CDC

CDC Ignores Advisory Panel and Backs Booster Jabs for Under-65s in ‘High-Risk’ Work Settings, Including Teachers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Covid booster vaccines should be given not only to the over-65s and to those with underlying medical conditions but also to adults who work in ‘high-risk’ settings, such as teachers. The recommendation comes in spite of the red light given on additional doses for people in more ‘risky’ settings by the centre’s own Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices. Reuters has the story.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said her agency had to make recommendations based on complex, often imperfect data.

“In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good,” she said in a statement. …

The CDC recommendation follows U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorisation and clears the way for a booster roll-out to begin as soon as this week for millions of people who had their second dose of the Pfizer shot at least six months ago.

The CDC said that people 65 years and older should get a booster. Beyond older Americans, the CDC also recommended the shots for all adults over 50 with underlying conditions.

It said that, based on individual benefits and risks, 18 to 49 year-olds with underlying medical conditions may get a booster, and people 18-64 at increased risk of exposure and transmission due to occupational or institutional setting may get a shot. …

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices on Thursday gave the thumbs down to additional doses for groups including healthcare workers, teachers and residents of homeless shelters and prisons.

Panel member Lynn Bahta, who works with the Minnesota Department of Health, voted against that measure. She said the data does not support boosters in that group yet. “The science shows that we have a really effective vaccine,” she said.

The committee had said it could revisit the guidance later. …

Vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit said he believed the CDC advisers were worried that recommending boosters based on employment would allow overly broad use, especially in younger people for whom the health benefits of a booster shot are still unclear.

“That was a hole that you could drive a truck through, that essentially what we were doing was basically what the (Biden) administration initially asked – to just have a vaccine for the general population, because obviously the pharmacists aren’t going to figure out whether you’re working in a grocery store or hospital,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

CDC Study Claiming Unvaccinated Have More Than Double the Risk of Re-infection is Full of Holes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America has published a new study claiming to show that, among the previously infected, the unvaccinated are at more than double the risk of re-infection than the vaccinated.

It forms part of their evidence for why people who have had COVID-19 before should get vaccinated and not rely on natural immunity.

It has a number of problems, however.

The study looks retrospectively at data from the U.S. state of Kentucky. The researchers identify all those in the state who were re-infected during May and June 2021 (defined in terms of positive tests a certain number of days apart) and compare their vaccination rates to a control group. They find 246 re-infections in that period, and calculate that those who were not vaccinated were 2.34 times more likely to be re-infected than those who were vaccinated.

The study has a number of limitations, however, some of which the authors acknowledge.

Firstly, the study period of May and June 2021 is notable for being a period of very low prevalence in the state, meaning it is not a good time to study acquired immunity, which is best studied during a new surge when it is most put to the test. The authors themselves acknowledge that because the study covers just one period in one state, the “findings cannot be used to infer causation”.

The authors also acknowledge that test-seeking behaviour may skew the findings to exaggerate vaccine effectiveness, as vaccinated people are probably less likely to get tested.

Another weakness is that the study doesn’t include symptom data so we don’t know whether the “reinfections” were actual disease or just asymptomatic and mild infections of the kind that are characteristic of the immune system working.

A related problem is that there is no discussion of how big the problem of re-infection is from an absolute standpoint. With only 246 re-infections (of unknown severity) in a population of 4.5 million over a two month period, it’s not clear that even if vaccination did halve your probability of re-infection it would be a difference worth getting vaccinated (which carries its own risks) to achieve.

CDC U-Turns on Face Masks – Tells Vaccinated Americans to Put Coverings Back On

“Look, we’ve gotten this far. Please protect yourself until you get to the finish line.” With these words, spoken in May, President Joe Biden instructed unvaccinated Americans to continue wearing face masks indoors but echoed advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated Americans could ditch their coverings. On Twitter, he said: “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”

It turns out the rule wasn’t as simple as he made out.

