanted to add to the mix.
Dr. Saphier: Right. And you recall, and I wrote about the fact that no one wanted to hear from her. Whether or not her story has been, or will ever be truly validated, the truth is she was coming forth as a whistleblower.
There were so many heroic Chinese whistleblowers that were silenced, but this is one that was silenced by American media We expect silencing to happen by the CCP, but American media was silencing her because she was going against party lines, going against what Dr. Fauci was saying, and others were saying.
She was saying that it was a possible one coming from a lab, but also that she was trying to bring to light the cover-up that was occurring.
Why was that so surprising to anybody? We saw that with the original SARS epidemic, that happened nearly two decades ago? Why would it seem so unlikely that the CCP was again covering up? And now, obviously, we have a lot of data to show how much was being covered up by the CCP, and then by proxy, the World Health Organization.
Mr. Jekielek: As we were talking earlier, you flagged for me this tweet by Dr. Kristian Andersen saying, “In an apparent plot twist, I’m evidently a hero now,” because he’s the one who alerted Dr. Fauci in an email that there’s a possibility the virus doesn’t look entirely natural.
This same scientist was a coauthor on an article, which really hammered home the idea, in Nature, a preeminent journal for biology that it’s natural.
Dr. Saphier: Yes. I found this series of events to be interesting. He did send an email saying there were some very specific areas of the virus that require some further investigation, that it doesn’t look wholly natural. And because of that, the study went underway, partially funded by the NIH, I must add.
And then about six weeks later, they published their results saying that they’ve now looked at the sequence of the virus, and all of the mutations that were in question could have occurred in nature. Therefore, they concluded that it was likely to be of natural origin.
But the flip side of that is, those mutations also could have occurred in a lab. Therefore, I don’t know how you can conclude that it would come from nature, while it could have also occurred in the lab. Yes, you can say taht these mutations exist and could happen in nature, therefore it is possible that this occurred in nature, but you still have to look at other coincidences.
The fact that it was the dead of winter. Bats are supposed to be hibernating during that time. We still haven’t found the virus in an intermediate species or in a bat. That actually leads against the natural spillover theory.
And the fact that you have the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is like the Mecca of Coronavirus research, which we know is doing gain of function research on Coronaviruses, specifically the ones that are the most genetically similar to the one circulating now as SARS CoV-2, that also can’t be ignored. This lab is about eight miles away from that wet market.
I like that they said, “Okay, this could happen in nature,” but they didn’t finish their sentence. It still could have also happened in a lab, and therefore requires further investigation.
But let’s be honest. There’s no question why Dr. Fauci, other U.S. officials, the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese researchers didn’t want exploration of the lab origin theory, mainly because U.S. dollars were partially funding this research, this gain of function research, which has historically been incredibly controversial. They don’t want unwanted attention on that.
Mr. Jekielek: So this particular email from Dr. Anderson that went out, this was in the beginning, late January, early February 2020, subsequent to, “Well, let’s have a phone call.” We don’t know what happens, but shortly thereafter there appears to be this huge push from all sectors to basically make the Wuhan lab leak theory radioactive.
Dr. Saphier: Dr. Fauci, when he would be pressed and asked about the origin theories, because the media wanted to make it seem like anybody who was still giving credence to the lab origin, they wanted them to be cast aside as conspiracy theorists—all Dr. Fauci kept referencing was this Nature article, saying, “A group of highly-trained virologists looked at this and it’s consistent with natural spillover.” It was just a repeating line that he kept saying.
But what about the other people who were still bringing additional facts to attention, such as the State Department pointing to that there was some odd activity around the lab in September and October. They were tracking cell phone data. It looked like something changed. Traffic patterns changed.
There were still a lot of things being brought to attention. But again, it was that one study over and over again—”Well, because of the study, it’s not possible.”
