Posts tagged with "Vaccine"

MIT Study Shows the Power of Accurate Information to Increase Vaccination Rates

Despite the availability of multiple safe vaccines, vaccine hesitancy may present a challenge to successful control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, vaccine hesitancy may be caused not simply by fears about the safety or efficacy of the vaccine, but instead by the inaccurate belief that many of your peers or social cohort are not being vaccinated.

A recent working paper entitled “Surfacing Norms to Increase Vaccine Acceptance” written by two MIT Sloan Professors, Dean Eckles and Sinan Aral, of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, with Sloan PhD student Alex Mohering, post doctoral researchers Kiran Garimella and Amin Rahimian, and Avi Collis of the University of Texas, set out to study the relative importance of the beliefs that people hold about the acceptance of vaccines by others.

After studying the responses of over 300,000 people in 23 countries, the study showed that accurate information about descriptive norms can substantially increase intentions to accept a vaccine for COVID-19, reducing the fraction of people who are “unsure” or negative about accepting a vaccine by five percent. In other words, clear and accurate information about the behavior of others can influence behavior in a positive way.

“While public health officials and the media have been emphasizing the potential negative impact of vaccine hesitancy, our study found that emphasizing the overwhelming vaccine acceptance expressed by most people is a better way to get those who are unsure to accept COVID-19 vaccines,” says Sinan Aral.

These results suggest that public health communications should present information about the widespread and growing intentions to accept COVID-19 vaccines—and not overly emphasize the fear that the vaccine will not be accepted among a large portion of the population.

“Humans are innately sensitive to the behaviors of others. This pandemic is tragic enough without adding to the suffering by overestimating and over-communicating the fear that some will not accept the vaccine. The best way forward, as is often the case, is the presentation of clear, accurate and timely information.” says Dean Eckles.

Frontliners by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

AHCA/NCAL Urges Guidance from CDC

In a letter addressed to Rochelle P. Walensky, the Director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) is requesting further guidance, data-sharing, and urgency into researching the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination, especially in regard to the elderly population. The AHCA/NCAL, represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year.


The AHCA/NCAL reports: “need for urgency on this matter is painfully evident. For nearly a year, long term care residents have been unable to visit with their loved ones in-person or participate in enriching social activities. Despite our staff’s heroic efforts to keep residents engaged and fill the void of family members, we are deeply concerned that the prolonged isolation of our residents is impacting their health and wellbeing. Prioritizing research on the vaccines’ effectiveness among our population would help ensure these facilities can swiftly and safely reopen, improving the lives of our vulnerable seniors.”

While earlier guidance from the CDC urged nursing homes to restrict group activities and visitors, the vaccination has now been administered millions of nursing home residents. As a result of this, the AHCA/NCAL hopes to see changes in the guidance previously administered by the CDC in order to improve the quality of life for their residents under these new conditions.

To achieve this goal, the NHCA/NCAL is asking for CDC’s support to rapidly evaluate the vaccines’ effectiveness among the long term care population in both preventing spread and in reducing morbidity and mortality. The NHCA reports that the organization understands that clinical trials only evaluated the effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease and severe illness, and participants did not include long term care residents. Therefore, they are requesting further study regarding the vaccines’ impact on transmission and the elderly population before revising guidance to long term care settings. The NHCA/NCAL asks that the CDC expedite this evaluation of the vaccines in order to bring clarity to states, providers, residents and family members as soon as possible.

Fortunately, preliminary analysis by AHCA/NCAL reports that the vaccines may be as effective as hoped. Their research division, the Center for Health Policy Evaluation in Long Term Care (CHPE), found that COVID-19 cases decreased at a faster rate among nursing homes that had completed their first vaccine clinic, compared to nearby nursing homes that had not yet administered the vaccine. More specifically, the CHPE analysis reports:

  • Vaccinated nursing homes experienced a 48% decline in new resident cases three weeks after the first clinic, compared to a 21% decline among non-vaccinated nursing homes located in the same county.
  • Similarly, new staff cases declined by 33% in vaccinated nursing homes compared to 18% in non-vaccinated facilities.

