Although I’ve mentioned Dr. Robert Malone, self-proclaimed “inventor of mRNA vaccines,” a few times on this blog, I realized this week to my surprise that I had only written one post featuring him as the primary topic. That was in July, and at the time Dr. Malone was whining that Wikipedia was “erasing him” because edits had been made to the Wikipedia entry about mRNA vaccines so that it no longer featured him as a prominent figure in the history of this new technology. In reality, as I described, part of what had happened is that his wife Dr. Jill Glasspool Malone, using the ‘nym Glasspool1, had been editing the entry on mRNA vaccines to feature her husband as the “inventor of mRNA vaccines.” Basically, Wikipedia’s editors appropriately and quickly shut that nonsense down right away, as well they should have. More recently, Dr. Malone has been assisting the antivaccine movement targeting Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn with disinformation, as well as promoting the conspiracy theory that Pfizer’s recently FDA-approved mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty is not the same as the vaccine that it had been distributing under an emergency use authorization before. (It is.)
The reason this issue came up derives from—surprise, surprise!—a Tweet I did almost a week ago. In it, I quote-Tweeted a podcaster and rapper named Zuby, sarcastically debunking COVID-19 conspiracy nonsense about the vaccines. As a result, I started getting a lot of responses like this:
Whenever someone “challenges” me like this, I almost always respond, “Be careful what you wish for.” So I’ll answer right now: Yes, Dr. Malone is wrong, and, although he clearly has an MD and did do some interesting work getting mRNA into cells to express proteins decades ago, I do question his qualifications these days. Even if he’s “qualified,” qualifications alone are not enough, particularly if you use them in the service of spreading disinformation, which Malone undoubtedly is.
Apparently Dr. Malone had been busy, and I hadn’t noticed. I soon found out that a “statement” of his had gone viral:
And here is Dr. Malone reading his prepared text, which has been circulating around social media and can be found at this link:
Meanwhile, yesterday Dr. Malone was prominently featured on the website of one of the “Disinformation Dozen,” Joe Mercola, a quack who’s been a frequent topic on this blog for his promotion of all manner of quackery and, since the pandemic hit, COVID-19 misinformation in an article called Scientific Journal Censorship With Dr. Malone. You might recall that in a stunt that allows him to portray himself as “persecuted,” Mercola erased all the previous content from his website and now only leaves his articles live for 48 hours, which means that this article will go away by tomorrow. Good thing I saved all the text and will quote liberally as needed. In any event, I guess that, apparently not satisfied with painting himself as a victim of “censorship” by Wikipedia, Malone is now crying “Censorship!” about scientific journals.
Further down the antivax rabbit hole goes “inventor of mRNA vaccines” Dr. Malone!
What interested me is how further down the antivax rabbit hole Dr. Malone has gone since last I wrote about him. Whenever one discusses Dr. Malone, though, it’s hard not to wonder about him. He claims to have invented mRNA vaccines, but he is now portraying COVID-19 vaccines based on a technology that encapsulates them in lipid nanoparticles as horrifically dangerous and potentially deadly, which makes me wonder: How, as “inventor of mRNA vaccines,” would Malone have designed the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines differently? Or is this just sour grapes based on the fact that two vaccines based on science that Malone had an early role developing over three decades ago has done so much good and he feels slighted because he hasn’t been acknowledged? (Never mind that the pathway from his observations to safe and effective vaccines had so many steps between it that for him to call himself the “inventor of mRNA vaccines” is ludicrous in the extreme.)
Even though Malone has been spreading some antivax tropes about COVID-19 vaccines, I don’t recall his ever having gone so all-in that he produced a brief statement with more antivax disinformation in a more compact form than I recall ever having seen from him. I also love how Malone starts with that favorite of all antivax disclaimers, the “I’m not antivax” trope:
My name is Robert Malone, and I am speaking to you as a parent, grandparent, physician and scientist. I don’t usually read from a prepared speech, but this is so important that I wanted to make sure that I get every single word and scientific fact correct.
