Dr. Marty Makary on CDC Confusion and Natural Immunity

14 Sep 2021

CLAY: We are joined now by Dr. Makary, who is a big-time, I would say, analyst of covid data. He’s at Johns Hopkins. He’s got a recent book: The Price We Pay: What Broke America’s Health Care and How to Fix It. I’m reading today Wall Street Journal Wall Street Journal op-ed page: “Covid Confusion at the CDC.”

Doctor, you write… I want to read this paragraph for our audience. You write, “Israel published data that showed with 700,000 people included, natural immunity was 27 times more effective than vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic infections of covid.” Thank you for joining us, Doctor. Why has America been so bad at producing our own data, and why have we avoided talking very often about natural immunity in general, in your mind?

DR. MAKARY: Well, good to be with you guys. Thanks for having me. I’m not sure why we have not been able to produce data. We’ve got $57 billion at the NIH and CDC and about 30,000 employees. I don’t know what they’re doing, to be honest with you. I don’t know if they’re browsing through the Office Depot catalog or getting things notarized on their lunch break.

CLAY: (chuckling)

DR. MAKARY: It’s inexplicable that all the good data is coming out of Israel. The only cluster randomized control trial of masks, looking at different types of masks, came out of Bangladesh. We’re the United States of America. Why are we getting blindsided by overwhelming data that natural immunity is 27 times more effective when our public health officials have been parroting the opposite? They had it backwards.

BUCK: Dr. Makary, it’s Buck. I saw Dr. Fauci last week. I mean, Dr. Fauci seems to be on TV every five minutes. I didn’t know this was actually an official role at the NIH or NIAID or whatever it is. But Dr. Fauci is constantly out there spreading Fauciism. He was finally asked in a way that I hadn’t seen before about natural immunity, and he kind of said a version of, “Yeah, that’s interesting. We’ll look into that.” How is it possible that we’re 18 months into this pandemic and they don’t have data? Is it fair to say that they just don’t view this as a priority?

DR. MAKARY: Well, it interfered with the political edict to vaccinate every American. And when you had anything that got in the way of that edict, it became marginalized and downplayed by our public health leaders. And there are a lot of things out there that said, “Hey, wait a minute. The second dose in kids is causing heart complications.”

Doesn’t matter! They still gotta get vaccinated. So we have seen a lot of things like that sort of interfere with the political agenda. And, remember, they’re an old school group of docs. The people calling all the shots with covid, it’s a very small group of very old doctors, and they have groupthink.

CLAY: I appreciate you being on with us, Dr. Makary, and for all the work that you’re doing at Johns Hopkins. That’s probably the number one question, natural immunity. In your mind, when you look at Europe which is doing, in many countries, a pretty good job of acknowledging natural mutiny. When Joe Biden is coming out and saying, “Hey, I’m going to mandate federal vaccinations…”

Let’s leave aside the legality of whether that’s possible. There’s a discussion about the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Aren’t we overlooking tens of millions and potentially a hundred million or more people — including people like Buck and myself — who have already had covid and recovered from it, as though we don’t exist? Shouldn’t this be an important part of our discussion about how our nation responds to covid?

DR. MAKARY: Well, ignoring natural immunity has put the credibility of public health, because we really want to encourage — I want to encourage, most doctors want to encourage — all adults who have not had the infection to get vaccinated and to do it quickly. And that message got really hurt by all this dishonesty around natural immunity, ignoring it, blowing it off.

So that was a big setback, and I think part of the issue right now is that they are coming around way too late. It’s sad because, to be honest with you, tens of thousands of Americans died December through April when we were rationing our limited vaccine supply and we were giving it to people with natural immunity. We should have had them step aside.

BUCK: That’s a great point.

DR. MAKARY: The hypothesis hurt a lot of people.

BUCK: We’re speaking with Dr. Marty Makary. He’s with John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He’s got a great piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “Covid Confusion at the CDC,” an eloquent version of what I’ve been saying all the time, which is that the CDC is a bureaucratic monstrosity. As a former federal government employee, I know a bureaucratic monstrosity when I see one, Doc.

