Recent polls indicate that more than a third of the country has concerns about a vaccine that in all likelihood will be the only reliable way to end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These results reflect a similar public sentiment in the U.S. in the 1950s when a polio vaccine was introduced. There are likely multiple reasons for this suspicion, including safety concerns, lack of transparency from the scientific community, lack of trust in the government and the desire to wait until a longer track record of safety can be established.
We are experts in media literacy, health and political communication and biostatistics and biomedical research for future health care providers, from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow Center for Media & Health Promotion Research and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. We also live in the communities we hope to serve with our science.
Based on our research, we believe that officials need to use this testing period to build trust, not to create reasons for diminishing it. Respect and forthrightness can turn the tone from adversarial to collaborative, and from a provider-directed practice to a shared decision-making process. Scientists and public health officials must anticipate and address people’s concerns and not brush aside concerns, a process that has become commonplace across other areas of the provider-patient relationship, but vaccine decisions remain a notable exception.
Vaccines and complications
Vaccines are among the safest, most transformative drugs on Earth, with adverse events so low that very nearly universal vaccination is a reasonable expectation. With such a safety record, and with so much at risk with diseases like COVID-19, measles and influenza, vaccine advocates have good reason to stress the overwhelmingly positive safety record.
History has included some vaccines of questionable quality as well as vaccination tactics of even more concern. Certain minority groups have been targeted with egregious coercion. This included cases of forced vaccination for smallpox of African Americans at gunpoint in the southern United States in the early 1900s. At a tenement house in Manhattan’s Little Italy, over 200 men in 1901 in essence performed a smallpox vaccination raid in the middle of the night, trying to vaccinate as many people as they could.
When the miracle vaccine for polio was widely distributed in 1955, speed took precedent over safety, and many doses were distributed that contained live polio virus. As a result, 70,000 children developed muscle weakness, 164 were paralyzed permanently and 10 children died. This led to direct government intervention that has led to thousands of required tests in order to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Instances like these undoubtedly fuel people’s concerns. Such occurrences should give us all pause, scientist or not, to do better next time and strive to never repeat such notable grievances.
Why can’t vaccines bounce back from mistakes?
As medical and public health researchers, we have found it interesting that corporations that have been lax and dishonest have bounced back without lasting damage to their reputations. For example, Volkswagen was caught in
Commentary: Why scientists and public health officials need to address vaccine mistrust instead of dismissing it
Recent polls indicate that more than a third of the country has concerns about a vaccine that in all likelihood will be the only reliable way to end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After attendees phoned for medical aid for the unnamed woman, who was taken to a nearby hospital, police in Utah County worked with organizers to break up the massive, unpermitted event, which may have drawn several thousand people, police estimated. Multiple people also crashed their cars trying to leave the area, and also requested official assistance, Sgt. Spencer Cannon, a spokesman for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, told KSTU.
Drone footage of the party showed thousands of people packed together, dancing in front of a stage lit with purple lights where a DJ played music. In photos and videos posted to social media, young people in Halloween costumes clung to one another and danced, often touching one another, in the sand.
The Utah County Health Department, which includes the desert area where the party took place, said Sunday the county “has been experiencing record COVID-19 cases” in recent days.
“To see an event of this size is extremely disheartening, as Utah deals with its worst covid-19 outbreak yet,” said Aislynn Tolman-Hill, a spokeswoman for the health department, told KSTU Monday. “Individuals who attended this event absolutely will become ill, we will have positive cases.”
Tolman-Hill added she expects people who may have been infected at the rave to probably pass the virus to other community members who did not attend the party and have been making an effort to socially distance.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Utah, increasing by nearly 10 percent in the past week. Hospitals in some parts of the state have been inundated with patients, taxing resources as doctors cope with a 17.7 percent increase in covid-19 patients over the past seven days. At least 614 people have died and more than 117,700 have tested positive in the state since the start of the pandemic.
The event on Saturday appeared to violate state guidelines for large gatherings, which requires organizers to fill out a form describing how they will ensure people wear masks and maintain social distancing. The state also requires event organizers to track attendees, with names and contact information, to facilitate contact tracing in case of an outbreak. Informal events that forego the form are limited to no more than 10 people in high-transmission areas like Utah County, according to state restrictions.
People who attended the party posted photos and videos on social media over the weekend, tagging Utah Tonight and the Tribe Utah, two event-planning groups who had advertised it on social media as an anti-restriction “Protest on Halloween.” Cannon told KSTU Saturday’s event was hosted by organizers from the Tribe Utah.
