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Thousands of Latinos were sterilized in the 20th century. Amid COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, they remember

NADA HASSANEIN | USA TODAY | 4:14 pm EDT March 16, 2021
Source: USA Today
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Source: USA Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The CDC says people who are fully vaccinated may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups without masks.STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY

Consuelo Hermosillo’s 22-year-old granddaughter didn’t want to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The office worker at a special needs center was afraid the shot would prevent her from ever getting pregnant.

The mistrust didn’t form out of thin air.

In 1973, Hermosillo, an immigrant from Mexico, worked a small catering business at home while her husband bartended and unloaded appliances at a department store. In November of that year, the 24-year-old went to a hospital for an emergency caesarian section to give birth to her third child.

The baby would be her last.

Hermosillo was sterilized without informed consent at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center.

“You better sign, or your baby is going to die,” she said a nurse told her.

Her signature is scribbled on aform allowing the procedure, but she doesn’t remember signing, saying she was medicated. She didn’t know she was sterilized until a doctor’s appointment later when she asked for birth control.

A whistleblower – a residentphysician later let go by the hospital – leaked that the practice occurred on many women. Hermosillo became one of 10 Mexican and Chicana plaintiffs in the landmark Madrigal v. Quilligan federal class-action case, which grabbed headlines in the mid-1970s. The judge sided with Dr. Edward James Quilligan, and the women lost, but the case inspired legislation passed in 1979 to abolish the practice in California. 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors issued an apology in 2018 for the coerced sterilizations, but the women did not receive reparation money as victims did in other states, such as Virginia and North Carolina.

“As far as justice, they never received that,” said Virginia Espino, who documented the women’s stories as co-producer of a film called “No Mas Bebés,” (“No More Babies” in Spanish).

Consuelo Hermosillo says she was sterilized at a hospital without her knowledge.
Source: USA Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Consuelo Hermosillo says she was sterilized at a hospital without her knowledge. CLAUDIO ROCHA

Espino, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert in reproductive injustice, said it’s unclear how many women were sterilized at the LAC-USC medical center. The lawyer for the women who brought the lawsuit estimated “hundreds.”

Many didn’t speak fluent English and didn’t understand forms they signed, and in some cases, they werecoerced into signing. Many had labor complications and were told lies that they or their babies would die if they didn’t sign.

Insidious sterilizations didn’t occur inside that hospital only. Throughout the 20th century, about 20,000 women and men were sterilized in California alone under state eugenics policies, according to researchers, including University of Michigan professor Alexandra Minna Stern.The policies targeted patients of state-run asylums or group homes. A disproportionate number were Hispanic.

As COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, hesitancy among vulnerable communities, including Hispanic people, is piqued – and history is unearthed.Experts and those within the communities say the skepticism partly stems from unethical medical practices that targeted people of color. Unwanted sterilizations didn’t occur just in California among Mexican women but among Black women in the South, as well as Native American women. It’s not a pretty picture’: Why the lack of racial data around COVID-19 vaccines is ‘massive barrier’ to better distribution.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, for example, about a third of the female population in Puerto Rico was sterilized under population control policies that coerced women into postpartum sterilization after their second child’s birth, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Office of the Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian annotated bibliography on the topic. The first large-scale clinical trial for contraceptives involved Puerto Rican women: In 1956, the pills were tested on poor women in Rio Piédras, a housing project in San Juan, according to a historical review published in the Canadian Family Physician journal. The women didn’t know they were experimental.

“Women who stepped forward to describe side effects of nausea, dizziness, headaches, and blood clots were discounted as ‘unreliable historians,’” wrote Dr. Pamela Verma Liao and Dr. Janet Dollin. The clinical trials involved pills with much higher hormone levels than today’s contraceptives. Despite the substantial positive effect of the pill, its history is marked by a lack of consent, a lack of full disclosure, a lack of true informed choice, and a lack of clinically relevant research regarding risk,” the authors said. “These are the pill’s cautionary tales.”Angelina Zayas, a pastor at Grace and Peace Community Church that serves Chicago’s majority-Hispanic Belmont Cragin enclave, says many Puerto Rican women in her community are afraid to take COVID-19 vaccines, citing memories of the sterilizations and experiments.

“The biggest one is fear,” said Zayas, who is Puerto Rican. “That’s something that they remember, which affects their judgment in getting the vaccination. They’re like, ‘Well, how can I trust?’”Consuelo Hermosillo listens to a recording of her voice from a trial three decades ago.CLAUDIO ROCHAWho is ‘worthy’ of having children?History’s cautionary tales didn’t stop the injustices from happening again.

Allegations of unwanted hysterectomies performed on mostly Hispanic women at Georgia’s Irwin Detention Center surfaced last year. From 2006 to 2010, more than 100 incarcerated women in California prisons, mostly Black and Latina, underwent hysterectomies without their consent. The Center for Investigative Reporting broke the news in 2013. 

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Researchers weren’t surprised.”If certain conditions are in place, and these are conditions that often include marginalized populations in carceral spaces, with little oversight of the authorities, those types of conditions can be ripe for sterilization abuse,” said Stern, author of the book “Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America.”Essential health care: For the most vulnerable Americans, these clinics are trusted, accessible and vital to vaccine rollout“We are still very much living with … eugenic ideas of worth,” she said. “‘Who is worthy of having children, and who is worthy of raising children?’ Those are very much eugenic ideas that are alive and well, and they affect policy and harm certain people.”Under these policies, from 1907 through the 1970s, about 60,000 people underwent compulsory sterilizations nationwide.

Stern is studying a dataset of 30,000 sterilization records. She found that Latina patients in California were 59% more likely to be sterilized than non-Latinas. Hispanic men were 20% more likely to be sterilized than non-Hispanic men.The disproportionate operations, Stern said, were rooted in a racist ideology that certain attributes – criminal behavior, homosexuality, poor health, welfare usage or education levels – were hereditary and could be minimized through preventing procreation.An institutional evaluation of Andrea Garcia, 19, circa 1940, recommends sterilization. BACKSTAGE LIBRARY WORKS/CALIFORNIA STATE ARCHIVES Andrea Garcia, 19, from a Mexican family, was sterilized after being admitted into Pacific Colony, a psychiatric institution, for what evaluators called “truancy” and a low IQ test score.”Mentally deficient. Sex delinquent girl. Unfit home,” reads her evaluation, an archival copy of which is included in Stern’s analyses. “Father was illiterate; mother subnormal … one brother, four sisters thot to be subnormal.”At Pacific Colony, sterilization was a precondition for release – another coercive factor, Stern noted.

Sometimes people were released back to family members, sent to be helpers in households or perform menial labor jobs.Garcia’s mother took legal action but lost the case.Often, white women at the facility could escape the process, Stern said.”What you have is a system in place that is stratified in such a way that is most likely to bring in certain people. A young white girl with truancy could get away with it. Unlike Andrea Garcia. She didn’t have that luxury, a safety net, she didn’t have anything,” Stern said, calling the policies and practices “dehumanizing.”Women of color ‘robbed’ of agency, valueEspino, the historian who co-produced the No Mas Bebés documentary, said the abuses put women in unique difficulties. Some spouses didn’t trust that their wives were unwitting and thought they wanted the operations to be promiscuous. Factory worker Dolores Madrigal, the lead plaintiff in Madrigal v. Quilligan, said her husband took his anger out on her.

The sterilizations sent negative messages to women of color “that their mothering is not valued in the same way,” Espino said, “that they’re really only valued when they’re in the service of others: taking care of other people’s children or cooking for their masters. … Women of color’s bodies typically are valued when they’re used in the service of making other people wealthy.

The women, Espino said, were “robbed of their decision-making when it comes to the kind of family they want to have.”This man survived COVID-19: His treatment odyssey shows how complicated that can be.On a recent morning in California, Hermosillo, 71, took a break from babysitting and running the kitchens in her son’s four restaurants. Sitting on her porch in Venice, she reflected on the treatment of her and women like her. “I think they were doing it to lower the value of us Mexicans,” Hermosillo said. “That’s what I think.”She is grateful for her three children but dreamed of having more. As one of her fellow plaintiffs said, “Se me acabo la cancion” –”My song is finished.

