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Trying to reach herd immunity to the coronavirus is ‘unethical’ and unprecedented, WHO head says

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Monday media briefing. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”

In a public health context, herd immunity typically describes a scenario in which a large enough share of the population is vaccinated against a disease to prevent it from spreading widely, thereby providing default protection to a minority of people who have not been vaccinated.

But as there is still no vaccine for the coronavirus, achieving herd immunity in the current environment would require a large number of people to contract the virus, survive covid-19, and then produce sufficient antibodies to provide long-term protection.

While the scientific community has roundly rejected herd immunity the approach, public interest in it has waxed and waned amid pressure to reopen schools and economies.

Last month, President Trump appeared to praise the idea during a town hall in Pennsylvania.

“You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality,” he said. “It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd developed — and that’s going to happen.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government initially expressed interest in the theory before backtracking amid public outcry over the dangers of letting the virus spread. Johnson himself was hospitalized with a severe case of covid-19, which he said could have killed him.

Tedros, noting that there had been “some discussion” about the concept recently, told reporters Monday that allowing people to be exposed to a deadly virus whose effects are still not fully known was “not an option.”

“Most people who are infected with the virus that causes covid-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people,” he said.

Antibody studies suggest that less than 10 percent of people in most countries have contracted covid-19, Tedros said, which is nowhere near the majority that would be needed for herd immunity.

With the “vast majority” of the world’s population susceptible, letting the virus spread “means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death,” he said.

Just in the last four days, Tedros said Monday, the global coronavirus count has continued to break its daily record for the number of new confirmed infections.

“Many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupancy,” he added.

Tedros has urged governments to pursue comprehensive plans that include widespread testing, social distancing, and other preventive measures, such as face-mask wearing, alongside a global push to develop a vaccine. The WHO is spearheading an effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines equitably once they are available, which Trump declined to join.

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Prominent Journal of Medicine Makes Unprecedented Political Statement

There’s no doubt the scientific community has been struck with Trump Derangement Syndrome, but reading the latest screed against the administration over its coronavirus response raises questions about whose pocket one of the most prominent scientific journals may be in.

For the first time since its founding in 1812, The New England Journal of Medicine has taken a position on a presidential election. Titled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” it’s no surprise which direction it’s taking, though it does not name either political candidate. What is surprising about its criticism, however, is how pro-China it is.

Right off the bat, we’re told about the “magnitude” of the administration’s failure in the U.S. in terms of the number of COVID-19 deaths — “far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China.” To claim this with a straight face, as if China is truthful about its death count, is beyond the pale. The U.S. intelligence community has warned the CCP is lying as have residents of Wuhan and countless others.

The editors then went on to not only criticize federalism but praise China’s authoritarian crackdown on citizens: “We know that we could have done better. China, faced with the first outbreak, chose strict quarantine and isolation after an initial delay. These measures were severe but effective, essentially eliminating transmission at the point where the outbreak began and reducing the death rate to a reported 3 per million, as compared with more than 500 per million in the United States.”

As a reminder, those “severe” measures included literally locking residents in their homes to stop the spread. 

There are other head-scratching criticisms found in the article, such as the editors’ chastisement of people who don’t wear masks, despite the Journal’s own admission in May that “wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection…In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

The Journal’s nearly three dozen editors urging Americans to “not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs,” follows other scientific journals taking a political stand this year. The Lancet and Scientific American also urged Americans to vote Trump out with the latter actually endorsing Joe Biden.

The Lancet and the NEJM took heat earlier this year after publishing a total fraud of a study on hydroxychloroquine that claimed patients with COVID were dying at higher rates than those who didn’t take it. The studies prompted WHO and other governments around the world to halt studies on the drug and change positions on prescribing it, potentially costing people their lives.

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Trump Getting ‘Unprecedented’ Mix of COVID-19 Treatments

With each day since U.S. President Donald Trump reported that he tested positive for COVID-19, his doctors have added a new major therapy to treat the disease, for a total of three at this point.

On Friday—the same day that Trump said he tested positive—the President received an experimental combination of two monoclonal antibodies to help his immune system fight the coronavirus infection, according to his physician, Sean Conley. The next day—after he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—he received the drug remdesivir, which blocks the coronavirus’s ability to make more copies of itself. Remdesivir is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has received emergency use authorization for treating COVID-19. On Sunday—day three—Trump’s doctors revealed he’s also taking dexamethasone, a corticosteroid typically administered to control the inflammatory response common in more advanced stages of the disease.

