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The evolving etiquette of asking about someone's COVID-19 vaccine status – Squamish Chief

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Nicole Hunt thought she was just making small talk with the next person in line when she asked whether he’d been vaccinated.

But she soon found she’d run afoul of the shifting social mores surrounding this prickly question.

Hunt said she and the stranger were waiting for ice cream when they started commiserating over how ready they were to be done with COVID-19 restrictions.

For the mother of four in Oakville, Ont., getting her first shot was a promising step toward that goal.

But when she asked her in-line interlocutor if he had his jab, Hunt discovered he held a starkly different view.

“It just went to this awkward silence of us looking at each other and realizing that maybe we don’t really have anything to say.”

The faux pas exemplifies the murky social minefield one must navigate to inquire about someone’s COVID-19 vaccine status.

Members of polite society are polarized over whether it’s appropriate to ask people if they’ve rolled up their sleeves.

Some Canadians balk at what they see as an intrusion into personal health matters, but others maintain that vaccine disclosure is part of pandemic decorum.

It’s all part of an evolving etiquette that pits personal safety concerns against respect for medical privacy, say experts, who recommend taking a delicate touch to the vaccine question in the interest of both public health and social harmony.

“Some people will want to call people out, but I encourage people to really invite people into conversations,” said Dionne Gesink, a professor of epidemiology at University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Gesink said there are a few things you should ask yourself before putting the vaccine question to someone else.

First, she said, why are you asking the question? And what do you plan to do with the answer?

COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to prevent serious illness and death. But the science of how they affect the spread of the virus is still emerging, and even double-dosed individuals are still susceptible to infection.

The ongoing vaccine rollout has left Canadians with varying degrees of protection, said Gesink. Questions about vaccines should come from a place of concern not only for your personal health, but the safety of those around you.

Knowing someone’s immunization status can help people make informed decisions about how to mitigate the risks of in-person interaction through a spectrum of precautions, she said, including socializing outdoors, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.

Under certain circumstances, people may have to set hard boundaries, such as not inviting someone to an indoor function.

But with the right framing, the vaccine question doesn’t have to be contentious, and can even bring people closer, she said.

A point-blank “are you vaccinated” can end a conversation with a curt yes or no, said Gesink. But posing open-ended questions, such as “what are your thoughts on vaccination,” can prompt revealing discussions.

“By asking these sensitive, personal questions, you are investing in the relationship … as well as protecting yourself.”

But Gesink cautioned against “dropping bombs” on unsuspecting strangers and acquaintances who may feel wary about sharing their health history with someone they hardly know.

She added that if there’s any ambiguity about someone’s vaccine status, it’s best practice to assume they’re not and protect yourself accordingly.

Thankfully, many Canadians are quite forthcoming — if not effusive — about the fact that they’re vaccinated, said University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman.

But he harbours serious reservations about pressuring people to divulge personal health information.

There are many reasons why someone might not be vaccinated, he said, such as not meeting the eligibility requirements, barriers to access or medical concerns.

“People can easily be put on trial as to why they don’t want to be vaccinated,” he said. “Do they really have to answer to the whole world?”

Ottawa-based etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau noted that health is one the last remaining taboos in modern society, so it’s unsurprising that social protocols surrounding vaccines are so sensitive.

If you’re tempted to broach the question, Blais Comeau recommends pausing to contemplate the potential consequences if the interaction goes awry.

“From the perspective of the other person, could you be friend or foe?” said Blais Comeau. “If you could be perceived as foe, well, maybe it’s best not to ask.”

Consider the context of the relationship, she said. For example, with a professional colleague, power dynamics could be at play. In family situations, she warned the question poses the risk of inflaming long-standing tensions.

When it comes to entertaining, Blais Comeau suggested that rather than asking guests to tick off what shot they got in their RSVP, hosts should state their vaccine preferences upfront and ask attendees to accommodate them.

People should extend the same courtesy, respect and empathy that they expect from others, whatever their vaccine status, said Blais Comeau. And if discord arises, compassion is the best strategy to find resolution.

“It’s not the time to judge, shame or preach,” said Blais Comeau. “The magical word could end up being, I care about you.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2021.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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Rapid Polio Spread In New York: All You Need To Know – TheHealthSite

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Poliovirus is found in the sewage of New York; know why this disease is spreading so rapidly.

Polio is a disease that causes children to be crippled early. The polio virus detection in New York City’s sewage indicates that the disease is secretly spreading among people who are not vaccinated. The New York State Health Department and city said the poliovirus detection in its wastewater noted that it was likely to spread locally. Provincial Health Commissioner Dr Mary T. Bassett said the poliovirus discovery in wastewater samples in New York City was terrifying but not startling.

Different Polio Strains

  • There are mainly two strains of the polio virus. One highly lethal and contagious variant has now disappeared, while the other vaccine-derived polio (vaccine-derived polio) has been reported to be rare. This second strain has been found in the wastewater of the UK capital London and the US city of New York. In Israel’s Jerusalem, a genetically similar virus has been found in London and New York.
  • In places like London and New York, cases of vaccine-derived polio have not been reported in the past. However, it is widespread in other countries. In 2021 alone, 415 cases infected with this variant have been reported in Nigeria. The live virus, which reached the body of children as a vaccine, comes out through their faeces after a few weeks. In countries where vaccination has been reduced, this virus can spread again and mutate to become harmful.