Although the Tribe Utah and Utah Tonight posted since-deleted photos and videos of the party to their Instagram stories, the organizations have since publicly denied any role in the party. Utah Tonight organizers claimed their “Protest on Halloween” event had been canceled and said Saturday’s party was put on by volunteers who advertised it through fliers sent in private messages to about 300 people on social media.
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro wanted to make sure the administration’s top vaccine expert would be on board with a White House plan to distribute the unproven drug to hard-hit cities.
“The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘I want to know what team you are on,’ ” recalled Rick Bright, who at the time was responsible for stockpiling drugs for medical emergencies as director of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
The immunologist, who later filed a whistleblower complaint against the administration, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he told Navarro he was on the side of medical evidence. Navarro, Bright said, replied, “I won’t hold it against you, but we need to move this forward.” Navarro declined to comment on Bright’s account.
The White House decision to set aside the mandatory safety controls put in place by the Food and Drug Administration fueled one of the most disputed initiatives in the administration’s response to the pandemic: the distribution of millions of ineffective, potentially dangerous pills from a federally controlled cache of drugs called the Strategic National Stockpile.
Over a span of four days in early April, the White House ordered the distribution of 23 million hydroxychloroquine tablets from the stockpile to a dozen states, enough pills for 1.4 million covid-19 patients, according to public records obtained by The Post in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Post review found that the process was marked by haphazard planning, little or no communication to local authorities about the flow of pills into their communities, and a lack of public accounting about where they ended up.
The documents also demonstrate the steps the administration took to bypass the FDA’s March 28 authorization for emergency use of the tablets, which limited their use to hospitals and clinical drug trials. According to FDA guidance at the time, state authorities were supposed to request stockpile supplies before they were delivered. But interviews and documents show that procedure was not followed in many cases.
The White House ordered more than a third of the tablets sent to the three major drug distributors in the United States with instructions to deliver them not only to hospitals but also retail pharmacies in five U.S. cities, despite the FDA controls, according to public records.
“At the direction of the White House, SNS did a one-time shipment of hydroxychloroquine to several commercial distributors to support further distribution of hydroxychloroquine directly to hospitals and retail pharmacies in the hard hit areas of NYC, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans,” a senior analyst at HHS said in an internal email exchange.
One major wholesaler said it shipped to long-term care facilities, which also were not covered in the FDA’s emergency authorization. All three distributors told The Post they did not ship to retail pharmacies, despite the administration’s request.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the stockpile, confirmed in an email to The Post that the pills were supposed to go
LOS ANGELES, CA — The scenes of joyful World Series revelry in the streets of Los Angeles this week will likely comeback to bite the city with another uptick in new coronavirus cases, L.A. County’s public health warned this week.
Currently, the county is in the grips of an uptick following celebrations surrounding the Lakers championship earlier this month. To combat the effects, fans who joined the crowds should quarantine, monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested, L.A. County’s public health director said Wednesday.
“As a reminder, people who have been part of celebratory crowds, where they have been in close contact with others, not wearing face coverings and not distancing may have been exposed to COVID-19,” Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director said. “And they should all take the following precautions for the next 14 days: remain apart from others as much as possible, get tested and monitor yourself for symptoms of illness.
“If you know that you were in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, please quarantine for the full 14 days, even if you have a negative test result,” she said.
Ferrer repeated oft-cited warnings about the dangers of gathering with people from other households, saying that even innocent-sounding small get- togethers can have tragic consequences. She pointed to a recent case of a wedding in Maine attended by 65 people, one of whom developed symptoms the following day. The wedding has since been deemed the source of 180 known coronavirus infections and at least seven deaths, Ferrer said.
She noted that one wedding attendee was a senior-living facility worker who spread the virus among its residents, seven of whom died. Another attendee worked at a county jail, where 87 people became infected.
“Hopefully, this reinforces the deadly nature of in-person gatherings at this time,” she said. “It may seem harmless to bring a group of people together for a celebration. However, if not done appropriately, this type of gathering, even if only one person was infected, has the potential to result in hundreds of cases of COVID-19. And unfortunately, even worse, it can lead to the deaths of people who had no connection to the event at all.”
The warning came amid heightened local concern about a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Ferrer noted again that at the beginning of October, the county was averaging about 940 new coronavirus cases per day, but that number is now at nearly 1,200 per day.
The county’s seven-day average daily positivity rate among people tested for the virus has also risen slightly, now reaching 3.4%, up from 3.1% a month ago, she said.
The county has not yet seen a resulting spike in hospitalizations or deaths. Ferrer noted the county’s newer cases are occurring primarily among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill or require hospitalization.
