These European Countries Are Launching Vaccine Passports

It’s becoming clearer that in the not-too-distant future, international travelers will require some sort of vaccine passport or vaccine certificate, as a growing number of countries get behind the idea. The appeal is that these documents would allow countries to clear travelers upon entry without the need for quarantining and testing requirements.

While the United States government has not yet indicated support for a vaccine passport, there are signs that the new administration is pondering it.

United States has revealed  200-page national pandemic strategy with seven goals aimed at ending the Covid-19 pandemic. Buried deep in the report, on page 181, is a directive for multiple government agencies to work together to “assess the feasibility” of linking Covid-19 vaccinations to international vaccination certificates and producing electronic versions of them.

Over the past few weeks in Europe, vaccine certification programs have been building up a head of steam.

The United Kingdom is preparing a certification system that would allow inoculated citizens to travel abroad this summer, reported the London Times today. British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Today program it was “not an uncommon practice” for countries to require documentation on inoculations and that the UK government would work with international partners on this.

Last month, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, said that she supports creating a common EU-established vaccination certificate that can be issued by member states to their citizens. Von der Leyen even suggested that such a certificate should be a “medical requirement.”

She was responding to a letter from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in which he called upon the European Commission to introduce a standardized coronavirus vaccination certificate to facilitate travel within the European Union bloc.

While they wait for an EU-wide vaccination certificate to become available, some European Union member states are already or will soon be issuing their own certificates to citizens who have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

On January 21, Iceland became the first European country to provide Covid-19 vaccination certificates to citizens who have received two doses of the vaccine. Iceland will recognize similar vaccination certificates that are issued from any EU or Schengen country.

This week, two other Nordic countries, Denmark and Sweden, announced they will also roll out digital passports that will not only allow citizens to travel but also dine out in restaurants and attend large in-person events like concerts and festivals. “It will be the extra passport that you will be able to have on your mobile phone that documents that you have been vaccinated,” said Danish Finance Minister Morten Boedskov. Sweden’s minister for digital development, Anders Ygeman, said his country hoped to be issuing its first electronic certificates in June.

Spain is also bullish on the health passport idea. “Vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably,” said Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez during an interview on RNE national radio last month. “It will be a very important element to guarantee a safe return to mobility.”

And at a meeting with the European Commission, Portugal’s Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita ventured that vaccine certification would be easier to manage than the current Covid-19 requirements. Certificates “should act as proof of security and do away with certain requirements at borders — in particular, the requirement for PCR tests,” he said.

Cyprus is on the same wavelength. The Mediterranean island nation announced that it will abolish health requirements like testing and quarantine for travelers who could prove they had been vaccinated.

Poland also launched a digital vaccine passport last month. Citizens who get two doses of the vaccine receive a confirmation document with a unique QR code that is downloadable only from the traveler’s personal public health account. A printed version is available to those who do not have smartphones. “The document will be the so-called passport of the vaccinated person, which will confirm that the person has been vaccinated and can use the rights to which vaccinated people are entitled,” Anna Golawska, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Health, told reporters.

If a country-by-country solution sounds scattershot and cumbersome, the World Health Organizaton (WHO) is also working on a vaccine certification solution that can roll out on a global scale. The WHO’s position is that vaccine passports would be an improvement over current Covid-19 testing protocols and so-called immunity passports, which certify that someone has recovered from the illness and has antigens.

Since October, the WHO has been working with Estonia to develop a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate using blockchain technology that they are calling a “smart yellow card,” reported Reuters. The play on words is a 21st-century wink at the old-school paper-based International Certificate of Vaccination, more popularly known as the “yellow card,” which has for decades provided world travelers with analog proof that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever.

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Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, and spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology. As a longtime freelance travel writer, I’ve contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel + Leisure, Afar, Reader’s Digest, TripSavvy, Parade, NBCNews.com, Good Housekeeping, Parents, Parenting, Esquire, Newsweek, The Boston Globe and scores of other outlets. Follow me on Instagram (@suzannekelleher) and Flipboard (@SRKelleher).

