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COVID-19

“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, has published an important article, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma,” regarding the pitfalls and challenges to bringing a new COVID-19 vaccine to the market. 

Professor Reiss, for those of you who may not know, is a Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), writes in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

The paper, published online on SSRN (and can be found here), discusses significant points regarding how we should proceed with the development and manufacture of a new COVID-19 vaccine. As I’ve discussed before, the rush to getting a new vaccine is necessary, but we should be aware of all that is necessary to get a safe and effective vaccine for the people of the world.

I’m going to hit the most important points of the article that I think is important to the conversation about developing a new COVID-19 vaccine.Read More »“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma” – tempering the over-optimism

COVID-19 face masks

Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work

The latest battle in the world of the coronavirus pandemic is about COVID-19 face masks. Of course, the group led by President Trump, who think that the pandemic is irrelevant and face masks are some sign of weakness, eschew masks and scream at people in stores who try to enforce rules.

And there’s the other group, of which this ancient raptor is a proud member, which accepts the scientific evidence that face masks protect not only the wearer but also others from passing the coronavirus. It’s not a political decision, it is simply a public health policy that makes sense. It is altruistic. It helps us limit this pandemic.

Sure, it’s not the only way to do this – social distancing, hand-washing, and being diligent every time you leave the house along with face masks is how we protect ourselves and others from this virus.

This is just like the nonsense we see from anti-vaccine zealots – use pseudoscience or science denialism plus a healthy dose of some imaginary freedom that isn’t supported by any law or legal precedent. I, and many others, used to argue that the anti-vaxxers would see the errors of their ways if only they could see what would happen if any disease from our past – measles, polio, mumps, smallpox, rotavirus, or many others – returned as an epidemic.

Well, they went ballistic when New York tried to stop a huge outbreak of measles, with anti-vaxxers like Del Bigtree using anti-semitic imagery to stop mandatory measles vaccinations. And the anti-vaccine rabble are deep into the COVID-19 denialism. 

Apparently, the millions of infected people and hundreds of thousands of deaths mean nothing to the anti-vaxxers who overlap the COVID-19 deniers almost 100% on the Venn diagram of pseudoscience.  And that’s why we end up with a denial of face masks.

Recently, there have been several studies published that seem to have led to a solid scientific consensus – face masks work. It’s not political. It’s not an indication that you’re weak. It does not make you run out of oxygen. It doesn’t mean you’re a conservative or liberal. It just means you have chosen to protect yourself and others.

There shouldn’t be a battle over face masks, yet here we are. Let’s take a look at some of the science that seems to debunk the numerous myths about masks. Read More »Face masks for COVID-19 – despite politics, science says they do work

June 2020 ACIP meeting

June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines

This article about the June 2020 ACIP meeting 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 disease.

During June 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held its second annual meeting for the year. Because we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and traveling is challenging for many – including, I suspect, for several of the Committee members, not all of which live near Georgia – the meeting, like most conferences this year (those which were not canceled) was held virtually. The CDC still provided an opportunity for oral comment, though there were some logistical challenges with their new system.

The June 2020 ACIP meeting discussed meningococcal vaccines, influenza vaccines, and then had the opportunity for public comment. The entire afternoon was devoted to COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.

As with previous meetings, ACIP is a geek’s dream meeting and everyone else’s – except the experts, and I suspect – hope – most experts are geeks –  boredom feast. I learned a lot.

One of the most important lessons is that the committee takes vaccine safety very, very seriously. The other is that decisions on vaccines – like most policy decisions – are always made on incomplete knowledge. We never know everything. That is where expert judgment comes in. Incomplete knowledge does not mean there is not enough knowledge to assess benefits/risks, though any such assessment should be reassessed when new knowledge comes in.

Finally, it’s important to remember – and something the anti-vaccine observers of these meetings seem unaware of, but that doctors treating patients likely are not – that a decision not to use a vaccine is a decision with costs and risks – the costs and risks of the disease the vaccine prevents.

The choice is never between no risk and the vaccine because we don’t have vaccines unless a disease causes substantial mortality and morbidity. The choice is always whether, given the information, an informed decision can be made and which risks that information suggests are higher – those of the vaccine or those of not vaccinating.

Finally, my notes are over 14 pages of text for the June 2020 ACIP meeting, and that’s because my computer crashed at the end and I lost my last two pages of notes, which is really frustrating – and I have 153 screenshots of slides (yes, I am surprised too). I really want this post to be shorter. So I’m going to try and be very brief, and I’m happy to share my full notes, just email me at reissd@uchastings.edu.Read More »June 2020 ACIP meeting – meningococcal, influenza, COVID-19 vaccines

coronavirus research

Coronavirus research peer review by press release – this is not science

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been observing new coronavirus research peer review being done through Big Pharma and university press releases, preprint articles, and science journalism. It’s like watching a ping pong ball bounce back and forth, and I swear my neck is getting strained.

This is not how science should be done. It does a disservice to how science should be done. Science, especially with regards to coronavirus, must be done with careful analysis and critiques. 

