As doctors across Canada receive COVID-19 vaccines, many are sharing photographs on social media to inspire hope and to encourage others to get vaccinated too.
This has sparked a controversy around “vaccine selfies,” as other doctors say the pictures provoke anxiety, anger and envy.
The debate among doctors over how to use social media is merely the tip of the iceberg, with inequalities in Canada’s slow and irregular vaccine rollout at the root of the frustrations.
Studies over the past decade have demonstrated links between browsing social media and depressive symptoms, especially when online content triggers envy. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine envy is inevitable, with vaccines being limited and the pandemic continuing to rapidly grow.
Social media triggers
For some health-care workers, social media selfies are an unwelcome trigger.
“Social media is complicated,” says Amelia Yip, a cardiologist in Waterloo, Ont., who recently received her first dose vaccine. “Even within the health-care profession, there are people who should be getting it before others. But the way it’s being rolled out doesn’t always work that way.”
“The way the distribution is happening, it feels like there isn’t a co-ordinated effort. It feels under-appreciative for health-care workers, or even those at risk, not just doctors,” says Yip.
Canada’s vaccine rollout has been highly variable between provinces. In Ontario, for example, almost 19 per cent of vaccinated people have completed both doses, compared to only 1.5 per cent in British Columbia.
And in Québec, where second doses are being postponed significantly until mid-March, no one has yet received two doses.
Yip says there are pockets of people who have been missed in her local rollout, and that at her hospital, cardiologists had to remind authorities that they, too, are involved in critical care.
Meanwhile, says Yip, it’s been doubly frustrating to see vaccine selfies posted by people who don’t work on the frontlines.
“Yesterday, a completely non-medical person who’s an accountant and happens to work at a Toronto hospital got it. When you see someone not even working [with COVID-19 patients] getting it, it feels like the person is jumping the queue.”
Anger and resignation
The vaccine rollout in B.C. has featured similar criticisms and controversies around queue-jumping by doctors and administrators.
Alan Drummond, an emergency physician in Perth, Ont., where frontline workers are still waiting for word of vaccines, says:
“You have to take the broader context to understand where some of the disappointment and anger is coming from. For at least 10 months, ER physicians and nurses were dealing with a novel virus that has the potential to be quite deadly. I don’t know anybody in my sphere who shied away from the responsibilities of looking after patients — nobody.”
Drummond says the initial arrival of vaccines in Canada was met with hope and enthusiasm, and that it was “entirely appropriate” that doctors celebrated on social media as a sign of the beginning of change.
But as selfies continue to get posted online, Drummond says he and his colleagues are beginning to feel resigned and angry.
“The inequities are starting to show…. We need an appropriate queue — we certainly aren’t in it. And [the selfies are] the icing on the cake.”
Impacts of stress
Stress due to providing care to coronavirus patients has significant consequences. Frontline doctors, nurses and therapists are burned out. Tragically, 35-year-old doctor Karine Dion recently died by suicide. Emergency and intensive care doctors have also reported feeling overwhelmed.
Sarah Giles, a rural family and emergency doctor in Kenora, Ont., says her community will not be receiving vaccines until April.
“When we look at inequalities, we know that there is a lifespan discrepancy between living in northwest Ontario and in southern Ontario. As my friend said, we’re at the end of the supply for fruits and vegetables and you can tell: We’re at the end for vaccines as well.”
And especially in rural communities, says Giles, every health-care worker is paramount.
“We have human resources issues. If we lose a couple of doctors or nurses, it’s going to be a big problem.”
For Giles, who lives alone, vaccine selfies have been personally anxiety-provoking; she says when she gets vaccinated, she will not post a selfie.
As for Drummond, he has this message for doctors: “By all means celebrate, but celebrate privately. Just don’t do it so publicly when a lot of your colleagues who are dealing with this stuff are dealing with their own anxieties and fears. We get it — we’re happy for you. Just don’t rub salt in our wounds.”
Britney Spears calls recent documentaries about her ‘hypocritical’
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop singer Britney Spears spoke out on Tuesday about recent documentaries about her life and career, calling them “hypocritical” because they rehash her personal problems while criticizing the media for reporting them the first time.
