By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Some people who refuse the COVID vaccines argue there is no point to being vaccinated if you must still wear a face mask in public.

I won’t address the problematic, underlying assumption-that the main (or only?) reason to be vaccinated is to escape the inconvenience of covering your face.

But vaccinated people too may be wondering why the face mask recommendation has not been entirely lifted for them. So here’s the deal.

When Pfizer and Moderna (and Johnson & Johnson, etc.) implemented clinical trials of their new vaccines at warp speed last year, they needed answers to two critical questions…

Misunderstanding COVID vaccine 90% efficacy

Photo by Dragon Pan on Unsplash

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

I shared a recent Zoom call with a woman who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “Fully vaccinated” means she is at least 14 days past her second dose of one of the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer.

This woman has not seen her grandchildren in person in over a year, and she desperately wishes to do so. But she still will not. I had to ask. Why?

She didn’t use this word, but the answer was innumeracy.

Innumeracy is the math equivalent of illiteracy. It’s rampant, and unlike illiteracy it’s socially acceptable. How…

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

COVID vaccination record. Image courtesy of US Dept. of Defense / Operation Warp Speed

J&J is on hold. Are COVID vaccines safe?

Some years ago I discovered a website that “provides an unbiased data clearinghouse” on the controversy and dangers surrounding dihydrogen monoxide, or DHMO. According to the site, DHMO “is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year…DHMO may cause severe burns; accelerates corrosion; is a major component of acid rain; and is found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors.” …

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

We are spectacularly underselling the good news about the pandemic right now

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

As my parish begins the season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we celebrate a nine-day “Novena of Grace.” This year the theme is Hope, one of the three theological virtues (along with faith and love/charity). Naturally, much of the reflection about hope has touched on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

I wanted to stand up and shout something, but decided to write a blog post instead. I wanted to say, hope about the end of the pandemic isn’t mystical or eschatological. Unlike hope for the Kingdom of God, or the afterlife, or world peace, you don’t have to be a…

Peak month for flu season. Source CDC

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

A friend shared a post purportedly from a pharmacist who has noticed that prescriptions for Tamiflu, the most widely prescribed drug against influenza (the flu), are way below normal. The author then goes on to argue that all those “missing” flu cases are being manipulated into the COVID-19 count in order to inflate the severity of the coronavirus. My friend asked for comments from people in the medical field. So I responded. Here’s what I had to say.

Is it true that flu activity is below normal?

Yes. According to the CDC, as of Dec. 12 2020, influenza cases in the US are unusually low.

Are people who actually have the flu being categorized as COVID cases instead?

Possibly a few…

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

A reader asked me to help them understand whether COVID is different from flu, and why we should care about a disease that 99% of people recover from.


When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was recognized in the US back in March, a common argument against efforts to “flatten the curve” was this: We don’t close businesses and schools over seasonal influenza (“the flu”), so why should we over the new coronavirus infection?

Sadly, it’s easier to see now why a stronger public health response against COVID makes sense. Back in March, the absolute number of…

Is there a pro-life conflict over vaccination?

HeLa human fibroblast cells, image created by Tom Deerinck, NIGMS, NIH. Source: National Cancer Institute, public domain

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

With the good news coming from phase 3 clinical trials, vaccines are on many people’s minds this week. Part of the conversation is about acceptance when a COVID vaccine becomes available.

Vaccine hesitancy, or outright vaccine refusal, has been a thing since long before COVID. In fact it dates back to the very first vaccinations against smallpox in the 18 thcentury, and it spans cultures worldwide for reasons that are often contradictory yet specifically relevant to a particular time and place. …

Best pandemic news to date

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

I’m getting more excited by the minute as I write this.

Pfizer (US multinational pharma) and BioNTech (German pharma) are collaborating on a COVID-19 vaccine. Today they announced efficacy data from their phase 2/3 vaccine trial, and it’s astonishingly good. Comparing vaccinated trial participants with those who received placebo, the vaccine reduced symptomatic coronavirus infections by 90%. The threshold for FDA emergency use authorization is 50%.

This does not mean “we have a vaccine.” (I’ll dissect that phrase in my next blog posts.) But it suggests that whatever vaccines do go into distribution in the next few months (weeks?) have…

**ALERT: Unlike most of my work this post is an op-ed, not a science piece.**

Results were just published from a poll (link to full report at site) of households in America’s four largest cities (NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston) to assess the financial, health, and other impacts of the pandemic response. I emphasize the response, not the pandemic, because the impacts surveyed are not necessarily consequences of COVID-19 infections but more a result of our collective efforts to contain or avoid the virus.

The poll was conducted by NPR, Harvard, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation during the month of…

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

The National Education Association (NEA) is managing a new website that purports to track coronavirus cases in US public K-12 schools. This is potentially problematic because the NEA has a clear agenda on this issue. On their pandemic-devoted website for their members, they explicitly state their position: “Since last week, NEA has called for schools to be closed.” By posting every positive test they can find for a school employee or student nationwide, is the NEA performing a public service? Is it doing public health research? Or is it advancing an agenda?

You can find the tracker here. According to…

Dr. Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, and educator. She blogs about coronavirus at

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