Despite the upticks in daily case numbers and positivity rate, the county on Wednesday reported a drop in the overall transmission
Opioid deaths are spiking in places across the U.S. as states remain locked down during the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, state and county health officials reported this month.
While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, several individual states are reporting an increase in opioid overdose deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Health officials and experts have cited increased isolation and job loss due to statewide shutdowns as possible factors for the surge in drug-related deaths.
“The pandemic has really increased risk factors for substance abuse disorder,” Rebecca Shultz, director of community health at the Onondaga County Health Department, told Syracuse.com.
Opioid deaths in Onondaga County, N.Y., jumped to 86 in the first six months of 2020, according to the county health department. This number was nearly double the reported 44 fatalities in the first half of 2019, the outlet reported, citing the county medical examiner’s office.
Oregon saw a 70% increase in opioid overdose deaths in April and May 2020 compared to the same time last year, the Oregon Health Authority said.
While the department called the rise an “alarming spike,” it also said it was “premature to say how much of the spike in overdose deaths is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“However, the realization that we will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time, and other stressors related to jobs, school, and social isolation, may increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and that can lead to a harmful level of alcohol or other drug use,” said Tom Jeanne, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist.
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In Maine, which saw 258 overdose deaths from January through June, there was a 27% increase over the second half of 2019. Officials cited increased isolation as a partial factor for the rise.
“It is clear from the data that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic can be partially attributed to the increased isolation of living through the pandemic,” Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a report on the state’s drug deaths for the second quarter.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told FOX40 Sacramento that “in some of our counties, there are more deaths from overdoses than there are from COVID-19.”
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Becerra said that in San Diego there was a 50% increase in overdose deaths in July and August compared to the months leading to the pandemic. He said “the effects of these plagues are exacerbating” due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, preliminary overdose death counts were up in Connecticut more than 19% through the end of July, compared with the same period last year. They were up 9% in Washington through the end of August, 28% in Colorado, and 30% in Kentucky during that same time.
After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in
Hundreds of American hospitals are being targeted in cyberattacks by the same Russian hackers who American officials and researchers fear could sow mayhem around next week’s election.
The attacks on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are intended to take those facilities offline and hold their data hostage in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransom payments, just as coronavirus cases spike across the United States.
“We expect panic,” one hacker involved in the attacks said in Russian during a private exchange on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a security company that tracks online criminals.
Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in recent days, though it was not clear whether they were part of the attacks, and hospital officials emphasized that critical patient care was not affected.
The Russian hackers, believed to be based in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have been trading a list of more than 400 hospitals they plan to target, according to Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who shared the information with the F.B.I. Mr. Holden said the hackers claimed to have already infected more than 30 of them.
On Wednesday, three government agencies — the F.B.I., the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — warned hospital administrators and security researchers about a “credible threat” of cyberattacks to American hospitals, according to a security executive who listened to the briefing.
Officials and researchers did not name the affected hospitals, but Sonoma Valley Hospital in California said it was still trying to restore its computer systems after an intrusion last week. St. Lawrence Health System in New York confirmed that two of its hospitals, Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur, were hit by ransomware attacks Tuesday morning that caused them to shut down computer systems and divert ambulances. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon was also crippled by a ransomware attack Tuesday that froze electronic medical records and delayed surgeries, a hospital representative said.
Employees at that hospital, in Klamath Falls, Ore., were told, “If it’s a P.C., shut it down,” said Thomas Hottman, the public information officer at Sky Lakes.
It was unclear whether those attacks were related to the hacking campaign underway. But the latest breaches were linked to the same Russian hackers who held Universal Health Services, a giant network of more than 400 hospitals, hostage with ransomware last month in what was then considered the largest medical cyberattack of its kind.
The hackers are also the same group behind TrickBot, a vast conduit for ransomware attacks that government hackers and technology executives have targeted in two takedowns over the past month.
In late September, United States Cyber Command started hacking into TrickBot’s infrastructure in an effort to disable it before the election. Microsoft also started taking down TrickBot servers via federal court orders over the past month. The goal of both efforts, officials and executives said, was to pre-empt ransomware attacks on the election that could disrupt voting
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials in Anchorage, Alaska, say the city is on a “dangerous path” as coronavirus cases rise and are urging people to avoid gatherings and follow orders to wear masks in public.
Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson says she has been meeting with business leaders, health officials and others to make decisions that protect health but also impose minimal restrictions so businesses can stay open.… Read More
NORTH ANDOVER, MA — North Andover’s selectmen grilled officials from Merrimack College over the impact the college’s coronavirus outbreak has had on the town and its businesses.
