Noakes: The Wits dean of medicine ‘told a fib’ and ‘scored an own goal’

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Following last week’s Twitter dispute between Wits University professor of vaccinology Dr Shabir Madhi and University of Cape Town emeritus professor Tim Noakes, the latter’s eponymous foundation has issued a statement stressing its support for evidence-based COVID-19 prevention, while defending his right to air “maverick” and “free-thinking” opinions, reports MedicalBrief.

Noakes remains gleefully unrepentant about the exchange, telling MedicalBrief: “You appreciate, of course, that the Dean of Medicine at Wits scored an own goal. He told a fib that he knows is untrue and I provided the evidence for that on subsequent tweets.

“The evidence is irrefutable. Exactly as I said, the vaccine definition has changed recently and the reason for that change is also obvious.”

“I won the Twitter story utterly,” said Noakes. “The interaction had nothing to do with being anti-vaxx. But he and others wanted to make it seem that way.”

As reported last week, the two high-profile academics had a heated exchange after Noakes wrote approvingly of a video attacking US White House chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci. Noakes said that the Fauci narrative was “finally beginning to unravel”, as predicted by Dr Judy Mikovits, a a US virologist and anti-vaccine activist.

In response to Twitter users suggesting that numerous lives had been saved by vaccines, Noakes tweeted: “Which vaccines are you referring to? Not COVID-19, since it does not qualify as a vaccine … not according to the definition I was taught at medical school,” he said.

Madhi shot back angrily that Noakes was wrong and should demand a fees refund from his medical school. “… The definition on a vaccine has not changed … the technology to produce vaccines has,” he said.

In its statement, released this week The Noakes Foundation said it wished to emphasise that emphasise that Foundation supported “evidence-based COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines”. “Our team and board have made their own choices concerning vaccination, many choosing to be vaccinated. All choices are respected.”

“While not always easy, it is necessary and important to offer a platform to those with opposing views to stoke the proverbial fire of critical thinking and novel discoveries in academia. This is how we progress as a society and scientific community over time.”

The full statement reads:

The Noakes Foundation and Prof Noakes' vision has been rooted in the promotion of pioneering academic freedom and discussion to support change and critical thinking. We believe that academic scholars should be able to voice differing opinions, challenge convention and be encouraged to push the limits of known science without the risk of official interference or have a tarnishing impact on their academic careers.

While not always easy, it is necessary and important to offer a platform to those with opposing views to stoke the proverbial fire of critical thinking and novel discoveries in academia. This is how we progress as a society and scientific community over time.

Prof Tim Noakes’ Twitter posts

Recently, Prof Tim Noakes discussed his views and shared other’s views on the current available COVID-19 vaccines on his personal Twitter account, which he should be encouraged to do as a valued independent critical thinker and academic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, he has aired his views on the negative health impact that COVID has had on millions of individuals around the world. He has been especially focused on bringing attention to our current health crisis in South Africa, noting that our nation stands to gain more should we divert our energy to a healthier population, rather than just relying on the development of a vaccine, by teaching proper nutrition and promote regular exercise to prevent diseases of lifestyle, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is no secret that the aforementioned conditions, along with others, cause a far poorer COVID-19 outcome for those suffering with them than those without.

It's key that we continue to highlight the key messaging of proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle amidst the roll-out of mass vaccinations worldwide, as the application of these principles will ultimately support us to develop robust immune systems that can assist to protect ourselves against future variations of COVID-19. This vital messaging has taken a back seat during the pandemic and needs to also be brought to the forefront.

Prof Noakes is challenging and inspiring new ways of looking at health and disease, something for which he is known and respected, with a proven track record in his career. He said, “There are different possible treatments for different patients and we need to manage this and actively explore alternatives at the moment.”

The importance of debate

He has always had the view that academic freedom should be a right given to all scholars, and that senior academics have the moral obligation to promote academic debate, however controversial, and a safe space for the scholars of the future.

Throughout the years, he has been hailed as a maverick researcher and often been called an independent voice in academic circles. Breakthrough results are often achieved when the status quo is challenged. Prof Noakes has embedded his philosophy into The Noakes Foundation and this has been shown through our upholding of evidence based science and positive free thinking. We are passionate about supporting maverick researchers and pioneers in the field and strive for a more inclusive and free-thinking academic society.

The Noakes Foundation

We would like to emphasise that The Noakes Foundation supports evidence-based COVID-19 prevention and control guidelines. Our team and board have made their own choices concerning vaccination, many choosing to be vaccinated. All choices are respected. We encourage everyone to be personally and socially responsible and to follow their local regulations.

We are grateful to all the researchers and frontline workers who are working hard on finding a suitable treatment for this novel virus and caring for those infected. The Noakes Foundation supports all the evidence-based emerging research and acknowledges that there is still a lot that is unknown regarding COVID. However, we encourage and need novel, critical thinking and new hypotheses in the quest of curbing the virus.

We must be brave enough to be allowed to dare to imagine! Vanguards are only created by stirring the status quo.

In saying this, we would like to extend our immense, heartfelt gratitude and respect to all researchers and frontline workers that have worked tirelessly to develop a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Noakes and Madhi skirmish over vaccines and getting a med school fees refund


Noakes apologises for some of his comments on COVID-19


Noakes: Iconic study hid findings, reached unjustifiable and possibly unethical conclusions


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