The emails added to the evidence that the White House, and those nominated by Trump within HHS, are pushing health agencies to promote a political message rather than a scientific one.
“I continue to have issues with children being tested and repeated and even university students in a cluttered manner … and I disagree with Dr. Fauci about it. Vehemently,” Alexander wrote. in an email on Aug. 27, responding to a press-office summary of what Fauci intended to tell a Bloomberg reporter.
And on Tuesday, Alexander told Fauci’s press team that scientists should not promote the wearing of children̵7;s masks in an interview with MSNBC.
“You can be sure that Dr. Fauci indicated that the masks were for teachers in schools. Not for children,” Alexander wrote. “There is no data, no, zero, worldwide, showing children especially young children, that this virus has spread to other children, or to adults or to their teachers. .And if that happens, the risk is essentially zero, “he continued – adding without evidence that children get the flu at home, but not the coronavirus.
In a statement attributed to Caputo, HHS said Fauci was an important voice during the pandemic and Alexander was an expert in analyzing the work of other scientists.
“Dr. Alexander advised me about pandemic policy and encouraged me to share his opinions with other scientists, ”said Caputo. “Like all scientists, his advice is heard and accepted or rejected by his peers. I hired Dr. Alexander for his expertise and not just to stimulate the opinion of others.”
Neither Alexander nor NIH spokesmen responded to requests for comment.
Fauci, an infectious disease specialist Leading the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for nearly four decades, POLITICO was told he did not see the emails and his staff did not instruct him to minimize the risk of coronavirus infecting children or the need for children to wear masks.
“No one tells me what I can say and can’t say,” Fauci said. “I’m talking about scientific evidence.”
Alexander, a part-time professor of health research techniques at McMaster University in Canada, joined HHS in March. He was appointed by Caputo, a longtime ally of Trump who now oversees HHS’s media strategy.
In July, reported the Washington Post that Alexander was beaten by the CDC after it warned pregnant women about the virus. The agency’s warning was “read in a way to intimidate women… As if the President and his administration could not fix it and it was getting worse,” Alexander wrote in an e-mail, according to the Post.
Epidemiologists and other public health experts who examined the excerpts of Alexander’s messages to the NIH said the advice he had given could harm the public.
“While children may not be the primary drivers of the outbreak, that kind of statement blanket is dangerous,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious epidemiologist at the University of Arizona. “It is important to note that schools are closed and we are still learning about child-to-child delivery, but this statement has been proven wrong by not just the outbreak of the summer camp. [in Georgia], but also household delivery. “
Forty-four percent of children and adults in the camp are unnamed tested positive for the virus in June, according to a CDC report; more than half of them are under the age of 10. And a recent study from The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association found that more than 513,000 children in the US have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began. , including 70,630 between Aug. 20 and September 3.
Alexander faced pushback from staff at the National Institutes of Health, with some of Fauci’s assistants rejecting his arguments in long e-mail threads.
For example, in late August, a NIAID scientist refuted Alexander’s claims that coronavirus poses a “zero” risk to children.
“I am an infectious disease physician on Dr. Fauci’s staff,” wrote Andrea Lerner, a medical officer in the Office of the Director. “While the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 transmission involving children are not fully understood, potentially complex and possibly different across age groups, I do not think it is fair to say that there is no‘ evidence, zero, that children spread this virus children in schools or in adults. ‘Or that,’ They bring the flu home but are not brought home to COVID. ‘ ”
Lerner linked four studies showing the spread of coronavirus in children, including a CDC case study on the rapid spread of the virus in Georgia’s summer camp.
Alexander did not give up easily – contrary to the fact that there is “little, if any evidence” that children are at risk for contracting and spreading the virus and that wearing masks is “traumatic” for children. He has included other studies describing mild symptoms in children, although some have stated that the number of children developing pneumonia after contracting the virus.
The Trump administration’s nominee also argued against the scientific agreement on the need for widespread virus testing, and randomized, controlled clinical trials to determine whether a drug or vaccine works.
In a Aug. 27 message to NIH staff, Alexander said there was no reason to test people without coronavirus symptoms – a reflection of the controversial CDC guidelines issued earlier. Public health experts say testing people without symptoms is important because they can spread the virus to others before they feel sick.
“Testing people without symptoms to ask for asymptomatic cases is not the test point,” Alexander wrote, adding that he agrees with the CDC guideline that “do not test asymptomatic people carte blanche because it has no logical meaning. ” He added that people who go to high-risk areas, such as nursing homes, should still be tested.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly asserted that the trial is driving up the rising number of U.S. cases, hitting more than 6.3 million cases this month.
Alexander also criticized the NIH’s commitment to randomized, controlled trials, or RCTs, in an e-mail on August 21. Just two days before the FDA approved the emergency use of convalescent plasma for coronavirus patients with resistance from to Fauci and NIH Director Francis Collins. The pair expressed concerns that therapy, while safe, has not yet shown clear benefits in trials.
“I think over time as I evaluate well-tailored research, well-executed, powerful techniques, then I say that the evidence of the RCT should not take into account the gold standard,” Alexander said.
Randomized trials have long been the standard for medical research because they eliminate confusing factors that can cause benefits or harm.
“Consider it as a sharing of philosophy and debate to provoke discussion,” Alexander continues. “All of this to say that if the position of the NIH is the evidence RCT is your standard, then it should change.”
An NIH employee responded that an expert panel set up by the agency to evaluate potential coronavirus therapies considered various evidence when updating it. Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines.
In various email chains, Alexander pushed NIAID’s draft response to a reporter who asked the agency about a viral post on social media — saying Fauci “knew for 15 years” that malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can treat and prevent coronavirus infections.
In its draft response, sent to HHS for clearance, NIAID said a 2005 study cited a viral post involving experiments on a coronavirus associated with one behind the current pandemic.
“Dr. Fauci previously said there was a lack of good evidence from random placebo-controlled trials to indicate that hydroxychloroquine is an effective therapeutic for COVID-19. The paper you identified in 2005 was an experiment in cell culture with a different virus than SARS-CoV-2, and the study was conducted by CDC investigators, “the statement read.
Alexander responded by suggesting that viruses are not different – despite the clear evidence that they behave differently and are genetically different.
“The 2005 paper refers to SARS-Cov-1 which is quite similar to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. So it is not entirely accurate to say that they are different,” Alexander replied. He added that the paper in 2005 showed hydroxychloroquine to work well against older viruses.