Fact-Checking FactCheck.org’s Ms. Catalina Jaramillo: Part 1
Why Is FactCheck.org Acting Like A Propaganda Tool For A Potentially Dangerous Narrative On COVID-19 Vaccination In The Naturally Infected?
A famous American once said that “facts are stubborn things.”
So when a well-known Journalist from a well-read media organization called FactCheck.org makes a call to fact-check, you can bet that the truth is under assault by someone, somewhere. You just don’t expect it to be by the fact-checker herself.
So when I got an email from Ms. Catalina Jaramillo of FactCheck.org, I responded to her immediately with a phone call — and we had a nice interview.
My tendency is to trust good journalists — because I view them as truth seekers. Certainly I have listened to many of Ms. Jaramillo’s segments on WHYY.org and NPR — as I am an avid listener and supporter. Added to that, was Ms. Jaramillo’s affiliation with Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center — and that, to me, made her an important conveyor of truth to the public. I’m a Penn alum and I know some brilliant people at Annenberg — past and present.
At issue was Ms. Jaramillo’s question about the clinical and scientific basis of my vocal criticism of FDA and CDC, focused on the ethical violation and danger of indiscriminate vaccination of the 20–30% of the American population who have been naturally infected by SARS-CoV-2 — the vast majority of whom are highly likely to be very robustly immune to COVID-19.
Ms. Jaramillo listened carefully to my perspective and recorded our conversation. I certainly appreciated her interest.
Then on April 23, 2021, FactCheck.org published THIS ARTICLE, entitled: “Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts”.
The top caption of the Jarmillo article captures her punch line: “There is no evidence that vaccines could cause harm to people who already have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or have become ill with the disease COVID-19. On the contrary, recent studies show the vaccine gives an important immunity boost to those previously infected and suggest that one dose might be enough.”
The title of this article alone captured the problem.
Ms. Jaramillo was not out to “Fact Check” anyone, or to write a well balanced article. She was out to produce an Op-Ed that parroted a totally baseless establishment narrative: That people who already had COVID-19 infections benefit from vaccination — and that it is safe to vaccinate all such persons.
Unfortunately for Ms. Jaramillo, she has knowingly or unknowingly, fallen into being just another cog in the wheel of an American mainstream press that is increasingly only a propaganda arm of “the establishment” — and not an astute skeptic of it, as should be the case for an objective journalist. I hope this has happened to her, unbeknownst — because if she is knowingly parroting out the majority- and regalia- based establishment narrative over authentic and truthful skepticism and real facts, that would make her either malicious or bought(?). My tendency is to think that she is just not very clued in — and that she is NOT malicious or bought. Certainly, she is neither a scientist nor a physician, so I forgive how impressed she is with the establishment narrative — so at some level I forgive her, the terrible reporting in this article.
But let me get specific.
I suppose the bit about “Viral Posts” in the title to Ms. Jaramillo’s article is FactCheck.org’s attempt at insinuating that I am spreading some sort of “misinformation” into the media. The word “misinformation” seems to be the majority establishment’s new way of overriding “skepticism” — and what’s worse and more dangerous, at this moment of peril, than credible looking skepticism inflamed in the democracy, about the validity of our government and establishment policies as it pertains to the COVID-19 vaccine. After all our nation is on fire and we can’t have nefarious or skeptical voices slow us down, as we rush to save everyone with this amazing new vaccine.
Now, to be sure, I do believe that nefarious forces in America and outside have used misinformation to disrupt our political process — as recently as 2016. But, really, the liberal use of the word “misinformation” to bleach out all “skepticism” is a more clear and present danger to our democratic process and to minority opinions and experiences in America. THAT, is the point of the first Amendment to the United States constitution.
Certainly, linking up my perspective on the danger of indiscriminate vaccination of the already naturally immune, as a physician and immunologist (Penn and Harvard trained, for the record), with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was a transparent and weak political tactic by FactCheck.org. Because, Mr. Kennedy’s character has been “assassinated” and maliciously defamed in the vaccine controversy by establishment forces, some even in his own family. So it’s clear that they are trying to put me in the same box. For the record, I have NO financial or professional ties with Mr. Kennedy or his organization.
