Who Gets a Vaccine?

2020 is the year that brought us COVID-19 — but as Danielle Groen explains in The Walrus, the battle against viruses is not a new one. In the 1600s Chinese doctors were attempting to vaccinate against smallpox by grinding a “scab into a powder” and blowing it up the patient’s nose, and the basic principle has not changed to this day — teaching the immune system how to fight a virus if it is infected. The difference with COVID-19 is the need to vaccinate the whole world, fast. Developing the vaccine is still the first hurdle, but what comes next is going to be just as complicated, with every country in competition for supplies. 

Making a successful vaccine is one challenge. Making enough of it to satisfy world demand is another. There are, of course, all sorts of regulations and standards concerning how to go about production: “I can’t head into my basement and start brewing up a vaccine,” says Curtis Cooper, president of the Canadian Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Every facility needs to conform to Good Manufacturing Practices (gmp), which are exceptionally specific rules set out by the WHO that ensure quality control. You want consistency over time so that each successive batch is precisely the same.

… the UK reserved 100 million doses of the University of Oxford’s vaccine while the US secured another 300 million—that’s nearly a quarter of Oxford’s projected annual supply gone. By mid-August, preorders of COVID-19 vaccine candidates were reportedly stretching toward 6 billion doses, almost all of them claimed by wealthy nations. None of these vaccines has yet been proven to work.

This raises the question of whether it will be the wealthy countries that dominate the vaccine supply, and other ethical questions also lurk beneath the surface. 

Do you vaccinate to prevent mortality? In that case, for this virus, the elderly need to be prioritized. Do you vaccinate to reduce transmission and spread? There are some house-partying twentysomethings in Kelowna who could get the jab. Or do you vaccinate widely in an attempt to achieve herd immunity? NACI advises that front line workers be prioritized because they’re at a greater risk of infection based on the work they do. But that’s not axiomatic: “There’s no commandment in the bible of pandemic response that health care workers go first,” Upshur says. “You have to make arguments, and those arguments are based partly on data and partly on ethics.” We know that racialized and low-income people are infected at rates wildly disproportionate to their populations, not for any epidemiological reason but because of historical and economic disadvantages. This inequality persists for those working in the health care system itself: The Lancet published a study of almost 100,000 front line health care workers in the UK and US, which found that racialized workers were nearly twice as likely as their white colleagues to come down with COVID-19. Should decision making about vaccine prioritization be based on structural social causes instead?

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“The Final Five Percent” Wins 2020 Science in Society Journalism Award

We’re delighted to announce that Tim Requarth‘s piece, “The Final Five Percent,” won the 2020 Science in Society Journalism Award in the Longform Narratives category. For Tim, who holds a PhD in neuroscience, “The Final Five Percent” is both personal and professional. It recounts how his brother has coped in the decade since a traumatic brain injury permanently altered his personality. Here’s what the National Science Writers Association and the judges had to say about Tim’s piece:

“In ‘The Final Five Percent,’ published by Longreads in October 2019, Tim Requarth chronicles the catastrophic motorcycle accident that befalls his brother and the debilitating changes to his brother’s personality that emerge as he recovers most of his brain function in the weeks after the accident. The essay interweaves an intimate portrayal of the complexities of his brother’s life both before and after the accident, and of their sibling relationship, with what’s known about neuroscience of recklessness. ‘The Final Five Percent gripped us from its first paragraphs,’ write the judges. ‘This piece tackles the serious health mysteries around brain injury and explores the human consequences of that science in a way that is clear, nuanced, and emotionally devastating.’”

Be sure to check out Tim’s work elsewhere:

This piece was edited by Michelle Weber, fact checked by Sam Schuyler and Jason Stavers, and copy edited by Jacob Gross.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Barton Gellman, Latria Graham, Teju Cole, Samuel Ashworth, and Shanna Baker.

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1. The Election That Could Break America

Barton Gellman | The Atlantic | September 23, 2020 | 38 minutes (9,621 words)

“If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?”

2. Out There, Nobody Can Hear You Scream

Latria Graham | Outside | September 21, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,512 words)

“Two years ago, Latria Graham wrote an essay about the challenges of being Black in the outdoors. Countless readers reached out to her, asking for advice on how to stay safe in places where nonwhite people aren’t always welcome. She didn’t write back, because she had no idea what to say. In the aftermath of a revolutionary spring and summer, she responds.”

3. In Dark Times, I Sought Out the Turmoil of Caravaggio’s Paintings

Teju Cole | The New York Times Magazine | September 23, 2020 | 34 minutes (8700 words)

“The work the artist made near the end of his life changed my understanding of both beauty and suffering.”

4. The Slow, Troubling Death of the Autopsy

Samuel Ashworth | Elemental | September 21, 2020 | 29 minutes (7,275 words)

Doctors make mistakes. The true cause of a person’s death is often complicated and unclear. “Why you should get an autopsy if it’s the last thing you do.”

5. Where Camels Take to the Sea

Shanna Baker | Hakai Magazine | September 22, 2020 | 32 minutes (6,900 words)

“In Gujarat, India, a special breed of camel is not constrained by land—but it cannot escape the many forces of change.”

from Longreads https://ift.tt/308vD08

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