By Tim E. Renzelmann
THE VACCINE IS COMING!
It was reported on Tuesday, December 8th that Margaret Keenan of Britain became the first patient (outside clinical trials) to receive a COVID-19 vaccine! “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” Ms. Keenan is reported to have said. “It means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.”
As I see it, this marks a fabulous first that needs to be recognized... but it’s way too early to celebrate.
As David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes, “The vaccines will be much less effective at preventing death and illness in 2021 if they are introduced into a population where the coronavirus is raging — as is now the case in the U.S.”
Leonhardt offers a useful analogy:
“A vaccine is like a fire hose. A vaccine that’s 95 percent effective, as Moderna’s and Pfizer’s versions appear to be, is a powerful fire hose. But the size of a fire is still a bigger determinant of how much destruction occurs.” In other words, even a powerful fire hose cannot extinguish a forest fire!
Leonhardt reported that the authors of an article titled “Clinical Outcomes Of A COVID-19 Vaccine: Implementation Over Efficacy” authored by A. David Paltiel, Jason L. Scwhartz, Amy Zhen and Rochelle Walensky (whom President-elect Joe Biden has chosen to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) projected:
Vaccines are not responsible for saving lives... people are responsible for saving lives! And there is still so much we can do, so much we must do, to reduce the transmission of this virus and to save lives!
As reported by NBC News, a recent White House Coronavirus Task Force document has stated, “The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring .” It goes on to say, “Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge.”
Yes, the vaccine will (hopefully) become an integral part of the answer to this pandemic. And we should be grateful to the many years and decades of extraordinary science as well as those dedicated scientists, past and present, that have contributed to this COVID-19 vaccine campaign. And the best way for us to show our appreciation for all of the life-saving work that has and will go into this amazing medical response is to simply do our part to flatten the curve (or curves)!
FLATTEN THE COVID-19 VIRUS CURVE!
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reminds us that “You Stop the Spread” by following these simple steps to protect the people in your life:
Wear a mask in public
Wear a cloth face covering in public settings, especially when it is difficult to practice physical distancing.
Keep 6 feet apart
Stay at least 6 feet away from other people when possible when you leave your home.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Stay home if you can
Stay at home as much as possible and especially if you are sick. Cancel events and avoid groups, gatherings, play dates, and nonessential appointments.
Flatten the COVID-19 Misinformation Curve!
In addition to the unfortunate spread of the virus throughout the year has been the spread of much misinformation about the virus! It was so bad, in fact, the World Health Organization has called it an “infodemic” (“a flood of information on the COVID-19 pandemic”). As responsible citizens, we must be careful in how we behave as it relates to the spread of the virus AND the spread of information related to the virus.
I came across a compelling graphic along with some good advice related to flattening the infodemic curve:
Due to COVID-19, most of us have a new word in our vocabulary: epidemiology. It is the branch of medical science that deals with the ways diseases are transmitted and can be controlled in a population. Now it is time to learn another new word: infodemiology.
As humans, we are a curious and innovative species. We want to understand the world around us and stay up to date on the challenges we face and how to overcome them. One of the ways we do this is by seeking out and sharing information – lots of it. Even scientists around the world are working hard to keep up with the thousands of studies that have come out since COVID-19 appeared.
But it is not only scientific studies. There are also official communications from governments and health agencies around the world. Then there are news articles and opinion pieces, and messages from vloggers, bloggers, podcasters and social media influencers. You may also see information shared by friends and family on social media or messaging apps.
All of this is called the infodemic: a flood of information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Infodemiology is the study of that information and how to manage it.
Here are seven steps you can take to navigate this wave of information and decide who and what to trust:
1. Assess the source
Who shared the information with you and where did they get it from? Even if it is friends or family, you still need to vet their source. To check for fake social media accounts, look at how long profiles have been active, their number of followers and their most recent posts. For websites, check the “About Us” and “Contact Us” pages to look for background information and legitimate contact details.
When it comes to images or videos, make it a habit to verify their authenticity. For images, you can use reverse image search tools provided by Google and TinEye. For videos, you can use Amnesty International's YouTube DatViewer, which extracts thumbnails that you can enter into reverse image search tools.
Other clues that a source may be unreliable or inaccurate include unprofessional visual design, poor spelling and grammar, or excessive use of all caps or exclamation points.
2. Go beyond headlines
Headlines may be intentionally sensational or provocative to get high numbers of clicks. Read more than just the headline of an article – go further and look at the entire story. Search more widely than social media for information – look at print sources such as newspapers and magazines, and digital sources such as podcasts and online news sites. Diversifying your sources allows you to get a better picture of what is or is not trustworthy.
3. Identify the author
Search the author’s name online to see if they are real or credible.
4. Check the date
When you come across information, ask yourself these questions: Is this a recent story? Is it up to date and relevant to current events? Has a headline, image or statistic been used out of context?
5. Examine the supporting evidence
Credible stories back up their claims with facts – for example, quotes from experts or links to statistics or studies. Verify that experts are reliable and that links actually support the story
6. Check your biases
We all have biases, and these factor into how we view what’s happening around us. Evaluate your own biases and why you may have been drawn to a particular headline or story. What is your interpretation of it? Why did you react to it that way? Does it challenge your assumptions or tell you what you want to hear? What did you learn about yourself from your interpretation or reaction?
7. Turn to fact-checkers
When in doubt, consult trusted fact-checking organizations, such as the International Fact-Checking Network and global news outlets focused on debunking misinformation, including the Associated Press and Reuters.
Remember: What we do can help stop the spread of the virus and what we say can help stop the spread of misinformation about the virus! Please be responsible!