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Too Many Americans Still Mistrust the COVID-19 Vaccines. Here’s Why

Here’s What’s Behind Americans’ Uneasy Relationship With Vaccines
BY JEFFREY KLUGER  JANUARY 5, 2021 9:36 AM EST
Source: Time

If you’re feeling impatient waiting your turn for a COVID-19 vaccine, here’s a little good news: Angela Padgett will gladly give you her place in line—at least for now. Padgett, president of a day spa in Raleigh, N.C., is under no illusions about the mortal danger the pandemic poses to herself, her family and the world writ large—indeed, she had COVID-19 back in July. But as for the vaccine that is supposed to put an end to all of the suffering at last? Not today.

“I am a little bit hesitant,” she says. “I can appreciate President Trump trying to get this moving fast and I’ve taken pretty much every vaccine [for other diseases]. But I think it was rushed through very early, very quickly. So I would like a little more data.”

Padgett is not alone. According to a December survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center, nearly 40% of Americans say they will definitely not or probably not get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. Gallup polls put the number at 37%. That’s bad news not just for the vaccine refusers themselves but for the public as a whole. Experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had previously concluded that achieving herd immunity—the point at which a population is sufficiently vaccinated that a spreading virus can’t find enough new hosts—would require anywhere from 60% to 70% of Americans to take the vaccines. But lately, he and others have been inching that number upward, now estimating that herd immunity could require as much as 85% vaccine coverage.

The holdouts have multiple reasons for their reluctance. There are, of course, the dead-enders in the anti-vax community, for whom no vaccine is safe or acceptable. There is, too, a faction peddling conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines in particular. As one falsely goes, the disease is caused by 5G cell towers, so a vaccine would be useless against it. (The rumor has been repeatedly debunked on Snopes.com and other sites.) Another spuriously claims the vaccines are a plot by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—or, alternately, Elon Musk—to inject microchips into Americans. That last one—debunked herehere and elsewhere—has gained enough traction in the fever-swamp corners of the Internet that it prompted a rare acknowledgment from Bill Gates himself. “It doesn’t help that there are false conspiracy theories about vaccines, including some that involve Melinda and me,” he wrote in a foundation letter he released on Dec. 22.

But most people in the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy camp are more rational, more measured—informed enough not to believe the crazy talk, but worried enough not to want to be at the head of the line for a new vaccine. “For first responders and for older people with underlying conditions it’s a godsend,” says Padgett. “But I do believe this was rushed. I’m reasonably healthy. Six months to a year just to get more data on it is what I’d need to be vaccinated.”


For all the urgency to get as many vaccines into as many arms as possible, the reluctance of such a large swath of the population to be among the early adopters is not completely without merit.

“I think it’s reasonable to be skeptical about anything you put into your body, including vaccines,” says Dr. Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and director of its Vaccine Education Center. Coming from Offit, a vocal proponent of universal vaccination and a particular boogeyman of the anti-vax camp, that carries particular weight. He goes further still, acknowledging that the speed with which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed can cause people special concern. “The average length of time it takes to make a vaccine is 15 to 20 years,” he says. “This vaccine was made in a year.”

Then too there is a question of effectiveness. Both of the vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use in the U.S., one from Pfizer-BioNTech and one from Moderna, have what Offit calls “ridiculously high efficacy rates—in the 95% range for all [COVID-19] disease and for Moderna’s product 100% for severe disease.” But in the haste to get the vaccine to market, test subjects have been followed up for only two to three months, so it’s impossible to say with any authority how effective the vaccines will remain at six or nine or 12 months.

Finally there are the side effects. Anaphylaxis—or a severe allergic reaction—is possible with any vaccine, though medical protocols call for people who have received the shot to wait 15 minutes before they leave so that they can be treated if they do have a reaction. More troubling are spotty reports of Bell’s palsy—partial facial paralysis—following COVID-19 vaccinations. But those numbers are exceedingly small. One false Facebook posting purported to be from a nurse in Nashville who got the vaccine and suffered Bell’s palsy, but that too has been debunked, as repeated searches have turned up no nurse in the Tennessee health system under that name. All the same, it sparked outsized fear of a real but minimal risk.

“There were four cases of Bell’s palsy within a month or month and a half in the Pfizer trial out of 22,000 recipients,” Offit says. “So that works out to roughly eight per 10,000 per year.” Such a case count may be low, but it does exceed the average background rate of Bell’s palsy in the general population, which is 1.2 per 10,000 per year, Offit says. Other sources put the incidence as a somewhat higher 2.3 per 10,000.

Armed with numbers like that, however, humans are not always terribly good at calculating risk. On the one hand even an eight in 10,000 chance of contracting facial paralysis does sound scary; on the other hand, about one out every 1,000 American was killed by COVID-19 this past year. The mortal arithmetic here is easy to do—and argues strongly in favor of getting the shots.

So too does the way the vaccines were developed—which is actually not as rushed as the calendar would make it seem. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA—or messenger RNA—to prompt the body to produce a coronavirus spike protein, which then triggers an immune response. That is a novel method for making a vaccine, but the basic research was by no means conducted within the last year.

“The technology for the vaccine has actually been in development for more than a decade,” says Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and a state senator in California. Pan has pushed hard over the years for laws mandating vaccines for children to attend school and, like Offit, has earned the animus of the anti-vax community for his efforts. He is just as big a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine—though he would not propose mandates until there are enough doses for everyone to get a shot—and tries to reassure doubters that no matter how soon they get the vaccine, there are a lot of people who went before them.

“I point out to people that when you get the vaccine you’re definitely not the first,” he says, “because there are tens of thousands of people who have been involved with clinical trials.” Health care workers who are already being vaccinated increase that number dramatically—some 2 million have gotten the shot in the U.S. as of this writing.


Offit’s and Pan’s reassurances will surely not assuage everyone, and here demographics play a role. As with so much else in the U.S., vaccines have become a political issue. The Gallup organization has been tracking vaccine attitudes by party since July and has found Democrats consistently more likely to get vaccinated than Independents or Republicans. In a poll taken at the end of November, 75% of Democrats said they would be willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 61% for Independents and 50% for Republicans. Age plays a role too, with willingness to be vaccinated generally tracking susceptibility to the disease. In the December Pew Research Center poll, for example, 75% of adults over 65 reported that they intended to be vaccinated, compared to just 55% under 30.

But nowhere is the difference starker than among racial and ethnic groups, with 83% of Asian-Americans surveyed expressing an intent to be vaccinated, compared to 63% in the Latinx community and 61% among Whites. In Black American respondents, the numbers fall off the table, with just 42% intending to be vaccinated.

This is of a piece with a long history of medical disenfranchisement and much worse. Some of the mistrust goes back as far as the infamous gynecological experiments J. Marion Sims conducted on enslaved women—without anesthetic—in the 19th century; as well the Tuskegee experiment that began in the 1930s and involved decades of studying the progress of syphilis in Black men without informing them that they had the disease or offering them the antibiotics needed to treat it. But the structural inequality and bias continues today.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the death rate from COVID-19 is 2.8 times higher for blacks than it is for whites and the hospitalization rate is 3.7 times higher. Dr. Ala Stanford, a Philadelphia-based pediatric surgeon and founder of the Black Doctors COVID Consortium sees a lot of reasons for that disparity, not least being that in the neighborhoods in which she works, Blacks and other minorities were being tested for COVID-19 at only one-sixth the rate of white communities, which tended to be higher-income, according to data from Drexel University. “[The tests] had to be scheduled from nine-to-five, when most people were at work,” Stanford says. “There were no evening or weekend hours [and] they weren’t accepting children.”

What’s more, Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be front-line or essential workers like home-health aides and are less likely to have the kinds of other jobs that would let them work from home. Less social distancing plus less testing means more sickness and death, which plays into the lived reality for many people that Black lives are valued less than white lives in the U.S. That, in turn, breeds more suspicions of the system as a whole—including of vaccines.

