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Peter Hotez

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The Trump school vaccine plan will be a public health catastrophe

Donald Trump threatens to defund schools implementing vaccine mandates, possibly risking a public health catastrophe by endangering vaccine rates for diseases like measles, which is highly contagious and potentially fatal. Historically, school vaccine mandates have been crucial in nearly eradicating diseases such as polio and maintaining high childhood vaccination rates in the USA. The potential repeal of mandates could lead to outbreaks, strain hospital resources, and have severe health and economic impacts. Leading experts strongly oppose the plan, forewarning of its dire consequences.

COVID vaccine development process – how it compares to “normal”

The development process for COVID-19 vaccines was accelerated yet robust and thorough, maintaining rigorous safety and effectiveness standards. Efforts to speed up the process included enrolling over 100,000 patients worldwide, fast-tracking data analysis and regulatory reviews, and preparing manufacturing facilities. Despite the rapid pace, multiple independent agencies and expert groups ensured vaccine safety and effectiveness, making it nearly impossible for a harmful vaccine to reach the market. This process, vital in saving lives amidst the pandemic, still follow established protocols used in pre-pandemic vaccine development.

vaccine development process

Vaccine development process – how it’s usually done

Back before the world of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccine development process took a long time. Despite the nonsensical claims of the anti-vaccine zealots, the vaccine development process is robust and thorough. The safety and effectiveness of all of the pre-pandemic vaccines are settled science (read the article before you jump up and down screaming about “settled science”).  

However, the world of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that if we can save a few months or even years off the development timeline on a new COVID-19 vaccine, it could save hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives.

Of course, much of the optimism comes from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the few rational public health experts who are willing to speak up in Washington DC. Maybe he has seen some secret data only available only to him and Bill Gates that supports this optimism. Maybe he just is trying to be the national cheerleader for healthcare.

I don’t know the real answer, but a lot of vaccine experts who have spent their lifetime studying vaccines, like Dr. Peter Hotez, MD Ph.D., have expressed dismay at how politics may “trump” good science.

So, this article will try to lay out the development process, along with the independent controls that make sure that all vaccines are safe and effective.

Read More »Vaccine development process – how it’s usually done
person putting a drop on test tube

Vaccine science — why I do research better than anti-vaxxers

How many times have you read a comment from an anti-vaxxer that states, “I’ve done my vaccine science research, and it says vaccines are bad.” That comment seems to imply two things – that the anti-vaxxer believes they have done real vaccine science research, and those on the science/medicine side have not done real vaccine research.

What I’ve found is that the anti-vaxxer research into vaccine science is based on their Google University education rather than actual scientific education. Vaccine science is hard, and it cannot be done in a few hours searching for unimpressive memes.

The typical anti-vaxxer understates how hard vaccine research is while overstating their actual skills and experience in comprehending real scientific research. I suppose this is a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect – a cognitive bias wherein people without a strong scientific background fail to recognize their actual ineptitude in the field and mistakenly overrate their knowledge and abilities as greater than it is.

On the other hand, I’ve done real scientific research that gives me a relatively decent background in vaccine science. And I’m going to state, without any remorse, that I am no Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Peter Hotez, or any of the hundreds of researchers at the CDC and WHO. My background in vaccines is a result of my education, which is a lot more than a few hours on Google.

Read More »Vaccine science — why I do research better than anti-vaxxers
molnupiravir

Merck seeking emergency us authorization for molnupiravir, new COVID-19 drug

Pharmaceutical giant Merck announced a new drug to treat COVID-19, called molnupiravir, which appeared to cut the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half for at-risk patients. Furthermore, Merck will be seeking an emergency use authorization for it immediately.

Although this may sound like good news, and if you are reading the news about this drug, you’d think it was a miracle, I want to make sure that everyone understands several important factors about this drug’s safety and effectiveness profile. It is not a miracle, but it may be an important addition to the treatment protocols for COVID-19 patients, especially those at the highest risk of hospitalization or death.

This is not a worthless drug, at least for COVID-19, such as the horse dewormer, ivermectin, that has become popular with the pseudoscience crowd. Molnupiravir was designed from the beginning as an anti-viral drug.

Read More »Merck seeking emergency us authorization for molnupiravir, new COVID-19 drug
anti-vaccine sharyl attkisson

Anti-vaccine Sharyl Attkisson threatens to sue Dr. Peter Hotez for defamation

This article about threats to sue Dr. Peter Hotez by anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson 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. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

Litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists are not new, nor are they unusual. Recently, anti-vaccine journalist Sharyl Attkisson sent a litigation threat to Dr. Hotez, a threat she then published online. Her chances, if she actually sues, are slim, but that does not seem to be the point of such threats.

As best as I can tell, litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists serve two purposes, neither of which depending on the validity of the claims. First, towards the target of the threat, the threat can serve as a deterrent to engage with the anti-vaccine activist. Second, in relation to the anti-vaccine activist’s own followers the threats can both serve to create a narrative of victimhood (“I’m targeted by ‘them’), and second to present themselves to their followers as bravely fighting back against attacks.

This post will describe the events, then put them in the context of previous litigation threats by anti-vaccine activists and previous such behavior by Sharyl Attkisson, then make some suggestions to any reader targeted by similar threats. 

Read More »Anti-vaccine Sharyl Attkisson threatens to sue Dr. Peter Hotez for defamation
pfizer COVID-19 vaccine review

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine review scheduled for December 10 by FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine review meeting for its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on 10 December 2020. It is intended to discuss and review the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Read More »Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine review scheduled for December 10 by FDA

trump coronavirus vaccine

Trump coronavirus vaccine – in this one specific case, I’m anti-vax

As I’ve discussed previously, the FDA may use its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) powers to push the Trump coronavirus vaccine out on the citizens of the USA before it’s been fully tested. Using Vladimir Putin’s example of pushing out a vaccine before it’s fully tested, Donald Trump keeps insisting that we’ll get a new COVID-19 vaccine soon, well before phase 3 clinical trials are done.

All vaccines currently on the market have been tested thoroughly. And the science that these current vaccines are very safe and very effective is settled. I am thoroughly convinced of the evidence that we have excellent vaccines, so it is clear that I am thoroughly pro-vaccine – I do not have to convince anyone of that.

However, for the Trump coronavirus vaccine, I am anti-vaccine. But it is a very narrow, very unique situation. 

I have been troubled by the speed of the coronavirus vaccine research. I think it can lead to a bad vaccine on the market. Recently, Astra-Zeneca had to put a hold further testing of the so-called University of Oxford vaccine, because of a suspected serious adverse event in one individual. Astra-Zeneca will investigate the adverse event to determine if the vaccine caused it.

This is not uncommon in clinical trials – there is an abundance of caution while investigating new drugs, despite what people believe about how clinical trials are managed. That’s why vaccine research is difficult and not a slam dunk. 

On the other hand, there will be serious consequences to a rushed Trump coronavirus vaccine, because we might not get these safety signals that can appear in large clinical trials. And if we do this wrong by avoiding large phase 3 clinical trials, people who may be on the fence about vaccines become convinced by anti-vaxxers that this awful process was used by all other vaccines. It wasn’t.

Dr. Peter Hotez, MD Ph.D., one of the leading vaccine scientists in the world,  posted a Twitter thread where he discussed his concerns about a potential Trump coronavirus vaccine.

I want to review each of the 12 concerns he posted along with my own opinions on each.Read More »Trump coronavirus vaccine – in this one specific case, I’m anti-vax