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Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Why Joe Rogan and I sat and talked for over 3 hours

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I don’t think I’ve ever had such a long conversation with anyone. Seriously, think about it. We sat in a windowless podcast booth with two sets of headphones and microphones, and a few feet between us. Not a single interruption. No cell phones. No distractions. There are no breaks in the bathroom.

At a time when we want shorter and sharper content, which responds to abbreviated periods of human attention, one of the most popular podcasts in the country presents conversations that last exceptionally and that deepen especially.

Many friends warned me not to accept Joe’s invitation. “There’s already little room for reasonable conversations,” one person told me. “It’s a fight and it doesn’t play clean,” warned another. In fact, when I told Joe at the beginning of the podcast that I disagreed with his apparent views on vaccines against Covid, ivermectin, and many other things in between, part of me thought that MMA, a former champion of Taekwondo, I could throw myself over the table and strangle my neck. But instead, he smiled and we left.

Okay, I’m beautifying here, but Joe Rogan is the only one in the country with whom I wanted to exchange views in a real dialogue, which could be one of the most important conversations in this whole pandemic. After listening to his podcasts for a while now, I wanted to know: was Joe simply a sower of doubts, a creator of chaos? Or was there something else? Was he asking questions that they asked to be asked, fueled by the necessary suspicion and skepticism?

In the lion’s den

It was not like that what Joe Rogan thinks what interested me the most was how he thinks. This is what I really wanted to understand.

The truth is, I’ve always been a naturally skeptical person. One of my personal heroes, physicist Edwin Hubble, said a scientist has “healthy skepticism, a suspended judgment, and a disciplined imagination, not only about other people’s ideas, but also about their own.”

It is a good way of thinking about the world, full of honesty and humility. I live with that, and I think Joe can too to some extent. He will be the first to point out that he is not a doctor or a scientist who has studied these subjects. Instead, he seems to see himself less as a rapper and more as a sort of guardian of the galaxy, pointing out the wrong steps of big institutions like government and general medicine, and then wondering out loud. if you can still rely on them to make recommendations or even mandates for the rest of us. For many, it represents a queen bee in a beehive mind, advancing free will and personal freedom above all else.

The free will of your fist ends where my nose begins

When I told this to Joe, the MMA fighter, he stopped, sat down, and listened for a while. I asked him: is it not possible to firmly defend personal freedoms, but also to recognize the unique threat posed by a highly contagious disease? He seemed to agree, but he quickly countered with a common misconception about the general usefulness of vaccines.

If vaccinated people transmit the same as unvaccinated people, why are they really needed?

It was as if me and I were there now the octagon, circling each other. Now he was looking at me intently, with his eyebrows raised. I admitted that vaccinated people could still carry the virus at similar loads to unvaccinated ones, but I quickly added – before I could get the win – that history had more stuff.
A new analysis estimates a cost of $ 5.7 billion for the treatment of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in the last 3 months
I shared data with Joe showing the vaccines eight times less likely to get infected in the first place, and that their viral loads it went down faster if they became infected, which makes them contagious for a shorter period and less likely to infect the virus.

Vaccines are not perfect, but he had to accept that they are certainly a worthy tool to help control the spread of the virus. And they are particularly effective in preventing people from suffering serious illness or dying. They can also help prevent the development of long Covid, a chronic disease state that some people develop after the natural infection, even if their attack with the acute phase of the infection was mild.

What he said next surprised me

So it turns out that Joe Rogan almost got vaccinated. That was a headline. It was a few months ago when I was in Las Vegas. I had a scheduled appointment, but I had logistical hurdles and couldn’t get there. He offered this story as proof that it is not necessarily “anti-vaccine,” even if it constantly raises issues that question its legitimacy.

This kind of back and forth makes it hard to fix Joe Rogan, both in martial arts and in a podcast interview.

US mask makers say they are being docked by China's lowest competition
For example: Although he sometimes faced masks, “The Joe Rogan Experience” masks with his logo are available for sale at your website. I even bought one in advance and it was given away. He looked surprised. (By the way, they are made in China.)

Despite minimizing the risks Covid often feels on Joe’s podcast, his private studio prioritizes safety. A nurse was present to perform a quick Covid test before starting. We were even checked for antibodies with a blood test to prick our finger.

We both carried antibodies: his for natural immunity, mine for the vaccine. I was vaccinated in December last year and Rogan hired Covid in late August. Although this antibody test could only detect the presence of antibodies and not their strength, Joe was very proud of his test, insisting that the thickness of his lines must mean stronger immunity. I’m pretty sure he was joking. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my antibody line was significantly thicker than his.

The nuance of immunity

It must be repeated that no one should choose infection over vaccination. This is the concern that many public health officials have had since the early days of the pandemic. If nothing else comes out of my conversation with Joe Rogan, I hope at least that point makes it. Too many people have become seriously ill and have died, even after effective vaccines were available. Just in the last three months, there have been more than 90,000 preventable deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. among unvaccinated adults, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
At the same time, a Israeli study it gained much attention after it appeared to show that natural immunity offered significant protection, even stronger than two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in people who had never been infected. “

So the question Joe raises, like many others: why should those who had Covid still get the vaccine?

It’s a fair question and one that I raised myself with Dr. Anthony Fauci in early September. At the time, he told me there was no firm answer to that, and they were still looking at what recommendations they should go ahead with and what durability natural immunity has in the long run. “
CDC predicts continued decline in Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths over the next 4 weeks
Part of the problem is that we still don’t have a clear idea of ​​how many people have hired Covid in the United States. The official number is around 45 million, but due to the continued lack of sufficient evidence, it remains uncertain. And many of the antibody tests currently available have high rates of both false negative and false positive results, often making them unreliable as proof of immunity.

Another problem with natural immunity is that it can vary substantially depending on the age of the individual and the degree of disease in which they are. Mild diseases in the elderly often result in the production of fewer antibodies.

Some studies have shown that between 30 and 40 percent of people who have recovered from Covid had no detectable neutralizing antibody. This probably explains why recent study showed that unvaccinated people who already had Covid were more than twice as likely to be re-infected as those who had also been vaccinated.
I told Joe that even in the Israel study, the authors concluded with the recommendation that people who had recovered from Covid still receive a vaccine. And when Joe insisted heavily on the risk of myocarditis in children receiving the vaccine, especially in young children, I responded just as strongly as the risk of myocarditis it has been shown to be far superior for infected children under 16 compared to their uninfected peers. These numbers are dwarfs risk of myocarditis in children who receive the vaccine (and, incidentally, most cases of myocarditis can be treated without hospitalization). For me, the risk-benefit analysis is clear: vaccination is safer than infection.

I guess a small part of me thought I might change Joe Rogan’s opinion on vaccines. After that last exchange, I realized it was probably useless. His mind was determined and there would always be a lot of misinformation perfectly packaged to support his convictions. The truth is, though, I’m still glad I did. My three-hour conversation wasn’t just with Rogan. If only some of his listeners were convinced, it would have been worth it.

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