Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How much swine flu vaccine was truly used? What does CDC's numbers game tell us?

Here are some anomalies in CDC's reported data.  Note that all the data come from information provided by CDC on April 1-2, 2010 (using the same dataset) and were said to reflect information through January (MMWR) or February (per Schuchat) 2010.

1.  Local reporting (May 18) has it that New Jersey used 1.14 million doses of swine flu vaccine;  65% was given to children.  New Jersey has 8.7 million inhabitants.   If everyone got one dose, 13.1% of the population would have been vaccinated.  But children 6 months through 8 years were advised to receive two doses.  So the percentage of vaccine recipients is less than 13.1%.  Yet CDC estimated that 17.8% of New Jersey residents were vaccinated.

Surprisingly, on April 1, CDC's Ann Schuchat claimed the state with the lowest vaccination rate was Mississippi, at 13%.  Mississippi has the lowest per capita income in the US.  New Jersey has the second highest.  It is very unlikely that New Jersey had as low a vaccination rate as Mississippi.  At least one of these numbers is wrong, and I'm betting that Mississippi's rate is exaggerated upward.

2.  New Jersey has given us a real number, unlike CDC, which can only cite telephone surveys of how many people said they got vaccinated.  Based on these surveys, 72 to 81 million Americans received swine flu vaccinations.  Yet, as I've noted previously, every office that received swine flu vaccine from CDC (and there was no other way to get this vaccine in the US) was required to file weekly reports with CDC providing the precise number of doses administered.  Although I have searched at length (on CDC's website and in the media) for the number of vaccinations reported to CDC by medical providers, I can find no mention of it.

3.  According to CDC's Ann Schuchat (on April 1, 2010), "The elderly, 22 percent of them, were vaccinated compared with only 14.4 percent of healthy adults under 65."  For children under 18, she said the vaccination rate was 36.8%.  CDC attributed this to school-based vaccination clinics.  [Read the transcript of her press conference to get a flavor for how Dr. Schuchat dodged questions and spun answers, and implied CDC would encourage employer vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.]

The USA has 75 million children under 18.  That is 27.6 million kids vaccinated (36.8%).  Those over 65 comprise 12.6% of the population of 309 million, or 38.9 million.  8.57 million (22%) were vaccinated.  Those 18-65 in the US number 195 million.   28.1 million of them (14.4%) were vaccinated.

The grand total of vaccinated Americans provided on April 1, 2010, calculated using CDC's vaccination rates for different age groups, is 64.3 million Americans, not 72 to 81 million, as claimed by CDC. [With all CDC's resources, it still can't get its story straight.]

4.  There is no way to know if the vaccination rates by age that CDC provided are accurate, if they are gross approximations or fabrication.  It is a crying shame that federal agencies are under no compulsion to tell the truth.  This is imho worse than lying--because CDC used millions of taxpayer dollars to fund phone surveys asking people if they were vaccinated, in order to develop incorrect estimates of the number vaccinated:  because CDC did not want to provide the correct number to the public.  I call that adding insult to injury.

5.  For another topical example of CDC duplicity and its adverse effect on the public health:  CDC admitted last Friday that it had misled the public about the risk of lead in the District's drinking water.  (The agency is a habitual liar.)  According to the Washington Post:
Sometimes Don Quixote beats the windmill.

It happened for Marc Edwards, a lean, intense Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor. Drawing on what he called his own "world-class stubbornness," he mounted a six-year campaign that succeeded last week in forcing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to admit that it had misled the public about the risk of lead in the District's drinking water.
The CDC, which is the nation's principal public health agency, made the confession in a "Notice to Readers" published in an official weekly bulletin Friday. It came a day after a scathing House subcommittee report said the agency knowingly used flawed and incomplete data when it assured D.C. residents in 2004 that their health hadn't been hurt by spikes in lead in the drinking water. . .
Edwards's effort cost him thousands of hours away from his young family in Blacksburg. Officials at the CDC and the EPA tried to smear his professional reputation, dismissing him as just an engineer rather than a qualified health professional.

For a while, the crusade cost Edwards money as well. In 2004, he passed up a $100,000 EPA contract to consult on the issue, because he felt that he would be working for the wrong side. He put his family in debt by spending tens of thousands of dollars, mostly on fees for endless Freedom of Information Act requests to get data critical to his research. . .
Edwards said the key breakthrough came in early 2008. That's when he finally persuaded Children's National Medical Center to share data so he could do an independent study of lead levels in D.C. children's blood samples. The CDC and other agencies were refusing to provide him with such information. . .
That study blew a hole in the CDC's 2004 report. The agency had said "no children" were identified with elevated, unsafe blood levels, "even in homes with the highest water lead levels."

The CDC now concedes that its scientific credibility has suffered a blow. It blames the problem largely on poor writing in the report. "Looking backward six years, it's clear that this report could have been written a little better," said Tom Sinks, deputy director of the CDC's national center for environmental health.

Edwards said the CDC is still trying to hide its misdeeds. "There's a lot of lessons here for how science can go awry, how bureaucracies can use science to hide the truth," Edwards said. . .

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