August 16, 2020: Roundup & Myth Busting
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Table of Contents
Intro and Disclaimer
QM would like to help you make sense of information being circulated by: 1. Translating data into digestible language, 2. Dispelling misconceptions and linking to evidence, and 3. Curating relevant data, and articles on a weekly basis. Our Round Up/ Mythbusting projects are intended to help our QM family make sense of information being circulated. Taking control of our health as a queer community includes making institutional knowledge accessible to the public.
Disclaimer: Although this information has been evaluated and determined to be accurate by Queering Medicine (QM), we at QM do not want to give the impression that we are the sole gatekeepers of medical knowledge. As a collective, QM members bring professional and personal qualifications that allow us to research and share credible knowledge. Our goals for this weekly round up and myth busting is to translate data into digestible information, dispel misinformation, and curate relevant data for the Lansing queer community. We encourage the community to question knowledge found outside of reputable sources, however, Queering Medicine will gladly help facilitate this process. If evidence or recommendations change, or any inaccuracies are found, we will correct them and explain the changes. If you have any questions about our methodology and sources, or you would like to point out any inaccuracies, please let us know!
Russia Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Without Determining Effectiveness or Safety
On August 11, 2020, President Vladmir Putin and Russia’s Health Ministry announced that Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine, named “Sputnik V.” Russia is not ahead of other countries in vaccine research: There are several vaccines currently being developed around the world that are further along than Russia’s, but Russia is skipping a critical phase of research, and has approved a vaccine which has not yet been determined to be effective or safe.
This announcement was met with outrage and calls to postpone the approval by Russia’s Association of Clinical Trials Organization as well as numerous international entities. The vaccine that was approved did not yet go to Phase 3 trials, the phase in clinical trials which generally includes human trials with several thousand or more people to look for how effective the drug or vaccine is, as well as to look for any potential harmful side effects. This step is crucial in determining whether a drug or vaccine will work and is safe, and usually takes a year or more.
In a recent survey conducted by the Doctor’s Handbook app which collected about 3,000 Russian Medical professional’s responses, just over half stated they would not take the vaccine, and about two-thirds stated that there was not sufficient evidence to support the efficacy of the vaccine. Without proper research, there is potential for harm in those given the vaccine (and potentially no benefit), and Russia is looking to vaccinate medical care providers first, adding additional risks to the situation. If the vaccine has significant negative side effects, it could dramatically reduce the country’s ability to care for the sick, as any negative side effects would impact health care providers first. Instead of testing the vaccine in a controlled study on willing participants, health care providers and other segments of the population would effectively be the test subjects.
In addition, there are at least six vaccines that are in Phase 3 trials around the world, and most agree that Russia’s approval is premature. WIthout proper testing and research, drugs and vaccines can not only be ineffective, giving a false sense of security, but they can also be harmful due to unknown side effects. More information is needed before this vaccine will be proven to be effective and safe or not.
Scientists Uneasy as Russia Approves 1st Coronavirus Vaccine|
Russia’s Fast-track Coronavirus Vaccine Draws Outrage
Half of Russia’s Medics Won’t Take Newly Approved Coronavirus Vaccine
Everything you Need to know about Russia’s Approved Coronavirus Vaccine
It’s Not Safe to Socialize Without a Mask!
People have increasingly ignored the presence of COVID-19 and the risks it presents, getting together with family and friends to socialize and spreading the virus to their loved ones in the process. The message needs to be stated and restated: It is not safe to be within 6 feet of people from outside your household or to take off your mask when around other people from outside your household. You may feel safe among family and friends, but the virus doesn’t care about your trust, your love, or your feelings. The way to show that you care about them is by not putting them at risk, and not having them put you at risk. Even if you think everyone is low-risk, remember that being low risk doesn’t mean being immune, and also remember that anyone can be an asymptomatic carrier, and that one person getting infected when you hang out with them can spread it to others later, and put your entire community at risk.
You have two choices: Stay 6+ feet away from people you don't live with and wear a mask whenever you leave your home, or put yourself and others at risk of becoming sick and potentially dying from COVID-19. Some people have no choice, due to their job or other factors (more likely to impact people of color and other marginalized groups), but people voluntarily gathering with others and not sticking to COVID-19 safety rules constitute an unnecessary risk. Isolation is very hard to endure, but you can socialize and support each other safely: Keep your distance and wear a mask. Don’t let your guard down and potentially end up being the reason that someone you love becomes sick or dies, and don’t make someone else bear the weight of being the reason you become sick or die.