But, I do believe Mr. Kennedy to be a highly honorable man and consider him a powerful and ethical friend to the public and to all minorities in harm’s way— true to Kennedy form, as were his father and his uncles. Frankly, I am honored to call him my friend.
The reader can listen in to my recent podcast interview with Mr. Kennedy HERE for context. I very certainly appreciate his full alignment with my perspective that naturally immune persons should NOT be indiscriminately vaccinated.
[My bet is that sometime soon, the American people will broadly recognize and hear Kennedy’s voice as a staunch defender of the weak, and an authentic heir to American political leadership. Think The Lion King. But I digress.]
To return to Ms. Jaramillo’s supposed “Fact Checking” of my perspective, her article focused on debunking two elements of my argument:
- That the vast majority of those recently infected and naturally immune benefit only marginally, if at all, from indiscriminate vaccination. And that, therefore, COVID-19 vaccination in these persons dominantly imparts upon them the risks of harm associated with these vaccines.
- That recently infected persons carry the antigenic footprint of the virus in their previously infected tissues — and that the vaccine’s powerful ability to reactivate the immune response is likely to drive a difficult and potentially pathogenic (or deadly) inflammatory response in at least some such recently infected persons.
Jaramillo’s article in FactCheck.org seems confident to have debunked both these concerns because she has found “no evidence” for my claims.
On The First Critique of my position: Unnecessary Vaccination of the Already Naturally Immune.
Ms. Jaramillo, mainly uses the expressed opinion of a decorated administrator and basic PhD immunologist, Dr. John Wherry, at Penn to counter my first point.
Now to be clear at the outset, Dr. Wherry has never treated a single patient and is not a physician himself. But, credit where it is due, Dr. Wherry is a powerful political figure at Penn Medicine, he wields a lot of administrative control over the institution’s scientific trajectory, and he has done some good basic immunology research in the past. But he’s not a physician. He does not know what it looks like when people become ill or die. He certainly does not have a clear understanding of harm in the clinical space.
Wherry told Jaramillo that “Our study and several other studies show that there is a benefit, immunologically [of vaccination]… in people who were previously infected”. Of course, Jaramillo does not dig in to what that “benefit” Wherry refers to actually is, clinically that is. She takes his word for it as Gospel — because he is the great John Wherry at Penn.
But, John, is it protection from infection? Is it faster recovery? Is it an inability to transmit the virus to others? What are “Wherry’s metrics” for vaccine “benefit” to the already naturally immune. Jaramillo never interrogates any of this. She just sheepishly accepts and parrots out Wherry’s pronouncement of “benefit”.
Oh, and don’t let me forget, but both the J&J clinical trial data AND a large recent study from Israel show that the naturally infected are at least as well protected from subsequent infection as are persons vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccines.
To be clear, I do believe that vaccine boosters could be important when antibody immunity begins to wane — But, in the midst of a pandemic that’s to only about a year old, we should be careful not overshoot with “boosters” in the naturally immune.
Let me try to explain why Dr. Wherry thinks there is “benefit” to added indiscriminate vaccination of the already naturally immune. Admittedly he says this based on a few studies in the naturally immune, using the main immunological metric for immunity: That is, the level of IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 present in the blood. And while it is true that getting a booster shot of the vaccine does, in some persons, increase the amount of IgG antibodies in the blood, what is unclear is whether this clinically “benefits” those already immune persons in any meaningful way.
Certainly, both people who are vaccinated and those naturally immune have a diversity of antibody levels in their blood from low, to intermediate, to high — and really there’s no real big difference in these levels whether you were naturally infected or vaccinated. The vast majority of both infected or vaccinated people are, in fact, immune to the virus and are NOT susceptible to re-infection. Additionally, immediately after infection or vaccination antibody levels are high but as time goes on these levels drift down.