While encouraging, further study is needed to determine if these trends will continue in subsequent clinics or after the second dose of the vaccine. The AHCA/NCAL requests that data and funding be made available to the research community to expedite this ongoing analysis. Both organizations are willing to assist the CDC in this effort through facilitating data sharing between providers and researchers, as well as connecting with experts from the public and private sector to assist with data waiting to be evaluated.

As the CDC has taken great effort to administer residents and staff their second dose of the vaccine, many states have started planning reopening strategies. The AHCA/NCAL reports on the reopenings: “State governments play a vital role in contributing to the protection of our residents and staff during this time. However, in this situation, we believe that cohesion is needed to ensure effective outcomes. Without guidance from the federal government, states may create confusing or inconsistent practices.”

In hope of creating consistent practices surrounding reopening, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living is requesting that the CDC reiterate their most up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 safety practices. Since the effectiveness of the vaccine isn’t fully determined, the AHCA/NCAL emphasizes the importance of clear communication with stakeholders to make sure that everyone understands the stressed importance and vigilance of vaccination efforts.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Native Peoples’ Perspectives Toward COVID-19 Vaccine

Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) released a study with the first-ever national data regarding American Indian and Alaska Native peoples’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about a COVID-19 vaccine.

The study surveyed American Indians and Alaska Natives across 46 states—representing 318 different tribal affiliations—to gather information ranging from individuals’ willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to the hurdles they face in accessing healthcare and resources.

“This data will be important to all organizations conducting COVID-19 vaccine education efforts,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of UIHI. “Native communities have unique challenges and needs that usually are not considered in public health campaigns.”

American Indian and Alaska Native people continue to be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates are 3.5 and 1.8 times that of non-Hispanic Whites, respectively.

While there has been worry about vaccine participation in Native communities, 75% of study participants claimed they would be willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, higher than the national average according to an Ipsos survey from October 2020, which indicates that 64% of the U.S. general population was willing to receive a vaccine.

“Willingness to receive a vaccine and hesitancy are not mutually exclusive,” said Echo-Hawk. “Fear and distrust of government and medical systems still exist in our community, which are hurdles that we have to overcome.”

Echo-Hawk hopes the report can start to create a better understanding of the unique perspectives of Native people.

“The data indicates that most Native people willing to be vaccinated feel it is their responsibility for the health of their community,” Echo-Hawk said. “This shows what motivates our community when it comes to decision-making.”

Report key findings:

  • 75% of participants were willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 74% of participants claimed that getting vaccinated is their responsibility to their community.
  • 89% of participants wanted evidence that the vaccine is safe right now and in the long term.
  • 39% of all participants reported difficulty traveling to their clinic for an appointment.
  • Two-thirds of participants willing to get vaccinated were confident that COVID-19 vaccines were adequately tested for safety and effectiveness among Native people.
  • 75% of participants willing to get vaccinated had concerns about potential side effects.
  • 25% of participants were unwilling to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 90% of participants unwilling to get vaccinated recognized COVID-19 as a serious disease.
  • 89% of participants unwilling to get vaccinated had concerns about potential side effects.
Pfizer coronavirus vaccination article illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Pfizer × BioNTech near historic vaccine

By Althea Champion

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. If approved, it could potentially be available to the public by early December, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The results came out of Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial, which involved 40,000 individuals. Of those participating, 94 contracted COVID-19. These results, like much of 2020, are historic. Vaccines have never been developed on such a fast-moving timeline. The last vaccine that was developed in such considerable haste was for mumps, and it took four years.

Pfizer says that they plan to ask the Federal Drug Administration for emergency use by the end of the month. The vaccine will require two doses administered three weeks apart. The company hopes to have enough doses for 25 million people by the end of the year, and 650 million people in 2021.