The CDC has told vaccinated Americans that they must put their face masks back on when indoors, less than three months after announcing that it was safe to remove them, citing fears over the Delta Covid variant. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters: “The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it.” The Washington Post has more.

On Tuesday… the CDC announced it had again changed its guidance on masks, recommending once more that all Americans wear masks indoors in public spaces. The game-changer for the agency was data showing that vaccinated people infected with the highly infectious delta variant carry the same viral load as unvaccinated people who are infected, the Washington Post reported.

Whiplash recommendations carry downsides. “Once you’ve let the genie out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Americans who have set aside their masks might not be persuaded to don them again.

Last year, the CDC was not alone in its scepticism. The World Health Organisation (WHO) did not publish global guidance supporting masks until June 5th, more than two months after the United States did. The lack of mask availability early in the pandemic made recommending them difficult.

The WHO currently advises all people, vaccinated or not, to continue wearing masks when around others.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said Tuesday that the global health body advises governments to continue emphasising proven public health and social measures, including masks, “as long as there is community spread”.

There was community spread when the CDC issued its May 13th guidance. The United States that day recorded almost 50,000 new Covid cases. But vaccination rates were dipping. The message about masks appeared to be an attempt to incentivise the shots.

That gambit may have failed: the number of Covid vaccine doses given out this week across the United States is less than half of what it was the week of May 13th. Many unvaccinated Americans appear to have ditched their masks anyway. …

Reinstating mask rules that have been lifted can be difficult. Israel has struggled with mask compliance since June 25th [when the mask mandate was reimposed just 10 days after it was lifted].

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Reporters had to be handed face masks at a White House event on Tuesday evening, minutes after the CDC updated its advice, according to MailOnline.

U.S. Medicines Regulator to Add Warning to Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Over Link to Heart Inflammation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to add a warning to the Covid vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there is a “likely link” between them and cases of heart inflammation, particularly in children and young adults. The MailOnline has the story.

The CDC made the announcement Wednesday during a presentation. 

The Covid Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group discussed nearly 500 reports of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, in vaccinated adults under the age of 30.

The group of doctors said the risk of myocarditis or pericarditis following vaccination with the mRNA-based shots in adolescents and young adults is notably higher after the second dose and in males  

It comes as the Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices (ACIP) is set to meet this week to assess the possibility of a link between the heart condition and the mRNA vaccines. 

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use mRNA technology, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses the more traditional virus-based technology. 

According to the presentation, there have been 484 preliminary reports of myocarditis or pericarditis in young people under age 30 as of June 11th.

So far, 323 have been confirmed by CDC and 148 are still under review.

In total, 309 patients were hospitalized, of which 295 were discharged and 79% have since recovered.

Nine patients are still hospitalized with two in intensive care units. There was no data available for five patients. 

Males were much more likely to report heart inflammation after receiving a second dose than women.

As of June 11th, there were 9.1 per million reported cases of myocarditis/pericarditis in females ages 12-to-17 compared to 66.7 per million in males of that age group.

What’s more, rates among females ages 18-to-24 and ages 25-to-29 were 5.5 per million and 2.6 per million respectively.

Ang [among] males, rates were 56.3 per million for the 18-to-24 age group and 20.4 per million in the 25-to-29 group.

In Australia, the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is facing further criticism over its links to a variety of side effects. The vaccine will have been almost completely phased out of the country’s roll-out by October.

Worth reading in full.

CDC to Hold Emergency Meeting Over 226 Cases of Heart Inflammation in American Teens Who Have Had Pfizer or Moderna Vaccines

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is set to hold an emergency meeting over a greater than expected number of cases of heart inflammation among young Americans who have received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid vaccine. The MailOnline has the story.

[CDC leaders] will gather on June 18th to discuss 226 plausible cases of heart inflammation in young people – mainly affecting teenage boys and young men – after they have received their second doses of the vaccines. 

CDC bosses said Thursday the number of cases is higher than expected, although still rare.

[CNBC reports that, according to the CDC, scientists expected only between 10-102 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis.]