Additionally, both the vaccine and natural immunity do have a certain “escape rate”. Ms. Jaramillo should know that as of this writing somewhere around 6000 Americans, fully vaccinated, have been re-infected with COVID-19. My point is that biology is NOT perfect or binary. Neither vaccination, nor natural immunity are perfect or airtight — a small fraction in both categories are susceptible to re-infection. BUT, the vast majority of both the naturally infected and the vaccinated are well immune to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The trouble with vaccinating people who are already naturally immune is that because it is highly unlikely that the vast majority of such persons are unlikely to gain any real benefit from this treatment — thus they only absorb the vaccine’s risks of adverse reaction and complication. Now, maybe, if we were just vaccinating a few hundred thousand people, these complications in the already immune could be ignored and neglected — the numbers would be small. But when a few hundred million people are being pushed, and at times coerced, into getting indiscriminately vaccinated, then the numbers harmed cannot be neglected or downplayed.
The trouble with Wherry is that he is not a clinician and has not really thought carefully about what the definition of medical harm is. So, I am compelled to inform him here:
“John, when a person undergoes an unnecessary medical treatment and becomes one of the minority subset experiencing an adverse event or serious/deadly complication, that is harm, it is not an unavoidable and unfortunate complication.”
So, to “fact check” Ms. Jaramillo’s assertion that vaccination of the naturally infected “benefits” them — I think she and FactCheck.org need to fact check Dr. Wherry’s assertion that naturally immune persons derive any clinical benefit from vaccination. Because, until they do, it is far more likely (and true) that medically unnecessary vaccinations in the naturally immune ONLY impart a risk of harm to them.
On The Second Critique of my position: Potential Danger of Vaccinating The Recently Infected.
The second issue I’ve raised alarms about to the FDA and CDC is that vaccination of the recently COVID-19 infected, risks potentially harming these persons.
I made this prognostication, because as a cellular immunologist, I know that after a patient clinically recovers from a viral infection, the antigenic footprint of the virus persists for many months in the tissues of such a person.
It stands to immunological reason that force activation of anti-viral T-cells by the vaccine (which is what the vaccine is designed to do), would lead to the tissues bearing the persistent (or archived) viral antigens getting targeted and inflamed once again — and in some cases causing deadly inflammatory reactions.
Of course, even the CDC recognizes that there is a danger in vaccinating the recently infected.
Ms. Jaramillo should have known that, at the moment, the CDC and most physicians recommend a minimum delay of 3 months after an infection, before getting the shot. Of course, if Jaramillo and FactCheck.org are really interested in “fact checking” they should ask CDC and FDA, why they recommend the delay and where they got the “3 month” number.
The other thing Jaramillo failed to mention is that the well decorated people she interviewed to tell her that viral antigens do not persist in the tissues of the recently infected were all actually speculating. Though Jaramillo seems to feel that their guess is better than mine — because they bear the same institutional regalia I bore just a few short years ago. What she doesn’t tell her reader is that I provided her with some decent basic “evidence” from the literature on the concept of “antigen archiving”:
Certainly she failed to mention the seminal cellular immunology the immune system can cause tissue damage, when viral antigens are targeted and destroyed when vaccines or an immunogen force activated anti-viral T-cells:
But, beyond this level of shoddy journalism in not looking with enough care and diligence at the information forming the basis of my prognostication, Ms. Jaramillo fails to even recognize a few very prominent examples of otherwise healthy persons, who were indiscriminately vaccinated in the setting of a natural infection, and died catastrophic deaths. Young people like Dr. J. Barton Williams of Memphis, TN and Mr. Christopher Sarmiento of Las Cruces, NM:
These hyper-inflammatory deaths in otherwise young and healthy, but recently infected, persons who were indiscriminately vaccinated are almost certainly NOT going to be isolated. They are the tip of a large iceberg of vaccine complications being missed, misclassified or ignored by CDC, FDA and the vaccine manufacturers.
