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Hiltzik: COVID strategy that turned out to be deadly in practice

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They have degrees from some of the most elite universities in the world – Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Oxford. They are invited to the highest political councils of the government. They became an integral part of television news programs and were constantly quoted by some of the country’s leading newspapers.

This is a group of academics and scientists who have promoted a discredited solution to the COVID pandemic by avoiding masks, school closures and even vaccines, all in the name of achieving the elusive goal of “herd immunity” which has led to what may have been hundreds of thousands of unnecessary American deaths. .

This statement “We want them to get infected” a heavily documented new book by Jonathan Howard, an NYU neuroscientist and veteran exposing the pseudoscience that is polluting our pandemic efforts.

In 2019, you would be considered a charlatan if you assumed that the best way to get rid of a virus is to spread the virus. But it became mainstream and influenced politicians at the highest level.

— Jonathan Howard, MD

Howard received his title from Paul Alexander, an epidemiologist in the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.

In July 2020, Alexander expressed his opinion on how to use the relative risks of COVID to discrete populations to achieve herd immunity. The idea was that so many people would eventually become infected with the virus naturally, and therefore immune to further infection, that the virus would not be able to spread further.

“Infants, children, teens, young adults, young adults, middle-aged people with no medical conditions, etc. have zero or little risk,” he told senior HHS officials. “So we use them to develop the herd… we want them to be infected.”

Alexander’s proposal was essentially a screed against self-isolation. This suited the Trump White House, which was looking for ways to deal with the economic turmoil caused by the virus. But he was wrong about the number of illnesses and deaths that could result from allowing the virus to run rampant among these supposedly low-risk groups, and wrong about the prospects for achieving herd immunity naturally.

We Want Them to Get Infected is perhaps the most horrific and infuriating book you’ll ever read about America’s response to a pandemic. This is also important reading.

The book is populated by charlatans, charlatans, and charlatans, as well as quite a few scholars of outstanding academic achievement, many of whom seem to have been seduced into the embrace of the right-wing echo chamber to promote unproven and debunked policies.

“It’s incredible that while doctors like me were working to treat COVID patients, begging people to stay at home and be safe,” Howard told me, “another group of doctors were working against us—well-known doctors who were willing were intentionally infecting unvaccinated young people with a promise that herd immunity will appear in a couple of months.”

They consistently downplayed the severity of the pandemic, but rarely, if ever, admitted that their optimistic forecasts of morbidity and mortality were consistently wrong.

There are a number of problems with the theory of herd immunity. First, immunity from COVID infection tends to wane over time rather than become permanent. In addition, infection with one variant of the virus does not necessarily confer immunity from other variants, of which there were many.

Another concern is that COVID can be a devastating disease for victims of any age. Allowing someone to become infected can lead to serious health problems.

What’s more, the prospect that COVID can be beaten by naturally expanding herd immunity has convinced many people not to bother with proven countermeasures, including social distancing, mask-wearing, or vaccinations.

Today, more than three years after the first appearance of COVID, the US still has not achieved herd immunity, although it is getting closer to the goal. according to Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. The trajectory of the disease was catastrophic…the US death toll is 1.13 million.hundreds of children have died and it is estimated that 245,000 children have lost one or both parents to COVID. V USA leads the world in cases of death from COVID; its death rate of 3.478 per million population is worse than that of the UK, Spain, France, the Nordic countries, Canada, and Israel.

Some herd immunity advocates have offered their buoyant predictions in a misguided, if not dishonest, attempt to reassure the American public. Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in March 2020 urged HHS officials to speak out against the lockdowns on the grounds that they “inciting irrational fear” a virus that he estimates will kill about 10,000 people. “The panic needs to stop,” Atlas wrote.

Atlas soon became Trump’s top adviser, promoting herd immunity in the White House over the objections of more experienced advisers like Dr. Jones. Deborah Birks.

Howard is particularly concerned about how the politicization of the pandemic has allowed fringe ideas to infiltrate public health policy.

“In 2019, you would be considered a charlatan if you assumed that the best way to get rid of the virus is to spread the virus,” he says. “But it became mainstream and influenced politicians at the highest level.”

In his book, Howard treats propagandists with the deepest contempt. “The Great Barrington Declaration” the Herd Immunity Manifesto, published in October 2020 and originally signed by Stanford epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya; Martin Kuhldorf, then from Harvard; and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford. (Thousands of other academics and scientists would later add their signatures.)