Mr. Jekielek: I really liked how you outlined what would have had to happen in order for this to happen naturally. It’s not impossible. It’s certainly possible, but there would have to be bat DNA, plus pangolin DNA, plus unique furin cleavage sites.
Maybe just expand on this for me, because I really liked how you explained it. A lot of people still have question marks in their mind about what’s actually in this virus. It has is created all these questions.
Dr. Saphier: There were a couple of interesting things about this virus. First of all, you want to talk about the viral backbone, the crux of the virus. The only lab in the world that has a virus that looks 93 percent genetically similar to SARS CoV-2 was this bat that came from a Yunnan cave discovered by Wuhan Institute of Virology years earlier, and they have published on that.
But from there, there were a couple of other things that didn’t match. And so how did that come to be? Usually it’s because there’s a mixing of species, you have bats with other animals, and then on to humans. But then there was something called the receptor binding motif. That’s essentially, how does the virus attached to the cell, invade it and then infect it?
That binding motif was very specific and they did locate one very specific to that in a pangolin, which is like an anteater type of animal. So they’re thinking, “Okay, maybe the bats and the pangolin got together and now we’re really close to SARS CoV-2. But there was still one more mutation that needed to exist, and that is something that has become very controversial.
I’m not a virologist. I studied microbiology before medical school and immunology, but I’m not a virologist. I tried to explain it the best I could in the book.
This one cleavage site, this mutation, has made this virus to so transmissible and can cause such severe disease. It also causes the involvement of the central nervous system, which is why people say they can’t smell or they can’t taste anything when they’re infected.
What’s interesting about that is, that specific mutation is known to be a virulent mutation, one that would make a virus to be much more dangerous. We’ve seen it in the worst influenza viruses. We’ve seen it in many other viruses. And that can happen in nature, undoubtedly. It can happen in nature.
But at that specific lab, they have published data that they were actually introducing furin cleavage sites, those mutations, into certain Coronaviruses to test their virulence. When we talk about gain of function research, that’s what that is. They’re essentially giving a virus different functions to see what it would do.
They’ve published that data. It’s not like we’re having some cloak-and-dagger operation, or trying to determine what they’re doing in there. They publish on it. So we know. It’s public knowledge that they were inserting those mutations. So again, could this all happen in nature? Absolutely. Could it have happened in a lab? Sure. It needs to be investigated.
Mr. Jekielek: When it comes to the Chinese Communist Party, we’ve been looking at the Chinese Communist Party for 20 years at The Epoch Times. Everything is highly politicized. So you assume that’s going to be part of the answer to the question.
One of the things that you note in there is that all the samples of the virus at the Wuhan lab were destroyed early on.
Dr. Saphier: There are a couple of things that people still aren’t talking about, which I’m just waiting for them to talk about. They’re in the book, so maybe they will at some point.
You mentioned that the viral samples were destroyed, not just the viral samples in the lab, but viral samples from the hospitals were destroyed. That was their way of saying, “We want them destroyed, so they don’t infect anybody else,” but that’s not really how public health works.
We actually like to keep samples so that we can study them and create treatments and potential vaccines for it. Then if you remember, very early on, the mantra was that the Chinese Communist Party is being much more forthcoming this time around.
If you remember with the original SARS outbreak, they weren’t forthcoming about giving the genetic sequence, they were really keeping things close to the vest. But yes, they did put forth that the genetic sequence, and a couple of days later the MRNA vaccine started being made. It was pretty incredible.
But if you really looked into why they had to release that information, they were strong-armed. That’s because another lab, and of course, I’m drawing a blank on the name of the gentleman there, but the head scientist there had gotten a hold of samples from the hospital, and he sequenced the virus, and he sent out that sequence.
He knew he couldn’t publish it himself because the Chinese Communist Party would likely see it and shut him down. So he sent that sequence to a friend of his in Australia, and he then put it on a public platform for all to see the sequence of this virus.