So, as it pertains to my safety prognostication about the danger of indiscriminately vaccinating the recently infected, Jaramillo: 1) fails to ask why CDC itself is concerned about vaccinating the infected, and what the basis for the agency’s 3 month recommended delay is, 2) fails to understand the importance of safety prognostications based on real basic science in an unknown and rapidly evolving terrains like this pandemic and 3) most importantly, she cannot bring herself to ask: what happened to those unsuspecting Americans who died after indiscriminate vaccination following a recent infected? what happened to J. Barton Williams, and why? What happened to Christopher Sarmiento, and why? — and on this last point, this not caring about the harmed and dead, is simply unbecoming of American Journalism, it is simply an atrocious act of journalistic negligence.
Jaramillo and FactCheck.org Are Sad Examples of What is Wrong With Our Mainstream Media
I’ll admit, over the years I’ve listened to Ms. Jaramillo on WHYY.org and NPR. I admire good journalists. Many of them, I consider good friends to the public. And I will say that I have enjoyed and respected some of the work Jaramillo has done in the past.
Certainly, I know for a fact that in a public health battle that my wife, Dr. Amy Josephine Reed, and I waged, good journalism was instrumental to moving the levers of government and the profession in the direction of safety.
You can watch the story of Dr. Amy Josephine Reed’s public health battle for women’s health and in defense of “minority harm”, HERE.
But something’s seriously wrong now.
Like any other profession, American journalism is corruptible and subject to political and market forces. And this pandemic seems to be corrupting and unmasking all kinds of nefarious forces and disease in our society.
Sadly, the article by Jaramillo about indiscriminate vaccination of the infected is a clear demonstration of a corrupted mainstream press.
By writing a dangerously misguided tome to the establishment narrative on vaccination of the naturally immune, Ms. Catalina Jaramillo and her colleagues at FactCheck.org just demonstrated that they are floridly captured by the political establishment’s narrative. They are not truth seekers or real fact checkers. They are more like party hacks.
Now to be fair, I’ve been critical of my friends in a few other main stream media outlets, like the Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS News about their failure to put as much weight on the problem of “vaccine safety” and “minority harm”, as they do on “vaccine efficacy” and “majority benefit”. But truth be told, their silence is not as atrocious as the piece of establishment garbage and propaganda produced last week by Catalina Jaramillo and her colleagues at FactCheck.org.
I just hope these journalist for whom in a different time and space, I had good respect, are not malicious and bought figures — and that they are not too thin skinned to respond adequately and appropriately to my critique of the weak piece of journalism they produced last week.
The medical reality is that indiscriminate vaccination of the vast majority of naturally infected persons in this pandemic is unnecessary — and thus only potentially dangerous. Certainly, it is scientifically possible and likely that indiscriminate vaccination of the recently infected poses a risk of serious injury and death to, at least a minority subset of such persons — it’s already happened.
When American Journalism stops looking at minority harm, outside of a strictly racial or ethnic lens, minority’s voices of all sorts and in all corners of America will be silenced. And when that happens, the American democracy fails.
Catalina, FactCheck.org, dignify your station as Journalists — you are not party hacks or propaganda artists. You are to be truth seekers and defenders of the least fortunate amongst us.
As I said at the beginning, a famous American once said that “facts are stubborn things.” Ms. Jaramillo, you ought to study president John Adams and the idea behind America’s founding a bit more. Until you do — your work is nothing more than propaganda from a well-decorated establishment and government that is falling away from its founding principle: The defense of minorities and individuals from harm in majority ruled democratic social systems.
Sincerely in defense of US public health and in the name of Dr. Amy Josephine Reed of Yardley, PA.
Hooman Noorchashm MD, PhD
[Below, for the reader’s benefit and for the public record, I have published my email communications with Catalina Jaramillo and Dr. John Wherry at the University of Pennsylvania].
