Even very politically seasoned and jaded contacts are gobsmacked by the New York Times’ revelation that the CDC is not releasing most of the data it collects. As we’ll discuss shortly, this is dramatic change from the agency’s posture in previous outbreaks. And the disappeared info includes types it published earlier in the pandemic.
However, this isn’t news to our Covid brain trust. GM has been pointing out for months about how quite a few states have been playing games with their reporting, such as periodic catch up dumps, going from daily to weekly, and sometimes reports that don’t seem plausible. IM Doc described how the CDC has abandoned its role of advising practitioners on emerging symptoms and patterns of disease progress, along with local data failures which mean national one.1
It’s disappointing that the Grey Lady failed to take the obvious next step of filing a FOIA for the apparently-to-hot-to-handle details. Since the CDC has published precisely this sort of information in the past, it would not seem to have a leg to stand on faced with a legal challenge.
Key sections from the article:
For more than a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected data on hospitalizations for Covid-19 in the United States and broken it down by age, race and vaccination status. But it has not made most of the information public.
When the C.D.C. published the first significant data on the effectiveness of boosters in adults younger than 65 two weeks ago, it left out the numbers for a huge portion of that population: 18- to 49-year-olds, the group least likely to benefit from extra shots, because the first two doses already left them well-protected.
The agency recently debuted a dashboard of wastewater data on its website that will be updated daily and might provide early signals of an oncoming surge of Covid cases. Some states and localities had been sharing wastewater information with the agency since the start of the pandemic, but it had never before released those findings.
Two full years into the pandemic, the agency leading the country’s response to the public health emergency has published only a tiny fraction of the data it has collected, several people familiar with the data said.
Much of the withheld information could help state and local health officials better target their efforts to bring the virus under control. Detailed, timely data on hospitalizations by age and race would help health officials identify and help the populations at highest risk. Information on hospitalizations and death by age and vaccination status would have helped inform whether healthy adults needed booster shots. And wastewater surveillance across the nation would spot outbreaks and emerging variants early….
The performance of vaccines and boosters, particularly in younger adults, is among the most glaring omissions in data the C.D.C. has made public.
Last year, the agency repeatedly came under fire for not tracking so-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated Americans, and focusing only on individuals who became ill enough to be hospitalized or die. The agency presented that information as risk comparisons with unvaccinated adults, rather than provide timely snapshots of hospitalized patients stratified by age, sex, race and vaccination status..
If you see the second part of the footnote at the end of this post, the CDC does not in fact have accurate data on vaccinated v. unvaccinated status. It is entirely absent in IM Doc’s state. He is listed as unvaccinated (the apparent default) despite multiple attempts to get his record corrected. He also has many Covid patients in his hospital listed as unvaccinated who were in fact vaccinated and in some cases boosted. I can’t think his state is the only one.
It sure looks like the CDC thinks its just fine to give doctors and the public the mushroom treatment in the interest of narrative control and shielding the CDC from criticism when its information quality is poor. But unpleasant truths, like the much-shorter-than-hoped duration of vaccine-induced immunity, has gotten through anyhow thanks to reporting from countries that are competent at data collection, such as Israel. The article offers other excuses, like “The public might misuse the information!” and “The info from states isn’t always so hot.” Re the latter, gee, why weren’t you offering to help? Last I checked, the CDC has 32,000 employees. Surely a few could be tasked to help out particular states?
The article points out that the CDC has data for only 10% (of adults?) and it uses this sort of sampling for influenza data. But what kind of sampling methodology omits an entire state?
The reality is that the officials don’t like what the data shows. As GM has repeatedly pointed out, after 10 weeks, the efficacy of boosters even against serious cases drops to below 50%, which is too low a level to be very protective. Yet the European Medicines agency has advised against multiple boosters in a year due to the risk of overtaxing the immune system.
The CDC and FDA have backed themselves in a corner by recommending only vaccines as a Covid defense and continuing to depict masks as an imposition that is necessary only in surges. So data that shows that the vaccines are not terribly effective against Omicron and Omicron BA.2, by admitting that there are vaccinated and boosted individuals who wound up in the hospital, is something they can’t afford to acknowledge. So instead they have pre-positioned the blame cannons so that pointing out the (now considerable under new variants) limitations of the vaccines is smeared as being anti-vaxx.
Then we have patently ridiculous statements like this:
Relying on Israeli data to make booster recommendations for Americans was less than ideal, Dr. Offit noted. Israel defines severe disease differently than the United States, among other factors.
