3rd November 2021
Extracts from my correspondence with Melbourne epidemiologist Catherine Bennett
I’m disappointed at the quality of Australia’s epidemiologists (just like I’m deeply disappointed with Australia’s economists – barely a handful who deserve any respect).
Catherine Bennett has been corresponding with me briefly over the past couple of weeks. Here’s an extract. On 31 October 2021 I told her that I’d publish the operational part of the conversation: “I’m currently looking after my father who has advanced cancer and I’m working on Gigi Foster’s CBA project, but time permitting, I’ll publish the operational extracts from our conversation: just the factual discussions. I believe epidemiologists across the world need to help find the answer to my simple questions”.
I expect critical thinking and diligence from academics in Australia but I am not surprised with her continuous evasion of the most basic questions and repeated false allegations about me.
I believe there is mass-scale promotion of the incompetent across Australia’s institutions – the Deakin University is not the only one: there is NO institution, including the courts, that allow for any merit or critical thinking. Instead, those who dare explore the truth are shunned.
Either Australia will need to change – and pretty soon – or it will see a mass-scale exodus of the best and brightest out of the country. With these kinds of academics, Australia’s future is sealed.
A few of my annotations in blue. I could say a lot more but there’s no time for that.
REGARDING SENATOR MALCOLM ROBERTS’S LETTER AGAINST MANDATORY VACCINES
On 21 October 2010 I shared an email from Malcolm Roberts (content at https://www.malcolmrobertsqld.com.au/portfolio-item/covid/#data)
Content of my email:
Sharing this – please share far and wide. I haven’t had time to read the content below but believe these documents can throw light on Australia’s public health policies.
You might also be aware of my views, e.g. http://sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/Misc/CovidNotesSabhlokJuly17.png
Catherine’s response, 21 October 2021:
I’d suggest it might be wise to not share content unless you have had time to read it. This is the usual conspiracy theory that misinterprets official data. It throws light on the people that send it, not on public policies.
My response, 21 October 2021
Fair enough. What do you think about the 4 big lies of this pandemic: http://sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/Misc/CovidNotesSabhlokJuly17.png
I’ve scoured ALL literature on epidemiology and there was never a single book, single peer reviewed paper that recommended lockdowns and border closures. I asked Brett Sutton repeatedly and he had no answer, either. In any event, the index case problem rules out such policies – in any case people gain much stronger immunity through constant international migration.
Catherine’s response, 21 October 2021
Initially lockdown bought us time to get everything else in place. Border control allowed us to minimize but not prevent crossovers into the community. Even with this, we have had those incursions that sparked various outbreaks and two major waves. Vic second wave showed that the public health response was nowhere near able to cope and so lockdown was once again required, but then kept in place for a lot longer than the evidence would suggest was needed. NSW avoided till Northern Beaches but were able to prevent that from becoming another big wave, even with the Western Syd outbreak starting around the same time.
The circuit breakers were arguably not always needed, but became the go to method. But Delta was a game changer. The shortened incubation period means that contact tracing can’t manage it… but with high vaccination rates now the hope is that we are back in control.
we have avoided the deaths seen elsewhere… that’s why our mortality actually dropped last year as we also prevented other deaths in the process.. it is strange how people use the abscence of excess deaths in Australia in 2020 as “proof” that the measures weren’t needed, when it fact, of course, it is actually proof that they worked.
My response, 23 October 2021
Sure. Catherine. But are you able to provide me with a single peer-reviewed paper or book published by a high quality publisher prior to 2020 that advocated lockdowns for a flu-like respiratory pandemic? I’ve checked with a vast number of scientists and scoured the scientific literature, and have found none. AND: haven’t had time to review Malcolmn Roberts’s papers. Can you provide a short critique of his documents? I’m always open to re-examine all facts.
Catherine’s response, 23 October 2021
Lockdowns and quarantine have been used historically, but of course it’s over 100 years since the last respiratory pandemic of this scale, so you won’t find formal evaluations of lockdown, but the remain part of the fundamental tool kit for infection control.
I did give you my short critique – what i glanced at was standard cross section of antivaxxer propaganda. The AAP provided useful counter info to most of these claims/questions. He even does so far as to question the timing of data release from the ABS as if that’s a conspiracy by the government to conceal data, when they have reduced the delay from two years to a few months during covid. Also says deaths have risen beyond previous years with the roll out of the vaccine when the graph does not short that at all, with 2021 within the band showing averages from previous 5 years.
My response 30 October 2021
Could I particularly request a more specific response to my question (“are you able to provide me with a single peer-reviewed paper or book published by a high quality publisher prior to 2020 that advocated lockdowns for a flu-like respiratory pandemic?”)
