Democratic Spin on Bipartisan Support for American Jobs Plan

Several independent studies show strong bipartisan support for many of the main spending components of the $2.7 trillion American Jobs Plan. Still, those polls also show most Republicans oppose the overall plan, particularly its call for infrastructure spending to be offset by higher corporate taxes.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has publicly embraced a survey from partisan organizations that are advocating the plan. The administration says it shows broad public support for the plan, even among Republicans.

Polling experts say partisan polls should give readers pause, especially when their results run contrary to other independent polls, as is the case here.

The survey being cited by some Biden administration officials comes from Data for Progress and Invest in America, which listed seven components of the American Jobs Plan and then asked respondents if they support or oppose the entire American Jobs Plan. Among likely voters, 73% said they support the plan, including 57% of Republicans.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has cited the survey on Twitter as evidence the plan has “strong bipartisan support,” also touted such support several times on “Fox News Sunday” on April 11:

Buttigieg, April 11: And that’s one of the reasons why there’s such extraordinary Republican and independent and Democratic support for this package among the American people. …

And it’s part of why, again, the American Jobs Plan has such remarkable support among Republicans, independents and Democrats across the country, maybe not yet in the Republican establishment here in Washington, but around the country, this bill is already enormously popular. …

I mean, it’s very rare to find any legislation that this high of a proportion of Republicans, independents and Democrats across the country believe we ought to pass. So that tells us we’ve got to be on the right track here.

On April 6, the White House put out a press release with the headline, “An Overwhelming Majority of Voters Support President Biden’s American Jobs Plan — Including a Majority of Republicans.”

Citing the Data for Progress and Invest in America survey, the release states that the American Jobs Plan is “overwhelmingly popular with Americans of both parties.” Specifically, it states, “73% of respondents, including 67% of Independents and 57% of Republicans, support the American Jobs Plan.”

A Partisan Survey

The first red flag for readers should be the groups that conducted the survey. A guide published by the National Council on Public Polls titled, “20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results,” says the first question should be: “Who did the poll?” The second question: “Who paid for the poll and why was it done?”

The “About Us” page for Invest in America makes clear the organization’s aims: “Invest In America is a campaign-style operation to influence the national debate in favor of robust public investment — both to combat the coronavirus crisis in the short-term and to create growth and prosperity in the long-term. We’re aggressively making the case that bold action from our government is both urgently needed and overwhelmingly popular — and that prioritizing deficit reduction and budget cuts are neither smart politics nor good policy.” Most of its employees have experience in Democratic campaigns.

Data for Progress says on its website that its aim is to use data science “to support progressive activists and causes.” It is also run by people with experience in Democratic party politics.

In other words, “it’s not nonpartisan, they have skin in the game,” said Patricia Moy, a communications professor at the University of Washington and vice president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

As we said, other independent polls have not shown nearly the level of support for the American Jobs Plan among Republicans as the Data for Progress/Invest in America poll did.

“It’s all about question wording,” Moy said, what is included and what is not.

Here’s the Data for Progress/Invest in America question:

The American Jobs Plan is a proposal to spend $2.25 trillion on infrastructure investments over eight years. The plan includes funding for the following:

  • Repairing roads, bridges, and schools
  • Repairing drinking water systems
  • Investing in American manufacturing
  • Expanding internet service
  • Modernizing America’s electrical grid
  • Creating millions of good-paying jobs in a modern American energy sector
  • Funding the cleanup of mines and abandoned gas wells

Do you support or oppose the American Jobs Plan?

By our calculation, using a breakdown of spending provided by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, those listed items make up, generously, a little more than half the spending in the bill. Although the plan has not received any support among Republican legislators in Congress, most of those lawmakers have said they would support a much smaller bill, more focused on traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. And they oppose the plan to pay for it all by raising corporate taxes.

As we have written, Democrats have taken a more expansive view of infrastructure to include such things as elder care, child care, and research and development.

