The Skeptical Raptor gets COVID-19, adding to an awful 2022

skeptical raptor COVID-19

The ancient feathered dinosaur known as the Skeptical Raptor got hit with COVID-19 last week. Although I have had five vaccinations, I wear a mask whenever I am in public, and I stay away from other human beings (or feathered dinosaurs), I still got hit by the coronavirus.

I think I picked up the coronavirus while I was at a physician’s appointment to treat my cellulitis. So many people were hacking and coughing into their masks, I figured that I’d be lucky to avoid the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, or the flu.

Because I was careful and because I had all of my boosters, I figure I had caught a “light version” of the disease. Nevertheless, I have had random coughing fits, a chronic stuffy nose, and brain fog for the past 15 days. My pO2 is stable between 97-100% (almost perfect), my body temperature is around 37ºC (perfect), and my digestive tract is unaffected.

I wish I had received Paxlovid, but by the time I had reported my test results to my healthcare plan and some massive miscommunication from the same healthcare plan (yes, I’m angry about this), I couldn’t get a prescription in time. So I hope I’m not going for long COVID. That will make this year just about the worst ever for me.

woman in brown dress holding white plastic bottle painting skeptical raptor COVID-19
Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

Now, you might think that I’d be disappointed with the vaccines since I caught the disease. I’m not. There are so many variants and sub-variants of coronavirus floating around, it’s difficult to be perfectly immune. Based on the research, because I’m fully vaccinated, I probably avoided a trip to the hospital and another extended stay in the ICU. The Skeptical Raptor (sorry for writing in the third person) didn’t need COVID-19, but alas, it hit him.

I’m still cyber-begging. I have spent so much money on my healthcare and other issues these past few months, I don’t know if I’ll ever get ahead. I started this process to try to move closer to my daughters, who would have helped with all of my healthcare challenges over the past three months.

I know that it’s the holiday season, but I really could use your help. There are four ways you can help, two are free of charge. Please help out. Thanks!

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Public health expert Leana Wen skips talk because of “credible threats”

leana wen

Many of you know who Dr. Leana Wen, MD, Research Professor of Health Policy and Management at George Washington University, is because she is one of the current voices in public health issues. She has written two books and she has been outspoken during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also the CEO of Planned Parenthood.

However, you may be like me, and you may have never heard of her before. It’s possible I read something about her in the past, but I just don’t remember it.

Unfortunately, she has been a target of both sides of the political spectrum — during the first part of the pandemic the anti-mask and anti-vaccine community despised her because she supported COVID-19 restrictions. Lately, she has supported the relaxation of those restrictions and has been attacked by some who think that those restrictions should remain, especially masks.

To be clear, I support keeping COVID-19 restrictions, at least through this winter, but I do not advocate violence against anyone, including Dr. Wen. No matter what the source of the attacks is, and I am embarrassed that it is my side that is the attacker, attacking scientists is against everything I stand for.

This week, Dr. Wen was supposed to speak at a panel discussion at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting in Boston that focused on countering backlash against public health. Ironic, isn’t it? At any rate, she withdrew because of “credible threats” against her.

Whether or not you support her public health policy statements, and I know a lot of my friends don’t, she is a credible scientist that shouldn’t be forced from an important public health forum because of reasons.

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Respiratory syncytial virus, flu, and COVID-19 — the “tripledemic”

respiratory syncytial virus

I rarely write about the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but the number of people infected by the virus, especially children, is leading to a fear of a tripledemic that includes RSV, the seasonal flu, and our constant nemesis, COVID-19. I guess this is the time I start writing more about the respiratory syncytial virus because everyone needs to be aware of this infectious disease.

This post will review what respiratory syncytial virus is, why it is so dangerous to children and seniors, and whether a vaccine is available.

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New XBB variant of COVID-19 — bivalent booster vaccine works

XBB variant

Here we go with a new, kind of scary version of COVID-19 — the XBB variant, which is just one of several variants that are spreading across the world. I think we’ve heard and read about so many variants over the past two and a half years that it might appear to be background noise.

