More Voodoo Epidemiology at the CDC

Ten days ago, I wrote a post about the Centers for Disease Control’s unscientific but resolute refusal to acknowledge the natural immunity conferred by having contracted the covid virus. That post included a link to a column by Todd Zywicki in the Wall Street Journal that reviewed the evidence that natural immunity is comparable to or better than that provided by covid vaccines.

At around the same time, the CDC seized on a Kentucky study to conclude that all persons should be vaccinated, including those who have already acquired natural immunity by experiencing the disease. CDC has misrepresented the significance of that study. The relevant question is whether people who have had covid are any more likely to be re-infected than people who have not had covid, but who have been vaccinated. But the Kentucky study did not address that question at all. Rather, it looked only at those who had already contracted covid, and examined whether a subsequent vaccination would reduce their small risk of re-infection even further.

Our occasional correspondent who is a neurosurgeon in Washington commented on the CDC’s misuse of the Kentucky study:

It has many flaws, questions and key omissions:

1. It uses a “case-control” methodology that reverses the logic of more intuitive methods, by first identifying cohorts of re-infected individuals and their vaccination rate, and comparing it to a randomly selected, demographically similar control group. Using this method, they queried the Kentucky state’s database of COVID individuals, and found only 246 people who again tested positive for the virus in May/June of 2021. Of these people, they found 72.8% were unvaccinated, compared to 57.7% of the control group. This suggests reinfected individuals would have benefited from the vaccine. The problem? In the communication, they OMIT the denominator of total COVID recovered patients in KY in 2020, but this independently reported in public databases as ~275,000 cases. This means only 246/275,000 patients got reinfected in May/June, resulting in 0.05%/month re-infection rate. This is ridiculously small, given the breakthrough rate for vaccines is on the order of 5-10%!

2. While the reinfected patients necessarily had a positive test result, the control group did not have any testing requirements. This is problematic, because asymptomatic individuals will rarely get tested, and vaccinated individuals may still not get tested even if symptomatic. The end result is that the total number of re-infections (symptomatic and asymptomatic) in the vaccinated group are underestimated. To their credit, the authors acknowledge this, but do not qualify its potential impact.

3. The study curiously looked at reinfections that occurred specifically and only in May and June of 2021. Why not look at all reinfections after the vaccine was made available, in January 2021? The authors justify this decision by saying, “because of vaccine supply and eligibility requirement considerations; this period was more likely to reflect resident choice to be vaccinated, rather than eligibility.” But it is preposterous to believe that an individual’s choice of vaccination impact the efficacy of vaccination. More likely, perhaps cynically, these months were selected to give the authors a desired result that the full time period did not.

4. The authors write in their limitations, “these findings cannot be used to infer causation.” However, by its release and amplification in mainstream media, the causation is clearly being inferred by the public!

The CDC has recognized that a large portion of vaccine hesitators are recovered COVID patients, who believe in natural immunity. But the external clinical data has actually supported the strength of natural immunity. These studies have been largely neglected by the CDC and other officials. Now, we have situation whereby the CDC is not only just “cherry-picking” the external studies that are beneficial to their agenda, they are now actively creating “voodoo” studies that support their goals. Voodoo is the perfect term.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Our slavish press has taken the CDC’s misleading study and run with it. Our neurosurgeon followed up a few days later:

But now, not only is the study inherently flawed, it being misinterpreted and propagated in the media incorrectly as well.

In their media press release, the CDCs headline reads, “New CDC Study: Vaccination Offers Higher Protection than Previous COVID-19 Infection.” This headline is wrong — the study did not show vaccination is better than immunity from COVID infection, it showed (flaws notwithstanding) that vaccination in the previously infected reduces risk of reinfection (which is already very low) in the previously infected alone. If you believe the CDC study, the 0.09% baseline risk of reinfection in the previously reinfected, would be reduced to roughly a 0.04% risk. This means, you would need to vaccinate 2,000 previously infected individuals to save ONE positive PCR test (and even that one would likely be mild)!

This misinterpretation was promoted by none other than Francis Collins (former director of NIH, and a former medical school teacher of mine).
Here, Collins is echoing the same misinterpretation (vaccination efficacy is better than natural immunity). Again, this is wrong. The study (if you believe it) shows that already previously infected individuals would benefit from the vaccine, although the absolute benefit is actually very small.

Marty Makary, a JHU Surgical Professor critiques the CDC, and claims that the CDC was “fishing” with this study. They did an analysis in all 50 states, and found only Kentucky’s result as the narrative they wanted to promote (also in the twitter clip above).

Martin Kuldorff, another highly respected epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, also critiqued Dr.Collins on this point.

The CDC has ignored at least 3 studies that have shown that natural immunity is equivalent (if not superior to vaccinated immunity).

1. An Oxford University study (~11,000 people) showed 90% and 85% effectiveness of the vaccine and natural immunity, respectively. This difference was not statistically significant, and differed by only one patient.

2. A study of the entire Israeli population (6.3M people) showed 92.8% vs. 94.8 effectiveness of vaccine and natural immunity, respectively. The superiority of natural immunity held for every age group, and for all severities of illness.

3. A Cleveland Clinic Study of (~52,000 people), demonstrated 99.3%% and 100% effectiveness of vaccine and natural immunity, respectively. No individual in this study who previously got COVID, got reinfected.

These last two studies, though methodologically robust, have been inexplicably held up in the peer-review process for political reasons, but the CDC publishes this minor but yet substantially flawed study simply to promote its narrative. MMWR is not externally peer reviewed, only internally cleared. The CDCs use of this study has given corporations, universities, and other institutions justification to coerce vaccinations on the naturally immune. So many of us physicians and scientists are so frustrated and disgusted by how critical thought and medical evidence has been thrown out the door in order to achieve political gain.

I can’t explain the CDC’s mania to force everyone to be vaccinated. Now we have the spectacle of restaurants and bars in New York being directed to bar customers who haven’t been vaccinated, regardless of their natural immune status. Similar vaccine “passport” requirements may be instituted in other areas of the U.S., as they have been in France, for example. And many private employers and other organizations are adopting similar rules.

Which prompts the question, whatever happened to herd immunity? Some months ago, it was taken as given that the immune percentage of the population consisted of those who had either had the disease, or been vaccinated against it. When that percentage reached some unknown number–60%, or perhaps 70%–the virus would die out. This is another instance, I take it, of the CDC’s memory hole. First “Doctor” Fauci moved the goal posts, now he has changed the rules entirely.

Many millions have been vaccinated without incident, but side effects, sometimes serious, are by no means rare. There is no scientific reason to pressure a person who has recovered from covid to also be vaccinated. The whole point of a vaccine, after all, is to mimic the effect of actually having the disease.

Many nurses, knowing this and having seen side effects in patients, are declining to be vaccinated. I believe that currently the unvaccinated portion of nurses is around 25%. Some hospital systems are now barring them from working, and hospitals have begun canceling surgeries and other treatment because of a self-induced shortage of nurses.

So the CDC’s refusal to acknowledge the scientific reality of natural immunity has serious consequences, even apart from the side effects that some of those who are vaccinated needlessly will experience. Why has the CDC embarked on this damaging and unscientific course? I wish I knew.

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