Give credit where credit is due: when Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and his health care apparatchiks are wrong, they won’t back off no matter how unconvincing their arguments and evidence, to the detriment of Louisianans even when a consensus exists against them.
That became apparent through a marathon session of the House Health and Welfare Committee this week. It met in response to a proposed rule by the Department of Health that would put vaccines for the Wuhan coronavirus on the required list of immunizations for public education, an action over which the committee has veto power. Such a decision, however, the governor may overrule.
In practical terms, at present that would subject only children aged 16 and older to injection, as official federal government authorization of these vaccines applies only to that age and above. However, officials have under consideration reducing that to 5. Further, legal ambiguity exists whether such an order pertains to this particular case; as Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry has noted, the current “vaccines” act more as mostly-effective prophylactics that don’t prevent infections or transmission.
This stands in contrast to all the other required immunizations, which last many times longer than the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines and genuinely stop diseases in their tracks. Indeed, the coronavirus behaves like influenza – especially with children sharing similar extremely low infection fatality rates – with its many mutations making vaccines only partially effective and never able to suppress it, yet no attempt ever has been made to require annual flu shots for children in school.
This inconsistency in policy underscores that this attempt has little to do with science and public health and much to do with politics. It’s part of the zero COVID fantasy the left propagates because it creates a crisis atmosphere that encourages bigger and more controlling government.
Point man during the hearing was State Health Officer Joe Kanter – who over a year ago predicted the state would see 40,000 deaths without stringent social restrictions while since then in large stretches having no such thing and fewer than 10,000 deaths have occurred – who kept insisting upon the necessity of the rule. This despite that of about 125,000 cases involving children in the state, only 18 have died – and only four whom otherwise were healthy. And since the vaccines don’t inhibit transmission, at best attenuating viral shedding at the endpoints of an infection, a rule wouldn’t really help the far fewer vulnerable adults in a school, who can use nonpharmaceutical interventions voluntarily to provide effective, if not perfect, protection in any event besides their own vaccinations if they choose.
Add to this vaccine side effects appear elevated in children and time has not permitted long-term study of how these play out. Parents therefore prudently may wish to avoid vaccination for children, few of whom present illness and for almost none of whom it becomes serious. Fortunately, the law permits for children (but not higher education students) opting out of this or any vaccination.
Mandate proponents kept returning to that as if it somehow made the policy less obnoxious and unwise, entirely tone deaf to the central fact: if a policy is bad, it doesn’t become any less bad because you can opt out of following it. It’s still bad regardless, and government should be in the job of making good policy and refusing to implement bad kinds.
But perhaps the most convincing evidence against this imposition comes from thousands of miles away. Despite its far less robust health care infrastructure, African states almost universally have seen far lower death rates from the virus than Louisiana. The continent’s most populated, Nigeria – at around 200 million people or more than 40 times Louisiana’s population – has had only about 3,000 deaths, or about a fifth of Louisiana’s. And in an environment with a vaccination rate less than a twenty-fifth of Louisiana’s; put another way, the entire death total in Nigeria, comprised almost exclusively of unvaccinated people, is only three times the number of vaccinated individuals who nonetheless died in Louisiana.
Scientists have proposed a host of reasons why Africa has done so well, and three have direct relevance to the school mandate debate in Louisiana. First, the continent’s population is much younger – average age of 20 – and we know that age and below suffers little from the virus.
Second, malaria occurs vastly more frequently there, and researchers have discovered people treated for malaria seem significantly more resistant than those who haven’t to the virus. The standard treatment for malaria or its prevention is chloroquine and derivatives. And while a number of trials showed little positive impact of this drug on treatment of the virus, little work has focused on prevention because of the underlying belief that no real treatment benefits would translate into the same for prevention. The African experience may indicate prevention benefits and should trigger more research.
Finally, African has almost all the world’s sufferers of onchocerciasis or “river blindness.” The standard treatment for that: ivermectin, which in aggregate case studies when given prophylactically has had a positive, if disputed, impact on coronavirus prevention. Again, a paucity of quality research on this topic makes the true impact unclear and scientific bureaucracies have resisted authorizing its use because as yet science hasn’t unraveled how it works, but at the very least it remains a workable option that governments shouldn’t discourage.
Yet Kanter, who has derided this use of ivermectin, wouldn’t budge from championing vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, despite the evidence of its almost nonexistent need, little effectiveness in reducing suffering and transmission, and of the option of other less dramatic approaches focusing on prevention. His view of which the committee eventually rejected by a 13-2 vote, with even the majority of Democrats voting against.
If Edwards does carry out his threat, it will indicate once again how ideology takes precedence over sound science-based public policy, an approach which has led to a net loss of life in dealing with the pandemic under his watch. Louisianans must hope that outcome also doesn’t become a consequence if a rule like this actually does go into effect.