From: Hooman Noorchashm <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 16, 2021 at 4:38 PM
Subject: Re: Media Inquiry — Vaccine for those who’ve been vaccinated cause harm — FactCheck.org
To: Jaramillo, Catalina <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Woodcock, Janet <Janet.email@example.com>
It was nice speaking with you earlier. And I thank you for reaching out to Fact check me.
Attached is my CV.
Here are a few papers on viral antigenic persistence or archiving. There are a lot more too in the literature, it is pretty much a well accepted phenomenon in cellular immunology — that after a natural infection is clinically cleared, viral antigen persist in the host tissues for some time:
Here is Professor Michael Oldstone’s seminal paper from the Scripps Institute — this is proof in cellular immunology of how immunization with a virus or vaccine could lead to targeting of distant tissues that contain viral antigen and do damage. This paper triggered about a decade’s worth of investigation on this issue — it is pertinent to both viral immunity and immunological tolerance:
I hope this information helps you. And for the record, I do not work for the Children’s Health Defense.
But, I neither requested nor objected to Mr. Kennedy publishing the opinion piece to which you refer in The Defender. But I am quite happy that he did. Because I know that at the center of our democracy’s health is a commitment to free and uncensored discourse from all corners. Certainly, I have a profound respect for the Kennedy family’s immeasurable contributions to American history — and I understand why Mr. Kennedy is relentlessly focused on the defense of those minorities in harm’s way. Apples do not fall far from trees.
Finally, if you wish to understand where my perspective on minority harm and medical complications comes from, feel free to watch the documentary movie about my wife’s battle with a gynecologically upstaged uterine cancer…the movie is “Kicking The Hornet’s Nest”:
Please send me a link to your article — and I sincerely hope you are able to do a good and balanced job of presenting the issue at hand. I’ve certainly come across my share of media hit-jobs — but given your association with Annenberg and my Alma Mater at Penn, I trust you will be balanced and fair.
Finally, consider that the COVID-19 vaccine campaign is an unprecedented event in the history of western medicine — so we must be circumspect and careful in its deployment. Group-think, censorship, paternalism and protectionism will only harm unsuspecting citizens even more than they are already hurting.
On Fri, Apr 16, 2021 at 2:18 PM Jaramillo, Catalina <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Hi Dr. Noorchashm,
I’m a staff writer with FactCheck.org and I write about viral misinformation on COVID-19 and vaccines, in English and Spanish.
I’m currently factchecking this story by The Defender, a site known by spreading misinformation on vaccines founded by RFK Jr. The story claims “scientists warn vaccinating people who already [had] COVID could potentially cause harm, or even death”. Although the story takes bits and pieces from different places, the main claim is supported by your hypothesis, stated in your letter to the FDA and recent blog posts.
On Jan. 26 you wrote on your blog that this claim is a “prognostication” he’s doing “in the absence of clear ‘evidence’ of it being a material risk.”
Since then, have you find any evidence to support your claim?
And then, from this excerpt from your last post:
“From a scientific and mechanistic perspective, there is almost no question that following a natural infection the antigenic footprint of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains in the infected tissues of the host for some time. These include the inner lining of arteries and veins, the heart muscle and the nervous system. When the vaccine force re-activates the immune system against Spike protein antigens in a recently infected person, the immune response to the vaccine will target these tissues and cause inflammatory damage. In the case of blood vessels, damage to their inner lining from inflammation, could result in acute formation of blood clots.”
Could you show me some evidence or the science you used to get to these claims:
- following a natural infection the antigenic footprint of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains in the infected tissues of the host for some time.
- When the vaccine force re-activates the immune system against Spike protein antigens in a recently infected person, the immune response to the vaccine will target these tissues and cause inflammatory damage. In the case of blood vessels, damage to their inner lining from inflammation, could result in acute formation of blood clots.
I don’t have a hard deadline for now, but I’m trying to get it done by next Tuesday.