I stand by this statement with a career dedicated to vaccine research and development. I’m vaccinated for COVID and I’m generally pro-vaccination. I have devoted my entire career to developing safe and effective ways to prevent and treat infectious diseases.
Before you inject your child – a decision that is irreversible – I wanted to let you know the scientific facts about this genetic vaccine, which is based on the mRNA vaccine technology I created…
This would sound so very, very reasonable were it not for what follows, namely pretty much every variety of antivaccine claim that you can think of about COVID-19 vaccines, many of which I’ve written about on multiple occasions. Whenever I see this bit about supposedly not being antivaccine and how an antivaxxer making that claim has been vaccinated, I say: So what? Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for instance, frequently claims to be “fiercely pro-vaccine” and points to his having vaccinated his children according to CDC guidelines as proof. The problem, in his case is that his youngest child would thus have been fully vaccinated before he had learned of the antivaccine claim that the mercury in the thimerosal preservative that was used in some childhood vaccines until around 2001 was a major cause of the “autism epidemic.” That’s why I always ask: What happened between then and your turn to the Dark Side? In RFK Jr.’s case, something happened between his last child and around 2005, when he made his first big antivax splash by publishing his conspiracy mongering article Deadly Immunity. With Malone, one wonders if, having expressed his sour grapes about mRNA vaccines and finding that he had become culturally relevant and famous in a way that he had never achieved before and can probably never achieve in any other way, he just kept going further and further into conspiracytown about COVID-19 and mRNA vaccines.
Whatever the reason, Malone is indisputably antivax right now. Just take a look at more of the statement, starting with the “three issues parents need to understand.” Here’s issue one:
The first is that a viral gene will be injected into your children’s cells. This gene forces your child’s body to make toxic spike proteins. These proteins often cause permanent damage in children’s critical organs, including
- Their brain and nervous system
- Their heart and blood vessels, including blood clots
- Their reproductive system
- And this vaccine can trigger fundamental changes to their immune system
To which he adds:
The most alarming point about this is that once these damages have occurred, they are irreparable
- You can’t fix the lesions within their brain
- You can’t repair heart tissue scarring
- You can’t repair a genetically reset immune system, and
- This vaccine can cause reproductive damage that could affect future generations of your family
That part about the vaccine “triggering fundamental changes to their immune system” is, of course, true in that the vaccine will trigger immunity to COVID-19, including the development of antibody-producing cells and memory cells that can respond when the immune system encountered the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (which is used as the antigen) again. That’s how all vaccines work. In fact, that’s how “natural immunity” works as well. I’ll go beyond that and say that that’s how the immune system in general works. It’s also most assuredly a good thing, not the scary thing that Malone is trying to portray (“genetically reset immune system” that, I note, does not require “repair”). Think of it this way. If encounters with antigens associated with diseases didn’t produce long-lasting or permanent changes in the immune system, then long-lasting (or lifelong) immunity would be impossible. If the “inventor of mRNA vaccines” Malone doesn’t know that, then he’s definitely not qualified, and if he does know that he’s a liar.
Nor do the vaccines cause “reproductive damage.” This particular trope is a very old trope that has been used against vaccines ever since I started paying attention to the antivaccine movement. So of course this piece of misinformation was resurrected for COVID-19 vaccines—and with astonishing speed, having appeared as early as when the vaccines were first rolling out a year ago. It’s all of a piece with the long history of antivaxxers portraying vaccines as “sterilizing our womenfolk.” Examples abound from around the world, for example, from the conspiracy theory promoted by Catholic bishops in Kenya that the tetanus vaccine is “racist population control” and that the false claim in Africa and the Philippines (among other places) that the polio vaccine can impair female fertility, while in some Muslim countries the campaign to eradicate polio has long been plagued by conspiracy theories that claim that the polio vaccine is laced with anti-fertility chemicals that would render their girls sterile before they even became women (and/or can also infect them with HIV) as part of a plot to depopulate the developing world. Unsurprisingly, the vaccine most commonly falsely cited by antivaxxers as causing female infertility is the HPV vaccine, particularly Gardasil, which is blamed without evidence for premature ovarian failure, usually based on some hand waving misunderstanding of immunology attributing this “effect” to some vaguely defined autoimmune phenomenon. This claim that a specific vaccine (or vaccines) can cause infertility is what I like to refer to as a “slasher” lie, because, like the killers in 1980s slasher movies, who appear to have been finally killed at the end of one installment, these lies always manage to somehow survive to kill more teenagers in the next movie. So of course, Malone is parroting it.
