A recent poll sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that a majority of Americans don’t really trust public health agencies as the age of COVID-19 brought a confluence of factors and forces creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt, impacting the government’s ability to direct rational, objective, and unbiased healthcare policy and programs. Led by Robert Blendon, emeritus professor at the Harvard Chan School, the survey led to some interesting observations like “We’re in a period of distrust of government in general,” declared Blendon, who went on, “If we substituted the FBI for the CDC, it would do a lot better.” In fact, the trust in the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appears headed to all-time lows.
As it turns out, only 52% of Americans actually have a good amount of trust in the CDC while other agencies fared worse. For example, just 37% of Americans have confidence in either the National Institutes of Health or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the latter being the Gold Standard regulatory body for food and drugs worldwide. The FDA was established to protect the American people and, for many years, has done just that but over time, concern grows of what’s known as “Regulatory Capture,” which is where the industry that’s regulated gets undue influence over the regulators.
And the dearth of trust in government isn’t assigned to just the feds. State health departments are only trusted by 41% of Americans while they only trust local health departments at a rate of 44%, meaning a majority of Americans don’t even trust their state or local health authorities.
High Stakes Issue
Perhaps it’s because this trust has been so low that key policies such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and the like were so contentious. In other countries where the health authority edict was followed, the results may be on the whole better.
But the lack of trust isn’t a surprise at all. With the onset of the pandemic, the politicization of COVID-19 from all sides was palpable. From early on, there were CDC missteps with COVID-19 tests, and the FDA, on the one hand, was aggressively siding with industry against generic treatments such as ivermectin. Meanwhile, other drugs, such as remdesivir, which have minimal impact and in fact has been deemed ineffectual by the World Health Organization, ultimately helps its manufacturer, as Gilead generated $3 billion in the first 9 months of the pandemic.
But with a combination of political interference, misinformation, and confusing messaging, many different “camps” have emerged, making broader-based trust difficult to achieve. Susan Collins, a senior senator from Maine, was recently on the record, “I used to have the utmost respect for the guidance from the CDC,” she told CDC Director Rochelle Walensky at a congressional hearing this week. “I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don’t anymore.” Collins cited issues with CDC’s guidance on school reopenings, mask-wearing, and summer camps. As reported by GPR, Walensky aggressively defended her agency and its guidance, point by point. On summer camp guidance, for instance, Walensky described her 16-year-old son counting down the days to camp this year, until she told him he couldn’t go. “I want our kids back in camp,” she said. “The camp guidance is intended to get our kids to camp and allow them to stay there.”
Mass censorship has also created growing division as social media platforms increasingly become the arbiters of what is fact versus what is fiction (or misinformation). But there’s just one problem—often the social media firms actually censor facts! TrialSite can attest to publishing factual information, which is then classified as “misinformation,” such as when it was reported that the nation of Slovakia authorized the use of ivermectin as a treatment for early-onset, mild-to-moderate COVID-19. YouTube and Facebook’s algorithms just shut down the content even if it’s factually correct. Does that sound like objective news?