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Dr. Aseem Malhotra: From Vaccine Pusher to Vaccine Debunker—How I Changed My Mind About the COVID-19

“Once I had spent time critically analyzing the data on the COVID-19 vaccines, it became very clear to me that the efficacy of this particular novel technology … was very, very poor, certainly in comparison to traditional vaccines. And the harms were unprecedented,” says Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a highly-published cardiologist and one of the most well-known doctors in Britain.

He was an outspoken proponent of the COVID-19 genetic vaccines until July 2021, when the tragic and sudden death of his 73-year-old father caused him to take a deeper look into the data.

“We know now that the original trials—the gold standard randomized control trials—that led to the approval by the regulators of the vaccine in the first place revealed you were more likely to suffer a serious adverse event from the vaccine than you were to be hospitalized with COVID,” says Malhotra.


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Jan Jekielek:

Dr. Aseem Malhotra, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Dr. Aseem Malhotra:

Jan, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s been a couple of months since we interviewed right after you had basically come out with this groundbreaking paper looking at COVID-19 misinformation. And I’ve learned a lot over the last few months by speaking with you. But you weren’t always someone who was committed to exposing COVID-19 misinformation, or perhaps you were committed, but in a very different way. Please tell me about that.

Dr. Malhotra:

Yes, Jan. What I would say is I come back to the basics of being a good doctor to understand where I went with the Covid situation. Throughout my whole career, I want to improve my patient outcomes, which means I have to be the best possible doctor I can be. But essential or crucial to doing that is to use the best available evidence on any intervention to make a clinical decision, and to incorporate individual patient preferences and values.

In other words, informed consent. To do that properly, one needs to be able to give patients information in a way they can understand in terms of benefits and harms of anything that you do, whether it’s a prescription of a drug or even whether it’s adopting a particular diet or a lifestyle. That’s my background in terms of what I am a very strong advocate for.

We call it ethical evidence-based medical practice. It should be the default and the norm for most doctors, but because of system failures, it is not. That’s something we can discuss in more detail. Once I had spent time critically analyzing the data on the COVID-19 vaccines, it became very clear to me that the efficacy of this particular novel technology, the mRNA products, was very, very poor, certainly in comparison to traditional vaccines. And the harms were unprecedented.

I was able in my paper to break that down in ways that people could understand in terms of benefit and harm. The conclusions were quite clear that it needed to be withdrawn, completely suspended for everybody, young, old, vulnerable, non-vulnerable, until an inquiry was launched to understand properly why we got it wrong, how we got it wrong and what we need to do moving forward, which I also elaborated on in my piece.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’re an incredibly well cited doctor in the scientific literature. That’s one thing I’ve learned. You’ve written, you’ve published a lot and people have used what you’ve published a lot. When it came to the COVID-19 vaccination approach, at the beginning, at least you seem to approach it non-critically. I want to dig into that a little bit, because you had a transformation. Why is it, do you think, given your general open mindedness, at the beginning you didn’t have that open mind, but instead you gained it along the way?

Dr. Malhotra:

To elaborate more on your question, I was one of the early adopters of the vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine in particular. I had two doses of that at the beginning of 2021, because I helped out at a vaccine center. Then, I went on Good Morning Britain about a month later to try and help tackle vaccine hesitancy. But it was based upon the information I had at the time, which was this—traditional vaccines are some of the safest pharmacological interventions in the history of medicine.

My arm is covered scars from vaccines that I’ve had. So, I could not conceive of the possibility of any significant harm with the information that was available at the time. But the evidence changed, and this is crucial, certainly in medicine, and I’ve seen this throughout my career. I am somebody that will talk about it, going from being a big prescriber of statin drugs to then understanding the data better and realizing statins weren’t so great.

As the evidence changed, I then had to change my view and my opinion. Does that mean if I go back in time, would I have done exactly the same thing again, given the information I had then? Yes, I would. I have no regrets taking the Pfizer vaccine and even promoting it with the information I had available at the time. That’s really important to understand. Now, of course, there were people who were hesitant at the beginning and a lot of those people, I remember having discussions with them, were going more on their intuition rather than any good evidence.

