As a medical student and researcher, I staunchly supported the efforts of the public health authorities when it came to COVID-19. I believed that the authorities responded to the largest public health crisis of our lives with compassion, diligence, and scientific expertise. I was with them when they called for lockdowns, vaccines, and boosters.
I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.
I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on natural vs. artificial immunity, school closuresand disease transmission, aerosol spread, mask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness and safety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.
But perhaps more important than any individual error was how inherently flawed the overall approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in a way that undermined its efficacy and resulted in thousands if not millions of preventable deaths.
What we did not properly appreciate is that preferences determine how scientific expertise is used, and that our preferences might be—indeed, our preferences were—very different from many of the people that we serve. We created policy based on ourpreferences, then justified it using data. And then we portrayed those opposing our efforts as misguided, ignorant, selfish, and evil.
We made science a team sport, and in so doing, we made it no longer science. It became us versus them, and “they” responded the only way anyone might expect them to: by resisting.
We excluded important parts of the population from policy development and castigated critics, which meant that we deployed a monolithic response across an exceptionally diverse nation, forged a society more fractured than ever, and exacerbated longstanding heath and economic disparities.
Read More: It’s Time for the Scientific Community to Admit We Were Wrong About COVID and It Cost Lives | Opinion