Now, there is one good thing about how we’re evaluating coronavirus research – peer review is beginning to be “crowd-sourced,” and that may be better than the old system.

This article will try to point out the good, the bad, and the damn ugly coronavirus research that we’re seeing these days.Read More »Coronavirus research peer review by press release – this is not science

vaccine pseudoscience

Vaccine pseudoscience from Blaxill and Becker – flunking epidemiology

Here we go, more vaccine pseudoscience from the Age of Autism as if that surprises anyone. They seem to have flunked courses in statistics, epidemiology, public health, and just about any science related to vaccines. I’m probably giving them too much credit for actually signing up for such complicated courses. 

I generally couldn’t care less what Age of Autism writes since they have about as much scientific credibility as does Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine. That would be zero credibility, in case you’re counting.

Let’s take a look at this latest vaccine pseudoscience.Read More »Vaccine pseudoscience from Blaxill and Becker – flunking epidemiology

coronavirus vaccine warp speed

Coronavirus vaccine warp speed – Scotty screaming at Captain Bonespurs

The coronavirus vaccine warp speed project from old Bonespurs, aka President Trump, is causing Scotty to yell, “Aye, the haggis is in the fire now for sure.” Operation Warp Speed is moving ahead at full power with not a single Starfleet Officer of note on board.

Not on board with the Star Trek metaphors?

Well, the coronavirus vaccine warp speed operation is President Bonespurs’, I mean Trump’s, new task force that will bring us a new vaccine in a matter of months. That’s not going to happen in any case, especially when the President Bonespurs, OK, Trump, didn’t add any of the country’s top vaccine researchers to the task force. 

Instead, he opted for industry hacks who have made some curious choices on the top vaccine candidates to support. Let’s take a look at the coronavirus vaccine warp speed directive.Read More »Coronavirus vaccine warp speed – Scotty screaming at Captain Bonespurs

MMR vaccine systematic review

MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN

With so much sense and nonsense about coronavirus, I set to the side an important MMR vaccine systematic review that I’ve been wanting to review for a few weeks. Well, it’s time to focus on that.

Ever since MrAndrew Wakefield published his fraudulent, and subsequently retracted, study that seemed to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the anti-vaccine crowd has embraced it as if it were a scientific fact. Of course, they ignore over 150 published scientific articles that show that there are, in fact, no links at all.

This Wakefield chicanery has spawned a cottage industry of other anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree and his fraudumentary Vaxxed, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, James Lyons-Weiler, Tetyana Obukhanych, and many others. 

And now we have a new, large, impressive MMR vaccine systematic review that once again provides affirmative evidence that there are no links between ASD and the MMR vaccine. None. Read More »MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN

hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin

Hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin cannot treat coronavirus – UPDATED with new studies

Because of an awful study from France published on 20 March 2020, Donald Trump and other non-scientists pushed hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin for coronavirus. Of course, this old dinosaur and many others like Orac, who has written several articles about it,  found the evidence that hydroxychloroquine, usually with the antibiotic azithromycin, had any effect on COVID-19 was very weak.

And now we have information that Donald Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically (or maybe he has the disease and not saying it). This happened despite the lack of effectiveness, the lack of any data that it can be used as a prophylactic, and the strong evidence that it can cause serious harm.

And now, new observational studies now show that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had no positive effect on the course or outcomes from severe cases of COVID-19. Let’s take a look.

Read More »Hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin cannot treat coronavirus – UPDATED with new studies

coronavirus herd immunity

COVID herd immunity – only with vaccines and other public health measures

Let’s talk about COVID-19 herd immunity, which is something that is being tossed about by everyone, including the British Prime Minister. I guess until the point that Boris Johnson contracted COVID-19

Herd immunity is one of those terms in public health that is misunderstood and misused by people who are on all sides of science from vaccine deniers to vaccine advocates.

But there’s one thing we should remind ourselves – coronavirus herd immunity is no panacea, and it probably won’t happen without a COVID-19 vaccine, which is probably years away. Furthermore, pandemics like COVID-19 are almost impossible to predict – which makes it even more difficult to determine if we can even have herd immunity for this disease.

Read More »COVID herd immunity – only with vaccines and other public health measures
vitamin d for coronavirus

Vitamin D for coronavirus – not a cure or prevention for coronavirus, but…

The internet was flooded recently with reports that vitamin D for coronavirus may be either a treatment or prevention. Or it may reduce the severity of COVID-19. 

But what does the real data say? Does it say that there is a solid benefit of vitamin D for coronavirus? Is there strong evidence that it can help prevent or treat COVID-19?

The answer is complicated. This is why I am annoyed by science journalists – they don’t critically analyze the underlying science published in peer-reviewed journals. It’s almost like the whole hydroxychloroquine fiasco – latch onto weak evidence and make outlandish claims.

So let’s look at a few recent studies about vitamin D for coronavirus.Read More »Vitamin D for coronavirus – not a cure or prevention for coronavirus, but…