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When M. Nathaniel Mead submitted an article that questioned COVID-19 vaccine safety to a leading and influential medical journal, he knew it was “very likely to ignite a firestorm in the media and within the scientific community.”

Mead, an epidemiologist, public health research scientist and lead author of “COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines: Lessons Learned from the Registrational Trials and Global Vaccination Campaign” said the journal Cureus had been “very brave” in publishing papers that were critical of COVID-19 vaccines.

So he believed Cureus “would be more open-minded” than other journals that had rejected his paper.

Cureus did indeed publish the paper — which was read more than 370,000 times in the month after it was posted. That’s compared to most Cureus articles, which on average garner only about 2,700 views per year.

But last month, Cureus retracted the paper — an unusual move, as papers are rarely retracted after peer review and subsequent publication.

Mead joined “The Defender In-Depth” this week to discuss the paper’s findings, the peer-review process the paper underwent, the subsequent retraction, the dominance of Springer Nature — publisher of Cureus — in the scientific publishing industry, and issues regarding censorship and financial interests plaguing scientific publishing.

‘The biggest case of public health malpractice we’ve ever seen’

Mead’s paper analyzed COVID-19 mRNA vaccine trial data and post-injection injuries, detailed the vaccines’ potential serious harms to humans, the mechanisms behind adverse events, the immunological reasons for vaccine inefficacy and the mortality data from the clinical trials.

It also called for a global moratorium on the vaccines.

“I wanted to help make sense, from a scientific perspective, of the last few years since the trials, to make sense of how there could be such contradictory narratives … with the government and the industry saying one thing, and then a number of scientists, including myself … saying something very different,” Mead said.

According to Mead, the “lessons learned” from the research presented in the paper were that “there were definitely serious safety issues” with the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Very, very conservatively, I think you could say five to six times as many deaths can be attributed to the mRNA vaccines compared to the coronavirus,” he said.

“These COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations were never shown in randomized control trials to be effective in preventing infection, transmission, hospitalization or death,” Mead said. As a result, claims that the vaccines are “safe and effective” are “completely fallacious.”

“This was the biggest case of public health malpractice we’ve ever seen,” Mead said.

Retraction ‘expected’ as paper was ‘an indictment of the industry’

Mead said that he and his co-authors were careful with the accuracy of the paper they submitted, noting that in scientific, medical and academic publishing, “if it’s a controversial paper, they can reject the paper outright.”

“You want to be able to get out to reviewers before it gets rejected prematurely and/or before it gets rejected by reviewers who are obviously biased,” he said.

According to Mead, Cureus’ editors initially appeared enthusiastic about the paper.

“When we submitted to Cureus, I was surprised by the enthusiasm. It was very positive right from the get-go.” A “laborious process” of peer review followed, involving “multiple resubmissions” and “at least 200 comments” from reviewers, he said.

Even after Cureus published the paper, Mead said he remained skeptical. “I was thinking it’s very possible that we’re going to see a big backlash,” he said.

Mead said that while the public response to the published paper was overwhelmingly positive, “We noticed that there were a few people who kept leaving very, very nasty comments every single day, to the point where it really seemed clear that they had an agenda that had nothing to do with honest scientific discourse.”

The editors’ enthusiasm also waned, Mead said. While they initially provided positive feedback post-publication, this soon changed — especially after Mead pointed out comments posted on Cureus that “amounted to libel and defamation.”

Mead said the editors provided a “terse” response. The retraction followed shortly after that.

The retraction “was kind of shocking, but it was also expected,” Mead said, as the paper was “an indictment of the industry.”

“We were pointing out the DNA contamination issue,” he said. “If you’re requesting [the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines] to be withdrawn from the childhood immunization schedule, that immediately puts a big target on your back.” Such retractions benefit “industry and government agencies that are really wedded to this narrative,” he said.

According to Mead, such retractions were uncommon before the COVID-19 pandemic, but are now “happening more often,” especially concerning COVID-19 vaccines and other “lightning rod” issues, including the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

Springer published infamous ‘Proximal Origin’ paper

Mead said Springer Nature is one of the “giants” in medical and scientific publishing. Other journals, publications and scientific databases under the Springer umbrella include Springer Health, Nature, BioMedCentral and Scientific American.

Nature Medicine, a Springer journal, published the “Proximal Origin” paper in March 2020, which attempted to discredit the “lab-leak” theory of the origin of COVID-19. Government officials and media widely cited the paper, which has not been retracted.

According to The Financial Times, Springer paid 776 million euros ($846.2 million) in dividends to investors over the past four years. Reuters reported last month that BC Partners, a private equity firm backing Springer Nature, is mulling plans to publicly list Springer Nature, at an initial valuation of $9.7 billion.

Springer also broadened its holdings in news publishing. Aside from its ownership of German newspapers Bild and Die Welt, Springer purchased Politico — known for its pro-vaccine and pro-lockdown narratives — in 2021 for more than $1 billion.

According to Mead, such concentration and capture “is a serious issue” amounting to “a monopolization of medical narratives by these very powerful publishing houses.”

“[It] is really going to hurt the evolution of scientific discourse if we have to stay with these large publishers, who are unfortunately relying very heavily on the biopharmaceutical companies for a lot of their financing,” he said.

Mead also warned that technological developments such as artificial intelligence (AI) may lead to more scientific censorship, in light of a recent Politico report that Springer and OpenAI have launched a global partnership, through which “ChatGPT users will have access to summaries of ‘selected global news content’” from Springer.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in January, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman expressed a vision through which AI would be trained to locate and deliver information from certain preferred sources. He said:

“What we want to do with the content owners, like The New York Times … we would like to display content, link out, show brands of places like The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other great publication and say, ‘Here’s what happened today. Here’s this real-time information.’”

“ChatGPT is already set up for interfering with truth in terms of the scientific basis for assessing the safety issues around the vaccines,” Mead said, adding that this could result in AI “generating propaganda in ways that are often very subtle.”

“This should be a warning … to not use AI to get information,” Mead said. “You have to go to primary sources, and you have to sort out the evidence for yourself.”

Mead announced plans to develop “a new online database as an alternative to PubMed,” called FreeMed, which “would be an integrity-based scientific journal archive system … free of any conflicts of interest, any undue influence from the pharmaceutical industry.”

“What we have to do is somehow create a venue where we know that we’re not going to see the tentacles of the industry coming in and influencing the content of the papers … and biasing their content in just one direction,” Mead said, adding that medical publishing “has never been so precarious” for authors expressing counternarratives.

Mead, who said he will seek to republish the retracted paper, called the effects of these retractions “very chilling, because they really don’t want authors like me to come forward. They want to scare us into silence. But no, that’s not going to happen.”

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