The essence of the declaration was to counter blocking. Its solution was what its drafters called “targeted protection,” which meant giving “those at the lowest risk of death a normal life to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those most at risk.” . are mostly retirees.

The declaration states that older people living at home should be separated from other family members, except when meeting them on the street, and “should deliver groceries and other essentials to the home.”

Targeted protection, the promoters wrote, would allow society to achieve herd immunity and return to normal life in three to six months.

As Howard documents, the declaration was nothing more than a libertarian fantasy. Perhaps this was not surprising, because one of its organizers was an arch-libertarian named Jeffrey Tucker.

To get an idea of ​​Tucker’s worldview, consider a 2016 article titled “Let the kids work.” There he ridiculed the Washington Post for publishing photo gallery of working children 100 years ago, including miners and sweatshops as young as 10.

Tucker replied that these kids were “working in the adult world, surrounded by cool, fussy things and new technologies. They are on the streets, in factories, in mines, with adults and with peers, they study and do. They are valued for what they do, that is, they are valued as people … Whatever you say about it, it’s an exciting life.

At least a better life than “forced into government tanks for a whole decade” – that is, go to school.

The authors of the declaration, writes Howard, never specified how to achieve their goals. Delivering food and supplies to millions of housebound seniors? In an interview with the Hoover Institution, Bhattacharya said, “We could offer free DoorDash to the elderly.”

As Howard observes, Bhattacharya was surprisingly optimistic about “creating a program to deliver fresh food to tens of millions of elderly people for several consecutive months across the country.”

Hand-waving like this solved the problems of multi-generational households that house millions of vulnerable older people. The authors of the declaration wrote that elderly family members “may temporarily live with an older friend or sibling, with whom they can self-isolate together in the midst of community spread of infection.” As a last resort, vacant hotel rooms can be used for temporary housing.”

Of course, hermetically isolating tens of millions of “invulnerable” people from tens of millions of vulnerable people in a few weeks would be “the single greatest logistical challenge that mankind has ever faced,” notes Howard. “Nowhere in the world has targeted protection been used to achieve herd immunity in three to six months, as promised by the Great Barrington Declaration.”

The Declaration did indeed promote complacency. Its compilers, says Howard, were “people with no real responsibility for anything, which made the impossible seem very simple. The task of delivering food to the homes of the elderly was left to health authorities that were understaffed, overburdened and underfunded.”

What may be the most unforgivable element of the herd immunity movement is that children can be used as shields for the rest of the population. Its proponents advised against vaccinating young children on the grounds that their susceptibility to the virus was minimal or even non-existent so they could safely acquire immunity naturally – and possibly as Vinay Prasad of UC San Francisco impliesprovide increased immunity for adults in their families.

However, while children tend to experience fewer symptoms when they are infected, they are not immune. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1600 American children under the age of 18 died from COVID during the pandemic.

In any case, death is not the only serious outcome from COVID. CDC says more than 14,000 children were hospitalized for COVID during a pandemic. Countless children may suffer long-term COVID or other lifelong manifestations of the disease. Howard said doctors advise deliberately infecting children with COVID when a vaccine is available, especially if the goal is to protect adults. Hey right.

In a science-driven world, the proponents of the failed herd immunity theory would have long lost their credibility and their public soap box.

The opposite happened. Bhattacharya and Kulldorf still have their platforms (Kuldorf is now affiliated with right-wing Hillsdale College). Both were nominated in December by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president. “Committee on Public Health Integrity” accused of questioning federal public health policy.

Meanwhile, Scott Atlas was scheduled to give the commencement address at New College of Florida, the once-famous liberal arts institution that DeSantis has turned into a right-wing pedagogy paradise. He was met with exclamations from the audience of high school graduateshowever, indicates that America’s youth may not be as easily deceived as their parents.

At the moment, right-wing anti-science ideology seems to be on the rise. The COVID vaccine agitation is metastasizing into an opposition movement against all childhood vaccinations, a trend that threatens to spark a surge in other vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and polio.

“The anti-vaccine movement saw an opportunity to sow doubt,” Howard told me. “Getting rid of all school vaccination regulations has always been the Holy Grail for them.”

Howard’s book is a warning. We may be on the brink of a public health disaster because the proponents of the failed theory that COVID can be fought with “natural immunity” without vaccines have been able to take on the mantle of truth-tellers. But it’s not.