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The Sun

THE UK is developing a “vaccine passport” system as Greece prepares to let in tourists who have had the Covid jab. Officials at the Foreign Office are working on plans to provide Brits who have been vaccinated with an official document so they can travel to countries which may demand proof of inoculation as a condition of entry, The Times reports.

TRIP AD-PFIZER Vaccine passports to allow Brits who have had Covid jab to go on summer holidays ‘planned by Government’ https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1395542…​ From Brexit breaking news to HD movie trailers, The Sun newspaper brings you the latest news videos and explainers from the UK and around the world. Become a Sun Subscriber and hit the bell to be the first to know Read The Sun: http://www.thesun.co.uk​ Like The Sun on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesun/​ Follow The Sun on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheSun​ Subscribe to The Sun on Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/discover/The…

Cyber Attackers Leaked Covid-19 Vaccine Data After EU Hack

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reported that some of the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that was stolen during a cyber-attack in early December 2020 was released online illegally shortly after the attack. 

The leak was discovered during an investigation that was launched into the attack by the EMA and law enforcement. It is claimed that evidence of the stolen data was found on various hacking forums as early as 31 December. The EMA stated yesterday (13 January) that action is being taken by authorities.

The EMA is a decentralized agency responsible for evaluating, monitoring and supervising new medicines introduced to the EU. As such, it is accountable for approving any COVID-19 vaccines. On 9 December 2020, the EMA released a statement alerting that it had been subject to the cyber-attack. 

Pfizer and BioNTech then released a joint statement outlining the nature of the breach: “Today, we were informed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that the agency has been subject to a cyber-attack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed.”

At the time, it was concluded that only a small number of documents had been accessed, limited to a single IT application as the hackers targeted data relating specifically to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Nevertheless, according to sources on technology and cybersecurity website BleepingComputer, the threat actors accessed Word documents, PDFs, email screenshots, PowerPoint presentations and EMA peer review comments.

The EMA assured that, despite the breach, its regulatory network is fully operational and that the evaluation and approval of COVID-19 medicines have not been affected by the incident.

THE LARGER PICTURE

The breach of the EMA server is not the only cyber-attack related to COVID-19 vaccines. There has been increasing concern about the safe deployment of the vaccine as cybercriminals attack the vaccine “cold chain”, launching what has been called a “global phishing campaign” against organizations responsible for the transport and sub-zero storage of the vaccine, supposedly in an attempt to gain unauthorized access to private credentials and sensitive information regarding the vaccine’s distribution.

Experian also released a report at the end of 2020 warning of the potential security risks that accompany the technological diversification in healthcare affected by COVID-19. It highlighted the potential risks of overlooking cybersecurity and the increased possibility of misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, while Dr Saif Abed also outlined the challenges of cybersecurity during the global mass rollout of the vaccine in a blog for Healthcare IT News.

ON THE RECORD

Responding to the announcement, chief security officer at Cybereason, Sam Curry, called security breaches surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine “diabolical”.

He continued: “Hackers today still see COVID-19 as a strategically valuable asset and it’s likely they will for the foreseeable future. Kudos to the pharma and research companies for working with law enforcement agencies to face these threats head on with advanced cyber tools and improved security hygiene. These companies face a new reality each and every day that motivated hackers will be successful every time they attempt to hack a company because they are well funded and are looking to reap both financial and political fame.

As the protection surface expands to mobile, the cloud and other potential attack vectors, those companies that can detect a breach quickly and understand as much as possible about the hacking operation itself, will be able to stop the threat and minimize or eliminate the risk all together.”