“The main fear I hear [about vaccines] is that someone is injecting coronavirus into my body,” says Stanford. “And I answer in as detailed a way as I can about the mRNA and the protein and how it looks like coronavirus but it’s not.” That kind of clarity, she says, can help a lot.

Offit hears even starker—and more poignant—fears from Blacks. “One particular man did not want to get the vaccine and I asked him why,” Offit says. “He said, ‘because for my race they make a different vaccine.’”

One way Stanford sought to push back against such suspicions was to offer up herself as a living example, getting vaccinated on camera through the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The local media sent a pool camera and the footage was shown on the evening news. Dr. Brittani James, a professor at the University of Illinois Hospital and executive director of the Institute of Anti-Racism in Medicine, did something similar, streaming her vaccination online.

“I talk until I’m blue in the face,” she says, “but there’s something I think for people to see me or see other Black people getting it that can really do a lot to soothe their fear. Like hey, guess what? If I’m wrong, I’m going down with you.”

Whether that kind of role-modeling and example-setting will work to reduce resistance is impossible to know at the moment, simply because vaccines are still unavailable to the overwhelming share of the population. If you can’t get the shot in the first place, it doesn’t matter how hesitant or receptive you are to it. Offit, who is white, does believe that efforts like James’s, to appeal to members of her own community, can be truly valuable.

“I think if someone like me says something, people are just going to see it as ‘Of course he’d say that,’” Offit says. He cites by way of example the effectiveness of TV ads by the National Medical Association, a professional organization of Black American physicians, showing one Black nurse inoculating another with the COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s subtle,” Offit says, “but they’re trying to create those images.”

Stanford believes Black churches can play a role too. During one of the testing drives she helped organize, church parking lots were used as sites to administer the tests—which helped increase turnout. “We know that in the African-American community, [the church] is a trusted institution,” she says. “Even if you don’t go to church, you know that’s a safe space.”Dr. Ala Stanford receiving her COVID-19 vaccine. Stanford's vaccination was televised in order to promote the safety and efficacy of the shot.Dr. Ala Stanford receiving her COVID-19 vaccine. Stanford’s vaccination was televised in order to promote the safety and efficacy of the shot. Emma Lee
Source: Time
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In all communities, it helps too if doctors and other authorities listen respectfully to public misgivings about vaccines, explaining and re-explaining the science as frequently and patiently as possible. But there is a burden on the vaccine doubters themselves to be open to the medical truth. “Questions are fine as long as you listen to the answers,” Pan says. “So talk to your doctor, go to sources like the CDC and our incredible mainstream medical organizations. Those are the ones you should be getting information from.”

Adds Stanford: “My belief is that you don’t coerce or convince, you listen to concerns and you understand the fears and are empathetic with people. Then you educate and allow one to make their own choice.”

Pan also sees a role for social media companies, which must better control misinformation on their platforms. Journalists too must step up, avoiding false equivalency or both-sides-ism; there is no need to give equal time to rumor mongers or conspiracy theorists simply to appear balanced.

Ultimately, no vaccine is perfect, and the COVID-19 vaccines do have more questions associated with them than others, because there hasn’t been that much follow-up time since the study volunteers got their shots. But those questions are less about safety than about just how long the shots will prove protective. The truth is that they work.

Another truth, of course, is that for now, in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, masking and social distancing remain the best methods for protecting ourselves and others—and they will be part of our lives for at least many months to come. But slowly, over time, the vaccines will eliminate that need. What’s required now is trust in the power of the shots or, as Stanford puts it, in “faith and facts over fear.” Pandemics eventually stop raging. It’s vaccines that hasten that end game—and save millions of lives in the process.

WRITE TO JEFFREY KLUGER AT JEFFREY.KLUGER@TIME.COM.

As the article states the average time to actually develop a vaccine or new drug is 15 – 20 years. This vaccine has be developed in under a year. Why do you think people are hesitant around the world to take the COVID 19 vaccine? How often have pharmaceutical companies been fined for the drugs they develop and why? How effective or ineffective has the FDA been in protecting the public at large from predatory drugs and drug epidemics? Why? Why not?

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‘I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but…’ US health workers’ vaccine hesitancy raises alarm

Coronavirus

With up to 40% of frontline workers in LA county refusing Covid-19 inoculation experts warn that understanding and persuasion are needed

Amanda Holpuch

Amanda Holpuch in New York @holpuch
Sun 10 Jan 2021 03.00 EST
Last modified on Sun 10 Jan 2021 10.07 EST
Source: The Guardian

Registered nurse Valerie Massaro administers the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to health care workers at the Hartford HealthCare at the Hartford Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut on January 4, 2021.
 Registered nurse Valerie Massaro administers the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to health care workers at the Hartford Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut, this week. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images
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Susan, a critical care nurse based in Alaska, has been exposed to Covid-19 multiple times and has watched scores of people die from the illness. But she did not want to get the vaccination when she learned it would soon be available.

“I am not an anti-vaxxer, I have every vaccine known to man, my flu shot, I always sign up right there, October 1, jab me,” said Susan, who didn’t want to give her last name for fear of retaliation. “But for this one, why do I have to be a guinea pig?”

The two authorized vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are safe according to leading expertsand clinical trials – for one thing they contain no live virus and so cannot give a person Covid – and with tens of thousands of patients, they have had about 95% efficacy. But across the country, health workers with the first access to the vaccine are turning it down.

Misinformation ‘superspreaders’: Covid vaccine falsehoods still thriving on Facebook and Instagram

The rates of refusal – up to 40% of frontline workers in Los Angeles county, 60% of care home workers in Ohio – have prompted concern and in some cases, shaming. But the ultimate failure could be dismissing these numbers at a critical moment in the US vaccination campaign.

Dr Whitney Robinson, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, told the Guardian if these early figures coming from healthcare workers are not addressed: “It could mean after all this work, after all this sacrifice, we could still be seeing outbreaks for years, not just 2021, maybe 2022, maybe 2023.”

Vaccine hesitancy is common – 29% of healthcare workers said they were vaccine-hesitant, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation published last month. And it’s not exclusive to the US – up to 40% of care workers in the UK might refuse to have the vaccine, the National Care Association said in mid-December.

The numbers coming from hospital and care homes are unique in that they give a more specific picture of who is refusing the vaccine and why. Once vaccines are available to the general public, patterns will be more difficult to identify because the US does not have a centralized system to track vaccinations.

“If we don’t understand the patterns of who is not vaccinated, it will be hard to predict where outbreaks might spring from and how far they might spread,” Robinson said.

It will also leave underfunded public health agencies scrambling to identify and respond to hesitancy in the community.

“We can’t just write off somebody’s decisions and say, well that’s their personal decision,” Robinson said. “Because it’s not just their personal decision, it’s an infectious disease. As long as we have pockets of coronavirus anywhere in the world, until we have mass global vaccination, it’s a threat.”

Some employers and unions are seeing the numbers for what they are: an alarm in need of a response.

In New York City, the firefighters union found last month that 55% of 2,000 firefighter members surveyed said they would not get the vaccine.

But Covid cases are climbing at the FDNY. Twelve members have died and more than 600 were on medical leave in late December.

So, the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) president, Andrew Ansbro, collected questions from some of the roughly 8,200 firefighters his union represents. A virologist friend had been helping Ansbro shape the union’s response to Covid-19 and answered their questions in a recorded video. The 50-minute video has now been viewed about 2,000 times.

“I actually received a couple dozen phone calls and messages from members that said it changed their mind,” said Ansbro, who was vaccinated on 29 December. “I think the vaccination numbers are definitely going to be higher than 45%.”Advertisement

He said people were concerned about how new the vaccine was, had read misinformation online and were worried about long-term effects. In other workplace surveys, people have shared concerns about how it could affect fertility or pregnant women. Some healthcare workers infected with Covid don’t think it’s necessary while they still have antibodies.

