Why You Should Be Skeptical About Doctor Fear Pimp Using NBC Montana To Sell A Johnson & Johnson One Poke Product

by Travis Mateer

I wouldn’t normally go to local news for pandemic information, but the headline of a recent NBC Montana article caught my eye: Johnson & Johnson vaccine efficacy improves over time.

Before getting to the article (and the “expert”), let’s take a moment to make sure we understand what the word “efficacy” means, and that meaning is simply the ability to produce a desired or intended result.

Now, here’s how the article begins:

Some pharmacies are now giving users the option to sign up for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or a two-dose option in Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

As one health official put it Wednesday, the best vaccine is the one you can get an appointment for. At first glance, the J&J vaccine may not be as appealing as the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, but doctors say it has plenty of its own benefits.

This unnamed “health official” sounds like he or she is making some kind of vaccine joke about simply getting ANY of the Big Pharma products, but this article is specifically about informing selling the Johnson & Johnson ONE POKE product.

And remember, when you see the word “efficacy”, please ask yourself WHAT IS THE INTENDED RESULT of this vaccine? Because the article does NOT make that clear:

First, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose and doesn’t require extreme cold storage, making it far easier to distribute to places like rural Montana and smaller providers.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine shows a 72% efficacy rate in the U.S., and even though it falls short of the 95% rate found in Moderna and Pfizer studies, doctors say its efficacy may actually get better over time.

So, is the efficacy discussed in this article about reducing transmission of the virus, or reducing the severity of the symptoms? And how can this poorly defined efficacy rate “get better over time”? Let’s bring in a doctor to explain all this, shall we?

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding is an epidemiologist who says J&J reaches as high as 90-95% efficacy for severe COVID-19 at 56 days, which he says is on par with Pfizer and Moderna.

Feigl-Ding says comparing vaccines isn’t like comparing apples to apples, because the trials for Pfizer and Moderna were done before we saw a huge outbreak in variants.

“The Johnson & Johnson trial was done during this epically bad winter surge, which was surging in all these places worldwide, while the Moderna and Pfizer, they were done in a very old era, back in the summer, late summer, when the surge hadn’t gone bad,” Feigl-Ding told NBC Montana Wednesday. “The variants had not grown out of control. We did not have a New York variant, we had no California variant. The U.K. variant wasn’t really that much of an issue back then, and so it was like a from a completely different era, and the cases were much lower. You want to compare apples and apples and vaccines — they’re good, as in they prevent severe disease and death. And no one has died in any these trials — of all the vaccines, no one has died of COVID.”

As Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding talks about apples and vaccines and all those exciting variants to remain IN FEAR of as we mark a year of going into lockdown for TWO WEEKS to FLATTEN THE CURVE, I decided to get a little more context about this doctor.

And here is some relevant context from the Association of Healthcare Journalists about Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding

Most experts will be quick to tell you whether they are the right person to talk to; it’s in their own best professional interest to stay in their own academic/subspecialty lane. Unfortunately, there is the occasional person who will whip across five lanes to land on CNN or feed a hungry Twitter audience — even when they lack the relevant expertise to discuss a topic. The current outbreak has provided a perfect case study in what not to do when seeking an expert: Don’t go to the self-styled expert with no background in infectious disease just because they posted some inflammatory (and misleading) tweets or teach an adjunct course at Harvard.

As Alexis Madrigal discusses in an excellent story at The Atlantic, this is precisely how nutrition scientist Eric Feigl-Ding, Ph.D., ended up on the national media’s radar. After reading a non-peer-reviewed preprint about the virus, Feigl-Ding wrote in a now-deleted tweet, “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD—the new coronavirus is a 3.8!!! How bad is that reproductive R0 value? It is thermonuclear pandemic level bad—never seen an actual virality coefficient outside of Twitter in my entire career. I’m not exaggerating.” (In fact, many diseases have much higher R0s, such 12-18 for measles and pertussis.)

The fact that Feigl-Ding went apoplectic over R0 values in a tweet he later deleted is a big red flag, but it gets worse:

The problem is that Feigl-Ding has precisely zero experience in infectious diseases. He has an impressive list of publications in global disease burden and the epidemiology of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but nothing in infectious disease. Yet Feigl-Ding’s followers rapidly grew, from around 2,000 to now more than 109,000, as they voraciously consumed Feigl-Ding’s often misleading, inaccurate or exaggerated tweets. Soon Feigl-Ding was on CNN, identified as “Public Health Expert, Harvard University,” and on CGTN as a “scientist” at Harvard. Colleagues and other experts on Twitter who tried to correct Feigl-Ding were attacked, dismissed, blocked or ignored. Feigl-Ding is a public health expert, no doubt, and he is a visiting scientist at Harvard. But that doesn’t mean he’s remotely qualified to speak on an infectious disease outbreak. Relying on someone who appears authoritative but isn’t actually an expert in the topic is dangerous, as you risk communicating inaccurate or misleading information to an anxious public.

Despite this information being easily accessible with a five minute web browser search, this HARVARD doctor is given a local media platform to say shit like this:

“Another surge will be driven by the more contagious variants. So right now when the old common strain is still common, we need to use this window and every chance we have right now to slow down epidemic and to try to stop it and go for zero,” Feigl-Ding said. “Getting the vaccine right now protects you, it protects your family.”

If you want to trust a doctor with no experience in infectious diseases about the safety of vaccines for you and your family, that is your choice to make.

Before you make that choice, though, you might want to consider the fact that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out over 4 BILLION dollars over the decades:

A branch of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the program has adjudicated vaccine injury and death claims for three decades while rarely drawing much attention.

One of the reasons the court works in obscurity is that vaccines provide vast public health benefits, and authorities are reluctant to point to the rare cases where they lead to harm out of fear that the information will dissuade people from being immunized.

Yet the program’s payouts to those injured and their attorneys have mounted since the late 1980s, when the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act set up the vaccine court as an alternative to lawsuits for people seeking compensation for adverse reactions to vaccines. Payments—which surpassed $4 billion by Dec. 1, according to data from the federal Health Resources & Services Administration—come from a trust fund supplied by a surcharge on vaccines.

A separate court that “works in obscurity” to “compensate” vaccine victims should be a BIG RED FLAG for anyone who believes informed consent is a critical part of our relationship with the medical industry.

Sadly, instead of thinking critically and searching out additional information, too many people are allowing fear-pimps like this Fiegl-Ding to scare them into the waiting arms of Big Pharma.

If you want to believe these fear-mongers, that is your choice. Just don’t lash out at those of us who didn’t abdicate our critical thinking faculties when the fear fog descended.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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