"If You Love Your Family, Stay the Hell Away From Them"
Calls for defunding police have been loud across the country, particularly by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, and some large cities have begun to take steps in that direction, reducing police budgets and increasing investments in communities. Most of the cuts have been far smaller than activists have called for, and many are the result of COVID-19-related budget shortfalls, rather than a desire to change approaches to public safety.
Austin, Texas unanimously voted to cut $150 million from its $434 million police budget (34.5%) and reinvest most in social programs, violence prevention, and food access.
New York City cut $1 billion from its $11 billion police budget (9%), including over $350 million to be reallocated to mental health, homelessness, and education.
Los Angeles, California is cutting $150 million of its $1.86 billion police budget (8%).
Portland, Oregon cut $16 million from its $245 million police budget (6.5%).
San Francisco, California is cutting $60 million from its police and sheriff's budgets (6.3%), and plans to reinvest it into Black communities, focused on mental health, homelessness, education, youth services, job programs, and social workers.
Washington, D.C. cut $32 million from its $601 million police budget (5.3%), with much of that planned to go to public safety efforts not controlled by the police department.
Oakland, California cut $14.6 million from its $300 million police budget (4.9%).
Baltimore, Maryland cut $22 million from its $550 million police budget (4%).
Norman, Oklahoma cut $865,000 from its $23 million police budget (3.8%).
Seattle, Washington has cut nearly $11 million from its $400 million police budget over the next year (2.75%). Earlier proposals had called for a 50% reduction in the police budget, and the police chief has resigned over the change.
Hartford, Connecticut cut $1 million from its $40 million police budget (2.5%).
Salt Lake City, Utah cut its police budget by $2.5 million, investing that money instead into social workers who will be housed in the police department. An additionally $2.8 million of the police budget has been put on hold.
"At Least 13 Cities Are Defunding Their Police Departments"
"San Francisco Mayor Breed Budget Redirects $120 Million From Law Enforcement To Black Community"
"Seattle police chief announces her retirement after city council votes to cut the police budget by nearly $4 million"
COVID-19 Immunity May Last Three Months
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated quarantine guidelines to say that people who have recovered from COVID-19 do not need to get tested again or quarantine after close contacts with others who are positive for COVID-19 for three months after their initial infection, as long as they are not experiencing symptoms. This recommendation is based on current knowledge of the initial immune response to COVID-19 as well as a lack of evidence of reinfection in this window of time. People who experience a recurrence of symptoms within three months of initial infection should work with their doctor to better understand the underlying cause. As our understanding of the immune response develops, quarantine recommendations may be updated.
To read the quarantine recommendations for various scenarios and to see examples, click here.
Update on This Topic
The CDC has since clarified its point on this matter. For more information about the update, please click this link.
Regular Vaccinations (non-COVID) are Still Necessary!
The COVID-19 pandemic has applied increased strain on public health efforts to maintain herd immunity to a variety of other diseases. It is critical for families to continue to follow their vaccination schedules to preserve the immune protection that has been built for their child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians make every effort to work with their patients to have appropriate access to care, clear guidance, and continued follow-up to ensure continuity of care.
Herd immunity (community immunity): A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely. Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and those with chronic illnesses) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community. (CDC Definition)
We are approaching the fall and winter seasons. This generally means an increase in exposure to viral illnesses like Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza (Flu), Parainfluenza, and Rhinovirus (Colds), to name a few. These are common pathogens that we come across every year. Data is still not clear how these common viral illnesses will impact community health as we struggle to fight against COVID-19.
Wearing a mask will protect you from spreading and acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19 and will also help protect against many common fall and winter viruses.
Continue to wash your hands and practice social distancing
While children who become ill with COVID-19 generally have better outcomes than adults, this does not mean they cannot become sick or acutely ill with the other viruses in the approaching season.
“Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools in the history of public health, and more children are now being immunized than ever before,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “But the pandemic has put those gains at risk.”
Fact-Checking Links Between Mask Wearing and Child Trafficking
Some people have suggested that mask wearing is linked to increases in child trafficking.
There has been no evidence thus far linking the two issues together. While child trafficking is an important and real issue, the anti-mask information has been criticized for conflating two issues as being related, without any evidence. Some sources have also stated that spreading such information has increased the amount of false information being received by those who combat human and sex trafficking, further impeding their work. This can also take away attention and effort that is needed for actual victims of human and sex trafficking.