As for the issue with myocarditis, there does appear to be an increased risk of myocarditis associated with mRNA vaccines, particularly in teenaged boys, but the cases have been nearly uniformly mild, and the risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 is a lot higher, as a pediatric cardiologist will tell you. Then there’s Malone’s claim that the spike protein from vaccines somehow damages the brain and neurological system. Try as I might, I couldn’t find what the heck he was talking about; that is, unless he’s parroting the ridiculous and easily refuted claim that COVID-19 vaccines induce Alzheimer’s disease or prion diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which they do not. Even if the fear mongering about “prion domains” in the spike protein were clinically relevant, one simply has to point out that the amount of spike protein that gets into the bloodstream is infinitesimal compared to the huge amount that gets into the bloodstream in the event of infection. So, even if Malone’s claim were true, getting vaccinated would still be far, far less dangerous than getting COVID-19. (Also, the claim that vaccines cause prion disease is another old antivax trope!)
The second thing you need to know about is the fact that this novel technology has not been adequately tested.
- We need at least 5 years of testing/research before we can really understand the risks
- Harms and risks from new medicines often become revealed many years later
Ask yourself if you want your own child to be part of the most radical medical experiment in human history.
Of course, mRNA vaccines (and adenovirus-based vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine) have been in development for decades. Indeed, it’s been speculated that if the pandemic had hit five years ago, the technology wouldn’t have been ready. More importantly, the concern about “long term” harms from vaccines is a dubious claim beloved of antivaxxers going back decades, when the “long term” harms falsely attributed to the vaccines were autism, cancer, and autoimmune disease. In fact, examples of any sort of harm caused by vaccines that wasn’t discovered early are quite rare, as I discussed when Paul Thacker brought up the same concern. Basically, adverse events from vaccines almost always manifest themselves early, not many months or years later, which is why we can be very confident that, unlike the case with COVID-19 itself, massive long term health problems due to the vaccine are highly unlikely. That doesn’t stop Malone from parroting another favorite antivax lie about COVID-19 vaccines, namely that it’s all a big experiment, which is a lie that antivaxxers have been parroting about vaccines in general and the childhood vaccination schedule since long before I ever paid attention.
This all leads Malone to his third and final point:
One final point: the reason they’re giving you to vaccinate your child is a lie.
- Your children represent no danger to their parents or grandparents
- It’s actually the opposite. Their immunity, after getting COVID, is critical to save your family if not the world from this disease
In summary: there is no benefit for your children or your family to be vaccinating your children against the small risks of the virus, given the known health risks of the vaccine that as a parent, you and your children may have to live with for the rest of their lives.
The risk/benefit analysis isn’t even close.
As a parent and grandparent, my recommendation to you is to resist and fight to protect your children.
This is, once again, more antivaccine misinformation. First, anyone who can transmit an infectious disease, whether the disease makes that particular person (in this case a child) really sick or not, is a danger to susceptible people who can catch the disease and become very ill (or even die) from it, such as older people like grandparents. The second point seems to be an echo of the Great Barrington Declaration nonsense about letting COVID-19 rip through populations who are less likely to become ill from it in order to achieve “natural herd immunity.” Unfortunately, “natural herd immunity” requires that a very large proportion of the population catch the virus, putting them at risk for serious disease and potentially death. As I’ve said time and time again, that’s basically just eugenics. In fact, Malone is even worse than the Great Barrington Declaration in that he doesn’t even mention “focused protection” of those at risk for serious disease and death. While it’s true that, before vaccines, it was impossible to protect such people while such a disease is spreading widely through the population, given that vaccines are not 100% effective and the new Omicron variant clearly has significant resistance to both “natural” and vaccine-induced immunity, I can only ask: WTF was Malone thinking here?