You have responded: “Lockdowns and quarantine have been used historically, but of course it’s over 100 years since the last respiratory pandemic of this scale, so you won’t find formal evaluations of lockdown, but they remain part of the fundamental tool kit for infection control.”
My analysis has repeatedly re-confirmed that this pandemic is nowhere in the league of the Spanish flu, being many orders smaller; at worst in the category of the Asian flu. I’m attaching a draft chapter on this topic that I’m working on.
Re: formal evaluations of lockdowns, I did find some re: Ebola which I included in my complaint to the International Criminal Court. I also found an article by the great epidemiologist Donald Henderson that specifically forbids lockdowns. He is the one who first articulated the index case problem for small pox and proved with extensive logic and proofs that quarantines are useless even for small pox. The idea of quarantines for respiratory viruses like covid therefore does not arise.
Could I request you once again for any peer-reviewed paper or book that I might have missed which advocated lockdowns for respiratory viruses before March 2020? The paper I’m working on will likely be provided to a court, so I’d like to re-confirm that there is no such paper or book in the entire epidemiological literature (I have plenty of proofs of that already – including from some of the world’s best epidemiologists – but would appreciate your sign-off on this claim of mine).
Catherine’s response 31 October 2021
The reproductive rate for SARS-CoV-2 varies but is up to twice to five times that of the spanish flu. The case fatality rate for COVID-19 was twice pandemic flu before treatment advances and vaccines. Your argument that COVID-19 is not in the same league as the spanish flu in terms of impact therefore becomes an argument for the effectiveness of lockdown.
I hope you have recovered from your gastro. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that i don’t have time on my hands either to help you with your historic searches. I’m much more interested in evaluating the data from the last two years.
My response, 31 October 2021
Catherine, I’d like to see peer reviewed evidence of your claim about this being comparable with Spanish flu (and that lockdowns kept the numbers down).
Instead, lockdowns have caused additional covid deaths in virtually all countries where they were implemented. There are innumerable studies that confirm that. Further, UK with extreme lockdowns had far more deaths than Sweden which followed the science and abjured lockdowns. Currently there are at least 50+ countries with higher death rates on Worldometers than Sweden. And this list constantly grows, since covid spreads more deeply and intensely in countries with lockdowns (just as the Plague spread even faster when people were herded indoor by Charles II).
And as for historical searches, I’m only interested in recent peer-reviewed papers (pre-2020). I have found peer reviewed evidence that even the Ebola lockdown did not work and that lockdowns are completely harmful and must never be used (Donald Henderson’s paper). There is no evidence I have found that any paper or book prior to 2020 ever – even remotely – recommended lockdowns.
Catherine’s response, 31 October 2021
There are many peer reviewed papers on the CFR abs R0 for Spanish flu Sanjeev. And of course whilst there was global travel, there was nothing like the speed and volume of movement that we have now.
My response, 31 October 2021
Catherine, thanks, but I note that R0 is widely understood to be a theoretically valid, but practically questionable concept. A 2007 paper, “Theory versus Data: How to Calculate R0?” by Breban et. al. warned us that “obtaining R0 from empirical contact tracing data collected by epidemiologists and using this R0 as a threshold parameter for a population-level model could produce extremely misleading estimates”. And a 2011 paper entitled, “The Failure of R0” by Jing Li et. al. said: “If R0 is to be used, it must be accompanied by caveats about the method of calculation, underlying model assumptions and evidence that it is actually a threshold. Otherwise, the concept is meaningless”.
I come from an empirical science background where predictions must be supported with proofs. All modelling in 2020 proved to be hopelessly wrong – as it has always been in the past. Michael Levitt showed that differential equations with exponential variables are inappropriate. A Gompertz function must be used. So let’s skip the R0 type discussions (I did critique Ferguson’s model, and that critique turned out to be correct). Instead, please let me know why 50+ lockdown nations have had more covid deaths per million than Sweden (and this list is growing by the day)? Even in Australia, lockdowns have caused not just more covid deaths than would have happened with well-targeted policies (as I showed in my book – in relation to Andrews’s mismanagement) there is by now conclusive evidence that they have killed over 3000 additional people from other diseases that would normally have been dealt with. E.g. see attached. ABS data are now available to prove that lockdowns have caused massive health harms in Australia.
Let’s get the big picture right first. Why did UK have more covid deaths (per million) than Sweden.
Catherine’s response, 31 October 2021You seem to think that all lockdowns are equivalent. Of course they are not, either in their timing, their rule structure or the compliance. This is my concern with the extremists views on both sides of the lockdown argument.
Nothing is perfect in health data, and less so in a pandemic. That’s why we train experts to use the data wisely and usefully. You are cherry picking the literature to serve your needs. If you discount all health data, then why are your measures of the other impacts of covid measures to be relied on?