“Okay, it’s new. We’re not quite sure, we’re low risk.” My situation was a little bit different to many people because I’m a practicing doctor. So for me, taking the vaccine was never for protecting myself. It was only under clearly at that time a false belief, that I was going to protect my patients. That’s where we were at the time. Things obviously changed massively as the information came in about the harms of the vaccine, and a personal circumstance with my dad dying unexpectedly.

Mr. Jekielek:

Tell me more about that please.

Dr. Malhotra:

Yes. My father, on July the 26th, 2021, 5:00 PM, I remember it very clearly, called me and said he had chest discomfort, chest pain. I’m a cardiologist first and foremost. What he was describing, the history sounded typical of something that sounded like it’s likely to be coming from the heart—angina, a symptom representative of reduction of blood supply in one of the arteries of the heart or one or more of the arteries of the heart muscle.

I asked him to call an ambulance. He wasn’t in a lot of distress, so I didn’t think it sounded like a full blown heart attack, but it needed investigating. Long story short, he called some neighbors over who were doctors. I went in the shower to change, because I live in London. He’s in Manchester about 200 miles away, so I get on a train to come up and see him.

In that time he had a cardiac arrest. The ambulance didn’t turn up for 30 minutes and he tragically died. It was extremely shocking for everybody that knew him, because my dad was super fit and healthy. He was 73, and he walked 10,000 steps during lockdown. I knew his cardiac history. He’s one of the healthiest guys in his community for his age. It didn’t make sense what happened.

Then, the post-mortem findings revealed two very severe narrowing in his corona arteries. Out of the three major arteries, two were severely narrowed. That was the first flashpoint, on reflection, that made me realize that my father likely was a victim of the mRNA vaccines, as in a side effect. That’s what killed him.

I didn’t know that at the time, even with the postmortem findings. It was only a few months later when bits of data started to emerge that clearly showed that the mRNA vaccines increase coronary inflammation. In other words, they accelerate one of the mechanisms of harm, not the only one. But one of them is that it most likely causes acceleration of coronary artery disease. You may have a bit of mild narrowing. It’s not going to cause you a problem for 10, 20 years, but suddenly it becomes severe, and you have a heart attack in a year. That’s what we’re talking about.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to jump back a bit. One of the things that struck me was this revelation that there was no actual data that Pfizer specifically had about reducing transmission. This was just a mantra that was repeated again and again by people who either thought they knew, or perhaps they did it cynically. I don’t know.

But you mentioned you were looking at the beginning at the available data and you mentioned that you got the vaccine, because you believed it would prevent transmission of the disease to your patients potentially. But as we’ve learned, there was actually no data on this. How is it that you came to believe that?

Dr. Malhotra:

Yes, I’m glad you’ve asked that question. It’s a great question. This discussion has been slightly distorted recently about they didn’t test for transmission. There is an indirect effect of it affecting transmission potentially. If it prevents infection, then you’re not going to transmit it. That was the mechanism that was most likely thought to be the case. The problem arose, because very quickly within a few months we knew it wasn’t really preventing infection either.

Now it could be either one of two reasons. The original data, which suggested that one in 119 people in the rundown mass control trial was prevented from getting infected. One in 119, which is a lot less than what people were led to believe in terms of the absolute reduction of risk of infection. Either that was false, and it wasn’t even 119, and it was just not there.

Or an equally, maybe more plausible explanation is the original vaccine that was created was designed to do something not brilliant, but something against the original ancestral strain of the virus, which mutated quite quickly within a few months of the administration to people and populations. Therefore, what we were then dealing with a few months later was a new strain of the virus, which was never going to give you any protection from the vaccine from infection anyway.

There’s a number of possibilities. But either way, people weren’t told the information in a truthful way at the time, and it did not evolve with time. You end up getting this whole perception of extreme benefit, no evidence of any significant harms, and it’s going to prevent transmission. You must take it to protect others.

Jan, probably even when the evidence was available to the FDA, and to the MHRA in the UK, Pfizer knew that it was never going to have any significant effect on preventing transmission anyway. And that’s the lie that was perpetuated. The evidence to overcome that was available well before they started to slowly phase out mandates.