The Data for Progress/Invest in America poll does not include some of the components Republicans are less likely to support, such as investments in development of electric cars, building and retrofitting energy efficient public housing, and investments in public transit and Amtrak.

Nor does the survey make any mention of how the infrastructure spending would be funded. The Biden plan calls for raising the top corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and hiking other corporate taxes, things that Republican legislators have argued would hurt the economy and cost jobs.

Other Survey Results

Survey questions that include the pay-fors return much less favorable responses from Republicans. And surveys that link the American Jobs Plan to President Joe Biden also show less support from Republicans.

For example, a survey commissioned by the New York Times and conducted by SurveyMonkey April 5 through 11 asked two questions related to the American Jobs Plan.

The first, “Do you approve or disapprove of the American Jobs Plan, President Biden’s proposal to spend $2 trillion over the next 10 years to improve the country’s infrastructure, including that related to transportation, power, drinking water, and broadband internet?”

Although 64% overall said they somewhat or strongly approved the plan (including a whopping 96% of Democrats), just 29% of Republicans said they supported it.

In a follow-up question, the survey asked, “Are you more or less likely to approve of the American Jobs Plan if it were funded in part by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%?” To that, 65% of Republicans said they would be less likely to support it.

A Quinnipiac poll conducted April 8 to 12 asked, “Do you support or oppose President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan?” It found 44% overall said they supported it (38% said they opposed it). Among Republicans, only 14% said they supported it, and 71% opposed it.

A follow-up question found slightly higher support when respondents were asked. “If it was funded by raising taxes on corporations, would you support or oppose President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan?” In that scenario (which is what Biden has proposed), 53% overall said they supported it, including 22% of Republicans.

Biden and other members of the administration have been a bit more careful than Buttigieg, saying that a bipartisan majority supports many of the major spending components of the plan.

“We need to do this. It’s bipartisan,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a daily press briefing on April 8. “We know that Republicans and Democrats — it’s a joke in Washington, Infrastructure Week. And Democrats and Republicans have been making that joke, but it’s not a joke anymore. We need to get it done. And there is bipartisan support for these elements — these basic elements.”

In remarks on April 2, Biden said, “Polls already show strong support for infrastructure investment for the American people, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, or independents.”

And in a speech about the American Jobs Plan on April 7, Biden said that an “overwhelming majority of the American people — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — support infrastructure investments that meets the moment.”

It’s true that polls show a majority of Republicans support some types of infrastructure investments.

A Morning Consult poll broke down a number of components of the plan, and asked respondents if they supported the provisions. With regard to the plan’s call to spend “$115 billion to modernize highways, roads, and streets,” 77% of registered voters, including 71% of Republicans said they supported it.

There was also strong bipartisan support for spending “$400 billion to improve caregiving for aging and disabled individuals,” for spending “$45 billion to replace all lead water pipes and service lines,” for “$100 billion to build and improve public schools” and for spending “$18 billion to modernize veterans’ hospitals.”

But less than a majority of Republicans said they supported such things as “[m]odernizing and repairing public transportation, including $80 billion for Amtrak and $85 billion for local public transit,” or “$174 billion to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, including expanding the electric vehicle charging network and electrifying both U.S. Postal Service vehicles and public buses” (60% of Republicans said they opposed that, including 39% who strongly opposed it).

Less then a majority of Republicans supported other components, such as “$16 billion to plug abandoned (’orphaned’) oil and gas wells and restore abandoned coal, hard rock, and uranium mines”; “$213 billion towards building, renovating, and retrofitting affordable and energy efficient housing units”; and “$100 billion to increase access to, and the affordability of, high-speed broadband internet.”

As for the more general question — “Do you support or oppose Biden’s infrastructure plan?” — 60% overall said they support it, but only 35% of Republicans. A higher percentage, 44% of Republicans, said they oppose it. Republican opposition seemed at least in part tied to funding the plan through higher corporate taxes. Among Republicans, 47% said they “support making improvements to America’s infrastructure, but only if these improvements can be funded without increases to the corporate tax rate.”

