Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19, September 1, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

351. The Veterinarian drug ivermectin is scandalously used to treat Covid-19

         Q:  Does the FDA-approved pharmaceutical ivermectin work to cure Covid-19? 

         A:   While ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA, it is not approved for ingestion by humans.  Its effectiveness is to rid large animals (cows and horses) and smaller animals (goats and dogs) of parasites.  An ointment is approved for human external use only to be placed on the scalp to treat for head lice and scabies.  So why are veterinarians having difficulty in receiving supplies of ivermectin?  Why is this drug touted by so many as a cure-all for Covid-19?  Why are poison control centers in many states receiving many calls asking what doses should be taken, or complaining of disquieting side effects after taking this medication?  There are two scandalous stories explaining this current problem.

Surgisphere is an American healthcare analytics company established in 2008 by Sapan Desai . It came under scrutiny in May 2020 after it provided large datasets of information on Covid-19 patients, which were subsequently found to be extremely unreliable.   A study was underway using the Surgisphere questionable database.  This involved ivermectin and another drug, losartan in cancer patients with recent diagnosis of Covid-19.  Questions arose after the study was published by McGill University Health Center in Canada because it was suspected the data used was fraudulent.  Requests for the source data was refused by Surgisphere, and the McGill article was retracted in June 2020.  However, the retracted study continued to be cited by many other researchers in their publications.  The distorted misinformation was spread by Fox News and Facebook that ivermectin is a miracle cure.

Time Magazine ran an article last week about a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors.  (AFLD).  This group has been active on social media, especially Facebook, promoting ivermectin as a “safe and effective treatment” for Covid-19.”  AFLD in the past had been promoting hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure.  But now the group has set up a scam where people can call in, pay $90.00 for a “consultation,” another fee for a “physician” to “prescribe” ivermectin, then refer the caller to a “pharmacist” who will “fill the prescription” (for a fee sometimes up to $700.00!)  and have it mailed directly to the person willing to pay for all the costs.  Ivermectin is not a prescription drug, and people soon have discovered that they can go to a nearby agricultural supply store and buy it right over the counter – in a tablet form designed to deworm a large animal like a horse or a cow.  AFLD is seen as a leading purveyor of medical disinformation that erodes public confidence and hinders controlling the pandemic.  “They’re the 21 century, digital version of snake-oil salesmen,” says Irwin Redlener, MD, who directs the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

These scams have led to an awareness that medical research needs sanctions against false data and studies, and for later studies that cite retracted information.  Also, it against the law to charge for medical services and products that are not approved by the FDA

352. FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine is seen as “a huge milestone.”

         Q: What’s the big deal about the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine?

         A:  All approved vaccines were authorized by the FDA having been given Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA).  Under an EUA, everyone given their shots have to follow the regimen outlined by that EUA.  For Pfizer, this means 2 shots at least 4 weeks apart.  That’s it. With full approval, a physician can now give a third shot when indicated – 8 or 6 months after the second shot. Vaccine mandates are now allowed, with government, agencies, and businesses being able to require all within their ranks to get vaccinated.  For many who remain hesitant, full approval was a condition on which they have been holding out.  Many more hesitant people can now be expected to become vaccinated.

353. Some Connecticut towns have 80% of their residents vaccinated while other towns have less than 50%; other characteristics have been identified.

         Q:  Are there differences within Connecticut with the percentage of people vaccinated?

         A:  The Hartford Courant last Sunday reported on a forthcoming survey from the non-profit group DataHaven.  This group is also known as the Regional Data Cooperative and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization registered as a Public Charity with the State of Connecticut.  It recently completed a comprehensive survey of the vaccination status of state residents.

  • Connecticut ranks third as the most vaccinated state in the U.S.
  • While some towns have 80% of their populations vaccinated, others have less than 50%.
  • Politically, 90% of Democrats are vaccinated compared to 20% of Republicans.
  • An estimated 95% of Asians adults and 85% of white adults are vaccinated, contrasted with 73% of Black adults and 67% of Latino adults.
  • About 90% of people with annual incomes over $100,000 are vaccinated; low-income adults are about 75% vaccinated.
  • About 40% of unvaccinated people are between the ages of 18 and 35, while only 12% are over the age of 65.
  • There is no significant difference between urban residents and those living in more rural communities.

Many organizations are doing outreach to provide valid information to overcome the hesitancy caused by misinformation that social media and others are promoting.  In Waterbury, the Grace Baptist Church uses high school students to serve as vaccine outreach teams.  The number of fully vaccinated people in Connecticut is rising.  At the current rate, it will be early in 2022 before the presumed “herd immunity” will be reached when the pandemic in Connecticut can likely be controlled.

354. Connecticut Anti-vaccine and anti-mask protesters are being more adamant.

         Q:  Shouldn’t people have the freedom to choose if they get vaccinated and wear masks?

         A:  We pointed out previously there is a difference between personal health and public health.  Individuals clearly have the ability to choose whether to receive medical care for themselves.  But in the field of public health, the goal is to protect the public – the community.  For centuries, the community has been given the right to mandate behavior of individuals to protect the population at large.  Adults today who demand they don’t need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, regularly accepted vaccinations as children to be allowed to enter public schools.  Polio has nearly been eradicated because of public health vaccinations.  Smallpox, an often-fatal disfiguring disease has been globally eliminated.  Years of misinformation, governmental inaction allowing individuals to opt-out of required vaccination, have now created a community of people that feel comfortable saying, “No, not me!”   The politicization of vaccines and masks by the Republican Party has turned this group of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers into aggressive opponents of public health.  Even in Connecticut!  Last Wednesday, in Cheshire, Governor Lamont and public health officials were forced to leave a public meeting when a raucous crowd shouted profanity at the speakers preventing them from explaining the public health measures available for schools to control this pandemic.

“What people need to understand and weigh is, ‘Will this personal choice affect somebody else?’  At that point it’s no longer personal,” stated Ulysses Wu, MD, Hartford Healthcare infectious disease specialist.

355. “More people are testing positive” is confused with “more testing is needed.”

         Q:  What is meant when the news reports that the test positive rate is growing dramatically?

         AA critical data plan for controlling infectious disease is to estimate how many people in a population have the disease and are infecting others.  An accurate estimate is impossible to obtain – this would be to test every person once every day.  The method used by epidemiologists is to test a sample of the population each day and calculate the positive test rate.  And, of course, those that test positive have their contacts traced and are isolated to prevent further expansion of the disease.  If the sample size is too small, it probably will include many people who are showing symptoms that will increase the positive tests in that sample.  This leaves out other infected people that can expand the spread of the disease.  The World Health Organization has set the marker for a more accurate estimate that the number of tests given is adequate at or below a 5% test positive rate.  As of last Sunday, Connecticut’s positive test rate was 4.35%.  This does not mean the percentage of infected people is rising out of control.  It only means that the number of tests given in Connecticut was approaching the WHO level of inadequacy.

In Monday’s Hartford Courant, the headline was, “Homeless shelters say they need more testing.”  It was revealed that in June, the State Health Department started limiting the number of reimbursed tests being offered statewide, and homeless shelters were not able to meet their demand for testing.  As the percent of positive tests rises, the need for more testing increases.