The Telegraph reports that medical journal The Lancet is getting grief after a COVID-19 Commission report suggested the disease could have leaked from a laboratory — maybe even a lab in the U.S.
Published Wednesday, the Lancet paper notes in its key findings that the origins of SARS-CoV-2 remain unknown; the two leading hypotheses are a zoonotic spillover from wildlife possibly via a wet market, or emergence from a research-related incident.
Apparently, the report also suggests U.S. labs might be just as culpable as facilities in Wuhan, noting, “independent researchers have not yet investigated” U.S. labs, and saying the National Institutes of Health has “resisted disclosing details” of its work.
The Telegraph pins the controversy on the economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who is the commission chair.
Sachs said he was “pretty convinced” that COVID came out of U.S. biotech lab, “not out of nature,” at a 2022 Madrid conference.
And in August, Sachs appeared on a podcast hosted by high-profile anti-vaxx spokesperson Robert Kennedy Jr. — not long after Kennedy’s social media accounts were suspended because of alleged COVID misinformation, especially around vaccines, that he was sharing.
Sachs’ appearance on Kennedy Jr.’s podcast seems to have soured various experts on the guy. Some claim Sach’s actions undermine what is an important report from the COVID-19 Commission.
The Telegraph quotes Professor Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Canada, as saying, “Sachs’ appearance on RFK Jr’s podcast … undermines the seriousness of the Lancet Commission’s mission to the point of completely negating it.”
Rasmussen added she was “pretty shocked at how flagrantly” the report ignores key evidence on COVID origins.
Professor David Robertson, of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Research, said, “It’s really disappointing to see such a potentially influential report contributing to further misinformation on such an important topic.”
Sachs defended himself to the Telegraph, saying, “Everybody has signed off on the final text. The question of a possible laboratory release mostly involves the question of U.S.-China joint work that was underway on Sars-like viruses.”
As the Telegraph points out, a scuffle over the origins of Sars-Cov-2 is a small part of an otherwise important paper.
The report points at science policy and implementation failures and warns that many countries still have no useful pandemic preparedness plans.
And, crucially, it stresses that vaccine hesitancy must be addressed, even as it notes “the striking … irresponsibility of several influential political leaders.”
In something that seems pertinent to Ontario, the report also specifies that some places were pushed repeatedly into stringent lockdown — because preventative measures were repeatedly withdrawn too quickly.
There were 11 recommendations made in the report, including stronger regulation of the wild animal trade, a new WHO biosecurity oversight authority, stronger international coordination over infectious diseases, and a new Global Health Fund to support health systems and pandemic preparedness in lower income countries.
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