Thank you for time,
Staff Writer, FactCheck.org
Annenberg Public Policy Center
University of Pennsylvania
202 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
From: Hooman Noorchashm <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, Apr 24, 2021 at 11:40 AM
Subject: Fwd: Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts — FactCheck.org
To: Jaramillo, Catalina <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Stark, Karl <email@example.com>, Grady, Denise <firstname.lastname@example.org>, mark.maremont <email@example.com>, Kamp, Jon <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Kowalczyk, Lizbeth <email@example.com>, McNally, Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Constant, Gerri S <email@example.com>, hornblowers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I hope that in your journey as a journalist, you are able to see what I am stating — and that you are able to evolve and mature well outside of your profession’s tendency to become a propaganda arm of the establishment, Catalina.
The democratic utilitarian establishment is correct most of the time — but it is fatally incorrect some of the time, at risk of harm to unsuspecting minorities. History bears this out well.
All best wishes,
— — — — — Forwarded message — — — — -
From: Hooman Noorchashm <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, Apr 24, 2021 at 9:47 AM
Subject: Re: Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts — FactCheck.org
Cc: Woodcock, Janet <Janet.firstname.lastname@example.org>, McNally, Kelly <email@example.com>, Stark, Karl <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Grady, Denise <email@example.com>, hornblowers <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Constant, Gerri S <email@example.com>, Kamp, Jon <firstname.lastname@example.org>, mark.maremont <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Loftus, Peter <email@example.com>, Avril, Tom <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Reyn Archer <email@example.com>, Marks, Peter <Peter.Marks@fda.hhs.gov>, Gruber, William C <Bill.Gruber@pfizer.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <Doug.Lankler@pfizer.com>, Patrick Layton <email@example.com>, Lyn Redwood <Lyn.Redwood@childrenshealthdefense.org>, Jaramillo, Catalina <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nepps, Mary Ellen <Mary.Ellen.Nepps@ogc.upenn.edu>, Brennan MD, P.J. <PJ.email@example.com>, Fishman, Neil <Neil.firstname.lastname@example.org>, Tierney, Julia <Julia.Tierney@fda.hhs.gov>
Dear Dr. Wherry,
You have stated to reporter, Catalina Jaramillo of FactCheck.org and Penn, that “Our study and several other studies show that there is a benefit, immunologically … in people who were previously infected”.
Your statement is a misconstrual of clinically relevant facts and, in fact, has misled a reporter like Ms. Jaramillo, because she is neither an immunologist nor a clinician. Your inappropriate statement to the press, in a risk analysis where minority subsets of people are in real harm’s way from a highly likely unnecessary medical treatment (that is the indiscriminate vaccination of the naturally immune) is a terrible disservice. Certainly, you have totally ignored the reports out of the UK and elsewhere, indicating that the previously infected are those who are experiencing more intense side-effects from COVID-19 vaccination compared to their uninfected counterparts.
Therefore, I think, as a basic scientist and administrator with a prominent position at Penn, you are dangerously mischaracterizing the notion of clinical “benefit” — and this is extremely dangerous to many unsuspecting lives, in the minority, who should be protected by all of us who understand immunology and the potential for immunological harm, well. As you well know, with Penn’s recent vaccine mandate for students, the Penn Med faculty may soon see the repercussions of indiscriminate vaccination of the recently infected and currently immune at HUP in the form of critically ill Penn students post-vaccination.
Let me clarify for you and our colleagues CC’d. Though it is possible that some naturally immune persons might get a boost in their SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers, as I believe is your notion of “immunological benefit”, following a vaccination, it is totally unclear whether: a) the boosted antibody titers in such persons actually translate into meaningful clinical benefit (it is doubtful), and b) the vaccinated are any more robustly immune than the naturally infected (in fact, it is likely that the more diverse immune response to the whole virus is more resilient to variants and as durable, if not more so, than the vaccinated).
In my own practice, I have seen persons whose Spike antibody titers are above the limit of detection, who are either in the naturally immune or vaccinated categories. AND, I have seen persons with marginal or intermediate titers in both those categories too. The bottom line is that immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is not a uniform clinical picture — neither in the vaccinated nor in the naturally immune. What is clear, is that the vast majority of both the naturally infected are as immune, phenotypically, as are the vaccinated — and, therefore, the indiscriminate vaccination of the naturally immune is a totally unnecessary medical therapy with ONLY the potential for harm.