Each of these questions can be answered. And national surveys have shown that in general, vaccine hesitancy is decreasing.

But these surveys also suggest action is still needed to address populations more likely to be distrustful because of the country’s history of medical abuse.

Recent surveys show that Black people are the most vaccine-hesitant. In mid-November, 83% of Asian Americans said they would get the vaccine if it was made available to them that day. That sentiment was shared by 63% of Hispanic people, 61% of white people but just 42% of Black people, according to a Pew Research report.

Dr Nikhila Juvvadi, the chief clinical officer at Loretto hospital in Chicago, told NPR that conversations with vaccine-hesitant staff revealed mistrust was an issue among African American and Latino workers.

She said people specifically mentioned the Tuskegee Study, when federal health officials allowed hundreds of Black men with sexually transmitted diseases to go untreated to study disease progression. The study lasted from 1932 to 1972.

“I’ve heard Tuskegee more times than I can count in the past month – and, you know, it’s a valid, valid concern,” Juvvadi said.

Juvvadi, who administered vaccines at the hospital, said one-on-one conversations validating these concerns and answering questions had helped people be more comfortable with the vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy in healthcare workers has also put pressure on health systems intent on getting doses to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Georgia’s public health commissioner, Kathleen Toomey, announced last week that the state would expand vaccine access to adults 65 and older and first responders because healthcare workers were declining to take it.

Dr Toomey said that while hundreds of healthcare workers were on waiting lists to get the vaccine in the state’s urban center, Atlanta, in rural areas the vaccine was “literally sitting in freezers” because healthcare workers there did not want to take it.

At one of the Texas hospitals hardest hit by the virus, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in the Rio GrandeValley, workers contacted local EMTs, paramedics and medical workers from outside the hospital to distribute their remaining vaccines because of their limited shelf-life.

Susan, the nurse in Alaska, said her preference would be for her parents to get the vaccine first because they are more vulnerable.

She has made peace with the vaccine and plans to get it the next time it is offered. She said she was ultimately convinced to get it after speaking to other health professionals who did not dismiss her concerns and listened to her questions.

Now, however, there is another hurdle. Susan has declined the vaccine twice because of logistics. She is currently on a temporary crisis assignment in rural Texas and the travel meant both times she was offered the vaccine, she would be in a different state when it was time to take the second dose. Susan said: “I feel terrible I’ve said no.”

Why do you think medical professionals are hesitant to take the vaccine? Shouldn’t one lead by example? If they are unwilling to do it, why should you be willing? Will you take the COVID 19 vaccine?

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COVID-19 vaccine stirs rare hesitation in nearly virus-free Singapore

By Chen LinAradhana Aravindan
Source: Reuters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – As Singapore prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations its striking success in controlling the virus is making some question whether they should take the jabs.FILE PHOTO: The first shipment of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine arrives in Singapore December 21, 2020. Betty Chua/Ministry of Communications and Informations via REUTERS

In a city-state where compliance with the authorities is generally high, some Singaporeans fear potential side effects – even if minimal – are not worth the risk when daily cases are almost zero and fatalities are among the world’s lowest.

“Singapore is doing pretty well,” said Aishwarya Kris, who is in her 40s and does not want a shot.

“I doubt the vaccine will help at all.”

A poll by local newspaper The Straits Times in early December found that 48% of respondents said they will get a vaccine when it is available and 34% will wait six to 12 months.

But the government is keen to open more of the economy with the help of the vaccine in a country dependent on travel and trade and preparing to host the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering next year.

“Singapore is a victim of its own success,” said Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases expert at the city’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

To show the vaccine is safe, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 68, said he and his colleagues would be among the early recipients of the shots. They will be free, voluntary and given first to healthcare workers and the elderly.

The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived this week and Singapore expects to have enough vaccines for all 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.

The first vaccines will be given to priority groups such as health workers in the next month or two, but it will be some time before its offered to the broader population, said Lawrence Wong, a minister who co-heads Singapore’s virus taskforce.

“The roll-out to the Singapore population will also take place over several months, depending on factors such as the supply and delivery schedules of the vaccines,” he said.

“RESPONSIBLE THING TO DO”

Many Singaporeans said they are ready to take the shots — not just to ward off infection but in hopes they can travel again. For others, it’s a civic duty.

“I am the one in the family that goes out daily to work, so it’s the responsible thing to do,” said Jeff Tan, a 39-year-old photographer.

Singapore acted swiftly after the first cases of the virus were reported and although it was blindsided by tens of thousands of cases in migrant workers dormitories, it has brought infections right down again.

Singaporeans are generally accepting of vaccines, with a near 90% uptake of major childhood jabs, said Hsu Li Yang at Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at National University of Singapore.

But there is concern about a new vaccine that uses novel technology and has had a rapid development and approval. Typically, vaccine acceptance takes time, he said.

Even three nurses told Reuters under the condition of anonymity that they would prefer not to take the vaccine.

Singapore’s drug regulator said it granted approval after data submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech was assessed to demonstrate the vaccine meets the required safety, efficacy and quality standards, and that the benefits outweigh the known risks.

Pfizer’s vaccine has been linked with a few cases of severe allergic reactions as it has been rolled out in the UK and the United States. But it has not turned up any serious long-term side effects in clinical trials.

John Han, a sales manager, said he wanted to wait for 80% of the population to take the vaccine without side effects.

“If there is a choice given, I might not take it. I don’t mind to put on the mask, be safe, avoid crowded places,” said Han, 40.

Reporting by Chen Lin and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Michael Perry

Why do you think people across the world are hesitant to take the COVID vaccination? Have you taken the vaccine? Why? Why not?

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Fauci: US taking hard look at variant of coronavirus

Source: Associate Press

In this Dec. 22, 2020, file photo Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials believe the coronavirus mutation that set off alarms in parts of Britain is no more apt to cause serious illness or be resistant to vaccines than the strain afflicting people in the United States but it still must be taken “very seriously,” the government’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci endorsed the decision of U.S. officials to require negative COVID-19 tests before letting people from Britain enter the U.S. He declined to weigh in on whether that step should have been taken sooner. He said the variant strain is something “to follow very carefully” and “we’re looking at it very intensively now.”

He said: “Does it make someone more ill? Is it more serious virus in the sense of virulence? And the answer is, it doesn’t appear to be that way.” British officials are telling their U.S. colleagues it appears that the vaccines being rolled out will be strong enough to deal with the new variant but, Fauci said, “we’re going to be doing the studies ourselves.”

Fauci said the U.S. is at a critical phase of the pandemic, with the worst probably still ahead. He predicted the general population would be getting immunized widely by late March or early April — beyond the front-line workers, older people and certain other segments of the public given priority for the vaccines.

Fauci spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Great Britain was the first country to give the vaccine to its citizens. Why do you think they are seeing a mutation of the corona virus? Do you think this is associated with the vaccine? Why? Why not?

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From Tuskegee to a COVID Vaccine: Diversity and Racism Are Hurdles in Drug Trials

Drug companies pushing to fight the coronavirus with a vaccine must overcome a legacy of suspicion, even as Black communities have been hit hard by the pandemic.

By Joseph P. Williams, Senior Editor
Nov. 19, 2020, at 1:35 p.m.
Source: US News

The Search for Diversity in Drug Trials

In this 1950's photo released by the National Archives, a black man included in a syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala. U.S. public health officials in the 1930s began a study in which syphilis was left untreated in Black men. Known colloquially as the Tuskegee experiment, the study didn’t end until 1972, and has become shorthand among African Americans for a legacy of racism and mistreatment in the medical industry.
Source: US News
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In this 1950s photo released by the National Archives, a Black man included in the Tuskegee syphilis study has blood drawn by a doctor in Tuskegee, Ala. The once-secret Tuskegee experiment has become shorthand among African Americans for a legacy of mistreatment in medicine.(NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

AMID A SEEMINGLY endless pandemic, as a spiraling number of COVID-19 deaths presage what could be a long, dark winter, the news broke through like thin rays of sunshine: Two American pharmaceutical giants racing to find a vaccine separately reported that human tests of their experimental drugs have shown highly promising results.

