CDC director Rochelle Walensky's COVID-19 case and the professor of epidemiology
Over the weekend, CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19:
Walensky is "up to date with her vaccines," the statement said, and is experiencing mild symptoms. She is isolating at home, per her agency's guidance, which recommends quarantining for at least five days after testing positive.
I certainly wish her well, with a speedy recovery and no lasting damage. But coming down with a case of COVID a month after she made a highly publicized visit to a CVS store, all masked up, to get her booster, role-modeling to the public how we should all get boosters and be "protected," raises a lot of awkward questions.
.@CDCDirector Rochelle Walensky visited a CVS Pharmacy today to get her bivalent COVID-19 booster. The bivalent vaccine provides added protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant and is available at CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide. https://t.co/wXDZYrmMyd pic.twitter.com/BQojEnRpl4— CVS Health (@CVSHealth) September 22, 2022
Someone who is far better credentialed to ask those questions than I am is Vinay Prasad, M.D., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco. At his Substack blog, Sensible Medicine, he holds her to account.
Rochelle Walensky just announced that she has COVID 19. She received the bivalent booster exactly one month ago at a CVS pharmacy. Right now she's probably in the window where the booster exerts the greatest protective effect it could possibly exert, yet still: look what happened.
If you ask the CDC director, "What is the vaccine efficacy of the bivalent booster you have received? What is it for any symptomatic disease? What is it for severe disease?" She won't be able to answer.
That's because the leadership at the White House has permitted this product to come to the US market without any credible evidence that it has any vaccine effectiveness. We simply don't have human randomized data for clinical endpoints. All we have is human data on antibody titers, which is a surrogate endpoint of no value in the current moment.
It will be hard for the American people to reconcile Rochelle Walensky's insistance [sic] that everyone rush to boost their 7-year-old, a decision she encourages, with her living proof that this vaccine cannot stop breakthrough infection. And knowing we know nothing about the benefit on severe disease in a child that young. Particularly one who had Covid.
Dr. Prasad is an expert on randomized studies and describes what could and should have been done by Pfizer now that the early stage of the disease is over. And he excoriates the political leadership that has bungled its handling of COVID:
This White House is too cozy with Pfizer. They spend too much time talking to Pfizer and too little time talking to experts in evidence-based medicine. Sadly, their internal expertise does not seem to include medicine, evidence, or health policy.
Probably their biggest failure is that they picked the wrong people to run the show. They picked political loyalists, and not the best scientific minds.
They picked Ashish Jha because they saw him on cable news. And they saw him on cable news because he tweeted a lot. And they really liked him because like a puppy dog, he loved the White House's decisions, even when they were blatantly negligent and clearly incompetent. He kissed up better than the best. And that's why he's running the show. Not because he's the most thoughtful scientist. His decision making suggests otherwise.
Here we find ourselves. A White House that is committed to the campaign that bivalent boosters, in young populations, is a critical step in the fall pandemic plan. They have no randomized evidence for that. They have no observational evidence for that. Their own CDC director who received this vaccine one month ago now has breakthrough infection. They have never asked Pfizer to do anything challenging, to earn the billions of dollars their forking over. This administration is incompetent, corporatist, and anti-evidence-based medicine.
They spend more time smearing their opponents as misinformation purveyors then they do demanding drug companies generate information.
Rochelle Walensky's infection is just a reminder to the American people she doesn't know what she's talking about, because she has not asked for good evidence.
Hat tip: Frank Amato
Photo credit: Twitter.