Essentially the Chinese Communist Party did find that and they shut the lab down for “rectification,” whatever that means, and pulled the sequence off the internet. Then the Wuhan Institute of Virology the next day published the sequence, like the heroes of the pandemic. They actually weren’t the first people to do that, but this is par for the course for what goes on there, it seems.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes. Rectification obviously means that someone had committed an egregious anti-party sin and it needs to be rectified. I’ll help decode that for everyone watching. You can’t write this stuff.
Initially, China, via the Chinese Communist Party, basically hid the fact that there was human transmission. We now know that as a fact of the pandemic. At the same time, it influenced the WHO, or at least you argue that as well. Tell me a little bit about this hiding of the transmissibility and the complicity of other organizations, even of the U.S., perhaps.
Dr. Saphier: It’s interesting. China has the largest pandemic surveillance program in place. They also have the largest Coronavirus surveillance program in place, and yet nothing stopped this from happening.
The alarm wasn’t sounded for a potential epidemic or a local outbreak. None of this occurred. You had some very brave Chinese whistleblower physicians who were alerting colleagues and friends on some of their local platforms, but you didn’t really hear anything from the government until weeks later.
You kept hearing there were starting to be clusters of cases in family members and coworkers. That’s a very early indication that there’s human-to-human spread. Then you started seeing healthcare workers falling ill, but there still was no warning that there was a human-to-human spread going on.
Thank goodness you have Taiwan and Korea and others, who had systemic memory from a less-than-forthcoming China from the original SARS. They weren’t listening to what was going on. They shut down flights. They started screening all of the passengers. This was way before they even acknowledged there was human-to-human transmission going on.
The United States was essentially listening to them, and we were echoing everything that was coming out of there. “Oh, there’s no human-to-human spread. It seems like a local outbreak at this wet market. It is what it is. It’s going to be fine. They’ve got it under control.”
The World Health Organization was echoing everything that was coming out of China. They did not go in and do their own investigation. They did not see the fact that you had people lined up outside of hospitals waiting to go in. They did not see the urns being stacked outside of the funeral homes. They were only taking the CCP at their word.
It wasn’t until things got out of control and cases were being seen outside of China, that they actually acknowledged that there was sustained human-to-human transmission. Imagine if we had that information a month earlier.
Imagine if China actually acknowledged it and shut down travel. They shut down travel from Wuhan to other provinces in China, but they allowed people to leave Wuhan to go elsewhere throughout the world.
Imagine if they had shut travel down a month earlier, and did not allow people to leave anywhere, the world may been saved from this pandemic. But China decided to only protect those within China, and allowed this virus to go all across the world during the Chinese New Year, which is the largest global human migration that we have.
Mr. Jekielek: One of our regular guests on, American Thought Leaders, Gordon Chang, describes what you just explained—the locking down internally by allowing travel, but vociferously fighting restrictions on international travel all the while, whether or not it was engineered or a bioweapon, he describes that as a weaponization of the virus by the CCP.
Dr. Saphier: I don’t think that the CCP intentionally released this virus throughout the world. I do think that the CCP did everything that they possibly could to make it seem as though they were doing everything they could, that they were the heroes.
And if it were to have outbreaks anywhere else amongst the world it’s because everyone else had faulty systems and weren’t able to care for it. I think that they only cared about the optics of how they looked, and the welfare of everyone else was not a priority or a consideration.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned in the book and a lot of people forget that Taiwan, in late December, notified the WHO, which it’s not allowed to be a part of because of communist China, that they’re seeing some kind of virus happening, some kind of contagion out there.
At that time the WHO says, “Okay, message received.” Taiwan basically decides to lock down, as a matter of speaking, and block travel from China, based on the historical precedent that you described earlier. But no one really looks at or listens to Taiwan at this point.