Other surveys have also found a partisan divide over the plan. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted April 6 to 8 asked respondents if they would support or oppose “another big legislative package to invest in America’s infrastructure and combat climate change.” Among all respondents, 51% said they would support it, but only 22% of Republicans said so (58% said they opposed it).

In addition, the poll found a majority of Americans — including Democrats, independents and Republicans — support investing in the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines and ports, and electricity grid improvements.

But Republicans part ways when it comes to clean energy. As Linley Sanders, a senior data journalist for YouGov wrote, “Biden starts to lose Republican backing on climate change initiatives, such as investing in clean energy to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change (31% favor, 51% oppose) or building 1 million affordable and energy-efficient housing units (31% favor, 51% oppose).”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken from March 31 to April 1 and released April 2, showed that there was broad bipartisan support for repairing or replacing American ports, railways, bridges and highways, and investing in home-based care for the elderly or disabled. However, there was less support among Republicans for incentives or tax credits for development of clean or renewable energy, and for increasing taxes on corporations and large businesses to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The Biden administration can certainly claim that some components of the American Jobs Plan enjoy strong bipartisan support, but Buttigieg spins the facts in claiming there’s “extraordinary Republican” support for the entire plan.

As Moy put it: “Survey research is one part art and one part science.”

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The post Democratic Spin on Bipartisan Support for American Jobs Plan appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Idaho Doctor Makes Baseless Claims About Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines

SciCheck Digest

A viral video features a doctor making dubious claims about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments at a forum hosted by Idaho’s lieutenant governor. Dr. Ryan Cole claims mRNA vaccines cause cancer and autoimmune diseases, but the lead author of the paper on which Cole based that claim told us there is no evidence mRNA vaccines cause those ailments.

How do we know vaccines are safe? How do we know vaccines are safe?

No vaccine or medical product is 100% safe, but large randomized controlled trials, reviewed by multiple groups of experts, revealed no serious safety concerns and showed that the benefits outweigh the risks. 

As with any vaccine, safety is also being monitored as the shots are rolled out to members of the public to ensure there are no side effects of concern. A very small number of severe allergic reactions, for example — which are expected with any vaccine — have occurred with some of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines. For the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC and FDA vaccine monitoring systems include a new smartphone-based tool called v-safe that allows enrollees to report any reactions to the vaccine.

Link to this

Full Story

More than 565,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., but two, effective mRNA vaccines are now available. Some treatments for certain patients, such as those hospitalized or receiving oxygen, have also been approved or authorized by federal agencies, and they continue to be studied.

Since the pandemic began, however, politicized social media posts have featured doctors, some looking authoritative in white coats, while spreading dubious claims about both vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The most recent example in this misinformation niche is Dr. Ryan Cole, who owns a medical lab in Idaho.

Cole is featured in a video that has amassed more than a million views. He makes a variety of claims, some of which we’ve addressed before.

The video was recorded while he spoke at a forum on March 4 hosted by Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, a Republican, and it was posted by a Libertarian organization called the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

McGeachin was featured in an October post by that group, posing with a Bible and a gun in a video that advocated against public health measures related to the pandemic and asked viewers to sign a statement saying that “any order issued in the future will be ignored.”

Cole said in an interview with FactCheck.org that he’s “not affiliated with any political party, group or organization.” According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, Cole is registered as a Republican.

In the March 4 video, Cole makes claims suggesting that federal agencies have acted nefariously, as well as claims that undermine vaccines and promise miracle treatments.

We’ll address his four main claims.