Hermosillo’s older sisters had more children. As the family grew, she’d fall quiet when relatives asked when she would have more kids. She battled feelings of shame and embarrassment.“I hated baby showers,” she said. “Something happened to me.”As a girl in Mexico, she lived between her grandmother’s house and foster homes. She learned to be a mom at a very young age. As a teenager, she immigrated to the USA with her mother and spent her days looking after her baby brother.She didn’t tell her sisters or friends what happened at the hospital, sharing her story for the first time during the trial. She translated her love of babies and motherhood to working at the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for seven years, teaching breastfeeding classes to new moms.She wears a diamond necklace around her neck that she and her husband bought from one of her clients to help her with rent money.The struggle stays with her.“So many years passed,” she said, “but you don’t forget.”

Reach Nada Hassanein at or on Twitter @nhassanein_.

What questionable experiences have you had with medical professionals? What protections and regulations should be enforced or in place? What type of reparations should these women receive?

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Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Is Worse In E.U. Than U.S.

Mar 8, 2021,10:23am EST|8,671 views

Joshua Cohen, Contributor
HealthcareI write about prescription drug value, market access, healthcare systems, and ethics of distribution of healthcare resources.
Source: Forbes
Photos Source: Forbes

Holding up hand to stop a COVID-19 vaccination syringe from approaching, an anti vaxxer person stands in the background
Across the E.U. vaccine hesitancy is worse than it is in the U.S. GETTY
Source: Forbes
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. has been somewhat of an outlier. With merely 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for more than 20% of globally reported deaths and nearly 25% of confirmed cases. But in the vaccination race the U.S. is proving to be a formidable competitor, having administered 30% of the world’s vaccine doses; approximately 26.3 doses per 100 people. Among Western industrialized nations only the U.K. has a better vaccination rate. Of those in the U.S. in the 65 and above age group, 59% have received at least one dose, and 69% of those over 75 have gotten at least one dose.

This is not to say that there aren’t issues with the vaccine rollout in the U.S. It’s been bumpy and uneven, with some states performing well and others lagging. Inequitable distribution across socioeconomic strata continues to be problematic. Moreover, the U.S. contends with an outspoken anti-vaccine movement.

But getting shots into the arms of European Union (E.U.) residents has proven to be much trickier. The U.S. is vaccinating at a faster pace than any member of the E.U., and three times the E.U. average.

Some of this can be attributed to better supply in the U.S. By contrast, Europe has faced unexpected manufacturing delays as well as a failure to procure sufficient inventory.

Thus far, most of the focus on explaining differences in vaccination rates has been on the supply side. So, for example, last summer the U.S. and the U.K. bought tens of millions of doses of several vaccine candidates prior to their emergency use authorization. The U.S. and U.K. didn’t know which vaccines would make it through the emergency use authorization process. But, both nations wanted to be sure they secured a supply so that once their respective regulatory agencies gave the go-ahead the initial batches would be immediately available. On the other hand, the E.U. took a much more risk-averse, wait-and-see approach, which meant that when the European Medicines Agency granted emergency use authorization there was little or no supply available at launch. The U.S. and U.K. gamble paid off, while E.U. dithering did not.

Yet supply is not the only factor impacting vaccination uptake. On the demand side, most of Europe is flailing while the U.S. is succeeding on the whole.

According to a recent Pew survey, nearly 70% of the U.S. public intends to get a Covid-19 vaccine or has already been vaccinated. This represents an impressive 10% jump in vaccine receptiveness in less than three months. Furthermore, a whopping 83% of registered Democrats are inclined to get vaccinated or have already received a coronavirus vaccine. Even among registered Republicans the numbers are improving, with a solid majority (56%) now saying they’re willing to get vaccinated or have already obtained a coronavirus vaccine. Independents fall somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans in terms of their vaccine receptiveness. Notably, the difference in vaccine receptiveness between black and white Americans has diminished since November. Sixty-one percent of black Americans now say they plan to get a Covid-19 vaccine or have already received one, up dramatically from 42% in November.

The numbers in the U.S. are significantly better than the E.U. Last month, in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the RECOVER Social Sciences team published a policy brief based on their study on public views of Covid-19 vaccination. The study covered seven European countries: France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Ukraine.

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Only 36% of the surveyed Europeans strongly agree with the statement that vaccines are safe. Posed the question whether respondents would be willing to be vaccinated if the vaccine was found to be safe and effective and provided free-of-charge, only between 44% and 66% answered in the affirmative. Moreover, a separate poll in France found that only 40% of French people want the Covid-19 vaccine.

Poll after poll conducted across Europe suggest very large numbers of Europeans have serious qualms about the safety of vaccines and potential short- and long-term adverse effects. They also voice concern about the speed with which vaccines went through the clinical development process. A vocal minority perceives the vaccine as unnecessary. And many have conveyed their mistrust of global and national authorities as well as pharmaceutical companies, who some regard as solely pursuing financial interests and not those of public health.

In Europe, even approved products that don’t necessarily have supply issues have faced stiff resistance. In France and Germany, for example, the approved AstraZeneca vaccine has an image problem, which means many are reluctant to take it, including healthcare workers on the front lines. Poor, inconsistent messaging has fueled the public’s confusion over the safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. President Macron’s claim last month that the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly didn’t help matters. He has since reversed himself and is now pleading that people get vaccinated with whatever vaccine is available to them. But the damage was already done.

Europe’s degree of Covid-19 vaccine aversion is perhaps surprising, but not if one views it in the context of fiercely anti-establishment politics on the far-left and far-right, and a particularly virulent anti-science sentiment that existed long before Covid-19 hit. To illustrate, the far-right Lega and leftist Five Star Movement in Italy have both incited fearmongering about vaccines. Likewise, far-right and far-left political leaders in France, such as Le Pen and Mélenchon, have stoked anti-vaccine attitudes.

For Europe, the rising tide of vaccine hesitancy is coming at the worst possible time. In France and Italy cases and hospitalizations are increasing again. And, the situation is dire in the Czech Republic, which this week registered a record-breaking total of nearly 8,500 patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Also, Hungary’s prime minister declared last week that the country is in the midst of the worst two weeks of the pandemic.

Strong mitigation measures will need to continue across Europe to curb the spread, preserve healthcare system capacity, and save lives. Concomitantly, revamping a flagging vaccination campaign is critical. While boosting vaccine supply is a prerogative, tackling the widespread problem of vaccine hesitancy is equally important.

Have you taken the COVID 19 Vaccine? Why? Why not?

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Joshua P Cohen
Joshua P Cohen

I’m an independent healthcare analyst with over 22 years of experience analyzing healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Specifically, I analyze the value (costs and benefits) of biologics and pharmaceuticals, patient access to prescription drugs, the regulatory framework for drug development and reimbursement, and ethics with respect to the distribution of healthcare resources. I have over 110 publications in peer-reviewed and trade journals, in addition to newspapers and periodicals. I have also presented my work at numerous trade, industry, and academic conferences. From 1999 to 2017 I was a research associate professor at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Prior to my Tufts appointment, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and I completed my PhD in economics at the University of Amsterdam. Before pursuing my PhD I was a management consultant at Accenture in The Hague, Netherlands. Currently, I work on freelance basis on a variety of research, teaching, and writing projects. 

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Scandal over COVID vaccine trial at Peruvian universities prompts outrage

NEWS  26 MARCH 2021
Researchers gave shots to politicians and family members, violating trial regulations — and damaging public trust.
Source: Nature

Luke Taylor

Martin Vizcarra speaks to the press.
Former Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra was the first prominent person identified by local media to have received a COVID-19 vaccine in violation of clinical-trial standards.Credit: Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty
Source: Nature
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A clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccines in Peru has sparked outrage and triggered a series of high-profile resignations at universities and in government. Politicians, researchers and some of their family members who were not enrolled as trial participants nevertheless received vaccines — breaching standard protocols. Investigations are ongoing as the country struggles to inoculate its general population with limited doses.

