STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did Dr. Dan Stock present well-reasoned arguments to the Mt. Vernon, Indiana, school board against masking and vaccination as means to mitigate the spread and harm of COVID-19, and should his arguments apply universally as public health measures? No, that's not true: The arguments made by this doctor are a mixture of true, false and irrelevant and contradict the evolving consensus of board-certified specialists in pediatrics, virology, infectious disease, immunology and epidemiology. He presents a seemingly convincing case -- but on closer inspection, key elements of Stock's argument do not hold up.
A special meeting of the Mt. Vernon school board was held on August 6, 2021, to review COVID-19 protocols for the new school year. The doctor, who introduced himself at the meeting as a "functional family medicine physician," is licensed in Indiana and online bios describe him as board certified in family medicine. Videos of his testimony began to spread on social media on August 7, 2020. One example is this post, where a YouTube video was shared on Facebook on August 11, 2021, with the caption, "This is a must watch before its removed again! This doctor knows what's up!" The title of this copy of the video posted on YouTube:
mt vernon school board meeting
dr dan stock
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Aug 10 16:37:00 2021 UTC)
The video of Stock's arguments to the school board are being spread to a much wider audience than just Mt. Vernon, Indiana. This fact check will address several, but not all, of the claims made by Stock during his presentation.
Claim: CDC is wrong about masks
After introducing himself, Stock declares:
...everything being recommended by the CDC and the state board of health is actually contrary to all the rules of science. So things you should know about coronavirus and all other respiratory viruses, they are spread by aerosol particles which are small enough to go through every mask.
Lead Stories has documented the existence of multiple peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the effectiveness of masks as well as the studies supporting policies of student masking and guidance from the CDC for using a combination of masks, social distancing and vaccines to protect students and staff. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation:
AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently.
Lead Stories reached out by email to the Indiana Department of Health for comment on August 10, 2021. Media Relations Coordinator Megan Wade-Taxter responded:
Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on data and science to make recommendations, and we will continue to do so. The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, as evidenced by the fact that more than 98 percent of Hoosiers who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since mid-January are unvaccinated. Even with the current surge in cases driven by the Delta variant, more than 97 percent of Hoosiers who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since June 1 have not been vaccinated.
We have the ability to turn the tide of this pandemic, but only if we use all of the tools at our disposal. The CDC continues to recommend layered mitigation measures, including vaccination, masks and handwashing, and we will continue to urge Hoosiers to employ every strategy available to protect themselves and the people they love.
Claim: virus outbreaks can't surge during summer
Twice in his testimony, at the 2:30 mark and again at 5:00, Stock remarks about the COVID-19 outbreaks during the summer and claims these surges are caused by the vaccine because respiratory viruses "don't do that." He falsely asserts that the surge of summertime COVID-19 cases are the result of "antibody-mediated viral enhancement":
I would hope this board would start asking itself before it considers taking the advice of the CDC, the NIH, and the State Board of Health. Why we are doing things about this that we didn't do for the common cold, influenza, or respiratory syncytial virus? And then ask yourself why is a vaccine that is supposedly so effective having a breakout in the middle of the summer when respiratory viral syndromes don't do that? And to help you understand that -- you need to know the condition that is called "antibody mediated viral enhancement" that is a condition done when vaccines work wrong as they did in every coronavirus study done in animals on coronaviruses after the sars outbreak, and done in respiratory syncytial virus -- where a vaccine used in a vulnerable individual done the wrong way, which by cannot be done right for a respiratory virus, which has a very low pathogenicity rate, causes the immune system to actually fight the virus wrong and let the virus become worse.
Worldometers.info has been recording coronavirus cases since March of 2020. Lead Stories reviewed daily new case charts from four states experiencing summertime spikes in COVID-19 cases in 2021: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. All of these states also experienced a surge of cases during the summer of 2020 before there were vaccines. Clearly COVID-19 can and does spread in the summer, even before the vaccines were publicly available.