The potentially game-changing data from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, however, obscured what some say is anotherkey development: Both companies reported that the pools of volunteers receiving the drugs included significant numbers of Black participants.[ 

The inclusion of Black people in trials for a highly anticipated drug might seem like a no-brainer, particularly for a vaccine to fight COVID-19, a contagion that’s been killing Black Americans at a rate higher than whites. Indeed, PhRMA, the drug industry’s influential trade group, just announced a new set of principles that urge diversity in human trials for new drugs to boost health equity, increase participation by people of color, ensure drug effectiveness – and tackle lingering suspicion of the medical industry among some African Americans.

“Between Latinx and Black or African American populations, we’re running at about 19% or so,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told Reuters this summer, describing a trial pool of 11,000 people for a vaccine being developed with German partner BioNTech. “We’re trying to push even higher than that.”

The company appears to have improved, saying as of Monday that 30% of U.S. trial participants had “diverse” backgrounds, with Black people and those identified as either Hispanic or by the gender-neutral term Latinx accounting for approximately 10% and 13% shares, respectively. Moderna, meanwhile, said its 30,000-person phase three vaccine study included more than 11,000 people from communities of color, including more than 6,000 Hispanic or Latinx people and more than 3,000 Black or African American participants.

Yet while the industry insists it is moving with deliberate speed toward diversity and inclusion in experimental drug trials, some say it’s taking baby steps and has a long way to go toward building trust with African Americans and other minority communities.

“There are a lot of outstanding questions,” says Jonathan Jackson, a cognitive neuroscientist and director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The center investigates the effects of diversity and inclusion on human subject research.

“A lot of people who have been running the COVID-19 vaccine studies have been really excited because they have recruited a more diverse population, compared to what they’re used to,” Jackson says. “The bar that you’re trying to clear shouldn’t be a study that you ran last year,” but the goal should be to mirror the population most affected by the targeted disease.

“So if those are our baselines, then what we’re seeing – even though it is a significant increase in diversity – is still nowhere near representative of COVID hospitalizations or COVID deaths,” Jackson says. “It’s hard to get excited when we still have so far to go.”

Jackson and others say the lack of diversity in medical trials has roots extending deep into U.S. history.

Dr. J. Marion Sims, onetime president of the American Medical Association and an esteemed physician dubbed “the father of modern gynecology,” made groundbreaking medical strides through research he conducted on female slaves, without anesthesia. Medical journals reportedly indicate it was common to conduct medical experiments on slaves with no pain relief; procedures ranged from amputations to brain surgery.

While research on slaves gradually faded over the decades, experiments on African Americans never completely went away.

World Braces For Another Wave of Coronavirus

In 1951, doctors at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore – though segregated, one of the only leading hospitals to treat Black patients – harvested cells from Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman being treated for cancer, without her knowledge or permission. Though such harvesting reportedly was standard at Hopkins regardless of race, Lacks’ cells were abnormally reproductive and widely shared, and her “HeLa” cells are still in use for research today.

In perhaps the most egregious example, U.S. public health officials in the 1930s began a study in which syphilis was left untreated in Black men. Known colloquially as the Tuskegee experiment, the study didn’t end until 1972, and has become shorthand among African Americans for a legacy of racism and mistreatment in the medical industry.

Facing that ugly history is part of building trust and boosting participation in clinical trials by historically underrepresented communities, according to the PhRMA industry principles, which explicitly state that the Tuskegee experiment was unethical and featured serious mistakes. Still, the industry principles state that the horrible experiment became a conduit for “major changes in how clinical trials are conducted in order to protect the rights, safety, and well-being of clinical trial participants.”

Rather than lean into diversity and inclusion in medical trials, however, experts say the industry went in the other direction. For years, it wasn’t unusual for a drug to be tested on volunteers from the pharmaceutical research community, without any people of color in the pool.

In that world, “it’s not that we struggle to recruit racial and ethnic minorities; it’s that we’re really good at recruiting one type of person into clinical research,” says Jackson, the CARES director. “And that person is usually (a) white, wealthy male, and lives in an urban center, along the East or West Coast of the United States, and has some kind of advanced educational degree.”

Decades ago, the group that was easiest to reach were poor, minority individuals that were unlikely to speak up or speak out,” he says. “Now, the group that’s easiest to reach are extremely privileged individuals” who have the means and the time to participate

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says diversity in clinical trials is important for two reasons.

“One is that it’s just better science – you then get a better idea of how your drug or your vaccine or anything else works in a more representative population,” particularly among people dealing with issues tied to social determinants of health, Benjamin says. “And the other aspect is, it helps with trust” among African Americans and other marginalized populations.

The data underscores the need: As of August and compared with whites, Black people had a COVID-19 case rate nearly three times higher, were hospitalized at a rate nearly five times higher and had a death rate more than two times higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An APM Research Lab analysis as of Nov. 10 also shows Black Americans with a death rate close to double that of whites.

Yet recent polling indicates nearly half of African Americans are either reluctant or will refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination. That’s despite the fact that some believe the disproportionate effects the coronavirus has had on their communities should put people of color near the front of the line for inoculation.

“Having a racial preference for a COVID-19 vaccine is not only ethically permissible, but I think it’s an ethical imperative,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, told STAT. It’s justifiable, he said, because of “historic structural racism that’s resulted in grossly unequal health outcomes for all kinds of diseases, and because COVID-19 has so disproportionately impacted the lives of people of color.”

To be sure, the racial and ethnic makeup of trial participants can vary: In 2019, for example, federal data snapshot says Blacks or African Americans – who make up about 13% of the U.S. population – accounted for 4% of participants in trials that led to the approval of 11 new oncology drugs, but for 25% of participants in trials that led to the approval of six hematology drugs and 29% in trials that led to the approval of five drugs in the psychiatry and sleep disorder category. Notably, a 2018 study indicated that African Americans were overrepresented in trials that did not require informed consent but are to be aimed at life-threatening, emergency conditions.

In its vaccine pursuit, Pfizer appeared to recognize the need for diversity and inclusion: A fact sheet sent by a company representative states that COVID-19 “is an urgent health crisis that disproportionately impacts diverse communities,” a problem that requires focused action.

The drug company’s efforts include information and ad campaigns to educate the public and recruit volunteers in “diverse” communities hit hard by COVID-19, according to the fact sheet. In addition to outreach in several languages and partnerships with grassroots community organizations, Pfizer also set up a website that shows its progress in including minorities in its vaccine trials.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the demographics of our trial population reflect the demographics of the states and communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19,” according to the fact sheet.

Benjamin says Pfizer and other drug manufacturers are making the right moves to increase inclusion in drug trials, including by embedding representatives in the community. Still, he says, it’s a long-term process that will yield concrete results in years, not months.

“You have to make sure you have the right people at the table,” Benjamin says. Drug companies, he says, have to “make a conscious effort” to include those affected by the disease they’re trying to cure, and “actually go to the patients and take that added step to ensure that you have a representative population” for a drug trial.

Jackson, for his part, says while the diversity numbers reported by Pfizer and Moderna are sunny, “I’m probably going to be the rain cloud.”

Outstanding questions include whether the percentages equate to the number of minorities affected by the coronavirus. Moreover, “even if we had exactly the percentage in the studies that we see, there are other issues that are really problematic” and could determine how effective the drug is when accounting for social determinants of health, Jackson says.

