Have you heard about the drug that many people are turning to treat or prevent COVID-19?
No, it’s not one of the vaccines that have been approved, used for almost a year, and administered to hundreds of millions of people. It’s called ivermectin, and while a form of the drug is approved for use by humans to treat parasitic infections, it’s more commonly sold as a dewormer for livestock.
That’s right. Thanks to wild internet rumours, many people are eschewing the safe — and free! — vaccine that has been specifically designed to treat COVID-19 (which is a respiratory ailment), in favour of digging into their wallets to purchase a deworming medication meant for horses and cows.
Lest you think this is a minor blip, consider the fact that misinformation about ivermectin is so rampant that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a tweet about it, noting that the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” tweeted the FDA, adding that ivermectin has not been approved to treat COVID-19. Furthermore, humans who are using the over-the-counter pills designed for livestock are at risk of some serious side effects, in large part because medication designed for a 1,500-pound animal can be lethal for humans who weigh a fraction of that. Overdosing on ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma, and even death.
That people are worried enough about possible, but rare, serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine that they will avoid it in favour of a deworming medicine that has some pretty serious side effects of its own says a lot about these people, and it’s not a flattering picture. It’s also not entirely surprising. Human beings, as a species, seem hardwired to always be looking for shortcuts, the inside track, the straight dope, and some people are convinced that a shadowy “they” are trying to keep something from us. (Please don’t ask who “they” are: the answer can incorporate all, or some of, government, big pharma, science, “elites”, and more, depending on who you’re asking and what the subject is.)
Plus snake oil salesmen hawking dubious “cures” have been around forever. That people fell for these charlatans back when medicine and science were in their infancy is perhaps understandable, but there’s really no excuse for it today, which begs the question: why would people believe some random shill on the internet instead of — oh, I don’t know, maybe doctors or scientists?
Still, millions of dollars are wasted each year on “medicines” that don’t work, and might even cause serious damage, despite the plethora of science-based knowledge that says they don’t work. H.L. Mencken (1860–1956) is attributed with the quote “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people,” but it’s not just Americans falling for the ivermectin fallacy. Feed and tack shops in and around Kamloops and in the Okanagan are seeing increased demand for the drug from people who probably don’t know one end of a horse from the other, and pharmacies are also getting demands for it.
What boggles the mind most of all is that people are going out of their way to try to buy a medicine that treats parasites, not viruses, and is unproven as a COVID treatment, when they could easily get a free vaccine developed specifically to prevent COVID-19. Forget the potential side effects of taking ivermectin: if I can save myself a few dollars, I’m there. I don’t have Scottish blood in me for nothing.
So for everyone looking for that miracle treatment for COVID-19, find a vaccine clinic, not a feed or tack store. In the immortal words of the FDA, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”