A total of 226 cases have been reported that may meet the CDC’s “working case definition” of myocarditis and pericarditis following the shots, the agency said. 

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

Among the 226, three are in intensive care, 15 are hospitalised, and 41 have ongoing symptoms. The rest – 167 – have recovered.  

It is not clear if either condition is caused by the shots and the reports of cases are extremely rare. 

The CDC continues to urge everyone aged 12 and older to get vaccinated.

These types of heart inflammation can be caused by a variety of infections, including a bout of Covid, as well as certain medications…

Cases are reported through the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

The system accepts reports from everyone regardless of the plausibility of the vaccine causing the symptom.

In total, VAERS received 573 reports of myocarditis and pericarditis after the patient had received their second dose. 

A total of 372 reports were from people who had the Pfizer vaccine, while the remaining 201 had Moderna.

Another 216 cases of the heart inflammation were also reported after dose one of the vaccines. 

More than half of the cases reported after people had received their second dose were in people between the ages of 12 and 24, the CDC said.  

This group accounts for less than nine per cent of doses administered.  

Almost four-fifths of cases were in males. 

The overwhelming majority of the cases have occurred within a week of vaccination. 

Symptoms included chest pain and breathing difficulties. 

This comes just one day after Moderna asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to extend the emergency use of its Covid vaccine to American children aged 12 and over.

The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in British children aged 12-15 earlier this month, though the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that the decision on whether or not to vaccinate children against Covid is down to the Government given that it is a “political” matter. So far, the petition on the Gov.uk website against the vaccination of children has been signed by over 50,000 people.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Watch Tucker Carlson react to this news.

NHS Told to Differentiate Between Patients in Hospital “For Covid” and Those in Hospital “With Covid” – and Not Before Time

After almost 15 months of various forms of lockdown, hospitals have finally been told to change the way they collect data on patients who test positive for Covid. They have been instructed to differentiate between those who are actually sick with Covid symptoms and those who test positive but are actually ill with something else. The Independent has the story.

NHS England has instructed hospitals to make the change to the daily flow of data sent by NHS trusts and told the Independent that the move was being done to help analyse the effect of the vaccine programme and whether it was successfully reducing Covid sickness…

One NHS source said the new data would be “more realistic” as not all patients were sick with the virus, adding: “But it will make figures look better as there have always been some, for example stroke [patients], who also had Covid as an incidental finding.”

In a letter to hospital bosses on June 7th, shared with the Independent, NHS England’s Covid Incident Director, Professor Keith Willett, said that from now on NHS England wanted “a breakdown of the current stock of Covid patients into those who are in hospital with acute Covid symptoms (and for whom Covid is the primary reason for being in hospital); and those who are primarily in hospital for a reason other than Covid (but for whom the hospital is having to manage and treat the Covid symptoms alongside their primary condition)”.

He added: “In lay terms, this could be considered as a binary split between those in hospital ‘for Covid’ and those in hospital ‘with Covid’. We are asking for this binary split for those patients newly admitted to hospital and those newly diagnosed with Covid while in hospital.”…

NHS England data on hospital admissions is published daily at a regional level and several days later on the Government’s dashboard. An internal daily dashboard of Covid data tracks infections across hospitals but is not made public.

Professor Ian Douglas from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “I think there are good arguments for presenting these data separately – people in hospital ‘with’ vs ‘for’ Covid, as it does partly address the burden to health services due to the virus. Not completely though, because people in hospital with Covid will presumably also need to be treated differently to avoid further spread, which places some extra burden on the hospitals.

“I’ve got no idea what the split is like at the moment, and importantly we won’t know retrospectively what the trend is. Following on from that, there are only a few days before any announcement about June 21st, which may not give us long enough to be sure about what direction the ‘for Covid’ numbers are going.”

This change resembles the recent shift in the definition of a “case” by the CDC in America, where an infection in a vaccinated person is now only a “case” when the person is hospitalised or dies, whereas with the unvaccinated any positive PCR test still counts as a “case”, no matter how mild or asymptomatic.

