Weekly Roundup
COVID-19 Vaccine Development, Policy, and Public Perception in the United States
CommuniVax Corner

CommuniVax co-investigator Dr. Monica Schoch-Spana was quoted in this USA TODAY piece about the importance of equitable COVID-19 vaccination uptake amid the emergence of the omicron variant and the upcoming holidays.

The CommuniVax newsletter will be on hiatus for the remainder of the year.
We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season!

People, Perceptions, and Polls
Inside the growing alliance between anti-vaccine activists and pro-Trump Republicans. It's the sort of fringe views that kept political figures away from this conference in the past. But as America heads into midterm elections next year, the political right and the anti-vaccine movement are drawing ever-closer together. It's an alliance that promises to give both sides more power, but the cost is potentially thousands of American lives(NPR, 12/6/21)
What’s Really Behind Global Vaccine Hesitancy. South Africa has about 150 days’ worth of vaccine supply. It’s now facing the same problem that’s bedeviling countries the world over: Lots of people don’t want to get their shots. South Africa recently paused deliveries of the J&J and Pfizer vaccines because it has more stock than it can use. The South African experience is an example of how anti-vaccine sentiment has become a global phenomenon at precisely the worst time. (The Atlantic, 12/6/21)
Tracing America's Covid vaccine conspiracies to autism fearmongering. Unlike Covid-19, autism isn’t scary. We shouldn’t fear it, but rather learn to better support those individuals living with it. Sadly, as autism diagnoses increased in the 1990s and the 2000s, solidarity did not keep pace. Instead, anti-vaxxers offered simplistic conspiratorial rationalizations that cast wide and damaging cultural shadows. Like a tumor, the anti-vaccine movement has metastasized in other parts of the American body politic. (NBC, 12/8/21)
Behind Low Vaccination Rates Lurks a More Profound Social Weakness. We’ve found that people who reject vaccines are not necessarily less scientifically literate or less well-informed than those who don’t. Instead, hesitancy reflects a transformation of our core beliefs about what we owe one another(New York Times, 12/3/21)
When Couples Don’t Agree on the Vaccine. Navigating a co-parenting situation is always fraught, but the pandemic has made it so much more complex, and women are carrying the bulk of that burden. And conversations like this, where couples reveal their deep and bitter divides are often taboo, because talking about a partner to a child or the public can be seen as a betrayal of the relationship. And there is so much at stake(Men Yell At Me, 12/8/21)
Public Health Practice
Strategies to minimize inequity in COVID-19 vaccine access in the US: Implications for future vaccine rollouts. As of November 1, 2021, data across the US2 demonstrates that Black and Hispanic populations are being vaccinated at a lower rate compared to their white counterparts. Across 43 states, Black and Hispanic people are being vaccinated at 7% and 2% lower rates, respectively compared to the white population. In some states, such as Connecticut, Black and Hispanic people are being vaccinated at 15 and 8% lower rates compared to the white population. Although there is variability across states in vaccination levels and the inequity gap has been closing over time2, inequity still poses a barrier to society wide attainment of ‘fair and just’ health(The Lancet Regional Health, 12/7/21)
Coronavirus vaccine demand grows in U.S. amid omicron variant concerns, booster eligibility expansion. Health-care providers administered 2.18 million doses of coronavirus vaccines on Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the “highest single-day total since May,” the White House said. According to the latest CDC report, over the week ending on Thursday, the average number of daily administered vaccine doses reported to the agency was 22 percent higher than the previous week(Washington Post, 12/5/21)
Unrepresentative big surveys significantly overestimated US vaccine uptake. We show how a survey of 250,000 respondents can produce an estimate of the population mean that is no more accurate than an estimate from a simple random sample of size 10. Our central message is that data quality matters more than data quantity, and that compensating the former with the latter is a mathematically provable losing proposition. (Nature, 12/8/21)
Equity Tourism: Ravaging the Justice Landscape. As the long-standing and ubiquitous racial inequities of the United States reached national attention, the public health community has witnessed the rise of “health equity tourism.” This phenomenon is the process of previously unengaged investigators pivoting into health equity research without developing the necessary scientific expertise for high-quality work. In this essay, we define the phenomenon and provide an explanation of the antecedent conditions that facilitated its development. We also describe the consequences of health equity tourism—namely, recapitulating systems of inequity within the academy and the dilution of a landscape carefully curated by scholars who have demonstrated sustained commitments to equity research as a primary scientific discipline and praxis(OSF Preprints, 12/2/21)
Racial Equity Will Not Be Achieved Without Investing In Data Disaggregation. Systemic racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Rather, it has been a component of the social, economic, and political systems in which we all exist, and it is a part of the data that inform decisions, policies, and funding within those systems. Choices about the collection and categorization of data affirm identities of some groups more than others, and this perpetuates unfair advantages and oppression. Yet, there continues to be pervasive lack of investment in producing adequately disaggregated data. (Health Affairs, 11/29/21)

