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Health-care system’s history with Black community is affecting attitudes around COVID-19 vaccine

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Before Brayana Taylor went into labour with her now 16-month-old daughter, she read up and carefully planned for the day. While much of it was a blur, she says she remembers her time at the hospital as traumatic, and that her concerns and feelings were dismissed.

“I just feel like, during the most vulnerable and crucial moments of my entire life, my care was mishandled.”

She rarely talks about what happened to her in detail, but after speaking to another Black mother, Taylor soon found out that she wasn’t alone in her experience. It’s something that she says has hurt her trust in the health-care system, and it has also affected how Taylor feels about the COVID-19 vaccine.

While health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Taylor is one of those who attribute their vaccine hesitancy to eroded trust in the health-care system as a whole for its treatment of Black and Indigenous people.

Taylor runs an Instagram page called Black Motherhood Collective. In response to pushback she and others have received for being vaccine-hesitant, she put out a post outlining statistics about Black maternal health as an answer to why some Black women feel skeptical about the medical system.

One of them is an alarming stat from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that reveals 84 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2018 were Black women. There’s limited race-based medical research data available in Canada, but a 2015 McGill study found that Black women have significantly higher preterm births than white women.

“I think to a lot of people, it’s just hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want a vaccine, you know, because the pandemic has been around for what seems like forever at this point,” Taylor said.

“But in practice, we have to understand that there [are] a lot of kinks in our institutions and in our systems that really do obstruct a lot of progress when it comes to our communities.”

 

Brayana Taylor runs an Instagram account called Black Motherhood Collective. She says it was important to her that the skepticism she and other Black women feel about the COVID-19 vaccine and the health care system be taken seriously. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

 

Black people have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up 9 per cent of Toronto’s population, a quarter of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.

It’s something Cheryl Prescod, the executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre in North York, Ont., is working hard to address as part of the effort to vaccinate all Canadians and stop the spread of the virus.

Prescod notes that the predominantly Black and brown neighbourhood is home to many essential workers living in precarious conditions. Social distancing is made harder when they shuttle to work in crowded buses and come home to densely populated, high-rise apartment buildings.

“This has been a hotspot since the beginning of COVID. We have a high number of positive cases, and we also have a low testing rate,” Prescod said.

Of the top 10 COVID-19 hot spots in Toronto last month, eight were in the city’s north-west end.

Prescod adds that while the vaccine isn’t yet available to most of the general public, the work to address their questions and inform them about it needs to happen now.

 

Cheryl Prescod, executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre, says she sees first-hand how Black and other racialized Torontonians have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

 

In a recent virtual information session, the Black Creek Community Health Centre put together a panel of health professionals and community members to take questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Attendees weighed in with questions ranging from how the COVID-19 vaccine works differently than the flu vaccine, to whether or not there was a microchip in it being used to track people, particularly low-income people of colour. Prescod has heard a lot of it before.

“Can we trust that substance? Can we trust what’s happening? There’s still that mistrust around that science, around the development of the vaccine, around the fact that certain populations might be used as guinea pigs,” Prescod said.

One of the historical examples Prescod hears patients refer to is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where 600 Black men in Alabama were experimented on without being told what for. In Canada, Indigenous children in residential schools were also experimented on to learn about the effects of malnutrition.

 

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted in Alabama from the 1930s to the 1970s, took blood samples from Black men for an experiment they didn’t know they were participating in. The unethical study is often cited by experts when systemic racism in health care is discussed. (National Archives and Records Administration)

 

Dr. Upton Allen, head of infectious diseases at Sick Kids Hospital, has been meeting with the Ontario government, urging it to factor the need to repair relationships with vulnerable communities into the province’s vaccine rollout plan.

“It’s really important to ensure that the Black community is engaged in discussions and decision-making, and that the community can feel that they are part of the process,” Dr. Allen said.

“It’s important to ensure that the messaging relating to vaccine prioritization is appropriate, and is very transparent and very clear, so that there’s no misinterpretation of intent.”

Dr. Allen says he received his first dose of the vaccine a few weeks ago, and that he is confident recommending it to others in the Black community.