I want know if you’ve seen this piece published in The Atlantic where they looked at all the different hospitalizations starting, I believe, from January to June of this year, and the piece comes away with — and it was by Zweig, who I believe we had, Clay, earlier on the show, remember? Was he the New York Magazine reporter? I think it’s the same guy.

CLAY: Yes, we did. That’s right. I think that’s right.

BUCK: Yeah, New York Magazine he wrote. But, Dr. Makary, he’s saying that 40 to 45% of covid hospitalizations under the period studied — which went, as I said, to June of this year — were people who were either in the hospital for non-covid related reasons or for very mild illness. Do you buy that?

People have been saying all along the hospitalization numbers, there’s something funky going on. It doesn’t add up. Could that really be happening? If someone goes into the hospital in April of this year for cancer screening and they test positive for covid, does that go as a covid hospitalization sometimes?

DR. MAKARY: So it depends on the hospital. California had a county sort of do it wrong. They were counting everybody who just tested positive for covid — which, by the way, it’s very easy to test positive for covid with a PCR test. It will pick up one dead virus particle. So they revised in this California county, Almeda County, they revised the real numbers down by 25% when they’d looked into the cases. We are seeing hospital ICUs overrun, and those are real. I talk to doctors out there. With the hospitalization numbers, they’re probably inflated.

BUCK: And what about the numbers of those who are in the ICU who are vaccinated versus not vaccinated? Are we getting really good data on that?

DR. MAKARY: I think we are, but what they’re actually doing is when they’re saying people are in there who have been vaccinated, some of those are just incidental and some people are saying they’ve been vaccinated, and they really haven’t. So really almost everybody in the hospital with covid and very sick is an unvaccinated adult, and that’s where we should be focusing all of our efforts.

CLAY: Dr. Makary, what do you think about the idea of requiring vaccines to travel on airplanes as Dr. Fauci is talking about now?

DR. MAKARY: Almost every mandate we’ve gotten wrong as a country. When we force people to get vaccinated who already have natural immunity, we’re gonna potentially subject them to adverse side effects for no good reason —

CLAY: Let me pause you there. That’s an interesting point, before we get to the airplane. But what you just said. So we had Rand Paul on, and he was discussing, I think — and maybe Senator Ron Johnson as well, but Rand Paul obviously is a doctor and he’s gonna be on with us later this week. And when we had him on, he was talking about people who have natural immunity, the vaccine could actually make them less healthy than it would be if they just relied on that natural immunity.

How would you break that down? ‘Cause there’s a lot of people out there — I’m one of them — who have natural immunity, and I haven’t been vaccinated yet for one of those reasons. What are the risk factors from a vaccine from someone like me who still has antibodies, already had covid, recovered, feel 100% fine, and other people like me who might be out there listening?

DR. MAKARY: Well, with every subsequent dose of a vaccine, you get more of an inflammatory response. And you can consider having covid like getting two doses of the vaccine. So each subsequent dose is gonna knock you down a little bit more and cause side effects. In kids — that is, anyone under 29 — there’s actually a risk of heart inflammation with that second dose. So we don’t want those kids to get a second dose.

CLAY: Right.

DR. MAKARY: I don’t even want them to get it if they don’t have natural immunity. So that’s the complication.

BUCK: Dr. Makary, what about these comparisons that are being made now as part of the justification for the covid mandates? You’ll hear a lot of folks out there; some of them are blue check MDs, who I’m sure you’re familiar with; others are just people parroting what they see online. But they’ll say, “It’s just like the MMR vaccine,” specifically for kids having to get covid vaccination. What do you say to those who say — which, Dr. Fauci, I believe, is one of them — it’s just like measles, mumps, rubella vaccination?

DR. MAKARY: Well, I’d love to see the data on how many healthy kids have been hospitalized with covid. No one’s been able to give us those numbers. Out of the roughly 400-some kids who have died of covid out of the 25 million or so that have gotten it the entire year and a half, most of those were skewed towards death when we didn’t know how to treat them. So today, the risk to a healthy kid is infinitesimally small, and over half the kids in America have had covid. So it’s a much different landscape today than with MMR.

