Mass testing vs clinical trials: Of media influencers, celebrities, and the viral phenomena

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How dangerous is an misinformed – not just uninformed — celebrity?

We have seen of actors, artists, performers putting in their two cents’ worth over an issue, not just any issue but one that could affect general public health and welfare. We have seen their opinions gaining traction, lapped up by die-hard fans, or maybe receive backlash from dissenting sectors.

Photo from DJ Loonyo FB page.
Photo from DJ Loonyo FB page.

Enter DJ Loonyo, social media star and influencer, he of the groin-clutching, hip-hop dancing , baseball-cap wearing fame. Lately, the guy has been going viral for his opinions about a um, a viral infection that has become a pandemic (the infection, not the opinions).

In a livestream hosted by hiphop artists Kenjhons Serrano together with dancer Evo Manila on June 2, Tuesday, Dj Loonyo was asked on his take on mass testing in the Philippines.

The social influencer replied with:

“I just don’t know. It’s like, gagana ba itong bagay na ito sa ganitong ano? ‘Di ba? I don’t know ano gagamitin nila sa mass testing, but kung ano ipapainom nila, kung ano ipapagawa nila…. It’s a trial and error, kaya it’s mass testing”

“kaya kawawa ‘yung magi-intake at yung mag-a-undergo nyan, because it’snot 100% proven” he added

“So in short, ‘di dapat i-take yun”

“It shouldn’t be mandatory. It should be encouraged. Depende na sa ‘yo kung gusto mo i-test yung sarili mo o gusto mo ipaniwala ‘yung ano nila. ‘Di ba, for me, why would you test me? I’m a human being. I will react to ano ipapainom mo sa akin. Paano kung mag-rereact ng malala ‘yung katawan ko? So I’m dead. ‘Di ako naniniwala sa mass testing,” Loonyo said

Even before these statements, the social influencer already has hints of being anti-science, with statements such as

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“I’m gonna be real. If governments around the world do this mandatory vaccine, then we’re so f*cked up. Kung baga, kung ‘di tayo magpapa-vaccine, they’re going to kill us? It’s not a respect of human rights or the right to make your own decision”

Which is suggestively antivax.

After drawing flak online for his comments, the internet celebrity wrote an apology in which he tries to correct his statements by saying that he was not referring to “mass testing” but “clinical trials” which under the context of what he said, is still terribly false.

Non-objectively, Netizens have observed that Loonyo’s apology does not contain any hints of remorse and willingness to actually abide by the facts, instead, the way the influencer relayed his defense, blames the viewers for not understanding the context of the whole (two-hour long) video and that his followers should keep having an open mind – suggesting that his views, even if not leaning to facts and evidence, are valid.

As if this would be the last time it happened, a subsequent viral video surfaced in which DJ loonyo talked about face masks.


In what is seen as a cropped video from what seemingly is an FB Live of Loonyo, he stated that

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“Itong mask na ‘to, ang daming tanong sa utak ko, like, ano ba talaga yung tamang gawin?”

“Walang makasagot, ikaw lang talaga”

“Pero sang-ayon ako dun na the more you wear the mask, na nakaganun parati, kumbaga, parang ini-inhale mo yung sarili mong utot”

“Kaya mo nga nilalabas yun kasi hindi kailangan ng katawan mo yun”

“Kailangan mo ng oxygen. Ngayon, yung ini-inhale mo yung parang ano, yung poison… ang ini-inhale mo sa katawan mo, it makes your immune system weak”

Loonyo reiterated that he’s not against wearing a mask, but suggested that the longer you wear it, you are akin to inhaling your own fart. He suggested that mask wearing should be reduced, in order for the person to breathe correctly and to again not inhale one’s own fart. Personally, the number of times Loonyo said the word “utot” in the video was the least troubling aspect of it.

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The internet celebrity has again drawn ire over his statement, observed as trying to sound smart and ending up sounding otherwise.

Deconstructing Loon-isms

In this portion we will try to briefly describe the terms misused by Loonyo, as it is a moral obligation to debunk misinformation.

MASS TESTING. Although not explicitly stated, the phrase itself may be a simplified term for “mass screening” and is widely understood as testing a lot of people as a form of disease surveillance in the advent and interim of an outbreak. In the 9th edition of Mosby’s medical dictionary, it is described as a preliminary procedure, such as a test or examination, to detect the most characteristic sign or signs of a disorder that may require further investigation – to simplify it further, it’s trying to find people who are infected in order to treat/isolate them and protect others. Interpretation and technicalities of mass testing is currently being debated by the national government.

