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BREAKING: US to drop COVID-19 testing for incoming travelers
Friday Pulse Check
Good morning and happy Friday. Here is your weekly e-newsletter from FLATLINING that we call the Friday Pulse Check.
I just love it when a breaking story takes away my witty headline:
The Biden Administration will announce today that the US will drop pre-departure COVID-19 international air testing requirements effective Sunday. This comes after heavy lobbying from airlines. In December, the CDC tightened restrictions by requiring visitors and residents traveling to the US on airplanes to receive a negative COVID-19 test one day before departure, rather than three.
It is a bit of an about-face for the World Health Organization, who this week said that it is a theory that cannot be discounted. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysesus has been asking senior Chinese government officials for more data about the Wuhan lab, but China has been reluctant to share any information. Last year, the WHO initially said that it is “extremely unlikely” COVID-19 came from a lab.
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland outfitted medical residents with infrared badges and tracked internal medicine interns’ whereabouts in the hospital between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019. In a study published in JAMA, researchers found that interns spend only 13% of their time at the bedside, while the rest is spent making rounds. Researchers concluded that this may an opportunity to reform medical training to give more residents time at the bedside.
Another study published in JAMA used air samples from the West Roxbury VA Medical Center in Boston taken from the nurse station and found that the viral fragments there were identical to those found in patients and staff infected with COVID-19. The data was collected from 27 December 2020 to 8 January 2021. Researchers concluded that better ventilation and enforcement of masks and social distancing in hospital common areas can reduce the risk of hospital transmission.
Well, unfortunately, you and I both know it won’t be free, and despite the somewhat comprehensive plan Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has laid out in the Medicare for All Act of 2022, it is not clear how he wants to pay for it.
We know he has said in the past that he would support a wealth tax or reforming the income tax, but to provide out-of-pocket free healthcare to American citizens (and residents, which will be defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services) is a huge bill. We can’t even fund original Medicare as it is without running a deficit. Perhaps we’ll hear more from Mr. Sanders on this in the future.
Ron and I spent time this week discussing the implications of Mr. Sanders’ plan if the Medicare for All Act of 2022 were to pass. I encourage you to listen and I would like to tease a point we made in the program.
The way Mr. Sanders has developed and introduced this version of Medicare for All has given a lot of power to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Specifically, the secretary would have this power: determine who is a “resident” of the United States for the purposes of receiving healthcare, how much particular healthcare services are going to cost (through delegated authority to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regional offices), and determine the national health budget. Politically, what is the problem with this? The Secretary of Health and Human Services changes from administration to administration. An HHS secretary under a Democratic president would have many different rules than a secretary under a Republican president. Do we really want our healthcare jerked around that way every four to eight years?
A reading from the book of VAERS
Some people just can’t seem to give up the unnecessary politicization of COVID-19 vaccines. I want to be clear that the best advice we can give at FLATLINING is to talk to your doctor about COVID-19 vaccines. That is what I did.
A recent article in the Federalist appears to be trying to talk down the new Novavax vaccine. To be completely honest, I have no idea why. The only point to this article that I can find is that they want to complain about the Biden FDA and CDC and how healthcare professionals are putting the American public at risk.
The article is also poorly researched. The author is trying to make the point that the FDA is allowing emergency approval for vaccines that aren’t safe. He says that the Novavax vaccine has “potentially deadly cardiovascular adverse events” just like the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Astra-Zeneca (still not approved in the US) vaccines. He points to an article, also written by him, from February which hypes up the numbers of adverse effects in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (aka VAERS).
As a former FDA commissioner for drug safety, he of all people should know that VAERS is raw data that you cannot interpret without serious scrutiny and study. When I researched VAERS in a previous job, I found that I could make an adverse report for any vaccine ever manufactured with no identifying information other than saying the brand name of the vaccine.
If you want to point to data and make a point from it, you have to collect that data and line it up in a consistent way. Take all of the data about one of the COVID-19 vaccines. Then only look at those that have some cardiovascular problems. Then only look at those that have identifying information vaccine batch that the patient received. Then verify that the people who submitted the test actually exist.
This is data analysis 101. I have yet to see anyone who has a problem with the vaccines do any sort of comprehensive analysis on adverse effects. I have only seen “there’s this many adverse effects reported in VAERS.” Seriously? That’s the best you can do?
I’ll say the same thing I said to Paracelsus a few weeks ago: Once you convince a majority of your peers, I’ll take you seriously.
If you want to write competently about COVID-19 vaccines, please stop citing VAERS unless you’re going to scrutinize the data. It is lazy and that trend has passed. You aren’t saying anything new.
Germany announced today that they will be sending 200 doctors to Ukraine and helping them to build new trauma centers. They will also connect Ukrainian hospitals to other telehealth services in Germany. Germany has provided around €100 million and Germany’s healthcare system has also donated around €100 so far. The World Health Organization has said there have been more than 290 attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February.
Fun fact: due to inflation in the US and around the world $1 = €0.94. That is closer than it has been in a long time.
Have a good weekend,
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