In the case that the vaccine supply is limited, the C.D.C. will first vaccinate healthcare personnel, essential workers, people who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, as well as those 65 years and older.

An expedited timeline does not mean drug companies are cutting corners. Fauci, like many of his colleagues in Washington, assures that manufacturers will stick to a process of vaccine development that ensures the safety of patients. The FDA will still make the final call.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, in Pfizer’s press release. “The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

However, a few questions remain unanswered.

“Historically, important scientific announcements about vaccines are made through peer-reviewed medical research papers that have undergone extensive scrutiny about study design, results and assumptions,” writes Arthur Allen in the Opinion section of the NYT. “Not through company press releases.”

According to Allen, it is unclear from the press release how long Pfizer’s vaccine will keep patients protected, if it is safe for high-risk populations like the elderly, or if rare side effects can arise in patients who are vaccinated. He notes that the Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur vaccines may be safer for older patients.

Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur are subunit vaccines, like the hepatitis B vaccine. They deliver only the essential antigens of the virus to the immune system, so it learns how to attack it. Because it is only a part, or a subunit, of the virus, fewer side effects are likely.

Pfizer’s is a nucleic acid vaccine that uses RNA. According to the Washington Post, “this type of vaccine contains a strip of genetic material within a fat bubble” that enters the cell. Once inside, “the RNA generates a protein found on the surface of the virus.” It can then familiarize itself with the virus and learn how to fight it.

Moderna’s vaccine is also an RNA vaccine in Phase 3 trials. Pfizer’s success bodes very well for Moderna, according to a statement Fauci made to CNN.

Furthermore, because the vaccine must be stored in extremely low temperatures—on dry ice at negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Washington Post—its roll-out becomes complicated. If left out in the sun, or just at room temperature, or even at just below freezing, the mRNA self-destructs and the vaccine becomes useless.

Shortly after Pfizer’s announcement, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation, warned of the “dark winter” ahead, and urged Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to wear a mask until the vaccine is available.

The head of the C.D.C. warned this fall, that “for the foreseeable future, a mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus,” he said from the podium. “Today’s news does not change that urgent reality.”

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

How States Can Combat COVID While Fighting The Flu

United States of Care Offers Suggestions to States on How To Deal With the Seasonal Flu Amid a Pandemic

(Washington, DC) Today, United States of Care (USofCare) issued a “Preparing for COVID-19 and the Flu,” recommendations to states for dealing with the seasonal flu amid a global public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.

“States have a long history of successfully dealing with the flu virus, encouraging vaccines and stopping a widespread flu outbreak,” said Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care. “This year is different, as the nation’s already taxed health care system faces the unprecedented double whammy of influenza and COVID-19. As an organization engaging in one-on-one conversations with people, policymakers, and various health care leaders throughout the pandemic, United States of Care offers a unique view on what people need to know and what states can do to combat COVID-19 while fighting the flu.”

United States of Care’s “Preparing for COVID-19 and the Flu” breaks down how states can prepare for dealing with the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. It includes the following suggestions:

  1. Communicate Clearly: State leaders need to be clear in their communications about why protective measures, such as mask requirements and closures, are necessary to keep people safe from the flu and COVID-19. States can play a vital role in providing people with clarity about what to do if they are infected with either the flu or COVID-19, as they have similar symptoms
  2. Prepare for Increased Health Care Demand: States need to have contingency plans in place so that health care system resources can be efficiently allocated.
  3. Address the Needs of High-Risk People: States will need to continually rely on the latest COVID-19 metrics and data on the flu’s trajectory, especially for high-risk populations to take additional measures.
  4. Develop Plans to Increase Influenza Vaccination Rates: In a typical flu season, less than 50% of people get vaccinated, and the rate is even lower among people of color. Increasing this rate is essential to minimizing the strain on our health care system. Clear communications are also vital due to people’s ongoing concerns about receiving medical care during the pandemic. States will need to develop plans to distribute flu shots in safe-settings, including at home for vulnerable populations.

