This Week in Corona Scams, we have a new highly hyped “game changing miracle cure!” that curiously lacks actual scientific evidence to back its promoters’ increasingly fantastical claims. Closer to home, we have a new gubernatorial contender with a knack for promoting dangerous pseudoscience.
Also, we have to talk about “BS Beads” again. They just won’t stop spewing the BS!
Hydroxychloroquine, meet ivermectin.
Last year, we published multiple warnings about the rush to proclaim hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a “game changing miracle cure” for COVID-19. (And no, it’s still not. Don’t even go there.) Yet when then President Donald Trump decided to campaign on HCQ’s (nonexistent) “game changing” potential in regards to COVID-19, the very clear medical science got muddied with dirty politics. We pretty much saw the same effect with “miracle mineral supplement” (MMS) bleach, especially after Trump endorsed bleach as a “COVID cure”.
Here we go again, except that Trump has not (yet?) weighed in. Nonetheless, the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin has gradually gained steam as the new “wonder drug”, to the point where multiple lawsuits have emerged (including one in Illinois) involving patients demanding that health care providers give them ivermectin for COVID-19. And especially in developing world nations where patients and public health offices have had a harder time securing COVID-19 vaccine doses, interest in the much cheaper ivermectin has skyrocketed. With all this heightened interest in ivermectin, shouldn’t we give this “game changer” a chance?
Spoiler alert: Medical researchers have already been studying ivermectin, and the results so far have been slightly better than placebo at best. Most likely, we’re looking at a replay of the HCQ saga. And this time, it’s even more infuriating because we now have vaccines on the market that are already proving to be far more effective against COVID-19.
Here’s Reason #1,000,001 why we shouldn’t blindly accept the influence of “influencers”.
Last July, we noted the sudden emergence of the far-right astroturf group “America’s Frontline Doctors” as Trump’s new favorite “medical experts” thanks to their hard-line support for hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment despite the lack of scientific evidence proving its efficacy against COVID-19. In particular, “America’s Frontline Doctors” member Dr. Stella Immanuel became a viral internet sensation with her “They’re all well!” rant, and she continues to flood Instagram with multiple barely disguised sockpuppet accounts to spew anti-vaccine propaganda.
In recent weeks, Dr. Pierre Kory has become the new darling of far-right and anti-vaccine internet echo chambers, and he’s grown an even larger online following thanks to his appearance on The Doctors daytime TV talk show last month. Kory continues to make media rounds, he now claims “censorship” because the medical journal Frontiers in Pharmacology retracted their publication of Kory’s astroturf group’s study following the revelation of unsubstantiated claims, and he’s even suggested that ivermectin is at least as effective as the COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe disease and death.
But as we mentioned above, the scientific evidence thus far has been inconclusive at best on ivermectin. And as NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci himself has admitted multiple times this year, we still have more research to conduct on potential COVID-19 treatments. As much as we’d like to have a “game changing miracle cure” for this disease, the evidence is just not there to prove that ivermectin will give us those “miracles”.
Look, I get it: People are frustrated because the COVID-19 vaccines are not as readily available in other parts of the world as they are here in the U.S. Even here in America, people continue to scratch their heads over why we shouldn’t exercise the “right to try” new treatments. But as we had to learn the hard way with HCQ and MMS bleach, just because some charismatic figures take to the media to demand a “right to try” doesn’t mean it’s actually something worth trying. And if we really want to do something about the global vaccine shortage, let’s just fill the vaccine shortage!
What about the latest accusations against the COVID-19 vaccines?
Ironically, the same anti-vaccine “influencers” who hail the “wonder” of ivermectin and promote even less credible “COVID cures” conversely condemn the COVID-19 vaccines as “dangerous” and “unproven”. Never mind that we have a continually growing mountain of real scientific evidence proving that these vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease and reducing risk of further spread of the virus.
Since these vaccines began to receive emergency use authorization last December, we’ve been doing our best to answer questions and debunk urban legends, including that “vaccine shedding” myth that continues to pop up on multiple social media platforms. Not only are “vaccine shedding” rumors continuing to spread despite the lack of real evidence, but they’re escalating into new claims that the COVID-19 vaccines allegedly “cause female infertility”. Even worse, anti-vaccine propagandists like Naomi Wolf are leaning into “feminism” and cultural appropriation to argue that we need to be “liberated” from the vaccines.