He also emphasizes the importance of Black people being involved and considered at every level of health care. Dr. Allen leads a team of researchers at Sick Kids looking at the rates of COVID-19 infection among Black Canadians and the factors behind them, as well as pushing for their participation in antibody testing. He says the lack of diversity in medical research can contribute to inequities in the system.

“One needs to make sure that all the major groups are included so that one can generalize across several groups, not just in terms of racial groups, but also in terms of age groups,” Dr. Allen said. “And so moving forward, it’s important that vaccine related studies — and there will be more — will include Black representatives, Black participants.”

 

Health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, but some say their trust in the system has been eroded due to its past treatment of vulnerable communities. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

 

In a statement to CBC News, Nosa Ero-Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, says that the province is talking to community health groups about how these concerns can be addressed through the Communities at Risk COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Sub-Group.

“We will be working with partners to develop culturally relevant and responsive outreach strategies for each community as part of our Vaccine Distribution Plan, so that all Ontarians can access and understand the facts they need to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Health says it is allocating $12.5 million in funding towards community health agencies in 15 high-risk communities for community outreach and increased testing. It adds that at-risk areas will be prioritized in Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out.

This week, the City of Toronto announced a new Black Community COVID-19 Response Plan, allocating $6.8 million in funding towards 12 Black-led and Black-serving organizations to provide additional support, from food delivery to vaccine education.

The Black Health Alliance has been advocating for investment in grassroots organizations that are trusted in the communities they serve.

The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight.– Paul Bailey, Black Health Alliance

“The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight,” said Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance. “The agencies or the organizations that have to engage with certain parts of the population will be able to build trust over time.”

It’s the kind of commitment Taylor says she’s been looking for from those in power.

“Make the effort and let us know that this is something that you’re very serious about, and you’re adamant about repairing the relationship, and making sure that there is a level of trust between the Black community and health-care professionals so that we can have confidence moving forward,” Taylor said.

Dr. Allen remains cautiously optimistic that the advocacy work he and others are doing is leading to change.

“I think that the issues are being heard, steps are being taken, but it’s early in the game to see whether or not these steps are going to be sustainable and appropriately resourced.”

 

 

Source: – CBC.ca

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A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe – Visual Capitalist

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Logarithmic map of the Observable Universe

For a full-size option or to inquire about posters, please visit Pablo Carlos Budassi’s website.

A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe

Among the scientific community, it’s widely believed that so far humans have only discovered about 5% of the universe.

Yet, despite knowing about just a fraction of what’s out there, we’ve still managed to discover galaxies billions of light-years away from Earth.

This graphic by Pablo Carlos Budassi provides a logarithmic map of the entire known universe, using data by researchers at Princeton University and updated as of May 2022.

How Does the Map Work?

Before diving in, it’s worth touching on a few key details about the map.

First off, it’s important to note that the celestial objects shown on this map are not shown to scale. If it was made to scale with sizes relative to how we see them from Earth, nearly all of the objects would be miniscule dots (except the Moon, the Sun, and some nebulae and galaxies).

Secondly, each object’s distance from the Earth is measured on a logarithmic scale, which increases exponentially, in order to fit in all the data.

Within our Solar System, the map’s scale spans astronomical units (AU), roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Beyond, it grows to measure millions of parsecs, with each one of those equal to 3.26 light-years, or 206,000 AU.

Exploring the Map

The map highlights a number of different celestial objects, including:

  • The Solar System
  • Comets and asteroids
  • Star systems and clusters
  • Nebulae
  • Galaxies, including the Milky Way
  • Galaxy clusters
  • Cosmic microwave background—radiation leftover from the Big Bang

Featured are some recently discovered objects, such as the most distant known galaxy to date, HD1. Scientists believe this newly-discovered galaxy was formed just ​​330 million years after the Big Bang, or roughly 8.4 billion years before Earth.

It also highlights some newly deployed spacecraft, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is NASA’s latest infrared telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station, which was made by China and launched in April 2021.

Why is it called the “Observable” Universe?

Humanity has been interested in space for thousands of years, and many scientists and researchers have dedicated their lives to furthering our collective knowledge about space and the universe.

Most people are familiar with Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, which became a cornerstone of both physics and astronomy. Another well-known scientist was Edwin Hubble, whose findings of galaxies moving away from Earth is considered to be the first observation of the universe expanding.