Mr. Jekielek:

One of the things that came out reading Dr. Joseph Ladapo’s recently published book is that the way that budding doctors in medical school are taught about vaccines is something in the realm of what you said earlier. They’re a panacea. They are the safest thing ever. They work, and the harms are negligible.

For some reason, this particular drug is treated very, very differently and put on a pedestal compared to everything else, because of the history and the education that all of them went through. I thought that was really fascinating. I wonder if you think that, because remember there’s still a lot of doctors out there that believe the story that you no longer believe.

Dr. Malhotra:

Yes, absolutely. There’s an indoctrination, based upon legitimate reasons, that traditional vaccines are very effective, and are estimated to save four to five million lives a year globally. Therefore, anything with the name vaccine attached to it is something pure and good and should never be questioned. You’re absolutely right.

But unfortunately, and we’ve seen in this particular instance, nothing could be further from the truth. We’re talking about one of the most poorly efficacious pharmacological interventions in the history of medicine with the worst side effect profile, but also being the most lucrative and profitable. When you try and join those dots together, the picture that it paints is extremely ugly. It’s a real indictment of our whole healthcare system.

Mr. Jekielek:

You did a very comprehensive review of risk-benefit, which somehow we completely forgot about and the whole medical system forgot about at the beginning of the pandemic. Why don’t you just lay it out for me quickly.

Dr. Malhotra:

Yes. When you look at the absolute benefits of the Covid vaccine and looking at what good it’s doing for people, the only real evidence we have around that is on preventing people dying from covid or hospitalizations. I was able to look at that real world data in the UK, which you could probably apply to many other parts of the world, looking at vaccinated versus unvaccinated in Covid deaths during a wave to see what benefit the vaccine was having in preventing Covid death.

During the Delta wave, and by the way, this information is not corrected for what we call confounding factors. What that means is the information I’m about to tell you is still likely an exaggeration. Because if you look at people in the real world over 80 that took the vaccine versus the ones that didn’t, the ones that didn’t tended to be more vulnerable or less healthy, which meant they were already more predisposed to having a poor outcome from Covid.

But if you don’t correct for those factors, and just look at the age during the Delta wave, you had to vaccinate 230 people over the age of 80 to prevent one covid death. If you’re between 70 and 80, it’s 520 people. If you’re under 70, you’re starting having to vaccinate thousands of people to prevent one covid death. What does that mean?

In a consultation in keeping with the principles of ethical evidence-based medical practice and informed consent, if you had come to me and you’re in your 50s and you say, “Dr. Malhotra, tell me, I’m not sure about whether to take this drug or this vaccine.” I wouldn’t be black and white.

I would say, “Okay, the data tells us that the benefit for you taking it and preventing you dying from Covid is one in 2000.” You’d say, “What are the harms?” “Based upon the best quality evidence, Pfizer and Moderna’s own randomized control trial data, the risk of a serious adverse event from the vaccine, meaning disability or life-changing hospitalization, is at least one in 800.” Now Jan, if I gave you that information in that way, is that something you’re going to be very keen to take, that vaccine?

Mr. Jekielek:

You know the answer, absolutely not.

Dr. Malhotra:

Absolutely, yes. This information was never conveyed to the public, even though we have that information now. That’s what I attempted to do with the paper is to actually break it down for people—not saying the vaccines don’t work or the vaccines are great, but what is the actual benefit of the vaccine and what are the known harms based upon the best quality data? Not speculation. And it became a no-brainer for me.

The conclusion ultimately is that when you also look at Omicron, and you bring the more recent, the less lethal strain of Covid for the over eight-year-olds, you need to vaccinate 7,300 people to prevent one Covid death. The harm of the vaccine remains constant, but the risk of Covid goes down. So, it’s very clear, unequivocal. In normal circumstances, Jan, we wouldn’t even be debating this, and the vaccine would have been pulled a long time ago.

It probably should never have been approved in the first place, because we know now that the original trials, the gold standard randomized control trials that led to the approval by the regulators of the vaccine in the first place revealed you were more like to suffer a serious adverse event from the vaccine, than you were to be hospitalized with Covid. It’s extraordinary.