Hiccup in COVID-19 Vaccine Development

By Althea Champion

In a statement from AstraZeneca, reported by STAT News, the biopharmaceutical company reported a halt in their global research trial. The company, which is working with the University of Oxford and is one of the few waist-deep in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccination, reported that the halt is a “routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials.”

The company is in Phase 3 of their clinical trial in the U.S., as well as Brazil and South Africa, according to the New York Times, and in Phase 2/3 in England and India. AstraZeneca began the third phase of its clinical trial not much longer than a week ago, on Aug. 31.

Phase 3 efficacy trials involve thousands of volunteers, some of which are administered the vaccine in question, and others the placebo.

AstraZeneca and its most close competitors, Moderna and Pfizer, which have each been in phase 3 of their clinical trials since July 27, are backed by the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, a targeted allocation of resources meant to hasten the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The halt of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine—AZD1222—is the first made public by its drug maker, and will allow a safety review to take place. 

“A volunteer in the U.K. trial [of AZD1222] had been found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections,” reported the New York Times. “However, the timing of this diagnosis, and whether it was directly linked to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, is unclear.”

The vaccine was first developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, according to nih.gov, and was then “licensed to AstraZeneca for further development.” Oxford-Astrazeneca began the third phase of its clinical trial not much longer than a week ago, on Aug. 31

The company stressed in its statement that the safety of their participants is a priority.

“We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline,” said the company in their statement. “We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials.”

Allison Christensen Illustrates a Sports Article for 360 MAGAZINE

2020 Summer Olympics

by Justin Lyons

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are following the old show business gospel of “the show must go on.”

John Coates, vice president of the International Olympic Committee, spoke with AFP to say the Olympics would indeed begin in July 2021, whether COVID-19 is still around or not.

The summer games were originally scheduled to take place this summer, but complications from COVID-19 delayed them until next year.

Coates said the next Olympiad will be “the Games that conquered COVID.”

According to BBC, chief executive of the Tokyo Games Toshiro Muto also said it was possible for a limited audience to be in attendance and wanted to avoid having no spectators.

BBC also reported that Muto said a vaccine was not necessary for the games to go on.

Sports were warmly welcomed back in the United States in July, and the National Football League will return this week. Though basketball, baseball and hockey are finishing their seasons without fans, plan for fans in football stadiums remain tentative.

Fans around the country will have their eyes on the situation, and we obviously hope to see fans cheering on their home countries next year in one of the most unifying events in the world if conditions so permit.

Jean Button illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Covid-19 on Clothes

By Eamonn Burke

As a relatively new virus, new information is coming out about Covid-19 every day. While much is known, such as the fact that it spreads through air and is most dangerous to the elderly, there is much that remains unknown.

One of these unanswered questions is that if clothing: can the coronavirus survive on clothing? What we do know from evidence is that the virus can in fact live on other surfaces like plastic and steel for up to nine days. There is no evidence, however, that answers the question about clothes.

What we do know is that viruses similar to Covid – MERS, SARS – do not survive on clothes, as they are porous surfaces that can trap the virus and dry it out. A study from Johns Hopkins Medicine corroborates this, finding the probability of the virus being transferred through clothing is low. However, another study did find that the virus can live on shoes.

While the most important protective measures against COVID-19 remain social distancing and wearing masks, the CDC still recommends to air on the side of caution and wash clothes, specifically on the warmest setting to dry them out. The findings also pose issue for companies who need to handle clothing returns. Many large companies like Macy’s and Gap have amended their return policies to consider this, but it is also important for small businesses to do the same.