“It actually makes a difference where your racial and ethnic minorities come from,” he says. “Do they come from areas of town that are more rural? Poorer? Have worse insurance access than the white people that are enrolling in these studies?”

Ultimately, “it really comes down to one thing, which is just the importance of community engagement, which drives more inclusive enrollment, rather than just a record of diverse enrollment,” Jackson says. When a vaccine is developed, trust has to be there in order to get the African American community to buy in and get the shot to curb the spread of disease.

“And so you need to build that trust, when the vaccine is still being tested, rather than waiting for the vaccine to be approved by the FDA,” Jackson says. “Because that’s what’s really going to drive trust, is that people understand the whole process and can attest to their involvement in it.”

How do you feel about the COVID 19 vaccines? What questions do you have? Why?

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Doctors and nurses want more data before championing vaccines to end the pandemic

covid 19 shidonna raven garden and cook

Health systems are launching bids to assure their medical workers that vaccines will be safe and effective

By Christopher Rowland November 21, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST
Source: The Washington Post

Marion Whicker from the Department of Defense explains the components and safety equipment that will be in ancillary kits used for the Pfizer vaccine. (The Washington Post)

Doctors and nurses, coping with the daily risk of coronavirus exposure, are expected to get top priority to receive vaccines that could become available as soon as next month. But it’s an open question how many will seize their place at the front of the line.

Large health systems, medical societies and the federal government are launching an effort to persuade front-line health-care providers to take novel vaccines that were developed, and are likely to be granted emergency approval, in record time.

In Boston, major teaching hospitals are rolling out educational videos aimed at assuring medical staff the process of developing coronavirus vaccines will result in safe and effective shots. At New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, a leading infectious-disease doctor said he probably will distribute photos of himself getting a shot in a bid to build confidence among front-line staff.

Hospitals in urban areas are taking additional measures to make sure ethnic and racial minority members, who form a large percentage of their front-line nursing and support staffs, receive rapid information about the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccines.AD

Winning buy-in from doctors and nurses is crucial to gaining broader public support for the vaccines, based on the high degree of trust placed in them by patients. The hesitancy of some health-care workers is attracting attention as the first two vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, near deployment. Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, filed their Food and Drug Administration application for emergency use on Friday.

Polling last month showed that 58 percent of U.S. adults were willing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. A Pew Research Center poll in September found 51 percent of Americans said they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine.

Medical experts said attitudes among doctors, nurses and the public could shift quickly as new data are revealed. But government, academic, and health-care officials say that significant numbers of providers want more data about the vaccine before it is deployed. Some of the information is expected to be released next month by the FDA.AD

report released Thursday by the University of California at Los Angeles researchers said that 66 percent of Los Angeles health-care workers who responded to an online questionnaire (not a randomized sample) said they would delay taking a vaccine. The American Nurses Association, a national professional organization, said one-third of its members do not intend to take the vaccine, and an additional third are undecided.

New Jersey said last week that its data showed that 66 percent of the state’s doctors planned to receive the vaccine. Among professionals contacted by the state, “some did not want to be in the first round, so they could wait and see if there are potential side effects,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli said at a Nov. 9 news briefing.

“Of those who said they would not take the vaccine, many said they would be more than willing to get the vaccine at a later date, when more data is available,” she said.AD

The hesitancy among doctors and nurses is not the same as the anti-vaccine movement, which medical experts consider a fringe trend fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories on social media. Health professionals tend to be advocates of vaccines, including seasonal flu shots, shingles vaccines, and childhood inoculations for measles, mumps and rubella.

But in the case of the coronavirus shots, health-care leaders say President Trump’s frequent promises about vaccines have raised doubts about the objectivity of agency reviews, as have the speed of the manufacturers’ clinical trials, and unfamiliarity with the novel techniques used by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to trigger natural antibodies.

“We are vaccines’ greatest champions, but this is the first time that a new vaccine has been developed at a rapid pace in the middle of a pandemic, as opposed to a much longer timeline,” Susan Bailey, a physician in Fort Worth and president of the American Medical Association, said in an interview.AD

“What I hear from physicians is some of the same concerns that are expressed by everyone. They worry the process has been politicized. They are concerned because they haven’t seen any published data yet. And they don’t feel comfortable making the decision one way or another until they see the evidence,” Bailey said.

Medical professionals are “the most trusted source for health information,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late last month during a meeting to discuss national distribution plans. “Concerns among health-care providers is a risk for overall vaccine confidence.” The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

After the fastest development ever, the FDA could grant emergency authorization for the two vaccines as soon as next month. That would begin an immediate push to vaccinate 20 million people before the end of the year and hundreds of millions in 2021.AD

Health professionals must quickly learn the science behind a pair of mRNA vaccines that work differently from traditional vaccines and will need to help convince the public that the vaccines are safe and effective, said Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a U.S. assistant secretary of health during the Obama administration.

“A doctor who can’t commit to a vaccine personally may find it difficult, if not impossible, to advise their patients to do so,” he said.

“Operation Warp Speed — just that name connotes urgency and timeliness, but could bring to mind for many a fear of the process being rushed,” Koh said. “And we have seen the administration contradicting their own top public health officials and trying to accelerate a process that we know has to be done with all deliberate speed.”

Pfizer and Moderna have provided data from their large-scale Phase 3 trials only via news releases, which contained the highly promising news that both vaccines were 90 percent effective or more and have not presented any serious safety concerns.AD

Bailey, Koh and other leaders said it is crucial for the companies to publish full trial results as soon as possible to win approval from physicians.

In coming weeks, the FDA and the companies will be analyzing data from the trials in more detail. The agency has said it will require two months of follow-up safety analysis in trial participants before it will consider issuing emergency-use authorizations — still much faster than the typical minimum follow-up of six months. An FDA committee of independent advisers also will review available efficacy and safety evidence in a public hearing before the EUA is issued. Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment. Moderna said it plans to release more data that should satisfy concerns.

“We believe that transparency with respect to mRNA-1273 scientific results (especially as increasing amounts of data become available) will be the strongest antidote over time to individual uncertainties or anxieties,” Ray Jordan, Moderna’s chief corporate affairs officer, said in an email. “We expect to publish results in peer-reviewed journals as data sufficiently mature over time, just as we have with the multiple evaluated outcomes from our Phase I trial.”

Bailey, the AMA president, said that as an allergist and immunologist, she frequently receives questions about the new vaccines.AD

“When my patients ask me, I say once I’ve seen the studies and feel confident that no corners have been cut, and no steps have been skipped, and we have a safe and effective vaccine, I’ll be the first in line,” she said.

In an AMA video released Nov. 2, Bailey said the number of physicians expressing hesitancy was “unprecedented” and said it posed “real risk” to public confidence in vaccines. Since the video was released, Trump was defeated in his bid for a second term, and Pfizer and Moderna reported that their vaccines worked in more than 90 percent of people who received them.

Once full data sets are available, if they show a sound safety profile, doctors will come around, Bailey said in an interview.“Most of us are not sitting around reading journals right now. We’re literally trying to save lives,” she said, “but when that data is available, I think the uptake will be quite rapid.”AD

At the Association of American Medical Colleges, Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney said many questions remain about the effectiveness of the vaccines, and how long immunity will last. But the promising Pfizer and Moderna results, plus the outcome of the presidential election, will rapidly shift the landscape, he predicted.

“We’re past November 3rd, and the perception that the vaccine was being force-fed for an election win is no longer an issue,” McKinney said. “I suspect you are going to see very different numbers on hesitancy. I think you are going to see a huge change in the perceived reluctance to get vaccinated.”

The CDC said 98 percent of doctors and 92 percent of nurses were vaccinated for influenza during last winter’s flu season. Many hospital systems mandate staff receive flu shots, but similar directives are not expected for coronavirus vaccines — at least not immediately — because they will still be considered experimental.