How does one explain this? One has to first and foremost understand the various interests involved in influencing information that doctors, patients, members of the public receive on a daily basis when it comes to their health. In this case, let’s look at the pharmaceutical industry. They have a legal responsibility to produce profit for their shareholders. They do not have any legal requirement whatsoever to give you the best treatment, although most people would think that to be the case. The real scandal is that regulators such as the FDA fail to prevent misconduct by industry.

I’m going to come back to that in a second. Doctors, academic institutions and medical journals collude with industry for financial gain. Most of the top 10 drug companies have committed major fraud, hiding data on harms, illegally marketing drugs, totaling at least $13 to $14 billion between 2009 and 2014, mostly in the United States. But when all of those crimes, let’s just call them out for what they are, when those crimes were committed by these companies, they still end up making more profit from the marketing and sales of those drugs, than they did when you minus out the fines that they had to pay.

Nobody got fired, no one went to prison. You’re talking about damage and harm up to tens of thousands of deaths. One of the most egregious examples is the Vioxx scandal. Drug company Merck launched a drug in 1999 which was supposed to be better than ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory, because it was marketed as being less of an issue to the stomach, less likely to cause stomach problems or stomach ulcers, for example.

It later emerged that it doubled the risk of heart attacks, and it probably caused the death of around 60,000 Americans from heart attacks. But it wasn’t a mistake. It emerged later on during the litigation process that the chief scientist of Merck knew this not long after the drug was rolled out in an internal email. “It’s a shame about the cardiovascular effect of this drug, but we will do well and the drug will do well.” I now present that information at conferences, I put it up and there are gasps from the audience. I ask people, “How do you explain that?” And there are all sorts of shouts from the audience, “Criminal,” that kind of thing. Yes, you can call it criminal if you like.

My hypothesis is something different based upon evidence is that the legal entity that is the big corporation, these multinational corporations, in this instance Big Pharma, very often because they puts the financial need ahead of the human need, it will deceive others for profit. We have a word for that. It’s called fraud. They actually function like a psychopathic entity.

This isn’t my definition. This is the definition from Dr. Robert Hare, forensic psychologist, preeminent expert in his field on the original international psychiatric definition of a psychopath. It says that these companies often behave like that; conning others for profit, being unconcerned for the safety of others, and having the inability to experience guilt. These are all the different criteria that one applies to the definition of a psychopath.

If one understands that over the last 20 or 30 years, probably rooted in well-intentioned, but misguided neoliberal economic policies started by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan here, you’ve had increasingly unchecked power from these sorts of entities over our lives. Most of the funding for the regulator in this country comes from the pharmaceutical industry. Universities are supposed to be guardians of the truth and represent the moral conscience of society. Most of university research, medical research now comes funding from the drug industry.

If you just think conceptually about an entity controlling our lives, that has more and more control over our lives, and that over a period of time functions like a psychopath. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what impact that’s going to have on society’s mental and physical health and how it’s going to undermine democracy, because they deliberately suppress information that people want to know about for those purposes.

Therefore, we’ve got anti-democratic institutions that are really controlling or influencing our lives. The reason we’ve not combated it, Jan, is because most doctors and the public are not aware of this problem. They don’t even know that they don’t know.

Mr. Jekielek:

How can one expect doctors, medical practitioners or society at large, who tends to more often than not trust the system, to open their minds on this sort of thing? Even for you, it was difficult with all your knowledge and all your work.

Dr. Malhotra:

What we are dealing with now, the psychological phenomenon to get this information into the minds of most members of the public and doctors and policy makers with the cold hard facts is understanding that there is going to be two elements and barriers to that process. Part of being a good doctor is being a good communicator and being a good communicator is being able to give information to different patients in ways that they can understand.

We have to challenge ourselves to make sure that when we have conversations with people, we are doing our very utmost in that communication to be able to get through to them, whoever they are. That’s something that we need to keep doing, as opposed to just polarizing the whole discussion and saying, “I’m right. You are wrong. This guy’s an idiot.” This is not very productive. In fact, that’s actually how this has played out in America.

I’ve noticed this debate in the last year-and-a-half. It’s been very polarized. It’s become politicized. There are different camps. Those camps need to start talking to each other. But before we communicate or try and get through to somebody with a different perspective than us who’s not aware of what we know, is thinking about two psychological phenomenons. One is the background of fear. Fear clouds critical thinking.

