Straying from Science: Doctor Pundit News Clip Library***
Unlike deliberate disinformation, misinformation is inevitable in the early fog of pandemic war. But one doctor pundit in year two strayed from science and is still ignoring empirical evidence.
Introduction: Dr. Monica Gandhi dispensed sound science in COVID year one. But in year two, she veered from evidence and lurched into repetitive incorrect forecasts.
Dr. Gandhi is not off the deep end, like, say, the signatories of anti-vaccine herd immunity declarations which shall not be named here. But that’s why she’s such a potent vector of misinformation, she’s subtle. She’s against masks while vaccinations are still rolling out. She confuses people while admonishing public health authorities for being unclear.
Infection-induced immunity is uncalibrated, with different doses for every person’s exposure. This makes the following yellow-underlined statement below impossible to verify.
This L.A. Times reprint ran in the Wisconsin State Journal on March 1, 2021:
In spring of COVID year two, Dr. Gandhi cited a non-peer-reviewed preprint study to give false assurance that teen vaccines were unnecessary for population herd immunity. She knows too much about HIV to make the second mistake listed here, and probably simply misspoke when she claimed that HIV stops mutating as it continues to transmit.
Apr 23 2021 Only One Vaccine Is OK’d for Older Teens. It’s Also the Hardest to Manage in Rural America. (KHN) - "The debate over whether to vaccinate younger kids as a means to end the pandemic may soon be moot, though, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. She pointed to a recent study out of Israel — a nation ahead of the rest of the world in its vaccine effort — which showed that infection rates declined even without immunizing children younger than 16. That study has yet to be peer-reviewed.”
Jun 21 2021 Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Delta Variant (if You’re Vaccinated) (Slate) - "Monica Gandhi: At the very beginning of the HIV epidemic, everything seemed scary. ... And then I knew something else from HIV, which is that a virus can't keep on mutating forever."
In fall after schools had opened, then many closed briefly to circuit-break student and staff COVID infections, Dr. Gandhi said an infection brought as much immunity as a vaccine. She said infection should be counted as a vaccine passport as was happening in Europe. But in Europe, the proof of prior infection was only useable as a vaccine passport for three to six months, depending on location. Dr. Gandhi appears to have skimmed headlines and missed that part because clips show she suggested infection-induced immunity lasted indefinitely.
Perhaps Dr. Gandhi was so busy doing multiple media appearances per week that she missed headlines which reported juvenile COVID fatalities, because she overtly downplayed the benefits of child vaccinations.
Sep 13 2021 Vaccinating people who have had covid-19: why doesn’t natural immunity count in the US? (BMJ) - "The substantial number of infections, coupled with the increasing scientific evidence that natural immunity was durable, led some medical observers to ask why natural immunity didn’t seem to be factored into decisions about prioritising vaccination." ... "'The CDC could say [to people who had recovered], very well grounded in excellent data, that you should wait 8 months,' Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at University of California San Francisco, told Medpage Today in January. She suggested authorities ask people to 'please wait your turn.'" ... "'Starting from back in November, we’ve had a lot of really important studies that showed us that memory B cells and memory T cells were forming in response to natural infection,' says Gandhi. Studies are also showing, she says, that these memory cells will respond by producing antibodies to the variants at hand. Gandhi included a list of some 20 references on natural immunity to covid in a long Twitter thread supporting the durability of both vaccine and infection induced immunity.12 'I stopped adding papers to it in December because it was getting so long,' she tells The BMJ."
Oct 25 2021 Fact checking Florida Surgeon General Ladapo: COVID, vaccine comments at odds with CDC (Tallahassee Democrat) - "One expert tended to agree with Ladapo that health officials shouldn't downplay natural immunity. 'To deny natural immunity does not generate trust,' Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California, San Francisco told USA TODAY."
Oct 27 2021 COVID-19 risks in kids are small, but vaccines can still save lives, experts say (Los Angeles Times) - "COVID-19 can be a leading cause of pediatric death even with the low chances of children dying of the disease because most of the time 'children don’t die' at high rates for any reason, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, a UC San Francisco infectious-diseases expert. But during the Delta variant surge, in places with low rates of adult vaccination, 'kids got a lot of cases, and there were more hospitalizations in children than we have ever seen before.'"
Oct 28 2021 News Analysis: It’s harder to justify COVID vaccine for children if pandemic’s end is near (Los Angeles Times) - "'But those racing to immunize schoolchildren should be ready to acknowledge that younger kids are at lower risk of severe COVID illness than are adults,' said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco. 'The vote came in, and it was like, Yay, we’ll be on fairgrounds vaccinating all the kids next week,' she said. ‘In effect, while adults crowd into sports arenas, bars and restaurants to eat, drink and cheer unmasked, they are pushing for children get the vaccine before all of the safety concerns have been resolved.’”
Oct 29 2021 “Omg it’s worse than I thought. HIV can’t keep mutating forever? That’s literally disinformation.” (Twitter.com/JeremyFaust) -
Nov 07 2021 Frank Bures: More perspectives on vaccination after COVID infection (Winona Daily News) - "A very comprehensive article by a medical writer, Jennifer Block, in the Sept. 13, 2021, British Medical Journal (BMJ) put forth many experts’ viewpoints. One is from Monica Gandhi, M.D., infectious disease expert from San Francisco and prolific writer on COVID. She cites a list of over 20 references that memory B and memory T cells (the ones that kill the virus directly) to the natural infection will produce enough antibodies."