BUCK: If a child gets it, how dangerous are those diseases versus…? Obviously covid’s basically not dangerous. Measles, mumps, rubella, are those higher risk factors?

DR. MAKARY: Oh, yeah. We see little outbreaks of those in other countries, and they can be deadly. It’s a much different disease.

BUCK: That’s important for people to know, ’cause they’ll talk about smallpox, for example, and the vaccination campaign with that — which my understanding, Doc, is that has a 30% mortality rate, which is terrifying.

DR. MAKARY: That’s right.

CLAY: Dr. Makary, one of the things that I hear a lot about is the building on what Buck was just saying about vaccines that kids get. When I was a kid — and I don’t know how old you are, but I’m guessing you’re around Buck and mine’s age, roughly — chicken pox didn’t have a vaccine, and so just about every kid that I know got chicken pox.

In fact, we actually had chicken pox parties where a young kid would get it and you’d get sent over to try to get it as well because the idea was if you got chicken pox at an older age it was much more likely to be harmful than at a younger age. Now they have a chicken pox vaccine. I’ve never, to my knowledge, gotten the chicken pox vaccine because I had chicken pox as a kid.

Is there an analogy there for people who maybe are thinking about the natural immunity angle? No one has ever argued to me, “Hey, you need to get the chicken pox vaccine,” ’cause I would just naturally respond, “Well, I had chicken pox when I was a kid.” I know we don’t know how long natural immunity from covid lasts because this is still a novel virus in many ways.

But is there an analogy there from a natural immunity perspective that we never really said to people, “Hey, you need to get a chicken pox vaccine,” even though we have it now, if they had had it before. Is there an analogy there that makes sense to you as a doctor?

DR. MAKARY: Absolutely there’s an analogy there! It’s a direct analogy. And ironically, the CDC has on their website that if you had chicken pox, you should not get the chicken pox vaccine. It’s like they have adopted the immune system to the Democrat Party for one virus, but not for another virus. It is absolutely illogical that they’ve ignored natural immunity. It doesn’t make sense with what they’ve put out on chicken pox guidelines.

CLAY: That’s fascinating. So you’re telling… I didn’t know this. I would encourage to you write about it — and you may have written it. But if you haven’t, that would be fascinating I think for a lot of people out there to read like they have your other Wall Street Journal editorial pieces which have been so good. So the CDC is giving directly contradictory advice as it pertains to the chicken pox vaccine and covid vaccine for people who have had those viruses earlier.

DR. MAKARY: That’s right. And they cherry-pick the data to support whatever I’ve already decided. I don’t know if you saw the study they put out on natural immunity out of Kentucky.

CLAY: Yes, I read that.

DR. MAKARY: Yeah, and they said, “Oh, we did a study in Kansas. Natural immunity doesn’t work. You can’t trust it.” Well, they only looked at two months even though they have 19 months of data and they only looked at one state, even though they have 50 states of data, and it’s, “Oh, interesting. The risk is slightly higher with vaccinated immunity of getting covid,” sorry, natural immunity. They cherry-picked the data. They salami sliced it, something we call fishing in statistical techniques, that is you look for a tiny sliver of data that supports what you already believe.

BUCK: Doc, we gotta go, but I just want to know before we let you go, we’re speaking to Dr. Marty Makary. You should all check out he’s piece in the Wall Street Journal today. He’s from John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Have you…? Is it just depressing to see your field be politicized in this way? We actually all want people to be healthy and live long lives, but it feels like this is turning into some kind of a partisan food fight.

DR. MAKARY: Yeah, it is really sad. I had a patient who’s an older patient tell me he’s lived through the tuberculosis, polio, H1N1 pandemics and has never seen this degree of polarization before. So, it is a tragedy how we’re seeing medicine turned into politics by government doctors who stick to a party line rather than speaking the truth to the data.

BUCK: Dr. Makary, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

DR. MAKARY: Thanks, guys.

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