Dr. Saphier: No. I talk about that interview. The World Health Organization doesn’t acknowledge Taiwan as an entity. They have demonstrated that they are compromised, and their bias is with the Chinese Communist Party. So tbecause of the fact that they were ignored by the World Health Organization, the word didn’t get around to anybody else.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the themes in your book is :bureaucracy over reality.” I don’t know if that’s a fair characterization. This would be an example of someone saying, “Well, Taiwan clearly isn’t real. So how could we listen to it? We can only listen to the CCP, that’s an official entity. So we should listen to them,” as opposed to looking at the record of the various organizations involved.
I’m using this example of China, Taiwan, and the WHO, but this replicates in America as well. You describe multiple examples of this sort of thing.
Dr. Saphier: Undoubtedly. You can see it as recently as today. All of a sudden common sense and just listening to human beings is being completely ignored throughout the entire course of this pandemic. We had many brave Chinese whistleblowers trying so hard to get the word out there, and they were silenced by the CCP.
And then they were largely ignored by American media and others, and people were taking the WHO’s word at face value. Now we know that they were just echoing what was coming out of the CCP. Unfortunately, we had a lot of people who were not willing to press back. They’re not pressing back against any sort of old guard establishment.
Even now you can see, and this is a more simplistic example, but the CDC continues to ignore that you can have acquired natural immunity following infection. We have study after study proving how strong that is, but yet their only metric for getting out of the state of crisis is the percent of the population who are vaccinated.
Yes, while you do need a certain amount vaccinated to really reach that level of safety, they’re completely neglecting the fact that we’ve gotten to the lowest amount of cases that we have since the entirety of the pandemic. We’re now less than five per a hundred thousand per population. We have a positivity rate which hovers around 1 percent, less than 1 percent.
These are incredible numbers. At the beginning of the pandemic, before we were going to have a vaccine, you had many people, including Dr. Fauci, saying, “Once we get to X amount of numbers, we’re safe.” Well, we hit those, and we’re even better than that now.
So I don’t understand why people are still having a hard time pushing back against the CDC and others saying, “Hey, the state of emergency is over, it’s time to move forward.” We have to look at what’s happening with real-world data and not be so shackled to these bureaucracies.
Mr. Jekielek: You gave a really interesting example of someone, this related early on to the testing for Coronavirus. Someone had developed a quick test for Coronavirus and they submitted it electronically instead of via a CD, which was the requirement.
So it was basically the technology was ignored or denied just simply because the bureaucratic procedure wasn’t followed. For people just thinking with basic common sense, this sounds insane, right?
Dr. Saphier: Yes. But that’s red tape. It’s what we deal with in the medical community every day of our lives. One of the biggest U.S. blunders of this Coronavirus pandemic has been our inability to test early on.
We were completely blinded. We had no idea who had this virus, highly transmissible, contagious, in the midst of flu season. The CDC refused to use other tests, including the Chinese test, which I get, because they don’t necessarily meet our standards when it comes to safety and efficacy. Most places don’t go under the same scrutiny as we do in the United States, so that made sense.
Then we put out our CDC test and they failed miserably. Yet you have these private labs, including one out of University of Washington, who put together great tests, and they were trying to get them out to people,so we could identify these cases, but they were denied for little nonsense things, and it was very frustrating.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the themes I noticed in the book is this idea of counting on the individual agency of people, as opposed to forcing policy onto people—the doctor-patient relationship.
The idea is that the doctor is the person who is supposed to assess the medical information available, whether it’s from the CDC or whether it’s from the literature and apply a treatment to the patient, because they’re dealing with them directly. They understand the context of how they exist.
But this pandemic has shown all sorts of examples of policy being inserted from above. You describe that as people who didn’t take the Hippocratic oath inserting themselves in between the doctor and the patient. That’s interesting.
Dr. Saphier: One of the earliest examples of that is when they decided to shut down elective procedures at the hospitals, which on one hand makes sense. When you know that you’re going to have an influx of patients, you want to make sure you have available patient beds, but not all elective procedures are cosmetic plastic surgeries.
