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Prominent Doctor: Let's Face It, the CDC Is the Anti-Vax Movement's Top Recruiter Right Now

Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Over the weekend, prominent doctor, bestselling author and Fox News medical analyst Nicole Saphier criticized the Centers for Disease Control over a policy decision regarding vaccinations for children. Having interviewed Dr. Saphier dozens of times over the past few years, I know from experience that she is in no way an 'anti-vaxxer,' even as she's grown increasingly critical of the government's one-size-fits-all approach to COVID vaccination. She argued on Sunday that formally lumping in the COVID vaccine with other critically important vaccines for children as a matter of official policy is a mistake that will breed and entrench further public mistrust.

"Bad decision" seems like an understatement:

In a radio interview this week, Saphier expanded on her critique, arguing that by conflating the importance of certain key vaccines with the COVID vaccines for kids, the federal health bureaucracy is actively undermining faith in their expertise and wisdom, which in turn is causing more parents to question whether their children really need some of the others that are recommended or required.  In this sense, she told me, these government officials are the biggest recruiters for the 'anti-vax' movement on the scene today:

"When it comes to COVID and kids, that is probably one of the most infuriating things that has happened is just the complete dissonance, dishonesty and lack of transparency from the CDC when it came to their recommendations, which ultimately trickled down and turned into mandates regarding our children...You cannot compare measles, mumps, rubella, polio to COVID when it comes to kids. I mean, the the fatality rates of those others are just extremely high. And when it comes to COVID and mortality rates in children, it is exceedingly low, approaching zero. And in fact, we don't even have clear data on it because the CDC has not released an actual number of how many healthy children have died from COVID. We know that the number of deaths associated with COVID, especially in children, have been inflated upwards of over 50 percent. In other countries. They have actually reported zero healthy children have died from COVID, but the United States has failed to actually put forth accurate data to give us a realistic risk...all of a sudden parents, especially those who no longer trust the system. And by the way, I can't blame them. They're they're going to lump all of these together and they're not going to go. And we've already seen the cycle of that. We've seen decrease childhood vaccination rates throughout the pandemic. Some of it was because people didn't want to go into the doctor. Pediatricians weren't even allowing people in. But now that we've kind of gotten back to a level of normalcy, you're still seeing declining vaccination rates. And the CDC is responsible for it. And they are the number one supporter of the anti-vax campaign right now."

A harsh, striking assessment.  In that same interview, I asked Saphier about this recent scientific analysis of some of the best available studies on the efficacy of masking during the COVID pandemic.  We already knew that the data shows that mask mandates in schools and in communities writ large don't work.  These new findings, however, go even further.  In case you missed it:

After questioning the value of general mask-wearing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided the practice was so demonstrably effective that it should be legally mandated even for 2-year-olds. A new review of the evidence suggests the CDC had it right the first time. That review, published by the Cochrane Library, an authoritative collection of scientific databases, analyzed 18 randomized controlled trials that aimed to measure the impact of surgical masks or N95 respirators on the transmission of respiratory viruses. It found that wearing a mask in public places “probably makes little or no difference” in the number of infections. These findings go to the heart of the case for mask mandates, a policy that generated much resentment and acrimony during the pandemic. They also show that the CDC, which has repeatedly exaggerated the evidence in favor of masks, cannot be trusted as a source of public health information...

In any case, including the [flawed] Bangladesh RCT, which accounted for a large share of the data in the Cochrane meta-analysis, it did not change the overall results, which indicated “little or no effect of mask use.” And contrary to the expectation that N95 respirators would prove superior to surgical masks, the review found that the existing evidence “demonstrates no differences in clinical effectiveness.” The authors suggest several possible explanations for these results, including “poor study design,” inconsistent or improper mask use, “self-contamination of the mask by hands,” “saturation of masks with saliva” and increased risk-taking based on “an exaggerated sense of security.” But one thing is clear: Instead of following the science on masks, the CDC distorted it to support a predetermined conclusion.

We also discussed the framing of this Washington Post headline, which President Biden also adopted in his State of the Union Address last week:

The China-originated disease appeared out of nowhere, and many world leaders scrambled to adapt to frightening and novel circumstances. But as time elapsed, it was political actors and special interest groups -- not the disease itself, or sound science -- that made and guided decisions impacting millions of lives.  Blaming failures of leadership on the virus is an attempt to absolve that leadership of blame.  It cannot be accepted, given the serious harm that continues to be chronicled and quantified.  I'll leave you with these phenomena, which are not a coincidence:


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