Thursday, December 29, 2022

Understanding Science While Ignoring Capitalism Won't Work

With Beijing overnight turning from "zero Covid" to "let it rip" pandemic non-policy, hundreds of millions of infections are right now burning through the one billion, four hundred million members of the People's Republic, a tsunami of contagion that is expected to kill from half a million to a million or more people just in the coming weeks. Dr. Michael Osterholm, an outstanding epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, has criticized the Chinese government for nearly a year for its heavy reliance on test, trace, and quarantine without corresponding emphasis on building up immunity, which has left the Chinese people insufficiently protected to ward off disaster in the current omicron crisis.* 

Meanwhile, the Covid disaster in the West continues, albeit on a reduced scale, with over four hundred Americans a day dying of the disease, accompanied by zero national concern and barely any public awareness. [Note: not all are agreed on the accuracy of current CDC statistics. Dr. Paul Offit of the FDA advisory board reports that many patients who die with Covid do not die of it.]

Much has been said about the "politicization" of the virus, and the negative public health effects that ensued from this unfortunate development, and it is certainly true that political tribalism prevented us from "understanding the science," as it were, which is never as simple as political slogans demand.

Having said that, it is not enough to simply "understand the science," important as that is. One must also call out the social policy within which medical science in particular is deeply embedded, especially when that policy fosters public health disaster, as it clearly has in the United States with Covid.

Consider the following statement from Dr. Osterholm on his most recent podcast (December 29):

"We have a 1968 Medicare-financed health care system in this country that is broken and is not going to provide us with the surge capacity we need" (given the situation in China and rising Covid case counts in the United States).

But "broken" doesn't begin to describe it. The public health system is and has been under attack for a long time. 

There's a reason no personal protective equipment was available for doctors and nurses when Covid struck, no N95 masks were stockpiled, and hospitals lacked redundant capacity and enough ventilators. These were planned capitalist outcomes, because the cost of maintaining such inventories conflicts with "just-in-time" production, which assumes that immediate profit is a more important social goal than long-term public health. In other words, the owners of the private economy insist that pandemic policy be improvised after contagion hits, not planned out and allocated for in advance. 

With more than a million Americans dead of Covid, this is a political policy that begs to be called out by public health officials. Dr. Osterholm's longstanding "I'm just calling balls and strikes" neutrality isn't adequate to the task.


* Osterholm warns that Covid data coming out of China is unreliable:

"According to Chinese health officials the virus is only considered the cause of death when it results in acute respiratory failure. In other words, it's a very, very narrow definition that doesn't account for many other conditions that Covid can prompt. That fact, combined with less frequent testing and the dismissal of deaths that occur outside of the health care setting has essentially guaranteed that any death toll from China as reported by the Chinese government is absolutely unreliable. . . . So clearly there is a disconnect separating the government data from reality." [Michael Osterholm, Osterholm Update, December 29, 2022]


Dr. Michael Osterholm, "China's Zero-Covid Policy Is a Pandemic Waiting to Happen," New York Times, January 25, 2022

Ep 121, Osterholm Update: "Thank You, Dr. Jena Part 2," You Tube, December 29, 2022 

"Covid 19 in China and global concern," Katelyn Jetelina, Your Local Epidemiologist, November 29, 2022

"Covid in China, the U.S., and everything in between," Katelyn Jetelina, Your Local Epidemiologist, December 29, 2022



Sunday, December 18, 2022

Why We Don't Use "Natural Immunity" To Combat Novel Viruses

 "Smallpox killed more people than the Black Death and all the wars of the twentieth century combined; about five hundred million people died from the disease. And it changed the course of history. The virus claimed the lives of Queen Mary II of England, King Louis I of Spain, Tsar Peter II of Russia, Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, and King Louis XV of France. In Austria, eleven members of the Hapsburg dynasty died of smallpox, as did rulers in Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and Myanmar. When European settlers brought smallpox to North America, they reduced the native population of seventy million to six hundred thousand. No disease was more feared, more destructive, or more loathsome than smallpox."

----------Paul A. Offit, M.D. Deadly Choices - How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All