Simply put, this is absolute nonsense. Anti-vaxxers attempted to convince the European Medicines Agency (the European Union’s version of our FDA) that the COVID-19 vaccines could harm women’s reproductive health, and some medical experts had their own concerns because pregnant people were initially excluded from the COVID-19 vaccine trials. However, European and U.S. regulatory agencies eventually concluded that the vaccines are safe for pregnant people and anyone else who’s concerned about fertility/virility.
If anything, COVID-19 itself poses a far more severe threat to someone’s fertility/virility than any of the vaccines. Again, please don’t get hyped up on a conspiracy theory just because your favorite “influencers” are talking about it. If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines and your own health, please consult some actual medical professionals.
“Dr. Demon Sperm”, Meet “The Insurrectionist Contender, Esq.”
Since we already mentioned “America’s Frontline Doctors” earlier, we need to talk about how they’ve suddenly become more locally relevant. They’re now filing multiple lawsuits attempting to block the recent emergency use authorization to extend COVID-19 vaccine availability to 12-15 year-old adolescents, and one of their lawyers happens to be Nevada’s own Joey Gilbert (R). Gilbert had already made headlines over his prior lawsuits to try to overturn Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) COVID-19 health safety orders, as well as through his participation in the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, and Gilbert is now running for Governor himself.
Like Stella Immanuel and others in “America’s Frontline Doctors”, Joey Gilbert has endorsed multiple pseudoscientific and flat-out mendacious claims about COVID-19. These include classics like “masks don’t work” (actually, yes they do), “poison/kill with vaccine” (see above), the pandemic fear was “nonsense” (at least 600,000 Americans have died from COVID-19), and “Fauci orchestrated a Plandemic” (yeah, no, but the Plandemic videos themselves are quite scammy).
Yet considering Nevada Republican Party leaders’ growing embrace of far-right extremists like the Proud Boys, we can’t rule out the possibility that Nevada Republicans ultimately nominate Joey Gilbert to run against Sisolak in next year’s general election. At the very least, it’s looking like we’ll have another year’s worth of campaign activities to fact-check for false medical claims.
Speaking of false medical claims, we might as well check in on two of our most notorious “corona scammers” out there.
Since May 2020, we’ve been keeping close eyes on the ex-MLM salesperson we call “KM”, the wildly pseudoscientific “wellness brand” that we refer to as “BS Beads”, and their outrageously false claims of the “BS Beads” curing everything from COVID-19 to heart disease. Since the recent launch of their podcast (please don’t listen – your ears will thank you later), the “BS Beads” owner whom we will refer to as “MB” has been joining “KM” more often in propagating specious claims about these “natural healing stones”.
“MB” has been hyping up the beads as sleep aids on Instagram this week, while “KM” launched her new TikTok account with her classic claims of “pain relief”. And in just the last 48 hours, “MB” and “KM” have been outdoing themselves with the launch of a new bead line that they claim will work wonders for “weight loss”, “water retention, edema, and swelling”.
As always, they have zero actual scientific evidence to back up their claims. Perhaps the beads allow for customers to enjoy a “placebo effect”, but the “crystal healing” philosophy behind the “BS Beads” is not science-based medicine. There are no peer-reviewed studies. There is no legitimate research. There are no proven results to provide to any pharmaceutical regulatory authorities.
Why are we still talking about “BS Beads”? Sadly, it’s crap like this that allows the virus to remain so viral.
Sadly, they’re far from alone. As we’ve been documenting for over a year on these pages, and as The Washington Post noted this past March, “crystal healing” is just another branch of pseudoscientific “alternative medicine” that’s been enjoying a renaissance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless and until public regulatory authorities step up, and unless and until “Big Tech” companies actually enforce their own stated rules, it’s up to us to protect ourselves and each other. Please, please, please do your own homework – and by this, I mean search for sources with real medical and scientific credentials – before you amplify that viral post.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, check Nevada Health Response for testing in your area, and check Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please maintain best practices to help stop the spread.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.