By Sophie Porter

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Bloomberg Quicktake: Now

Hackers posted confidential documents regarding Covid-19 medicines and vaccines on the internet after a data breach late last year at the European Medicines Agency. Timelines related to evaluating and approving Covid medicines and vaccines haven’t been affected, the EMA said in a statement on Tuesday. The agency said it remains fully functional and that law enforcement authorities are taking action on the breach. Caught up in the hack were some documents submitted by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE during regulatory review of their vaccine, approved last month.

The EMA said it would notify any additional entities and individuals whose documents and personal data may have been subject to unauthorized access. Pfizer shares fell 2.2% in New York, with BioNTech’s American depositary receipts down 5.1%. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm Bloomberg Quicktake brings you live global news and original shows spanning business, technology, politics and culture. Make sense of the stories changing your business and your world. To watch complete coverage on Bloomberg Quicktake 24/7, visit http://www.bloomberg.com/qt/live, or watch on Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Fire TV and Android TV on the Bloomberg app. Have a story to tell? Fill out this survey for a chance to have it featured on Bloomberg Quicktake: https://cor.us/surveys/27AF30 Connect with us on… YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bloomberg Breaking News on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BloombergQu… Twitter: https://twitter.com/quicktake Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/quicktake Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quicktake

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FDA Offers Tips To Avoid Coronavirus Vaccine Scams

Americans are anxiously anticipating approval and public distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate the masses and return to normalcy — and scammers are standing by.

Government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Homeland Security, and Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings to Americans to be wary of groups or individuals offering COVID-19 vaccines or cures because a vaccine has yet to be approved by the FDA.

So far, the FDA has only approved the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, some people and companies are trying to profit from the challenge of this pandemic by selling unproven products that make false claims, such as being effective against COVID-19,” according to a public service announcement from the FDA. “These fraudulent products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness and might be dangerous to you and your family.”

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid falling victim, according to the FDA and the Department of Homeland Security, as reported by the AP:

  • Products marketed for veterinary use, or “for research use only,” or otherwise not for human consumption, have not been evaluated for safety and should never be used by humans.
  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • “Miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs or contain secret ingredients, are likely a hoax.
  • Always consult a licensed medical professional to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.
  • Make sure your doctor has been approved to administer the vaccine.
  • Do not buy COVID-19 vaccines or treatments over the internet or through an online pharmacy.
  • Ignore large, unsolicited offers for vaccinations and miracle treatments or cures.
  • Don’t respond to text messages, emails, or calls about vaccines and treatments.
  • Be wary of ads for vaccines and treatments on social media.

The FDA is working to protect Americans from these “unapproved products with false or misleading claims about COVID-19” by issuing warning letters and pursuing seizures, injunctions, or criminal prosecutions against products, firms, or individuals who violate the law.

Similarly, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Monday it’s launching new efforts to find and prevent the production, sale, and distribution of unapproved or unauthorized COVID-19 products and drugs.

AdChoices

“Special agents anticipate that criminal organizations will continue to adapt and capitalize on public demand for access to vaccines and treatments as they are developed and approved,” according to an ICE press statement. “With that, the agency expects a surge in illicit attempts to introduce counterfeit versions of approved vaccines into U.S. and global marketplaces.”

This type of criminal activity is not new during the pandemic.

Shortly after the country went into lockdown this spring to stave off the spread of the coronavirus, fraudsters jumped to action, trying to make a buck off the unwitting and anxious. Scammers then peddled highly-coveted items like PPE, test kits, hand sanitizer, and alleged antidotes, while others intercepted stimulus checks.

Read more: Coronavirus stimulus check scams: How to avoid becoming a victim

Since the pandemic’s outset, over 257,800 fraudulent coronavirus-related reports have been filed, amounting to an estimated $190 million in losses, according to the FTC. The majority of activity comes from online shopping and the FTC has come down on counterfeit websites claiming to sell cleaning products, sending over 300 warning letters to companies profiting off of spurious claims and purported COVID treatments.

