By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We recently passed the 75th anniversary of steps to provide fluoridation of water. There is no question that it has had a major positive impact on the reduction of dental cavities.

For much of that 75-year period, there have been individuals who feel that the addition of an unnatural substance in the water is not correct.

Recent studies have suggested that perhaps fluoridated water can impact the fetus during pregnancy. Editorials have been written about these studies. It has raised concerns.

For that reason a group of researchers looked specifically at this question. One of the things that they looked at was the previous studies suggesting a problem.

They found that those studies looked only at whether the water had fluoride or not of the groups they were comparing.

They did not look at maternal intelligence differences between the two groups. Heredity is the biggest factor in intelligence.

They did not look at breast feeding differences. Breast fed infants do better intellectually in general.

They did not look at the socioeconomic differences between the two groups. They did not compare the geographic differences.

They did not evaluate if there was exposure to other known toxins. The result is that their conclusions were not completely supported by the data they collected.

What the new researchers did was look at fluoride levels. They compared them to known levels in patients with too much fluoride. That is a condition called fluorosis.

Their conclusion was “The experimental evidence suggests that current exposure to fluoride, is clearly below levels that lead to adverse effects.”

The bottom line is that we have 75 years of experience using fluoride. Up to this point we have had some poorly done studies that suggest fluoridated water can be a problem in pregnant women. They do not conclusively prove that.

That being said, scientific studies continue to add to our knowledge. We can expect there to be more information on his topic in the future.


The total number of new cases nationally has remained below 200,000 per day since January 25.

This continues to suggest that the holiday surge has died down. It is too early for the vaccines to have had any effect on these numbers.

Sussex County has shown a similar decrease over that same period. There has not been a day with more than 200 new cases since January 25. Before that there were more than 200 cases once every three days or so.

Give credit where it is due 

As vaccine numbers go up plenty of politicians are trying to take credit. In actuality, the people responsible for the number of vaccine doses administered are at Pfizer and Moderna.

No vaccine would be given if it was not produced. Availability of the vaccine is the primary thing that accounts for the high numbers.

As of December 20 only 556,000 people had received vaccine. It was not readily available yet. Over the next 22 days the totals were between 58,000 and 770,000 doses per day.

More had been produced but not at the level needed.

Millions receive vaccines

From January 12 to January 20 total daily doses ranged from 720,000 to 1,130,000. After January 20 doses ranged between 810,000 and 1,506,000.

So they were fairly steady until January 28. However, since then total number of vaccines given have ranged from 1,540,000 to 1,700,000.

If we continue at that rate, it will be late May before we have immunized enough people to create a herd immunity situation.

In the past week, the total number of immunized individuals surpassed the total number of documented infected individuals for the first time.

The stepped-up increase was almost entirely dependent upon the number of doses of vaccine made available by the pharmaceutical companies. Total doses given are driven more by the manufacturers than any other outside influence.

There continue to be a number of anti-vaccine people out there. The upside to that is it means it will be easier for those who want the vaccine to get it.

Those who don’t want the vaccine can choose to get a COVID-19 infection instead of the vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson

The results are out from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It is the only one-dose vaccine. It just needs refrigeration to be good for up to three months. So it is a more stable vaccine.

Its overall effectiveness is not at the 95 percent level like Pfizer and Moderna. Effectiveness globally was at 66 percent after the one shot.

That compares to 57 percent for one shot of the Pfizer vaccine and to 80 percent for one shot of the Moderna vaccine.

It is possible that a second dose would raise that percentage significantly. Johnson and Johnson is currently studying that possibility.

The good news

The really good news about the vaccine is related to the severity of the illness. Those individuals (the other 34 percent) who actually got COVID had a better course. None of them required hospitalization. None of them died.

The one caution is that the effectiveness in South Africa where they have a different strain was at 57 percent. That is not a lot different than the overall 66 percent so its significance is not clear.


Novavax also reported its initial results after its studies in the United Kingdom. It was 89 percent effective in the UK. It was also 60 percent effective in South Africa. Its US trial is not expected to complete enrollment until early February.

Final figures would be later. Then approval would be needed. It is still several months off.

Social media spreads misinformation

A scientific study looked at sources of information about COVID-19. Their biggest finding was no surprise.

Social media is the worst place to get information about the virus. There was misinformation. There were conspiracy theories. There were fake remedies. The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is that if you are relying on social media to give you information on COVID-19 you are being misled.

Merck discontinues vaccine research

Merck had been working on two COVID-19 vaccines. The effectiveness results were not as good as the other vaccines already approved. For that reason they are stopping research on the two vaccines.

You might remember that I called Merck last year. I told them that they should look at their MMR vaccine as a possible interim vaccine to provide some level of protection against COVID-19.

They blew me off. So now they are out of the COVID vaccine business entirely.