I am sorry, but i am only interested in balanced evidence-based discussions. You have publicly aligned yourself with the likes of Pete Evans and Craig Kelly who are experts at misinformation.
Ivermectin is the classic case of their being insufficient evidence to support its use for covid, and the only rigorous studies have shown no evidence. Yet many of those who can lockdown in its entirety, or vaccination for that matter, try and claim Ivermectin does work and it being quashed for financial gain by big pharma.
As an epidemiologist, I look at the quality of all evidence, not just that which suits any particular narrative. And we all know the absence of evidence is not proof of anything except that no one focused on lockdowns as a non pharmaceutical intervention in pandemics as their research project and published on it in recent years.
My response, 31 October 2021
Catherine, I have very closely followed Sweden’s policies (I’ve watched every interview of Tegnell). There is conclusive proof that they did NOT do any lockdowns, only minor crowd size restrictions and a few restrictions on high schools.
Tegnell was aghast at what others were doing. On 24 June 2020 he exclaimed in astonishment: “It was as if the world had gone mad, and everything we had discussed was forgotten”. He is right. I have intensively studied the literature. Lockdowns were clearly prohibited by the science.
Please explain the UK-Sweden chart to the best of your capacity. That’s the topic I would like to exhaust, so I have understood any alternative explanations.
As far as other claims of yours: I am not aligned to anyone – no! Not with Pete Evans and not with Craig Kelly. As for IVM, I reject the idea that this is “proven” to be effective. The signals from small sample studies are all over the place. I have repeatedly argued that in writing.
Let’s just stick to lockdowns, please. Thanks!
Catherine’s response, 31 October 2021
Did the UK get it right, no, they were far too late and had major weaknesses in their rules. Pubs open for example. Did Sweden get it right? No. They did do more then most people realise, and whilst they were limited in the rules that could be imposed for legal reasons, actually set about reviewing those. Tegnell himself realizes the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
My response, 31 October 2021
Thanks, Catherine, but you are now asking me questions – instead, I wanted your best answer.
Btw, I have known the answers already – have always known from day 1 – that lockdowns will massacre the young and poor. Later, I have learnt that virtually no epidemiologist understands the basics of their discipline.
As far as Anders Tegnell is concerned, he has performed very well as an epidemiologist during 2020 and 2021 – and along with Sunetra Gupta, Martin Kulldorff, Jay Bhattacharay and John Ioannidis (and a few others), keeps my hope alive that one day we might get a genuinely knowledgeable and ethical discipline in epidemiology.
I’m currently looking after my father who has advanced cancer and I’m working on Gigi Foster’s CBA project, but time permitting, I’ll publish the operational extracts from our conversation: just the factual discussions. I believe epidemiologists across the world need to help find the answer to my simple questions.
Thanks for the cordial discussion (except maybe for the last bit where you inadvertently, perhaps, mixed my work with that of Pete Evans and Craig Kelly. I’m quite unlike them – I’m highly credentialed, at the top of the class virtually everywhere I have studied in the world, thoroughly trained in science and statistics, and I dig up all the proofs myself).
Catherine’s response, 31 October 2021
Well then you have proven you are not the empirical scientist you claim to be.
“Btw, I have known the answers already – have always known from day 1”
And with all die respect, I do not think you have the expertise to comment on the quality of epidemiologists. I am seeking to do the evaluation work that will demonstrate what worked and what didn’t. I am open to what we will discover.
[MY THOUGHTS: There goes another one of them – questioning me on “expertise” – never on logic or evidence. And no matter how many times I ask her, she will dodge and never provide evidence for her futile claims. ]
On 2 November 2021 I sent an email to a few hundred people. Obviously Catherine was part of the email list (I’ve removed her now). She responded.
3 November 2021, Catherine’s email:
“There are currently no rigorous proofs of its effectiveness but I believe that doctors and patients should be able to decide without regulatory barriers).”
You finally concede that there is no evidence for Ivermectin, but now want to
remove regulatory bodies from so doctors can prescribe it regardless. Extraordinary.
3 November 2021. My response:
Catherine, I never recommend (or oppose) any drug/vaccine. That’s not my job. It is the job of the relevant practicing doctor or individual to decide.
I may make note of studies on both sides. I have sporadically studied IVM in the past and never had time to study it carefully. See my post of 20 December 2020 https://www.sabhlokcity.com/2020/12/what-about-ivermectin/ (I have the same position on HCQ).
After I spent a bit of time to have a brief look a couple of months ago, I concluded that the evidence for IVM is insufficient – particularly that the evidence being thrown about re: India is shoddy.
On 29 July 2021 I wrote on Telegram: “My position – I don’t recommend medicines or vaccines. Instead, doctors and patients should have the freedom to decide. Having said that, there is overwhelming evidence that Ivermectin seems to work” – that’s because there were signals from many small studies in its favour. That still remains the case.
