Viewpoints: Are Covid Variants Limited?; Vaccine Passports Key To Resuming Normalcy
Opinion writers weigh in on covid and vaccines.
The Coronavirus Variants Don't Seem To Be Highly Variable So Far
No doubt you’ve heard about the novel coronavirus variants that are evolving around the world. There now appear to be more than a dozen versions of SARS-CoV-2, which are of varying degrees of concern because some are linked to increased infectivity and lethality while others are not. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by this diversity and to fear that we’ll never achieve herd immunity. Yet evidence is growing that these variants share similar combinations of mutations. This may not be the multifront war that many are dreading, with an infinite number of new viral versions. I am an evolutionary microbiologist who studies how bacteria and viruses adapt to new environments or hosts. Like many microbiologists, my colleagues and I have turned our attention to understanding how SARS-CoV-2 is evolving adaptations for reproducing and transmitting in humans. Our favorite laboratory method is experimental evolution, where we grow multiple populations of microbes started from the same strain under identical conditions for weeks or months. We study problems like how antibiotic resistance evolves and how infections become chronic. The power of this method is that using multiple populations allows us to “replay the tape of life” and study how repeatable and ultimately predictable evolution might be. (Vaughn Cooper, 3/24)
How To Get Back To Normal Faster? Vaccination Passports.
There’s some scientific justification for using vaccine passports to allow vaccinated people — and only vaccinated people — back into restaurants, movie theaters and other indoor spaces. But so far, the Biden administration has declined to impose government standards for such certificates. Without a uniform standard, it may be hard for individual restaurants or other businesses to collect proof of vaccine status. This could hobble the reopening effort and slow the return to normal life. One major barrier is the ongoing communication problem in the U.S. Here, the public health community has chosen to advocate for blunt rules, rather than offer frank communication about relative risks. Experts have then blamed Americans for being too “individualistic” to follow the rules, even when those rules don’t make much sense — such as closing public beaches or playgrounds. (Faye Flam, 3/24)
Why I’m Participating In Moderna’s Teen COVID-19 Vaccine Trial
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a myriad of changes to everyday life, from online school to our smiles being covered by masks. Like everyone, I miss pre-pandemic life. I miss going to school, as before, hugging my grandparents, and visiting cousins in distant states. I have looked forward to an escape from the pandemic through the long-awaited vaccine. After a friend of my mother’s reached out with an article about UMass Medical Center becoming a site for Moderna’s teen COVID-19 vaccine trial, I was eager to join. My mother asked if my sister Esme, 12, and I were interested in participating. For me, the answer was simple. (Zoe Campbell, 3/15)
Why Is AstraZeneca Making So Many Unforced Errors?
Why is AstraZeneca Plc making so many unforced errors in its attempt to distribute billions of doses of Covid vaccines to the world at minimal cost? Once the pandemic is under control, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker should examine whether there’s a problem with the way it makes decisions. AstraZeneca agreed in April to help develop, manufacture and distribute Oxford University’s jab against Covid-19. It had no business in vaccines: The aim was to bring its resources to the pandemic fight on a non-profit basis. These assets include a global network and established capabilities in running large clinical trials. The outcome is millions of jabs administered within a year. However, the lack of vaccine expertise, an overconfidence in what the firm could achieve and a naivety about the politics of the task cannot be brushed aside. (Chris Hughes, 3/25)
Make COVID-19 Vaccinations Mandatory For Nursing Home Health Care Workers
Long-term care facilities have been one of the great success stories of vaccination for COVID-19. Rates of the disease in nursing homes have decreased by more than 80% since vaccination began. None the less, nearly a quarter of nursing home and assisted care facility staff have no plans to get the vaccine, according to a poll published this month. And unvaccinated health care workers present a risk to patients. As a doctor at a Pennsylvania facility, I see patients in nursing homes who are frail and some are on immunosuppressive agents. This means that the COVID-19 vaccines do not work as well in many of these individuals as they do in the general population. These individuals can become ill with severe disease even when vaccinated. This leads to important practical, and ethical, questions. (Neil Skolnik, 3/24)
Dallas Morning News:
The Vaccine Is Rolling Out To Dallas’ Homeless Population. When Will It Reach The Homebound?
Dallas County’s efforts to protect its most vulnerable residents from COVID-19 have focused on vaccinating people in minority, low-income neighborhoods. Early stumbles with the rollout were followed by ambitious measures to register people in targeted ZIP codes, with county officials even renting charter buses to drive residents from these areas to vaccination mega sites. Others who share a high risk of severe illness are trickier to reach. Many homeless people and homebound residents are older adults with underlying health conditions, but public health officials can’t just schedule them for appointments, put them on a bus and get them to come back a second time. (3/25)
San Jose Mercury News:
How We Can Lower COVID Hospitalization, Fatality Rates
The scientific and medical communities widely agree that using repurposed drugs and therapies is the fastest and most efficient way to attack new diseases. Yet in this pandemic, medical authorities and drug companies have spent little effort on testing, research or approval of repurposed drugs. Thousands upon thousands of people may have died as a result. At the onset of the pandemic, l created the COVID Early Treatment Fund with a dedicated group of volunteers. Our team raised more than $5 million to fund research into repurposed drugs. We were inundated with requests from researchers with ideas about existing drugs that might work against COVID. One such drug that showed impressive results is fluvoxamine, a generic antidepressant. It has proven to be extremely effective in small randomized trials and in clinical use. (Steve Kirsch, 3/24)
Too Many GOP Men Are Refusing To Get The Coronavirus Vaccine. That Puts Everyone At Risk.
Texas knows how to change the minds and behavior of its citizens — white males included. Just think of the wildly successful “Don’t Mess With Texas” ad campaign that helped tamp down littering. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office could do a world of good by launching a similar campaign to convince Texans of the truth that vaccines save lives, including perhaps their own. Now that Texas is set to become the first large state to open coronavirus vaccine eligibility to its entire adult population, we have to find a way to reach a certain faction of white male Republicans who are insisting they intend to spurn the shot. According to a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 49 percent of GOP men said they are not planning to get vaccinated. That startling number, higher than in any other demographic, is in contrast to only 6 percent of Democratic men saying no. Other polls report similar findings. (3/24)