Editor’s note: Below is Dr. Henry Miller’s response to an article by Armando Simón that was critical of Miller’s previous COVID-related post.
Armando Simón, a retired psychologist, attempts to rebut a recent article of mine which criticized Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo for his dangerous, anti-vaccine, anti-mask views and policies. Although Simón is entitled to his opinions, he is not entitled to fabricate his own facts, which he does repeatedly. Many of them are demonstrably false:
- He says, for example, that “COVID shots are not true vaccines in that they do not contain inert pathogens as is usually the case, but involve a novel treatment using mRNA.” In fact, vaccines began to move away from “inert pathogens” as the active moiety more than 35 years ago. The active moiety of the hepatitis B vaccine Recombivax was (and is) the virus’ surface antigen; it was approved by the FDA in 1986. (I was one of the reviewers.) Other “subunit” vaccines based on a protein component of the virus have followed, including the pertussis and shingles vaccines. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine (brand names: Covovax and Nuvaxovid) are subunit vaccines.
- Simón claims the COVID vaccines “did not go through the usual, mandatory, series of trials because of the hyperpanic that ensued,” blah, blah, blah. As for the supposedly exaggerated “hyperpanic,” let me remind him that, during the year in which the vaccines were being tested, “The official 350,831 COVID-19 deaths [in the U.S.] for 2020 reflects deaths in which COVID was the underlying cause of death.” More to the point, the vaccines did go through extensive preclinical and clinical trials. Each was tested in more than 30,000 human subjects and found to be extraordinarily safe and effective, with efficacy measured by the ability to prevent (1) a positive PCR test for the virus, and (2) at least one symptom. As of April 26, 2023, approximately 81.3% of the U.S. population – more than 275 million people – had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Even when those vaccines failed to stop transmission, they significantly lowered the frequency of serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Simón quotes the notoriously incompetent Ladapo (whose name Simón misspells repeatedly, by the way) as “stating that the new boosters have had no clinical trials prior to putting them on the market, yet they are being promoted.” Neither of them seems to understand that new, updated versions of vaccines based on a previously proven platform are not subjected to large placebo-controlled trials, in part because they’re not necessary, but more important, because often they’re not possible.
Why is that? As I noted above, the original COVID vaccines were tested at the height of the pandemic in clinical trials of more than 30,000 subjects each. There were huge numbers of infections occurring throughout the country, so it was not difficult to demonstrate a statistically significant difference in infection rate, hospitalizations, and deaths between the vaccinated and placebo-controlled groups. I read the lengthy summaries of the clinical trials that FDA presented to its advisory committee, and I agreed with the regulators and their external advisers that there was overwhelming evidence of safety and efficacy. But now, with the number of cases lower and some urgency about making available the new round of vaccines — which differ only by the substitution of a new piece of messenger RNA that directs the synthesis of a spike protein in order to elicit an immune response to the new, circulating variants — there isn’t time to mount huge trials to demonstrate prevention of infection and/or serious disease.
Instead, therefore, the vaccines are tested in animal models — vaccinated and unvaccinated animals challenged with virus — to demonstrate prevention of infection, and on a small number of human subjects (without a virus challenge) to show that they develop antibodies and other signs of an immune response and that there are no obvious safety signals.
- Simón accuses me of being “unaware of the fact that many individuals who have submitted to being injected with the mRNA concoction along with boosters – two, three, four times – have contracted the COVID virus anyway.” Well, he seems to be unaware that no vaccine is 100% effective – flu vaccines, for example, are typically about 40%-60% effective – so that so-called breakthrough infections are expected in some percentage of vaccinees. Moreover, he fails to understand that when an extremely large fraction of the population has been vaccinated, a significant number of new infections will be breakthrough infections in vaccinees. But even in those cases, the infections are less likely to result in hospitalization or death than infections in the unvaccinated.
- Simón’s supporting sources (as evidenced by the links in his article) are notoriously unreliable and unscientific. They include The Epoch Times and Children’s Health Defense, Robert F. Kennedy’s aggressively anti-vaccine (and completely loony) organization.
- Simón accuses the CDC of promoting “face masks to prevent contagion even though it is well known they have no effect in prevention. Mask mandates were simply a symbol of conformity, of obedience.” Complete rubbish, which is debunked here, with reliable references to experimental and real-world data.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point. Simón doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and is part of the fringe anti-vaccine, anti-mask, COVID-minimizing echo chamber. As a psychologist, it’s a pity that he doesn’t recognize that he’s suffering from delusions.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Glenn Swogger distinguished fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology and is the co-discoverer of a critical enzyme in the influenza virus.