Category Archives: Losing Freedom

New Federal Pandemic Policy Could Be Based on Personalized Medicine

The Epoch Times,  11/23/2021  by  Joel S. Hirschhorn

Sometimes there’s a simple, commonsense way to refine public policy. Surely there’s need for a better public health policy to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to let medical evidence overcome stubbornness by public health agencies and disagreements among physicians. It’s time to give Americans medical choice without sacrificing public health.

Here I use long-used personalized medicine principles to define a two-part pandemic policy that most Americans can understand and support, and that could bring together parts of society in conflict with each other over COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Part One: Individuals decide either on their own or with the advice of their personal physician to be vaccinated for COVID-19. And to accept what government officials have decided are the best COVID-19 medical solutions.

Part Two: Individuals choose a preferred medical professional who, on the basis of their education, training, experience, and successful clinical results, offers alternatives to vaccination and government promoted medical solutions for outpatients and inpatients. The medical professional uses the patient’s medical history, biologic and genetic conditions, and unique personal circumstances to reach the best personalized medical solution.

This flexible policy has the potential to bridge the ugly gap between pro-vaccine and anti-mandate camps.

In terms of medical science, this two-part policy recognizes that there’s a huge array of reactions to both SARS-CoV-2 infections and vaccines based on diverse biology, genetics, and medical conditions of individuals. Missing from current government policy is recognition of fundamental differences among people.

Medical history tells us the wisdom of making the medicine fit the person. This is the cornerstone of personalized or individualized medicine. Good physicians also find the combination of drugs to best address an illness or disease that’s best for the individual patient.

These medical truths contrast with mass use of off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all drugs and vaccines.

The medical literature and government databases tell us that there are myriad different responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and to COVID-19 vaccines. The differences are indisputable and extreme. Most people who get infected either have no symptoms or only minor ones. Others get terribly ill, require hospitalization, and sometimes die.

Many who get vaccine shots feel a slight discomfort for a few hours or days; others are falling ill with a broad range of blood and neurological problems and sometimes die despite having been very healthy.

When people are profoundly different in their biological makeup, when reactions to SARS-CoV-2 infection are remarkably different, and when a broad range of adverse vaccine impacts are acknowledged, then one thing is crystal clear.

There can’t be one pandemic “solution” pushed by the government that makes common sense. By not respecting all the differences, the inevitable result is what we’re seeing in our society: division, conflicts, and anger among millions of people who want more choice, more medical freedom.

The two-part policy recommended here would not deny use of COVID-19 vaccines for those who want the shot. But it would see the truth that vaccine mandates for the entire population are not consistent with medical science and the diversity among people. Mandates rub so many people the wrong way because they eliminate sensible choice. They replace medical freedom with medical tyranny.

Interestingly, in the first months of the pandemic there was considerable thinking in the medical and public health community that personalized medicine should be pursued. That soon gave way to vaccine fixation, not just for a small, high-risk part of the population but for everyone.

Here are examples of some early interest in personalized medicine for addressing the pandemic:

The Mayo Center for Individualized Medicine said there was an opportunity for the COVID-19 response.  Their document detailed a number of initiatives Mayo was pursuing to address the pandemic by obtaining medical data that could lead to personalized pandemic solutions. This is what Mayo wanted to do:

“When COVID-19 spread across the U.S. in March 2020, the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine urgently responded to accelerate research, development, translation and implementation of novel tests, lifesaving treatments and diagnostics. Now, collaborative teams of scientists are continuing to unravel the mysteries of the novel virus, including using advanced genetic sequencing technologies to investigate how the virus can infiltrate a person’s immune system and wreak havoc on organs, tissue and blood vessels, leaving some patients with long-term effects.”

A September 2020 article had the intriguing title “How to use precision medicine to personalize COVID-19 treatment according to the patient’s genes.”  Here are excerpts:

“In recent years, a gene-centric approach to precision medicine has been promoted as the future of medicine. … But the imagined future did not include COVID-19. In the rush to find a COVID-19 vaccine and effective therapies, precision medicine has been insignificant. Why is this? … If precision medicine is the future of medicine, then its application to pandemics generally, and COVID-19 in particular, may yet prove to be highly significant. But its role so far has been limited.”

The specialty germane to a personalized pandemic strategy is called pharmacogenomics. It’s the study of the role of the genome in drug response. It combines pharmacology and genomics to discover how the genetic makeup of an individual affects their response to drugs, including vaccines. The central goal is to develop rational means to optimize drug therapy, including vaccination, with respect to the patients’ genotype, to ensure maximum efficiency with minimal adverse effects.

By using pharmacogenomics, the goal is that pharmaceutical drug treatments, including vaccination, can replace or at least complement what is dubbed as the “one-drug-fits-all” approach.

An August 2020 journal article was titled “Pharmacogenomics of COVID-19 therapies.” Here are its optimistic views and findings:

“Pharmacogenomics may allow individualization of these drugs thereby improving efficacy and safety. … Pharmacogenomics may help clinicians to choose proper first-line agents and initial dosing that would be most likely [to] achieve adequate drug exposure among critically ill patients; those who cannot afford a failure of ineffective therapy. It is also important to minimize the risks of toxicity because COVID-19 particularly affects those with comorbidities on other drug therapies.”

