Right-wing personality and talk radio host Dennis Prager, who once “proved” COVID was nothing to worry about by describing his habit of eating with dirty utensils in restaurants, has now contracted COVID.
But, this wasn’t a bad thing, Prager insisted. In fact, getting sick with COVID was his plan all along, he announced Monday during his show, which streams daily on YouTube.
“It is infinitely preferable to have natural immunity than vaccine immunity and that is what I have hoped for the entire time,” Prager told listeners from his home, where he is quarantining. “Hence…I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting COVID… [It is] what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics. That is exactly what has happened.”
Prager, who became an outspoken Trump supporter after at first being critical of the ex-president, said he tested positive last week, which was why he didn’t do his show on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. He described having “a great deal of chills,” but that he is “steadily improving” and has not required hospitalization thus far. He has received a course of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment, and told his audience that he has been following the “Zelenko Protocol,” an ineffectual combination of prescription drugs popular with the far-right but not meant to treat COVID, and is now also taking ivermectin, an unapproved medication that is used in animals and humans to treat infections caused by parasitic worms and certain skin conditions, but again, not COVID.
Prager’s wife, Susan, acknowledged The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and said she would pass along a detailed list of questions for Prager to answer and send back via email. He still had not written back several hours later.
The Regeneron monoclonal antibody cocktail is still in the experimental stages and has not been approved for use by the FDA. Yet, countless numbers of vaccine skeptics, among them comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan, Rudy Giuliani, and Texas governor GOP hopeful Allen West, have opted to forgo getting inoculated against COVID in favor of monoclonal antibody treatments to fight the virus after becoming infected. It comes at a cost of some $2,100 per dose, compared to $20 for the vaccine, and has taxed health-care staff and hospital resources in areas—primarily red states—where monoclonal antibodies have become popular.
As for the so-called Zelenko Protocol, the unproven treatment was created by Monroe, New York, family practitioner and conspiracy theorist Vladimir Zelenko, a medical doctor who attended former President Donald Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 before supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Zelenko’s patients are given a course of three drugs he claims are prophylactics against COVID: hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial that has little to no effect against the virus; azithromycin, an antibiotic widely used to treat sinus infections, Lyme disease, and certain STIs but is no more effective than a placebo against COVID; and zinc sulfate, which has not been shown to have any significant effect on those hospitalized with COVID.
Zelenko drew scrutiny from federal prosecutors last year for falsely claiming that his COVID treatment had received government approval when it actually hadn’t.
Prager told his audience on Monday that he tried his damndest to become infected with COVID by hugging “strangers in the thousands, literally in the thousands, while not being inoculated.”
“And finally, I got it from somebody,” he said, adding, “And it was a gamble, based on the knowledge, not based on being a gambler, I am not a gambler,” said Prager. “I certainly don’t gamble with my health, but I so believe science and the science of ivermectin, not the lies of The New York Times.”
In actuality, the Times reported that ivermectin “has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus,” which is not a lie.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Prager has long spouted misinformation about COVID’s effects, claiming the virus is no more harmful than the flu. (He has also downplayed his risk of getting cancer from smoking cigars, a habit he said he picked up as a teenager.) COVID is “not a killer,” Prager has said, adding that he would accept COVID lockdowns if the death toll in the U.S. ever reached 30,000. Some 724,000 people nationwide have now died from COVID.
Prager’s reach is extensive—his YouTube channel boasts more than 2.4 million subscribers. And there’s no telling how many of them believe everything Prager says.
For starters, he told his audience on Monday that there is “no argument for young people to get vaccinated. None whatsoever.”
Prager also neglected to provide important context about studies he said he used to make his decision about achieving natural immunity, which he improperly described on Monday as “by far the more robust immunity that one can have against COVID or any virus.”
“As Martin Makary, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and editor in chief of MedPage Today, wrote in The Washington Post, natural immunity to COVID is powerful, [but] policymakers seem afraid to say so.”
In fact, the study cited by Makary did find COVID conferred those who had been infected by the virus with a degree of natural immunity, but that people who got vaccinated after becoming infected were far better protected against becoming infected a second time than those who did not.
Public health experts took issue with the study design, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. One doctor in St. Louis cited a different study that found those who remain unvaccinated after a COVID infection are 2.34 times likelier to get the virus again than those who got their shots.
In short, doctors and researchers are recommending people do exactly the opposite of the “treatments” Prager is pushing.
“What we don’t want people to say is: ‘All right, I should go out and get infected, I should have an infection party,’” immunologist Michel Nussenzweig told the journal Science. “Because somebody could die.”
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