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In the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China in 2019, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts have been speaking to a variety of media outlets and writing articles about the pandemic. We’ll be updating this article on a regular basis. Here’s a selection of stories in which they offer comments and context:
October 28: Triple threat: Flu, RSV, Covid-19 have local doctors alarmed about the coming months (Eagle Tribune)
Currently circulating Omicron subvariants “seem to be more likely to evade immune responses,” said Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health. He noted that uptake of the bivalent booster is at an “unacceptably low 6 or 7 percent,” adding that COVID-19’s unpredictability, combined with RSV and flu that are also circulating, has disrupted what used to be a typically been a routine cold and flu season.
October 28: Posts misleadingly link pre-pandemic cancer studies to Covid jabs (AFP Fact Check)
Research fellow Tomotaka Ugai, one of the authors of a study that found rising cancer cases among people under age 50, refuted social media posts suggesting that the study found a link between COVID-19 vaccines and cancer. The study found no such link, Ugai said.
October 26: Neurologic, neurocognitive symptoms of Covid-19 persist for 1 year after diagnosis (Healio News)
A small group of patients with mild COVID-19 infection in Lima, Peru had persistent neurocognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety up to a year after their infection, according to a poster presented at the American Neurological Association’s annual meeting by Hanalise Huff, Fogarty Fellow in the Department of Global Health and Population.
October 25: Biden receives updated booster shot and urges Americans to follow suit (New York Times)
President Biden urged Americans to get a COVID booster to prepare for a possible surge in cases. Transmission has currently slowed because of immunity from vaccines, boosters, and people being infected, but William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said there could still be a winter wave and it’s too soon to relax. “We’re always going to be shifting, updating, working on what’s going to happen next,” he said.
October 25: On the campaign trail, Republicans ramp up anti-science, anti-Covid, often anti-Fauci messaging (STAT News)
Leading into the midterm elections, anti-science rhetoric is common among Republican candidates. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis, Emeritus, said that conservative messaging is focusing on “whether or not the federal government can ever close your child’s school down again, or business, and whether or not you allow big decisions to be made on what scientists believe.”
October 22: Lab manipulations of Covid virus fall under murky government rules (New York Times)
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, and senior scientist at the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA), was among experts discussing draft guidelines aimed at addressing issues regarding federal regulation of research on dangerous pathogens. “The first draft makes some important advances and leaves a lot of things unaddressed,” said Lipsitch, who has pushed for tighter rules.
October 21: Which COVID studies pose a biohazard? Lack of clarity hampers research (Nature)
Better communication and clarity is needed surrounding experiments that involve modifying viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, in ways that could make them more dangerous, say experts. Some argue that researchers making such modifications should notify regulators and fundings agencies, even if the agencies didn’t fund the experiments. Draft recommendations to update current federal policies surrounding so-called “gain-of-function” experiments don’t go far enough, according to Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard Chan School, and senior scientist at the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA).
October 20: Using friendly faces to help close gaps on vaccines and more (American Heart Association News)
People from historically underrepresented and underserved populations are less likely to receive preventive care, including vaccines. But research shows that people are more receptive to getting vaccinated when trusted members of their communities—such as their barber or pastor—talk about it and help alleviate concerns, according to Andrew Chan, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard Chan School.
October 19: Whites now more likely to die from covid than Blacks: Why the pandemic shifted (Washington Post)
A recent variation in U.S. death rates from COVID-19—whites are now more likely to die from the disease than Blacks—is the result of longstanding issues of race and class that interacted with the physical and psychological toll of mass illness and death, social upheaval, public policies, and public opinion, according to this Washington Post article. Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology, noted that the shift in COVID death rates “has vastly different implications for public health interventions.” She said that officials must figure out how to connect with “communities who are ideologically opposed to the vaccine” while contending with “the cumulative impact of injustice” on communities of color.
October 18: Move aside, BA.5: These new COVID variants are gaining ground in the US (USA Today)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.
October 18: A COVID Surge is Coming and Here’s How to Stay Safe (Eat This, Not That)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, quoted.
October 15: The COVID emergency may be over — but when will the pandemic end? (CBC)
New Omicron variants have the potential to drive future waves of COVID-19, according to experts. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said that “the virus is going to continue to be around, and it will be infecting lots of us.” He added, “We don’t expect the consequences of those infections to be anything like as bad as what we have seen the last few years because of the immunity we have accumulated, but they won’t be trivial. Older people especially should get boosters.”
October 14: Pfizer-BioNTech cites an increase in antibodies in first human results on updated booster (NBC News)
In a press release, Pfizer-BioNTech stated that their updated Omicron booster generated a strong immune response against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. Some experts said it will still take months to know how truly effective the shots are in the real world. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said the press release suggests that the shots will provide “good protection” against currently circulating strains. But he added that protection could wane over time—as with previous boosters—and the virus could continue to mutate, thus allowing it to evade immunity provided by the new shots.
October 11: Is pandemic finally over? We asked the experts. (Harvard Gazette)
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, and Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program, were among Harvard experts commenting on the likelihood of a winter coronavirus surge as well as possible impacts on school and work.
October 7: Early signs a new U.S. COVID surge could be on its way (NPR)
Some parts of the U.S. are seeing an uptick in COVID cases and hospitalizations, although experts are unsure whether the increases foretell a winter surge in the U.S. If more people get the new bivalent vaccine, it could keep numbers down, but so far only 8 million out of 200 million eligible people have gotten them. And uptake of previous boosters has already been sluggish. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, noted that “Nearly 50% of people who are eligible for a booster have not gotten one. It’s wild. It’s really crazy.”
October 6: An advocate for Africa (Science)
Sikhulile Moyo, Sikhulile Moyo, lab director of the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), quoted.
See stories from:
January and February 2020