Does anyone remember “America’s Frontline Doctors”? To be honest, after having featured them in a retrospective about doctors behaving badly in 2020, I had (mostly) forgotten about this group of not really “frontline” doctors who had become the face quacks fronting an astroturf lobbying campaign after their moment in in the spotlight around a year ago. Sure, a year ago I simultaneously laughed and became angry at their credulous promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19, commenting on their propaganda efforts in a post in which I likened hydroxychloroquine to the Black Knight of COVID-19 treatments, in a nod to the iconic character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who, after each successive limb was lopped off by King Arthur, would say thinks like, “It’s just a flesh wound.” Of course, since then hydroxychloroquine has faded as more and more evidence has shown that it doesn’t work, only to be replaced by ivermectin, a very likely ineffective treatment that has risen to become the new hydroxychloroquine—with added incompetence and fraud behind it.
Unfortunately, “America’s Frontline Doctors” are back, and this time they’ve filed a “petition for a temporary restraining order” in the federal court for the Northern District of Alabama, demanding that FDA not grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 16. Before I get into the risibly bad science and bizarre claims behind the petition, leaving the actual legal aspects in the capable hands of Dorit Reiss, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.
So let’s look back to last July, almost exactly a year ago, when “America’s Frontline Doctors” were featured in a viral video promoting hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that dark money from right wing groups promoting the “reopen America” agenda were behind the video, and it didn’t take long for the many dubious claims made by the “frontline doctors” in the video to come to light.
More interestingly, the doctors themselves were a collection of cranks and quacks, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the heyday of the “autism biomed” quackery movement more than a decade earlier. For instance, the group’s leader, Dr. Simone Gold (who also had a JD), was a “concierge immediate-needs physician,” who offered private medical consultations. Unsurprisingly, she later became a regular speaker at QAnon and “anti-lockdown” rallies. Some examples of her takes:
That last Tweet reminds me of another scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
And who could forget Dr. Stella Immanuel, another prominent member of this group “frontline doctors”? In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a reminder:
A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.
Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.
Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.
She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.
You might remember the run of “demon sperm” jokes last August. Dr. Immanuel was the source of the jokes, but not because she was joking.
Then there was Dr. James Todaro, an ophthalmologist. Interestingly, we had met him before on this blog in the context of the SurgiSphere debacle. This particular “frontline” ophthalmologist might have been correct about how bad the SurgiSphere study was, but was later wrong about just about everything else having to do with hydroxychloroquine. I also found out that he was buddies with Didier Raoult, the “brave maverick doctor” and bully who initially published a truly awful, incompetently done (and perhaps even downright fraudulent) study claiming that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin clear coronavirus in 100% of cases. Even later, I learned that it was probably Dr. Todaro who was most responsible for sparking President Trump’s obsession with hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic.
I could go on about the other not frontline doctors in “America’s Frontline Doctors,” but let’s get to the lawsuit. Interestingly enough, I first learned of it from a reader (I guess) who sent me a link to a World Net Daily article (never a good sign) entitled Bombshell lawsuit charges vaccine deaths being concealed (because of course there’s mass death and a “conspiracy” to cover it up). It’s basically a republication of a blog post by Leo Hohmann, Bombshell lawsuit alleges government covering up tens of thousands of injection-related deaths:
Attorney Thomas Renz filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alabama on July 19 that alleges a massive government cover-up of injection-related U.S. deaths that number “at least 45,000.”
The suit, filed on behalf of America’s Frontline Doctors in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, is based on a sworn statement by a government insider under federal whistleblower protection.
Speaking at the Re-awaken Tour event held July 17-18 in Anaheim, California, Renz made the bombshell announcement he says is based on a whistleblower with access to government computers and can prove that “at least 45,000” Americans have already been killed by the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
Here’s the video of his talk:
Predictably, Renz starts out by crying “censorship” and “persecution,” predicting that his announcement would be “censored” within hours and accusing social media companies of being “complicit” in causing death, getting a cheer by saying how he can’t wait to sue these companies “over and over again.” (I might actually somewhat agree with this latter statement, but not for “censoring” anything Renz has to say or the reasons he does, but rather because of how social media algorithms have so facilitated the spread of antivaccine and anti-public health disinformation during. the pandemic.) What amazes me about this lawsuit is how it is based on a conspiracy theory that so much resembles a previous antivaccine conspiracy theory that I had to wonder: Was this intentional, or is this just the way antivaxxers think.