There are various tests for CoviD-19, what is used is the RT-PCR and Rapid Antibody Testing. For their difference read: The CoviD-19 saga: RT-PCR vs Rapid Test Kits and for the specifics of Antibody Testing read: The CoviD-19 Saga: What are Antibodies detected by Rapid Tests?

CLINICAL TRIALS is not a “trial and error”, and calling it such is an over simplification. Clinical trials are a set of experiments and/or observations in research to generate data on the safety and efficacy of treatments (drugs, vaccines, etc.). The WHO describes it as a type of research that studies new tests and treatments and evaluates their effects on human health outcomes.

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Trial and error is defined by Cambridge as a method of problem solving with repeated, varied attempts which are continued until “success” is attained with whatever endeavor is trial and error-ed. Generally trial and error finds value in mistakes and failures then tweaks them to avoid it. Clinical trials are in a way similar but also very different. As before starting a Clinical Trial, everything is carefully designed, reviewed and completed, and need to be approved. All evidences that lead to error/failure are, as much as possible, taken away before the start of trials. And the effects are theoretically known. So the value of the trials is to gather more data in order to further fine tune, take off errors that were missed, and be more certain with all the effects.

Basically you may go blindly in “trial and error” but in clinical trials, there is a lot already known and certain before starting. So it is somewhat a trial and error but avoiding the errors before starting as much as possible. even then it takes many years for drugs/vaccines to be finished with clinical trials because it is made sure all its effects are knowable (side effect / adverse effect) in every circumstance possible. Even then, after they’re out in the market, follow up research/studies are made and information about drugs and vaccines are continuously being updated.

Additionally no one is being forced into the trials. To participate in Clinical Trials one has to volunteer with informed consent. Also participants are screened if they do fit the trials, and those who are not eligible (despite wanting to participate) are removed.

For Further Information on Drug Development read the first part in our 4 part series, Finding a Cure.

And for further information on the CoviD-19 vaccine, read the first part of the 2 parter about the CoviD-19 Vaccines.

FACE MASK. Loonyo’s stance on face mask most likely comes from the notion of rebreathing the carbon dioxide we exhale (which is honestly much better if he used that instead of overly emphasizing the word “utot”). Breathing or ventilation is the physical process or movement of gases into and out of the Lungs. Respiration is gas exchange on the cellular level, which is what happens in those lungs. The process exchanges Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen. It’s honestly a very complex and fascinating mechanism that cannot be summarized in a few words, but everyone just does it automatically.

Hypercapnia is the medical term for breathing in so much Carbon Dioxide. Mild symptoms of Hypercapnia include dizziness, light headedness, fatigue, headache, shortness of breath and disorientation.

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A statement by the CDC’s iterates that CO2 can likely build up in masks, however it will be in such a level that is tolerable. Healthcare workers (myself included) wear facemasks for hours at a time, and the most we’d be getting is a mild headache, exacerbated by other factors like lack of sleep and most probably not from the mask wearing itself.

The concern valid.

True, there are instances that face masks become a hazard – i.e. Infants or people already experiencing breathing difficulties. However in normal circumstances, health authorities such as the WHO and CDC highly encourages wearing a mask. In a world plagued by a droplet transmitted disease, surely a minor inconvenience such as mask-wearing outweighs the risk of being infected or infecting others with a contagion with the ability to kill that could’ve been prevented by a mask. (READ: Face Masks: To wear or not to wear, that is the question)

The Dangers of Misinformed Influencers

Public Figures, celebrities and social Influencers are not new to all sorts of controversy especially on social issues. It ranges from the trivial, such as disagreements on popular culture to the downright life threatening, like encouraging sexual violence and science denial.

The Dengvaxia controversy that plagued the country was fueled by none other than public figures and influencers who, in the same vein as Loonyo, started posting false claims and misinformation. The effects of the controversy may have led to lowered trust on the government’s various immunization drives. As such, in 2019, the Department of Health declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila due to a 550% increase of cases of the vaccine preventable disease. An investigation by UNICEF and the WHO reported that the increased vaccine hesitancy in 2018 was attributed to the country’s Dengue vaccine controversy.

The least we need in a world already plagued by a pandemic are public figures inciting practices that potentially make the public more vulnerable to it. This is a call for the so called “influencers” to use their platform properly – misinformation kills.

DJ Loonyo boasts almost four million followers in Facebook as of June 2020. Imagine what happens if even a teeny tiny fraction of that actually believes what he said.

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