BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – The frenetic race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has intensified safety concerns about an inoculation, prompting governments and drugmakers to raise awareness to ensure their efforts to beat the coronavirus aren’t derailed by public distrust.
FILE PHOTO: A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker stands near a medical syringe in front of displayed “Coronavirus COVID-19” words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
There are more than 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development globally, including more than 20 in human clinical trials. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to have a shot ready before year’s end, although they typically take 10 years or longer to develop and test for safety and effectiveness.
In the drive to find a potential COVID-19 vaccine “fast is good for politicians,” said Heidi Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP), a global surveillance programme on vaccine trust. “But from the public perspective, the general sentiment is: ‘too fast can’t be safe’”, she told Reuters.
Regulators around the world have repeatedly said speed will not compromise safety, as quicker results would stem from conducting in parallel trials that are usually done in sequence.
However, these reassurances have failed to convince many, including in Western countries where scepticism about vaccinations was already growing before the pandemic.
Preliminary results of a survey conducted over the last three months in 19 countries showed that only about 70% of British and U.S. respondents would take a COVID-19 vaccine if available, Scott Ratzan, co-leader of ‘Business Partners to CONVINCE’, told Reuters.
Business Partners to CONVINCE, a U.S./UK initiative that is partly government funded, conducted the survey jointly with VCP and the results were broadly in line with a Reuters/Ipsos poll of the U.S. public in May.
“We just see this distrust growing against science and government,” said Ratzan.
“We need to address legitimate concerns about the rapid pace of development, political over-promises and the risks of vaccination.”
The VCP/Business Partners’ survey, expected to be published in a few weeks, will also show that Chinese participants were the most trusting of vaccines, while Russians were the least so, Ratzan said.
Drugmakers and governments had hoped the scale of the COVID-19 crisis would allay concerns about vaccines, which they see as crucial to defeating the pandemic and enabling economies to fully recover from its impact.
Vaccine hesitancy – or the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated – is also known as “anti-vax”, a term that is sometimes associated with conspiracy theories when often it simply reflects many people’s concerns about side-effects or industry ethics.
In January 2019 the World Health Organisation named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats for that year.
In Europe, scepticism among the public was high before the pandemic due to a range of factors including negative coverage of pharmaceutical companies as well as false theories including suggested links between childhood immunisations and autism.
Only 70% of French people considered vaccines safe in a 2018 survey commissioned by the European Union executive. The EU average was 82%, but trust fell to 68% for the shot against seasonal flu.
The VCP project on vaccine trust, funded by the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies among others, aims to identify early signs and causes of public mistrust and tackle them with information campaigns before it is too late.
Larson said headlines referring to Warp Speed – the name of the U.S. operation aimed at delivering a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. population by next year – could increase vaccine hesitancy even more than perceptions that the disease could become less lethal.
“One of the most frequent things that comes up in people’s conversations is concerns about how quick it is. If I have to pick one theme that is more recurrent than others it is this one,” Larson said.
Data collected by VCP from social media show that by the end of June about 40% of Britons’ posts concerning a COVID-19 vaccine, for example, were negative, with many distrusting any coronavirus vaccine and the medical establishment.
Announcements about fast progress in COVID vaccines in Russia and China in particular could also contribute to rising scepticism. “We don’t have transparency and don’t know how accurate or valid their data are,” Ratzan said, adding that errors there could boost scepticism elsewhere.
Key for any information campaign to be successful is to tailor it to different audiences as there is no uniform profile of anti-vaxxers, said Kate Elder of Doctors Without Borders, a non-governmental organisation.
“They go from the highly educated to those who don’t believe in science,” she said, urging politicians to be more careful in their messages on vaccines and to better explain the reasons behind potentially fast results against COVID-19.
“We are exploring the idea of a chatbot that will speak in different languages,” said Ratzan, adding it could be something similar to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service’s campaign to educate about preventing wildfires.
“Different parts of the world will require different strategies. We know we need to tailor it and to be specific,” he said.
Risks are high if hesitancy is not addressed quickly.
During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, growing scepticism about the vaccine led to a failure of the vaccination campaign in France, where only 8% of the population got a shot against the virus which is estimated to have killed around 280,000 people across the world.
A study published in May in the Lancet by a group of French scientists warned of similar risks now in the country where vaccine hesitancy went up from 18% in mid-March when a lockdown was imposed on the French to 26% by the end of that month.
“Distrust is likely to become an issue when the vaccine will be made available,” the scientists concluded.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Josephine Mason in London; Editing by Susan Fenton
Source: – Reuters
Students to go into isolation after 1st COVID-19 outbreak declared at Toronto school – CBC.ca
Toronto Public Health has asked two classes of elementary students to go into isolation after it declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at the school this week.
Two students have tested positive for the virus at Glen Park Public School, 101 Englemount Ave., near Lawrence Avenue West and Bathurst Street, in North York. The school runs from kindergarten to grade six.
The two infected students have been isolated to recover from their illness.
Of the classes that have been asked to go into isolation, one has 17 students while the other has 18 students, Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city’s medical officer of health told reporters at a city hall briefing on Friday.
All of the students have been asked to go home as they remain in isolation for 14 days. A teacher is isolating as well.
Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board, said in an email to CBC Toronto on Saturday that the students are in split grade 5/6 classes.
“At this point, Glen Park is the only outbreak at the TDSB,” Bird said.
According to De Villa, an school outbreak is defined by the province as at least two confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period and with a link to a school setting.
“One of the realities of living in a world with COVID-19 is that there will be cases in schools,” de Villa said on Friday.
“Today’s news is expected. I expect there will be similar announcements in the future and you can be confident the steps developed to manage the situation and reduce the risk of spread will be followed.”
Parents have been notified in writing.
De Villa said the school is following all infection prevention and control measures closely. These measures include requiring students and staff to wear masks and enhanced cleaning of the school.
For a complete list of COVID-19 cases at TDSB schools, the board has created a COVID-19 Advisories webpage.
SHA warns of COVID-19 exposure at 3 Saskatoon businesses – CKOM News Talk Sports
The Saskatchewan Health Authority is warning people in Saskatoon about a potential COVID-19 exposure at three businesses.
A person or group of people were likely infectious with the coronavirus while being at Walmart Supercentre on 225 Betts Avenue on Sept. 19 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., Planet Fitness at Market Mall on Sept. 22 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and KFC at 1808 McOrmond Drive on Sept. 23 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Health officials are asking anyone who was at these locations during the noted dates and times to monitor for symptoms for 14 days and call HealthLine 811 to arrange for testing if symptoms develop.
Protest being held to ‘end the lockdown’ in downtown Toronto – 680 News
Over a hundred people gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square Saturday afternoon, many without masks and with little social distancing, calling for an end to the lockdown.
A group on Facebook called “The Line” appeared to be the organizers of the event, which they called the “March for Freedom.”
The protesters are currently walking up Yonge Street towards Bloor Street.
Police are assisting in directing traffic elsewhere to allow for them to pass safely.
– demonstrators assembling at Yonge/Dundas Square
– officers are aware of a demonstration, and are currently o/s
– everyone has the lawful right to peacefully protest and officers will be in the area for the safety of everyone#GO1827719
— Toronto Police Operations (@TPSOperations) September 26, 2020
Ontario is currently in Stage 3 of their COVID-19 reopening plan, with most businesses allowed to be open.
However, the province has recently introduced new restrictions for bars and restaurants and social gatherings have also been limited to 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.
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