Remember the whole “CDC whistleblower” kerfuffle from nearly seven years ago that ultimately formed the basis for Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree’s 2016 antivaccine conspiracy propaganda movie disguised as a documentary VAXXED? In that conspiracy theory, the “whistleblower” was a disgruntled CDC employee named William Thompson, who had decided that a paper on which he had been co-author hadn’t sufficiently emphasized what was likely a spurious result that African-American boys who received the MMR vaccine had a roughly four-fold increased risk of autism. Indeed, Thompson even accused his former co-investigators of outright scientific fraud in the form of improperly (or so it was implied) throwing away original data. Thompson based his claim of a cover up on a truly incompetently done “reanalysis” of the study by biochemical engineer Brian Hooker, who had been in contact with Thompson for months. It was an analysis that Hooker later touted for its “simplicity,” apparently not realizing that simplicity in statistical analyses of epidemiological data is not a virtue. Suffice to say, the original correlation was based on small numbers and disappeared when proper corrections for confounders were made. Not surprisingly, Hooker’s reanalysis was ultimately retracted. It’s also a zombie study that keeps being resurrected.
This time around, the “whistleblower” is an anonymous woman, who is referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit. Renz goes on about how she is an “expert” (sure, whatever) and that she had gone on record under oath under the threat of perjury. Of course, whenever I hear a claim like that put forth as evidence of the veracity of testimony, I like to say that it’s not perjury to be wrong, just to lie knowingly. It’s quite possible that this “expert” is totally wrong and could provide scientifically silly testimony without actually ever “perjuring” herself.
The overall claim being made is that there have been “at least 45,000 deaths” due to the COVID-19 vaccines based on “how many people have died within three days of the vaccine” in just one system reporting to the federal government.
First, who is this “whistleblower”? Who is Jane Doe? She describes herself thusly:
I am a computer programmer with subject matter expertise in the healthcare data analytics field, an honor that allows me access to Medicare and Medicaid data maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). I earned a B.S. degree in Mathematics and have, over the last 25 years, developed over 100 distinct healthcare fraud detection algorithms, both in the public and private sector. It has been my mission to protect federal tax dollars by preventing and detecting healthcare fraud, a process which leads to both recovery of overpayments and law enforcement leads. A large part of what I do is focused on the quality of care for the beneficiary; for example, I identify providers who prescribe an egregious amount of opioids to patients with a history of overdosing.
None of this makes Jane Doe an “expert” in epidemiology or how drug and vaccine safety monitoring works. None of it gives her insight in how to determine causation from correlation. Most importantly, none of this gives her insight in how to critically analyze data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) database, whose reports in the age of the pandemic has been weaponized by antivaxxers to make it appear that COVID-19 vaccines are causing widespread death and destruction, as I’ve written about several times now going back to December.
Now let’s look at this claim by the “whistleblower” Jane Doe in the “America’s Frontline Doctors” lawsuit, Exhibit D:
On July 9, 2021, there were 9,048 deaths reported in VAERS. I verified these numbers by collating all of the data from VAERS myself, not relying on a third party to report them. In tandem, I queried data from CMS medical claims with regard to vaccines and patient deaths, and have assessed that the deaths occurring within 3 days of vaccination are higher than those reported in VAERS by a factor of at least 5. This would indicate the true number of vaccine-related deaths was at least 45,000.
So that’s where the 9,048 number came from! You might remember that, when last I wrote about the weaponization of VAERS reports, I had a hard time coming up with the same number that antivaxxers were reporting when I searched the VAERS database myself (as anyone can do using its website). Using liberal search parameters, the largest numbers I could come up with were only around 6,000. Moreover, as I’ve explained, if you look at the baseline number of deaths, by random chance alone you’d expect to see quite a few more deaths than were reported to VAERS. Also, remember that this figure, whether accurate or not, was for all deaths reported after a COVID-19 shot, not just those within three days of vaccination.
As an aside, I can’t resist pointing out briefly here that in Hohmann’s article, he mentions:
These numbers are very close to what Dr. Peter McCullough reported in a video posted June 20 by LeoHohmann.com, Behind the Vaccine Veil: Doctor cites ‘whistleblowers’ inside CDC who claim injections have already killed 50,000 Americans.
I’ve discussed Peter McCullough’s claims before on at least two different occasions. Let’s just say that they are…nonsense. Also, let’s just say that when your source is being cited approvingly by conspiracy theorist Mike Adams and antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., you might want to rethink if you really want to keep citing that source.
In any event, I guess I’ll have to do the math again briefly. Roughly 2.9 million Americans die every year, and the baseline death rate is around 2.4/100,000 per day. As of the July 2 report (which was what was used to get that estimate of 9,048 “vaccine-related deaths” in VAERS) that was over 201 days. That means that, for a population of 158 million vaccinated, we would expect to see ~3,792 deaths per day by random chance alone. How many days were encompassed in the VAERS data used to come up with that estimate? The handy-dandy time and date calculator let me get the answer without manually going through the months and figuring it out, and that number was 201 days. We would therefore expect to see 762,192 deaths by random chance alone in that period in the population that was vaccinated. Remember, too, that I’m using pre-pandemic death numbers, which means before the increase in excess mortality due to COVID-19 hit. Also remember that children, for whom daily mortality is much lower, are not included and that the vaccinated population generally skews older, even since the Pfizer vaccine was issued an EUA for the 12-15 year old age group.