I give the example of my husband, who’s a brain surgeon. You had brain surgeries that were shut down. You had cardiac surgeries and cancer surgeries all deemed elective. Now, again, that’s very different from a nose job. Because of this, the physicians said, “Hey, we’re putting these patients at risk by delaying these surgeries, that’s going to be a problem.”
Well, they didn’t care. They were so tunnel vision about COVID that they didn’t care about anything else. When you start fearing COVID more than cancer or a ruptured brain aneurysm or a heart attack, that’s when you know doctors aren’t in charge anymore.
While SARS CoV-2 is a tricky virus, and it certainly caused a horrible, horrible pandemic throughout this globe, killing over three million people, cancer is also pretty bad. Delaying those surgeries, while it may not seem like a big deal in the short term, could actually cause death, and that’s what happened to people.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s also all sorts of screenings, which simply just didn’t happen. We just finished a documentary looking at how Florida dealt with Coronavirus, the whole concept of lockdowns, and Governor DeSantis’ style of governance, using that as a lens.
Basically, there’s a lot of collateral damage that needs to be assessed, in addition to the cost of people dying from the virus and the direct impact of the virus itself. I thought it was very touching to see that you included your sister in the book. She has an autoimmune disorder that I don’t think you disclosed. She was kind of a case study in this.
Dr. Saphier: Right. My sister has an autoimmune disease, as do I. We both take injections, which are immunosuppressants, to keep our disease at bay. But after 10 months of the pandemic—she’s in event planning—she was laid off. They tried to keep her on as long as they could. She had been at the same company for eight years, but she ended up being laid off.
All of a sudden she doesn’t have health insurance. Her daughter, who also has an autoimmune disease, no longer has health insurance. All of a sudden she required some of this government assistance which was being doled out in a very difficult time.
It’s interesting because, in the very beginning, when we had very little information—taking kids out of school, shutting things down for two weeks—let’s come together and figure out what’s going on here, that’s understandable.
These lockdowns and these restrictions carried on for so long, even after cases got better in certain areas, they started causing so much more damage than the virus itself.
Unfortunately, it was very difficult for our policymakers, legislators, and public health officials to see anything other than COVID numbers.
They stopped seeing America as a whole, and they stopped seeing individuals as a whole. They only saw their COVID numbers and thought that they would be judged based on how well their area was doing on COVID, regardless of the damage they were doing otherwise.
Mr. Jekielek: Hence the title of your book, “Panic Attack.” Not to take away from the seriousness of the disease at all, but there is a kind of a panic, and there continues to be to this day, around Coronavirus.
It is a kind of central organizing feature and the thing that must be feared and avoided at all costs—when it’s a highly disproportionate reaction given all the other realities that you outline and that we outlined in the “Florida Versus Lockdowns,” documentary.
Dr. Saphier: You’re right. Even now people are still living in this perceived level of danger, perceived level of risk, but it’s not actually reality. Especially when it comes to our young children.
When you have the CDC coming out saying, “Young children still need to be wearing masks outdoors, even when they’re physically distancing, until they’re vaccinated,” this makes no sense. We know that COVID is not serious in young kids. Yes, there are some children who have gotten very sick with this illness. There are some children that have died, but it’s very rare.
Historically we have accepted this level of risk before, when it comes to influenza, when it comes to RSV, [Respiratory Syncytial Virus] which hospitalizes 50,000 children every year. Right now we have more Americans dying in car accidents than we do from COVID.
We have accepted these levels of risks previously, but now people are staying stuck in this perpetual state of fear, because of what has occurred throughout this pandemic, through the media inciting headlines and the continued recommendations by the CDC, which unfortunately are lacking a lot of scientific merit.
Mr. Jekielek: Why would you say that this is continuing then? You made some really good cases for there being very clear science that would suggest alternate, or certainly updated approaches, which aren’t being done. Why is that?