Introducing new vaccines is not easy during a global health emergency and a national political debate stoked by a president known to frequently distort, discredit and make false claims about science. The national pandemic response has been marked by emotional and confusing political battles.

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) formed his own panel of experts to review vaccines that are authorized by the FDA, saying in September, “I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion.” Trump responded by saying that the federal government will not send a coronavirus vaccine to New York when it becomes available.

The president repeatedly promised during his reelection campaign that a vaccine would be approved for the United States before the Nov. 3 election. That did not happen. Now, convincing Americans and the medical community that the first vaccines are safe and effective will fall to Trump’s lame-duck administration and then to President-elect Joe Biden.

“These mRNA vaccinations have never been approved before, so there is no reliable track record of safety. We should expect to set the bar higher for safety,” said Jeffrey A. Hirschfield, a pediatrician in St. Petersburg, Fla., who has discussed his reservations on Twitter. “It typically takes five to 10 years to successfully develop and vet vaccine candidates, especially those relying on new technologies.”

Marie Ritacco, a longtime nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., and vice president of a state nurses union, said many nurses will continue to rely on personal protective equipment and strict anti-infection procedures rather than be in the first wave of health-care workers receiving coronavirus vaccines.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I believe in vaccinations. But I’ve never seen a process this fast,” she said. “I don’t think we have enough data to show that it is safe, will not cause harm and will be highly effective. We drive all these decisions on data, and the data is just not there yet.”

Vaccines that use mRNA, or messenger RNA, work by carrying a genetic message into the body that signals cells to produce the novel coronavirus’s distinctive spike protein, triggering an immune response that creates specific antibodies. Traditional vaccines depend on inactivated virus to accomplish that mission, or some use a viral vector such as a harmless cold virus engineered to contain the genetic instructions for the spike protein.

Health systems nationwide are preparing to distribute the vaccine, and some are beginning to prepare their workforces.

Marci Drees, the infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist at ChristianaCare, a hospital system based in Wilmington, Del., said rank-and-file workers will need to be reassured about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine from within their own systems. Guidance from the CDC and the FDA will be helpful, but faith in government reviews has been shaken and cannot be the sole source of information, she said.

“A lot of it will be on the ground level, because there has been so much distrust in general,” Drees said. “Being very transparent about what we know, and what we don’t know, is really important.”

She said she receives frequent questions from ChristianaCare medical staff about the two-month safety follow-up window that the FDA is relying on to assess the risk of adverse events.

“We are not going to have long-term safety data on these vaccines, but we do know that most side effects occur within the first few weeks after vaccination,” so the FDA’s two-month threshold should give people confidence, Drees said.

In Boston, the large Mass General Brigham health system, which encompasses large academic medical centers including Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as community hospitals, has produced videos for its 80,000 employees.

The videos feature assurances from some of the system’s physicians that a vaccine will not be released unless it is known to be safe after thorough reviews by FDA scientists, as well as those outside the government who serve on independent advisory committees.

“We know there are concerns about whether politics played a role in vaccine approval, and we wanted to clearly communicate that there are independent groups that participate in the process that we trust and respect,” said Paul Biddinger, a Mass General physician and the director of emergency preparedness for the broader Mass General Brigham system.

Academic medical centers are expected to be the earliest sites for distribution of mRNA vaccines because they have enough of the ultracold freezers required for their storage, as well as research scientists who can help interpret clinical trial data for their communities.

It is vital that physicians and nurses at these institutions show that they are willing to take the vaccines first, not just to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in a high-risk environment, but also to demonstrate to the community that they stand behind the vaccines, Biddinger said.

That is especially true for vulnerable groups that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus, including African Americans, he said, who may mistrust the U.S. health-care system, given historical examples of unethical medical experiments that targeted Black people and caused harm.

Initial scarcity of supply will result in a gradual escalation of experience with the vaccines. By the time hundreds of millions of doses are available for everyone in the nation, Biddinger said, health systems should be ready to strongly recommend they be used more broadly.

“We think it will snowball with increasing availability of product,” he said, “and people can look back, and we can say we have vaccinated hundreds of thousands, millions of people, and we have not seen adverse events, and therefore we should do this because we want to save lives and get us out of the pandemic.”

At Mount Sinai in New York, Bernard Camins, an infectious-disease doctor who is Mount Sinai’s director of prevention and is helping coordinate the hospital system’s vaccine distribution, said the coronavirus vaccination for medical workers will be modeled on efforts to push the annual influenza vaccine.

“I’m surprised considering how bad this pandemic has been that [vaccine hesitancy] is equivalent to 50 percent” among Mount Sinai health care staff, Camins said during a webinar Thursday sponsored by national health-care provider EHE Health, calling that a “pessimistic” estimate based on his anecdotal conversations. “Unfortunately, it’s the mixed messages they have gotten.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the American Nurses Association as a union. It is a professional organization. The story has been updated.

Why do you think medical professionals are also hesitant to take the COVID vaccine? Why do you think they want more time and information? What are your thoughts about COVID 19 vaccines?

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US administers 1st doses of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

The FDA authorized Pfizer’s vaccine last week.

By Ivan Pereira, 14 December 2020, 09:43
Source: ABC News

Why are people hesitant to trust a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines are proven to reduce deaths and help end pandemics, but the historic speed that the coronavirus vaccines have been developed has made some people hesitant to take them.

A critical care nurse from Northwell Long Island Jewish Medical Center was vaccinated at 9:23 a.m. during a livestreamed event with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “You didn’t flinch,” Cuomo said.

PHOTO: Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Dec. 14, 2020, in New York.
Mark Lennihan/APMark Lennihan/APSandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Dec. 14, 2020, in New York.

The University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky will receive its first delivery of the vaccine at 9:30 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m., three doctors and two nurses will receive the vaccine.

Other locations in Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Michigan are also expected to administer vaccine doses on Monday.

The rollout comes less than a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for emergency use for Americans over 16. The order from the FDA led to the pharmaceutical company shipping 2.9 million doses to 636 sites across the country.

Pfizer, which produced the vaccine alongside German company BioNTech, began shipping the doses from its Michigan warehouse Sunday directly to those sites, which were pre-selected by governors and local health officials.

Pfizer said it would roll out a second batch of 2.9 million doses shortly after the first batch. The U.S. government is opting to keep 500,000 doses in reserve to address any shipping or distribution mishaps.

The vaccine, which requires two doses for full inoculation, began distribution in the United Kingdom last week.

The vaccine is the first in the country to use the genetic technology mRNA instead of viral components. Pfizer claimed its trials showed the vaccine was 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

The FDA will hold a hearing on Dec. 17 with Moderna, which also developed an mRNA-based vaccine, before possibly giving emergency authorization for its deployment.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 52 COVID-19 vaccines in human trials, and 162 vaccines in preclinical development.

The vaccine developments come as the U.S. is in the midst of the deadliest period of the pandemic, according to health data. America leads the world with over 16 million cases and close to 300,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The seven-day averages of new daily cases, 211,494, hospitalizations, 106,656, and deaths, 2,427, were at record highs on Dec. 13, according to health data from the COVID Tracking Project.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos, Sony Salzman and Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

How do you feel about the COVID 19 vaccine? Many people are asking others what they think of receiving the vaccine. How does the COVID 19 vaccine impact the pandemic?

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Peru halts trial of China Covid vaccine after patient suffers neurological problems

The government plans to roll out the vaccination process in the next three months  

Mayank Aggarwal@journomayank
12.14.2020
Source: Independent

The Peruvian government has suspended its trial of a major Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate after a participant suffered a serious medical episode, even as the country claims it will begin rolling out jabs in the next three months.  

The Peruvian minister of health Pilar Mazzetti said that the decision of the National Institute of Health (INS) to temporarily stop Sinopharm’s trial in the country was to evaluate the reason behind the adverse incident, which saw a participant experience neurological symptoms.  

