Peter Hotez/Daily Beast:
Biden Battles a Triple-Headed Monster on Vaccines
This week, the Biden administration recognized how misinformation contributes to the staggering public health impact of COVID-19, with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issuing his first advisory, warning about the power of vaccine myths when they are amplified on social media sites, and the president himself warning about the spread of misinformation and calling on tech and social media companies in general, and Facebook in particular, to work harder to limit it. …
Finally, there are the state actors. Both U.S. and British intelligence have called out the Russian government for its effort to flood our media and internet with anti-science messages and activities. In the U.S., they often operate through propaganda arms such as Russia Today or Sputnik News to create wedge issues. Anti-science is not their only approach but is one that dominates.
Bottom line: This monster is much bigger and formidable than Facebook or social media.
David A Graham/Atlantic:
Suddenly, Conservatives Care About Vaccines
A number of leaders on the right suddenly urged their audiences to get vaccinated in the past day. Why now?
Conservatives are not necessarily vaccine-hesitant, to paraphrase John Stuart Mill, but most vaccine-hesitant Americans are conservatives. Resistance to vaccines has been concentrated among Republican voters, and led by GOP politicians and various leading lights in conservative media.
And that makes the past day or so one of the stranger stretches in recent pandemic politics.
Whatever the reason, the shift is welcome. Researchers such as Brendan Nyhan have noted that trusted messengers can be effective in breaking down vaccine hesitancy. As my colleague Daniel Engber writes, vaccination rates have tumbled “because we’re running out of people who think vaccines will save their lives.” Although the number of Americans who have received or want to receive a vaccine has risen somewhat, opinions also seem to have hardened over time. Such blunt messages might have been more influential this spring. Even if audiences heed the call now, it will take time for their vaccines to have an effect.
Growing number of Republicans urge vaccinations amid delta surge
A growing number of top Republicans are urging GOP supporters to get vaccinated as the delta coronavirus variant surges across the United States, marking a notable shift away from the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorizing that has gripped much of the party in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the virus.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was part of the rising chorus on Tuesday, stressing the need for unvaccinated Americans to receive coronavirus shots and warning that the country could reverse its progress in moving on from the pandemic.
Mask mandates make a return — along with controversy
A growing number of experts call for a resumption of measures, citing hyper-transmissable delta variant
Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear masks in most settings, a growing number of experts are warning it’s time to put them back on.
First, there was Los Angeles County, where the rising menace posed by the delta variant of the coronavirus prompted health officials to reimpose a mask mandate. Then, Bay Area health officers on Friday recommended that residents of seven counties and the city of Berkeley, Calif., resume wearing masks indoors. Mask mandates are being discussed, too, in coronavirus hot spots such as Arkansas and Missouri, where cases have sharply increased in recent weeks and many residents remain unvaccinated.
“Universal masking indoors is a way of taking care of each other while we get more people vaccinated,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which last week moved to reinstate an indoor mask mandate. “It really doesn’t disrupt any business practices. It allows us to remain fully open — while we acknowledge that the delta variant [is] spreading like wildfire here.”
Matthew Yglesias/Slow Boring:
Let’s get more people vaccinated
It all starts with actually approving the vaccine.…
The bad news is that the Delta variant appears to spread like wildfire, with infected individuals shedding tons of virus.
That means that the level of population immunity needed to suppress outbreaks is now really high, and very little of the country is at that kind of really high level. Delta, therefore, poses a few different kinds of threats to the population:
Despite fairly high vaccination rates among the elderly, it’s going to kill a bunch of people if it spreads uncontrollably in the unvaccinated population.
Even mild cases of Covid seem unpleasant, and sensible people would rationally prefer to avoid them, especially given the possibility of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other long-term consequences.
Overprotective parents may respond to Delta outbreaks in ways that are harmful to their unvaccinated kids’ education and emotional well-being.
America’s already frayed civic fabric is not well-suited to another round of contentious debates about non-pharmaceutical interventions.
I take a somewhat libertarian attitude toward all this. With vaccines widely available, it does not make a lot of sense to try to impose stringent non-pharmaceutical interventions, especially because the non-vaccinated population almost perfectly overlaps with those who don’t comply with NPI rules. If people want to protect themselves against Covid, they should get vaccinated. If they don’t, that’s on some level their problem. I do worry about the impact of outbreaks on families with young kids (my son is six), but given all the available evidence, I think public health communicators should emphasize the low risk level rather than try to use children as a bludgeon to return to high social distancing.
Elizabeth Rosenthal/NY Times:
Necessary or Not, Booster Shots Are Probably Coming
Ultimately, the question of whether a booster is needed is unlikely to determine the F.D.A.’s decision. If recent history is predictive, booster shots will be here before long. That’s thanks to the outdated, 60-year-old basic standard that the F.D.A. uses to authorize medicines for sale: Is a new drug “safe and effective”?
The F.D.A., using that standard, will very likely have to authorize Pfizer’s booster for emergency use, as it did the company’s prior Covid-19 shot. The booster is likely to be safe — hundreds of millions have taken the earlier shots — and Pfizer reported that it dramatically increases a vaccinated person’s antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. From that perspective, it may also be considered very effective.
A vile new Trump-GOP claim about vaccines suggests trouble ahead
“People are refusing to take the Vaccine because they don’t trust his Administration,” the former president said in a statement Sunday, referring to President Biden. “They don’t trust the Election results, and they certainly don’t trust the Fake News.”
There you have it: Trump is telling his supporters that they are correct not to trust the federal government on vaccines, because this sentiment should flow naturally from their suspicion that the election was stolen from him. Expressing the former has been magically transformed into a way to show fealty to the latter.
The U.S. is backsliding on covid-19. Republicans seem to have decided that’s acceptable.
In this vacuum of silence, right-wing voices such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have spread lie after lie about vaccination efforts. And Republican governors such as Kristi L. Noem (S.D.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Mike Parson (Mo.) have encouraged “personal responsibility” or sown fears about government efforts to vaccinate more Americans. Never mind that those governors got their shots months ago. Never mind that, according to some estimates, nearly half of South Dakotans have been infected, or that Florida’s daily case average has quadrupled in the past month. The residents of their states will have to bear the risks, for the good of the governors’ poll numbers.