Back to Navigation

COVID-19 | Munk Debates

EPISODE #18

COVID-19

Be it resolved, we are making high-stakes decisions about the COVID-19 pandemic without reliable data.

Guests
John Ioannidis
Sten Vermund

About this episode

The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading across the globe and forcing entire countries to implement lockdowns and strict distancing measures. Many people are confined to their homes, and the economy is heading into a recession. Some scientists believe that more data is needed to institute these extreme measures: due to insufficient testing and incomplete demographic models, the virus might not be as serious or fatal as many believe. Others disagree – the only way to stop the spread of this very serious pandemic is to bring society to a standstill and enforce large scale lockdowns. All the information we have collected so far shows that herd mentality, not herd immunity, is the only way to defeat COVID-19 once and for all.

Share:

Guests

John Ioannidis

"We are enacting extremely severe measures in an effort to curb the virus, but we have very little evidence-based data on how to guide our next steps."

John Ioannidis

"We are enacting extremely severe measures in an effort to curb the virus, but we have very little evidence-based data on how to guide our next steps."

John P.A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc is Professor of Medicine, Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, and Professor (by courtesy) of Biomedical Data Science at the School of Medicine, Professor (by courtesy) of Statistics at the School of Humanities and Sciences, and co-Director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) at Stanford University. He is the recipient of many awards and he has been elected as Einstein fellow at the Berlin Institute of Health. He has been inducted in the Association of American Physicians, the European Academy of Cancer Sciences, the American Epidemiological Society, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the US National Academy of Medicine. With over 4000 new citations to his work per month in the scientific literature, he is one of the most-cited scientists worldwide. In his webpage at Stanford he states that he loves to be constantly reminded that he knows next to nothing.
 

Sten Vermund

"It's more effective to implement a harsh protocol of a national, social distancing strategy to protect the vulnerable then to take a chance on an unproven strategy."

Sten Vermund

"It's more effective to implement a harsh protocol of a national, social distancing strategy to protect the vulnerable then to take a chance on an unproven strategy."

Dr. Vermund serves as Dean of the Yale School of Public Health, Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, and Professor of Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine. His research has focused on health care access in low income nations, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, human papillomavirus- mediated cervical pathogenesis, and prevention of HIV transmission. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Show Notes

You can read Professor John Ioannidis’s article on COVID-19 and reliable data here.
 
Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch wrote a response to Professor Ioannidis’s column here.
 
Dr. David Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, wrote a New York Times op-ed questioning the current methods being used to stop the spread of the virus.
 
Yale health experts, including Professor Sten Vermund, took issue with Dr. Katz’s op-ed, and wrote a letter to the editor in response.
 
In this comparison between the Spanish Flu (1918-1919) and COVID-19, the author points out that the two pandemics are very different: the Spanish flu targeted young people, and medical professionals lacked adequate equipment, medicine, and testing techniques to treat the illness. COVID-19 targets older people with underlying health issues. This Atlantic piece compares the global response to both pandemics.
 
Professor Ioannidis mentions Iceland’s mass testing for COVID-19.  Iceland has tested more people per-capita for the coronavirus than any other nation in the world. Results show that 1% of the country’s population has the virus.
 
Professor Vermund talked about South Korea’s approach to fighting COVID-19. The country enforced aggressive social-distancing measures early on and began mass testing so they could identify areas where the virus had taken hold, alert citizens and enforce local lockdowns. Read more about their approach here.