A July 2020 NPR show was titled “Research On Personalized Medicine May Help COVID-19 Treatments.” This was deemed newsworthy:

“The nationwide All of Us Research Program aims to tailor medical treatments of all kinds, including treatments that may be developed for the new coronavirus. So far, more than 271,000 people nationwide have signed up to share data with the initiative. …

Said Dr. Elizabeth Burnside, co-principal investigator of All of Us at UW-Madison, and a UW Health physician, ‘This focused initiative could be especially important for members of communities that are often underrepresented in health research and who may question the overall and personal benefit of research participation.’”

In sum, there was legitimate medical interest early in the pandemic to use personalized medicine. It accepts the reality that many people want to use alternatives to vaccines, such as generic medicines widely used in other countries to treat and prevent COVID-19 disease. Many oppose vaccine mandates, not necessarily COVID-19 vaccines. Now is the time for the two-part strategy given here to be the basis for legislation by Congress.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn, author of “Pandemic Blunder” and many articles and podcasts on the pandemic, worked on health issues for decades. As a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he directed a medical research program between the colleges of engineering and medicine. As a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association, he directed major studies on health-related subjects; he testified at over 50 U.S. Senate and House hearings and authored hundreds of articles and op-ed articles in major newspapers. He has served as an executive volunteer at a major hospital for more than 10 years. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and America’s Frontline Doctors.


The FBI’s Raid on James O’Keefe

WSJ  11/18/2021

Attorney General Merrick Garland still refuses to retract the memo he sent last month instructing the Department of Justice to scrutinize parents protesting at local school board meetings. Now his department may have committed another civil-liberties abuse with its raid on Project Veritas leader James O’Keefe.

Project Veritas is a right-wing media organization known for going undercover inside progressive institutions and using its findings to embarrass them. Early morning a week ago Saturday, FBI agents raided Mr. O’Keefe’s New York apartment, handcuffed him in the hallway and seized two cell phones. He has not been charged with a crime.

The subject of the investigation is apparently a diary believed to belong to President Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden. Project Veritas says it was given the diary by two individuals last year and chose not to publish it because its authenticity couldn’t be verified, then handed it over to law enforcement. The diary was later published by an obscure website.

It’s settled law that it’s not a crime for journalists to publish information that was obtained unlawfully. If it was a crime, most of America’s largest news organizations would be criminal enterprises. Project Veritas says the people who gave the group the diary said it was not stolen. How the diary was obtained, and how it came to be published by a different website, is still murky.

Yet the search warrant says Justice is investigating “possession of stolen goods” and related offenses, suggesting Project Veritas or its employees may be targets. Imagine if the Trump Administration raided New York Times editors’ homes after the publication of the President’s tax records—or even for an investigation into documents they did not ultimately publish.

Nothing that invasive ever happened. But partly in response to the furor over the Trump Administration’s supposed threat to press freedom, Mr. Garland published guidelines in July narrowing Justice’s ability to seize information from reporters. The policy said Justice “will no longer use compulsory legal process” against journalists “acting within the scope of newsgathering activities.”

There are exceptions for things like the threat of imminent terrorist acts, or where a reporter “has used criminal methods, such as breaking and entering” to obtain information. Mr. Garland’s deputy must also approve any searches.

The seizure of Mr. O’Keefe’s phones gives the FBI access to all of Project Veritas’ investigations, not just records related to the diary. When Mr. O’Keefe’s lawyer asked the government after the raid to pause its search for a day to address legal issues regarding “attorney client privileged information, material protected by the First Amendment, and confidential donor information,” the government refused.

Last Thursday federal Judge Analisa Torres ordered the government to pause. She’ll consider Mr. O’Keefe’s motion to have a court-appointed “special master” keep the FBI from snooping on protected records.

The government also confirmed in correspondence with Mr. O’Keefe’s attorney that it “complied with all applicable regulations and policies regarding potential members of the news media”—meaning Mr. Garland’s guidance—in executing the search warrant.

That suggests Mr. Garland’s policy supposedly expanding press protections does the opposite. Reporters who obtain potentially stolen documents related to a public figure may be subject to the same treatment as Mr. O’Keefe—homes raided and devices seized and searched with no special dispensation for journalistic activity.

Journalism isn’t a shield against lawbreaking, and if Mr. O’Keefe committed a crime in obtaining the diary, he is subject to prosecution. We don’t agree with or practice all of Mr. O’Keefe’s methods, but what he does is reporting that qualifies as journalism.

The circumstances of the FBI raid were punitive. Project Veritas was in the process of complying with a subpoena. On Monday the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a motion for the court to unseal the documents that were the basis for the search warrant.

Those documents better contain very strong evidence of a crime committed by Project Veritas to justify this behavior by a Democratic Administration toward a journalist. If not, the seizure of Mr. O’Keefe’s records is another abuse of civil liberties by Mr. Garland’s department, and Congress ought to ask what the Attorney General knew about it.


