'Politics masquerading as science': Specialists rebuke Florida surgeon general's 'dangerous' anti-vax claims
In contrast to President Joe Biden and his top White House medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci — both of whom have aggressively encouraged Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 — Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo has been critical of COVID-19 vaccines, often inspiring vehement rebukes from medical experts. Ladapo revisited the subject of vaccines on Friday night, October 7, when he urged younger men to avoid the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and linked them to an “abnormally high risk” of heart-related deaths. And once again, health experts are pushing back against his claims.
Dan Diamond, reporting for the Washington Post in an article published on October 12, explains, “Ladapo’s recommendation — extrapolated from a short state analysis that has not been peer-reviewed, carries no authors and warns that its findings are ‘preliminary’ and ‘should be interpreted with caution” — was swiftly condemned by medical and public health leaders, who said the Florida surgeon general’s announcement was politics masquerading as science and could lead Americans to forgo lifesaving interventions.”
Ladapo, picked for the Florida surgeon general position by far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been a highly controversial figure in the medical community. And according to Diamond, medical experts are taking issue with his latest claims about COVID-19 vaccines.
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“More than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post — including specialists in vaccines, patient safety and study design — listed concerns with Florida’s analysis, saying it relies on information gleaned from frequently inaccurate death certificates rather than medical records, skews the results by trying to exclude anyone with COVID-19 or a COVID-related death, and draws conclusions from a total of 20 cardiac-related deaths in men 18 to 39 that occurred within four weeks of vaccination,” Diamond reports. “Experts noted the deaths might have been caused by other factors, including underlying illnesses or undetected COVID.”
Daniel Salmon, who heads the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, slammed Ladapo’s claims as “dangerous” and unscientific.
Salmon told the Post, “If you submitted that to a peer-reviewed journal, unless you were paying them to publish it, it would get rejected. Putting out half-baked reports from a Department of Health is a dangerous thing to do.”
Salmon strongly disagrees with Ladapo’s recommendation that younger men avoid Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines, saying, “The vaccines are not perfect, but the benefits still outweigh the risks.”
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Robert Wachter, who chairs the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told the Post, “We’re talking about a very small number of deaths. An extra death or two would potentially change these results. I’m hesitant to even call it a paper; it isn’t published anywhere. The idea that (the analysis).… is being used to change policy — it does not have the scientific chops to do that.”
COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Since then, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the pandemic has killed more than 6.5 million people worldwide —including over 1 million people in the United States. Although COVID-19 continues to be highly contagious, fewer people are dying from it — a fact that many medical experts have attributed to the availability of vaccines. Biden and Fauci were both infected with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, but they suffered only minor symptoms.
Another critic of Ladapo’s latest vaccine recommendation is David Cutler, a health economist at Harvard University. Cutler described the study that Ladapo cited as seriously flawed, telling the Post, “If I was a reviewer at a journal, I would recommend rejecting it…. Anytime you tell people to do something incorrect, you risk causing harm.”
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