When Canadian Merlyn Travis landed in Hawaii early last year, he planned to retire, “bliss out in nature” and work on his novel that centers on Starbucks’ use of the siren as its logo to explore ideas of nature, mysticism, corporatism and culture. The mermaid, in Greek mythology, would lure sailors to rocky shorelines where they would meet a watery death.
“It goes down a lot of crazy rabbit holes, but Starbucks is really kind of a story of our generation,” said Travis from his home on Maui’s north shore.
But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, sending Travis down a different path of scientific inquiry and off-the-beaten-path theories about the COVID-19 vaccine, which he is dead set against taking.
“You just start connecting the dots and you understand that we are moving into a radically new era,” said Travis, who has concluded that the promotion of the COVID-19 vaccines isn’t about safety and public health. Rather, in his view, it’s ultimately about establishing a global government and global currency with “a high level of surveillance and control over the population.”
Travis references conspiracy theories that for months have circulated on the internet involving a secretive globalist cabal headed by figures such as Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.
In recent weeks Travis has ratcheted up his efforts to expose what he believes is really going on, launching a group called the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent. The group’s website says it “advocates for true informed consent before taking the experimental COVID-19 vaccines.”
“We cut through the censorship and propaganda and hold to the highest standards of transparency and scientific discourse,” the group’s website states.
But on its social media platforms, it’s promoted various conspiracy theories and sources derided for spreading false and dangerous information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Earlier this month, for example, the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent retweeted a message from “Vaccine Truth” that read, “If you are under 65, the vaccine is more likely to kill you than save your life.”
The viral spread of misinformation about the vaccines has become par for the course for top federal and state health officials as they desperately try to increase vaccination rates to help protect against a virus that has now killed more than 630,000 Americans. In Hawaii that effort has taken on more gravity in recent weeks with cases soaring and the state’s hospitals overflowing with people infected with the virus, the great majority of whom are unvaccinated.
But what’s particularly unusual about the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent’s campaign is whom it’s enlisted to be part of the group, including the state’s top health official on Maui and a local doctor who has been clandestinely treating COVID-19 patients with drugs that the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned against.
Dr. Lorrin Pang, who has served for more than two decades as the Maui district health officer for the state Department of Health, is co-founder of the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent.
His state job entails administering state public health programs and acting as the principal public health representative for the director of the state Department of Health, who is currently Dr. Libby Char.
Pang, in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, said that as a member of the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent, he is speaking as a private citizen and doesn’t always agree with views espoused by other members of the group. He stressed that he supports the state’s efforts to increase vaccinations against COVID-19.
“If you are going to be guilty by association, that’s kind of a form of prejudice, bias and censorship, isn’t it?” he said. “I thought in this day and age we look at people for what they are, not who they associate with.”
Char didn’t respond to a question about whether she was concerned that Pang’s participation in the group might undermine the public-health messaging of the Department of Health.
Among the group is Dr. Kirk Milhoan, a pediatric cardiologist and senior pastor at Calvary Chapel South Maui. Milhoan and his wife, who is also a doctor, are members of the inaugural advisory council of the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent.
Milhoan said he conducts medical missions around the world to help treat children with heart problems. He doesn’t have a clinic on Maui, but says that during the pandemic he has been conducting house calls and treated more than 80 people on Maui for COVID-19.
“I’m sort of like the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ doctor on Maui,” he said. He says his services are free and that residents hear about him through the “coconut wireless.”
“They hear that there is a doctor that is willing to go help people, and it’s just a friend of a friend of a friend,” he said.
Milhoan’s treatment regiment veers far from approved medical protocols.
He outlined his treatments in a videotaped discussion with Pang that was moderated by Travis and recently posted on the group’s Rumble account. It involves using hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as early treatment options, drugs that the FDA has warned people not to take to treat COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine was approved by the FDA to treat malaria and certain autoimmune conditions. The World Health Organization has said there is no evidence that the drug is effective at reducing the chance of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and warns that when used in COVID-19 patients, it can increase the risk of heart rhythm problems, blood and lymph disorders, kidney injury, liver problems and failure.
Ivermectin is often used to treat parasitic worms, but has caught on as an alternative treatment for COVID-19, prompting the FDA to uncharacteristically tweet this week, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
The FDA warns that using the drug to treat COVID-19 can be dangerous and even lethal. If someone takes too much, they can overdose, causing symptoms such as vomiting, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, seizures, coma and even death, according to the FDA.
But Milhoan disagrees with the FDA and maintains his early treatment protocol is an option for people who, like himself, don’t want to get vaccinated.
Milhoan said that he was wary of the speed at which the vaccines were approved for emergency use and worried about unknown side effects.
“There are vaccines that I really like,” he said. “I’m really not that thrilled about this one.”
Milhoan says he contracted COVID-19 in June, which has given him immunity as he treats patients with the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.
Milhoan said that the COVID-19 vaccines could be the right choice for some people. But he does advise that they could cause miscarriages and reproductive problems, even though a recent analysis of data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no increased risk of miscarriage. The CDC recommends anyone thinking of becoming pregnant or who is pregnant get vaccinated.
Pang said that he supports the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to treat COVID-19. “I agree with Milhoan on this,” he told the Star-Advertiser, adding that the drugs need to be administered at the right time and right dosage.
“It’s a matter of timing,” he said. “You give the wrong thing at the wrong time, it is very dangerous.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin should not be used to treat COVID-19. Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also an emergency room doctor and has helped lead the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said that as a physician he has serious concerns about Milhoan’s promotion of the drugs to treat COVID-19.
“I’m not aware of who this physician is or what their mobile clinic is doing, but we have professional standards of treatment in Hawaii that the medical board and the Department of Health need to adhere to to keep patients safe,” said Green. “I’m concerned this clinic, which is practicing outside of the standard of care, could very well harm patients.”
Green called Pang’s support of using the drugs to treat COVID-19 “somewhat shocking” and “not something I would ever expect from a public health leader in our state.”
Meanwhile, Travis said that the Pono Coalition for Informed Consent, which has testified publicly against the University of Hawaii’s requirement that students get the COVID-19 vaccine or test regularly for the virus, is having to rework its strategy now that the FDA has granted final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, an approval that he called “a fraud.”
“It is not safe and not effective,” he said of the vaccine.