Dr. Saphier: People are continuing with the mindset that they want to get to a complete eradication of this Coronavirus. For me personally and I think a lot of people, that’s not necessarily the goal. Once it got as widespread as it did, the chance of eradication was nil.
We now need to get to the point where we can dance with this virus and whether it’s going to be endemic to our society. But we’re in a society that has reached a level of protective community immunity with the majority of people either having vaccine-induced or prior immunity, so we should be okay living through it.
We still have more people being vaccinated every day, and we need people to change their thoughts and to honestly recognize that the emergency is over. The pandemic is not, but the emergency is over, and it is time to move forward.
But people have been so obsessed with this concept for the last 16 months, that it is difficult for them to see the path forward. And then when you have the CDC and others coming out saying, “Well, we will never be normal until young children can be vaccinated,” they’re just continuing to block that light at the end of the tunnel, which so many people need to be seeing right now.
Mr. Jekielek: Frankly, I keep thinking about this, when media pundits come out and definitively talk in this very fearful way to millions of people, and that’s reinforced again and again and again, what do you expect?
Dr. Saphier: Yes. A very blatant example of this just occurred in the last few months from the CDC director. A year ago, I was fearful myself. There was a lot about this virus that I still didn’t know.
The fact that it affects the central nervous system made me very nervous. It still makes me nervous. That is the one piece of this virus that continues to concern me, and I still think we have a lot to learn about this virus.
But now, when you’re looking at the numbers, even in March, knowing that people were going to be going on their spring break, we’re probably going to have a bump in cases because people congregate. But the good news is we had, at that point, over 50 percent of our elderly population vaccinated, and a lot more being vaccinated by the day, millions by the day.
You had CDC director Walensky, I believe it was on March 29th, look in front of the camera with a very somber expression and saying, “I’m worried about that we have an impending doom coming.”
I just remember thinking about that, “Impending doom. What chart is she looking at? She clearly has access to data that I’m not seeing, because all I’m seeing is incredible amount of immunity increasing across our country.”
Three days later, I put out a piece in the Wall Street Journal that said, “Dr. Fauci, tear off these masks. By Memorial day, I’m calling for “emaskipation.” I like that, that’s my word.
I said, “If we stay on the same trajectory, our cases are going to be so low that it’s going to be below flu level. We’ve all been okay with flu before and it hasn’t upended our lives. So we’re going to get to that level and our masks need to be taken off.”
I was optimistic. She spoke about impending doom. Who was right? But that’s the CDC. She’s supposed to be in front of the data. There is no reason to look at Americans and say that there’s an impending doom coming, when it’s not true.
They need to be more transparent about this data and stop trying to fearmonger people into shaping their behaviors. Because when you distort science to shape behaviors, it’s going to breed skepticism and rebellion.
Mr. Jekielek: Maybe you can comment on this. I haven’t read nearly the 3000 emails of this trove that was released by FOIA request from Dr. Fauci. But I get the sense that he’s changed his mind a lot. You’re very kind to him in the book saying, “Well, the reality is, what we know according to the science changes a lot.”
But at the same time I get the feeling he’s kind of shaping of public behavior, using very definitive statements. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m entirely right in this, but this is the sense I’ve got.
Dr. Saphier: First of all, I stand by what I said. Things were changing by the day. No one had an idea. Yes, in the beginning don’t wear masks because that’s never been a recommendation for a general public to wear a mask. It’s not been a means to control viral spread. We use them in the hospital all the time because they do have some efficacy. But he has a really hard time saying when he’s wrong.
So for me, I’ll say something and then, “All right, new data, we have to change up what we’re saying.” I was wiping down my packages in the very beginning because we were told that fomite transmission was probable. So I said, “Okay, you guys, just for now, we’re going to wipe down.”
Two weeks later, “Nope, this was turning out to be more respiratory and maybe even aerosolized. I’m done wiping down, we were wrong.” You move forward.
