Thursday, August 12, 2021

Covid Infection Breakthroughs: 2 things scientists knew all along ?

As I've disclosed many times over the last year, I was one of the millions relieved and thankful to get my Covid vaccinations as soon as they were available to me.  Part of my ghosting behavior this summer on this blog and other media is that I admit to being bit laid low -  bewildered and not a bit enraged by the millions who still won't get vaccinated.  

The supposed "vaccine hesitant" (I've been working on a post about that phrase is just so off base. 

But to the debacle at hand today.  A ubiquitous medical journalist whom I like a lot - CNN's Sanjay Gupta - penned an article.  "What's in a name?  The term breakthrough infection" raises doubts about vaccines, but it shouldn't." 

Gupta argues, with support from other experts, that it's not a good idea to use the term "breakthrough infection" to refer to the condition of folks we know or hear about who are testing positive or have gotten sick with Covid even though they got vaccinated. 

Gupta says things are more nuanced than that. 

"breakthrough infections "only serves to alarm those of us who are already vaccinated, and potentially discourage those are are hesitant." 

OK, up to there, I'm with you Sanjay.   

But then the bait and switch.  

First there's  Dr. Barney Graham, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  His lab had input into developing the Moderna vaccine.

“The vaccines were always designed to focus against disease in the lower airways [the lungs] – not in the upper airways [the nose and upper throat],” 

Graham goes on to explain why it was important to develop a vaccine that would prevent infection from traveling to the lungs. 

OK I get it.  No infection in the lungs.  People don't wind up deathly ill and on respirators. 

But then the zinger.  Gupta quotes Graham saying,(referring to the vaccine)

"It wasn’t designed to protect the upper airways as much,”

Wait. Hold on.  Did I know that?

Wait..... then the coup d grace. Gupta quotes a statement Dr. Anthony Fauci made at a White House Covid-19 Response briefing last week.  

Let's call it the  [Dr] Anthony Fauci Reveal

“The vaccines are doing exactly what we’re asking them to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease and certainly preventing your death,”

The article goes on to offer up added reasons why the "breakthrough infection" phenomenon is : 

A) not surprising... no big deal...we knew it would happen all along B) and therefore we shouldn't think of                                                                    it as "breakthroughs" 

  • the article uses some not-to-easy-to-grasp number arguments about proportion of people vaccinated vs number of people who get sick  ( reader keep in mind that the vast majority of adults in the US struggle with numeracy/ numbers skills). 
  • a mention that there's no nationwide data available on asymptomatic and mild breakthrough cases;
  • and the point that levels of coronavirus antibodies diminish over time;  

"This [diminishing] is "not a glitch" according to Dr. Monica Gandhi. "... our blood and our noses can’t hold all of the antibodies they’ve ever produced; if antibody levels didn’t drop, “our blood would be thick as paste.”

Dr. Gupta's article ends with a clear declaration from Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.  Referring to the term "breakthrough infection":

“I think the term is terrible because it’s scaring people and making it sound as if the vaccines don’t work. Let me say very clearly: The vaccines are incredibly effective in preventing hospitalizations, severe cases – over 90%. So, let’s not let the language get in the way of that,” he said on CNN last week.

I leave you with this - I'm a fairly smart lady, haven't tested to be low health literate, and follow Covid coverage to near distraction.  In all my monitoring and analysis of experts and media endlessly talking to the public about Covid and particularly the Covid vaccines all these months, I don't recall one instance when any of these central science understandings and expectations for the vaccine was communicated clearly to us. 

                                                                  We keep telling everyone "Get Vaccinated".  

These seeming bait and switch reveals won't help. 

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