Two college officials appeared before the Board, Monday, to discuss the over 100 cases linked to the Monican Hall dormitory.
The outbreak, reported in September, put North Andover in the state’s high-risk category and preventing further reopening, even though Monican is located in Andover. All of the school’s cases are reported as North Andover cases for the purposes of state virus metrics, as the school’s address is in North Andover.
>>North Andover High School Goes Remote As Town Remains High-Risk
When the outbreak began, the town had just eight community cases of the virus, which would have made it low-risk. As of the last state update, Oct. 22, the town would have been a moderate-risk community if not for the college. The town reported 33 non-college cases, Monday, and the high school went remote over a smaller outbreak.
Selectman Rosemary Smedile asked the college’s representatives to push the state to classify the cases as Andover cases, not North Andover cases.
“It’s very frustrating that we are being assigned this problem when it’s not even part of our town,” Smedile said. “Businesses are hurting, they’re absolutely hurting… Business is already down, and the red does not help.
Merrimack College Vice President Andrew Maylor said that the state Department of Public Health asked them to give the college’s address for all testing center cases. Maylor is the former Andover town manager.
North Andover Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues said she would be meeting with her Andover counterpart and state officials, Wednesday, to figure out how to count cases.
The state was “under the impression that there was some sort of agreement between the towns,” Murphy-Rodrigues said.
“We expect you to work with us to set the record straight,” Smedile told the Merrimack College officials. “It affects surrounding communities. Andover’s got a yellow rating when in fact they’re probably red. That’s not fair to the people of Andover not having full knowledge of what’s going on.”
Town officials have also unsuccessfully appealed to the state to exempt it from high-risk community rules, because the outbreak was so concentrated.
Merrimack College Executive Vice President Jeffrey Doggett also updated the Board on the college’s understanding of the Monican Hall outbreak. Officials believe two to four students left campus and got the virus, then returned and spread it throughout the town. There was no single super-spreader event that caused the outbreak, he said.
Selectman Phil DeCologero noted that it would be easier if it had been a single event, so that officials could stop repeats. He asked about school policy on leaving campus and on having cars.
Only first-years with jobs they need either for coursework or to pay the bills and students with family members they take care of could bring cars on campus. Most of the Monican cases were first-year students.
Students that violate coronavirus
The Health 202: Hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses will be ready in early 2021, officials say
“We are on the brink of seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the initiative created by the administration to get a safe vaccine approved and distributed as quickly as possible.
The administration is working on two parallel tracks to get a vaccine approved and ready to distribute.
Perna said he, along with Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, recently visited the Tennessee offices of McKesson, the major vaccine distributor that has contracted with the government to head up distribution of eventual coronavirus vaccines.
“At the end of the day I chose [McKesson] because they know how to do it,” Perna said.
Once the Food and Drug Administration approves a coronavirus vaccine for emergency use — expected to happen in late November or early December if trials continue going well — McKesson will partner with FedEx and UPS, along with a number of pharmacies and grocery stores including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger, to get the doses shipped around the country, Perna said.
The Defense Department is closely involved in the effort, prompting concerns that an agency not accustomed to delivering vaccines might be charged with the critical task. Perna insisted, however, that the department is helping with logistics and program support — not distribution.
“There will not be this vision some people have of army trucks driving through the street delivering vaccine,” he told listeners on the online forum. “This is not feasible nor the proper way to do this.”
States also have a role to play. They’ve all submitted to the federal government plans for distributing a vaccine, with varying standards for who should get a vaccine first and how quickly the process should move.
New Jersey, for example, wants to administer the vaccine 70 percent of non-pregnant adults within six months. Nebraska laid out two initial phases of vaccine distribution in which the vaccine first goes to medical staff and later to the elderly and people with underlying conditions.
The vaccine news couldn’t come at a more critical time as cases of the novel coronavirus are surging across the country – and public health officials warn things could deteriorate further over the winter. Trump, however, continues to insist the country is “rounding the corner” in the disease as the election approaches next Tuesday, and his chief of staff said this weekend that the virus could only be controlled through a vaccine and therapeutics.
The process is moving with unprecedented speed, but there are plenty of challenges.
For one thing, vaccines require cold storage. Medical professionals distributing a vaccine will also need equipment including needles, syringes, alcohol, pads, bandages and masks.
And government officials say it’s critical to track who is getting the vaccine and where. Five of the six vaccines being developed as part of Warp Speed — excluding the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson — require two doses. People who receive a first dose will need to be given the same vaccine in their second