German Malaga, chief researcher at the local Cayetano Heredia University, which is involved in the study, said the volunteer had experienced decreased strength in his legs among other symptoms.

The authorities are trying to ascertain if the adverse incident is due to the vaccine or to other reasons. The vaccine was due to complete the first stage of the trials in the next few days.

The Sinopharm vaccine is not the only option available to Peru, and the government says it is in advanced stages of negotiations to acquire more than 26 million units of vaccine from Russia, China and the UK.

Many within the medical community including pharmaceutical manufacturers have question the speed and manner in which COVID 19 vaccines were being obtained. What are your thoughts on this? Which vaccine producer do you feel has created the best vaccine? Why?

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Some Black and Latino Americans are still hesitant to take the vaccine. Here’s what is fueling that distrust

By Nicquel Terry Ellis and Jason Carroll, CNN
Updated 10:51 PM ET, Fri December 4, 2020
Source: CNN
Photos Source: CNN

(CNN)When a Covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available to Americans, Joe Cunningham says he won’t be taking it.”I don’t know, I don’t understand it,” the 85-year-old said. “I’d like to know where it’s coming from.”Cunningham, who lives in Hobson City, AL, is among the Black Americans who have little faith in doctors and Covid-19 vaccines recently developed by pharmaceutical companies.Alabama is taking a beating from the coronavirus, with the state’s 14-day positivity rate just over 29%. In Calhoun County, where Hobson City sits, the rate is 37%.Still, older residents like Cunningham won’t even take a Covid-19 test.The town, located about 100 miles from Tuskegee, is home to one of the darkest chapters in American medical history.America’s history of racism in medical research and a lack of trust in the federal government is making some Black Americans and Latinos hesitant to take the vaccine.Health and community leaders fear that vaccine hesitancy could result in some Black and Latino Americans not being vaccinated as Covid-19 continues to batter their communities at disproportionate rates.On Monday, Moderna announced that it was applying to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine that it says is 94.5% effective against the virus. Pfizer applied on Nov. 20 and says its vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infections.But a study released by the COVID Collaborative, the NAACP and UnidosUS found that only 14% of Black Americans trust that a vaccine will be safe and 18% trust it will be effective.Latino Americans, however, were more optimistic with 34% saying they trust the vaccine will be safe and 40% believing it will be effective.Much of their hesitancy stems from distrust in the federal government and the nation’s history of racism in medical research and healthcare, the study found.Carlton Gordon also says he won’t immediately take the vaccine.Gordon, a Black father who lives outside of Chicago, says he is concerned the vaccine is being rushed to the market and that not enough Black people have been tested to know if it’s safe.

Pictured is Carlton Gordon, of Chicago, with his wife and children.

Pictured is Carlton Gordon, of Chicago, with his wife and children.”I would rather not try to pivot toward a vaccine that frankly is not quite proven,” said Gordon, 34. “If this vaccine is proven effective after it’s been released more broadly to people, then we can certainly value it and I might change my perspective.”Building trust around the vaccine will require a concerted effort by Black and Latino doctors, researchers, activists and elected officials, said Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Cincinnati.People of color, she said, are more likely to trust leaders who look like them rather than officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the FDA.Communities should start planning information campaigns and town halls to discuss how and why the vaccine works, Harris said.”It must be a Black person talking to a Black person,” Harris said. “You’re not going to all of a sudden trust a group of people that you have mistrusted just because the science says this.”

A fear of being ‘guinea pigs’

Ernest Grant, the president of the American Nurses Association, participated in a vaccine trial this fall with hopes that it would combat fears in the Black community around taking the vaccine.Grant, who is Black, said he took the two required doses of the vaccine — the first Sept. 9 and the second Oct. 5 — and experienced mild side effects such as fatigue and chills.Although the trial is double-blinded, meaning researchers and participants don’t know who is actually getting the real vaccine or the placebo, Grant said he is confident the vaccine is safe. He recommends other Black leaders take the vaccine so they can share their experience and knowledge with the community.”I feel confident that once it is released to the public there should not be hesitancy about taking the vaccine,” Grant said. “At some point there’s always that potential that it (Covid-19) could happen to you and if I know there is a cure that could potentially save me from that, I think I would go for the cure.”Yet, it’s still difficult for some Black people to trust because of racial bias from healthcare providers.Carmen Bailey, of Cleveland, OH, said she was diagnosed with Covid-19 in April and has avoided medical help because doctors have treated her poorly in the past.Bailey, who still suffers Covid-19 side effects with her heart, lungs and kidneys, said she refuses to take the vaccine.”We don’t know the side effects,” said Bailey, 52. “I just really feel like at this point … people that’s going to take that vaccine are guinea pigs.”History has left a dark cloud for some Black people.The Tuskegee experiments from 1932-1972, recruited 600 Black men — 399 who had syphilis and 201 who did not — and tracked the disease’s progression by not treating the men as they died or suffered severe health issues.Black people who were enslaved were also historically used by doctors to test medications and surgeries that caused health complications or death.The racist history in medical research prevented pharmaceutical companies from recruiting enough people of color earlier this year for vaccine trials, said Dr. Nelson Michael, a coordinator for Operation Warp Speed, an effort led by the government to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.Nearly 40% of reported Covid-19 cases have been Black and Latino people, according to the CDC.However, Moderna reported 10% of its vaccine trial participants were Black and 20% were Latino. Pfizer reported 10% were Black and 13% were Latino.

CNN en Español's Dr. Elmer Huerta volunteered for a coronavirus vaccine trial. Here's why

CNN en Español’s Dr. Elmer Huerta volunteered for a coronavirus vaccine trial. Here’s whyStill, Black physicians have rallied around the vaccine in recent weeks.Last month, the Black Coalition Against COVID published a “Love Letter to Back America” signed by eight prominent Black doctors that encouraged Black people to participate in the vaccine trials and take the vaccine once it is proven safe.”We know that our collective role in helping to create a vaccine that works for Black people—and that we trust — has an impact on our very survival,” the doctors wrote.Black pastors have also united to share information about the vaccine.Rev. Horace Sheffield of Detroit said he joined six leading pastors — including Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Raphael Warnock — from churches across the country to launch Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that aims to combat the pandemic’s impact on the Black community.Sheffield said he is willing to be one of the first Black people to take the vaccine when it’s released.”We’ve got a great job to do to convince people to take the vaccine,” Sheffield said. “And the only people who can carry that message is us (Black leaders).”Black leaders in New York, including Sharpton, launched a task force this week to address Covid-19 vaccine delivery to the Black community and concerns about the vaccine’s safety.

Rev. Horace Sheffield (far right) of Detroit and volunteers offered COVID-19 testing to the community this year.

Rev. Horace Sheffield (far right) of Detroit and volunteers offered COVID-19 testing to the community this year.In the Latino community, many won’t take the vaccine because of their distrust in the federal government, activists say.President Donald Trump’s administration’s anti-immigration policies, public charge rules that create barriers to citizenship and threats to the Affordable Care Act have made some Latino families reluctant to receive healthcare, said Rita Carreon, vice president of the health for UnidosUS, a nonpartisan group that advocates for Latinos.