  • Although there is no evidence to support this, Cole suggested that some of the COVID-19 vaccines could cause cancer or autoimmune diseases.
  • Again, without evidence, Cole suggested that the federal government withheld a treatment for COVID-19 in order to “vend” a vaccine.
  • Studies haven’t proved that ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19, but Cole claimed that federal agencies “have suppressed this life-saving medication.”
  • Cole said public health officials should encourage people to take vitamin D supplements rather than wear masks or stay physically distant from others.
Vaccine Safety

Two of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to train recipients’ immune systems to make antibodies that fight the virus that causes COVID-19. (See SciCheck’s articles on those vaccines: “A Guide to Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine“ and “A Guide to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine.”)

These are the first vaccines using mRNA technology authorized in the U.S., but scientists have been developing and testing mRNA vaccines for years, including in people during clinical trials. Still, misinformation exploiting fears of this new technology has been common online.

To those bogus claims, Cole has now added: “mRNA trials in mammals have led to odd cancers. mRNA trials on mammals have led to autoimmune diseases — not right away, six, nine, 12 months later.”

We asked Cole to provide support for those claims, and he referred us to a 2018 paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery that reviewed trials and studies of various, earlier mRNA vaccines.

But that paper doesn’t support his statement.

Norbert Pardi, a research assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was the lead author of the paper. He told us in an email, “No publications demonstrate that mRNA vaccines cause cancer or autoimmune diseases.”

Pardi’s 19-page paper does make one passing reference to autoimmune diseases, which is what Cole highlighted to us.

The paper says: “A possible concern could be that some mRNA-based vaccine platforms induce potent type I interferon responses, which have been associated not only with inflammation but also potentially with autoimmunity. Thus, identification of individuals at an increased risk of autoimmune reactions before mRNA vaccination may allow reasonable precautions to be taken.”

But, Pardi explained, he and the other researchers included that passage because they wanted to note some potential concerns. However, he emphasized that “no scientific evidence has confirmed that these concerns are real.”

It’s also worth noting that the paper predated the COVID-19 pandemic by two years, so it doesn’t include any information specifically about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Simply put, “there is no scientific evidence that shows that mRNA vaccines cause autoimmune diseases,” Pardi said. “Multiple clinical trials have been performed with mRNA vaccines in the past 10 years and none of them found that mRNA vaccination caused autoimmune diseases. Further, we are not aware of any studies showing an autoimmune disease appearing many months after vaccination as Dr. Cole inaccurately suggests.”

Likewise, Dr. Roger Shapiro, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told us in an email that he was unaware of any study that would support Cole’s claim that the vaccines are carcinogenic.

“There is nothing in the science of mRNA vaccines that would suggest carcinogenicity, and they have been tested in humans for other diseases before COVID-19,” Shapiro said. “mRNA rapidly breaks down in the body, and probably does not last long enough to act as a carcinogen.”

“Regarding autoimmunity,” he said, “this is always a concern with any medical product, but there is no evidence to date suggesting it, and it does not seem any more likely than with other vaccines. mRNA is made all the time in our bodies, and delivering it by vaccine should not be different.”

Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, concurred with the other experts with whom we spoke. In a phone interview, he characterized Cole’s claims about cancer as “fearmongering” and said, “There’s just no scientific basis for that.”

“We’re talking about these very small fragments of messenger RNA that don’t hang around for long at all,” he said, noting that the mRNA vaccines have been in use for almost six months and have been “very safe, very well-tolerated vaccines.”

Winslow recognized that some people are concerned that the mRNA from the vaccine might persist in their bodies and somehow change their genetics or cause long-term effects. So he emphasized that the vaccines have small fragments of RNA, which survive only briefly and carry information about the virus that causes COVID-19.

Similarly, Pardi told us, “COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not alter our DNA and they get rapidly degraded so they do not promote cancer formation.”

Treatments, Vaccines Can Both Be Approved

Cole also suggested in the video that the federal government had suppressed a treatment for COVID-19 in order to “vend” a vaccine. (We’ll address his claims about the supposed treatment in the next section.)

“If there’s a treatment for a disease, the federal government cannot approve a vaccine by law, by rule,” Cole falsely claimed, suggesting that federal agencies were withholding access to a treatment for COVID-19 so that they could instead profit from vaccines.

