Viewpoints: Lessons On School Reopenings, Vaccine Distrust, Big Pharma’s Glow
Editorial pages focus on these pandemic topics and other health topics, as well.
Let Public Health Expertise Guide School Reopenings
As evidence mounts that schools can reopen without worsening the coronavirus pandemic — and that keeping them shut has stunted the educations of millions of children — Boston Public Schools superintendent Brenda Cassellius is working to restore more in-person education across the city. For her efforts, she’s received furious pushback from the teachers union. But as long as schools are taking adequate safety precautions — as determined by public health officials — she should continue steadily reopening the school system. There’s no longer much doubt that remote instruction, delivered over computer screens, is inferior to in-person learning. (12/17)
Vaccination Makes A Big Difference In Reaching Herd Immunity
On a recent Skype call with my grandmother, I broached the topic of the fast-arriving Covid-19 vaccines. Advanced age brings wisdom, but it also brings an elevated risk of severe illness from infection with the coronavirus, so I wanted to prime her to get an FDA-approved vaccine as early as possible. But as I was extolling the benefits of vaccination, I noticed a furrowed brow, a frown, and a look of uncertainty on her face. (Zach Nayer, 12/17)
The New York Times:
The Covid-19 Vaccine Doesn't Mean Big Pharma Is Your Savior
It’s about as near as science gets to a miracle: A coronavirus vaccine has arrived — and the main reason is that mRNA vaccines, a previously untested technology, appears to work better than almost anyone had hoped. As recently as this summer, many analysts were pushing their predictions for a vaccine into the fall of 2021, in line with the timeline of traditional treatments. If these new vaccines perform as well in the wild as they have in clinical trials, the world will remember it as a victory perhaps greater than Salk and Sabin against polio. If this new type of vaccine also goes on to work against other viruses, it will mark an epochal advance in vaccinology, closer to the discoveries of Pasteur and Jenner. (Stephen Buranyi, 12/17)
The Washington Post:
Purdue University Reopened This Fall. Here's What We Learned.
A few years ago — no, it was almost eight months, but like everything else about 2020 it feels longer — we decided to reopen our university this fall. Like almost all hard calls, the choice had to be made with a less-than-ideal amount of information in hand. Experience warned us against procrastination; the operational difficulties of the task ahead clearly were going to require every possible day of planning and preparation. We did reopen Purdue University in late August, and with great relief just completed a semester with more than 40,000 students taking courses on campus. (Mitch Daniels, 12/16)
The New York Times:
People Thought Covid-19 Was Relatively Harmless For Younger Adults. They Were Wrong.
The largest burden of Covid-19 has undoubtedly fallen on people older than 65, accounting for around 80 percent of deaths in the United States. But if we momentarily eclipse that from our mind’s eye, something else becomes visible: The corona of this virus. Young adults are dying at historic rates. In research published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we found that among U.S. adults ages 25 to 44, from March through the end of July, there were almost 12,000 more deaths than were expected based on historical norms. (Jeremy Samuel Faust, Harlan M. Krumholz and Rochelle P. Walensky, 12/17)
The Washington Post:
Giving Trump Credit For The Vaccine Is The Best Way For Biden To Unite The Country
Joe Biden promised in his victory speech to “unite us here at home” and told Trump supporters that he wanted to “put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature [and] see each other again.” There’s one simple way he could show he is serious: Give President Trump credit for the stunning success of Operation Warp Speed. On Monday, the first Americans were vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. This is the greatest public health achievement in history. Until now, the record for the fastest vaccine development was four years. Operation Warp Speed did it in nine months. (Marc A. Thiessen, 12/15)
The Fourth 'W' Needed To Defeat The Virus
Experts have made us all familiar with the three Ws we need to follow during the pandemic: wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance. If we’re going to defeat this virus, we need to add a fourth W to that list: Wait to go back to work until you know you’re healthy if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. (Curtis Chan and Wendy Chun-Hoon, 12/16)
The Washington Post:
Women Might Be More Skeptical Of The Covid Vaccine. Why?
A trio of surveys released in the past few weeks upended what we knew, or thought we knew, about women’s and men’s behaviors and beliefs during the pandemic. With coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, Pew Research asked nearly 13,000 Americans whether they intended to get one. Women were 13 percent less likely than men, 54 to 67 percent, to say they did. A National Geographic survey a few days later reinforced the discrepancy with an even larger gap, women trailing by a full 19 percent. In a Gallup poll, the gap was smaller, but women were still 6 percent less likely than men to say they planned to get a coronavirus vaccine.What on earth is going on?“ Gotta wonder how this ties into social media and online wellness communities,” tweeted Ben Collins, a journalist who reports on disinformation and conspiracy theories. (Monica Hess, 12/16)
The Wall Street Journal:
Covid Vaccine Shakedown At The WTO
The World Trade Organization will decide on Thursday whether to approve an Indian and South African proposal that would allow countries to disregard intellectual-property protections on Covid vaccines and therapeutics. Proponents claim the move would increase patients’ access to vaccines, especially in the developing world, by enabling companies to mass-manufacture generic copies of those drugs. In reality, suspending intellectual-property rights would make things much worse. The proposal is cynical—designed to benefit India’s and South Africa’s domestic drug industries at the expense of patients around the world. India is the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs, and South Africa is another big producer. They lament that the U.S. and Europe have blocked intellectual-property rights suspension, even though a greater number of WTO member countries are in favor. I’ve heard this line of attack before, and it is fraught with danger. (James Pooley, 12/16)
Los Angeles Times:
Saving 162,000 Women A Year From Dying From Childbirth
Every two minutes, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Most of these deaths are preventable — and the world has been working on a solution for decades. The problem is the funds dedicated to solving the problem never go far enough. There are inexpensive and effective solutions that could help bring down the number of mothers who die from childbirth. New analysis published last week by Copenhagen Consensus, the think tank I lead, shows how a modest investment of less than $3 billion a year could avert 162,000 maternal deaths, more than 1.2 million newborn deaths and almost as many stillbirths. (Bjorn Lomborg, 12/17)