“There’s no reason that they should be better at collecting and putting forth data than we were,” Dr. Offit said of Israeli scientists. “The C.D.C. is the principal epidemiological agency in this country, and so you would like to think the data came from them.”
Huh? First, Israel is a country of nine million people with universal health coverage, even of permanent residents. So they have centralized data gathering. The US has the primary responsibility for public health at the state level. Second, in the US, health care is about money, not health. I was shocked at how long it took my mother, me, and our aide to get vaccinated because the pharmacy had trouble working out how to bill for my shot, and even more so for my mother’s. So why should we be any good at health metrics when that isn’t a priority?
Yet they have the temerity to call themselves “the premier public health agency in the world.” The CDC is running on brand fumes. As IM Doc noted about this story in comments yesterday:
A little bit of history –
When America first found out about AIDS – it was from the MMWR – Mortality & Morbidity Weekly Report – that has been published by the CDC for decades. This was also the tabulation source during the AIDS crisis of all of the other issues going on from PCP pneumonia to toxoplasma of the brain to all the cancers going on in AIDS patients. The CDC was all over it. The same can be said of ZIKA, West Nile Virus, and countless others. Our CDC was the envy of the world. They worked in total transparency and published all their numbers very quickly.
It is important to note how vitally important that information was for clinicians on the ground during AIDS. It gave us some kind of perspective on problems, their prevalence, and sharing treatment ideas.
This has been one of the most notable failures of the CDC this time – the MMWR may as well be parrot cage liner. They have not been sharing complete information from the beginning about hospitalizations, deaths, vaccine issues, you name it.
For those of us who are veterans – it has been a striking difference. And the tragedy is Dr. Walensky was so vocal early on about how she was going to work on getting the statistics and epidemiologic wings of the CDC up to their former glory.
And from scientist GM:
No surprise whatsoever, other than that this is even discussed in the NYT.
How many vaccinated people are dying is a closely guarded secret at the federal level, and only a few states are releasing that information locally.
I met someone recently who works in the tech world doing quite advanced stuff, and he genuinely thought that 99% of the people who are dying are unvaccinated.
In reality for very recent time periods (i.e. deep into the Omicron wave) I have only seen numbers for Israel, UK, WA, and MA and the majority of people dying now, 50% to 80%, are in fact vaccinated.
But even quite highly educated people who are not following things closely are completely delusional about the situation. Partly because the propaganda has worked very well, partly because their critical thinking skills are apparently not very well developed, because alarms should be immediately ringing in one’s mind when he sees all the double and triple vaxxed people in their 20s and 30s getting absolutely hammered by Omicron all around him and yet the claims are that nobody vaccinated is dying. That is simply impossible from first principles — VE [vaccine effectiveness] went down the drain even with respect to quite nasty illness in young healthy people, but somehow it is still at 99% against death in the elderly with serious comorbidities? That is just absurd…
The problem is that when people point out that so many vaccinated people are dying, the mob descends on them, calling them antivaxxers.
Thus nobody has actually even dared say the complete truth, which is that we actually have **thousands** vaccinated dying every day in the US. It is always mentioned as **hundreds**. But it was 58% of the dead being vaccinated in MA the last time I saw numbers, and MA is a highly vaccinated state, but not UK-level highly vaccinated, so I doubt it is less than 35-40% currently anywhere in the country and the average is at minimum at that too.
Officially deaths peaked at 2,600 a day this winter.
But, we know excess deaths have been running at 20-25% higher throughout the pandemic because of insufficient testing and outright faked death certificates. So make that 3,000 in reality.
Also, last year there were many big data dumps months after the winter wave passed, that overall added some 20K deaths. This year reporting has been much more irregular and many states have been moving towards not reporting at all in real time. So the safe bet is that there will both be even bigger data dumps in the coming months and that the discrepancy between official and excess deaths is higher and will keep increasing.
So 3,000 a day in total is the minimum, while I would not at all be surprised if the actual number crossed 4,000 at the peak and that we are at more than 3,000 a day even now.
But let’s take it to be 3,000, 35% of that is 1,000 dead a day, 50% of it is 1,500.
That these numbers are probably correct is also corroborated by the data from Israel — Israel actually releases that information and hey have had most of their deaths in the vaccinated in this wave (and “vaccinated” there means three doses, not two, when you add those in the “expired” category, it gets to 70-80% of all deaths). They peaked in this wave at levels equivalent to over 3,000 dead a day in the US. Vaccination rates are somewhat comparable, i.e. Israel is not UK-level, everyone-vulnerable-with-at-least-two-and-most-with-three-shots because of the religious factor.