I am very concerned that, as a basic scientist with a glossy administrative bully pulpit, you are inappropriately promoting this idea that the naturally immune should be indiscriminately vaccinated — and that this line of argument will lead to the unnecessary and dangerous vaccination of persons who do not benefit or only marginally benefit, and as such are only open to harm. Even if this is NOT your intent, as I believe it is not, you will have opened the door to harm by expressing your unfounded opinion that vaccinating the naturally immune will benefit them. You have no “evidence” for such a clinical benefit. But in this setting the risk of immunological harm to a minority subset of people is very real. And already anecdotes of such catastrophic harm are emerging:
These cases may appear “isolated”, but I assure you that they are not possibly “isolated”…and that our passive surveillance systems at CDC and FDA are missing the safety signal — as I know, very well from personal experience, that they do, not infrequently.
Dr. Wherry, in a different life and along a different trajectory, I was one of you. Life’s course brought me to understand how minority harm happens in our system. I am writing to you that as a guardian of the establishment and a seemingly credible voice of science as an immunologist, you are making a terrible error in immunological reasoning and ethics, with catastrophic consequences to some, by endorsing mass scale COVID-19 vaccination in the recently infected and naturally immune.
But I know that professional ego, and establishment process, blunt even the most brilliant of minds and ethical of hearts. And when those charged with helping our world become healthier, like yourself, are only focused on majority benefit and do not understand the ethics of minority harm, nor how it is created and sustained, our world becomes less just and more unhealthy.
Dr. Wherry, the indiscriminate vaccination of the already naturally immune en mass in America (and at Penn) is a clear and present public health hazard that will harm a “minority” subset of people, whose absolute numbers are not going to be small or negligible at all.
Correct your orientation with humility and ethical integrity as an immunologist — at the moment your words to the press are incorrect and extremely harmful.
In defense of US public health and in the name of Amy Josephine Reed MD, PhD,
On Sat, Apr 24, 2021 at 7:55 AM Hooman Noorchashm <email@example.com> wrote:
I read your article in FactCheck:
I do appreciate that you did not misconstrue my opinion too badly — though I admit juxtaposed against all my decorated colleagues, especially at my prior home institution, you did a good job of making my arguments sound unimpressive. So let me clear, for the record, because I do think that you, as a person and reporter, are well educated and have good intent, but are failing to see a serious problem in our society — as many are.
Fundamentally, my point is that in the practice of medicine and public health we must always aim to avoid medical treatments that are either unnecessary or of marginal benefit to those being treated — this is especially critical when it comes to mass scale or “service line” treatments. In the case of this pandemic outbreak, despite all the hand waving from “experts” about it, immunological science tells us, with near certainty, that the vast majority of persons naturally infected are robustly immune to SARS-CoV-2 — almost certainly as well as those vaccinated, if not better. Therefore, the indiscriminate vaccination of the naturally immune is not only unnecessary, it is potentially dangerous. Certainly in such persons vaccine related complications, which do occur at rates of one in tens to hundreds of thousands as you know, CANNOT be classified as “unavoidable complications”. Instead, vaccine “complications” in such persons are, in fact, classified as “harm” by ethical physicians and decent public health experts, because they are not only totally avoidable (e.g., by avoiding an unnecessary vaccination in already immune persons), but they are highly likely to be of only marginal benefit, if any at all. And if “experts” like Dr. Wherry and others with high academic regalia within top establishments like Penn, are comfortable with stating that such naturally immune persons actually benefit from added vaccination, please know that they have NO evidence for such an assertion of “added benefit” in the short-term or the long-run — certainly not for the vast majority of the naturally immune. I would challenge you to interrogate that FACT if you are truly interested in Fact Checking.
