Dr. Marty Makary is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus.
And he is none too impressed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation for Americans who get the vaccine. He made his disdain for the agency’s latest “absurdly restrictive” guidelines clear in a Wednesday op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “Covid Prescription: Get the Vaccine, Wait a Month, Return to Normal,” in which he noted that though the CDC claims to be “following the science,” the truth is “its advice suggests it’s still paralyzed by fear.”
What did he say?
In the wake of the CDC’s announcement that it’s now safe for fully vaccinated people to mingle indoors with some other people without masks or social distancing — a move CNN described as the agency “giving limited freedoms” to people — but not to travel, Makary stated that this is just another instance of the CDC being late or wrong when it comes to COVID-19. Which fits a pattern, the doctor said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lost a lot of credibility during the Covid-19 pandemic by being late or wrong on testing, masks, vaccine allocation and school reopening. Staying consistent with that pattern, this week—three months after the vaccine rollout began—the CDC finally started telling vaccinated people that they can have normal interactions with other vaccinated people—but only in highly limited circumstances. Given the impressive effectiveness of the vaccine, that should have been immediately obvious by applying scientific inference and common sense.
Parts of the new guidelines are absurdly restrictive. For example, the CDC didn’t withdraw its advice to avoid air travel after vaccination. A year of prevaccine experience has demonstrated that airplanes aren’t a source of spread. A study conducted for the defense department found that commercial planes have HEPA filtration and airflow that exceed the standards of a hospital operating room.
Makary added that instead of running scared from encouraging a return to normal, the agency should take a look at the available data, including that vaccination reduces transmission 89% to 94% and almost totally prevents hospitalization and death, according to a study from Israel.
Full immunity kicks in around the four-week mark after the first dose, he added, making the vaccinated patient “essentially bulletproof.” Combine that with wearing a mask indoors “for a few more weeks or months,” and there is “little a vaccinated person should be discouraged from doing.”
Instead, Makary said, the CDC has been wasting time and tests and is being “ridiculously cautious” about the virus while ignoring the dangers that come from the isolation that has been forced on the American people:
On a positive note, the CDC did say that fully vaccinated people who are asymptomatic don’t need to be tested. But that obvious recommendation should have come two months ago, before wasting so many tests on people who have high levels of circulating antibodies from vaccination.
In its guidance the CDC says the risks of infection in vaccinated people “cannot be completely eliminated.” True, we don’t have conclusive data that guarantees vaccination reduces risk to zero. We never will. We are operating in the realm of medical discretion based on the best available data, as practicing physicians have always done. The CDC highlights the vaccines’ stunning success but is ridiculously cautious about its implications. Public-health officials focus myopically on transmission risk while all but ignoring the broader health crisis stemming from isolation. The CDC acknowledges “potential” risks of isolation, but doesn’t go into details.
It’s time to liberate vaccinated people to restore their relationships and rebuild their lives.
Being too cautious about the virus has been the hallmark of “authorities” as hospitals stood in the way of family members being with loved ones as they suffered and died, Makary said, calling the separation of families “excessive and cruel, driven by narrow thinking that focused singularly on reducing viral transmission risk, heedless of the harm to the quality of human life.”
The doctor urged the CDC to not repeat its mistakes. Instead of exaggerating the public-health threat that crushes the human spirit, he said, it’s time to use “common sense” and tell Americans to “go back to normal” a month after they have received their first shot.