Dr. Scott Jensen emphasized the importance of science and the scientific process during an appearance at a conference featuring a number of prominent anti-vaxxers Saturday, while continuing to express support for use of the unproven COVID treatment ivermectin.
"The world I wanna live in is where science is honored, and political science is dishonored," said Jensen, considered the Republican frontrunner for the gubernatorial candidacy in Minnesota, toward the end of his appearance at the Global Health Freedom Summit in Alexandria.
The event bills itself as a place that "promotes individual liberties" in regards to medical decisions, and promises to discuss "the truth" about the COVID delta variant, "real death rates" and more. It included noted anti-vaccination speakers such as Del Bigtree (CEO of Consent Action Network), Dr. Sherri Tenpenny (who told lawmakers vaccines magnetize people) and Dr. Bob Zajac (a Minnesota pediatrician recently disciplined for encouraging some parents to not vaccinate their children from 2017-19).
Critics, including the Minnesota DFL, describe the summit as a conspiracist convention that highlights disinformation.
"Let's not mince words: Scott Jensen is an anti-vaxxer," said DFL Party Communications Director Brian Evans in a statement last week. "Only an anti-vaxxer would ... legitimize conspiracy theorists who say vaccines cause autism and contain microchips, and only an anti-vaxxer would sue to stop children from being vaccinated. Jensen does not support health freedom, he opposes the single best tool we have to bring this pandemic to an end: vaccination."
Jensen's 30-minute talk Saturday covered a wide range of topics, and he openly called for the audience's support in his run for governor — a role he described as a "part-time job" and "only 60 hours a week," that would allow him to "get a lot done" then "head back to Watertown, Minnesota" after four years.
Jensen discussed doing wrist surgery on a man named Bill who was convinced there was an otherwise-undetectable twig stuck in his wrist; how he believes leaders use fear to denigrate others; his soon-to-be-released book that will get him in "trouble"; and how Isaac Newton "decided to do science" when he saw apples fall from a tree, leading to our understanding of gravity.
Jensen also doubled down on his COVID vaccine skepticism (after recently suggesting Minnesotans engage in "civil disobedience" over immunization rules) and expressed a belief that patients shouldn't be barred from exploring other interventions.
"Why didn't you have ... the opportunity to avail yourself, if you chose, to hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin? Why didn't you?" Jensen asked at one point.
Speaking to ivermectin specifically, Jensen decried how people "on social media" like to "demean or diminish" the prescription drug as a "horse dewormer."
"Well actually it's not. It's a human dewormer too," Jensen said. "And if you think that's something to sneeze at, go get some worms and have them creep out of your anus at night, and you might wish you had some ivermectin."
Ivermectin has been approved for use in humans to treat two specific conditions caused by parasitic worms, as well as in some animals to treat heartworm and some parasitic infections. It can also be used topically in certain cases.
The drug is not approved to treat or prevent COVID, and while clinical trials involving the ivermectin are ongoing, there is currently not enough data to show it is effective against COVID-19, federal health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has remarked upon skyrocketing demand for ivermectin, while also noting an increase in ivermectin-related calls to poison control centers. The Minnesota Poison Control Center told Bring Me The News it has received 17 calls related to ivermectin since Aug. 1.
People are also buying horse-grade ivermectin, causing shortages for livestock owners in the U.S.
Merck, the manufacturer of ivermectin, has said there is "no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19," "no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease," and a "concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies." The company urged people not to use it as a COVID treatment.
But Jensen argues that his role as a doctor is to be a "navigator" that allows the patient to take the lead, and accused doctors ignoring ivermectin of a betrayal.
He then doubled down on his argument that people should have "freedom to choose" regarding immunizations.
Bring Me The News has reached out to Jensen's campaign for comment, asking if serving as a "navigator" also involves openly discussing the potential dangers and lack of scientific data surrounding the use of ivermectin to treat COVID; as well as Jensen's continued skepticism of scientifically-supported vaccines, despite his emphatic support of the scientific process.
A family physician and former state senator, Jensen has appeared more than once at events featuring members of the anti-vaxxer community, and was a frequent guest on podcasts, including one hosted by a person with no medical training who suggested people purposefully expose themselves to COVID.
Jensen previously told the Pioneer Press he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 himself, and does not recommend the vaccination for about one-third of his patients who are young and healthy. However, young and healthy people are still at risk of being hospitalized, dying, or having potentially long-term health problems if the contract the virus – and can spread it to more vulnerable people.
He has previously come under scrutiny from Minnesota's medical regulators after making unsubstantiated claims that the state's COVID-19 death rate was being exaggerated.