Of course, I know as well as anyone else that this is a very crude calculation, as it could include someone who was vaccinated in December but died in June as well as someone who died within a day or two (or three) after the vaccination, thus diluting the numbers with mortalities for which causation would be more likely (those who die soon after the vaccine) with mortalities in which causation would be less likely (those who die months after the vaccine). However, the numbers of baseline deaths are so huge that even the estimate of 45,000 deaths over the same 201 day period could well be (and probably was) due to random chance alone.
I got curious, though. To follow up my previous calculations, I decided to search VAERS (which anyone can do) for the number of deaths that occurred within three days of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Anyone can do this.) I left the options as open as I could, listing only death in “2. Symptoms” and all COVID-19 vaccines, leaving covering all dates, and got this:
I did this again, this time using all complications under “2. Symptoms” but clicking “death” under “5. Event Characteristics” and got this:
Note that, examined this way given the large numbers of population involved, these reports are not nearly so impressive, particularly when spread over 215 days and compared to baseline death rates. I also looked at the table above a different way, listing the deaths by age:
Again, this is what I get, and there have been two more weeks of VAERS data added to the mix since the last time I did these searches. You can go to the VAERS website yourself and do the same.
But where did Jane Doe get this estimate of 45,000 deaths? Here’s where things get very disturbing. In the quote above, once again, she “queried data from CMS medical claims with regard to vaccines and patient deaths, and have assessed that the deaths occurring within 3 days of vaccination are higher than those reported in VAERS by a factor of at least 5. Why is this disturbing? Simple, as Dorit Reiss noted in her post, quoting Tweets from those who know:
No, defendants cannot challenge her qualification without, for example, a CV, without knowing what her alleged experience is. Anonymous experts in litigation are not generally used for good reason. I will add that, conspiracy theories aside, there may be good reasons this person wants to remain anonymous since there is at least a chance this person misused her access to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and may well face sanctions for it, but her personal fear of potential sanctions for actually misusing her access to private data is not a good reason for her to get anonymity.
Yes, Jane Doe might well have misused data and, unlike the false claims by antimaskers and antivaxxers like “America’s Frontline Doctors” that people can’t be asked if they’re vaccinated or why they can’t wear a mask, violated HIPAA, the health privacy law:
If Jane Doe really did access data that she shouldn’t have been accessing, the reason for her anonymity becomes clear. She very well might have violated HIPAA, a federal law. Of course, we have no way of knowing, because the description included in the legal filing from “America’s Frontline Doctors” is not detailed enough to give me a clear picture of exactly which databases she might have accessed, nor is there sufficient information to give me an idea of her search strategy or criteria for linking reported deaths to vaccines. Moreover, CMS is not a vaccine safety monitoring system.
More importantly, as has been stated many times here before, VAERS is a passive reporting system into which anyone can enter literally any claim for an adverse reaction after vaccination. It cannot provide accurate estimates of prevalence; it was never intended to do so. It was always intended as a “canary in the coal mine,” as an early warning system. It is a hypothesis-generating system, not a hypothesis testing system. There are other surveillance systems, active vaccine safety surveillance systems, such as the Vaccine Safety Datalink, that can be used to test hypotheses generated by VAERS. America’s Frontline Doctors legal brief ignores all these facts, well-known to those with actual expertise.
The rest of the America’s Frontline Doctors brief is full of the standard COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, so much so that I could spend multiple posts dissecting it. But why bother, when I’ve already done so for most (if not all) of the misinformation before? For instance, the request for injunction claims that COVID-19 is not deadly (and therefore there is no “emergency” for an EUA), which is clearly wrong. America’s Frontline Doctors also claim that the risks of the vaccines outweigh the risk of COVID-19, citing all manner of nonsense that I’ve previously debunked, such as the claim that the spike protein used as the antigen is deadly (wrong); that the vaccines cause miscarriages and infertility (wrong); that the spike protein from the vaccines damage the vasculature, using a study that shows nothing of the sort; and that there are very effective treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine that make an EUA for the vaccines unnecessary (wrong, as neither work). I could go on and on, but why continue? This lawsuit is based on bogus science and bogus epidemiology
To a large extent, the America’s Frontline Doctors’ complaint is not even trying. It does not have a strong standing argument; it does not set out any sort of argument that the agency action was arbitrary and capricious. So why do it?
My opinion is that the goal of the lawsuit is not to be successful in court at all. America’s Frontline Doctors know they do not have a plausible case. That’s not their audience. Their goal is to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt by using alternative media to spread claims they know their listeners will not – or may not be able to – fact check. The court is a vehicle to make those claims sound like there is something to them like they are going anywhere.
That would be contrary to claims like this:
Yes, this lawsuit serves the same purpose that lawsuits by, for example, Del Bigtree’s ICAN do: Fire up the faithful and spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines. I’d also argue that there is at least one more purpose, namely grift. Never forget the grift. It’s always associated with quackery and antivaccine views like this, and “America’s Frontline Doctors” have shown themselves to be quite good at it.