Most of us to some degree are still afflicted with this PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, from the beginning of the pandemic where this novel virus, and these pictures coming from Wuhan, and of intensive care units in Italy with people dying, scared people beyond their imagination. What that means is then your ability to engage in critical thinking to try and understand things is definitely impaired. Then the other aspect is this phenomenon called willful blindness.

We see this in historical events, and I’ll give you a few examples in a second. We’re all capable of this in different circumstances, and we probably already have done this in our lives in different circumstances. This can apply to individuals and families or spouses turning a blind eye to the fact their partners are cheating on them; to institutions, whether it’s the likes of what happened in Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein or with Jeffrey Epstein; or even to countries like what happened in Nazi Germany. This is when people turn a blind eye to the truth in order to feel safe, avoid conflict, reduce anxiety and protect prestige. Changing one’s mind is one of the most psychologically terrifying experiences anyone can go through.

To quote the Canadian American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, “Faced with changing one’s mind, and proving there’s no reason to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.” This is what we’re up against, but it doesn’t mean it’s a barrier that we can’t overcome by persistence, by empathy, and by stating the cold hard facts.

When I came out with this paper, I also wanted to create a safe space for doctors who are still in a situation that I was in when I took the vaccine and in effect promoted it or reassured people. It’s okay to change your mind, it’s okay to say the information has changed, and it’s okay to talk about it. That’s the challenge we have right now, Jan, to be honest. A cousin of mine pointed this out in the states a year ago.

He said, “If people really knew what happened, that their uncle or their kid died unnecessarily from a vaccine that should never have been approved, you can see how that can go very, very badly wrong in terms of people getting violent.” It would be understandable for people to have those emotions, but that is not going to take us further forward as society, and we have to all say, “Okay, this happened. It was a mistake.”

These were the structures in place that have been building up for years that we all have not collectively addressed properly, that allowed this to happen. The only way we’re going to overcome it and move forward constructively is if we all work together and go back to the very basics about honesty and transparency. What about basic human values that we seem to have forgotten around the sense of the importance of speaking the truth?

Mr. Jekielek:

There’s another complicating factor, though. This is around the work that Laura Dodsworth has done in the UK exposing the so-called nudge units in the UK government that actively tried to make people more afraid to elicit behavioral responses, i.e. vaccine uptake. And then, there were similar such operations with other governments that aren’t nearly as exposed.

What we do know is that there was a lot of government and industry and Big Tech collaboration, especially in the media around these censorship regimes. They also they spent $1 billion in advertising in the U.S. promoting vaccine uptake. One of the biggest lessons for me in the last few years is that some portion of society is profoundly influenced by this seeming consensus across these large megaphones in society. To me that explains why the level of fear was so high.

Dr. Malhotra:


Mr. Jekielek:

But it almost seems like that same system can spring into motion again.

Dr. Malhotra:

Absolutely. I’m a numbers person and again, I like to empower my patients and make them more health-literate, which means giving them information that allows them to think about how they can live the best possible life they can live mentally and physically. One way of doing that is to help people understand the numbers.

For example, around the fear that was imposed by Covid, it was very interesting. One Gallup poll revealed that 50 per cent of American voters thought that their risk of being hospitalized with Covid was 50 per cent, one in two, when it actually was far less than 1 per cent. It’s extraordinary to think about how that influenced their behavior.

Whereas, if we had reassured people and said, “Listen, your risk is so and so, then psychologically they would’ve been less fearful, and in a better state mentally as well. Without understanding the numbers involved, the public is vulnerable to exploitation of their hopes and anxieties by political and commercial interests.

There absolutely was an exploitation of the population through this fear narrative that was completely and totally unnecessary. But I think some of it, Jan wasn’t malicious as well. I think it was incompetence. I have been in touch with two people who are quite senior in terms of their access to information at government level and know what’s going on in China. One of them is Chinese, I won’t name her, but she’s a Chinese broadcast journalist.

Another one is a friend who has very close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. One of the interesting things I discovered is that, and this is something we saw reflected in the British government, in health policy makers and I’m sure i