But the massive logarithmic map above, and any observations from Earth or probes in space, are limited in nature. The universe is currently dated to be around 13.8 billion years old, and nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.

When accounting for the expansion of the universe and observed objects moving away from us, that means that the farthest we can “see” is currently calculated at around 47.7 billion light-years. And since light takes time to travel, much of what we’re observing actually happened many millions of years ago.

But our understanding of the universe is evolving constantly with new discoveries. What will we discover next?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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‘Urgent’ action needed in Europe over monkeypox spread: WHO – Al Jazeera English

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WHO’s Europe director calls on governments and civil society ‘to scale up efforts’ to reverse the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for ‘urgent’ action to prevent the spread of monkeypox in Europe, noting that cases had tripled there over the past two weeks.

To date, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infections in Europe represent about 90 percent of the global total of cases, and 31 countries in the European region have now identified cases, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri Kluge said on Friday.

“Today, I am intensifying my call for governments and civil society to scale up efforts … to prevent monkeypox from establishing itself across a growing geographical area,” Kluge said in a statement.

“Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said.

Kluge also said in his statement that there are no reported deaths from the current outbreak so far.

(Al Jazeera)

“The vast majority of cases have presented with a rash and about three-quarters have reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills, sore throat or headache,” Kluge said.

Until May, monkeypox had never been known to cause large outbreaks beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in several countries and mostly causes limited outbreaks when it jumps to people from infected wild animals.

‘No room for complacency’

Kluge said that Europe remains at the centre of the expanding outbreak and the risk remains high.

“There is simply no room for complacency, especially right here in the European Region with its fast-moving outbreak that with every hour, day and week is extending its reach into previously unaffected areas,” he said.

The WHO does not think the outbreak currently constitutes a public health emergency of international concern but will review its position shortly, he added.

The UN agency estimates that the disease can be fatal, but smallpox vaccines are protective and some antiviral drugs are also being developed.

To date, there have been about 1,800 suspected monkeypox cases including more than 70 deaths in Africa. Vaccines have never been used to stop monkeypox outbreaks in Africa. The WHO’s Africa office said this week that countries with vaccine supplies “are mainly reserving them for their own populations”.

Most monkeypox infections so far have been observed in young men who have sex with men, chiefly in urban areas, according to the WHO. It is investigating cases of possible sexual transmission but maintains the disease is primarily spread through close contact.

Kluge said the problem of stigmatisation in some countries might make some people wary of seeking healthcare and said the WHO was working with partners including organisers of gay Pride events.

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As Monkeypox Spreads, Here's Who Should Get A Vaccine—And How – Forbes

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Topline

Monkeypox vaccines will be offered to anyone in the U.S. who thinks they have been been exposed to the virus and groups most at risk of catching it, including men who have sex with men, measures officials hope will contain the growing outbreak as they work to bolster limited supplies.

Key Facts

The new strategy recommends anyone with a confirmed or suspected exposure to monkeypox get vaccinated, expanding earlier rules limiting the shots to those with known exposures only.

This includes people who have had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox, people who know their sexual partner was diagnosed and “men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading,” the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said.

HHS said it will make 56,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine immediately available to states from the national stockpile and will provide an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks.

Jynneos, produced by Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic, is given in two doses delivered 28 days apart and is the safer of two vaccines used against monkeypox.

Supplies are limited and officials said states with the highest rates of monkeypox and that have more people vulnerable to severe disease will be prioritized, with Hawaii, Massachusetts, Utah, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, California, Colorado and Florida and Washington, D.C., slated to be in the first tier of vaccine recipients, according to a draft of the plans seen by the Washington Post.

States may also request supplies of ACAM2000, an older vaccine developed for smallpox that is also believed to protect against monkeypox and is in much greater supply, though it is associated with serious side effects and its design makes it unsuitable for immunocompromised and pregnant people.