The scandal emerged on 10 February, when local media revealed that in October 2020, then-president Martín Vizcarra had received two doses of a vaccine developed by the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical group Sinopharm. At the time, a phase III clinical trial was under way to test the vaccine at two universities in Peru; Vizcarra was not part of the trial.

Days later, it emerged that a group of around 470 other people — including 100 high-profile individuals such as Peru’s minister of health and Vizcarra’s wife and brother — also got a jab while the trial was in progress. The shots came from a batch of about 2,000 doses that Peruvian officials reportedly negotiated with Sinopharm to protect the medical staff running the trial.

It is not standard practice to vaccinate anyone other than trial participants while a trial is under way — including the medical staff running it, says Euzebiusz Jamrozik, a bioethicist at the Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford, UK.

The laws regulating clinical trials in Peru state that imported, experimental research products such as unapproved vaccines are to be used exclusively for research.

One of the universities running the trial — the National University of San Marcos in Lima — issued a statement condemning the vaccinations of people not enrolled as participants. “Normative and ethical principles of the current regulations and good clinical practices [a set of international medical standards] have been flagrantly violated by using the vaccine in people who are not subjects of research,” said the university’s Faculty of Medicine.

On 19 February, Peru’s National Health Institute (INS) suspended the second university involved, Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, from running new clinical trials. Cayetano has since appointed a panel of former faculty members to investigate the breaches of protocol.

Both universities’ rectors were among the group of non-participants who received shots. Cayetano’s has resigned, but San Marcos’s has not, sparking student protests.

“We share the indignation and deep pain of the [university] community and Peruvian society over the events related to the administration of the additional batch of experimental vaccines sent by Sinopharm,” said Cayetano’s new rector and vice-rector of research in a press release on 1 March.

Nine members of Peru’s Congress have been appointed to oversee an investigation into the vaccinations.

The violation of protocol, and what is seen by many as an abuse of political power by senior officials, has dented confidence in Peru’s politicians and its scientific community, says Mateo Prochazka, a Peruvian epidemiologist working in the United Kingdom. “At a time when we’re creating policies to control the transmission of the virus, we need the public to trust institutions and science, so this is a huge blow for our pandemic control,” he says.

Negotiated doses

The scandal and investigations follow a period of political instability for Peru, in which Vizcarra was impeached and removed from office over bribery charges. The country is struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic: it has officially reported more than 1.4 million cases of COVID-19 and 50,000 deaths. That’s the largest number of deaths by population size in Latin America, according to the COVID-19 tracker run by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

A health worker in protective gear administers a vaccine to another wearing scrubs, a mask and goggles.
A health-care worker in Peru receives a dose of the Sinopharm vaccine.Credit: Luka Gonzales/AFP/Getty
Source: Nature

The public had seen the vaccine trial, and a subsequent deal for 38 million Sinopharm vaccine doses to distribute in Peru, as a turning point in the battle against COVID-19. As in other low- and middle-income countries, Peru paved a path for itself to obtain vaccines by running the trial. It began administering 300,000 of the Sinopharm doses to health-care workers in February.

When news of Vizcarra’s vaccination came out, he said he had made the “brave decision” to volunteer for the trial. But Cayetano and the INS have since confirmed that he and the other prominent people who received vaccinations from October onwards were not among the study’s 12,000 participants — half of whom received placebos.

Nature’s requests for comment from Vizcarra went unanswered. In a press release from February, Vizcarra said it was a “great surprise” that Cayetano had not included him as a trial participant, and that he did not make his vaccination public “since it would have jeopardized the normal development” of the trial.

Trial oversight

The researcher leading the clinical trial was Germán Málaga — an internal medicine specialist at Cayetano who is a prominent figure in the medical community.

He oversaw the administration of some of the doses to politicians, including personally attending the vaccination of Vizcarra and his wife at the presidential palace after they requested it, he told a congressional committee investigating the vaccinations on 16 February. He also gave shots to members of his own family.

Cayetano has suspended Málaga from his role as principal investigator of the trial, and from all university activities.

Málaga denies that he broke protocol in administering vaccines to researchers and prominent people. He points out that the trial protocol he wrote states that the additional batch of vaccines would be “administered voluntarily to the research team and study-related personnel”.

The INS approved this protocol. It did not respond to Nature’s requests for comment.

Málaga tells Nature: “We used as criteria the protection of ‘study personnel and related personnel’ in a broad way, and in that extension we included the network of infections of the people we wanted to protect.” He admits that this included members of his family but points out that it also covered medical staff who were working on the front line and thus, in his opinion, needed protection.

According to a press statement released by the INS, Málaga and his staff also administered three doses, rather than the prescribed two, to some inidividuals outside of the trial, to see whether an additional booster shot would improve protection against the coronavirus.

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In response to Nature’s queries about administering unauthorized doses, Málaga defended his choice. He pointed out that when he administered the shots last September and December, the Sinopharm vaccine had not yet been proved efficacious, and thus trying out extra doses on individuals wouldn’t have been taking them away from the public.

“Including an additional dose is a serious, arbitrary breach of protocol” and violates the “fundamental principles of medical ethics,” says Ignacio Maglio, coordinator of science ethics for the UNESCO Bioethics Network who is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “It’s a clear example of malpractice in scientific study that could affect the safety of patients and puts at risk the dignity, the integrity and the safety of the research subjects.”

Failed transparency

Clarifying how and why vaccinations were administered outside the trial could help restore confidence in Peru’s science community, says Prochazka, but investigations are complicated by the fact that so many institutions are implicated.

The events in Peru aren’t the only instances in which members of the elite have jumped vaccine queues during the pandemic. In Argentina, for example, a similar list has emerged, resulting in the health minister’s resignation and a national investigation.

Arthur Caplan, head of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, says it makes sense to prioritize state leaders such as presidents and prime ministers for vaccines, but there has to be “a clear, principled approach to distribution” — and transparency.

“The Peruvian case seems to be at the extreme of ethical outrage,” he says. “Vaccinations have to be built on trust, not who you know.”doi:

Historically the health care industry is riddled across the world with unauthorized and unethical testing and experimentation. COVID-19 as we can see is no exception. When such things come to the public often an apology and reparations ensue, and many would like to tell us that such behavior is apart of the past and trust these new vaccines such as COVID-19. As we can see these things occur today amidst the COVID-19 Vaccine. Often when the unknowing participants are made aware of their involvement in medical trails or experiments, the damage has already been done and in some cases that is death. In fact some medical professionals blame the results of medical treatments on pre-existing conditions. How can this be disclosed if the person does not know they are in a trail or being experimented on.

Should people be told when they are apart of clinical trails? How can someone unaware of their own medical history properly communicate and manage their current and historical health? What disclosure and protections be in place? What happens when they fail?

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Research looks at COVID vaccine hesitancy and refusal among the U.S. public

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSNBy Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSN
Mar 4 2021
Source: News – Medical Life Science

Vaccination against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has rolled out in many countries, including the United States. As the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continues to rise, vaccinating many people in the population is crucial. Despite campaigns to inform residents of the benefits of vaccines, many are still reluctant to get vaccinated.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the University of California, San Francisco, found that over one-third of the study respondents were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. To increase vaccine acceptance, the team suggested public health interventions to target vaccine-hesitant populations, with messaging that addresses their concerns about the vaccines’ efficacy and safety.

COVID-19 vaccination

There are more than 250 vaccines against COVID-19 in development by pharmaceutical companies across the globe. Of these, 71 are in clinical evaluation. Vaccines are now being widely administered, these include Moderna’s vaccine, the Pfizer+BioNTech vaccine, the AstraZeneca + University of Oxford vaccine, and more recently the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

One of the ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is attaining herd immunity. For COVID-19 vaccination to effectively confer herd immunity, health experts said that at least 60 to 70 percent of the population must be vaccinated.