The UK itself peaked at the equivalent of 1500 dead a day in the US and 80% of those were vaccinated, so even if vaccination in the US had been at comparable levels, the US would have had over 1000 vaccinated dying every day.
Recall that in summer 2020, before we had vaccines, the US peak was at 1,200 a day. And that was a tragedy back then. Now we are above that just within the vaccinated and it is almost completely covered up.
And now it has all been declared over, which means that boosting will be forgotten as a concern even further, and the next variant will be met with no NPIs and vaccines that have faded to very low levels of protection among much of the population….
Here we are. The eagerness of American elites to maintain their illusion of competence is digging our collective Covid hole even deeper. And even though treated-as-if-they-are-dispensable essential workers and the elderly will fare worst, it’s not as if those at the top of the food chain will escape unscathed. But by the time enough of them individually get wake-up calls so as to puncture their collective denial, it will be too late to change course. It is already too late now.
1 Some IM Doc doozies. From August:
I was informed today by the Health Dept that they have absolutely zero way of tracking correctly vaccinated cases. In that they do not have the ability to retrospectively find out which vaccination the person has had. So there is no way the CDC will be having this kind of detail, unless other states are doing this. I seriously kind of doubt it. It is now looking more and more that it is going to be up to local physicians like myself.
When you have been doing this as long as I have, you have a memory of what happened before and with that comes certain expectations about what should be happening now. I think that is what separates the older than 55 crowd from the under 40 crowd.
We do not even have to go back to AIDS. I am thinking of the last 2 events in my career where there was exceptional involvement from the CDC. In 2018, we had the vaping crisis. In 2012 or thereabouts, we had the West Nile issue. Although that virus had been with us since 2001 here in the USA, it really exploded in the summer of 2012 in the Deep South in the USA. I will not include the 2014 Ebola problem. The CDC was very involved there but that never really had to be taken nationally, these other 2 examples did.
In both cases, there was frequent, at times weekly updating from the CDC about treatment options and guidelines. There was intense discussion of what seemed to be working and what did not. In both cases, these treatment options were obviously non-approved for these purposes by the FDA. There was a crisis, and this is what we have available, and this is how you should be using them. This is what works. This is what does not work. And this is our evidence why we feel the way we do. This was constant from the CDC in both cases.
That has simply not happened at all in COVID. Here we are 2 years into this. There is not a single shred of treatment advice from the CDC outside of the inpatient setting. Let’s face it – most antiviral efforts have to be done immediately. That would mean where I work in an outpatient setting is the golden hour. If we wait till the patients are in the hospital they are going to have much worse outcomes. The agencies are saying nothing about outpatient therapy and have put forth nothing. We have worldwide studies on fluvoxamine, ivermectin, HCQ, steroids, VIT D, VIT C, Zinc, and I am sure there are many others. We now have monoclonal AB. A question – have you ever heard Dr. Fauci discuss monoclonal AB in a positive way? If you have please show it to me.
There has been no guidance at all about any of these therapy options. There has been lots of censoring, hectoring, belittling, and confusion. It is unusual to find a physician willing to engage any of these therapies, despite some of them having overwhelming positive signals in early outpatient therapy.
There is not ONE single bullet. By now, 2 years into this we should be throwing all kinds of things at these patients – anti-virals, anti-clotting agents, anti-inflammatory agents. But we are doing nothing.
Again, our CDC has done nothing to help with this at all. NOTHING. Not only the CDC. In previous events, there was treatment advice flowing from medical schools around the country. CRICKETS.
We have gone all in on the vaccine approach and have done so from the beginning.
Now, the bill is due. My office is literally flooding with vaxxed and boosted patients that are very ill. We are in a precarious situation with the hospitals of America. They are in much worse shape employee-wise than many Americans would dare dream.
I feel all alone. I feel it is my sworn job to keep as many of these people safe and out of the hospital as possible. But there is literally no help from the CDC at all VAX VAX VAX. Here is the problem – about 85% of these patients in my practice that are now positive and getting sicker by the day are already VAXED Many of them boostered. We are in the middle of a crisis with the hospitals – and we simply cannot fill them up the way we have.
I have never felt so shat on professionally in my life. I am having to weave together treatment protocols from multiple sources. And hope for the best that we can survive.