“So, the NIH, who, you know, is involved in approving medications, they co-hold the patent on the ‘vaccine’ with Moderna,” Cole said, referring to the National Institutes of Health, an agency that does not approve medications. “If the fox is not guarding the henhouse there, I don’t know who is. That also is insanity to have the government in bed with a private company vending a product that they want to give to everybody.”

There are several problems with this statement.

First, there is no law barring vaccines if treatments are available for a given disease, said Jorge Contreras, a professor in the College of Law at the University of Utah who specializes in intellectual property and genetics and the law. He asked, “Why would there be such a law?”

Clearly there isn’t, Contreras pointed out, since the Food and Drug Administration authorizes a flu vaccine every year while Tamiflu, an antiviral drug used to treat the flu, has been available since the FDA approved it in 1999.

“It’s certainly true that many diseases that we vaccinate for, there is no known cure for,” he said, noting that this is often the case with viral diseases, which are hard to treat.

“But that’s not a legal requirement. That’s a scientific reality,” he said.

As for Cole’s claim about the NIH, that agency conducts and funds research. It doesn’t approve drugs, medical devices or vaccines — that’s a function of the FDA.

The NIH did collaborate with Moderna on the development of its COVID-19 vaccine. As we’ve explained, government researchers had previously been working with scientists at Moderna on an investigational vaccine to protect against MERS, another disease caused by a coronavirus. The team was able to apply that knowledge to design a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the NIH does research, it also files and receives patents, many of which it licenses to pharmaceutical companies. So, Contreras said, NIH’s patents stemming from research on mRNA vaccines are to be expected, and use of those patents by pharmaceutical companies is also to be expected. Similarly, scientists from government-funded labs sometimes share credit on patents with scientists from privately funded labs. That’s normal, too, Contreras said.

Generally, he explained, there are two reasons that the NIH licenses its patents to companies. First, the NIH is a taxpayer-funded institution, and it can recoup some of its investment in research by lending out the use of its discoveries. Second, the clinical trials required to bring a drug or vaccine to market are risky and expensive, so, theoretically, making its discoveries available to companies can encourage the private sector to take the risk and create products.

So, Cole mischaracterizes the relationship between the NIH and the vaccine manufacturers when he says that it’s a “conflict of interest” to have the “federal government in bed with a vaccine company.”

It’s actually normal to have pharmaceutical companies use government-owned patents.

And he’s wrong when he says of federal agencies, “they don’t want a therapy to work because then they can vend their vaccine.”

There’s nothing that would prohibit the use of vaccines if there were an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Not Enough Data on Ivermectin

Neither the World Health Organization nor the National Institutes of Health has recommended the use of ivermectin — a common anti-parasitic medication — in the treatment of COVID-19.

Merck, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures ivermectin, has similarly noted that there is “[n]o scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies; No meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease, and; A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.”

But Cole claimed in the video that ivermectin is a “treatment” for COVID-19.

He suggested that federal agencies have stifled its use so that they could profit from vaccines, as we explained above.

“We’re in farm country, horse country — you know, you give it to your dogs, your cats, your horses,” Cole said in the video, addressing an audience in Idaho.

Ivermectin is used to treat parasites in animals, but crossover use in humans can be dangerous. While Cole may have only been emphasizing the ubiquity of the drug, not suggesting that people should take veterinary medicine, the FDA has said that patients have been hospitalized after taking ivermectin intended for horses as interest in the drug as treatment for COVID-19 has grown.

Ivermectin does have antiviral properties, but the FDA hasn’t approved it to treat any viral infections. It is being studied with regard to COVID-19, though, according to both the WHO and NIH.

“Treating COVID-19 with Ivermectin is still being evaluated in clinical trials, but at present there is not enough evidence to support its use,” said Shapiro, the Harvard professor. “My understanding is that the inhibitory dose needed for it to work is extremely high and trying to take enough to suppress the virus could lead to other problems.”