However, vaccine hesitancy deters this. For instance, influenza vaccine hesitancy rates have increased by about 40 percent. The researchers aimed to see the most common reasons why Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated for COVID-19.Main Predictors of Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Personograph plot of the classification tree analysis, which identified previous influenza vaccine coverage and political affiliation as significant predictors of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. The main reasons given for vaccine were concerns about side effects and safety of the vaccine (75%,Main Predictors of Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Personograph plot of the classification tree analysis, which identified previous influenza vaccine coverage and political affiliation as significant predictors of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. The main reasons given for vaccine were concerns about side effects and safety of the vaccine (75%, n=497), the need for more information about the vaccine (53%, n=351), and doubts regarding the efficacy of the vaccine (17%, n=110).
Source: News – Medical Life Science
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The study

The study, published on the preprint server medRxiv*, aimed to determine the U.S. population rate of COVID-19 hesitancy, identify characteristics linked to hesitation, and determine the reasons for reluctance.

The researchers distributed a 43-question survey on Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online labor marketplace where people receive a nominal fee for completing tasks, to 1,756 respondents between November 17 and 18, 2020.

The expected primary outcome measure was the rate of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, which is defined as either non-acceptance or being unsure about accepting the vaccine. Secondary outcomes included patient characteristics tied to vaccine hesitancy, reasons for being hesitant, and health care sites where they would like to be vaccinated.

Study findings demonstrated that a total of 663 participants were COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant, wherein 374 were decided to be non-acceptors, and 289 were unsure about accepting the vaccine.

Further findings showed that vaccine hesitancy was tied to not receiving the influenza vaccine in the past five years. Also, females, Blacks, having a high school education or less, and being in the Republican party affiliation were more likely to be vaccine-hesitant.

The reasons cited for vaccine hesitancy included the potential side effects, the need for more information about the vaccine, and doubts about vaccine effectiveness. For the preferred cites for vaccination, vaccine acceptors opted to go to their primary doctors, dedicated vaccination areas, and pharmacies.

“Optimal health policy deliberations for COVID-19 vaccine distribution require consideration of vaccine hesitancy and reasons for refusal,” the researchers explained.

“To improve efficient and equitable vaccine distribution, educational messaging campaigns should seek to address non-acceptors’ primary concerns of safety and side effects of the vaccine,” they added.

The team also recommended widening the efforts to disseminate information on the benefits of vaccination against infections. This can help control and spread the virus, and at the same time, aid in the attainment of herd immunity.

As the virus continues to wreak havoc globally, boosting vaccination campaigns can help control the pandemic. To date, more than 115 million people have already been infected with SARS-CoV-2. Of these, 2.55 million have died.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.Source:

Journal reference:

There is a huge interest in understanding and overcoming COVID-19 Vaccine hesitation. COVID-19 hesitation has hit all communities across the world. Some countries have encouraged influencers to get public vaccinations to encourage vaccination. How do you feel about COVID-19 Vaccination? Why? Have you received the vaccination?

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The Vaccine-Hesitant Man of Europe

Large swaths of the French population say they will not get a COVID-19 vaccine. Will the government be able to persuade them to change their mind?
MARCH 18, 2021
Source: The Atlantic
Photo(s) Source: The Atlantic

A woman speaks with health providers at a vaccination center in France.
A vaccination center in Asnieres-sur-Seine, FranceSIPA / AP
Source: The Atlantic
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

If certain corners of the French internet are anything to go by, COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe, those who refuse them risk becoming “second-class citizens,” and the country has turned into a “health dictatorship.” That such claims have gained currency in France—home to Louis Pasteur, a robust welfare state, and a universal-health-care system—would have been far-fetched 25 years ago. But the country that helped develop the rabies and anthrax vaccines is now one of the most vaccine-hesitant nations on the planet. A December survey by the pollster Ipsos MORI and the World Economic Forum estimated that as little as 40 percent of the French public intends to receive a COVID-19 vaccine—the lowest percentage of any of the 15 countries surveyed, including Brazil (78 percent), Japan (60 percent), and Russia (43 percent). Another study concluded that nearly a third of France’s working-age population might refuse a vaccine.

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This puts France in the peculiar position of being among the wealthy countries with an ample supply of vaccines yet with a large swath of its population unwilling to get them. Recent history offers clues about how the country came to be this way. What’s less clear, and more urgent, is what the government is doing about it.

Decades ago, the French public was overwhelmingly supportive of vaccination. But a series of health controversies in the 1990s began to chip away at its trust in vaccines and the health officials who promote them. The first consumed the public’s attention for years. The government, a journalist revealed, had knowingly distributed transfusions of blood contaminated with HIV, which resulted in hundreds of deaths; several ministers were charged with manslaughter (only one, the health minister, was convicted). The second concerned a rise in multiple-sclerosis cases, which some in the population feared was linked to the government’s hepatitis B vaccination program. Although no evidence supported this claim, the government sent opposing messages—one minister approved the program, another suspended it—that undermined public confidence.

But the government’s 2009 response to the swine-flu outbreak made vaccine safety a matter of national debate. France embarked on a mass-vaccination campaign to stem the virus’s spread, purchasing more than enough doses to cover its population of 65 million. The problem was that barely anyone was willing to take them. “The French didn’t want to be vaccinated against an illness that didn’t really affect France,” said Laurent-Henri Vignaud, a co-author of a recent history of anti-vaccine sentiment in France. With fewer than 325 swine-flu-related deaths in the country, many resented the government for spending funds on expensive and unnecessary vaccines; pharmaceutical companies, critics pointed out, were the campaign’s prime beneficiaries. “Doubts about the government’s vaccine policy turned into doubts about vaccination itself,” Vignaud told me. In the end, less than 10 percent of the population got a jab.

By the following year, a national survey found that 38.2 percent of the public held an unfavorable view of vaccination in general, up from 8.5 percent in 2000. It was a significant shift, but one that could be misread: Of those who held an unfavorable view of vaccines, just 5 percent said they opposed getting any. The rest cited specific vaccines, including those for hepatitis B (12 percent) and swine flu (50 percent).

Researchers say this distinction is important because not every person who expresses hesitancy about vaccines is necessarily an anti-vaxxer. “Hesitation, by definition, is kind of an undecided state,” Heidi Larson, the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told me. In France, vaccine hesitancy is highest among women, young people, those who are less educated, and those who vote on the political extremes. Common reasons include concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness, but the biggest predictor of vaccine hesitancy is a lack of confidence in the state. “Trust in government is such a strong variable,” said Larson, “and that’s wobbly in France.”

A survey published last month by the French university Sciences Po showed that confidence in the government hasn’t exceeded 35 percent in more than a decade. This antipathy was on full display in 2017, when the French repudiated the country’s mainstream parties and narrowed the presidential race to the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and the self-avowed outsider Emmanuel Macron. That dissatisfaction returned in force a year later with the rise of the gilets jaunes, or “yellow vests,” the grassroots movement born out of anger at the Macron government’s proposed fuel tax, which quickly evolved into a wider protest over economic inequality and the self-dealing of the political class.

Opposition to vaccines doesn’t feature in the rhetoric of the yellow vests. But researchers and disinformation experts I spoke with noted a strong correlation between those who identify with the yellow vests and those who espouse anti-vaccine sentiments online. Both groups have lost faith in the French state: The former tends to regard Macron as a technocrat whose loyalties lie with the metropolitan elite; the latter is more likely to disapprove of his handling of COVID-19. Yellow-vest protesters “already had a lot of grievances against this government,” Cooper Gatewood, a senior digital-research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank, told me. “If they’re hearing from whatever conspiracy or unreliable source that COVID is exaggerated, that it’s not really that big of a deal, that it’s a hoax, then it’s easy to use that as justification for opposition to further action taken by the government. So the narrative aligns quite well.”

The French government hasn’t done itself many favors. Its shambolic handling of the AstraZeneca vaccine has seen the country reverse course twice. In January, Macron erroneously declared that the jab was “quasi-ineffective” for people over the age of 65. After studies debunked the claim, the government announced the elderly could receive the vaccine. This week, France changed its policy again, when it joined more than a dozen European countries in suspending its AstraZeneca rollout. The reason for the halt was that 37 out of more than 17 million AstraZeneca recipients had developed blood clots. But now that the European Medicines Agency has concluded its investigation determining that the vaccine is “safe and effective,” the French government is likely to reverse itself once again.

