CDC admits natural immunity more protective than vax, yet hypes ICU, other perils for unvaxxed kids
Agency's assertion that vaccine prevents severe disease "is not based on the randomized trial evidence," Stanford Med professor says.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
- The Hill.
- slick in-house video
- agency tweeted Jan. 31
- American Academy of Pediatrics' journal
- occasional writer for National Review
- purported finding of a COVID-diabetes link
- Health Affairs essay
- nonetheless remain the "gold standard"
- Critics noted it failed to control
Natural immunity from COVID-19 is broad and durable. The lowest risk group for COVID complications should get vaccines — and boosters, for those authorized — regardless of their health.
These statements came out of the CDC two days apart, illustrating the agency's mixed messaging as ongoing research fails to show a meaningful effect on viral transmission from COVID interventions, especially in children.
They have also exposed a potential rift between the agency's researchers and its social media team, which proclaim the gospel of vaccines and boosters even for research that is more circumspect.
The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last week found that COVID recovery became more protective against reinfection and hospitalization than "recent" vaccination alone once the Delta variant became dominant.
"The report finally acknowledges what many have suspected for a long time — that surviving COVID-19 provides excellent natural immunity not only [to] repeat infection but also to hospitalization and death for the delta variant of COVID-19," University of Southern California clinical medical professor Jeffrey Klausner and UCLA Health senior resident Noah Kojima wrote this week in The Hill.
"The pattern of improved protection after natural infection makes sense," they explain, because natural infection exposes the body to "all parts of the virus" while vaccines target COVID's spike protein.
This feds' recognition means "it is time to update vaccination policies and school or work-entry requirements across federal and state or county governments," they wrote.
The study's findings undercut another agency's social media team. The FDA recently tweeted a slick in-house video featuring Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Peter Marks, who claimed that people who recovered from COVID and then got vaccinated are still vulnerable without boosters.
'Really misleading' tweet
The CDC's portrayal of a severe pediatric COVID study led by one of its Atlanta-based researchers is "really misleading," a Stanford Medical School professor told Just the News.
Before COVID vaccines were "approved for most children, nearly 1 in 3 of 2,200+ children hospitalized w/ COVID-19 were admitted to the ICU or put on a ventilator," the agency tweeted Jan. 31, recommending vaccines for children 5 and up and boosters for 12 and up.
It shared a link to a study in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal, "Risk Factors for Severe COVID-19 in Children," which reviewed 14 months of data from the start of the pandemic from the COVID-19-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network.
Most of it is hidden behind a $25 paywall, including the percentage of kids on ventilators, but the abstract only specifically identifies "children at potentially higher risk" as beneficiaries of vaccines.
The CDC's tweet drew immediate criticism on Twitter for mischaracterizing the study, which is about a hospitalized subset with "extremely high existing risk ratios," according to Matt Shapiro, an occasional writer for National Review. The biggest COVID risk factors it identified included chronic lung disease, neurological disorders and "airway abnormality."
Stanford Med's Jay Bhattacharya, a coauthor of the anti-lockdown Great Barrington Declaration, shared a copy of the full study with Just the News. It shows the "invasive mechanical ventilation" percentage of hospitalized children in the study is 5.3%, or 122, and the death rate 0.5%, or 12.
Bhattacharya emphasized the study analyzed "the alpha wave" of COVID and its purpose is to "identify correlates of bad outcomes among these hospitalized kids." Those with "severe pre-existing conditions," more than half the study population, are more likely to suffer ICU admission, ventilation or death.
The CDC's tweet falsely leads parents to think "1/3rd of all kids who get COVID before the vax ... will be hospitalized and have severe disease," he wrote in an email. "The randomized trials in kids did not establish that vax prevents severe disease in children. The CDC’s assertion that it does is not based on the randomized trial evidence."
Asked to respond to criticism of its portrayal of the severe pediatric COVID study, a CDC spokesperson referred Just the News to another spokesperson who has not responded. The lead author of the study, CDC researcher Rebecca Woodruff, referred Just the News to media relations but has not answered whether she was banned from talking to reporters.
This wasn't the first time the CDC's tweets have been faulted by highly credentialed medical experts.
Harvard Medical School's former dean, among others, challenged its purported finding of a COVID-diabetes link in children, which the agency used to promote masking and vaccines despite several study limitations disclosed by the CDC's COVID and diabetes researchers.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has shown similar seesawing, sometimes undermining COVID conventional wisdom while also promoting disputed research.
Months before she took over the agency, Walenksy questioned the purpose of PCR testing for recovered individuals in a Health Affairs essay promoting less sensitive rapid antigen tests.
She asked "what possible prevention purpose" PCR tests could serve by returning positives in those who "pose no risk of further transmission" and flagging "non-infectious individuals as candidates for isolation and quarantine." They routinely send up "false alarms" and risk "undermining public confidence" in testing.
Under fire in December for cutting in half the recommended isolation and quarantine time for infected people, Walensky warned that PCR tests can register positives for up to 12 weeks after an infection clears. The FDA told Just the News that PCR tests for COVID nonetheless remain the "gold standard."
But Walensky also repeatedly promoted a study that found schools without mask mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have COVID outbreaks. Critics noted it failed to control for vaccination status or even use the same time period for different schools.