Nsikan Akpan, PhD Profile picture
Highly melanated. @WNYC editor, health & science | Past: @NatGeo science editor; @NewsHour sci producer | PhD pathobiologist | YNWA | Got tips? DM for Signal
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13 Oct
If You’ve Had Covid, Do You Need the Vaccine? ✍️: ⁦@apoorva_nyc

Spoiler: Yep nytimes.com/2021/10/12/hea…
“Some consistent patterns have emerged: Two doses of an mRNA vaccine produce more antibodies, and more reliably, than an infection with the coronavirus does.”

“Only 85 percent to 90 percent of people who test positive for the virus and recover have detectable antibodies to begin with. The strength and durability of the response is variable.”
Read 4 tweets
3 Sep
Today @NYCMayor de Blasio told @BrianLehrer that @WNYC/@Gothamist's recent series on ventilation in @NYCSchools is inaccurate

He should read our latest:

NYC Officials Say School Windows Can Always Offer Solid Ventilation. Independent Scientists Disagree
And as a fun exercise in science media literacy, let's break down the Mayor's response...
Two weeks ago, Brian Lehrer asked @NYCMayor/@BilldeBlasio whether he had heard that the air purifiers @NYCSchools had purchased for every classroom in the city lacked HEPA filters, an industry standard.

The mayor said he'd look into it.
wnyc.org/story/ask-mayo… Image
Read 15 tweets
31 Aug
NYC Approves 4,000 Classrooms For In-Person Schooling Despite Unreliable Ventilation

Part 2 of our look at the city's back-to-school COVID precautions...

✍️: @clewisreports for @WNYC / @Gothamist
Looking through building surveys conducted by NYC's Department of Education, @jeffwilen found thousands of classrooms have been cleared for occupancy despite relying exclusively on functioning windows for ventilation.

She even made an interactive map.🙏🙌
gothamist.com/news/nyc-appro… Image
@jeffwilen Got interrupted mid-thread. Dang work. Let's continue.

Aerosol scientists would probably raise their eyebrows at this part about the classrooms "relying exclusively on functioning windows for ventilation"...
Read 13 tweets
28 Aug
“In addition, the [Intelligence Committee] was able to reach broad agreement on several other key issues. We judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon…” dni.gov/files/ODNI/doc…
“Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way.” dni.gov/files/ODNI/doc…
Remember when a major magazine entertained the ideas that SARS2 was a bioweapon or genetically engineered despite scientific evidence to the contrary? Good thing that didn’t happen because it would be pretty embarrassing right now…
Read 6 tweets
23 Aug
Vaccine mandates now that Pfizer-BioNTech is fully approved in U.S...
Pentagon to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for military thehill.com/policy/defense…
NYC officials said it was a coincidence that its schools' mandate came the same day as full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and that they were planning to forge ahead even if the federal decision hadn't come today. gothamist.com/news/nyc-publi…
Read 6 tweets
21 Aug
Every now and again, @NYMag's @intelligencer decides to publish COVID misinformation.

The latest example comes courtesy of @davidzweig and centers around masking for kids.

It makes the same tired arguments that I've been hearing for months now. Let's take a look...
Zweig starts by misrepresenting a single study from Georgia that looked at 90K students/169 schools (cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/7…).

He insinuates that the study found no protection with masking for students.

In truth, student masking reduced COVID incidence by 21%...
The trend did not reach statistical significance, and the authors give a logical reason why.

But the trend was still there.

Also, the lack of statistical significance could have been due to the small sample size (only ~80 schools in the groups with/without masking)
Read 9 tweets
30 Jul
“One of the slides states that there is a higher risk among older age groups for hospitalization and death relative to younger people, regardless of vaccination status. Another estimates that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans”
‘The slide references an outbreak in Barnstable County, Mass., where vaccinated and unvaccinated people shed nearly identical amounts of virus.” washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07…
Read 4 tweets
28 Jul
Here is the issue with Leonhardt’s takes on public health and COVID:

They often misconstrue data, don’t see the bigger picture and can mislead people… (a thread)
First, I’m surprised that anyone (without an agenda) can look at this national map and essentially say “You know what? Some parts of this country are going to be alright.”

