On a balmy night on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a panel of doctors and scientists convened for the first Conversation on Covid, hosted by media startup Roundtable. While the conversation was far-ranging, it often hit on controversial topics around the causes, prevention strategies, and treatments for Covid.
San Juan Panel - Part 1
“We are in a pandemic of undertreatment,” said intensive care specialist, Pierre Kory, M.D., Former Director of the Center for Trauma and Life Support at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and winner of the British Medical Association’s President’s Choice Award. What drives him and the other doctors and scientists attending is the overarching principle to “first, do no harm”.
“Everything else that we've discovered, everything that's in our protocols is because we have used good clinical sense, lots of experience, and we've used trial and error using our best judgments of risks and benefits.” For him, undertreatment and nontreatment is harm. In his view, long-haul Covid and hospitalizations are caused by undertreatment and a lack of an effective prevention strategy.
While some of the conversation veered into the controversy around vaccinations, many of the doctors strongly emphasized they do not oppose vaccines.
San Juan Panel - Part 2
“I have had all my childhood vaccines, as have my children. I've had plenty of military vaccines back in the day. I'm not anti-vaccine, never have been,” said Ryan Cole, MD, a board-certified pathologist and CEO of Cole Diagnostics who once trained at the Mayo Clinic. He emphasized that he is “pro good science” and hoped to give a “thoughtful and probing voice” to a discussion that has become polarized around the Covid pandemic.
Brian Tyson, MD stood out as a frontline physician who’s treated probably more patients than anyone—over 6,000 at his Urgent Care Covid Clinic in Imperial Valley, California, one of the hotbeds for Covid-19, just over the border from Mexico. He freely acknowledges kids are getting sick. But with similar viruses causing similar symptoms, he took the additional step to purchase a $100,000 PCR machine to confirm whether the illness he was seeing was actually Covid or something else.
What he found was eye-opening. Typically a winter illness, RSV or respiratory syncytial virus causes pulmonary symptoms, pulmonary bronchiolitis—not bronchitis, but bronchiolitis—in the lower airways. “And that's why the kids are having the trouble right now,” he says, “not, in my opinion, from Covid, but from RSV.”
San Juan Panel - Part 3
The effect of Covid on kids was an impassioned topic addressed by Mark McDonald, double board-certified child and adult psychiatrist. “My concern is that the developmental stage that children need to go through, babies, toddlers, young adults, is being foreclosed on them,” he ominously observed. “My concern is that we are building a generation of young people who are so traumatized that they will never fully recover from this.” He cited a study recently published by Brown University Department of Pediatrics that found a 20-point drop in the IQs of babies born after January 1, 2020 compared to those born before.
The panel included Nobel Prize-nominee Robert Malone, M.D. who worked on the mRNA technology that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are built on. “I think the vaccines need to be used intelligently. That’s my objection,” referring to his well-publicized stance on the vaccines. He believes the vaccines have a common problem. “They only have one antigen, it’s the spike antigen and when they were developing them, they didn’t realize that spike was biologically active.” Malone is not against vaccines at all, but feels they should be deployed strategically.
Malone pushed back on the notion that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated and that the unvaccinated are the ones driving variants. “From a fundamental evolutionary standpoint, as a molecular virologist,” he said, “this doesn’t make sense.”
“We’re going to keep seeing variants. It’s normal,” explained Richard Urso, M.D., scientist, sole inventor of an FDA-approved wound healing drug, and Former Chief of Orbital Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “We're vaccinating in a very narrow framework. And so when you vaccinate just the spike, you're going to get variants, because we are doing a very specific treatment.”
Urso clarified, saying people don’t die of the virus itself. Studies conducted last year were not able to culture the virus past eight days. What people die of is the effects of the virus on the body. “They die of inflammation and they die of thrombosis,” according to Urso.
San Juan Panel - Part 4
Cole further emphasized, “Covid is a clotting disease. Covid is a clotting disease. Covid is a clotting disease.” As an active biologic molecule, he firmly believes the spike protein was the wrong molecule. He added, “The 14-G strain that we've made the sequence for the spike against isn't even circulating anymore. It's not even here. We’re one, two, three, four, five variants on from that. Delta is behaving as a new virus.”
Not one of the doctors downplayed the seriousness and deadly nature of the Covid pandemic. “I've never, ever walked into an ICU that's full of every patient on a ventilator with the same disease,” Kory noted from last year when he responded to the call for help at his old ICU in New York City. “It was wicked back then,” he recalled. “We’re not in that catastrophic phase. But this is the most complex and most violent disease that I have seen and the most difficult to treat in the ICU.”
Kory’s solution is to avoid getting to the ICU in the first place. The notion of early treatment was a common theme among the doctors. “The key to everything is early treatment,” said Dr. Kory. “If you institute systematically early treatment upon first symptoms,” he explained, “the amount of people who would require hospital would go away. The amount of transmissions would go away.” He firmly believes we can control the pandemic through effective early treatment.
The one-size-fits-all approach that everyone get a vaccine doesn’t work at all for Urso. “The Covid-recovered, which is over 30 percent of the population, has no reason to get the vaccine,” he plainly stated. “They have a near-zero chance of getting reinfected. And they have a significant risk of harm.”
Although many of the doctors on the panel have been censored and criticized on both social media and mainstream media—McDonald noting he was taken down on Twitter ten days earlier simply for summarizing Dr. Kory’s position on early treatment—many have received strong positive recognition in the medical community prior to expressing their views around the pandemic.
Also participating in the San Jose panel were family practitioners Dr. John Littell of Florida and Dr. Heather Gessling of Missouri.
The goal of the panel was to be a first step toward having more in-depth and open conversations around the Covid pandemic.
Full Video - San Juan Panel