Note: These charts do not all have the same scale. Texas and Florida are measuring 10,000 cases with each horizontal measure and Alabama and Louisiana only 2,500 -- The number of cases are not being compared, rather the timing of the first summer wave.
(Source: Lead Stories highlighted collection of Worldometers.info coronavirus Daily New Case screenshots taken on Tue Aug 10 20:24:12 2021 UTC)
Claim: Surge in cases is caused by antibody mediated viral enhancement
Stock's reasoning is that surges in the number of cases are caused by "antibody mediated viral enhancement." This is false. There is something by that name, and a similar phenomenon commonly called antibody dependent enhancement (ADE), described here on the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia website:
ADE occurs when the antibodies generated during an immune response recognize and bind to a pathogen, but they are unable to prevent infection. Instead, these antibodies act as a "Trojan horse," allowing the pathogen to get into cells and exacerbate the immune response.
But the Children's Hospital webpage, produced January 5, 2021, said there's no evidence COVID-19 vaccines cause ADE.
If the COVID-19 vaccines caused an ADE response it's unlikely the Food & Drug Administration would have granted the Emergency Use Authorization. Six reported cases of a rare type of blood clot in large blood vessels in the brain (CVST) or other places in the body and low blood platelet counts which were linked to the Janssen/J&J vaccine, caused the FDA to call a halt until data could be reviewed and new guidelines sent to vaccinators.
If the vaccine cased an ADE response, statistics regarding breakthrough infections of vaccinated people would not show the dramatic difference in the rate of hospitalizations and deaths between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
As of August 10, 2021, 51% of the eligible population in the state of Indiana has been vaccinated yet the Indiana Department of Health shows that the risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 is one in 237 for unvaccinated people but for fully vaccinated people the odds of hospitalization drop to one in 18,795.
Unvaccinated Hoosiers make up 98% of #COVID19 cases in Indiana.-- Indiana Department of Health (@StateHealthIN) August 5, 2021
Give yourself the best chance against #COVID by getting 1 of 3 vaccines currently available.
Find a location near you at https://t.co/cfAuXPtz0c. pic.twitter.com/CeGBgysn1J
Claim: Massachusetts breakthrough infections show vaccine is pointless
At about 3:10 in the video, Stock points to an outbreak in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, as proof that being vaccinated is either pointless or worse. This situation, reported in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, involved an outbreak of 469 identified cases of COVID among residents of a tourist destination where many out-of-state travelers had gathered around the Fourth of July 2021. The level of fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts was 69% at the time. Seventy-four percent of the COVID-19 cases from this outbreak in Massachusetts residents were breakthrough cases in vaccinated people and 85% of the cases were in men. Also, 90% of the cases were of the Delta variant. Five people were hospitalized and none died. The report lists four limitations:
The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, data from this report are insufficient to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant, during this outbreak. As population-level vaccination coverage increases, vaccinated persons are likely to represent a larger proportion of COVID-19 cases. Second, asymptomatic breakthrough infections might be underrepresented because of detection bias. Third, demographics of cases likely reflect those of attendees at the public gatherings, as events were marketed to adult male participants; further study is underway to identify other population characteristics among cases, such as additional demographic characteristics and underlying health conditions including immunocompromising conditions.*** MA DPH, CDC, and affected jurisdictions are collaborating in this response; MA DPH is conducting additional case investigations, obtaining samples for genomic sequencing, and linking case information with laboratory data and vaccination history. Finally, Ct values obtained with SARS-CoV-2 qualitative RT-PCR diagnostic tests might provide a crude correlation to the amount of virus present in a sample and can also be affected by factors other than viral load.
2021-08-17T17:38:02Z 2021-08-17T17:38:02ZCORRECTION: This fact check has been updated to correct an incorrect sentence - added by an editor - about the reason for the temporary halt in use of the Janssen/J&J vaccine.