CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta made a marathon three-hour appearance on Joe Rogan’s eponymous podcast on Wednesday to get the message out to listeners about the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19.
At one point, comedian and mixed martial arts specialist Mr Rogan called out Dr Gupta’s network as “dangerous” for telling “lies” about him in their coverage of when he tested positive for the coronavirus last month.
He said that CNN’s reporting had taken his use of a medication to treat Covid-19 out of context, “lying about me taking horse medication”.
When Mr Rogan was sick with the coronavirus and symptomatic, he said on Instagram that he was taking the medicine ivermectin among other treatments that are not proven to combat Covid-19. He said he also took monoclonal antibodies, which are used to treat the virus.
Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by both people and animals to treat parasitic worm infections. It is primarily used in livestock, though the medications for animals and people are different.
Mr Rogan repeatedly returned to the way CNN had reported his use of the medication, challenging Dr Gupta over the issue and asking if it bothered him that the network reported he had taken horse medication and not the type prescribed to people. The exchange was tense but remained courteous.
Nevertheless, the FDA has not authorised any form of ivermectin to be used to treat or prevent Covid-19. The higher dosage found in the animal version can be highly toxic to humans, and the lower dosage for people can interact badly with other medications such as blood thinners and an overdose can cause a host of negative side effects.
Dr Gupta agreed to appear on The Joe Rogan Experience to use the platform to encourage vaccination against the coronavirus in order to hasten the end of the pandemic.
Mr Rogan has said in the past that he is not anti-vaccine but doesn’t believe that young healthy people need it. He was scheduled to receive a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this year but missed his appointment and when he went to reschedule the government had paused its usage.
Having experienced and recovered from Covid-19, Mr Rogan argued that having natural immunity post-recovery and having the vaccine needn’t be mutually exclusive, even going as far as saying that people should get vaccinated and then get sick for the double protection without suffering from a bad infection.
Said Mr Rogan: “I think it would be better to get the vaccine and recover and have amazing immunity … you know what I think you should do? I think you should get vaccinated and then get sick … the vaccine protects you from a bad infection and you get Covid so you get robust immunity … get vaccinated, let it wane, and hang around with a bunch of dirty people.”
Dr Gupta pushed back, saying that it was “not a strategy to recommend people get infected” and that the goal is not to get the virus at all.
In a column for CNN written after their broadcast, he clarified that there are too many variables with natural immunity from a previous infection based on age and how sick a person became. In addition, some studies have shown that between 30 and 40 per cent of people who recovered had no detectable neutralising antibodies at all.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Americans receive the vaccine as it has been scientifically proven as the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and decrease the severity of an infection in those who do contract the virus, preventing death and lessening the need for hospitalisation.