Now, I’m all in favour of a more restrictive and conventional definition of case that gives a more realistic picture of the impact of the disease. But one can’t help suspect it’s more about politics than science when the kind of change many of us have been calling for since the start only comes once it helps to create the impression that the vaccines are working.

The Independent report is worth reading in full.

CDC Investigating Reports of Heart Inflammation in Young Covid Vaccine Recipients

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating several dozen reports of heart inflammation in teenagers and young adults after Covid vaccination. These cases occurred in people days after receiving an mRNA vaccine, though the agency did not specify whether this was linked to the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine (or both). The New York Times has more.

The [agency’s vaccine safety] group’s statement was sparse in details, saying only that there were “relatively few” cases and that they may be entirely unrelated to vaccination. The condition, called myocarditis, is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and can occur following certain infections.

The CDC’s review of the reports is in the early stages, and the agency has yet to determine whether there is any evidence that the vaccines caused the heart condition. It has posted some guidance on its website for doctors and clinicians to be alert to unusual heart symptoms among young people who had just received their shots.

“It may simply be a coincidence that some people are developing myocarditis after vaccination,” said Dr Celine Gounder, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. “It’s more likely for something like that to happen by chance, because so many people are getting vaccinated right now.”

The cases seem to have occurred predominantly in adolescents and young adults about four days after their second dose of one of the mRNA vaccines, which are Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. And the cases were more common in males than in females.

“Most cases appear to be mild, and follow-up of cases is ongoing,” the vaccine safety group said…

“We look forward to seeing more data about these cases, so we can better understand if they are related to the vaccine or if they are coincidental,” said Dr Yvonne Maldonado, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases. “Meanwhile, it’s important for pediatricians and other clinicians to report any health concerns that arise after vaccination.” …

In the general population, about 10 to 20 of every 100,000 people each year develop myocarditis, or an inflammation of the heart, experiencing symptoms ranging from fatigue and chest pain to arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. Many others likely have mild symptoms and are never diagnosed, according to researchers.

At the moment, the number of cases of myocarditis reported after vaccination does not appear to be greater than would normally be seen in young people, according to the CDC. But members of the agency’s vaccine safety group “felt that information about reports of myocarditis should be communicated to providers”, the report said.

Mancunian children as young as 16 are to be offered Covid mRNA vaccines due to fears about the Indian Covid variant. The CDC continues to recommend Covid vaccines for Americans aged 12 and over.

The New York Times report is worth reading in full.

CDC Says Americans Can Stop Wearing Face Masks Inside – but Only if They’re Fully Vaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Americans can stop wearing face masks inside. The loosening of restrictions comes, as always, with a range of caveats – not least the fact that they only apply to those who are fully vaccinated against Covid. The New York Times has the story.

The advice from the CDC comes as welcome news to [fully vaccinated] Americans who have tired of restrictions and marks a watershed moment in the pandemic. Masks ignited controversy in communities across the United States, symbolising a bitter partisan divide over approaches to the pandemic and a badge of political affiliation...

The new advice comes with caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when going to doctors, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes; when travelling by bus, plane, train or other modes of public transportation, or while in transportation hubs like airports and bus stations; and when in prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

In deference to local authorities, the CDC said vaccinated Americans must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and follow local rules for businesses and workplaces. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot or the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series…

The CDC has been under fire recently for moving too gingerly to lift restrictions on public activities for those who are vaccinated. Some critics have said the Agency’s caution may suggest to Americans that officials lack confidence in the vaccines…

Only half of Americans said that they had a “great deal” of trust in the CDC, according to a new survey conducted in February and March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Officials are worried that herd immunity may not be reached in the U.S., partly due to the decline of daily vaccination rates.

As of Wednesday, about 154 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, but only about one-third of the nation, some 117.6 million people, have been fully vaccinated.

But the pace has slowed: Providers are administering about 2.16 million doses per day on average, about a 36% decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported in mid-April.

