Unrepentant US health agencies issue more bizarre directives
You might think U.S. health authorities would be embarrassed. After all, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies oversaw policies that produced more COVID-19 deaths per capita than nearly any other developed country.
More humiliating, they earned that distinction while dictating draconian shutdowns and school closures that profoundly damaged our economy and our children’s educations. And even though Americans had early access to the world’s best vaccines.
You would be wrong. Instead of adopting a humbler or more cautious approach to managing the waning virus, the CDC and the Biden administration are more truculent – and incomprehensible – than ever.
Most recently, the Biden White House has doubled down on not allowing Novak Djokovic into our country because the world’s top tennis player is not vaccinated. The tennis star was similarly prevented from coming to the U.S. last year, causing him to miss out on playing in the prestigious U.S. Open and for a brief period leading to his losing his number one status.
At the same time, the White House is set to announce that people coming to the U.S. from China will no longer need a negative COVID test to gain entry. Neither policy makes sense.
The Djokovic decision seems bizarre, especially given what we know about the vaccines and their impact over time. The vaccines’ efficacy declines rapidly, meaning that booster shots are needed to revive its protections and to address today’s most prevalent variants.
One study of veterans showed that the protection derived from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (admittedly, the worst) dropped from 86 percent in March 2021 to 13 percent in September, just six months later.
Our authorities do not require that foreigners provide proof that they have received booster shots, only the original vaccines. So, visitors to our country that received a vaccine two years ago are not much protected against reinfection and are also capable of spreading the disease.
Also, foreigners have no opportunity to supplant proof of vaccination with evidence of having been infected, but the risk level to those individuals is now known to be the same as though they had taken the vaccine. The CDC was reluctant to acknowledge that, because it made a mockery of the government’s vaccine mandates.
The New York Times writes about the ban on Djokovic that “even some staunchly pro-vaccine experts say [the rule] is obsolete.” The regulation was put in place in 2021, when the virus was still rampant and people were concerned that unvaccinated people from overseas posed a risk to Americans.
The vaccines have been shown to be useful in staving off serious disease and death, especially among older people and those with chronic illnesses. Djokovic falls into neither category. He is 35 years old, extremely fit and a health nut to boot. He poses no threat to our countrymen, except maybe to rival U.S. tennis players eager to take home some trophies.
Meanwhile, we are about to abandon the requirement that visitors from China must have a negative COVID test before entering the U.S., according to a source alerting the Washington Post. (The CDC has not officially commented on the decision.)
This seems abrupt, given that in just the past two months, China has endured a surge in infections after lifting its stringent zero-COVID rules. The White House demanded a negative test as of Jan. 5, concerned not only that travelers from China, Macau or Hong Kong might bring new infections, but also that they could introduce new variants of the virus for which we might not be prepared.
The same source reported that the U.S. would be “monitoring” cases in China. Good luck with that. After lifting its harsh lockdowns, the Chinese government claimed victory over COVID-19, as well as one of the lowest case counts in the world. Few believe the Chinese data, just as few now believe their protestations that the virus was not accidentally leaked from a lab in Wuhan.
These are the kinds of rulings that have destroyed confidence in our health authorities. They appear capricious and even political. In a recent piece, the New York Times describes the intense lobbying that has gone into trying to convince the Biden administration to let Djokovic in. Notables pushing for permission include Billy Jean King and Ken Solomon, the chief executive of the Tennis Channel and a major fundraiser for President Biden.
Was it the request from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who want Djokovic to play in an upcoming Miami tournament, that soured the White House? Who knows, but the decision is “baffling” (to use the Times’s description), especially considering that the United States will declare an end to the COVID “emergency” on May 11.
It isn’t as though the CDC and other agencies did a bang-up job in its handling of COVID-19. As Dr. Marty Makary recently told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, the government was wrong on many fronts, including telling Americans that COVID-19 was spread through surface transmissions, that vaccines were better than natural immunities gained from prior infections, that masks were effective, that myocarditis was more common after the infection than after the vaccine and that young people should take boosters.
Makary, who endorsed the vaccine but opposed the mandates, says the government was the biggest source of misinformation about the virus, and it is hard to argue otherwise. The cost of those blunders was significant, especially as declining confidence in our health agencies caused many to not take the vaccine or get the boosters.
President Biden promised on more than one occasion that if you got vaccinated, you would not get the virus. That was perhaps the biggest deception of all.
Published on The Hill