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The vaccine containing this live virus is no longer used in countries like Britain and America. Especially now that after covid-19, the restrictions related to travel are over again.

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Why Is Polio Spreading Now?

Derek Ehrhardt, global polio lead at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, says experts agree that vaccine-derived and wild polio strains are still present among low-vaccination populations. According to the United Nations, 1081 vaccine-derived polio cases were reported in 2020, compared to three times fewer cases in the previous year, i.e. 2019. However, even in the year 2022, 177 cases have been reported so far.

This is a matter of even more concern, especially for developing countries like India, because our neighbouring countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are still battling polio infection.

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B.C. drug death toll passes 10,000 since declaration of emergency in 2016: coroner

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VICTORIA — British Columbia’s chief coroner says the province has lost more than 10,000 lives to illicit drugs since the province declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

Lisa Lapointe says the province is on track to lose another record number of people to the toxic drug supply this year, with the number of deaths in the first half of 2022 surpassing those of the same period in 2021.

New data from the coroner’s service says at least 1,095 residents are believed to have died from January to June this year, at an average of six deaths per day.

The report found more than three-quarters of the those who died this year have been male, and most were between the ages of 30 and 59.

The province says illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C.

In June, Ottawa approved a three-year exception to federal drug laws, and from next year, B.C. will become the first province where people won’t be arrested or charged for possessing up to 2.5 grams of certain illicit drugs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

 

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Why it’s crucial to say that monkeypox is predominately affecting gay and bisexual men – Broadview Magazine

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monkeypox virus, or MPXV, is an emerging threat to public health. The World Health Organization recently declared the current outbreak a global public health emergency.

For decades, several African countries have experienced ongoing outbreaks of MPXV, driven primarily by contact with animals and transmission within households. However, before last year, most people in Europe and North America had never even heard of the disease. That was until the current outbreak among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Debates over the epidemiology of MPXV

Over the past several months, a controversy has raged about whether it’s OK to say that the current MPXV outbreak is primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, and that it is primarily being spread through close personal contact, such as sex.

As a social and behavioural epidemiologist working with marginalized populations, including gay and bisexual men, I believe it’s important that people know that sexual and gender minority men are the primary victims of this MPXV outbreak. I believe this knowledge will help us end the outbreak before it bridges into other communities.

For reference, more than 90 percent of cases in non-endemic countries have been transmitted through intimate sexual contact, and the vast majority of cases are among gay men. Very few cases are linked to community transmission.

While these statistics are undisputed, some have feared that identifying sexual behaviour as the primary cause of current MPXV transmission would dampen the public health response. Others have warned that connecting MPXV to an already stigmatized community will worsen stigma towards gay sex.

Non-sexual transmission is possible, and a considerable threat

It is true that MPXV can transmit through more casual contact and through fomites (inanimate objects on which some microbes can survive, such as bed linens, towels or tables).

However, months into the current outbreak, we have not seen these routes emerge as important pathways of transmission. This may be due to changes in the fundamental transmission dynamic of MPXV or due to enhanced cleaning procedures implemented in response to COVID-19 in places such as gyms and restrooms.

Why it’s crucial to know MPXV affects gay and bisexual men

Informing the public about MPXV is important because public opinion plays an important role in shaping public health policies, such as who gets access to vaccines and what interventions are used to stop disease transmission.

A recent study conducted by my team aimed to demonstrate the importance of public health education by asking Canadians to participate in a discrete choice experiment.

We asked participants to choose between two hypothetical public health programs across eight head-to-head comparisons. Descriptions for each hypothetical program identified the number of years of life gained by patients, the health condition it addressed and the population it was tailored for.

From our analyses of this data, we learned a lot about how the public wants public health dollars to be spent and how their knowledge and bias shapes these preferences. There were five major takeaways:

  1. People preferred interventions that added more years to participants’ life expectancy. In fact, for one year of marginal life gained, there was a 15 per cent increase in the odds that participants chose that program.
  2. We found that people tended to favour interventions that focused on treatment rather than prevention. While this approach is emotionally intuitive, large bodies of evidence suggest that it is more cost-effective to prevent disease than to treat it. As the old saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  3. People generally preferred interventions for common chronic diseases — such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer — and were less likely to favour interventions for behaviour-related conditions, such as sexually transmitted infections.
  4. People generally preferred programs focused on the general population as opposed to those tailored for key marginalized populations. In fact, people were least likely to prefer interventions tailored for sexual and gender minorities.
  5. The bias against behavioural interventions and those tailored for key populations was overcome when the programs addressed a health condition that was widely understood to be linked to the population the program was tailored to. For example, people were more likely to support interventions for sexually transmitted infections when these interventions were tailored for people engaged in sex work or for gay and bisexual men.

This study highlights why it is important to educate the public about health inequities. People are smarter, more pragmatic, and more compassionate than we give them credit for. If we take the time to share evidence with them about the challenges that stigmatized communities face, they will be more willing to support policies and efforts to address these challenges.

Ending MPXV quickly is critical, especially since the virus has the potential to evolve in ways that could make the disease more infectious. Protecting gay and bisexual men first, protects everyone.

We should, of course, always be aware of the potential harms and the corrosive effects of stigma. However, in public health, honesty really is the best policy.

***

Kiffer George Card is an assistant professor in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

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