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Tucker Carlson has launched a new show — Tucker Carlson Today — as part of the Fox Nation streaming service (subscription required). It is a long-form interview with a single person. It is much more satisfying and informative than the limited-time segments on broadcast television and cable shows. In his third episode, he talked with Dr. Hooman Noorchashm about the COVID vaccines, the good news and the not-so-good news.
Dr. Noorchashm is a thoracic surgeon but is, more importantly, an advocate for ethics, patient safety, and women’s health. This was borne out of a personal tragedy: His wife, Dr. Amy J. Reed, died of cancer. She suffered from uterine fibroids which were treated by the use of a surgical tool called a power morcellator to grind up the fibroid and extract it. Except that when a fibroid has even a minute amount of cancer cells, the morcellation process effectively metastasizes the cancer. Dr. Reed went from what was Stage 1 cancer to Stage 4 cancer as a result of the procedure. As reported in the New York Times:
Dr. Reed and her husband fought for years to ban the use of a surgical tool called a power morcellator, which has a spinning blade that slices up tissue so it can be extracted through small incisions. Though the device is regarded as a great boon to minimally invasive surgery, if a patient has cancer, as Dr. Reed did, morcellation can spread the disease.
Dr. Reed and Dr. Noorchashm (pronounced NOOR-chash) won some notable victories. Because of their efforts, the Food and Drug Administration studied morcellation and in 2014 recommended that it not be used in the “the vast majority” of women having surgery for uterine fibroids, a common tumor that is usually benign but that can hide a dangerous type of cancer.
This is by way of background to consider what Dr. Noorchashm is saying about the Covid vaccine.
He is very enthusiastic about the vaccine technology, particularly the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA approach. He thinks that getting a large percentage of the population vaccinated is a good idea, particularly those who are most at risk for serious disease. But he has real concerns about vaccinating people who are naturally immune or who have developed natural immunity in the process of recovering from Covid. The vaccine is wasted on the former group and may be a hazard for the latter group. This is because, according to Dr. Noorchashm, there is a risk that organs previously attacked by Covid will be opportunistically attacked again by the body’s reaction to the vaccine. This second attack may be more severe than the original attack with outcomes that are hard to predict.
Dr. Noorchashm has expressed this concern to the FDA. He has highlighted the fact that the Emergency Use Authorization is based on efficacy, but not safety, testing. We know the vaccine works, but we don’t know the extent of the hazard for certain patients. In his opinion, public health officials are discounting this risk and have made the decision to favor one minority group (the aged and vulnerable with comorbidities who may well die if infected — less than 1% of the population) over another minority group (persons who do not need the vaccine and who will have a fatal reaction to it — an unknown number but likely less numerous than the other group).
Dr. Noorchashm sought to allay fears about the vaccine: while mRNA vaccines are new, research on mRNA has been ongoing for 30 years; mRNA is an intermediary between DNA and proteins, the process is one-way, there is not genetic modification of human DNA involved. Nevertheless, the safety of the vaccine is not known for certain people, and the push for whole population vaccination must necessarily make some healthy people ill. This is not an argument against the vaccine, but it is an argument for individual choice and informed consent.
Dr. Noorchashm has received some pushback, as you can imagine, from his appearing on Tucker Carlson Today. No doubt most of his critics reacted to the excerpts played on Tucker Carlson Tonight which were necessarily condensed. As a result, Dr. Noorchashm published a follow-on in Medium to elaborate his ideas for his critics:
Here are the elements of my argument, for the record — I promise that I shall not deviate from them in my public discourse:
- The COVID-19 vaccines are some of the most powerful and effective ones we’ve ever created. The fact that America did so in under a year is a testament to our nation’s scientific ingenuity and technical prowess. The achievement of this vaccine by Operation Warp Speed was nothing short of a modern day scientific miracle.
- The COVID-19 vaccine, if administered efficiently to enough persons without immunity against SARS-CoV-2, will save lives, will induce herd immunity and will limit the evolution of new mutants by preventing natural infections.
- No persons should ever be forced to take any medical treatment, including vaccines. And no person’s civil liberties, employment or educational opportunities should be curtailed, because of their choice to refuse vaccination.
- Indiscriminate vaccination of persons with natural immunity or those with recent infections is unnecessary or potentially dangerous, respectively. We should not be doing it — and we should demand that FDA and CDC shift their recommendations to restrain vaccination of the recently infected or naturally immune. We should liberally use #ScreenB4Vaccine for safety.
I hope that all are able to see that adopting this strategy will bring sanity and serve to alleviate the concerns that make many Americans “vaccine hesitant”.
Americans are not sheep — Americans respond to reason and to rational choice. Americans want to benefit from effective products and scientific developments, but they also need to know that their individual choices are respected and that they can have a reasonable assurance of safety.
He makes a persuasive case for vaccination. He notes that one of the risks for simply letting the virus do what it does until the population develops natural herd immunity is that the “variants” of the virus are created by infected people. The fewer people infected the fewer variants that will be created. The fewer variants created the less likelihood of a strain of virus resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.
Recent “variant” reports may simply be a scare tactic to keep public health restrictions on personal liberty in place or not. But people should get vaccinated to reduce the potential for variant development. They just need to have a choice and be informed of what we know and don’t know.
[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]Published in