But the new XBB variant probably shouldn’t be ignored — it spreads faster and seems to evade the immune system. These two issues alone can become problematic as we enter the winter months.

This article will look at this variant (though I’m just picking on one out of dozens that appear to be circulating) because XBB seems to be a bit more virulent than others. But there’s good news too — the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer and Moderna appear to protect against the new variant.

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Lawsuit against California AB2098, which allows sanctions of doctors who pass false information

AB2098

This article about a lawsuit against California’s new law, AB2098, was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively about vaccination’s social and legal policies in law journals. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On September 30, 2022, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB2098, a bill that tells the medical board that misinformation and disinformation given to a patient as treatment or advice is “unprofessional conduct” worthy of sanction.

As a reminder, misinformation about COVID-19 is a real problem in the pandemic, leading to low vaccination rates that increased deaths and harm, and people using fake treatments against COVID-19.

On October 4, 2022, the first lawsuit against AB2098 was filed, brought in the name of two doctors with a history of COVID-19 misinformation – including promoting unsupported treatment like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and deterring people from vaccinating. The doctors are represented by attorneys from the conservative organization Liberty Justice Center. 

Although there are some doubts and uncertainties, the law should probably survive judicial review – and these doctors are likely typical of the kind of misinformer that made the law needed, and several of the claims they make are demonstrably untrue, which works in support of the law. 

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What are the links between vitamin D and COVID?

vitamin D COVID-19

Across the internet, I keep reading about some relationships between vitamin D levels and COVID-19. I’ve written about it twice (here and here), but I have never seen reliable, robust, and repeated clinical trial data that supports a link between vitamin D levels or deficiencies and COVID-19.

So, I thought I would take a look at it once again, and see if there’s anything there. I keep wondering if vitamin D is just another “miracle supplement” that, once you scratch the surface of data, you find that there is actually nothing there.

What we know or think we know about COVID-19 seems to change daily, partially because the disease caught us by surprise. But every day we seem to get new data that contradicts something we thought or adds to our knowledge of the disease. And sometimes both.

Let’s take a look at the current data on vitamin D and COVID-19.

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Long COVID symptoms include hair loss and sexual dysfunction

long COVID-19

When many people dismiss COVID-19 as unworthy of needing a vaccine, they almost always ignore the effects of long COVID, the long-term symptoms and sequelae that tend to persist or appear after the typical convalescence period of COVID-19. And new peer-reviewed research shows that long COVID is associated with hair loss and sexual dysfunction — every male that sees this will be running as fast as they can to get the vaccine.

But on a more serious note, long COVID is linked to a lot of serious long-term consequences that are often dismissed by anti-vaccine and COVID-19 deniers.

Let’s take a look at this new paper and review the results of their analysis. The basic result is that long COVID is scary.

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COVID-19 vaccine facts and debunking myths — the semi-complete list

COVID-19 vaccine facts

There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use in finding COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Hospital COVID vaccine mandate – Texas Federal District court rejects challenge

Hospital COVID vaccine mandate

This article about a Texas Federal District Court that rejected a challenge to a hospital COVID vaccine mandate was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On June 12, 2021 (yes, a Saturday), a Texas federal district judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by employees of the Houston Methodist Hospital against the hospital’s COVID vaccine mandate which required employees to be vaccinated unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

I wrote about the lawsuit here. It is a badly argued lawsuit, with multiple extreme claims, and it does a bad job in setting out the one somewhat plausible argument it has, the argument that you cannot mandate a vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). 

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COVID vaccines are not responsible for mysterious hepatitis outbreak

photography of people on grass field

An outbreak of hepatitis of unknown etiology in children across the world is not caused by COVID-19 vaccines. Of course, anti-vaxxers are trying to use this hepatitis outbreak as more fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines, but the evidence doesn’t support it.

As of this time, we don’t know a lot about this hepatitis outbreak, like routes of infection and the causative agent, but it is ringing the alarm bells at various public health agencies across the world.

In this article, I will walk you through the hepatitis outbreak and then some limited data that appear to show that there is no link to either COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines.

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