The Better Business Bureau also issued a warning last month about text and email messages to enroll in phony clinical COVID-19 studies. The message would advertise compensation of up to $1,000 and more if you click on the link to register. The link would either download malware onto your computer or phone or send you to a registration page asking for your personal information.

“No matter how curious you are — or how much you could use an extra $1,200 — don’t click,” the BBB warned. “It’s a scam!”

Stephanie Asymkos is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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CBS This Morning

The Justice Department has filed its first enforcement action against alleged coronavirus fraud. It obtained a temporary restraining order Sunday against the website coronavirusmedicalkit.com. Prosecutors say the site claimed to offer consumers access to vaccine kits from the World Health Organization, but there are currently no vaccines for the disease. Anna Werner joins “CBS This Morning” to explain how to avoid the scam and others like it. Watch “CBS This Morning” HERE: http://bit.ly/1T88yAR Download the CBS News app on iOS HERE: https://apple.co/1tRNnUy Download the CBS News app on Android HERE: https://bit.ly/1IcphuX Like “CBS This Morning” on Facebook HERE: http://on.fb.me/1LhtdvI Follow “CBS This Morning” on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Xj5W3p Follow “CBS This Morning” on Instagram HERE: http://bit.ly/1Q7NGnY Get new episodes of shows you love across devices the next day, stream local news live, and watch full seasons of CBS fan favorites anytime, anywhere with CBS All Access. Try it free! http://bit.ly/1OQA29B Each weekday morning, “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil deliver two hours of original reporting, breaking news and top-level newsmaker interviews in an engaging and informative format that challenges the norm in network morning news programs. The broadcast has earned a prestigious Peabody Award, a Polk Award, four News & Documentary Emmys, three Daytime Emmys and the 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast. The broadcast was also honored with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award as part of CBS News division-wide coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Check local listings for “CBS This Morning” broadcast times.

Why Scientists & 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.

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.

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 2014 for outright lying to the public about their emissions. By 2019, the company topped its prescandal sales record of 2014.

We accept these occasionally fatal flaws and ethical missteps because cars are essential to our lives. The documented safety record of vaccines is staggering, not unlike the impressive safety record boasted by most automobiles on the road today.

Why do vaccines get special scrutiny? Have scientists and health care providers engaged in scientific snobbery by assuming people should do what we advise, without question or any decision-making process? Can scientists and health care providers communicate the good and positive (and bad) background of vaccines better? Has social media sown doubt in an authority that can be perceived to be overconfident? Personal health care decisions have a lasting impact on our kids and our families, so let’s rise to the occasion and utilize this unique opportunity to reframe the conversation about vaccines.

Embrace shared decision-making

The existence of a little-known but critical government office both acknowledges past problems with some vaccines and also provides a method of recourse for those injured by vaccines. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, launched in the 1980s, is a powerful tool for transparency and accountability that should help shape this important, shared decision-making process. For example, between 2006 and 2018 over 3.7 billion doses of covered vaccines were distributed in the U.S. During this same period, 5,233 filed petitions to this office were compensated out of a total of 7,482 petitions. This means that for every 1 million vaccine doses distributed, one individual received compensation.

Rather than brushing off concerns among parents and others who are concerned about safety, experts should listen. When they do talk, they should explain safety issues and should use metaphors such as the safety of vehicles and other medical breakthroughs (e.g., insulin, heart valve surgery) so often relied upon in an effort to work toward the same goal together as a country, and as health care provider and patient.

Experts should acknowledge that the practice of medicine and public health research is a relatively new field of science to drive public health, medical practice advancement and policies when compared to other, far more established scientific disciplines such as physics or chemistry. Building public support requires more than citing solid evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Owning up to setbacks in vaccine development that the current administration may be on the brink of repeating – and then making the necessary repairs to move forward again, as the auto manufacturers do – also builds confidence. AstraZeneca’s public announcement about a serious adverse event in one of their trials, which led to a pause of participant enrollment, was a great first step.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that all parties want to achieve the same end goal of a healthy, safe return to daily life. Despite the explosion of misinformation about COVID-19, a clear, consistent and respectful approach can reset the vaccine conversation.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

Next, let’s acknowledge that vaccines are not now and have not been 100% perfect (nor is any medicine or car). We should also note that the same science that produces vaccines also produces myriad breakthroughs in specialties such as cardiology and oncology, along with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen that mitigate minor ailments but also have limitations and warning labels.