The damage done to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, though, might prove irreversible: A recent poll found that more than half of the French public no longer trusts the AstraZeneca vaccine, up from just 22 percent earlier this month. “We absolutely need this vaccine to get our non-at-risk population vaccinated,” Mélanie Heard, a member of the committee advising the government on its vaccine communication strategy, told me, prior to the blood-clot investigation. “We can’t do it without AstraZeneca.”

The government’s immediate focus is on vaccinating its most at-risk populations, including the elderly and health-care workers (many of whom have refused to get a jab, citing among their concerns a lack of confidence in vaccine safety). As a result, vaccination has been promoted not as a social benefit but rather as a way for the country’s most vulnerable to protect themselves. “This choice, I think, also explains why younger people at the moment aren’t fully convinced with the vaccine,” Heard said. As more evidence supports vaccination’s ability to reduce transmission, she added, “that should change.”

France’s prime minister announced this month that the country would open more centers, with the aim of vaccinating 30 million people, or roughly two-thirds of the adult population, by the summer. That’s an ambitious jump from the country’s current pace, which has seen 5 million people vaccinated since January. But ramping up France’s rollout won’t solve its hesitancy problem. To do that, the government has begun to enlist primary-care doctors and pharmacists, who tend to be more trusted than the state, to help distribute vaccines. It has also begun promoting a series of advertisements aimed at encouraging the public to get a jab. The first, which was shared by the country’s health minister, focuses on the elderly. Heard said future ads will feature the country’s younger populations.

The question is whether relying on family physicians and nostalgic ads will be enough. When I asked public-health experts, none was convinced. “We won’t get to herd immunity with vaccination,” Michaël Schwarzinger, a researcher at Bordeaux University Hospital and the lead author of a recent study on vaccine hesitancy in France, told me. “There’s only one alternative—and if it’s not with a vaccine, it’s by infection.”

YASMEEN SERHAN is a London-based staff writer at The Atlantic.

Why do you think their is COVID-19 Vaccine hesitation across the globe? Clearly there is a history of mistrust beyond black and brown communities that extends to France. What are the opinions in your community? Why?

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Morrison & Foerster COVID-19 Policies Poll: Hesitation, Uncertainties, And Challenges Loom For Legal Leaders Over Return To Office

Morrison & Foerster LLP
Source: Morrison Foerster
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook


One year after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, more and more employers are discussing the possibility of returning to the office. However, many general counsel and leaders of legal functions indicate that a return won’t be quick or easy, according to a poll conducted by Morrison & Foerster.

The more than 350 total responses to the poll, conducted from March 1 to March 9, underscore the uncertainties around a return. Even if assured of their safety, 41 percent of leaders of legal functions said they would not return, and 11 percent were unsure. And when asked when their company will return to the office, 48 percent said they did not know.

“These results indicate to me that returning to the office will not be as simple as turning the lights back on,” says Employment + Labor partner Janie Schulman. “There is still widespread hesitation among the workforce. It’s going to take time, and for some businesses, a complete return won’t happen at all.”

The responses also highlight the large number of complex issues employers need to navigate once the pandemic recedes. One of them is whether to adopt permanent remote-work policies. In the poll, 48 percent of respondents said their company either had adopted such a policy or was looking to do so in the coming months.

Whether employers should require employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office is another crucial question. In the poll, 50 percent of respondents said their employer would not require vaccinations while 10 percent would require them; 40 percent were unsure.

Mandating vaccines can expose employers to legal liabilities, Janie says. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has called prescreening questions for vaccines a “medical examination,” which can only be asked if it is job-related and “consistent with business necessity,” she explains.

“The EEOC has carved out an exception from this requirement: if vaccination is voluntary, and the decision to answer the prescreening questions is voluntary,” she says. “This means that employers that mandate the vaccine may potentially expose themselves to allegations of Americans with Disabilities Act violations that non-mandating employers won’t face.”

Bad publicity and low company morale can also result if requiring vaccines is seen as infringing an employee’s freedom, Janie adds. “The employer may also find itself losing some of its workforce due to employees who quit or are terminated because they refused to take the vaccine,” she says.

On the flip side, not mandating vaccines may potentially expose employers to different kinds of potential liability and negative PR. For example, employees who contract COVID-19 at work may claim it was the employer’s fault for not providing a safer workplace. Each company will have to consider its unique circumstances and any local laws in deciding what is best for the company and its employees.

The vaccine question is just one of many that employers will have to confront as they contemplate a return to the office. Results from the Morrison & Foerster COVID-19 Policies Poll suggest that many employers are proceeding cautiously.

“Employers are facing unprecedented challenges in returning workers to the office, so it’s not surprising that they appear to be taking things slowly,” said Janie.

Morrison & Foerster COVID-19 Policies Poll
Source: Morrison Foerster
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Have you returned to work? Did your employer require you to obtain a vaccine first? How has your company’s policies changed since COVID-19?

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‘We want to be educated, not indoctrinated,’ say Trump voters wary of covid shots

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The responses of focus group participants suggest they can be persuaded — but perhaps not by politicians, including the former president

By Dan Diamond
March 15, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. EDT
Source: Washington Post
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, CDC

Be honest that scientists don’t have all the answers. Tout the number of people who got the vaccines in trials. And don’t show pro-vaccine ads with politicians — not even ones with Donald Trump.

That’s what a focus group of vaccine-hesitant Trump voters insisted to politicians and pollsters this weekend, as public health leaders rush to win over the tens of millions of Republicans who say they don’t plan to get a coronavirus shot. If those voters follow through, it would imperil efforts to achieve the high levels of immunity needed to stopthe virus’s spread in the United States, experts fear.

“These people represent 30 million Americans. And without these people, you’re not getting herd immunity,” said Frank Luntz, the longtime GOPpollster who convened Saturday’s focus group over Zoom. The group followed what Luntz characterized as a remarkable arc: By the end of the two-hour-plus session, all 19 participants (one dropped out early) said they were more likely to get vaccinated, and Luntz said he had begun nationwide polling to see which messages resonated with a broader population.

“I think by Wednesday next week, we’ll have tested messages that folks can use to help Republicans become more vaccine-confident,” said Brian Castrucci, CEO of the Bethesda, Md.-basedde Beaumont Foundation, the public health organization that funded the ongoing effort. Participants discuss how their opinions on vaccines changed. A focus group of vaccine-hesitant Trump voters spoke about their impressions after listening to politicians and pollsters. (Courtesy of Frank Luntz and de Beaumont Foundation)

Members of Luntz’s focus group were identified only by their first name and state, although many participants shared biographical details across the session — which featured GOP politicians and Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attempting to calm their fears about the vaccines.

Participants were adamant: They all believed the coronavirus threat was real, with many having contracted it themselves or aware of critically ill friends and family, and they didn’t want to be condemned as “anti-vaxxers” who opposed all vaccines. Instead, they blamed their hesitation on factors like the unknown long-term effects of new vaccines, even though scientists have stressed their confidence in the products. They also accused politicians and government scientists of repeatedly misleading them this past year — often echoing Trump’s charges that Democrats used the virus as an election-year weapon and overhyped its dangers. Severalsaid that recent political appeals to get the shot were only hardening their opposition.

“We want to be educated, not indoctrinated,” said a man identified as Adam from New York, who praised the vaccines as a “miracle, albeit suspicious.”

A woman identified as Sue from Iowa said she feared political “manipulation” of the vaccines, even though she had been a pharmacist for Merck, one of the drug companies helping to produce a vaccine. “I know their vaccines are good products, I trust them,” Sue added. “What I don’t trust is the government telling me what I need to do when they haven’t led us down the right road.”

