Former Harvard Medical Professor Claims He Was Fired for Opposing Covid Lockdowns, Vaccine Mandates

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, who worked for Harvard University as a professor of medicine since 2003, recently announced he was fired for “clinging to the truth” in his public opposition to Covid lockdowns and vaccine mandates.

Kulldorff, an epidemiologist and biostatistician, told National Review he was fired by the Harvard-affiliated Mass General Brigham hospital system and put on a leave of absence by Harvard Medical School in November 2021 over his stance on Covid. Nearly two years later, in October 2023, his leave of absence was terminated as a matter of policy, marking the end of his time at the university. Harvard severed ties with Kulldorff “all on their initiative,” he said.

A Harvard spokesperson told National Review that university policy requires hospital-based faculty like Kulldorff to maintain an active appointment with an affiliated hospital in order to retain their position at Harvard Medical School.

Harvard and Mass General Brigham operate as separate legal entities, which is why two separate decisions were made in his termination of employment.

The Council on Academic Freedom at Harvard, which advocates free speech on the university campus, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kulldorff posted the news on social media alongside a lengthy essay published in the City Journal last Monday.

In the essay, the epidemiologist wrote that he spoke out against school and business closures early on in the pandemic and explained how those efforts were set back by social-media platforms, which suppressed dissenting opinions on Covid policy, and American media outlets that didn’t want to publish his views. While CNN–Español did publish an op-ed of his, he wasn’t satisfied with the limited reach.

Censorship and rejection led Kulldorff to co-author the Great Barrington Declaration in October 2020 alongside Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University. Together, the three public-health scientists argued for limited and targeted Covid-19 restrictions that “protect the elderly, while letting children and young adults live close to normal lives,” as Kulldorff put it in his essay.

“The declaration made clear that no scientific consensus existed for school closures and many other lockdown measures. In response, though, the attacks intensified—and even grew slanderous,” he wrote, naming former National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins as the one who ordered a “devastating published takedown” of the declaration.

Testifying before Congress in January, Collins reaffirmed his previous statements attacking the Great Barrington Declaration.

Despite the coordinated effort against it, the document has over 939,000 signatures in favor of age-based focused protection.

The Great Barrington Declaration’s authors, who advocated the quick reopening of schools, have been vindicated by recent studies that confirm pandemic-era school closures were, in fact, detrimental to student learning. The data show that students from third through eighth grade who spent most of the 2020–21 school year in remote learning fell more than half a grade behind in math scores on average, while those who attended school in person dropped a little over a third of a grade, according to a New York Times review of existing studies. In addition to learning losses, school closures did very little to stop the spread of Covid, studies show.

Kulldorff also opposed policies requiring people of all ages to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to maintain their employment and access to public spaces. He supports bodily autonomy but also believes that the elderly and other vulnerable populations who are at high risk of Covid mortality should get vaccinated; children and those with prior natural infection, he has long argued, do not need it.

Kulldorff called the vaccine mandates “unscientific and unethical” because natural immunity is the best protection against Covid and other diseases.

“The beauty of our immune system is that those who recover from an infection are protected if and when they are re-exposed,” he wrote in the City essay. "Since mid-2021, we have known, as one would expect, that Covid-acquired immunity is superior to vaccine-acquired immunity. Based on that, I argued that hospitals should hire, not fire, nurses and other hospital staff with Covid-acquired immunity, since they have stronger immunity than the vaccinated.”

Kulldorff emphasized the importance of civilized debate, which he repeatedly welcomed to discuss these topics, but no scientists took him up on the offer.

In September 2020, he offered to debate 98 Stanford professors who had attacked their colleague, Scott Atlas, for challenging public-health advisers such as Collins and Anthony Fauci. Someone at Stanford notified Harvard of his offer; his Harvard superiors, Kulldorff said, weren’t pleased with him.

A month later, he had a debate of sorts, which he described as “one-directional,” on a radio show with fellow Harvard professor Rochelle Walensky before she became director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kulldorff was not given the opportunity to rebut her argument.

“When scientists have different takes on topics of public importance, universities should organize open and civilized debates to pursue the truth,” he wrote. “Harvard could have done that—and it still can, if it chooses.”

His research-based views and desire for open debate eventually led to his firing, Kulldorff says. He hopes that Harvard returns to its motto of “veritas,” Latin for truth. Without it, he notes, there can be no academic freedom or open scientific debate. “There needs to be pressure on university leadership to ensure that,” he told NR, adding that Harvard’s future depends on pursuing truth.

“Almost everyone now realizes that school closures and other lockdowns, were a colossal mistake. Francis Collins has acknowledged his error of singularly focusing on Covid without considering collateral damage to education and non-Covid health outcomes. That's the honest thing to do, and I hope this honesty will reach Harvard. The public deserves it, and academia needs it to restore its credibility,” Kulldorff concluded his essay.

“My hope is that someday, Harvard will find its way back to academic freedom and independence.”

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Former Harvard Medical Professor Claims He Was Fired for Opposing Covid Lockdowns, Vaccine Mandates

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