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Ask the Editor: The importance of accurate terms

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WORLD Radio - Ask the Editor: The importance of accurate terms

A question about a COVID-19 treatment and the reporting about it


The anti-viral drug Paxlovid is displayed in New York, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022 Associated Press Photo/Stephanie Nano

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Friday, August 5th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Paul Butler.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming up next: our monthly edition of Ask the Editor. We understand Christians have lots of opinions about COVID-19 and how best to treat it. But regardless of where you fall in that debate, we got a note this week about one particular treatment medication and whether it’s been reported on correctly—both on our program and in others.

BUTLER: During Monday’s newscast we mentioned that President Biden had a “rebound case” of COVID. We identified it as “rare” in our story. Later that morning I received the following email from listener Chris Farrington. He writes:

I feel in a time of COVID pandemic, it would be helpful to listeners of The World and Everything in It to point out that Dr. Fauci also had this “rare case of COVID Rebound” after being treated with Paxlovid.

Paxlovid is the Pfizer medication combining the two antiviral medications: nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The US Food and Drug Administration granted it emergency use authorization for the treatment of COVID-19 last December—particularly for those with mild to moderate symptoms.

Early clinical trials found that some patients tested positive with a COVID rebound case a few days after the treatment’s conclusion. According to the study, it happened about 1 to 2 percent of the time—hence the description in the literature as “rare.” However, as a recent Forbes article points out, those clinical trials occurred long before the most recent COVID variants—which appear more contagious than previous adaptations. So the risk of rebound cases may indeed be substantially higher.

Chris offers evidence of that fact by pointing to Anthony Fauci’s “Paxlovid rebound” case from earlier this summer. That makes two very prominent and public figures with similar experiences. It is at least anecdotal evidence that perhaps rebound cases aren’t as “rare” as Biden’s doctor or the NIH say.

Additionally, we should take Fauci’s testimony to heart when he reports that the rebound symptoms after taking Paxlovid proved to be more severe in his experience than those the first time around.

Back to Chris’s email:

You have a responsibility as reporters to point out obvious discrepancies from the official government's narrative.

Here at WORLD we train our reporters to ask four fundamental questions: What do you mean by that? Where do you get your information? How do you know you’re right? And what if you’re wrong?

As reporters it is our duty to dig into our stories—and sources—and make sure the account matches reality. When it doesn’t, we need to point that out. So Chris, you’re right. We shouldn’t have described it as “rare” and we will avoid doing so in the future.

Chris ended his email with these words:

Thank you and love the podcast. Sent from my Phone...please forgive my brevity and typos.

Chris, not a single typo that I saw, just a missing word or two…but certainly nothing to forgive. And I do appreciate brevity. You’re a brother in Christ who has proven the truth of Proverbs 27:6 — “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” In addition, I hope I’ve modeled Proverbs 10:17.

I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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