The focus group’s concerns echoed pollsters’ findings about Trump voters’ significant vaccine hesitancy. A CBS News-YouGov poll released Sunday found that 33 percent of Republicans said they would not get a shot, and another 20 percent said they were undecided. In contrast, just 10 percent of Democrats said they were opposed to getting vaccinated, and another 19 percent were undecided.

During the Zoom session, Republican politicians including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio), chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, took turns trying to persuade the hesitant voters to get vaccinated. But the lawmakers’ pitches largely fell flat, and in some cases, the politically tinged rhetoric seemed to inspire more doubts. For instance, McCarthy said he understood the Trump voters’ hesitation because pharmaceutical companies waited until after Trump lost the election to announce their promising vaccine results — a comment that sparked participants to share their own resentments.

“It was political stunts like that that leave doubt in our minds,” said a man identified as David from Texas.Former CDC director shares facts about coronavirus vaccinesFormer director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden presented a focus group with “five facts” about coronavirus vaccines. (Courtesy of Frank Luntz and de Beaumont Foundation)

But the focus group applauded Frieden — an appointee of President Barack Obama, a detail that went unmentioned— particularly after he rattled off “five facts” about the virus and the vaccines, such as the overwhelming share of doctors who have chosen to get vaccinated. Participants praised the former CDC chief for his apolitical bent and repeatedly cited arguments they said had changed their minds, like the tens of thousands of people who participated in coronavirus vaccine trials last year.

“The single fact that swayed me the most was Dr. Frieden’s comment … the long-term impacts of covid could be, [or] are worse than the impacts of the vaccine,” said a man identified as Peter from Missouri. Peter added that he went from “80 percent” opposed to the shot to “probably 75 percent” in favor after the session.

“His first points were, it’s been 20 years of research [to develop the vaccine]. It’s not just out of the blue,” said a man called Chad from Minnesota, who also praised Frieden for acknowledging that the long-term risks of the vaccines aren’t yet known. “He’s just honest with us and telling us, nothing is 100 percent here, people.”

Many other proposed or actual messengers fell flat: The group panned a public service announcement released last week, for instance, featuring former presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. One attendee called the ad “propaganda,” and another said the former presidents were “bad actors.”

“It actually kind of annoys me,” said a voter named Debbie from Georgia.

The group also condemned Anthony S. Fauci — the government infectious-disease specialist relentlessly attacked by Trump and conservative media for the past year — as a “liar,” “flip-flopper” and “opportunistic.”

Fauci, whom multiple participants also blamed for Trump’s missteps on the virus, told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump should make his own public service announcement. But the focus group of Trump voters didn’t warm to that idea, with attendees universally saying that their spouse or doctor would be more influential on their decision than hearing from the former president.Participants react to ad with former presidentsA focus group of vaccine-hesitant Trump voters were asked to respond after watching a public service announcement featuring former presidents. (Courtesy of Frank Luntz and de Beaumont Foundation)

Luntz, who told The Washington Post last week that he didn’t “need a focus group to tell me that nothing would have a greater impact than a Donald Trump PSA,” said he was surprised that Trump’s participation was rejected by peoplehe characterized as die-hard supporters. “Those people are beginning to move on,” he theorized. A Fox News pro-vaccine PSA also drew shrugs from the group.

One Republican politician did make a persuasive pitch: former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who relayed his own story of contracting the coronavirus while advising Trump in the White House — and developing a case so serious that it landed him in the intensive care unit for a week. Christie also revealed that two of his family members died of the virus, focusing on the “randomness” of how the coronavirus could seriously affect even healthy people, including Trump’s 30-something adviser, Hope Hicks.

“We really shouldn’t be all marching in lockstep like lemmings to go and do what the government tells us to do,” said the former two-term governor, positioning himself as a political outsider. “They’ve screwed up too many times for us to do that. But I really do believe the facts that I’ve learned, and the experiences I’ve had, should make at least everybody … think hard” about getting a vaccination.

Luntz said that he was despondent that politics and public health had become so intermingledin the response to the pandemic.

“It makes me really mad at both administrations because people are going to die,” the longtime pollster said, blaming Trump for downplaying the risk of the virus — and President Biden for downplaying the Trump administration’s work on developing a vaccine.

“You credit Trump for the effort he put in. And then move on,” Luntz added. “What harm can be done by saying something nice? Even though we all know Trump wouldn’t do it himself.”

Public health experts who watched the session said it influenced them to further develop pro-vaccine messages that are hyperlocal, hyper-personal and apolitical.

“I’ve been thinking the messaging was going to be very different for communities of color, for Democrats, for Republicans,” said Natalie Davis, co-founder of United States of Care, a public health advocacy group working on vaccine outreach with organizations like the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Family Foundation. “But it feels like it comes down to the basics that are shared across populations. People want full, accurate information so they can decide if this is the right thing for them and their loved ones.”

Reached after the session, Frieden said that he had been prepared for the Trump voters to be suspicious of his guidance but that the often-emotional reactions still caught him off-guard, including that the fear of the vaccines was initially greater than the fear of getting very sick from the virus.

“I didn’t realize the depth of feeling that the vaccine has been weaponized and politicized,” Frieden said. “That was quite striking to me.”

The former CDC chief said he’s already planning to emphasize the messages that people found persuasive.

“The vaccines were approved quickly in part because red tape was cut, not corners,” he said. “And almost all the doctors who are offered the vaccine get it.”

Headshot of Dan Diamond

Dan Diamondis a national health reporter for The Washington Post. He joined The Post in 2021 after five years at Politico, where he covered the Trump administration and the coronavirus pandemic.

How has COVID 19 impacted you and your loved ones? Will you take the vaccine? Why? Why not?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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As COVID vaccines arrive, conspiracy theories run rampant in Latin America, Caribbean

COVID 19 Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Source: Miami Hearld
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Mustafa Omar

MARCH 17, 2021 07:30 AM

World champion sprinter Yohan Blake had just raced across a track at a meet in Jamaica when he made his position clear: He would rather miss this summer’s Tokyo Olympics than get a coronavirus vaccine.

“I am not taking it,” he told The Gleaner, a daily newspaper on the island. “I don’t really want to get into it now, but I have my reasons.”

“His position unfortunately is not that uncommon in many segments of our population,” Jamaica Health Minister Christopher Tufton said of Blake, considered the second fastest man in the world after Usain Bolt. “The difference, of course, is that he is a national talent and therefore carries influence, especially among the younger population.”

As the first vaccine shipments from a United Nations-backed initiative known as COVAX begin arriving in the region, a year after the first infections were confirmed and months after the United States and the United Kingdom began inoculating their citizens, governments are quickly realizing that the race to controlling the deadly pandemic is strewn with distrust, conspiracy theories, and an anti-vaccine campaign growing in strength.

Research by Florida International University’s School of Communication and Global Health Consortium shows that while access to a COVID-19 vaccine remains an overwhelming concern for most citizens in the region, who have been watching wealthier nations immunize their populations, hesitation over taking one persists.

“The anti-vaccine movement from Europe and the United States is gaining traction in Latin America,” said Maria Elena Villar, an associate professor of communications at FIU. “You’re starting to see an increase in that kind of messaging, often referring to content that was originally from the U.S. and Europe. It’s something to watch and to try to mitigate before it gets worse.”

Like in the United States, citizens are questioning the science and the rapid speed at which vaccines have been developed and given emergency approval. Others have doubts about the long-term effects. Then there is distrust of authorities.

How people across the region feel about their governments, tasked with administering the vaccines, has been a complicating issue throughout the pandemic. It has influenced everything from accepting the existence of COVID-19 to following mitigation efforts like mask wearing to now vaccine response.

Will you take the vaccine? Have you taken the vaccine? How has taken the vaccine impacted your health?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Philippines’ Vaccine Advisers Nix Early Shots for Influencers

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Siegfrid Alegado
March 2, 2021, 4:09 AM EST
Source: Bloomberg
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Joey Pilgrim

The Philippines has rejected a proposal to have 50 so-called “influencers” undergo public Covid-19 vaccinations.

The plan from the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to have public officials, media and movie personalities get coronavirus shots in order to boost the public’s vaccine confidence wasn’t approved, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday. The advisory group for the country’s inoculation program maintained that health care workers should be the priority, he said in a televised briefing.

