8 min readPublished On: June 26, 2023

Do you have Covid “fatigue”?

COVID-19 fatigue is real.

No, I don’t mean the profound fatigue when you are acutely ill with COVID, or even the lingering fatigue that can persist for weeks or months after you have recovered. What I mean is the social and mental fatigue of reading about COVID, hearing about COVID, or even simply finding yourself still saying the word “COVID” in some context almost daily. I feel your pain. It is hard to remember what life was like ‘BC’— before COVID.

Unfortunately, I cannot afford to succumb to this sort of COVID fatigue because it would be an abdication of my obligation as a physician to practice evidence-based medicine. To do this, I need factual information to make valid decisions on how to counsel and treat patients. Even though I do not treat COVID in my practice, as a physician, I get questions all the time from friends, family, and even on my social media pages. I feel that I need to have answers.

COVID has become so burdened with political and ideological baggage that it is next to impossible to address questions without risking becoming embroiled in some crazy irrelevant controversy. This was the case with masking, especially masking children. It reached the point where your stance on masking was a clear indicator of your moral character, and your political affiliation. If you wore a mask, you were a good person, almost certainly a Democrat, and you “followed the science.” If you didn’t, you were bad, Republican, and unscientific. Never mind whether masks were effective in preventing infection or transmission of the virus. As it turns out, they weren’t, but it took a definitive meta-analysis (a major review of all the studies out there on the effectiveness of masks) to settle the issue once and for all. Hopefully, it will stay settled.

COVID has raised questions that have not been answered despite it being three years since the pandemic hit. Where did it begin? We know it was in Wuhan, China, but was it in a market or from the virology lab in the city? Was it a natural virus or manipulated by humans to be especially virulent and transmissible? Did repurposed drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin help in early COVID? What is the deal with long COVID? Is it real? Who gets it and why? Why did our public health experts ignore the known collateral damage to double down on things like social distancing, quarantining healthy people, and locking down businesses and schools? Why was natural immunity brushed aside and not considered in pushing mandates? I could continue to pose questions like these and there will be more in the future. I guarantee it.

One of the most worrisome and perplexing immediate questions relates to what seems to be an unusual spate of deaths occurring in teenagers, young adults, and healthy older adults, including some very fit athletes, seemingly out of the blue and with no obvious cause. You get the impression people are dying suddenly all over the place. Is this real? Everyone seems to know someone who died unexpectedly. In my own personal sphere of people I know, I have heard of several who were young or relatively young with no antecedent medical problems who just seem to have dropped dead. I recently met a young widow whose husband of two months died suddenly with no known medical issues. I can’t remember a similar situation, ever. 

Like many people, I have been skeptical of the management of COVID almost since day one, but that is a story for another day. Every time I hear of someone in supposedly good health unexpectedly dying, I find that the first question that pops into my mind is, “Were they vaccinated for COVID?” I can’t help it. The chart of reported deaths in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) reveals an extraordinary rise in 2021, with more deaths that year than in the previous 30 years of VAERS reporting. Was this real, overreporting, or some statistical fluke? Even though physicians must always be careful not to confuse correlation with causality, this apparent astounding rise should raise questions that demand answers.

One of the problems with pushing universal vaccination of these experimental vaccines was that we had essentially no long-term data on possible late side effects. The early studies used to support emergency FDA authorization of these vaccines, completely missed the now well-established unacceptable risk of heart injury in boys and young men from these vaccines, which exceeds their risk of serious illness from COVID. Given the negligible risk of serious illness from COVID in this group, the risk of heart damage is simply not acceptable. It is inexplicable that public health authorities are still pushing these vaccines for the young, including boys and men. Could this be behind at least some of the sudden deaths?

There are two immediate, critical questions we must ask about this apparent epidemic of sudden deaths. Is it real, or is there some other explanation, such as excessive media attention? If it is real, is there a connection with COVID vaccinations, especially the Moderna vaccine, which is known to be more likely to cause heart muscle inflammation, known as myocarditis? If a correlation is found, then scientific rigor and plain good medicine demand that we establish whether the one might be the cause of the other. 

As a physician, I cannot base my opinion on emotion or anecdotal reports of people’s individual experiences, or even my own. So, on the issue of sudden death, I have done what I did throughout the pandemic: I turned to reputable experts with no political ax to grind and who truly tried to follow the science. One of these has been Vinay Prasad, MD. Prasad is a practicing hematologist/oncologist (blood/cancer specialist) and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, one of the premier medical centers in the world. He is also a legitimate data nerd and very good at reviewing studies and data to determine whether they support certain conclusions. I have found his positions related to COVID over the course of the pandemic to be pretty much on point and largely proven correct.

Prasad addressed the question of an apparent rise in sudden deaths and his conclusion is, well, inconclusive. We really don’t know if there is a true explosion of unexpected sudden deaths in otherwise healthy individuals. It is impossible to make much of scattered reports from around the country. So far, there is no objective study or data set that has established that we are really seeing a sharp rise in unexplained sudden death. One pediatric cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic who has a special interest in sudden death stated that he has seen no spike in cases of young athletes dropping dead. 

It will take time to definitively determine the existence of excess sudden deaths for a number of reasons. The data is coming in from points across the country and this will have to be gathered in one place so that it can be examined. This will require a statewide, even nationwide, effort. Each case will have to be examined minutely. We will have to go through medical records with a fine-tooth comb. At this point, nearly everyone in the country has either had COVID, been exposed to COVID, been vaccinated, or some combination of the three. We know that COVID and other respiratory viruses have the potential to cause myocarditis, not just the vaccines. The vaccine and COVID status of each person who dies suddenly will have to be established. It gets even more complicated. Which vaccine did they receive? How many boosters? Had they had COVID?  All of these confounding factors need to be taken into account to make any sense of this. 

Sudden death in an otherwise healthy teenager or adult is most often heart-related and the culprit is a fatal arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm). This often does not leave any detectable changes in the heart after death. Inflammation of the heart muscle as seen in myocarditis can also cause such arrhythmias. Unfortunately, myocarditis also does not always manifest in abnormal blood tests or even in objective findings in a microscopic examination of the heart muscle.  

It is easy to see the challenges in evaluating this new concern regarding COVID vaccines. The whole vaccine issue has become so charged and fraught with controversy unrelated to any actual science that it will be difficult to do the objective, non-partisan studies to shed light on this. They need to be done, otherwise, when the next pandemic strikes, as is almost a certainty, we will find ourselves in the same predicament. For now, the honest answer to the questions: “Are we seeing a true spike in sudden deaths?” and “Are these the result of the COVID vaccines?” is we don’t know. 

If we are ever to resolve this and other questions regarding COVID, we will have to work hard to rebuild trust and transparency in our government agencies and in our public health policy makers. It is no secret that I and many of my medical colleagues have had our trust shaken in these institutions because of the handling, or should I say mishandling, of the entire pandemic. 

Currently, since Feb. 1, 2020, the CDC estimates there have been 942,431 excess deaths in the U.S. – CDC data 

“Even more alarming is where those death rates are hitting . . . primarily among working aged people between the ages of 18 and 64
. . .” – J. Scott Davison, CEO of One American Insurance Company

About the Author: Richard Bosshardt MD

Richard Bosshardt MD

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