Nov 12 2021 San Francisco was great at lockdowns. What’s the plan for recovery? Mayor Breed downplays the office vacancies hindering The City’s economic rebound (San Francisco Examiner) - "'I think we can drop all of the indoor mask mandates now. San Francisco has a really high vaccination rate,' said Monica Gandhi, who leads the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF. 'The City is not showing optimism and confidence in the vaccines.' Gandhi believes the emphasis on COVID also distracts from other pressing health emergencies The City is facing, including opioid overdoses which outpaced COVID-19 deaths by three to one in 2020. 'It isn’t the job of public health to keep people away from each other anymore with this level of transmission,' she said.
Other infectious disease experts strongly disagree, arguing that pruning back safety measures could supercharge a COVID spike this winter."
Nov 15 2021 COVID expert walks back criticism of Berkeley health officials over Cal football situation (San Jose Mercury News) - "Dr. Monica Gandhi, the infectious disease expert who criticized public health officials’ handling of the Cal football program’s COVID issues last week, would like a do-over. 'I should not have commented without knowing the details,' Gandhi told the Bay Area News Group in an email exchange Sunday." ... "All in all, there were 47 positive tests within the 150-person (approximate) program, including players, coaches and staff. Of the positives, 31 were symptomatic, although it’s not known how many players — they reportedly are 99 percent vaccinated — tested positive or had symptoms."
Nov 16 2021 California students can get vaccinated. When will the state let them take off their masks? (Fresno Bee) - "'California’s children continue to endure greater in-school restrictions than most states,' Dr. Jeanne Noble, director of COVID response at the University of California, San Francisco’s Emergency Department and Dr. Monica Gandhi, director of the UC San Francisco Center for AIDS research, wrote in a recent letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders. 'Children and their families see no end in sight to restrictions, as there are currently no guideposts to indicate when they will be loosened or retired.'"
Nov 21 2021 San Francisco led on COVID lockdowns, vaccine rules. Where is Breed’s reopening plan? SF leaders need clear course of action to revitalize The City’s economic heart (San Francisco Examiner) - “'Fundamentally, we have to shift our thinking away from case counts to being concerned about what led to lockdowns, mass distancing, contact tracing, and testing to begin with, which was severe disease,' said Dr. Monica Gandhi of the University of California, San Francisco. Gandhi said data on hospitalizations and deaths, rather than case counts, should guide The City’s public health response. She worried that an overly fearful approach could raise doubts about vaccine effectiveness."
In winter Dr. Gandhi brashly claimed COVID wouldn’t swamp hospitals in one metropolitan area. This OpEd ran on Christmas day.
Just two weeks later, on January 8, a headline in that region’s newspaper directly contradicted Gandhi’s confident prediction. This story cited hospitals reporting staffing shortages caused by Omicron-fueled patient surges necessitating National Guard support.
Unchastened, Dr. Gandhi was quoted on January 9, repeating her forecast that was incorrect for Delta variant: that Omicron variant was the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
Dec 25 2021 Immune cells mean omicron won’t swamp hospitals in vaccinated areas In L.A. County, we don’t expect a repeat of last year (Washington Post) - By Michael Daignault and Monica Gandhi "A bout of covid is also known to generate these B cells, and B cells generated as a result of vaccination should be just as long-lasting, according to various studies."
Jan 8 L.A. County reports highest one-week coronavirus total of pandemic (Los Angeles Times) - "Los Angeles continued to see an Omicron-fueled surge in coronavirus cases Saturday, as staffing shortages necessitated the deployment of California National Guard troops to testing sites and led the state to permit hospitals to relax rules about letting infected workers return to work."
Jan 9 Omicron could have a silver lining by boosting immunity, some experts say. But don’t bet on it. (Washington Post) - "Monica Gandhi, a physician and colleague of Wachter’s at UC-San Francisco, said in an email that the spread of omicron could signal the approach of the 'endgame' of the pandemic, with the virus becoming endemic — meaning it would continue to circulate at modest levels but not cause society-disrupting outbreaks.
The aggressively mixed messages coming from Dr. Gandhi stood out—this track record goes beyond nuance. Dr. Gandhi seems too smart not to course-correct, but so far she hasn’t. Until that happens, this far in the pandemic, using this doctor pundit as a source may prolong transmission.
Few would advise contracting the flu in order to build immunity. Why can’t people shake that notion for COVID-19?:
Jan 7 Contemplating a COVID party for your kids? It’s still a bad idea (Los Angeles Times) - “Now the idea of ‘chicken pox parties’ is back — but this time, it’s for COVID-19. The Omicron variant seems less dangerous than earlier versions of the coronavirus and harder for kids to avoid now that they’re back in school, so why not get it out of the way?”
Jan 12: Wisconsin State Journal pdf clip added.
Jan 11: Driven by a reader’s query, misinformation vs. disinformation clarified in subtitle.
Jan 11: Already readers have pushed back on this report, saying UCSF is a leading medical institution with high-quality physicians. It’s one of only two San Francisco hospitals accepting COVID patients right now. I found Dr. Gandhi’s COVID year-one explanations on antibodies, T-cells and B-cells most edifying. I compiled this collection reluctantly after weeks of research. I attempted to speak to her on Twitter when she quickly blocked me. Many wish she’d simply take a breath from her multitudinous media appearances and catch up on the latest studies which could contest and sharpen her SARS2 point-of-view.
Jan 11: conclusion added.
Jan 10: creation.