The push to inoculate influencers comes as some governments around the world shift their focus from ensuring they have enough vaccine supplies on hand to getting citizens to take them, amid widespread skepticism toward the shots.

In the U.S., Joe Biden’s administration is working to increase confidence in Johnson & Johnson’s new single-shot vaccine. China, which saw success corralling the virus, has had a slower than expected vaccine rollout due to its population’s hesitation, including concerns about safety and protection level of protection promised by local vaccines. Indonesia is requiring eligible people to get the vaccines — or face punishments including fines.

The Philippines, which has Southeast Asia’s second-worst outbreak, started its inoculation drive on Monday using China-donated vaccines made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 756 individuals were vaccinated as of Monday.

There appears to be pent-up demand for the shots in the Philippines, which like India is allowing private purchases of Covid-19 vaccines, while Indonesia has sanctioned private distribution. Roughly two-thirds of the country’s employers have already arranged — or are arranging — the purchase of vaccines for their staff, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson and the People Management Association of the Philippines. About half are considering procuring vaccines for employees’ dependents, including spouses and children, Willis Towers Watson said.

Why are people hesitant regarding the COVID 19 vaccine around the world? How do influences impact your decisions? The typical clinical trial time for a new drug or vaccine is 7 to 15 years. Do you think the pharmaceutical companies who developed the COVID 19 vaccines will be fined like McKinsey for their role in the opioid epidemic?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Defying all predictions, Africa is the global COVID-19 ‘cold spot’. How come health officials and the media are not honestly exploring why?

Jon EntinePatrick Whittle | March 2, 2021
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project

Credit: Louis HB
Credit: Louis HB
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Note: ‘Africa’ includes the mostly White countries of North Africa, which have been far harder hit by COVID than sub-Saharan Africa
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in Africa was on February 14, 2020 in Egypt. The first in sub-Saharan Africa appeared in Nigeria soon after. Health officials were united in a near-panic about how the novel coronavirus would roll through the world’s second most populous continent.

By mid-month, the World Health Organization listed four sub-Saharan countries on a ‘top 13’ global danger list because of direct air links to China. Writing for Lancet, two scientists with the Africa Center for Disease Control outlined a catastrophe in the making:

With neither treatment nor vaccines, and without pre-existing immunity, the effect [of COVID-19] might be devastating because of the multiple health challenges the continent already faces: rapid population growth and increased movement of people; existing endemic diseases…; remerging and emerging infectious pathogens …, and others; and increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases.

Many medical professionals predicted that Africa could spin into a death spiral. “My advice to Africa is to prepare for the worst, and we must do everything we can to cut the root problem,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African director-general of the WHO warned in March. “I think Africa, my continent, must wake up.”This article is part one of a two-part series. Read the second part on Wednesday, March 2.

By spring, WHO was projecting 44 million or more cases for Africa and the World Bank issued a map of the continent colored in blood red, anticipating that the worst was imminent.

Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Dire warnings seemed to make sense. After all, the vast majority of the world’s poorest people reside in the region, struggling with unhygienic environments, conflict, fragmented healthcare and education systems and dysfunctional leadership — all factors that could light a match to the tinder of the SARS-CoV2 outbreak. Scientists say that most African countries lack the capacity and expertise to manage endemic deadly diseases like malaria.

Each individual’s risk of dying of a particular disease tends to reflect access to adequate health care and underlying health conditions (co-morbidities). Those factors have proved to be a toxic mix in poorer communities in the United States, Brazil, UK and other countries where lower income groups, often ethnic and racial minorities, are dying at rates higher than others. Africa seemed ripe for catastrophe.

But disaster never came. Africa has not been affected on anything near the scale of most countries in Asia, Europe, and North and South America. (The major exceptions being China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, which zealously enforced lockdowns). In fact, the vast African continent south of the Sahara desert, more than 1.1 billion people, has emerged as the world’s COVID-19 ‘cold spot’. 

Note: ‘Africa’ includes the mostly White countries of North Africa, which have been far harder by COVID than sub-Saharan Africa
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The latest statistics show about 3.8 million cases and 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths, concentrated mostly in the Arab majority countries north of the Sahara. Except for South Africa, the most multi-ethnic of the Black majority countries, and Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa has largely been spared.

Courtesy: Africa CDC
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

According to Worldometers, by late-February, Europe, with less than 2/3 the population of Africa, had almost 33,000,000+ cases, 900% more, and almost 800,000 deaths, 800% more. The US, with less than 1/3 the number of people, has 2900% more cases and 2400% more deaths, according to stats compiled on Wikipedia.

Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Journalists and even some scientists have been twisting themselves into speculative pretzels (hereherehere) trying to explain this phenomenon. Theories range from sub-Saharan Africa’s ‘quick response’ (no); favourable climate (which did not protect Brazil and other warmer climes in South America); and good community health systems (directly contradicted by WHO and Africa CDC). 

In each of those articles acknowledging the “puzzling” statistics, journalists were sure to suggest Armageddon might be right around the corner. “Experts fear a more devastating second surge,” warned National Geographic in late December, although there was no first surge and just two weeks before Africa’s tiny December uptick (driven almost entirely by the mutant variant in South Africa) turned back downward, according to Reuters.

Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Why Africa has been less impacted by COVID-19

What’s going on here? And why are the media and most scientists so unwilling to engage the most likely scenario: Black Africans appear to be protected in part by their ancestral genetics. Combined with the fact that sub-Saharan Africa is the youngest region in the world—youth brings fewer co-morbidities and age is the most significant factor in contracting and dying from COVID-19—DNA is the most likely explanation for sub-Saharan Africa’s comparatively modest case and death count.

Except for one research project in Hawai’i, scientists have all but ignored exploring the population genetics angle, almost certainly fearful of stirring the embers of race science. 

“It is really mind boggling why Africa is doing so well, while in US and UK, the people of African ancestry are doing so poorly,” Maarit Tiirikainen, a cancer and bioinformatics researcher at the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center, told us in an email. 

Dr. Tiirikainen is a lead researcher in a joint project at the University of Hawaii and LifeDNA in what some believe is a controversial undertaking considering the taboos on ‘race’ research. They are attempting to identify “those that are most vulnerable to the current and future SARS attacks and COVID based on their genetics”.

Dr. Maarit Tiirkainen
Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Blacks (along with other ethnic minorities) in the US and Great Britain have generally fared worse than Whites in contracting COVID-19 and surviving it. “For the latter, it seems the western socioeconomics may play a major role. There may also be genetic differences in immune and other important genes,” Dr Tiirkainen wrote. 

(Note: The terms ‘Black’ and ‘White’ are used as shorthand for more cumbersome expressions like ‘those of African descent’ or ‘people of European ancestry’. As addressed below, ‘Black’ and ‘White’ are not science-based population categories.)

Dr. Tirikainen, like many researchers in this field, when communicating candidly, is skeptical that social and environmental factors alone can account for the extraordinarily low COVID-19 African infection and death rates. It is not because Africa took extraordinary steps to insulate itself as the pandemic spread. Health care remains fragmented at best. COVID information outreach has been limited by scant resources. 

At the end of March, when much was still to be learned about the science of COVID-19, co-authors of this article — Genetic Literacy Project’s Jon Entine and contributing science journalist Patrick Whittle — discussed some of the potential reasons in the article What’s ‘race’ got to do with it?. 

After discussions with many experts, we decided not to reflexively exclude genetic explanations, which are always a taboo subject. Rather, we examined the panoply of likely causes, rejecting the a priori Western prejudice that often excludes evidence that might be linked to population-level genetics and group differences for fear of ‘racializing’ the analysis. Note we are very aware that skin color is not a recognized science-based population concept. Given the racist history of biological beliefs about human differences, addressing the fact of ancestrally-based genetic differences must be pursued carefully. 