On 15 August I wrote: “I’m not recommending this drug since I’ve not carefully reviewed all relevant studies for quality (most medical studies are pure CRAP). I’m just noting that it is VERY cheap and many scientists claim it is helpful in fighting extreme symptoms of covid.”
On 4 September I wrote: “I never recommend something till I’ve personally verified the data. In the case of ivermectin, I remain unclear about its effects since I have not had time to review the innumerable peer reviewed studies. I also believe it not my business to recommend medicines. That’s a matter between doctors and their patients.
“In the meantime, the ABC and related media are continuing to hit out at ivermectin. But they NEVER tell me whether they have reviewed all the peer reviewed studies on the topic. They merely cited the FDA or WHO – and from what I have long known about such organisations, they are ENTIRELY CAPTURED by crooked pharma industry leaders. There is not a single thing coming out of FDA or WHO that I can directly accept. Their reputation was trashed long, long ago.”
On 29 October I wrote: “I’m continuously pestered to “endorse” IVM. I WILL NOT. That’s not my job. There is also a huge problem with the arguments people present re: IVM’s “effectiveness”. Not only are the studies mostly observational, they don’t pass the most basic tests of robustness.
I don’t object to doctors using IVM in moderation but that’s their call. IVM may well be proven ultimately to work but to date the evidence is just too weak. Indian ICMR’s decision of 24 September 2021 to stop supporting IVM is a case in point. The proofs simply don’t add up. Statistical noise.”
And so on. I have IVM sitting with me at home in India. It has been prescribed by many Indian doctors for early treatment of IVM. I also know it is pretty much harmless in the small doses recommended by these doctors. But many Indian doctors also oppose it. So why should I decide for doctors?
I’d like to know where you have seen me actively promote IVM. Please back up your allegations about me. First you link me with Pete Evans and with Craig Kelly – I know these people but doesn’t mean I believe everything they do. Now this.
Re: health regulators – I have ALWAYS opposed them. Innumerable writings, e.g. this from 2012: https://www.sabhlokcity.com/2012/03/regulatory-capture-and-the-incentives-of-drug-companies-the-modern-killing-machines/ and this in 2011: https://www.sabhlokcity.com/2011/07/severe-government-failure-in-usa-the-criminal-suppression-by-regulators-of-a-genuine-cure-for-cancer/
If I dig a bit deeper, I’ll get back my writings from at least 1998 in the public domain on this issue.
Most good economists strongly oppose health regulation through the government. There are many alternative models to regulate. I hope you have studied them, since there are thousands of articles and tens of books on the topic.
Let’s stick to professional conversation backed with facts and not get personal, please. That’s not the path to the truth.
3 November 2021. Catherine’s response:
Doctors follow clinical guidelines prepared by the leading experts in that field of medicine, and these relate to approved medications for any specific indication where safety and efficacy measures have met a certain standard. Doctors don’t have the time nor the expertise to evaluate the evidence. To suggest practitioners be given the right to go against the advice of the relevant experts in the field is foolhardy. You clearly don’t understand how clinical practice works, what guides clinical decision, so best you stay out of it.
I’M GIVING UP ON CATHERINE. HER EMAILS WILL HENCEFORTH GO TO A JUNK FOLDER.
Don’t know how I got this “professor of epidemiology” from Deakin got engaged in a conversation with me.
- She rejects questions from a Senator in Australia (Malcolm Roberts) as a “conspiracy”. At least provide details about the “conspiracy”.
- She can’t answer simple, direct questions. She waves her arm about when even slightly probed and raises entirely irrelevant issues. NOT ONE pre-2020 PEER REVIEWED PAPER could she cite that supported lockdowns.
- I don’t have time to refute her at length but clearly public health/epidemiology clearly needs to be shut down a “discipline” in Australia and start afresh after its alleged practitioners are first able to demonstrate an ability to distinguish between small-pox and flu, understand Henderson’s index problem even for smallpox, and that international travel is hugely beneficial for improving immunity. With complete Medieval ignorance, these “professors” have destroyed tens of millions of lives – this professor claims that lives have been saved in Australia even as ABS data confirm that over 3000 excess deaths have occurred, and when newspapers like The Age have started reporting massive ongoing harms.
- Note the repeated attacks on ME and my “understandings” – instead of offering real proofs. These “experts” think that everyone is a moron and only they “understand” things. The facts are quite the reverse. From my extensive experience, “experts” may know a TINY bit well, but there is no guarantee that they know anything, else, or even that what they know has ANY relationship to reality (e.g string theory, which has NO mechanism to prove whether it is true or false, but has spread like a poisonous cancer across the discipline of physics, or “macro-economic” models of aggregate demand that have nothing to do with reality).