Key Background

Monkeypox is a well-understood entity that has flared up in parts of Central and Western Africa for decades. For decades, too, monkeypox has mostly been ignored by the global community who, before this year’s outbreak, rarely encountered the disease and these instances were almost always linked to travel. It does not spread easily and is primarily transmitted through close contact with an infected animal or person or contaminated objects like towels, clothes or bedding, though it can also spread via respiratory droplets produced when people breathe, cough, talk or sneeze. Monkeypox typically causes symptoms that include fever and a characteristic rash. The infection is usually relatively mild and will go away on its own within a month or so. It can kill and cause serious illness, however, and infection is particularly risky for children and pregnant people. The virus is a close relative of smallpox, unarguably one of the deadliest diseases to plague humanity and the only human disease to have ever been eradicated. This proximity means treatments and vaccines are available for monkeypox, even if not designed for it.

News Peg

In May, the near-simultaneous emergence of monkeypox in countries where it does not usually spread in Europe and North America alarmed experts and public health authorities. Some of these experts have long warned that the complete cessation of smallpox vaccination would leave the world vulnerable to monkeypox outbreaks and the way cases cropped up suggests it may have been quietly circulating for some time. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there have been 351 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S. as of June 29, with large clusters in California (80), New York (72), Illinois (46) and Florida (35). The official count is likely to be a severe underestimate and could be painting an overly rosy picture of the disease’s spread. Experts warn that inadequate and underwhelming testing for the virus has left the nation ignorant as to the true extent of the outbreak. Globally, the CDC said there have been more than 5,000 cases confirmed across 51 different countries by laboratory testing during the 2022 outbreak. The bulk of these have been recorded in European countries like the U.K. (1,076), Germany (874), Spain (800), France (440), Portugal (391) and the Netherlands (257). A notable cluster has also been documented in Canada (276). Many more cases are suspected, but not confirmed, and official tallies likely underestimate the number of cases, particularly in areas with poor testing infrastructure. This data also does not capture the extent of the much longer monkeypox outbreak that has been ongoing in some African countries, notably Nigeria, from earlier this year and as an endemic disease for decades. Despite seeing more infections over a much longer time period, these countries have not received any monkeypox vaccines.

Big Number

1.6 million. That’s how many doses of the Jynneos vaccine the federal government will make available this year, HHS said, including the nearly 300,000 doses already released or expected in coming weeks. HHS said it expects an additional 750,000 doses will be made available over summer and another 500,000 throughout fall. As of late June, HHS said it had already distributed more than 9,000 doses of vaccine.

What To Watch For

Vaccine supplies and changing eligibility. There is not nearly enough of the Jynneos vaccine available in the federal stockpile for everyone who might want it. There have already been supply issues in areas that launched their own initiatives ahead of the national campaign. In Washington, D.C., and New York City, for example, vaccine supplies reportedly ran out less than a day after they kick started their immunization drives. The issue could intensify if eligibility guidelines expand or the outbreak grows. Officials have acknowledged the limited supply of vaccines and suggested the national strategy may change once supplies are on firmer footing. A stronger vaccine supply chain could mean a shift to vaccinating people before they have been exposed to monkeypox, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing.

Tangent

While the Jynneos vaccine may be in short supply, HHS officials told Forbes there is enough smallpox vaccine in federal stockpiles to immunize the entire U.S. population. The precise breakdown is not clear, but a significant portion consists of the ACAM vaccine. There is also a third shot, the Aventis Pasteur Smallpox Vaccine (APSV), which has similar setbacks to ACAM and has not been cleared for use. The nature of the ACAM vaccine poses some unique challenges if Jynneos supplies are insufficient. Aside from the noted risk of potentially serious side effects, the vaccine uses a related virus, vaccinia, to induce a sore or pock in the recipient, usually on the upper arm. On rare occasions, this can spread elsewhere on the body or even to other people and can leave a distinctive scar. The use of live virus limits who it can be given to, notably excluding people with compromised immune systems, those in close contact with such people and pregnant people. As monkeypox cases have been reported disproportionately among men who have sex with men, this poses a potentially significant problem, as rates of people living with HIV are higher in that community. An additional issue arises with how the ACAM shot is used. It relies on an old form of immunization featuring a distinct technique and special bifurcated needle, which most practicing clinicians are unlikely to have much, if any, experience using.

Further Reading

LGBTQ Pride events offer a make-or-break moment for monkeypox (NBC News)

What To Know About How Monkeypox Spreads—And Whether You Should Wear A Mask (Forbes)

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