I’ve always wondered where medical myths come from, such as absurd the notion that we only use 10% of our brains. Sadly, this pandemic, we’ve all had the opportunity to witness firsthand how such farcical falsehoods are created.

For example, an article tilted “CDC Quietly Lowers Early Childhood Speech Standards” recently appeared in The Post Millennial, a conservative Canadian publication with a history of spreading misinformation about COVID-19. According to the article,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly changed their standards for early childhood development, as the effects of pandemic policies on children’s development, from speech to reading to other basics, becomes increasingly more apparent.

The big news was soon shared on Twitter by credulous doctors (here and here) who have long opposed masks – and all other measures to protect children from the virus – based on fantasized harms. “This would seem to be problematic,” one said. “CDC just quietly lowered early childhood speech standards for children. I wonder why the CDC thinks children are not meeting developmental milestones?” asked another before discouraging masks in children.

A smoking gun?

So, have these doctors found their smoking gun?

Not at all.

Doctors such as Dr. Dan Freedman, who care more about being accurate than pandering to their Twitter followers, actually read the CDC report and learned that the guidelines were changed based on “broad literature search” that “was conducted in March 2019”. The CDC changed its guidelines based on data collected before any of us had heard of COVID-19. As Dr. Shawna McCafferty explained, the previous guidelines were 20 years old and in need of revision. Moreover, as Dr. Freedman also noted, there was nothing “quiet” about what the CDC did.

Did this have any effect on the doctors who blamed masks for the revisions in the CDC guidelines? Of course not. This is 2022, where contrarian doctors boast of their “nuanced” ideas and claim to be “silenced” when their misinformation is exposed.

Even after it had been explained to him that the CDC guidelines were changed based on pre-pandemic data, Dr. Marty Makary agreed with a Fox News host who blames masks for harming kids and then said,

People are hungry for honesty right now, and what we are starting to see is data on just how catastrophic the entire two years of restrictions are on children, who bore the highest burden of restrictions even though they are the absolute lowest risk.

A medical myth is born

And thus we see in real time how a medical myth is born.

Lazy or dishonest journalists with an ideological bias create myths which then get spread by lazy or dishonest doctors. Alternatively, lazy or dishonest doctors with an ideological bias create myths which then get spread by lazy or dishonest journalists. Incredibly, this is all done under the guise that only the doctor propagating the myth is telling the truth.

I’ve discussed this noxious feedback loop before. In an article written June 10th 2021 titled “Think Twice Before Giving the COVID Vax to Healthy Kids”, Dr. Makary wrote:

In reviewing the medical literature and news reports, and in talking to pediatricians across the country, I am not aware of a single healthy child in the U.S. who has died of COVID-19 to date.

Though it took only seconds to discover that healthy children had died of COVID-19, Dr. Makary’s myth was further propagated by doctors with a large social media presence, as well as by anti-vaxx propagandist Tucker Carlson, who repeated Dr. Makary’s claim verbatim on his program. This myth persists to this day, falsely reassuring people that healthy children have no risk from the virus.

This latest sad episode, where “pandemic policies” are accused of time-traveling to 2019, is really nothing special. It’s actually become quite routine – another drop in the ocean of COVID misinformation spread by doctors who will never treat a sick child. As such, it’s easy to shrug when highly-credentialed doctors at prestigious universities again create and spread easily refutable myths to their large audiences, debasing our COVID discourse.

However, we should resist this dulling of our senses. We should strive to retain our ability to be shocked and upset at doctors who pollute the COVID landscape with misinformation, always minimizing the harms of the virus and always exaggerating the supposed harms of the measures used to protect children, all while pretending that no one but them is telling the truth.

Author

  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.