As for the risk-benefit ratio for the vaccine being too poor to justify its use in children, that’s simply not true. The vaccine is very safe, and, although children are at much lower risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, the risk-benefit ratio for the vaccine is still very favorable. Malone is peddling antivaccine disinformation again.
Ivermectin, conspiracies, and persecution
Unsurprisingly, “inventor of mRNA vaccines” Dr. Malone is peddling a persecution narrative again. As with the case of his conspiracy mongering about being “erased” from Wikipedia, he’s confusing quality control and peer review for “censorship”:
Her second interview with Malone is above. You can now hear some of the points that have been censored, starting with scientific censorship at medical journals. Malone has had multiple peer-reviewed papers seeking to repurpose existing medications as COVID-19 treatments blocked from publication by journals.
In one example, Malone and colleagues found that combined treatment with celecoxib, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and high-dose famotidine, a heartburn drug sold under the brand name Pepcid, led to improved outcomes among COVID-19 patients, including 100% survival.3 It’s been repeatedly rejected for publication.
Malone was also a former guest editor of a special issue of Frontiers in Pharmacology, which published an abstract of a peer-reviewed study by Pierre Kory on ivermectin for COVID-19 — until it was pulled due to a third-party complaint, with no chance for resubmission.
“That was completely inexplicable,” Malone said. “Some third party complained to Frontiers and successfully had that pulled, even though it had passed peer review with an expert panel of peer reviewers including senior reviewers from the FDA.”4
Again, ivermectin is the new hydroxychloroquine in that it is a repurposed drug that COVID-19 contrarians and antivaxxers have latched onto as a “miracle cure” for COVID-19 even though the evidence now clearly shows that it
almost certainly does not work, with all the large “positive” studies having been shown to be either highly dubious or outright fraudulent. It’s not surprising that “mRNA vaccine inventor” Robert Malone would be attracted to it.
In any event, here’s a report on what really happened:
The editors of Frontiers in Pharmacology have taken down an article about the use of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin in COVID-19 patients. The paper, which was written by members of an organization called the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), had been provisionally accepted and posted in abstract form by the journal in January, but was ultimately rejected this Monday (March 1). The editors determined that it contained unsubstantiated claims and violated the journal’s editorial policies.
By the end of last week, the abstract had been viewed more than 85,000 times, according to snapshots available on the internet archive.
A special issue of Frontiers in Pharmacology on repurposing existing drugs as COVID-19 treatments has been axed following a dispute between the journal’s publisher and the issue’s guest editors over which submissions should be accepted.
The dissolution of the issue, which was entitled “Treating COVID-19 with Currently Available Drugs,” is the latest move in a row that’s continued for weeks. At the beginning of March, Frontiers issued a rejection for a manuscript on the antiparasitic drug ivermectin that had been provisionally accepted, after the publisher identified “a series of strong, unsupported claims” in the paper and determined that it did “not offer an objective nor balanced scientific contribution,” Frontiers’s chief executive editor Frederick Fenter said in a statement at the time.
So Malone invited Pierre Kory of the conspiracy mongering quack group Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC)? That fits. In fact, what I’d argue is that this doesn’t represent “censorship,” but rather a massive failure on the part of the editors of Frontiers in Pharmacology that, when their special issue blew up in their faces in a most humiliating fashion (as anyone with any knowledge of Malone or Kory could have told them that it would), they frantically tried to course-correct and salvage something.
