Harvard professor Barry R. Bloom on Covid-19, Vaccination and Trust
Interview with Harvard Professor Barry R. Bloom. He speaks about trust and public health aspects and of the Covid-19 virus vaccines, their development, and distribution, about the differences with developing vaccines against diseases like polio, influenza, and pneumonia. He blames social media for causing distrust as people think that science has been fast in producing a vaccine in just 11 months since we first experienced the virus. He points out that more than 10 years of investment in science are underlying the new vaccines (“there is no vaccine for misinformation”).
From a public-health perspective, the nationalistic races between countries that can vaccinate first are completely irrelevant. Vaccination is not just a matter of implementation as careful research and data are necessary to keep up with new mutants of the vaccine, as are questions about who can produce the vaccines, syringes, and other equipment and who can effectively distribute the vaccines and who can do coaching, and providing information on who gets the first and second shot, all things that are very tough to organize, due to the fact that each state and country have their own health systems. This requires a lot of planning, which is not a trivial undertaking.
The new mutant variations of the virus that appeared in the UK, South Africa, Nigeria and parts of Europe lead us into a “Darwinian game”. Those vaccine variants may cause a dramatic rise in infections, but the good news is that given current science pharma companies need potentially as short as 6 weeks to produce new vaccines that protect against those new virus mutations.
Public health is good at dealing with science and molecular biology and genetic engineering, but where it is not so good at is the science of human behavior. His biggest concern is how local and national leaders can inspire trust while facing distrust anywhere in the world and how they might be unable to motivate people to change their behavior and to protect themselves and everyone else and at the same time realize that until everyone is protected we all remain susceptible to the virus.
Listen to the interview on the TrustTalk podcast
“Apollo’s Arrow,” by Nicholas Christakis, is a useful contribution to this initial wave of Covid books, sensible and comprehensive, intelligent and well sourced, albeit a little programmatic and dull. (Touching on past pandemics and epidemics, as well as our current crisis, the book takes its title from those terrible arrows, representing plague, that Apollo rained down on the Greeks in Book 1 of the “Iliad.”) It’s a broad survey, not a deep dive, and sweeps across most of the signal topics: the inept early responses to the outbreak, first in China and then in the United States; the back story of modern pandemics and pandemic threats, notably the 1918 influenza and SARS in 2003; the social shutdowns, the mask issue and the tension between civil liberties and public health; the grief, fear and lies that make a pandemic emotionally as well as medically punishing; the social and economic changes, forced by this virus, that may become permanent; the general question of how plagues end and the specific, more speculative question of how this one might.”
For a full transcript of the interview with Harvard professor Barry R. Bloom, see the PDF below. You can also download the PDF here
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