I mean, it looks like a scene from the “Floor Is Lava” Image
Second, many counties in the states he mentioned ***DO*** fall in the danger zones or are moving in that direction.

The eastern half of New Jersey, Suffolk County, Mass (home to Boston) and Milwaukee County, Wisc. are either under substantial or high risk. ImageImageImage
Read 7 tweets
21 Jul
News reports are suggesting that the J&J vaccine is less effective based off a new antibody study (preprint).

But the preprint’s results don’t match real-world findings.

And I would argue that these headlines don’t match the preprint’s results either...
I say that because:

1) The preprint didn't measure effectiveness but rather the antibodies’ abilities to neutralize variants

2) The preprint reported a reduction in J&J neutralization for all variants, not just delta and including the parental virus. 🧐 biorxiv.org/content/10.110…
Plus, there is real-world effectiveness data (aka measurements of protection against actual disease) showing that J&J ***IS***effective against the parental and alpha variants. medrxiv.org/content/10.110…
Read 4 tweets
14 Jul
NYC Unions' Vote (Today) Could Force Government Retirees Onto Privatized Health Insurance

✍️: @clewisreports via @WNYC / @Gothamist

“The move will affect some 250,000 municipal retirees, hundreds of whom marched in protest against the changes in Manhattan last week in the midst of a heat wave.” gothamist.com/news/nyc-union…
Some critics are concerned that access to doctors will decrease and out-of-pocket costs will rise. Other city retirees lament that they haven’t been able to evaluate how the change will affect them because the deal has been made behind closed doors. gothamist.com/news/nyc-union…
Read 4 tweets
29 Jun
“Half-truths and distorted information have obscured an accurate accounting of the lab's functions and activities, which were more routine than how they’ve been portrayed in the media, she said.” bloomberg.com/news/features/…
“The concrete, bunker-style building has the highest biosafety designation, and requires air, water and waste to be filtered and sterilized before it leaves the facility.” bloomberg.com/news/features/…
“There were strict protocols and requirements aimed at containing the pathogens being studied, Anderson said, and researchers underwent 45 hours of training to be certified to work independently in the lab.” bloomberg.com/news/features/…
Read 8 tweets
28 Jun
To gauge what might happen going forward with the delta variant, @WNYC / @Gothamist asked virologists, immunologists and epidemiologists to break down how the delta variant could affect New Yorkers based on their vaccine status.
The answer seems pretty straightforward for the unvaccinated, courtesy of @theodora_nyc...
But just how bad could it be? I asked the folks @PHICORteam to sketch out an outbreak model

Imagine the Bronx had never experienced COVID. Ok, now what happens if you drop 10 people with alpha, delta or the original strain into that unacquainted community gothamist.com/news/why-the-d…
Read 6 tweets
17 Jun
Unlike the conversations about masks and variants, this time, the evidence for a lab leak hasn’t changed. Which is to say: there isn’t any yet.

“I think almost everybody agrees that the facts are very thin.” -@mlipsitch

🎯: @MaddieOBender v @motherboard
"This is about the bounds of what's worth following up as a possibility, which is different from a standard scientific debate. It's how to interpret the scantiness of the evidence, rather than how to interpret the evidence.” - @mlipsitch vice.com/en/article/n7b…
"The scientists interviewed for this story advocated for further research and investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, including the possibility of a lab leak, but all agreed that there is currently no solid evidence suggesting anything other than a natural spillover.."
Read 4 tweets
8 Jun
Widespread Hunger Persists For Many Families In New York Even As The Economy Recovers

✍️: @clewisreports and our new data reporter @jeffwilen (!!!)

via @WNYC / @Gothamist
About 12% of adults statewide aren’t getting enough to eat from week to week, according to the latest rolling survey from @nys_health. That’s only down slightly from a mid-pandemic peak of approximately 14%. gothamist.com/food/widesprea…
But Black and Hispanic New Yorkers continue to go hungry at dramatically higher rates than their white neighbors. gothamist.com/food/widesprea…
Read 6 tweets
6 Jun
@justinulysses @BeeBrookshire @Anna_Rothschild @amymaxmen The most vocal proponents of lab leak consistently posit lab manipulation of some variety.