While the monoclonal antibodies are designed to be used in non-hospitalized patients early in their infection—as the President apparently was when he received them—remdesivir was originally only authorized for hospitalized patients who are moderately to severely ill and in intensive care. That authorization has only recently been expanded, on Aug. 28, to include any hospitalized patient. Still, even hospitalized patients who may not need intensive care and receive remdesivir are generally further along in their disease than the President appears to be. Furthermore, patients who receive the drug are generally enrolled in trials, so researchers can learn more about its safety and effectiveness. In rare exceptions, doctors can apply for compassionate use outside of these studies, which is presumably what Trump received. (In the early months of the pandemic, many doctors applied for this special dispensation until larger studies were established to increase access to the medication after it showed encouraging results.)

“The thing that is odd is that in most trials people usually have symptoms eight, nine or 10 days before they are enrolled in the trial,” says Dr. Walid Gellad, director of the center for pharmaceutical policy and prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, about remdesivir. “From that standpoint, it’s a little unprecedented that anyone so early [in their disease] would be receiving it.”

Similarly, dexamethasone, a steroid approved to reduce inflammation and suppress overactive immune reactions triggered by autoimmune diseases, is also recommended for patients long into their battle with COVID-19 and who are showing more severe symptoms. The steroid seems to reduce the inflammation that can compromise respiratory tissues and ultimately make it difficult for patients to breathe. But both the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization recommend dexamethasone only for hospitalized patients who need supplemental oxygen or are on a ventilator. The NIH guidance specifically advises against dexamethasone “for the treatment of COVID-19 in patients who do not require supplemental oxygen.” The World Health Organization in September updated its recommendations about corticosteroids to treat COVID-19, with similar advice to limit its use to patients with severe disease who need supplemental oxygen. That advice is based on data

President Trump Is Getting an ‘Unprecedented’ Mix of COVID-19 Treatments. That Puts Him On the Cutting Edge of Coronavirus Care

U.S. President Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center.
U.S. President Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center.

U.S. President Trump waves from the back of a car in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020. Credit – Alex Edelman—AFP/Getty Images

With each day since U.S. President Donald Trump reported that he tested positive for COVID-19, his doctors have added a new major therapy to treat the disease, for a total of three at this point.

On Friday—the same day that Trump said he tested positive—the President received an experimental combination of two monoclonal antibodies to help his immune system fight the coronavirus infection, according to his physician, Sean Conley. The next day—after he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—he received the drug remdesivir, which blocks the coronavirus’s ability to make more copies of itself. Remdesivir is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has received emergency use authorization for treating COVID-19. On Sunday—day three—Trump’s doctors revealed he’s also taking dexamethasone, a corticosteroid typically administered to control the inflammatory response common in more advanced stages of the disease.

While the monoclonal antibodies are designed to be used in non-hospitalized patients early in their infection—as the President apparently was when he received them—remdesivir was originally only authorized for hospitalized patients who are moderately to severely ill and in intensive care. That authorization has only recently been expanded, on Aug. 28, to include any hospitalized patient. Still, even hospitalized patients who may not need intensive care and receive remdesivir are generally further along in their disease than the President appears to be. Furthermore, patients who receive the drug are generally enrolled in trials, so researchers can learn more about its safety and effectiveness. In rare exceptions, doctors can apply for compassionate use outside of these studies, which is presumably what Trump received. (In the early months of the pandemic, many doctors applied for this special dispensation until larger studies were established to increase access to the medication after it showed encouraging results.)

“The thing that is odd is that in most trials people usually have symptoms eight, nine or 10 days before they are enrolled in the trial,” says Dr. Walid Gellad, director of the center for pharmaceutical policy and prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, about remdesivir. “From that standpoint, it’s a little unprecedented that anyone so early [in their disease] would be receiving it.”

Similarly, dexamethasone, a steroid approved to reduce inflammation and suppress overactive immune reactions triggered by autoimmune diseases, is also recommended for patients long into their battle with COVID-19 and who are showing more severe symptoms. The steroid seems to reduce the inflammation that can compromise respiratory tissues and ultimately make it difficult for patients to breathe. But both the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization recommend dexamethasone only for hospitalized patients who need supplemental oxygen or are on a ventilator. The NIH guidance specifically advises