Not sure from this article if Dr. Offit is for or against public debate about vaccine safety and efficacy. In my opinion, the ONLY way public health authorities can regain their lost credibility is by being totally honest with the public, including not censoring good faith debate by competent scientists and physicians.

Expand full comment

“We should be able to trust that those involved in public health are trying to get it right even when they might not get it right the first time.”

You are right....we should be able to do so. But time and again, public health has proven itself untrustworthy. Anyone who has a scientific background and is paying attention know much of what comes out of our regulatory agencies is more propaganda than it is science.

How many studies in MMWR, for example, are so obviously cherry picked to promote the agencies' policy interests? When time proves them wrong, why are they not then withdrawn? The problem is not that public health gets things wrong - people are very forgiving when humility it put to the fore. They are much less so when they double and triple down on errors and omissions.

The past few years have been a case study of attempting to minimize dissent and oversell the benefits of mRNA. How has this worked out? Why has the FDA not publicized the results of the required studies on myocarditis performed by the sponsors, even when requested by FOIA? This obfuscation and ivory tower mentality will only increase distrust in vaccines, and for better or worse, those that promote them.

Expand full comment

The moment we stop debate is the moment we lose scientific integrity and trust in public health. If we sacrifice integrity and trust for policy compliance, we will soon have neither.

Expand full comment

Look, when the govt (with the help of others) start censoring anti-vax people ... then, you pro-vax guys lose the debate.

If you experts can’t explain it with data to average people - then you don’t deserve to be called an expert.

Cf. The Einstein quote on explaining things simply.

And to be pro-vax or anti-vax....both are stupid positions. Each Vax, each shot must be proven on its own merits (or rejected).

8 mice ain’t enough, BTW.

Expand full comment

Well that’s super. Who have you debated, publicly or privately?

How about RFK Jr? You could tackle these “false & misleading claims” you say he makes. (What are they, by the way?)

A quick read of the FDA briefing documents from Pfizer told me all I needed to know about these vaccines. And that anyone championing them didn’t have health as their primary concern, but money.

Expand full comment
Oct 2·edited Oct 2

Dr. Offit, I agree with your points here, but you've not really made your position on this thorny problem clear. Should scientists openly debate the interpretations of vaccine studies and the policies that are shaped by those studies, and let the chips fall where they may? Or not? My belief is, "yes," we should have that open debate, especially given the surge in distrust of US public health officials that has occurred over the last three years. Yes, there would be downsides to doing that, but the consequences of the alternative (i.e., stifling public debate) would, in the long run, be much worse.

Expand full comment

The only reason to debate in public is to argue for policy, and in this country, policy is ultimately the Provence of citizens. Policy narrows and simplifies the conclusions of science, forcing a recommendation to do this thing or to do that thing. If scientists cannot find a way to make the consequences clear, they have no business meddling in the making of decisions.

Everyone wants to be healthy and to have a stable climate. Science can contribute to knowledge of causes, but it is really bad at making policy. In the case of covid vaccines, the original claim of science was that vaccines could stop the transmission of the virus and bring three pandemic to an end. That turned out to be a false claim, and it has poisoned the perception of science.

Every time science speaks ex cathedral, it risks being counterproductive, and risks destroying its reputation.

Expand full comment

Excellent post. I hope that you will stick to the side of free and open scientific debate and discussion and eradication of censorship, whatever the cost. It is the only way to ensure scientific progress and restore the trust of the public. The backlash against vaccines was driven largely by censorship of critics, failure to address quickly and convincingly signals of adverse events, and the disastrous attempt to illegally mandate them. Also, the false claim that "Science" guided much bad, authoritarian covid policy. The damage will take many years to undo. "Trust the Science" is one of the worst, anti-science slogans ever devised. Keep telling the truth as you see it. I hope more of your colleagues will do the same.

Expand full comment

Paul: "Scientists welcome this scrutiny.". Not true of a single person from the "Narrative" side, that I could find. I gave up after challenging 16 doctors to debate me on childhood vaccine mandates; doctors who had publicly admonished parents for even considering not vaccinating their children/

Expand full comment

I the fifth Harry Potter movie there is a perfect portrayal of an authority figure talking down to people. Everyone in a position of authority should study this for clues as to why ordinary people resent being dismissed as unable to have informed opinions.

Expand full comment

Yes! Bring on the debate. The public absolutely deserves to be part of the conversation and to be armed with information to make an informed decision. Consider broaching media personalities who would welcome this type of forum, whether Megyn Kelly, Bill Maher or Joe Rogan. Their personal biases are irrelevant. Each of them is more than capable of hosting this discussion!

Expand full comment

The utter arrogance to believe that there are only a select few elites that have the ability of rational thought, and that their job as public health experts is to keep the rest of us in the dark, and ignore their conflicts of interest and corruption. This is exactly why trust in the medical institutions is at an all-time low, and only honest public debate is going to rectify that.

Expand full comment

Dr Offit, “medicine” (as the public sees it), has totally lost its credibility. You are a doctor, we all know about the egos that doctors have. So most people won’t say anything to your face about this. Unless we get an opening.

So, we MUST have public debate so that the public can decide, hopefully, that many in medicine can be trusted. Again.

Regulatory capture is relevant. And the enormous power of $100B thrown at Big Pharma.

We (the public) hoped you doctors would protect us from the depredations of Big Pharma. In general, you doctors are also “captured” and are not telling the truth.

So, we must strongly encourage and insist on honest public debate.

Ask your doctor friends to show us the data. In fairly high detail. We MUST have informed consent! It is our right!

Yes, it is trouble and doctors aren’t getting paid enough. I know.

But it is the only way forward.


Expand full comment

Thank you. As a member of the public making health decisions, I'm counting on a robust and public discussion by scientists about public health policy, especially in the ever-shifting world of Covi2

Expand full comment

I agree with Mike H; starting the argument in 2022 is missing the years leading up to the increasingly divided public. Had the NIH/CDC been as honest as possible from the beginning, there would not be the skepticism that was the prism through which the public viewed recommendations coming from these agencies in 2022. For example, the resignation of scientists disagreeing with initial vaccine recs was for me a red flag moment. Behind the recommendations, we need to be transparent about the motives leading to the recommendations.

Expand full comment

Dr. Offit: Further.

Thank you for your courage.

And: as one example, explain to me why so few doctors would speak publicly against the bivalent booster?

In fact, supported it!

And we expected you doctors to protect us and give us good advice. In God We Trust now. Everyone else, bring recent RCTs and Cochrane reports.

To all you doctors: WHY did you fail us? (Of course, not every doctor failed us. But you failed us as a group.)

Eg, on that stupid bivalent vaccine.

Lack of courage?

Too trusting of the “captured” FDA and CDC?

Did not want to hurt yr income? (Which had already taken a hit from Lockdowns.)

Controlled by your (now big) medical corporations? Who were controlled by the narrative?

Bought by Big Pharma?

Too anti-Trump to see straight and talk straight?

You should have stood up also when the NPIs were proposed by bad people with no data.


As an American, I feel so ashamed about what happened. Sad. Disappointed.

Of course it is not fair to blame only doctors. All of medicine contributed, Pharma, Public Health, NIH, etc, etc.

Expand full comment