The CDC Has a Credibility Problem | Citizens Against Government Waste

The CDC Has a Credibility Problem

The WasteWatcher

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was established in 1946, has long had a reputation as the leading organization of its kind in the world.  When diseases break out in other countries, their first call is often to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, seeking not just advice, but also personnel and resources to combat whatever may be making people sick.  The agency has been on the front lines of the fight against malaria, Ebola, and many other highly contagious and deadly diseases across the globe.

But the agency has taken a big hit since COVID-19 started in China and quickly spread when it reached the U.S.  The ongoing criticism of the CDC includes a scathing op-ed in the September 13, 2021, Wall Street Journal, “Covid Confusion at the CDC,” by Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, news commentator, and author of “The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care – And How to Fix It.  He wrote, “The U.S. spends lavishly on healthcare yet can’t answer basic questions about Covid-19.  Some of the best research has come from Israel.  American public health agencies should be producing data on breakthrough infections, boosters and natural immunity.  But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has failed to provide the information needed to inform a sound Covid strategy.”

He discussed how Israel has provided several good studies on COVID and how the Biden administration used data from one study to support its COVID booster plan.  He asked, “Why didn’t the CDC produce the research?  The agency has 21,000 employees and a $15 billion annual budget.  It has data on more than 40 million Americans who have tested positive for COVID and 200 million who have been vaccinated.  The data include the vaccine type, dosing schedule and vaccination date.  Calculating the rate of U.S. breakthrough infections and subsequent hospitalizations and deaths isn’t the Manhattan Project.  It’s Epidemiology 101.”

Makary was also very critical of the lack of data from the CDC concerning natural immunity that is gained from a prior COVID 19 infection.  He wrote that Israel, “published the most powerful and scientifically rigorous study on the subject to date.  In a sample of more than 700,000 people, natural immunity was 27 times more effective than vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic infections.”  Yet, U.S. health officials continue to dismiss natural immunity, insisting those that have had it must also get the vaccine.  This is likely due to a CDC study on natural immunity that only looked at two months’ worth of data, concluding that vaccines were better by 2.3 times.  Markary considered this study “odd” because “there are more than a year of data available.  Moreover, despite having data on all 50 states, the CDC only reported data from Kentucky.  Was Kentucky the only state that produced the desired result?  Why else exclude the same data from the other 49 states?”  He accuses the CDC of fishing for data to support their hypothesis that vaccines provide better results.

The CDC has had trouble handling COVID from the very beginning of the pandemic, starting with its failure to quickly produce an effective test kit for testing for the coronavirus.  An April 19, 2020 article in Global Biodefense, a publisher of news and insights on health security regarding pathogens, emerging infectious diseases, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, reported that, “The failure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quickly produce a test kit for detecting the novel coronavirus was triggered by a glaring scientific breakdown at the CDC’s central laboratory complex in Atlanta.”  Shockingly, the article goes on to say that, “The CDC facilities that assembled the kits violated sound manufacturing practices, resulting in contamination of one of the three test components used in the highly sensitive detection process.  The cross contamination most likely occurred because chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material in proximity which also violated standards.”  It took the CDC more than a month to fix the problem, “exacerbating nationwide delays in testing.”  The problems included, “researchers entering and exiting the coronavirus laboratories without changing their coats, to test ingredients being assembled in the same room where researchers were working on positive coronavirus samples.”  These practices led to the tests being sent to public health labs unusable because they were contaminated and produced “inconclusive results.” 

The delays caused by the contamination were exacerbated by the federal government’s initial refusal to allow any other public or private entity to provide COVID-19 tests.  A March 19, 2020, Wall Street Journal article noted that the CDC, “resisted calls from state officials and medical providers to broaden testing, and health officials failed to coordinate with outside companies to ensure needed test-kit supplies, such as nasal swabs and chemical reagents, would be available, according to suppliers and health officials.”

According to a September 16, 2021 Axios article former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb also found fault with the CDC, which is a significant part of his new book, Uncontrolled Spread.  He believes the CDC moved too slowly during the pandemic, hindering the U.S. response, and was critical of the agency’s social distancing recommendations, saying they were arbitrary.  The original recommendation was 10 feet, which would have forced more schools to close, and that the White House was right to oppose it.  It was later dropped to six feet.  Even that distance “was the single costliest recommendation the CDC issued during the whole pandemic” according to Gottlieb.  Eventually the distance was dropped to three feet by the Biden administration, “based on data that had been available for six months.”

Dr. Gottlieb calls for American intelligence agencies to play a bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if they overrule public health agencies.  But he would not likely be making that suggestion if the CDC had lived up to its name and reputation.

As Dr. Makary mentioned, the CDC has more than 20,000 employees.  Its budget, which includes discretionary authority and mandatory funding, was $11.1 billion in 2012, pumped up to $15.9 billion in 2020, and is now at an estimated $28.6 billion in 2021.  Its official mission is to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.  Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable, or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same” and that the “CDC increases the health security of our nation.  As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats.  To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats and responds when these arise.”

Clearly this is not occurring.  It is not unusual for a bureaucracy to get so large and cumbersome that it becomes almost immobile, suffers from budget creep, and loses its primary directive.  It is long past due for Congress to take a hard look at the CDC and steer it back to its main purpose, protecting the American people from both domestic and foreign diseases.  As the nation and the world has suffered from the impact of COVID-19 over the past 19 months, everyone’s lives and livelihoods depend on an effective and efficient CDC.

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