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.

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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.

Scientists in China believe new drug can stop pandemic ‘without vaccine’

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A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the coronavirus pandemic to a halt.The outbreak first emerged in China late last year before spreading across the world, prompting an international race to find treatments and vaccines.

A drug being tested by scientists at China’s prestigious Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the virus, researchers say. Sunney Xie, director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP that the drug has been successful at the animal testing stage.

“When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” said Xie.”That means this potential drug has (a) therapeutic effect.”The drug uses neutralizing antibodies—produced by the human immune system to prevent the virus infecting cells—which Xie’s team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients.

A study on the team’s research, published Sunday in the scientific journal Cell, suggests that using the antibodies provides a potential “cure” for the disease and shortens recovery time.Sunney Xie, director of the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, told AFP that the drug has been successful at the animal testing stage

Xie said his team had been working “day and night” searching for the antibody.”Our expertise is single-cell genomics rather than immunology or virology. When we realised that the single-cell genomic approach can effectively find the neutralising antibody we were thrilled.”

He said he hopes that the drug will be ready for use later this year and in time for any potential winter outbreak of the virus, which has infected 4.8 million people around the world and killed more than 315,000.”Planning for the clinical trial is underway,” said Xie, adding it will be carried out in Australia and other countries since cases have dwindled in China, offering fewer human guinea pigs for testing.

“The hope is these neutralizing antibodies can become a specialized drug that would stop the pandemic,” he said.China already has five potential coronavirus vaccines at the human trial stage, a health official said last week.But the World Health Organization has warned that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. Sunney Xie said his team had been working “day and night” on the new drug.

Scientists have also pointed to the potential benefits of plasma—a blood fluid—from recovered individuals who have developed antibodies to the virus enabling the body’s defences to attack it.

More than 700 patients have received plasma therapy in China, a process which authorities said showed “very good therapeutic effects”.”However, it (plasma) is limited in supply,” Xie said, noting that the 14 neutralizing antibodies used in their drug could be put into mass production quickly.

Prevention and cure

Using antibodies in drug treatments is not a new approach, and it has been successful in treating several other viruses such as HIV, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Xie said his researchers had “an early start” since the outbreak started in China before spreading to other countries.

Ebola drug Remdesivir was considered a hopeful early treatment for COVID-19—clinical trials in the US showed it shortened the recovery time in some patients by a third—but the difference in mortality rate was not significant.More than 100 vaccines for COVID-19 are in the works globally. The new drug could even offer short-term protection against the virus.

The study showed that if the neutralising antibody was injected before the mice were infected with the virus, the mice stayed free of infection and no virus was detected.This may offer temporary protection for medical workers for a few weeks, which Xie said they are hoping to “extend to a few months”.

More than 100 vaccines for COVID-19 are in the works globally, but as the process of vaccine development is more demanding, Xie is hoping that the new drug could be a faster and more efficient way to stop the global march of the coronavirus.

“We would be able to stop the pandemic with an effective drug, even without a vaccine,” he said.

By Qian Ye and Matthew Knight

Source: https://medicalxpress.com

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Scientists Raise Questions About Moderna Vaccine In Market-Shaking Report

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Vaccine experts expressed skepticism about the Covid-19 vaccine trial results announced by biotech company Moderna on Monday, telling the medical publication Stat News that the company has yet to release significant data to support its claim that its drug successfully produced antibodies in human trials.

KEY FACTS

On Monday Moderna announced in a press release that “positive” data was collected from an early-stage human trial of a coronavirus vaccine, sending its stock valuation and the Dow Jones surging.

But two vaccine experts interviewed by Stat noted that Moderna has yet to publish its studies in scientific journals, and pointed out that the company disclosed results from only eight of the 45 subjects, meaning the majority of the outcomes remains unknown.

The Stat report sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling in its final hour of trading Tuesday afternoon as skepticism over the vaccine’s readiness hit the market.

The experts also noted the silence from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, Moderna’s partner in developing the vaccine, which declined to comment on the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company’s Monday announcement, which is abnormal for the institute that usually tauts its success, according to Stat.

“When a company like Moderna with such incredibly vast resources says they have generated SARS-2 neutralizing antibodies in a human trial, I would really like to see numbers from whatever assay they are using,” John “Jack” Rose, a vaccine researcher from Yale University, told Stat.

It remains unclear whether the Covid-19 antibodies produced by the body as a result of vaccination are as good as antibodies produced by the body from surviving coronavirus.

When Stat asked Moderna about this, they said antibody level information “will be disclosed in an eventual journal article from NIAID.”

Chief Critic

“It’s a bit of a concern that they haven’t published the results of any of their ongoing trials that they mention in their press release. They have not published any of that,” Johns Hopkins University vaccine researcher Anna Durbin told Stat.

Key Background

On Monday, Moderna announced “positive” results from an early-stage human trial of their preventative COVID-19 vaccine, driving stock market gains, which boosted Moderna’s market cap to a $29 billion valuation—without a single product on the market— according to Stat.

Moderna is expected to launch a phase 2 trial of the vaccine in the coming weeks, with phase three expected to occur in July. Moderna has yet to mention when the vaccine will be available to consumers. Though the company received $500 million in federal cash to bring the vaccine to market, and do so fast, according to Forbes. And the new co-chair of the White House vaccine project is Moncef Slaoui, a former Moderna executive, who reportedly divested his $12.4 million in Moderna stock options on Monday.

Moderna’s vaccine works by using mRNA (“messenger RNA”) that when injected, signals the body to produce Covid-19 antibodies without actually making the person sick from Covid-19. But there are over 100 other companies working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with eight (including Moderna) at the human trial phase, according to the World Health Organization.

Further Reading

Vaccine experts say Moderna didn’t produce data critical to assessing Covid-19 vaccine (Stat)

Moderna Reveals ‘Positive’ Data In Coronavirus Vaccine Trial, Markets Spike (Forbes)

FDA ‘Fast Tracks’ First Coronavirus Vaccine From Moderna (Forbes)

Fueled By $500 Million In Federal Cash, Moderna Races To Make A Billion Doses Of An Unproven Cure (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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I’m the Under 30 Editorial Community Lead at Forbes. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamsternlicht.

Source: https://www.forbes.com

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