The pandemic was a confusing time with public health messages from officials and institutions that were sometimes confused, conflicting, or misrepresented and anti-vaccine misinformation being spread widely. Into this mix, a new phenomenon emerged, that of the covid contrarian. Contrarian doctors usually possessed some relevant qualifications and positioned themselves as independent critical thinkers willing to challenge the dogmas of the mainstream and take a more nuanced perspective on the claims made by anti-vaccine advocates.
These contrarian figures are the voices that you would usually hear on 'heterodox' podcasts. Figures like the medical doctor Vinay Prasad, the Stanford professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya, or the retired nurse, John Campbell.
But did they really offer an alternative critical perspective? Our guest today, Jonathan Howard, a practising doctor and professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, argues no. And he should know, he has spent the pandemic not only treating patients but tirelessly documenting (and refuting) the claims made by the contrarian set.
This episode is unfortunately topical due to the recent online fracas surrounding Joe Rogan's credulous promotion of RFK Jnr and the subsequent 'calls for debate' and targeted harassment of Dr Peter Hotez -a public health specialist and advocate for affordable vaccines.
In any case, we learnt a lot and enjoyed the discussion with Jonathan and hope you will too. Also covered in this episode: How many pull-ups Matt can do, why Chris is drinking a chalky green potion, and the psychology of placebos.