The Left Betrays the Working Class on Covid Mandates

Solidarity with working people is a core tenet of the left. The Democratic Party constantly reminds workers of its historical support for such advances as paid vacations, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance and overtime pay. So why do many Democratic politicians promote vaccine mandates that cause working people to lose their jobs?

“Of the nearly 80 million eligible Americans who have not gotten vaccinated, many said they were waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration—the FDA,” President Biden said on Sept. 9. “Well, last month, the FDA granted that approval. So the time for waiting is over.” Mr. Biden announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would impose a vaccination mandate on companies with 100 or more employees. (Last week the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the mandate’s enforcement.) “This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Mr. Biden insisted.

Tell that to Karen Mason, 59, who has been a New York City public schoolteacher for 21 years. Ms. Mason, who is black, says she’s “very suspicious of the whole vaccination campaign” and cites “the history of America’s experimentation on African-Americans.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate has forced her on unpaid leave. She expects to retire early rather than comply.

I’m terrified of Covid-19 and have had four Pfizer shots. I think everyone should get vaccinated. But it’s not the role of government to force people to make good health decisions—especially by threatening their ability to earn a living.

In heavily Democratic areas like New York, coronavirus politics leaves workers who won’t or can’t be vaccinated without advocates. Some labor unions, whose mission is to defend employees, are abandoning their members. Workers and their allies should stand behind workers—period. Solidarity means everyone in your class, regardless of how they vote or what they choose to inject. No one should threaten hardworking people with poverty for their personal medical decisions. And no one who self-identifies as being on the left should tolerate, much less sign on to, such a project.

Democrats have a major problem with working-class voters. Polls show that Terry McAuliffe lost his bid for the Virginia governorship in large part because of lower-than-expected support among voters without college degrees, especially women. Vaccine mandates won’t help win them back.

In places like New York, vaccine politics don’t fit the stereotypical red-blue divide. The Bronx is mostly working-class, heavily minority and even more heavily Democratic. “People are wearing double masks, being really careful, but the vaccination rates in the neighborhood are still very low,” Andrew Rasmussen, an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University, told the Guardian. “That suggests that there’s something else going on there.” Marginalized groups distrust many institutions.

Ms. Mason, the teacher, feels vilified by a party for which she has voted in election after election: “I always thought the Democrats would be sympathetic to the working class. The unvaccinated don’t want to lose their jobs. Now it seems like conservatives are the only ones investigating” the safety of the vaccines.

Another New York high-school teacher, Ricardo Alexander, 51, says vaccines violate his religious beliefs: “My body is a temple.” As a student, Mr. Alexander received religious exemptions from vaccination requirements at City College of New York, Adelphi University and Columbia. But his request to the New York City Board of Education was summarily denied.

“Your application has failed to meet the criteria for a religious-based accommodation,” the board emailed him. “Per the Order of the Commissioner of Health, unvaccinated employees cannot work in a Department of Education (DOE) building or other site with contact with DOE students, employees, or families without posing a direct threat to health and safety. We cannot offer another worksite as an accommodation as that would impose an undue hardship (i.e. more than a minimal burden) on the DOE and its operations.” Regular free testing isn’t being offered as an alternative to the shot, making the New York mandate even more onerous for employees than OSHA’s.

“I didn’t commit any crime,” Mr. Alexander says. “I didn’t violate any rules in my contract. I’ve never been disciplined. I am a team player. I was treated worse than people accused of doing wrong things.” Unlike the United Federation of Teachers, other unions—he mentions those representing police and firefighters—are fighting for their members. Asked what he’ll do when he’s unemployed, he says God will provide.

Meanwhile, a substitute gives his former students a handout every day. An experienced teacher is gone; no one has replaced him. And crowded classrooms make a mockery of social distancing, Mr. Alexander says.

Registered nurse Donna Schmidt, 52, is on unpaid leave from her job at a Long Island-based healthcare system. She has both religious and scientific objections to Covid-19 vaccinations. “I’m not against vaccinations,” she told me. “Traditionally, the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t a vaccine. The CDC changed their definition of a vaccine. It’s truly gene therapy. The mRNA technology has never been used in human beings before.” A self-identified libertarian conservative, Ms. Schmidt says both major political parties have betrayed people like her.

Some of the mandates have been effective. According to the UFT, 97% of New York schoolteachers have received at least one shot. For many, however, it felt like coercion. “I had to do it for the finances of my family,” Queens elementary-school teacher Roxanne Rizzi, 55, told the Associated Press.

“There is a lot of hypocrisy going on among people of all political persuasions,” Ms. Schmidt says. “They support the vaccine mandate because the government and the media has done a good job of making people think this is the only way out.”

She adds: “Historically, government doesn’t give back power. What’s next?” Leftists used to make that argument.

Mr. Rall is a political cartoonist, columnist and author, most recently, of “The Stringer.” Nancy Siesel contributed to this article.