‘We Can Get It Done’: How Jefferson County Became First In Mississippi For Vaccination. Jefferson County is one of the smallest counties in Mississippi, with a population of only 7,260. On paper, it has many of the challenges commonly associated with low vaccination rates across the U.S.: rural, poor and removed from the state’s denser, better-equipped urban cores. It is also one of the Blackest counties in Mississippi and the U.S., a population with a vaccination rate roughly 7% lower than the overall white rate across the country. But something changed dramatically over the month of February 2021. The vaccination program didn’t just rise to match Mississippi’s pace—it exceeded the state. Jefferson County’s vaccination rate surged so far past the state average that, within a few months of the vaccine’s availability, it was the statewide leader in vaccinated residents per capita, a spot it holds to this day(Mississippi Free Press, 11/29/21)
DC expands vaccine access, at-home vaccinations for families. Starting Monday, parents and their children can get vaccinated together instead of seeking appointments at separate clinics. According to the D.C. Health Department, pediatric vaccines for kids aged 5 to 11 are now available at all pop-up and public library walk-up sites, in addition to school-based vaccine drives(WTOP News, 12/6/21)
Amid Push to Vaccinate Children, Other Challenges Deluge Pediatricians. Patients at Charlotte Community Health Clinic, many of whom have chronic medical conditions, crowded housing arrangements and vulnerable family members, are among the children most in need of the shot. Yet most parents who have brought their children to the clinic over the past month have declined it. They are wary of the vaccine, focused on getting treatment for mental and physical problems that had gone unchecked for much of the pandemic(New York Times, 12/7/21)

See also:
Law, Policy, and Politics
New York City to Mandate Vaccines for Employees at Private Businesses. The mandate, almost certain to face legal challenges and to pose difficulties for the employers tasked with enforcing it, will apply to about 184,000 businesses. It is set to take effect on Dec. 27, just days before Mayor Bill de Blasio leaves office. Mr. de Blasio described his action as a “pre-emptive strike” designed to stall another wave of virus cases amid rising concerns about the Omicron variant(New York Times, 12/6/21)

See also:
WHO wades into vaccine mandates dispute, saying they should be an "absolute last resort." “Mandates around vaccination are an absolute last resort, and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted,” WHO Europe Director Dr. Hans Kluge said. They should not be done “if one has not reached out first to the communities” involved, he said at a press briefing. (CNBC, 12/7/21)
Research, Development, and Clinical Practice
Viral Dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 Variants in Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Persons. Two opposing forces that are shaping the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic are the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants of concern and the uptake of vaccines. Measurement of SARS-CoV-2 viral load over the course of acute infection can inform hypotheses about the mechanisms that underlie variation in transmissibility according to variant and vaccination status(New England Journal of Medicine, 12/1/21)

The Benefits of Vaccinating Kids against COVID Far Outweigh the Risks of Myocarditis. Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration have modeled the risks to children from COVID itself versus vaccine-related myocarditis. Ultimately, the model indicates that the number of COVID cases prevented by vaccination vastly exceeds the number of excess myocarditis cases, and that the number of COVID-related hospitalizations exceeds those for vaccine-related myocarditis as well. (Scientific American, 12/2/21)
Mixing mRNA, adenoviral, and spike-adjuvant vaccines for protection against COVID-19. Supply and availability issues for government-approved vaccines, together with worries about rare side-effects (such as thrombotic thrombocytopenia), have necessitated the switch to heterologous COVID-19 vaccination schedules—an approach commonly known as mixing vaccines. Several studies have addressed the efficacy and safety of this practice in the battle against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants(The Lancet, 12/6/21)
A COVID vaccine grown in plants measures up. A Canadian biotech firm is reporting positive results from a large study of its COVID-19 vaccine. What makes it unusual is that the key ingredient of the vaccine is grown in plants. Medicago has already developed an experimental flu vaccine in Nicotiana benthamian, a plant related to tobacco. When the pandemic struck, the company decided to try to make a COVID-19 vaccine.(NPR, 12/7/21)
Covid-19: Whatever happened to the Novavax vaccine? The company’s slow progress in production, in comparison with the leading covid vaccine makers, has created doubts as to its ability to fulfil global vaccine orders. Because most middle and high income countries have already sourced their vaccine supply, has Novavax missed the boat? (BMJ, 12/8/21)
This newsletter supports CommuniVax, a research coalition convened by the
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Texas State University Department of Anthropology,
with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and The Rockefeller Foundation.