Dr. Fauci hasn’t seemed to be able to do that on everything that he has said regarding face masks. He said, “Well, I knew, but I just didn’t want you to go out and hoard masks.”
When he’s pressed about the number for herd immunity, at first, it was 60 percent, then all the way up to 90 percent. When people asked him, “Why does your goalpost keep moving?” He says, “Well, I feel like the American people are now ready to hear what I have to say.”
Then on something else, when he was asked about his opinion, he says , “Well that this is my gut feeling.The science may not be there, but this is my gut feeling.” He’s never been able to come back and say, “I was wrong.” Instead, he twists it or has some answer that is really condescending to the American people.
If he could just be transparent, if he could just be honest with people and admit when he has been wrong, I think he would have had a lot more respect, and people wouldn’t have lost so much trust in him, but he doesn’t do that.
Unfortunately, I truly think that is his Achilles heel. One, he does not push back against any sort of establishment. He remains an excellent bystander. Two, he cannot admit when he’s wrong. And those are very, very bad traits to have not only a leader, but also a scientist.
Mr. Jekielek: This is perhaps the central theme of your book, the politicization of the science. What is the problem with politics taking such a big role in making these kinds of decisions, as opposed to people actually assessing the science?
Dr. Saphier: When you start doing that, obviously, we’ll just use COVID-19 as an example. When you have politicians inserting themselves and putting forth policies that are supposed to be for the greater good of their constituents, but really turn out to be hypocritical and only for their own political favor, that’s when you’re going to start breeding not only rebellion, but flat-out anarchy.
One of the most primitive examples I can give is the fact that you had New York City Mayor DeBlasio who was painting Black Lives Matter with protesters outside of the Trump Tower in New York City early on in the pandemic, during when a lot of the protests were going on.
At the same time, the playgrounds for children, the outdoor playgrounds for children, were locked up. Children were not allowed to play on the playgrounds.
When you start saying to people, “You can’t do this for the greater good of the population, but we can do this,” that’s a problem.
It’s okay for politics to insert themselves as long as they’re all-encompassing and universal. But as we saw throughout the entire pandemic, there were people who liked to dole out rules, but they didn’t follow them themselves, and that’s a problem.
When you want to live in a free democratic society, you have to trust the people that you have elected. When they prove themselves to be bad characters, maybe not nefarious, but certainly being biased, that’s a real problem. We need more unity than division, and all that did was create more division.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re reminding me of something. I don’t think you deal with this in the book, but I want to hear your thoughts. I believe it was around June 2020, there was a letter written out of an organization in Washington State, about 1200 people signed it as the George Floyd protests were out, the peaceful protests, as well as the rioting—I wasn’t really a hundred percent clear if it was all medical professionals, but it was portrayed that way—they were basically saying that there’s a danger of mis-characterizing these protests as something that’s problematic from a health perspective, actually it’s very important because it’s dealing with systemic racism and this is a massive health issue, right?
That’s my recollection. I’d have to go back and dig in to read that letter. But what you’re just talking about right now is really making me think about that.
Dr. Saphier: Yes, there’s racism across the globe, there’s racism in the United States, and it needs to be addressed, absolutely.
But what is also an issue in the United States is obesity and mental illness amongst our children, but that wasn’t being made a priority, as children were being told they couldn’t play outside, they couldn’t go to school, and they couldn’t be with their friends.
So why is it okay to only address one public health issue and not another? That’s the problem. We are either going to treat Americans and look at the entire health of the society, physical, mental, and economic, or we’re only going to have tunnel vision. Unfortunately, that tunnel vision with certain issues falls along party lines.
Mr. Jekielek: We could go into a big discussion about why that is highly politicized, but that’s perhaps for a different episode. What is the light at the end of the tunnel for you?