The trials so far have “showed no benefit or worsening disease, some showed shorter time to disease resolution or viral clearance, and some did show a possible mortality benefit; but there were problems with most of these trials that include small sample size and different outcome measures and other possible biases,” he said.

Winslow, from Stanford, cautioned that “there have been many claims for miracle cures” over the course of the pandemic and said that ivermectin would need more rigorous study before we know how useful it would be in treating COVID-19.

“Ivermectin truly is a wonder drug for parasitic diseases,” he said, “but my suspicion is that it will be a lot like hydroxychloroquine.”

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug that was touted by former President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19, although studies found that it wasn’t an effective treatment and may cause serious side effects in some patients, as we’ve explained before.

The problem with drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which are promoted as having broad-spectrum antiviral properties, is that the quantity of inhibitor required to effectively kill off the virus also sickens the host cells, Winslow said.

Even potent versions, like remdesivir, which Winslow referred to as the “gold standard” of specific antiviral therapy in COVID-19 treatments, only accelerates the time to recovery, but doesn’t significantly reduce death rates or mortality from COVID-19. Remdesivir is the only drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19; the approval is for patients requiring hospitalization.

Cole’s claim that “there is blood on the hands of bureaucrats in Washington who have suppressed this life-saving medication,” is unfounded. Ivermectin hasn’t been proved to be effective.

Overstating Effect of Vitamin D

Another of the major points that Cole emphasized in the video is the role vitamin D could have in fighting COVID-19.

“If you do not supplement with vitamin D in the wintertime, you are immune suppressed. Most insurance companies in Idaho and northern states do not pay for a vitamin D test, unfortunately,” said Cole, whose lab offers several vitamin D tests.

After eschewing public health guidelines that recommend staying six feet apart and wearing masks to slow the spread of the virus, Cole said, “What should public health message number one, two, and three be? Vitamin D, vitamin D, vitamin D.”

It’s true that vitamin D, which is mostly associated with bone health, plays a part in the immune system. But that doesn’t mean it’s a panacea for COVID-19, as we’ve explained before.

While a lot of basic research points to vitamin D having a role in the immune system, it is less clear if these mechanisms are applicable in clinical practice and to what degree they would benefit COVID-19 patients, as we’ve written. Studies assessing whether vitamin D can treat or prevent infectious diseases have generally been inconsistent.

A recent article from NPR looked at the research on vitamin D with respect to COVID-19 over the last year and found, essentially, the same thing. It also noted that some studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or with becoming seriously ill.

“While these studies raised hopes among some researchers, others are skeptical, noting that most of these are observational studies, not the gold-standard randomized, controlled trials,” the story said.

“Much of the available evidence only shows association — not causation — and even those results are mixed,” Walter Willett, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NPR.

In September, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an Instagram Live interview that for those who are deficient in vitamin D, “I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.” But, as we wrote before, excessive doses should not be used.

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Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Coronavirus Resource Center. Accessed 16 Apr 2021.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Treatments for COVID-19.” Harvard Medical School. Updated 5 Apr 2021.

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Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. Email to FactCheck.org. 9 Apr 2021.

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Pardi, Norbert, et al. “mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology.” Nature Reviews. 12 Jan 2018.

Pardi, Norbert. Research assistant professor of medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 12 Apr 2021.

Shapiro, Roger. Associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University. Emailed responses to FactCheck.org. 8 Apr 2021.

Winslow, Dean. Infectious disease physician, Stanford Health Care. Telephone interview with FactCheck.org. 12 Apr 2021.

Contreras, Jorge. Professor, college of law, University of Utah. Telephone interview with FactCheck.org. 15 Apr 2021.

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The post Idaho Doctor Makes Baseless Claims About Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Tucker Carlson Misleads on COVID-19 Vaccines, Masks

SciCheck Digest

All of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic disease. Yet Fox News host Tucker Carlson baselessly casts doubt on the effectiveness of the vaccines, because federal officials urge fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public settings. 

