Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The CDC’s COVID Failures Mount

What grade does America’s premier public health agency deserve vis-à-vis the biggest public healthcare threat the country has faced in generations? The short answer would be “a failing grade.”

Throughout the course of the COVID pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly misinterpreted data, misinformed the public, and allowed political considerations to direct its guidelines rather than holding strictly to the known science.

The result has been widespread confusion and deep distrust in an institution that should seek to avoid any whiff of political considerations in its decision-making. Fewer Americans trust the CDC today than did before the pandemic, and the lion’s share of the blame rests almost entirely on those leading the CDC.

Although he doesn’t hold a position at the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom Donald Trump tagged as the lead medical professional to communicate with the American people regarding the novel virus, has seemingly served as role model to the CDC’s operation. Fauci was perhaps Trump’s biggest blunder, because the Beltway’s highest-paid bureaucrat arguably cost Trump a second term through his own continual display of a total lack of humility and honesty. The CDC seemed to mimic his approach.

“The CDC is supposed to be America’s frontline institution in the fight against infectious disease,” Peter Suderman pointedly observes. “Its job is to analyze viral threats, track their spread and development, and provide the public with relevant information about how to respond to outbreaks. Not only did the agency do this job poorly in the early stages of the pandemic, but it actively hindered efforts that would have greatly improved America’s response, and it made planning errors that were both predictable and avoidable. At nearly every stage of the pandemic, the CDC got things wrong and got in the way. Its failures almost certainly made America’s pandemic worse.”

From foulups of COVID testing kits to promulgating misleading information, from allowing a partisan teachers union to dictate guidance to outrageously overstepping its boundaries with things like the eviction moratorium, the CDC failed the country. Making matters worse has been the CDC’s elitist and condescending attitude toward the American public. Rather than seeing itself as primarily a public health advisory agency, those leading the CDC seemed to see the agency as primarily a means to wield governing authority over the American people.

“The root of the problem is the agency’s self-conception: It sees itself as the ultimate arbiter of what is true and what to do on all matters of infectious disease,” Suderman further notes. “In essence, the CDC believes there is no other authority besides the CDC, so it shuts out private labs from the testing process, insists that its faulty tests actually work pretty well long after problems arise, sticks with overly complicated plans that bog down processes, and resists calls to update its guidance, even when that guidance makes living ordinary life difficult or impossible.”

The CDC’s guiding concern seems to have been politics, not science, which has created greater distrust within the minds of many Americans. Of course, the CDC’s “my way or the highway” approach will not lend itself to much introspection, something that is desperately needed if those who run the agency hope to regain any trust from the public. If this is the best Americans can expect from the CDC, then who needs it?


US expert says virus strain is mutating 'so much faster than we expected'

A new highly contagious variant of Covid-19 is the fastest mutating strain yet and three doses of vaccine will be required to protect against it, a U.S. epidemiologist has warned.

Scientists say the C.1.2 strain in South Africa has a mutation rate of 41.8 mutations per year, almost double the current global mutation rate seen in any other variant of concern so far.

The strain was first identified by scientists in South Africa in May and has since been found in England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Portugal Switzerland and even New Zealand.

Not a lot is yet known about C.1.2, which is yet to make its way to Australia, where there have been outbreaks of the Delta strain, chiefly in Sydney and Melbourne.

But this new strain has experts on edge, including Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington DC.

'It's got lots of troubling mutations and it's the most mutative of all variants,' he told the Today show on Wednesday.

'It's the most genetically distanced from the Wuhan 1.0 virus. Whether or not it's the next big thing, it's not necessarily that, it's the fact that the virus is mutating so much faster than we expected.'

Dr Feigl-Ding, who is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers program, a Soros Fellowship recipient and a former Democratic Party candidate, advocated a Covid elimination strategy.

'We can't just keeping boosting the vaccines,' Dr Feigl-Ding said.

'We have to basically stop the transmission worldwide because the more bodies we give the virus, the more practice chances the virus will eventually adapt and become even more evasive or contagious.'

He also warned two doses of the vaccine may not be enough with Israel already introducing third booster shots.'

'Unless you're triple vaxxed, you're not considered fully vaxxed. And that approach as much as it sucks, it is the reality that with the face of these new variants,' Dr Feigl-Ding said.