Lack of access is the other half of the battle

Carreon said Latino Americans will be looking to their trusted leaders and organizations for information on vaccine trial data, side effects, and where they can safely get the vaccine in their neighborhood if they are uninsured.”Historically, there has not been significant outreach in the community to help them feel confident in the healthcare system,” Carreon said. “We want to make sure information is communicated in plain, simple, and clear terms.”But gaining the confidence of Black and Latino Americans is half the battle.Many people of color living in poor and urban neighborhoods don’t have doctors or healthcare facilities near their homes. They also lack transportation.CDC advisers voted this week to recommend that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the Covid-19 vaccine first. If the Modern and Pfizer vaccines are approved, the federal government estimates that 40 million of doses could be available by the end of December.Existing clinics in urban centers such as Chicago and Atlanta worry they won’t have the resources to reach every patient once the vaccine is rolled out to the general public.Earlier this year, some ran out of personal protective equipment and Covid-19 tests.CommunityHealth in Chicago, which provides free healthcare to nearly 8,000 patients — most of them Latino — is understaffed with only 42 employees and 1,000 volunteers, CEO Stephanie Willding said.Willding said her clinic isn’t equipped for the community outreach, vaccine storage and other logistics needed to get two doses of the vaccine to every patient.She also worries that her patients, particularly single parents and essential workers, won’t be able to get their families to the clinic twice.”Covid-19 has put a spotlight on something that safety net healthcare providers have always known and that is the inequity in healthcare access,” Willding said. “When we talk about an equitable approach to vaccine distribution, free and charitable health centers need to be factored into that approach.”Breanna Lathrop, who heads Good Samaritan Health Center in Atlanta, is in the same boat.Lathrop said she needs funding for syringes and needles. She also needs help convincing patients that the vaccine is safe and necessary.”I think people are going into this already feeling a little scared and overwhelmed,” Lathrop said. “We talk about their questions and we want them to feel comfortable. But when you’re talking about suddenly vaccinating hundreds of people, I can’t sit with hundreds of people and have that conversation.”

CNN’s Laura Dolan, Elizabeth Cohen and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.

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Whole families in quarantine: Virginia officials wait to see impact of Thanksgiving on the coronavirus’ spreadcorona, corona virus, covid, covid 19, covid cases rise, covid vaccine, dr facui, health, health industry, holidays, medical, pandemic, shidonna raven, shidonna raven garden and cook, social distancing, traveling

Midrenne Sampson, radiology technologist with Velocity Urgent Care in Virginia Beach, processes an antigen test Thursday, October 29, 2020, morning.
Midrenne Sampson, radiology technologist with Velocity Urgent Care in Virginia Beach, processes an antigen test Thursday, October 29, 2020, morning. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

Source: The Virginia Pilot

It may take two to three weeks to know whether Gov. Ralph Northam’s pandemic restrictions imposed before the holiday are working to stem Virginia’s rise in cases.

At a news conference Wednesday, Northam said local health departments already are getting troubling signs: For instance, reports that whole families in Mount Rogers Health District, which includes Bristol, Galax and neighboring Southwest Virginia counties, are quarantining after exposure at Thanksgiving gatherings, he said.

The governor, usually delicate with words, used a somewhat firmer tone to deliver his message.

“Virginia, you know the truth,” he said. “If you don’t wear a mask, and you don’t social distance, and you think your right to ignore public health advice trumps your neighbor’s right to not get infected by you, these cases will just continue to go up. It’s just selfish.”

Public health officials say it will take time to know the impact of Thanksgiving.

During the holiday, there was a sharp drop off in the number of COVID-19 nasal swab tests reported. Testing in Virginia peaked Nov. 18, at just over 34,000 a day, then plunged below 20,000 in the days following Thanksgiving, according to an analysis by The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute. The center is partnering with the Virginia Department of Health to offer data-based COVID-19 projections.

This may be due to fewer people seeking tests and typical testing sites being closed, causing a lag in detection. The drop is probably short-lived, analysts said, because positive test results continued to rise.

About 9.5% of standard tests for the coronavirus came back positive over the past week in Virginia, a steep climb from 7.3%.

And Virginia reported 3,793 new cases of the coronavirus Saturday morning, the largest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. Public health officials said the large caseload was partially due to a data entry backlog.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Northam put in place new restrictions to curb new cases. He capped public and private gathering sizes at 25 people, down from 250, and forced earlier restaurant serving times and closures. Children ages 5 and up are now required to wear masks.

If indeed Virginia experiences a jump in case growth, the state could see a peak of 77,000 cases a week by mid-February, according to the UVA report.

But health experts caution these predictions are always changing with new information, and slight differences in people’s behavior can alter the course of the pandemic, not to mention the imminent arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine. If Virginians wear masks, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people who aren’t part of their household and wash hands, cases could peak early this month, at just under 27,000 cases per week.

As of Friday, there had been a total of 217,588 confirmed cases statewide and 4,160 suspected deaths. About 3.4 million tests have been given statewide.

The United States’ case tally rose to 14.2 million last week with about 277,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There have been 65.4 million cases, and 1.5 million have died worldwide.

The statewide weekly incidence of the virus was 28 out of 100,000 people, Virginia public health officials said. But it continues to be much lower than the national incidence of 53, which has slowed a little over the past two weeks.

The incidence rate is the frequency that a new illness occurs in a community over a period of time. That’s not to be confused with a measure of prevalence, the proportion of people who have an illness in a set time frame, regardless of when they first developed the infection.

In Hampton Roads, 11 people died last week, nearly double the previous week’s total. Of those fatalities, three each occurred in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, and two were in Gloucester County. Chesapeake, Franklin and Hampton each had one.

While the Eastern region is faring better than the western reaches of the state, trends in general are worsening. As of Friday, emergency room visits for coronavirus-like symptoms had been growing for over a month, and intensive care unit hospitalizations had been increasing for the past three weeks, according to health department data.

During the past week, Virginia Beach’s case counts continued to be high, with another 791 confirmed positive. The tally was consistent with the prior week’s 811, according to the state health department. The next highest totals were found in Chesapeake, with 456, and Norfolk, with 320.

Case counts are expected to be higher in bigger cities, but for some, caseloads are also high relative to their population sizes. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake each had top rates for the region, with 25.1 and 26.8 per 100,000 people, respectively.

But Gloucester County far surpassed both cities and all other localities in Hampton Roads with its rate of 40.9 per 100,000 people. The county reported 107 new cases in the past week.

Dr. Richard Williams, director of the Three Rivers Health District, confirmed that the upsurge in Gloucester is linked to a recent outbreak at a long-term care facility. Some 40 cases and two deaths are tied to the incident, he said.

“You’re always two beats behind the virus in these settings,” he said. “But you try to protect as many people as you can.”

Williams said Gloucester has a host of testing sites, so it’s likely the district is capturing a lot of data because of that. Residents who live there also tend to work in Richmond and South Hampton Roads, and as transmission rates increase in dense areas, it’s not surprising to see a locality like Gloucester feel the ripple effects.

He also suspected Thanksgiving cases are starting to creep in.

“It can’t be emphasized enough that we’re entering a time when we could very easily have a compromised health care system,” he said, referring to the possibility of overloaded hospitals.

When intensive care units begin to fill with coronavirus patients, he said, it leaves fewer beds and resources available for everyday health emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes.

“It really potentiates the lethal effect of COVID-19,” Williams said.

Here’s a look at the pandemic around the region:

Chesapeake’s seven-day daily case average was 65 on Friday, a 23% drop from 84 a week ago.

Norfolk’s daily case average was 46, up from 38 a week ago.

Virginia Beach’s daily case average was 113, fairly flat with 116 a week ago.

Newport News reported 261 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 37, up from 33 a week ago.

Portsmouth reported 86 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 12, down from 17 a week ago.

Hampton reported 155 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 22, down more than 30% from 32 a week ago.

James City County reported 76 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 11, flat with the rate last week.

York County reported 91 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 13, up from 10 a week ago.

Suffolk reported 121 new cases for the week, with a daily case average of 17, down from 19 a week ago.

Newport News, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Williamsburg and Accomack, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, Middlesex, York and Poquoson counties reported no deaths.

For other pandemic data, go to www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

Elisha Sauers, elisha.sauers@pilotonline.com, 757-222-3864

Where are you located? How are the cases where you live? Are you social distancing and wearing masks? Why? Why not?

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