Why even discuss possible genetic factors? Because biases among researchers and public policy officials could undermine the development and deployment of treatments and antiviral vaccines for all of us, but particularly for more vulnerable populations in Africa, and in the African diaspora. Identifying those with genetic resistance to infection or who may be genetically protected in some degree from developing symptoms could help scientists develop treatments for all of. Lives are at stake.

So let’s dip our toes back into these murky waters. Could our ancestry, which defines our genetic make-up, play a role in disease susceptibility, for COVID or other viruses?

Environmental-based Black-White differences impact COVID vulnerability

There are some significant non-genetic factors behind the Africa numbers. In the case of disease susceptibility, social and environmental explanations have played a huge role in the limited impact so far of COVID-19 in Africa. For one, the apparent low incidence of cases and deaths could be due in part to under-reporting or limited testing, although testing has been surging in Africa even as the number of cases remained flat. 

The most significant environmental factor, scientists say, is age. The average age of Europeans is 43; it’s 38 in the US; across the African continent, it is 18. The average age in Niger, Mali, Uganda and Angola is under 16. While roughly a quarter of the population in both Europe and North America is over 60-years old, in Africa, the 60+ age cohort makes up only 6 percent of the population. 

Source: The Genetic Literacy Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The young, when infected, are also less apt to show symptoms. Asymptomatic people are not as likely to be tested, perhaps suppressing the numbers. Younger people are, by and large, healthier. The average age of Black Americans is about twice as old as Black Africans. Moreover, the deaths among African Americans — almost twice that of White and Asian Americans — has been almost exclusively concentrated among the elderly, many with multiple co-morbidities and less access to health care. That’s the opposite of the situation in Africa.

The younger African population may explain some of the disparities in deaths, but not all of them; the wealthier nations of Asia have managed the pandemic better than Europe and North America, despite having similarly older populations, and the virus is raging in some South Asian countries.

It also should be noted that age has often played the opposite role in surviving scourges. Malaria is historically the world’s deadliest disease. But age-related survival rates are the reverse of that with COVID-19, with the very young most at risk. In 2018, for example, most of the estimated 405,000 people who died from malaria were young children in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Climate also may play a role. Generally, the pandemic has spread more virulently in colder climes, with more temperature countries in Asia and Africa somewhat spared from the scourge. But most of those countries, from Australia, across China to Taiwan, have undertaken massive tracing and have imposed near universal shutdowns on occasion. African countries have been less proactive, constrained in large part by a lack of funds.

Genetics and COVID

To what degree does ancestry play in role in our susceptibility to COVID-19?

Unfortunately there is a dearth of research on the genetics of African peoples, so it’s difficult to make too much of these fragmented examples. And despite Africa being the “cradle of humankind”, and with its populations containing more human genetic variation any other continent, Black Africans and those of African descent remain woefully underrepresented in genetic studies

Given the historical research bias towards Eurasia and North America, almost 20 years after the sequencing of the human genome, the vast majority of genetic samples are of European ancestry (nearly 90 percent in 2017, with most of these from just three countries — Great Britain, US and Iceland). Recent pioneering surveys of African genomes are just now beginning to reveal the continents’ rich genetic legacy, replete with the merging and divergence of myriad ancestral populations.

What genetic factors could be in play impacting COVID-19 infection and death rates? Research and informed speculation is already underway. 

An earlier study on the possible contribution of genetics to the SARS-CoV2 infection found significant population-based differences in ACE2 receptors that modulate blood pressure in the cells located in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidneys and intestines. Africans are considerably less likely than East Asians to express the ACE2 receptors, though slightly higher than Europeans, the researchers believe. 

“There have been major differences in the rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the severe disease between the different geographic regions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, even among young individuals,” wrote Dr. Tiirikainen. “There may also be genetic differences in immune and other important genes explaining why some people get more sick than others.

At least two studies show that blood type O could be associated with a lower risk of COVID-19 infection and reduced likelihood of severe outcomes, including organ complications. There is also some evidence that those with blood type A are more susceptible to COVID-19. The researchers did not find any significant difference in rates of infection between A, B and AB types. About 37 percent of the world population is O+ and 6 percent is O-. About 50 percent of Africans have blood group O, the highest in the world.

It’s well established that certain HLA (human leukocyte antigens) alleles confer susceptibility to specific diseases. African-descended and European-descended populations implicate distinctively different immunity responses in dozens of diseases treatments. For example, it is extremely rare for people of unmixed Black African ancestry to get ankylosing spondylitis, a rare type of arthritis. Whites are three times more likely to get it. The histocompatibility antigen HLA-B27, which does not exist in Black Africans of unmixed ancestry, is present in 8 percent of White and only about 2-4 percent of the Black American population (reflecting racial mixing).

Susceptibility to the coronavirus is negatively associated with having a genetic propensity to absorb Vitamin C, as is the case with Black African populations. Across Africa, roughly 50 percent of people carry the Vitamin C-friendly variant and in some African countries, it is as high as 70 percent. In the US, 41 percent of Whites carry this variant, compared to 55 percent of Blacks, and only 31 percent of Asians.

There is also preliminary evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplements at high doses might help protect against becoming infected with COVID-19 or limiting serious symptoms. How might this relate to people of African ancestry? Blacks as a population group have markedly low levels of vitamin D. 

Yet in a paradox, people of African ancestry who take Vitamin D supplements get no skeletal benefits from taking supplements. Their bones are naturally less brittle than those of other populations. Black Americans, for example, have significantly fewer incidences of falls, fractures or osteopenia compared to White Americans. 

Could the factors that naturally protect the bone health of Blacks also protect them against more serious COVID symptoms? At the moment, there are no clear explanations for the vitamin D ‘Black paradox,’ but scientists we talked to say there may be some genetic factors at play.

Genetics cuts multiple ways – it can protect or increase vulnerabilities, or do both at the same time

Are Black Americans and those of African descent in general less genetically susceptible to some viruses or diseases other than COVID-19? The evidence is fragmentary. Contradicting racist early 20th century theories that ‘frail’ Blacks are more susceptible to disease, during the 1918 pandemic the incidence of influenza was significantly lower in African Americans

And according to one 2016 study of swine flus, when exposed to flu, “African Americans mounted higher virus neutralizing and IgG antibody responses to the H1N1 component of IIV3 or 4 compared to Caucasians”. 

The relationship of genes to disease is often convoluted. Populations of African descent simultaneously are more prone to sickle cell anaemia (particularly prevalent south of the Sahara) and have natural, genetic-based defenses against malaria. This connection was noted over 50 years ago. Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

And in a tragic twist, some genetic variants thought to reduce susceptibility to malaria are believed to increase vulnerability to the HIV virus. While fear of AIDS has receded in the West and in developing countries in Africa, HIV still infects tens of millions of people, with hundreds of thousands dying of the disease each year, mostly in Africa. Adult HIV prevalence is 1.2 percent worldwide but 9 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In the US, where the national rate is 0.6 percent, African Americans, account for 42 percent of new HIV infections despite being only 12 percent of the population. It’s now believed that a gene variant common in some African and African diaspora populations that protects against certain types of malaria increases susceptibility to HIV infection by 40 percent. 

If this is indeed the case, it is an example of genes conferring both benefits and liabilities as populations evolved and moved around in different eras in different environments. In ancestral environments, malaria was the force selecting for variants that provided partial immunity; in the modern environment, HIV may be the force selecting against those unfortunate enough to carry these genetics might partly explain the apparent reduced severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Patrick Whittle has a PhD in philosophy and is a New Zealand-based freelance writer with a particular interest in the social and political implications of biological science. Follow him on his website or on Twitter @WhittlePMRelated article:  Talking Biotech: Prospects for approving GMO salmon and rescuing embattled banana

Jon Entine is the founding editor of the Genetic Literacy Project, and winner of 19 major journalism awards. He has written extensively in the popular and academic press on population genetics, including two best-sellers, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It; and Abraham’s Children: Race, Genetics and the DNA of The Chosen People. Follow him on Twitter @JonEntine

Often we see misconceptions presented with little fact. The COVID 19 pandemic has prodominatly impacted the developed world. Why is that? How is diet apart of that? What can we learn?

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