Finally, invite skeptics to a conversation and acknowledge up front that, like any other scientific advancement of things that now work, there was a time when they didn’t work as well, or at all.

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.

By: Sterling M. McPherson/ Associate Professor, Director and Assistant Dean for Research, Washington State University

Erica Weintraub Austin/ Professor and Director, Edward R. Murrow Center for Media & Health Promotion Research, Washington State University

Porismita Borah/Associate Professor, health communication, Washington State University

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CBC News: The National

Misinformation about vaccines have public health officials in Canada looking for guidance on how to combat medical mistrust. As CBC’s Katie Nicholson reports, the answers they are looking for might be half a world away. »»» Subscribe to The National to watch more videos here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CBCTheNa… Voice Your Opinion & Connect With Us Online: The National Updates on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thenational The National Updates on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBCTheNational »»» »»» »»» »»» »»» The National is CBC Television’s flagship news program. Airing six days a week, the show delivers news, feature documentaries and analysis from some of Canada’s leading journalists.

Covid Vaccine Frontrunner Moderna Says Vaccine Won’t Be Approved Until Spring 2021

Pharmaceutical company Moderna, one of the companies in the lead pack in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, won’t be in a position to widely distribute it until at least next spring, CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times, echoing public health experts who predict a similar timeline for other vaccine candidates.

Key Facts

“November 25 is the time we will have enough safety data to be able to put into an emergency use authorization file that we would send to the FDA,” Bancel said, adding that an approval wouldn’t be expected until late first quarter or early second quarter of 2021.

The timeline matches up with what public health experts have previously laid out, which is that a vaccine could be found to be safe and effective by the end of the year at the earliest but widespread distribution wouldn’t occur until further into 2021.

One of the frontrunners to develop a safe vaccine first, Moderna earlier in the month said it was slowing its trial enrollment to ensure it was representing disproportionately affected minority groups but later added it could have enough data by November to know if its vaccine candidate works.

The comments follow Trump’s claim during Tuesday’s U.S. presidential debate that, “We’re weeks away from a vaccine,” citing Moderna as well as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer is another frontrunner—Johnson & Johnson are further behind their late-stage clinical trials—and while its CEO Albert Bourla said it will have an “answer” by the end of October on its candidate’s efficacy, a spokesperson for the company later told the New York Times that Pfizer wouldn’t be close to the completion of its clinical trial by then.

There are currently 11 vaccines in expansive Phase 3 clinical trials, according to data from the Times.

Chief Critic

Trump has pushed the notion that a vaccine will be ready before the November election, fueling fear in the U.S. that anything approved could have been rushed. Even with wide distribution of a vaccine, the upwards of 60% to 70% will need to be immunized to put an end to the pandemic. That could take until 2022, according to billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates and Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief science officer.

Key Background

A Covid-19 vaccine is being developed at an unprecedented speed, with a typical immunization taking 10 years to develop, test, approve and distribute. The U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 7,221,278, as well as reported deaths with 206,693. In total, there are 33,802,841 global infections and 1,010,477 deaths.

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Matt Perez

Matt Perez

I cover breaking news and also report on the video game industry. I previously wrote for sites like IGN, Polygon, Red Bull eSports, Kill Screen, Playboy and PC Gamer. I also managed a YouTube gaming channel under the name strummerdood. I graduated with a BA in journalism from Rowan University and interned at Philadelphia Magazine. You can follow me on Twitter @mattryanperez.

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