GOP Legislators Undermine Public Health As Measles Spreads Across 15 States

Toddler with measles rash

As Doctors Don Trash Bags, Firm Recalls 9 Million Surgical Gowns

West Virginia’s Republicans passed a bill through the House of Delegates on Monday that would allow religious exemptions for vaccines required for school attendance. The bill comes as dozens of measles cases across 15 states have been reported. The bill will now head to the state Senate for debate. If the bill passes, it would be the first nonmedical vaccine exemption allowed in West Virginia.

The bill began as a proposal to eliminate vaccine requirements for public virtual schooling, but it has expanded to allow private schools the right to decide whether to require vaccinations for their students. Whether the bill would allow parents to exempt their child from a public school’s vaccine mandate remains unclear at this time, according to analysis from ABC News.

The state GOP’s attempt to dismantle public health protections isn’t going over well with some West Virginians, though. Dr. Steven Eshenaur, the health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston health department, told the Associated Press, “It escapes sound reasoning why anyone would want to weaken childhood immunization laws. Our children are more important than any agenda that would bring these horrific diseases back to the Mountain State.”

Meanwhile, Republican-controlled Florida is in the midst of a measles outbreak at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Broward County. Seven of 10 statewide cases of measles have ties to the school, while the state’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo recently issued a letter that didn’t urge parents to make sure their children were immunized. Ladapo, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is best known for his vaccine denialism during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida has called for Ladapo to either resign or be fired. She said his handling of the Broward County outbreak has been “grossly irresponsible,” and calling Ladapo “a misinformation super spreader.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data in November showing that national vaccination rates among kindergartners have yet to return to their pre-pandemic levels, making West Virginia’s flirtation with religious-exemption policies that much more troubling. Currently, children in West Virginia are required to have at least one dose of chickenpox, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus, and whooping cough before entering K-12 school for the first time.

By leaning into the right’s anti-science movement, GOP-controlled states are encouraging a new normal that includes outbreaks of childhood diseases once thought to be eliminated more than two decades ago.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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Studies: Trump's Fake COVID 'Cure' Killed Nearly 17,000 Americans(VIDEO)

Hydroxychloroquine tablets

Donald Trump began shilling for the use of hydroxychloroquine at the very first of what became his daily White House update on the COVID-19 pandemic. The drug is primarily used as an anti-parasitic, mostly in the treatment of malaria, and there was never any good evidence that it was effective in addressing COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine can lower the number of infection-fighting white blood cells, making it possibly the worst type of medication for anyone trying to fight off an infection.

However, in the earliest days of the pandemic, Trump declared the drug a “game changer” and began stockpiling millions of pills. Under pressure from Trump and TV host Dr. Oz, the FDA authorized emergency use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19. The drug didn’t work. The U.S. ended up with a mountain of worthless pills. And Trump went right on promoting its use long after the FDA officially warned consumers not to use it.

It’s impossible to know how much Trump’s promise that hydroxychloroquine was an effective treatment caused people to disregard the threat of COVID-19 or how much this opened the door to conspiracy theories about vaccines. But a new study in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy puts an estimated number on deaths directly resulting from the use of this drug to treat COVID-19 patients: 16,990.

That hydroxychloroquine was more likely to kill than to cure was known very early. A study released just one month after Trump began promoting the drug showed that patients given Trump’s wonder treatment were more likely to die. The treatment was found to have a strong association with heart issues, and the results were so clear and overwhelming that the trial use of the drug was suspended ahead of schedule.

Those same results have now been confirmed by researchers in France who looked at the use of hydroxychloroquine across six countries. In all cases, the use of the drug with COVID-19 patients increased the rate of deaths. Overall, patients who were administered hydroxychloroquine were 11 percent more likely to die than those who were not.

Of course, there was one brilliant paper later cited by Trump that concluded treatment with hydroxychloroquine “improves survival by over 100 percent” even though 78 percent of the people in the study died. That’s science, people. Science that shockingly never made it into an actual peer-reviewed journal.

Due to the level of promotion hydroxychloroquine received, that 11 percent increased rate of death extends across millions of patients, both in the U.S. and overseas. In some locations, as many as 84 percentof patients diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19 were prescribed hydroxychloroquine.

The result is that an estimated 16,990 people died unnecessarily.

As scientists behind the study conclude, the story of hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19 illustrates “the hazard of drug repurposing with low-level evidence.” But it wasn’t the only time Trump declared that something unrelated would provide a cure for COVID-19. Trump also promoted the horse deworming medicine ivermectin, which led to a run on the treatment at farm supply stores. Trump also pushed the use of convalescent plasma before any trials had shown it was effective.

The plasma idea, unlike the use of a malaria drug or horse paste, at least had the benefit of being based on a somewhat reasonable theory. However, it still didn’t work. And, as should go without saying, neither did the dewormer.

Because Donald Trump can never be wrong, plenty of other Republicans were happy to hop on the quack medicine train. That included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

For his new surgeon general, DeSantis went straight to hydroxychloroquine promoter, anti-masker, and anti-vaccine guy Dr. Joseph Ladapo. That would be this guy:

Lapado was back in the news this week after he appeared on Steve Bannon’s show to tell people to stop getting vaccinated. Because mRNA vaccines are an affront to God.

Thanks to his sage advice and the guiding wisdom of DeSantis, Florida ended up with its own unused stockpile of hydroxychloroquine. DeSantis bought one million doses from Israel, so the fact that the number of leftover pills was listed as “thousands” is disturbing. Nearly 87,000 people died of COVID-19 in Florida. How many of them were given ineffective snake oil rather than a vaccine that Ladapo finds spiritually offensive?

Overall, it seems clear that hydroxychloroquine is a killer, not a cure, when it comes to COVID-19. But still, it’s not as big a threat as Trump, DeSantis, and Ladapo.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.