As demand for the vaccine continues to wane, some states are requesting small fractions of their allotted doses from the Federal Government to save them from having to throw unused doses away. It is hoped that the change in mask-wearing guidelines for the vaccinated will push those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get a move on.

The New York Times report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “The rule is now simple,” says Joe Biden: “Get vaccinated or wear a mask.”

New York Times Fact Checks “Deceiving” CDC on Masks and Outdoor Transmission

When the New York Times weighs in to fact check the CDC, you know something is in the wind. On Tuesday, reporter David Leonhardt wrote a scathing criticism of the U.S. Federal Health Authority’s recent advice that “less than 10%” of COVID-19 transmission is occurring outdoors.

Leonhardt points out that while this is technically true, it is like saying “sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year” when the actual number is around 150 worldwide. “It’s both true and deceiving,” he says.

He calls this “an example of how the CDC is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what’s truly risky”. The CDC places “such a high priority on caution that many Americans are bewildered by the agency’s long list of recommendations”.

They continue to treat outdoor transmission as a major risk. The CDC says that unvaccinated people should wear masks in most outdoor settings and vaccinated people should wear them at “large public venues”; summer camps should require children to wear masks virtually “at all times”.

However, in reality, “there is not a single documented Covid infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table”.

Leonhardt digs into the studies that supposedly underpin the CDC’s advice and finds layers of conservative over-caution.

Many of the instances of “outdoor transmission” in the literature turn out to be from construction sites in Singapore. This appears to be a classification issue.

The Singapore data originally comes from a Government database there. That database does not categorise the construction-site cases as outdoor transmission, Yap Wei Qiang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told my colleague Shashank Bengali. “We didn’t classify it according to outdoors or indoors,” Yap said. “It could have been workplace transmission where it happens outdoors at the site, or it could also have happened indoors within the construction site.”

The decision that they were outdoors was made by researchers making conservative assumptions.

“We had to settle on one classification for building sites,” Quentin Leclerc, a French researcher and co-author of one of the papers analysing Singapore, told me, “and ultimately decided on a conservative outdoor definition.” Another paper, published in the Journal of Infection and Public Health, counted only two settings as indoors: “mass accommodation and residential facilities.” It defined all of these settings as outdoors: “workplace, health care, education, social events, travel, catering, leisure and shopping.”

Even with this conservative definition, however, the studies still found only a maximum of 1% of infections were caught outdoors.

So where did the CDC get 10% from? Leonhardt enquired and received this statement:

CDC Finds More Clotting Cases After Johnson & Johnson Covid Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said there is a “plausible causal association” between the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid vaccine and blood clotting after finding more U.S. cases of the condition among people who received the vaccine. Reuters has the story.

The CDC said in a presentation the Agency has now identified 28 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among the more than 8.7 million people who had received the J&J vaccine. TTS involves blood clots accompanied by a low level of platelets – the cells in the blood that help it to clot.

So far, three of the 28 have died. Previously, as of April 25th, the CDC had reported 17 cases of clotting among nearly eight million people given vaccines.

The Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices (ACIP), which advises the U.S. CDC, recommended on April 23rd that the U.S. lift a 10-day pause on the J&J vaccinations imposed to review safety data on the clotting issue. The panel will review the new data later on Wednesday…

Scientists are working to find the potential mechanism that would explain the blood clots. A leading hypothesis appears to be that the vaccines are triggering a rare immune response that could be related to these viral vectors.

The syndrome does not appear to be associated with either of the Covid vaccines produced by Pfizer or Moderna.

Most of the cases were among women aged 18 to 49, the CDC said, with rates among women aged 30-39 at 12.4 cases per million and those aged 40-49 at 9.4 cases per million…

Symptoms typically occur several days after vaccination to up to two weeks.

Norway, which has stopped using the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine because of fears over blood clotting, has delayed a decision on whether to include vaccines made by J&J in its national rollout efforts. A Government-appointed commission recently recommended that neither vaccine should be used in the country due to their harmful side effects.

The Reuters report is worth reading in full.