Colleges continue to impose strict COVID-19 requirements on students months after the vast majority of them got vaccinated, drawing increased scrutiny from the medical community.
Growing evidence of an unexpectedly high incidence of heart inflammation in young adults following two-dose mRNA vaccination is also shining a light on vaccination requirements imposed by colleges, some of which added boosters after the CDC recommended them for everyone 18 and older.
"Students are the lowest risk population on planet Earth," and yet colleges are "imposing a kind of martial law" on them, Johns Hopkins University medical professor Marty Makary wrote in a scathing essay Tuesday about COVID "dogma" in higher education, particularly elite schools.
"Over the last six months, the risk of a person in the broader age group (15-24) dying of Covid or dying with Covid … was 0.001%," and all or nearly all were "unvaccinated people with a medical comorbidity," said Makary, a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
Yet Georgetown University is still doing random weekly PCR tests, "which can detect tiny amounts of dead virus," on fully vaccinated students, and making even asymptomatic students quarantine for 10 days, he said. (The university didn't change its protocol after the CDC's recent 5-day revision.)
Princeton University and Emerson College test students twice weekly, "usurping the scarce testing supply from vulnerable communities so that low-risk, young people can use them," he wrote. Cornell is still recommending outdoor mask-wearing, and Amherst College requires double-masking for students who don't use KN95 masks.
If "science is supposedly held in the highest esteem" at these institutions, he asked, "where is the scientific support" for these interventions? The five colleges didn't respond to Just the News offers to defend their restrictions in response to Makary.
In a preprint study that hasn't been peer-reviewed, Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW) researchers concluded that the "true incidence of myopericarditis [following mRNA vaccination] is markedly higher than the incidence reported to US advisory committees."
By analyzing more than 150,000 12-39 year-olds insured by KPNW, researchers said they found myopericarditis cases within 21 days of vaccination that were missed by the CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) algorithm, which depends on "select hospital discharge diagnosis [ICD-10] codes." (KPNW is 7% of the VSD population.)
The absolute numbers were small, 16 patients. Their search of "all encounter diagnoses using a brief text description" of myocarditis or pericarditis returned "14 distinct patients who met the confirmed or probable CDC case" for those conditions.
By extending the "record look back period to 30 days," the researchers found two more patients whose "relevant diagnosis code was assigned during an outpatient follow-up visit."
The VSD only identified 11 of the 16, and because seven were first treated outside KPNW, they couldn't be identified until claims were submitted to the insurer. Four of those were delayed more than 30 days.
All but two of the 16 patients the researchers found were 12-24 year-old males, and most of those were 18-24.
"We estimated a risk of 95.4 cases of myopericarditis per million second doses administered in patients age 12-39" and 195.4 cases per million in males in that age bracket, the researchers reported. The figure for 12-17 males is 377, and for 18-24 males, 537.
An Oct. 21 presentation by the CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, by contrast, found only 85.5 cases per million, ages 12-39, following the second Pfizer vaccine dose. For males in that age range, it was 161.8. (Moderna's vaccine wasn't authorized for those under 18.)
The disparity between the preprint and federal estimates is especially stark for males aged 12-24. The task force estimated 109 cases per million for 12-17 and 36.8 per million for 18-24.
The CDC didn't respond to queries asking for its response to the preprint and the alleged shortcoming in its VSD algorithm.
University of California San Francisco medical professor Vinay Prasad called the preprint "brilliant" for explaining why official U.S. estimates are notably lower than the numbers seen in nations with "robust healthcare systems," including Israel, Norway and Hong Kong.
"One, they're missing an ICD code, two, some encounters use this [non-code] language in the notes ... and three, some people were hospitalized outside of surveillance center sites," he said in a YouTube video. "It shows the deficiencies, I think, in our current passive surveillance system."
Prasad emphasized the paper's estimates are in line with previous preprints that were "unfairly disparaged" online. Columbia researcher Spiro Pantazatos is shopping around a more controversial preprint on alleged undercounting of COVID vaccine-related deaths.
Federal officials acknowledge COVID vaccines have generated a larger than usual number of adverse reaction reports, including suspected deaths and some heart inflammation, but they believe serious vaccine reactions are still fairly rare and in most cases their protections outweigh the risks.
More than a thousand colleges require all students to be fully vaccinated, while just nine require vaccinations only for students who live on campus, according to a running tracker by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Boosters are required by 179 colleges, though the tracker doesn't specify whether the requirement at each institution covers both employees and students. They include six of the eight Ivy League schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton.
Other booster notables: Duke, George Washington University, Georgetown, MIT, Michigan State, New York University, Smith College, University of Chicago, University of Oregon, University of Virginia, and the university systems of California, New York City, New York State, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Mexico.
Some of them make an appearance on another Chronicle tracker: schools starting remotely this month as Omicron variant cases rise. Georgetown, for example, is doing all classes virtually through Jan. 30. Yale, which doesn't yet require boosters, is going remote through Feb. 4.