Because as far as we know Shi Zheng-Li’s lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology collected bat samples from 2010-2015...
@justinulysses @BeeBrookshire @Anna_Rothschild @amymaxmen If those field teams had caught SARS-CoV-2 back then, it should have sparked outbreaks years ago.

Ok, so what’s left?

The WIV team safely brought SARS2 (or a close relative) back to their lab between 2010-2015 but then was experimenting with it in 2019. This is a long shot...
@justinulysses @BeeBrookshire @Anna_Rothschild @amymaxmen ...and it’s speculation.

Alternatively, the lab had continued field surveys into 2019 without telling anyone (speculation bordering on conspiracy theory)...
Read 4 tweets
5 Jun
@MMKavanagh That’s why that paragraph in @KatherineEban’s VF story is so misleading:

BSL-3 labs are specifically designed to study respiratory pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. cdc.gov/training/quick… Image
@MMKavanagh @KatherineEban People study anthrax in BSL-3 labs. Anthrax! ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53535…

Plus BSL-4 labs are built upon the principles of BSL-3. Image
@MMKavanagh @KatherineEban While BSL-4 labs are recognized for their pressurized suits and vacuumed-sealed double doors, BSL-3 labs also take extra precautions with ventilation...because again, BSL-3 labs are meant for respiratory pathogens. cdc.gov/labs/pdf/SF__1… ImageImageImageImage
Read 4 tweets
4 Jun
Fauci’s reply in the first email listed among BuzzFeed’s 3,200-pg FOIA is my mental response to just so many emails...
+1 on @DrJAshton. Great medical reporter.
Backstory: Fauci receives a boatload of reports to read every day. His staff helps to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Read 5 tweets
26 May
"To explain where SARS-CoV-2 came from, look at processes with scientific explanations and precedents."

@d_samorodnitsky gets it.

(via @massivesci) massivesci.com/articles/sars-…
"If the question is “are both hypotheses possible?” the answer is yes. Both are possible.

If the question “are they equally likely?” the answer is absolutely not." massivesci.com/articles/sars-…
"It’s scientific malpractice to pretend that one idea is equally as meritorious as the other. The lab-leak hypothesis is a scientific deus ex machina, a narrative shortcut that points a finger at a specific set of bad actors." massivesci.com/articles/sars-…
Read 4 tweets
26 May
@nattyover 👋👋👋👋👋

What would you like to know, Natalie? Do you have any other objections outside of the single tweet you've pulled from a thread of 30ish tweets?
@nattyover If you check the history books, you'll find that several science writers have covered this topic... theatlantic.com/science/archiv…
Read 9 tweets
22 May
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change first met in 1990, where it predicted that GHGs could fuel global warming.

Even as more evidence accumulated, efforts to sow doubt delayed action.

The “natural origins” vs “lab leak” debate around COVID-19 has entered this realm... Image
Doubters of climate change often called for “direct evidence” -- or irrefutable proof that carbon begets warming begets catastrophic climate/weather.

Ex. The National Academy of Sciences report on June 7, 2001 was followed four days later by these comments by Pres. Bush. ImageImage
Despite years of research pointing toward anthropogenic disaster, the doubt led to a “both sides” conversation in news media.

To this day, deniers still yell “Ice Age!” as megafires and rain-packed hurricanes pummel us.
Read 32 tweets
4 May
Most Of New York City Remains Undervaccinated As COVID Restrictions Lift

✍️: @clewisreports via @WNYC / @Gothamist
Most neighborhoods in upper Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island are well below half their populations receiving one dose.

When Israel rolled back its lockdown in mid-March, 50% had been fully vaccinated, and 60% had taken one dose.gothamist.com/news/most-new-…
When it comes to convenience, it’s a matter of addressing practical impediments “whether they're financial gaps or transportation issues or mobility issues or language issues or access to the Internet.” - Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of @ICAP_ColumbiaU gothamist.com/news/most-new-… Image
Read 4 tweets