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Multivitamins protect the brain from aging, scientists say

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Researchers reported Wednesday that multivitamin supplements may help slow down the normal forgetfulness that comes with age.

An analysis of data from more than 3,500 older participants found that those who took Centrum Silver tablets daily for three years had better memory than those who received placebo treatment, according to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The effects seen in the study are “very, very encouraging,” said study co-author Adam Brickman, professor of neuropsychology at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.

“Cognitive changes and memory loss are a major health concern for older people,” he said. “And we don’t have many strategies to mitigate the changes associated with aging. Therefore, it is reassuring that the supplement may help address one of the major health concerns in older adults.”

To find out if taking a daily multivitamin could benefit cognitive function, the researchers turned to study participants. Cocoa Supplementation and Multivitamin Results Study (COSMOS, a multi-year study of 21,442 older men and women to investigate the effects of cocoa and multivitamin supplements on cognitive function and risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Haleon, formerly known as Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, makes Centrum Silver and supplies the vitamins used in trials. Mars Edge, part of the Mars candy and snack maker, co-funded the study in part with the National Institutes of Health. None of the companies participated in the design of the study or in the conclusions.

For the new study, Brickman and colleagues followed a subset of 3,562 people from a larger study who were randomly assigned a multivitamin or a placebo.

The researchers used a new web-based test to assess participants’ memories at the start of the study, one year later, and three years later.

The study found that, compared with the placebo group, men and women who took a daily multivitamin did significantly better on a memory test that assessed a person’s ability to recall a list of words immediately after reading it.

The researchers estimated that the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance by 3.1 years compared to placebo.

This is the second major study to find a cognitive benefit from taking multivitamins. Last year, another study, COSMOS-Mind, found that taking a daily multivitamin was associated with a 60 percent slowdown in cognitive aging worldwide. This study also used data from a group of COSMOS participants.

Researchers often can’t replicate the results of “big bright studies,” Brickman said. “We have a clear replication of the effect of multivitamins on cognitive function. This gives us much more confidence in the data.”

Researchers do not yet know which ingredient in multivitamins, including vitamins A, C, B and zinc, may affect cognition. “It’s important to understand this,” said epidemiologist Howard Sesso, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study.

It’s also unclear if these results will be seen with other brands of multivitamins.

“This particular brand was chosen because it is widely used in the US and has a good quality and safety record,” said Sesso, who is also a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “In addition, we tested a very similar Centrum Silver formula” in an earlier study titled Physicians’ Health Study II, He said. This study found no cognitive benefit from taking multivitamins.

Researchers have not yet looked at other types of multivitamins to determine if they would work just as well or if the benefits are specific to a particular form.

The effect observed by the researchers is relatively small, so a person may not notice any improvement, although it can be seen on larger data, the doctor said. Paul Newhouse, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine, who was not involved in the new study.

Remarkably, “none of the groups showed cognitive decline,” he said. “Rather, you see how much one group has improved in three years.”

Although the effect is small, the use of a multivitamin along with other lifestyle modifications that have already been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, such as exercise and adherence to a Mediterranean diet, may result in a larger combined effect, he says.

Newhouse discourages doctors from prescribing multivitamins to their patients to prevent cognitive decline.

“We need longer studies,” he said. “But this study suggests that multivitamin supplements are not harmful and may be potentially beneficial.”

Also, because the participants either graduated from or went to college, the results may be different for other groups of people, the doctor said. Riddhi Patira, researcher at the Alzheimer’s Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

It is also atypical for the patients she sees who are already experiencing cognitive decline.

“These are normal people who can go online to take a test,” Patira said. “They are very motivated people.”

When patients ask her to make lifestyle changes that can help prevent cognitive decline, she suggests a healthy diet.

Patira, who was not involved in the new study, said the follow-up was not long enough to suggest a multivitamin to improve cognitive performance.

In healthy people with normal cognition, the decline “is so slow that it’s hard to detect anything significant after a year,” she said, adding that differences may not be noticeable for five to twenty years.

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Fast-growing chickens: Judge dismisses Frankencourt farmers’ welfare case

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A Supreme Court judge dismissed a legal challenge about the welfare of fast-growing chickens on farms.

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Florida students will hear from NASA astronauts aboard the space station

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NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station will speak with students at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

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