Dr. Saphier: We’re there, first of all. I just wish people would hop on board and acknowledge that the emergency is over. I’m a mother of three children, from 21-years-old, down to six. I need people to stop thinking that the only way for us to get out of this pandemic is to vaccinate all of the young children.
At this point, vaccines should not be going through the EUA [Emergency Use Authorization] anymore. The emergency is truly over, based on new cases and hospitalizations and deaths. Yes, we want to encourage people to still get vaccinated, to keep the variants from forming and circulating. But I think at this point, the vaccines need to go through full FDA approval.
There should not be an urgency to vaccinate the young children, especially since the concern with young children in COVID-19 is that post-viral inflammatory syndrome, called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, [MIS-C] which is essentially an autoimmune reaction to the virus.
Because if MIS-C is caused from a young child’s immune response to the virus, but the vaccine is supposed to emulate the virus, and the young child is now going to mount an immune response to it, don’t we need to make sure that the vaccine isn’t going to cause the MISC in children as well?
That’s my biggest concern, and looking at what they are doing right now, unfortunately, I think that because of the urgency to get it out through the EUA, they’re not taking a large enough sample and it should go slower. They should have more time to study in more patients before they start recommending this on a wide scale.
As I have said, COVID-19 is not an emergency in young children. Our society can move forward just fine without them being vaccinated while a vaccine is being studied. I truly believe a safe and efficacious vaccine should be available to all ages, but we need to stop with the urgency.
All of the cases have gone down with the vaccines, and being in the young adults and the older adults and even adolescents. There’s no reason to rush vaccinating young children.
Mr. Jekielek: Of course, because then the risk is basically the lowest for the youngest. There’s this hard gradient, so to speak?
Dr. Saphier: Not even just that, the viral transmission level right now is so low. There’s so little virus transmitting that it’s time to get out and live a normal life. If in the fall and winter you see an uptick of cases again because of variants, maybe boosters will be needed.
Then if people have been allowed to open up and live at this point, they may be more inclined to actually listen to public health officials when we actually need their advice again.
But if they continue the restrictions and don’t allow liberation of everyone right now, they’re going to lose trust from everyone. When we need them again in the future, no one is going to be listening to them.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. I would argue that a lot of trust has been lost already, and what you’re describing might be a kind of nail in the coffin. Goodness knows, I hope not.
But how do they regain trust ? Okay, you answered part of my question, “Open up now,” but what about public health and officialdom and some of these journals? For example, you tackle hydroxychloroquine in the book. The Lancet published this grossly erroneous study that appeared to be based on politicized information. How do these institutions regain the public trust at this point?
Dr. Saphier: I truly believe at this point accountability needs to happen. In a public hearing, you need to have CDC officials, FDA officials, and others answer to what has occurred. They need to admit when they were wrong and they need to tell people why they did that.
If this is done out in public, then maybe they will be listened to again. You cannot have leaked emails from the teacher’s union showing verbatim verbiage that they want in-school reopening recommendations from the CDC, that has nothing to do with teachers.
The verbiage that was adopted was based on variant transmission. You can’t have that. You have to acknowledge that. They need to be held accountable and it needs to happen in an open forum, because there are far too many people who are upset with them right now.
You need to have a public hearing as to why they still recommend children to wear masks outdoors, even while distancing, because no one is being held accountable for that.
Unfortunately, the media is not doing it. They’re not asking hard questions. Even right now with Dr. Fauci, no one is asking him the hard questions regarding these emails. Therefore these public hearings can not be media, because we know that they’ve been compromised at this point.
We need this to be done. We need to have a bipartisan representation of people asking them, and also members of the community. Just like when you have an FDA review process, members of the community are allowed to publicly comment.
That needs to be allowed when talking about the CDC, the FDA and Dr. Fauci and with all of this, and they need to answer to the American people, because they work for the American people.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Dr. Nicole Saphier, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you.
Dr. Saphier: Thank you very much for having me.
Narration: American Thought Leaders reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s office, but did not immediately receive a response.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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