If I get vaccinated, can I return to my normal activities without precautions? If I get vaccinated, can I return to my normal activities without precautions?

Not entirely, at least not yet. In guidance for the fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said individuals can meet indoors without masks or social distancing with other fully vaccinated people two weeks after receiving their last vaccine dose. And the fully vaccinated can also have such visits with unvaccinated people who are at low-risk of contracting severe COVID-19, provided the unvaccinated are from a single household. In other situations, such as visiting unvaccinated people from more than one household or in public settings, the fully vaccinated should wear masks and remain physically distanced from others. The CDC also advised against attending medium or large gatherings.

The CDC said that “a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.” Research on the extent of vaccine protection is ongoing. No vaccine is 100% effective.

Link to this

How effective are the vaccines? How effective are the vaccines?

All of the authorized vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

According to the results of the phase 3 trials, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had an efficacy of 94% or higher, which means your approximate risk of getting sick is cut by 94% or more if you are vaccinated. It’s important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of the vaccines outside the controlled setting of a clinical trial is typically somewhat lower. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found these two vaccines were 90% effective in real-world conditions, two weeks after the second dose, and 80% effective two weeks after the first dose. The study monitored 3,950 health care personnel, first responders and other essential workers for 13 weeks.   

Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 trial began in late September, nearly two months after the Pfizer and Moderna trials and shortly before a new variant of the coronavirus emerged in South Africa. Globally, J&J reported an efficacy of 66.1% in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 and an efficacy of 85.4% in preventing severe or critical COVID-19. But efficacy was higher in the U.S. population (72% efficacy in preventing moderate to severe disease and 85.9% efficacy in preventing severe or critical disease) than in South Africa (64% and 81.7% efficacy in preventing moderate to severe or severe/critical disease, respectively).

Data from the Moderna trial also demonstrate that the vaccine protects against severe COVID-19. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine probably does as well. But because so few participants in that trial developed severe COVID-19, this hasn’t yet been conclusively shown. The J&J trial showed 100% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 that would require medical intervention — meaning hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation or a life support machine.

Although the trials show the vaccines protect against symptomatic disease, what is still unknown is whether these vaccines protect against infection with the coronavirus, and if not, whether they can prevent someone from spreading the virus to others. (See our video on the distinction between virus and disease.) However, the CDC has said that “a growing body of evidence” suggests those who are fully vaccinated are “potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.”

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All of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

In phase 3 trials, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had an efficacy of 94% or higher, which means your approximate risk of getting sick is cut by 94% or more if you are fully vaccinated. In real-world conditions, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in March found the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were 90% effective in preventing infections — not just symptomatic cases.

Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 trial reported an efficacy of 72% in preventing moderate to severe disease in the U.S. and 85.9% efficacy in preventing severe or critical disease.

The CDC, however, recommends that for now fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public for several reasons, including a stubbornly high rate of infection, concern about variants and the need for more research on whether asymptomatic vaccinated people can make unvaccinated people sick.

Notwithstanding the data, Fox News host Tucker Carlson baselessly casts doubt on the effectiveness of the vaccines by claiming “people in charge are acting like it doesn’t work,” citing the fact that President Joe Biden wears a mask even though he has been vaccinated.

Carlson made his remarks April 14 on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” A four-minute segment from that show — which included a chyron that said “Fauci Should Be Able to Answer Simple Questions” — was posted to the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Facebook page.

Carlson, April 14: Why, for example, does Tony Fauci say you have to wear a mask after you get the vaccine? If we’re following the science, and we sincerely hope to, we’re wondering, is Fauci telling Americans who have been vaccinated or who have been recovered from the coronavirus itself, that they aren’t protected against future infections? Is that why he is saying they can’t eat in restaurants or go to bars? These are not trick questions. They’re the most basic of all questions.

Carlson repeated several versions of the same question over and over, even though Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has answered this “most basic of all questions.”

