Previous coverage (not required in any way): Formula For Dying Babies
Great Formal Workups of Much of This (Scott Lincicome): America’s Infant Formula Crisis and the ‘Resiliency’ Mirage. And another from Derek Thompson at The Atlantic. If you want a shorter summary, both of those are excellent. Also, together they
fight crime did a podcast.
Last week I chronicled that there is a shortage of baby formula, especially specialized baby formula, due to a combination of the same reasons that hold whenever there is a shortage of anything.
If you’re five, you now get a booster. If you’re four, you still get no vaccine at all (while we ‘wait for more data’) and you’re often forced to take precautions that might make sense for senior citizens.
Because no one cares. And that truly continues to be the overall message. No one cares about the physical prevention or mitigation of Covid. Congress allocates zero dollars, doctors don’t prescribe Paxlovid and life mostly continues as normal because Omicron in a mostly-already-infected-and/or-vaccinated population simply isn’t that dangerous. Cases go up, but life goes on.
It’s pretty terrible that we’re not funding pandemic prevention or anything for the current pandemic, but at this point I don’t know that the most likely alternatives are even improvements.
(And of course, if you’re under one, thanks in large part to the FDA you may have also have a problem getting food.)
Note: This was posted originally on Thursday, May 12 as part of the weekly Covid post. It is being separated out into its own post for future reference, and in case some people are no longer reading Covid posts.
There’s a shortage of specialty infant formula. Half of all types are unavailable. Some parents are panicking, without a plan for how to feed a baby that can’t use regular formula.
There is zero funding for dealing even with the current pandemic, let alone preventing the next one. The FDA not only is in no hurry to approve a vaccine for children, the new highlight is its focus on creating a dire shortage of specialty baby formula. Covid doesn’t kill children, merely causing governments to mandate they not get to have their childhoods, but 40% of formula being out of stock is a much more directly and physically dangerous situation. The FDA has a history of killing children via not letting them have the nutrition they need to survive, last time it was an IV formulation that was incomplete but couldn’t be updated for years, so we shouldn’t act all surprised when this threatens to happen again.
Also Covid is still a thing. New subvariants of Omicron continue to slowly gain dominance and case numbers are increasing. The jump this week wasn’t as big as the headline number but it was still big, and is backed up by my local anecdata. There’s once again a bunch of Covid out there. The key is whether we can continue to get on with life and not fall into the trap of doing expensive prevention that doesn’t accomplish anything. So far, so good.
This intentionally still excludes China. News on that front has slowed dramatically, I plan to write up the last few weeks into a post anyway relatively soon.
- Case numbers up, although death numbers still down.
- FDA causing specialty baby formula shortage crisis.
- Still no funding for anything pandemic related.
There are a lot of ludicrously terrible government laws, regulations and policies across all the domains of life. My Covid posts have covered quite a lot of them.
Yet if I had to pick one policy that was the Platonic ideal of stupid, the thing that has almost zero upside and also has the best ratio of ‘amount of damage this is doing to America’ versus ‘reasons why we can’t stop being idiots about this’ there is (so far) a clear winner.
We must repeal the Foreign Dredge Act of 1906. It says, to paraphrase, no underwater digging – to repair ports, or build bigger ones, or fix waterways – unless the boat doing the digging was built in the US, and is owned and operated by Americans. (This isn’t about shipping – that’s the Jones Act, which has similar ownership rules for shipping within the US, and which we’ll get to later.)
I claim that, EA style, this is highly (1) important, (2) tractable and (3) neglected.
China cares a lot about preventing Covid.
I haven’t written an additional China post because my sources have not turned up much additional information, and the situation does not seem to have dramatically changed, so I’m waiting until situation warrants an update. One development was mass testing going on in Beijing, raising worries about lockdown there which could be important politically, but so far the lockdowns haven’t happened.
America does not care much about preventing or treating Covid.
We don’t care about buying or distributing Paxlovid. We don’t care about updating our vaccines. We don’t care about much of anything else either. Nor does the public much care about any of this either. Given the physical situation and what state capacity allows us in terms of alternatives, I am not even sure I would prefer things be a different way. Yes, it means among other things that we literally have a cure for Covid and are barely using it, but it does mean we don’t suffer from lots of extra prevention costs.
The good news is that most of us can safely ignore the whole thing and get on with our lives. Given the alternatives, ‘government does literal nothing’ is not obviously bad news. If they’d done literal nothing from the start we could well be in a much better spot. Alas, this literal nothing does involve things like preventing children from being vaccinated.
The Current Thing not only is no longer Covid, it seems that the invasion of Ukraine has also been replaced due to the leaking of a Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion. Unlike Ukraine, that does not seem like a situation in which my analysis would be news you could use, and I hope to avoid writing much of anything about it.
- New subvariants of Omicron that spread faster are taking over.
- They are not deadlier.
- Our government is acting as if it does not care about Covid at all.
Many have made the observation that if you had told people two years ago that we would have a cure (not a vaccine, but a cure!) for Covid-19 that was free, safe and effective, but that no one wanted to take it, and Congress wasn’t willing to fund further purchases, people would not have believed you. And yet here we are.
The White House is trying to fix the situation. I’ll cover the details below.
We haven’t learned much new about China. When we do, it will go into its own post. I did get private supporting evidence that the situation in Shanghai is being characterized roughly correctly.
- Paxlovid is available, no one wants it.
- Case counts up now that we’re past Easter.
- Cases hit local peaks including in NYC, indicating BA.2 wave won’t be too bad.
Also, did you hear? Elon Musk is buying Twitter.
The pace of these Ukraine posts is slowing down, and will probably slow further if things go as I expect them to go. Given how much slower things are going, this will likely be my last update on Ukraine for a few weeks.
I did want to record how various things are tracking for future reference and there are some interesting things to think about, but this post proved inessential. If you’re not interested in the details you can safely skip it.
What is happening in China?
That is by far the most important Covid-related question right now. The future of Covid elsewhere might be frustrating, but what is happening in China is potentially a much bigger deal, from disrupting supply chains all the way up to potential loss of the Mandate of Heaven.
I want to emphasize that it is very difficult to know what is going on inside China and my sources for this are not the best. I find the Ukraine war a relative epistemic cakewalk compared to this. So please understand that the alarmist claims from various threads are to be taken with large heapings of salt.