Colin McEnroe (opinion): How Governor Lamont jumped the shark on vaccines

Dr. Ned Lamont this week had a mayoral moment of friendship.

Drawing on his years of medical training and clinical practice, Dr Lamont said …

What is that?

You say Lamont is not a doctor?

And that he has no medical training? Zero? No clinical experience? Nada? Does he know the bupkis about all of this?

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My mistake. I was just presuming that, because Lamont had presumed to be sermonizing and even berating the Centers for Disease Control about the Johnson & Johnson immunization break, he had special knowledge. Apparently not.

Is there any way we can get his transcript from Phillips Exeter and see how he did in high school biology? Put Dan Haar on this story.

Meanwhile: Bad Ned!

All government officials have a friendship mayor who lives inside of them. They can’t help him.

The mayor of Amity was named Larry Vaughn, and he appears in the science documentary “Jaws. He was actually a really good mayor, moved the city to GAAP budgeting, synchronized the four traffic lights, improved jitney dock-to-hotel service. I could go on.

But Vaughn will forever be known as the guy who said it was safe to go in the water when in fact there was a huge shark on the carnivorous diet marauding near the shore.

Former President Trump has defended Larry Vaughn for most of his handling of the pandemic. The virus was not a big deal and would give up the ghost in seconds or minutes or days or weeks.

Lamont and many other sane governors have gone the other way, and so much the better for them. I still think Lamont is getting high marks for his handling of this crisis, and the Connecticut vaccination program has been the vaccine equivalent of a beautiful white sand summer beach.

But then the CDC pulled the brakes on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And Larry Vaughn crawled into Ned’s skin.

Lamont and other governors were on a conference call at the White House on Tuesday, the day the CDC and the FDA jointly announced their recommendation to suspend administration of the vaccine, due to very rare incidences of a blood called thrombosis of the cerebral venous sinus (CVST), after doses of the vaccine.

The Connecticut Mirror reported Lamont’s reaction to this news. “I would have handled things differently,” Lamont replied dryly. “And I let them know that.

First of all, no one cares how the Connecticut governor would have handled it. It’s not his job to deal with it. He doesn’t know enough to make a smart decision, and if he thinks otherwise, the good press has gone to his head.

The break must have happened because, frankly, no one knows what’s going on here or the extent of the problem. The number you keep hearing, six out of 6.8 million vaccinations, is probably small and misleading.

Probably low for two reasons. First, symptoms appear six to 13 days after vaccination. There is therefore a large cohort of recently vaccinated people who do not yet know if they will have clots (still very rare). This shouldn’t drastically change the number, but it could easily drop from six to 12. Second, there may be another group of patients who had the symptoms but didn’t know they were significant. The CDC may well hear from doctors who have treated patients for clots, but saw no reason to report them.

Why misleading? Because the symptoms only appeared in women between the ages of 18 and 49. So six out of 6.8 million people may not be the right way to think. Perhaps you want to count only vaccinated women in this age cohort, in which case it is a much smaller pool. A woman of these ages who gets vaccinated is at much higher risk than one in a million women. Probably still low risk compared to a lot, but one in a million is misleading.

Now the other part. No one can say for sure that they understand why the clots and this vaccine might go together. Medical research is in high gear right now and is investigating possible explanations. The other vaccine with a possible high incidence of blood clots is the AstraZeneca model, which is the other adenovirus ‘vector’ platform. It could be a coincidence. For that matter, all the fear of the clot can be a lot of sound and fury meaning nothing.

And meanwhile – here is Lamont’s great fear – public confidence in both of these vaccines has plummeted. A recent YouGov poll showed a 13-15 point deviation from confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It could have happened anyway, in light of the news about the clots. You can’t really pin it on the break, although, yes, the break will likely make the number worse.

The YouGov poll, however, showed continued confidence in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which use mRNA platforms.

Here is the other point that is overlooked. We vaccinate 3.3 million people per day. So, so far, Johnson & Johnson’s 6.8 million doses is just over two days of our national total. Meanwhile, a manufacturing error that had nothing to do with clots had temporarily stopped Johnson & Johnson in its tracks.

They weren’t that big, and they were out of the game no matter what. Meanwhile, the other two companies are doing well.

If you want people to trust public health initiatives, this break is exactly what you are doing. You tell people that you are not taking any risks. Even if the risk is minimal, you will stop until you really understand what is going on. You don’t go past the warning signs. If you do and there is a real problem, you will never regain the lost confidence.

Yes, the sun is shining, the needles are sharp, the beaches are clean, and the benefits are huge. But, if you don’t mind, let’s send three guys on a boat, just to be on the safe side.

Colin McEnroe’s column is published every Sunday, his newsletter comes out every Thursday and you can hear its radio show every day of the week on WNPR 90.5. Email him at [email protected]. Subscribe to its newsletter on http://bit.ly/colinmcenroe.


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