CDC Should Clarify Guidance on Vaccinating Those Previously Infected With COVID-19: Massie

February 2, 2021 Updated: February 2, 2021

A public health agency should clarify whether Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine showed efficacy in those with a previous infection, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee last month published recommendations for use of the vaccine. It said that a clinical trial showed the vaccine had consistently high efficacy for people with or without a previous infection.

Massie alleged the interpretation wasn’t true. He called the CDC and spoke with multiple officials, with several appearing to admit the wording needed to be updated.

“As you note correctly, there is not sufficient analysis to show that in the subset of only the people with prior infection, there’s efficacy,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said in one of the calls.

The recommendations were corrected with different wording on Jan. 29. The report now states: “Consistent high efficacy (≥92 percent) was observed across age, sex, race, and ethnicity categories and among persons with underlying medical conditions. Efficacy was similarly high in a secondary analysis including participants both with or without evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

SARS-CoV-2 is another name for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.

There is no link or reference to the secondary analysis mentioned in the correction. Massie wasn’t satisfied with the new wording, pointing to the same panel’s report on Moderna, which clearly states it showed efficacy in those “without evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Massie told The Epoch Times that he pressed officials for an explanation of the difference but they were unable to provide him with an answer.

“There’s no evidence presently that suggests that the vaccine will help you if you had a prior COVID infection,” Massie said. “And especially now, when supplies of the vaccine are limited, it’s my belief that based on this trial data that we have from Moderna and Pfizer, that nobody that’s had a prior infection should be taking a vaccine at this point. You’re depriving those who need it.”

Federal officials last year projected 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of 2020. As of Feb. 1, 26 million Americans have been vaccinated. President Joe Biden’s administration has made vaccinating more people faster a top priority and said one barrier is the number of available doses.

Epoch Times Photo
A nurse prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for administration at Jerome Mack Middle School in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 29, 2021. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Massie took aim at the report authors for not clarifying what he sees as a crucial issue.

“It’s hard for me to imagine why the authors, who have scientific and medical credentials, would risk their reputation by taking part in this misinformation,” he said. “I think the authors who are signing their names to the document right now are culpable for spreading misinformation that could negatively affect the best distribution of the vaccine.”

The Epoch Times contacted Dr. Sara Oliver, the lead author of the report. A CDC spokesperson answered for her via email, but would not give a link to or cite the secondary analysis. She said the Pfizer clinical trial showed “the attack rate of COVID-19 was the same for participants with or without prior infection.”

“There were not enough participants who had previous disease based off antibody testing to determine if the vaccine works or not (persons with known previous disease were excluded from the study). Given that the vaccine is 94 percent effective when you look at both groups together, the data suggest the vaccine works well in both groups. The data also suggests that people who had COVID-19 before can still be at risk of reinfection and could benefit from vaccination. The clinical trials show the vaccine is safe for people who have had COVID-19 before,” she added.

“Our current understanding of COVID-19 suggests that the risk of reinfection is low in the months after initial infection but may increase over time. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccines work.”

The CDC’s website says that vaccination is recommended for people with a prior COVID-19 infection. But because contracting the illness again “is uncommon in the months following infection,” those people may “choose to defer vaccination,” it states.

Pfizer pointed to a press release that states its phase 3 clinical trial’s primary endpoints were prevention of COVID-19 in those who had not been infected by the CCP virus prior to immunization and prevention of COVID-19 regardless of whether participants had been previously infected.

The vaccine was authorized for emergency use in December 2020 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA’s vaccines advisory committee has said (pdf) that the clinical trial evaluating the vaccine concluded with a focus on people without prior evidence of COVID-19 infection. There were “very few cases” of confirmed infections among trial participants, so “available data are insufficient to make conclusions about benefit in individuals with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the panel stated.

“However, available data, while limited, do suggest that previously infected individuals can be at risk of COVID-19 (i.e. reinfection) and could benefit from vaccination,” it added.

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