The Corner

Health Care

Doctors Starting to Offer Louder Dissents to the CDC’s Recent Decisions

A healthcare worker administers a shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination site operated by SOMOS Community Care in Manhattan, N.Y., January 29, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not having a great week.

First, in USA Today, a group of doctors is accusing the CDC of misinterpreting their research and using it to downplay the need to reopen schools, contending the CDC guidance on reopening schools is an  “example of fears influencing and resulting in misinterpretation of science and harmful policy.”

The guidance does not take into account the data we have regarding little disease transmission in schools. Nor, although the guidance cites the work performed across Wisconsin districts performed by our group and published in the MMWR, does it take that data and new analyses from that dataset into account. Keeping schools closed or even partially closed, based on what we know now is unwarranted, is harming children, and has become a human rights issue.

Second, the airline industry argues that the CDC guidelines for vaccinated people issued this week make no sense because they still discourage vaccinated people from traveling. Unvaccinated people are traveling while wearing masks now; why would it be considered particularly risky for vaccinated people to do the same while wearing masks on airplanes, etc.?

Third, Dr. Leana Wen — the former health commissioner of Baltimore and short-lived head of Planned Parenthood* — writes in the Washington Post that the recently issued guidelines “are too timid and too limited, and they fail to tie reopening guidance with vaccination status. As a result, the CDC missed a critical opportunity to incentivize Americans to be vaccinated.”

The fact that lots of doctors disagree with the CDC guidelines, and find them too vague or cautious, doesn’t necessarily mean the institution is wrong. But before the guidelines came out, public-health experts such as former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb warned that if the guidelines for vaccinated people were too restrictive, people would just tune out the CDC’s assessment. If you want people to get vaccinated, public-health officials need to emphasize the benefits from doing so. If getting vaccinated doesn’t provide any mitigation of risk from traveling, attending church services, and going to restaurants — an absurd position, based upon what we know about the vaccine reducing the rate transmission — then what’s the point?

*Wen’s time at Planned Parenthood ended abruptly, and her bio at the Washington Post only briefly mentions title there.

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