Prominent COVID vaccine critics scheduled to gather in Anchorage

A group called Alaska Covid Alliance is bringing prominent vaccine skeptics to Anchorage for a gathering called “Alaska Early Treatment Medical Summit.”

As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue at near record levels, prominent national critics of COVID-19 vaccines will be gathering in Alaska this weekend, according to a new website. 

No contact information was listed on the website for the event, which takes place Saturday at ChangePoint Church, one of the largest churches in Anchorage. The church has hosted the city’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics for months. 

ChangePoint Pastor Tony Murrow said ChangePoint is not involved with the event, which was organized by an independent group that had rented the church’s facilities. 

Murrow referred questions to former acting Anchorage Health Department Director David Morgan. Morgan, reached over the phone, said he was not an organizer but had helped facilitate the conference by sharing the contact information of some of the speakers, whom he said he knew from attending medical conferences. 

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The conference claims to have a mission of spreading information about COVID-19 treatments and patient rights, but most of the speakers are not infectious disease experts and are advocating for treatments that are not supported by research. 

A guest, Dr. Robert Malone, was involved with the development of mRNA vaccines in the 1980s. That technology is used in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Malone now claims that the vaccines actually make the disease worse, something the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is false. A profile in The Atlantic magazine says that Malone is careful to distance himself from the “anti-vax” label, but he has appeared alongside people who have spread vaccine misinformation. Malone’s wife, Jill, confirmed that Malone would be attending the Anchorage conference but said she did not know who the organizers were. 

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A third scheduled speaker, ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Urso, is a proponent of the disproven COVID-19 treatment drug hydroxychloroquine. He also helped start America’s Frontline Doctors, whose videos have been removed from some major social media sites for spreading false information about the vaccine. He was investigated and cleared for prescribing hydroxychloroquine to patients to treat COVID-19. A message left for Urso at was not returned before this story was published. 

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Ilona Farr, a doctor at Alaska Family Medical Care clinic, who said she’s speaking at the event, said that the speakers reached out to local Anchorage organizers.

“They offered to come up about two weeks ago,” she said. “And we basically told him some places they could go, everything is being arranged by them pretty much.”

Farr said the summit is not “anti-vax”, but is designed to share information about COVID-19 treatments, vaccines and the origins of the disease. She said that includes ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Z-pak, which she said she’s used to treat 700 patients, including herself, at her practice in Anchorage. 

“I’m very, very upset that so many Alaskans have died needlessly because of this political nonsense from both sides, when we could be saving lives with some of these treatments,” she said.

Farr’s sister is state Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, an outspoken critic of vaccine and mask mandates who recently said she was prescribed ivermectin after she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

RELATED: Alaska Sen. Reinbold excused from floor sessions after being banned from Alaska Airlines

The conference begins Saturday morning with a four-hour session oriented toward Alaska medical workers and a four-hour afternoon session open to the public. Each session costs $20. 

The website is soliciting donations for a group called the Alaska COVID Alliance.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.

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