There is some evidence that child trafficking will increase during the pandemic, however it is not linked to mask wearing but rather the exacerbation of systemic issues that make vulnerable people and communities even more so. Often, vulnerable children who are trafficked are lured and/or groomed by adults, and most children who go missing are found and returned to their families.
The statistics often reported about missing children can be very misleading. Over 90% of missing child cases are children that have run away from home (not abducted or kidnapped), and 99% are located and reunited with their families. For children that are abducted, most are taken by a family member (often a non-custodial parent). Abductions by nonfamily members represent less than 1% of missing child cases. Numbers are also inflated when the number of cases is reported—if a child runs away multiple times, they count as multiple cases.
While child trafficking is an important issue that deserves attention, concern, and resources, misunderstanding or misrepresenting the issue or trying to draw connections to largely unrelated factors undermines efforts to protect children.
Mask Wearing Not Connected to Child Trafficking
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Key Facts
COVID-19 Impact on Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking
Does Wearing a Mask Make Children More Vulnerable to Sex Trafficking?
Children Testing Positive for COVID-19
Data is beginning to show that children do become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. While many of the children who are infected may not get critically ill, they are still able to transfer the virus to others. If we do not respond with appropriate safety measures, this will put those who are considered vulnerable (elderly, chronically ill, and immunocompromised) at higher risk of worse health outcomes. The increase in numbers may be due to an increase in the testing of more children and changing definitions of what a “child” is defined as. Numbers may also be incomplete due to under-reporting and varied cooperation from state to state.
Many of our QM family have children and we understand the uncertainty of being able to return to school in a safe manner is weighing heavily on them. We recommend that regardless of the return to in-person instruction in your district that you become aware of what safety measures are being taken to protect your child. It is important that we do not assume children are immune or that they cannot become ill. Children over the age of 2 should be encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Winter Will Bring Increased Challenges
Experts are increasingly concerned with the high number of COVID-19 cases across the U.S., and the growing sense that more and more people are becoming tired of taking the necessary precautions to prevent transmission of the virus. The risk associated with these trends, according to experts, is that the country is losing a valuable window of time — the summer — to contain the virus. During summer months, people are more likely to participate in outdoor activities. Outdoor activities typically pose a lesser risk of infection because there are greater opportunities to social distance, with the exception of large gatherings and other behaviors that might increase risk. However, as the school year starts up again, and as the seasons change, opportunities for distancing will decrease at events and situations in which people congregate. In some parts of the country, as winter approaches, inclement weather will mean many outdoor activities stop, pushing people indoors where there is less space to spread out, and increasing the risk for transmission. Even in parts of the country where the weather is less severe, as the temperature cools social adaptations like outdoor seating at restaurants will likely be harder to maintain. Complicating the situation will be the onset of flu season, which will make it difficult to determine who may have COVID-19 and who doesn’t. If a vaccine for COVID-19 is ready in the early part of 2021, it is also unlikely that enough people will be vaccinated to provide herd immunity quickly.
The idea that summer might be a key time to contain the virus was also tied to early predictive models of viral transmission that suggested the heat and humidity of summer might help limit the spread of infection by deteriorating the virus at quicker rates. However, it is becoming clear that a lack of effective social distancing, low immunity, and high infection rates outweigh weather factors in the spread of the virus.
QM Public Health Crisis Round-Up Team (in no particular order):
Mauricio Franco (he/him/his), M.S.- Global Medicine, Third year medical student.
Andrew-Huy Dang (he/him/his), Third year medical student, B.S. Microbiology.
Wyatt Shoemaker (he/him/his), Third year medical student.
Antonio Flores (he/him/his), Second year medical student, B.S. Public Health Sciences.
Daniel Pfau (they/them/theirs), Neuroscience PhD, Biological Sciences MS, Homeschool Teacher.
Francis Yang (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, First year medical student.
Kryssia Campos (she/her/hers), First year medical student.
Alessandra Daskalakis (she/her/hers): First year medical student, B.S. Biology, B.A. Comparative Literature
Vanessa Burnett (she/her/hers) M.P.H; Health Equity Consultant, Michigan Public Health Institute
Wilfredo Flores (he/him/his), M.A. Technical Communication
Grey L. Pierce (they/them); M.A., Cognitive Psychology; Assistant Director, Michigan State University (MSU) Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting; Project Manager, State of the State Survey, MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research