Emphasize the vaccine

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At the start of the pandemic, many health experts – in the USA and around the world – decided that the public could not be trusted to hear the truth about masks. Instead, experts have issued a misleading message, discouraging the use of masks.

Their motivation was pretty good. It was born out of the fear that people would rush to buy high-quality medical masks, leaving too little for doctors and nurses. Experts were also unsure how useful regular masks would be.

But the message was still an error.

It confused people. (If masks weren’t effective, why did doctors and nurses need them?) This delayed the widespread use of masks (although there was good reason believe they could help). And it has damaged the credibility of public health experts.

“When people feel like they’re not getting the whole truth from the authorities, snake oil sellers and price detractors have an easier time,” the sociologist explains. Zeynep Tufekci wrote at the beginning of last year.

Now, one version of mask history is repeating itself – this time regarding vaccines. Again, the experts don’t seem to trust the public to hear the whole truth.

This question is sufficiently important and complex that I can lengthen today’s newsletter a little. If you still have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Right now, the public debate about vaccines is rife with warnings about their limitations: They are not 100% effective. Even people who have been vaccinated may be able to spread the virus. And people shouldn’t change their behavior after they get their shots.

These warnings are based on the truth, just as it is true that the masks are imperfect. But the sum of the warnings is misleading, as several doctors and epidemiologists said last week.

“It’s driving me a little crazy,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told me.

“We are underselling the vaccine,” said Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s going to save your life – that’s where the focus needs to be right now,” said Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are “essentially 100% effective against serious illness,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s ridiculously encouraging.”

Here is my best attempt at summarizing what we know:

  • Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – the only two approved in the United States – are among the best vaccines ever created, with efficacy rates of around 95% after two doses. It’s on par with the chickenpox and measles vaccines. And a vaccine doesn’t even need be so effective in drastically reducing cases and crushing a pandemic.

  • If anything, the number 95 percent underestimates efficiencybecause he considers anyone who has contracted a mild case of Covid-19 to be a failure. But turning Covid into a typical flu – as vaccines evidently did for most of the remaining 5 percent – is actually successful. Of the 32,000 people who received the Modern or Pfizer vaccine in a research trial, would you like to guess how many contracted a severe case of Covid? A.

  • Although no rigorous study has yet analyzed whether vaccinated people can spread the virus, it would be surprising if they did. “If there is an example of a widely used clinical vaccine that has this selective effect – prevents disease but not infection – I don’t think so!” Dr Paul Sax of Harvard wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. (And no, exclamation marks aren’t common in medical journals.) On Twitter, Dr Monica Gandhi from the University of California, San Francisco, said, “Rest assured that YOU ARE SURE after the vaccine of what matters – disease and spread.”

  • The risks to those vaccinated are still not zero, because almost nothing in the real world is at zero risk. A small percentage of people can have allergic reactions. And I’ll be eager to see what the post-vaccination spread studies ultimately show. But the evidence so far suggests that vaccines are akin to a cure.

Offit told me that we should greet them with the same enthusiasm as the one who polio vaccine: “It should be that rallying cry.”

Why do many experts send a more negative message?

Again, their motivations are generally good. As academic researchers, they are instinctively cautious, inclined to point out any uncertainty. Many may also fear that vaccinated people will stop wearing masks and socially distancing themselves, which in turn could result in unvaccinated people stopping. If that happens the dead would explode even higher.

But the best way to persuade people to behave safely is usually to tell them the truth. “Not being completely open because you want to achieve some sort of behavioral public health goal – people will eventually see through that,” Richterman said. The current approach also feeds anti-vaccine skepticism and conspiracy theories.

After asking Richterman and others what a better public post might look like, I thought of something like this:

We should be immediately more aggressive on mask wearing and social distancing due to the new virus variants. We need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible – which will require approval of other Covid vaccines when the data warrants it.

People who have had their two vaccines and have waited for them to take effect will be able to do things that unvaccinated people cannot – like eating meals together and hugging their grandchildren. But until the pandemic is defeated, all Americans should wear masks in public, help unvaccinated people stay safe, and contribute to a common national project to save all possible lives.

  • President-elect Joe Biden chooses two Obama-era regulators supervise the main financial agencies: Gary Gensler at the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Rohit Chopra at the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • This is Biden response to help who use too academic or elitist language: “Pick up your phone, call your mother, read her what you just told me”, he likes to say. “If she understands, we can keep talking.

  • President Trump’s allies have raised tens of thousands of dollars people who ask for forgiveness.

From the review: Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. In an Op-Ed video, Martin Luther King III remembers his father’s economic message.

Media equation: Fox settled a lawsuit over his lies about a murdered young man, but the network insisted the settlement had to remain secret until after the 2020 election.

Lives lived: Phil Spector was a pioneering producer who shaped the sound of pop music in the 1960s, but spent the end of his life in prison after murdering Lana Clarkson in her home in 2003. He died of complications from Covid-19, aged 81.

On TikTok in December, Nathan Evans, a 26-year-old Scottish postman and musician, shared a black-and-white video of himself singing a slum – a traditional sailor’s work song – titled “Soon the Wellerman come. »In the weeks that followed, Sea Shanty TikTok was born.

Professional musicians, people driving cars and even a Kermit the Frog puppet were sharing videos of themselves singing. There was electro remix. Some people started to cover other songs, as “All Star»By Smash Mouth, in a slum style.

While the genre might seem odd to go viral, the songs are relatively easy to learn. They also lend themselves well to collaboration, which the TikTok features encourage. One of the original purposes of the slum was to foster community, as sailors worked long hours aboard a ship.

“These are unifying and survival songs, designed to transform a large group of people into one collective body, all working together to keep the ship afloat,” Kathryn VanArendonk written in Vulture. And they’re especially suited for a time when people are in desperate need of connection.

Spanakopita, the classic Greek spinach and feta pie, inspired this baked pasta.

“MLK / FBI”, directed by Sam Pollard, draws on long-secret documents to chronicle the FBI’s harassment of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hear new songs from Flo Milli, Lana Del Rey and more – including a song that holds the One Day Streaming Record on Spotify.

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