Do consider, Catalina, that with millions already naturally immune, and quite robustly, at minimum harm is being done to a minority subset in whom vaccination is an unnecessary medical treatment. In these people, all of whom are significant and non-negligible mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and friends, vaccine complications fall under the category of harm…totally avoidable harm, unmitigated by agencies like FDA and CDC — and ignored by leading physicians and scientists like John Wherry. How do you avoid and mitigated? by using standard clinical metrics: screening before vaccination, especially in high risk persons, for the presence of good natural immunity.
I wonder, what of what i have written or said above is wrong or refutable in your mind — and if so, how is it refutable, with what “evidence”?
Of course, I state all the above, as I told you in our interview, knowing full well the power and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in protecting those persons who do NOT have immunity to SARS-CoV-2. As you know I was vaccinated myself and I endorse immediate vaccination in ALL persons who are not naturally immune.
But, Catalina, I do think that there is an even deeper and more fundamental cognitive problem and error in your article — and this is something that is plaguing our entire mainstream press, as I have discussed with Karl Stark and other friends in its leadership. The problem with your article is that you are not seeing the difference between “majority benefit” and “minority harm” clearly — nor are you aware of the socio-cultural physics governing each.
The trouble with the picture of minority harm in America (and globally), as I told you, is that it almost always, gets blunted and downplayed by the well decorated guardians of the establishment who are the utilitarian creators and financial/ego beneficiaries of majority benefit constructs — because it is difficult to address the problem of minority harm and because addressing it is economically disruptive. So the “evidence” sought, created and focused on in our contemporary establishment approach is almost always focused on and biased towards majority benefit. When minority harm rears its head, it is almost always derided, whitewashed and under-estimated by the “experts” — and those who blow the whistle are damaged and marginalized by the guardians of majority benefit. Trust that I know this FACT about our establishment with visceral certainty — when minority harm is exposed, there will always be a war in which the guardians harm the whistleblower and attempt to shut them up. A good professor of mine at Penn used to say, “you don’t see what you don’t look for” and by extension, “you only see what you want to see” — and that is what the “majority benefit”, expert crowd look for…only majority benefit….because money and democratic ego lives in the majority space — not the harmed minority, who by definition exit our democracy and have no voice.
Who then defends the minorities in harm’s way? Certainly not the mainstream press — increasingly not our government. And VERY certainly not folks like Dr. Wherry in glossy academic regalia at ivory institutions like Penn claiming added benefit to vaccinating the already recently naturally immune: FALSE!
Of course, I believe that this pandemic is a unique situation and establishment experts will not be able to ignore minority harm in all of its dimensions — including its ethnic and socioeconomic ones. Because the absolute numbers of the “minorities” will be too large to ignore.
I have to say that I understand the role FactCheck.org plays in defending establishment narratives and evidence — you are a defender of the establishment, whether you know it or not. But unfortunately that is not good journalism, because it’s teleological purpose seems to be to show that the establishment is correct and the skeptic is not. It begins with that premise. And though in the vast majority of cases “experts” are correct, there are some critical failures too, on the receiving end of which are usually unsuspecting and trusting minority subsets of people whose lives get shattered — totally avoidably.
In any case, I don’t blame you — nor do I believe that you falsified anything I said. You just didn’t present the totality of my perspective — and you juxtaposed it against a lot of well decorated “experts” who are the champions of “majority benefit”. So that was lopsided journalism without the courage to challenge Goliath.
I certainly do wish that you had refrained from demonizing RFK Jr. any more than he has been, because he is a real friend to many harmed persons in the American public, whose lives have been devastated in the many corners of our society where harm happens in different forms. You’ve sized him up incorrectly as many do, maliciously — even in his own family, it appears.
You may want to listen into my interview with him here — and full disclosure, I’m not in any way connected to him financially or otherwise. I’ve only observed him for a while outside of the vaccine issue. His derision and censorship by the media and by powerful SM platforms are American tragedies. Here’s the interview:
To better times and to recovery and healing in America.
Hooman Noorchashm MD, PhD