'Right now vaccines do work, but obviously the work against hospitalisations and deaths really well.

'But for just casual breakthrough mild infections, with Delta it's taught us that there's a lot more breakthroughs than we know and after six months it does tend to wane a little bit.

'This is why the sooner we end it, the sooner we can stop dealing with these upgrade software upgrade patches that we have do with the vaccine.


Here's what we know about Delta now, after months spent fighting it

Delta was recognised as a SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern in May 2021 and has proved extremely difficult to control in unvaccinated populations.

Delta has managed to out-compete other variants, including Alpha. Variants are classified as "of concern" because they're either more contagious than the original, cause more hospitalisations and deaths, or are better at evading vaccines and therapies. Or all of the above.

So how does Delta fare on these measures? And what have we learnt since Delta was first listed as a variant of concern?

How contagious is Delta?

The R0 tells us how many other people, on average, one infected person will pass the virus on to.

Delta has an R0 of 5-8, meaning one infected person passes it onto five to eight others, on average. This compares with an R0 of 1.5-3 for the original strain. So Delta is twice to five times as contagious as the virus that circulated in 2020.

What happens when you're exposed to Delta?

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted through droplets an infected person releases when they breathe, cough or sneeze.

In some circumstances, transmission also occurs when a person touches a contaminated object, then touches their face.

Once SARS-CoV-2 enters your body — usually through your nose or mouth — it starts to replicate.

The period from exposure to the virus being detectable by a PCR test is called the period. For Delta, one study suggests this is an average of four days (with a range of three to five days). That's two days faster than the original strain, which took roughly six days (with a range of five to eight days).

The virus then continues to replicate. Although often there are no symptoms yet, the person has become infectious.

People with COVID-19 appear to be most infectious two days before to three days after symptoms start, though it's unclear whether this differs with Delta.

As the virus replicates, the viral load increases. For Delta, the viral load is up to roughly 1,200 times higher than the original strain.

With faster replication and higher viral loads it is easy to see why Delta is challenging contact tracers and spreading so rapidly.

What are the possible complications?

Like the original strain, the Delta variant can affect many of the body's organs including the lungs, heart and kidneys.

Complications include blood clots, which at their most severe can result in strokes or heart attacks.

Around 10-30 per cent of people with COVID-19 will experience prolonged symptoms, known as long COVID, which can last for months and cause significant impairment, including in people who were previously well.

Longer-lasting symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, headaches, brain fog, muscle aches, sleep disturbance, depression and the loss of smell and taste.

Is it more deadly?

Evidence the Delta variant makes people sicker than the original virus is growing.

Preliminary studies from Canada and Singapore found people infected with Delta were more likely to require hospitalisation and were at greater risk of dying than those with the original virus.

In the Canadian study, Delta resulted in a 6.1 per cent chance of hospitalisation and a 1.6 per cent chance of ICU admission. This compared with other variants of concern which landed 5.4 per cent of people in hospital and 1.2 per cent in intensive care.

In the Singapore study, patients with Delta had a 49 per cent chance of developing pneumonia and a 28 per cent chance of needing extra oxygen. This compared with a 38 per cent per cent chance of developing pneumonia and 11 per cent needing oxygen with the original strain.

Similarly, a published study from Scotland found Delta doubled the risk of hospitalisation compared to the Alpha variant.

How do the vaccines stack up against Delta?

So far, the data show a complete course of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccine reduces your chance of severe disease (requiring hospitalisation) by more than 85 per cent.

While protection is lower for Delta than the original strain, studies show good coverage for all vaccines after two doses.

Can you still get COVID after being vaccinated?

Yes. Breakthrough infection occurs when a vaccinated person tests positive for SARS-Cov-2, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Breakthrough infection appears more common with Delta than the original strains.

Most symptoms of breakthrough infection are mild and don't last as long.

It's also possible to get COVID twice, though this isn't common.

How likely are you to die from COVID-19?

In Australia, over the life of the pandemic, 1.4 per cent of people with COVID-19 have died from it, compared with 1.6 per cent in the United States and 1.8 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Data from the United States shows people who were vaccinated were ten times less likely than those who weren't to die from the virus.

The Delta variant is currently proving to be a challenge to control on a global scale, but with full vaccination and maintaining our social distancing practices, we reduce the spread.




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