As we have written, it is important not to confuse the virus, SARS-CoV-2, with the disease that it causes, COVID-19. The vaccines protect against COVID-19, which is the disease caused by the coronavirus. It may not, however, protect against infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the vaccinated person may not experience symptoms. 

Fauci explained this in a Dec. 10 interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo before the arrival in the U.S. of the first case a SARS-CoV-2 variant. He did so again more recently at a White House briefing on April 12 and at a House oversight committee hearing on April 15.

At the hearing, Fauci said vaccinated people are not expected to show any symptoms and science needs to conduct more research on whether asymptomatic vaccinated people can make other unvaccinated people sick.

Fauci, April 15: The vaccine trials that were done that showed the high degree 94%, 95% efficacy, the primary endpoint of the vaccine efficacy was to prevent clinically relevant disease, clinically recognizable disease. What we don’t know right now, but we will know as we gather more information, that you can get infected even though you have been vaccinated and because you are vaccinated have no symptoms and therefore you could have virus in your nasopharynx and you could then transmit it inadvertently to somebody else. You are vaccinated, you are protected, you are not getting sick.

So the wearing of the mask is predominantly, predominantly to prevent you inadvertently infecting someone else even though you are protected from disease by the vaccine. As we learn more and more, which we will, and the evidence gets better and better that a vaccinated person has a much lesser chance of getting infected asymptomatically and even if they do, the virus is very likely very low in the nasopharynx. When those data become clear, the CDC being a science-based organization, will use that scientific data to say, “Now a vaccinated person can actually walk around without a mask.”

Fauci said there is another issue to be concerned about and that is the circulation of coronavirus variants — the first of which was discovered in the U.S. on Jan. 25 in a traveler returning to Minnesota from Brazil.

“We want to make sure that if you have full protection against one type of a virus that a variant might come along that might escape the protection. So if you want full protection and you are out in the community where there’s a lot of virus out there, that’s why we still recommend wearing a mask,” he said. “And in answer to question before, when you get the level of virus really low, all of that is going to go away and you are not going to have any–very, very little risk therefore people will not have to wear a mask.”

This is why both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris wear masks even though they’ve been vaccinated.

As Biden explained in a Dec. 3 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, they’re setting an example for the public. “It is important that we, in fact, the president and the vice president, we set the pattern by wearing masks,” Biden said.

Also before he took office, Biden announced his plan for a “100-day challenge” aimed at slowing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It included an appeal for all Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days of his administration as well as administering 100 million shots in the same timeframe.

Two weeks ahead of that deadline, more than 200 million vaccines have been administered in the U.S., about 190 million of which were given since Biden took office.

As for the call to wear masks, the first executive order that Biden signed required those on federal property to wear masks. On his second day in office, Biden signed an executive order requiring masks on public transportation.

We’re still in Biden’s first 100 days, which ends on April 30.

In guidance issued on April 2, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can meet indoors without masks or social distancing with other fully vaccinated people and can have such visits with unvaccinated people who are at low-risk of contracting severe COVID-19 (if the unvaccinated people are from a single household). But the fully vaccinated should wear masks and remain physically distanced from when visiting unvaccinated people from more than one household or in public settings. 

“When you are in the home — you are vaccinated people — or you have a child, and a grandmother, grandfather, whoever it is — as long as they’re in good shape, you don’t have to wear a mask,” Fauci said at the April 12 White House briefing. “But once you go out into that big bad world out there, where there are a lot of infections going on — 80,000 new infections in one day — that there is an issue there that you’ve got to be careful with.”

At the hearing, Fauci directly responded to Carlson’s false implication that vaccines don’t work. “The implication was since you’re asking us to wear masks, the vaccine might not be working,” he said. “My comment to that is that the vaccines were shown, the mRNA vaccines, to be between 94 and 95 percent effective. So my answer to him is merely one of data. Look at the data. The vaccines are highly efficacious and have been shown in the field to be highly effective.”

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