Covid and health illustration

Oxford Vaccine Shows Promising Signs

By Eamonn Burke

A vaccine developed by The University of Oxford in the UK and major pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has shown early signs of being a potential success. According to data posted today in The Lancet medical journal, a strong immune response was invoked by early testing of the vaccine in a large human trial of over 1,000 participants.

The vaccine, named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, produced higher levels of antibodies and T-cells that fight the virus, according to the data. In other words, “We’re stimulating both arms of the immune system,” says Oxford’s head of the Jenner Institute Adrian Hill.

By no means does this data guarantee an effective vaccine, but human testing is a major step in the right direction, especially one with positive results. Another good sign is the lack of serious side effects, with most volunteers only reporting fatigue, headache, and soreness at the injection site. Big questions that remain, however, are how the body will react once infected, and if someone can get infected again.

AstraZenaca has received support from the U.S., pledging $1.2 billion dollars to vaccine work, and from the U.K., who has made a deal for 90 million doses of it. It is one of over 100 being developed globally, with 23 in the human trial phase. One of them is Moderna’s, which also showed promising signs in data last week and is set to start a Phase 3 of development on July 27.

Mina Tocalini illustration for 360 MAGAZINE HEALTH SECTION.

Coronavirus Conundrums: Where do we go from here?

The following interview is courtesy of Special Guests.

We are faced with lots of new questions as the COVID pandemic continues: Back to school? Wear a mask? Virus Mutations? Cases Skyrocketing? Our guest is Dr. Charles Page, a surgeon from Texas who is here to help us make sense of what appears to be so nonsensical.

Q&A:

1) Dr. Page, can you give us a big picture of where we are in the pandemic?

Answer: The wave is progressing from the epicenter (NYC) out into the rest of the US. In my opinion, this is not a Second Wave or a mutated virus but a progression of the same virus.

2) The number of coronavirus cases is skyrocketing, primarily because of increased testing availability. How does the death toll correlate to this increase in cases?

Answer: Fortunately, the death toll hasn’t followed that pattern. The death rate is stable. That’s good news. At the present our ICU’s and hospitals(at least in Texas) are not overwhelmed with cases. No need for panic.

3) What about a vaccine?

Answer: We are still getting closer to a vaccine. The NIH started enrollment for people to receive vaccines in clinical studies (as of 7/8/20).

The COVPN (Covid Prevention Trials Network). Bringing together these four groups to begin phase 3 clinical trials will streamline the process for a vaccine.

4) Can you give us your opinion on the safety of reopening schools in the fall?

Answer: We have to base our opinions on facts—not feelings (or politics). There are several international studies that show it is safe for kids to return to school. Studies in Iceland, China and New Zealand showed that: children are particularly resilient to the disease (they have minimal symptoms) and for some reason, they rarely transmit COVID to others. This has been corroborated by multiple studies.

5) So, what’s the issue?

Answer: Kid’s immune systems are more resilient than those of adults. Their systems are in the phase of processing and developing immunity to new pathogens. Isolation/quarantine may, in the long run, be more harmful. I feel comfortable having my 12 and 18-year-old kids go back to school —without a mask.

6) What do you think about masks?

Answer: There’s not a lot of science behind wearing a mask. We are still in uncharted waters. Most of the studies done are in hospitals and health care institutions. With that being said, in many states (like Texas) it’s the law. Our states haven’t flip-flopped. If you recall, at the onset of the pandemic, we were short on resources and didn’t have enough masks. Now we do. The literature confirms that masks catch many respiratory droplets, keeping them from spreading in the air. So if someone has disease, it diminishes the spread. But wearing a mask doesn’t keep you from getting the disease.

About Dr. Charles Page

Dr. Page is the best guy to see on the worst day of your life. He is a surgeon from Texas and co-host of the podcast, “Life’s about Living,” a show for retirees and Boomers.

His book, A Spoonful of Courage for the Sick and Suffering, is a compilation of faith-based inspirational stories helping the ill see the possibilities in their problems.

Visit his website HERE.