Moving on, I was curious about this; so I looked up Malone’s study on celecoxib and high-dose famotidine, cited by Mercola, which is still up as a pre-print at SSRN. It’s from July 2020 and is very unimpressive, a consecutive case series of 25 COVID-19 hospitalized patients treated with celecoxib and high dose famotidine as adjuvant therapy. Malone concluded that “combined treatment with oral celecoxib and HD famotidine in an adjuvant setting was associated with 100% survival and improved radiographic outcomes, as well as statistically significant improvements in clinical, biomarker, and renal function measurements.” The problem, of course, is that he can’t know that, given that there was no control group (using data from another source as controls doesn’t cut it) and this was a very small case series to make any firm conclusions about, particularly since all the patients also received standard-of-care at the time in addition to Malone’s drug cocktail. (In fairness, I will concede that there were modestly interesting correlative measures studied.)
To be honest, I’m surprised that this study wasn’t published back in July 2020, given that I saw a lot of other really crappy papers like this published back then, but I can definitely say one thing. While this sort of thrown-together case series might have cut it in the very early days of the pandemic, it doesn’t cut it now. Not by a long shot. It also makes me wonder which journals Malone has been submitting this manuscript to.
The ivermectin paper was officially rejected on March 1. Frontiers removed the paper’s abstract from the website, and Fenter and colleagues began an audit of other papers in the issue. By then, one of Malone’s papers, a discussion of the possible mechanisms of famotidine against COVID-19, had been accepted. (It was published on March 23.)
On March 11, another paper coauthored by Malone—which reported a case series of 25 patients treated at a community hospital with a combination of famotidine and the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib and had not been provisionally accepted—was rejected at the post-review stage. The primary reason was that uncontrolled case studies of patients can’t provide new or meaningful insights into a drug’s effects in COVID-19, particularly since those patients were also receiving other drugs such as vitamin C in addition to famotidine and celecoxib, according to an email explaining the decision sent to the authors by one of Frontiers in Pharmacology’s chief editors.
Again, it’s a crappy case series, but a lot of crappy case series on COVID-19 therapeutics were published in the spring and summer of 2020. It amuses me that this one happened to be one that peer review actually appropriately triaged.
I’ll conclude by quoting Malone one more time to show just how unhinged he’s become:
If you follow the money, it all traces back to BlackRock and the Vanguard Group, the two largest asset management firms in the world, which also control Big Pharma.12 They’re at the top of a pyramid that controls basically everything, but you don’t hear about their terrifying monopoly because they also own the media.
Blackrock and Vanguard hold large interests in pivotal companies, and Vanguard holds a large share of Blackrock. In turn, Blackrock has been called the “fourth branch of government” by Bloomberg as they are the only private firm that has financial agreements to lend money to the central banking system.13
Aside from world media, the companies controlled by Blackrock and Vanguard span everything from entertainment and airlines to social media and communications. “We’re experiencing a threat of global slavery of the entire population to these financial interests,” Malone said.
And, of course, Malone believes we’re all a victim of a “mass psychosis,” quoted here by Mercola:
The governments, out of desperation, are flailing around. That’s what’s really happening is they don’t understand it. They don’t. They think that they have no other options. They are hypnotized into believing that the vaccines work. They’ve been bombarded by all this lobbying and information control and everything else to believe that the vaccines are effective.
Even though we know they aren’t, the data show that they aren’t, it doesn’t matter. You can’t penetrate through them. Why? Because they’ve undergone mass psychosis … the politicians have, they believe that this is the case and they believe that they have to do these [authoritarian] measures because there’s no other option than mass vaccination.
I like to say that all quackery eventually leads to antivax. I’ve said it time and time again, and, if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed this adage. However, there’s another adage. I’ve argued that all science denial is rooted in conspiracy theory and that, in particular, denial of the efficacy and safety of vaccines demonstrates that adage better than almost any other. I’ll now add to that another observation. The longer one immerses oneself in antivax conspiracy mongering, the farther and farther from reality one drifts—and the deeper and deeper into a wider variety of conspiracy theories, too. The “inventor of mRNA vaccines,” Dr. Robert Malone, is a perfect example of this. Whatever first unmoored him from reality with respect to COVID-19 vaccines set him on a path to embracing all manner of conspiracy theories and projecting his own detachment from reality about vaccines and COVID-19 onto everyone else, particularly those trying to counter his misinformation.