SocraticGadfly: Coronavirus, week 78C: Just what DID happen to Ioannidis?

October 06, 2021

Coronavirus, week 78C: Just what DID happen to Ioannidis?

Regular readers, who know I write about issues beyond politics in the narrow sense, covering public policy, and people who could be considered public intellectual types, surely know who Dr. John Ioannidis is. (Unfortunately, I didn't spell his name correctly the first time; that's been edited.)

People who follow my COVID coverage surely know the starting point for this. 

And, that's that Ioannidis, 18 months ago, claimed that COVID would only kill about 10,000 Americans. *See below.

Well, by official statistics, he's sadly wrong by more than 700,000, and in reality, he's probably off by at least 1 million.
(Update, Feb. 24, 2022: Since this original post, Ioannidis has massively expanded his COVID contrarianism grift, and been taken out to the trash by me. His email nonresponsiveness falls under the "silence gives assent" when I accused him of cherry-picking.)

Well, not only has he not admitted he was wrong, instead, he's at a minimum engaged in motivated reasoning to try to pretend he was right in spirit, if not reality. At a medium point, he's jumped into various COVID conspiracy theory pools, per Science Based Medicine, or to put it another way, become one of the types of doctors and medical science Ph.Ds he used to criticize, per Wired. At a maximum, he may be a grifter who's making serious bucks for some of his more outrageous pronouncements, and whose colleagues, or co-conspirators, have suckered places like Scientific American into publishing opinion pieces by fellow conspirators under claims of being straight news.

Since that original Not.Even.Wrong claim? 

He's said that ER doctors don't know how or when to best intubate COVID patients. He's claimed that doctors have listed COVID as cause of death on death certificates either because they overestimate COVID being involved, or, in a more dangerous assertation (that makes me wonder how much he's grifting himself) that either they or their admitting hospitals make bucks (from who, the feds?) for writing out such death certificates. The SciAm piece engaged in something else "old" Ioannidis would have excoriated other researchers for doing: not disclosing conflicts of interest. Per the update there, a link to a BuzzFeed piece busts a study cited by Ioannidis for something else he has excoriated other researchers for in the past: replication problems. And, his own claims about death certificates and COVID causality cite a study with only 57 cases. Small sample size! Big cause of replication problems. Another BuzzFeed piece documents has participants for that study were recruited on unethical (and scientifically non-controlled) premises, and also notes that the study designer was the now-infamous Great Barrington quack Jay Bhattacharya. (The co-grifters at SciAm, in another piece that WAS labeled as opinion, mischaracterize what Great Barrington is all about, even ignoring its herd immunity thrust and claims.)

And, Ioannidis remains unrepentantly wrong about other things, namely about how hospitals, as of what he claimed one year ago, were prepped to handle new surges. Not.Even.Close. even as I type.

The Wired piece, by David Freedman, was pretty broadly, though not quite overly, charitable as of its date of writing, May 1 of last year. Today, it looks semi-laughable.

But, back to the top. SBM has the goods on Ioannidis from just two weeks ago. Dr. John Howard says he continues to double down on botched intubation claims, and now with child deaths. He claims that child vaccinations for COVID will cause enough shedding, or whatever his reasoning is, to infect more vulnerable adults. (Well, gee, John, maybe "vulnerable" adults need to get vaccinated!) He most recently made his claim that doctors and hospitals are grifting off death certificates in July. Last fall, long after he was Not.Even.Wrong on the low end of death claims, he appeared to be touting herd immunity for kids already a year ago, opposing school closings. (See below.)

I asked the SBM author, on Twitter, if he'd directly asked Ioannidis if he supports herd-based immunity for kids on measles, since "measles parties" are big among the antivaxxer crowd. I then directly emailed him the same question. Him, Ioannidis, that is. I added the question of wondering whether he shouldn't question the whole normal child vax schedule if that's his stance on COVID.
I won't directly quote, but, OTOH, he should know things like this aren't totally off the record.
He claims he's an ardent supporter of vaccination, denies he promotes herd immunity and calls SBM irresponsible.

My honest take?

* I think Ioannidis is oh, about 10 percent sinned against. The 10,000 dead was at the low end of a range, but he did emphasize that low end. And, many researchers he's nailed in the past have likely been waiting to deliver comeuppance.

I'll charitably grant another 10 percent to him for critics treating him uncharitably in the first three-six months after COVID hit. But that's it.

On the rest? The remaining 80 percent falling in his own lap? 
Even when he's not been outrightly wrong, he's invited abuse from some of the smugness and non-caveating. And, you're known by the company you keep. That is, Jay Bhattacharya. OR the iffy (but probably not as bad as you) Vinay Prasad, on whose podcast you appeared. It's up to you to provide separation, doctor, not SBM. Ditto on the "well, the old were about to die anyway" that you've said more than once about COVID morbility. If you don't want to sound like Dan Patrick, that's your fault, not SBM's. (Orac has just called out Prasad for going Godwin's Law on public health restrictions. And, COVID obstructionists [they're more than COVID contrarians] are claiming pieces like this are antisemitic.)

As for irresponsible? I wouldn't call SBM that! But, via Massimo Pigiucci and John Horgan, I've had run-in's with SBM's Novella Bros. before.
I first wondered, when an Institute for Science Based Medicine was formed, if THEY were grifting. Horgan didn't directly use that word, but called out both them and Orac over the issue of American medicine overtesting, often for money.

There's smugness to go around. (But maybe Ioannidis' is much older than we first recognized? Maybe he's long pushed the "maverick scientist" angle and gotten nailed? Of course that link is by Orac, who's long pushed the tribalism angle.)

At the same time, Horgan was also critical of Ioannidis already in November, over the death estimates issues. BUT? Not critical enough. Given Horgan went after SBM in part because of the money involved in medical overtesting, not noting that Bhattacharya's study was funded by the founder of Jet Blue, and other issues? John, you pulled your punches. (He's admitted that he did so and says that he still admires and likes Ioannidis too much to go further.)

And, beyond smugness? I'll file the charge of gaslighting, too. After emailing you my rhetorical questions and links, including the one SBM piece, you said everybody needs to look at your research. That SBM link I sent HAD MULTIPLE LINKS to your research. I "click through" as well as actually reading the original, as warranted.

And, sorry to Horgan, but this is as charitable as I can be.

Dr. Ioannidis? Another story about hospitals overflowing their capacity, just weeks ago. Update, two months later, Dec. 8: Hospitals maxing out and short-staffed. Dec. 9, Michigan, not New England, but same story.

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