The CDC, we are told, is, in part, a scientific agency but fundamentally a political one, and it shows:
The director is appointed by the president of the United States, and the CDC’s guidance often balances public health and welfare with other priorities of the executive branch.
Throughout this pandemic, the CDC has been a poor steward of that balance, pushing a series of scientific results that are severely deficient. This research is plagued with classic errors and biases, and does not support the press-released conclusions that often follow. In all cases, the papers are uniquely timed to further political goals and objectives; as such, these papers appear more as propaganda than as science. The CDC’s use of this technique has severely damaged their reputation and helped lead to a growing divide in trust in science by political party. Science now risks entering a death spiral in which it will increasingly fragment into subsidiary verticals of political parties. As a society, we cannot afford to allow this to occur. Impartial, honest appraisal is needed now more than ever, but it is unclear how we can achieve it…
Masking is not the only matter in which the CDC’s stated policy goal has coincided with very poor-quality science that was, coincidentally, published in their own journal. Consider the case of vaccination for kids between the ages of 5 and 11. COVID vaccination in this age group has stalled, which runs counter to the CDC’s goal of maximum vaccination. Interestingly, vaccinating kids between 5 and 11 is disputed globally; Sweden recently elected not to vaccinate healthy kids in this age group, and some public health experts believe that it would be preferable for kids to gain immunity from natural exposure instead. Stalling U.S. uptake therefore reflects a legitimate and open scientific debate, regardless of whether the CDC’s policy goal would like to consider it closed.
Enter the CDC’s new study. Widely covered in news outlets, the January 2022 study claims that kids below the age of 18 who get diagnosed with COVID are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. “These findings underscore the importance of COVID-19 prevention among all age groups,” the authors write, “including vaccination for all eligible children and adolescents.” But a closer examination of the study again reveals problems.
First, it does not adjust for body mass index. Higher BMI is a risk factor for COVID, prompting hospitalization and diabetes, and yet the CDC analysis does not adjust for weight at all. Second, the absolute risks the study finds are incredibly low. Even if the authors’ finding is true, it demonstrates an increase in diabetes of up to 6 in 10,000 COVID survivors. Third, the CDC’s analysis uses billing record diagnoses as a surrogate for COVID cases, but many kids had and recovered from COVID without seeking medical care. Without a true denominator that conveys the actual number of COVID cases, the entire analysis might be artifact. As the former dean of Harvard Medical School Jeffrey Flier told The New York Times, “The CDC erred in taking a preliminary and potentially erroneous association and tweeting it to specifically create alarm in parents.” Some might view it as a mistake, but after observing these matters for almost two years, I believe it was the entire point of the study: Alarm might boost flagging vaccine uptake in kids. (Already, a better study out of the United Kingdom finds no causal link between COVID and diabetes in kids.)Vinay Prasad, “How the CDC Abandoned Science” at Tablet (February 14, 2022)
After a while, the public will catch on. The reputation of science is not going to do well out of the “Trust the Science!” phase.
Right now, we are still in this stage: At Mind Matters News: We trust nonsense from lab coats more than from gurus. It’s hard to understand why the researchers take comfort from finding that, worldwide, people will believe absolute nonsense if it comes from scientists.
Note: They will believe it until it begins to cost themin ways they understand. After that, they may not believe good sense either.