Walt Disney Co’s FX network and The New York Times released “Framing Britney Spears” in February. The documentary examined the singer’s meteoric rise to fame as a teenager, the ensuing media scrutiny and her widely publicized breakdown.And this month, the BBC released “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship” in Britain. It will debut in the United States and Canada starting May 11 via the BBC Select streaming service.
In an Instagram post, Spears did not name either documentary but said “so many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life.”
“These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing,” she added.
In March, Spears said she cried for two weeks after watching part of “Framing Britney Spears”.
The BBC said in a statement on Tuesday that its documentary “explores the complexities surrounding conservatorship with care and sensitivity.”
“It does not take sides and features a wide range of contributors,” the statement added.
A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.
Spears, who shot to fame in 1998 with the hit “Baby One More Time,” is in a court battle seeking to replace her father as her conservator. He was appointed to the role in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
Her fans have shown their support on social media under the hashtags #We’reSorryBritney and #FreeBritney. Spears is scheduled to speak to a Los Angeles court in June.
In her Instagram post, which included a video of herself dancing, Spears said that “although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life … I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)
Grammy organizers change rules after allegations of corruption
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The organizers of music’s Grammy Awards on Friday announced an end to the so-called “secret” committees that have led to allegations that the highest honors in the industry are open to rigging.
The Recording Academy said that nominations for the next Grammy Awards in January 2022 will be selected by all of its more than 11,000 voting members, instead of by committees of 15-30 industry experts whose names were not revealed.
The Academy was slammed last year when Canadian artist The Weeknd got zero Grammy nominations, even though his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” was one of the biggest sellers of 2020.
The Weeknd, in a Twitter post last November, said “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”
The Recording Academy said in a statement on Friday that the changes were significant and were made “to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”
Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted were made in a legal complaint filed in early 2019 by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan.
At the time, the Academy dismissed as “categorically false, misleading and wrong” Dugan’s claims that its members pushed artists they have relationships with. Dugan was later fired.
American pop star Halsey, also shut out of the 2021 Grammys, last year called the nominations process “elusive” and said she was “hoping for more transparency or reform.”
Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called in March for an end to “secret committees.”
“I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of ALL,” Malik tweeted hours ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony.
The Recording Academy on Friday also said it was adding two new Grammy categories – for best global music performance, and best Latin urban music album – bringing to 86 the total number of Grammy Awards each year.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)
Movie theaters face uncertain future
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Maryo Mogannam snuck into the Empire theater in San Francisco with his older cousins to watch “Animal House” when he was 14. He watched most of the James Bond movies at the historic art house and took his wife there on some of their first dates.
The cinema, which had been showing movies since the silent film era, served notice in February that it was permanently closing because of the impact of COVID-19. The marquee is now blank, and cardboard and paper cover the box office window.
“It’s kind of like losing a friend,” said Mogannam, now 57, who owns a retail shipping outlet near the theater, which had been renamed the CineArts at the Empire.
As vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes, they also may find their neighborhood theater is not there to greet them.
An eight-cinema chain in New England said it will not reopen. The same fate hit a Houston art house beloved by director Richard Linklater and, in a shock to Hollywood, more than 300 screens run by Los Angeles-based Pacific Theatres. That includes the Cinerama Dome, a landmark that hosted several red-carpet movie premieres.
Following a year of closures, theaters face deferred rent bills plus media companies’ focus on drawing customers to streaming services. Up to one-fourth of the roughly 40,000 screens in the United States could disappear in the next few years, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
The National Association of Theatre Owners rejects that estimate, spokesman Patrick Corcoran said, noting that similar dire warnings accompanying the advent of television and the switch to digital screens never came to pass.
Hollywood filmmakers want cinemas to thrive.
“It’s the only place where the art dominates,” said “Avatar” director James Cameron. “When you watch something on streaming, the other people in the room with you are welcome to interject, to pause to go to the bathroom, to text.”
At theaters, “we literally make a pact with ourselves to go and spend two to three hours in a focused enjoyment of the art.”
“For 300 people to laugh and cry at the same time, strangers, not just your family in your house, that’s a very powerful thing,” said Chloe Zhao, Oscar-nominated director of best picture nominee “Nomadland.”
At the Academy Awards on Sunday, the movie industry will “make a case for why cinema matters,” producer Stacey Sher said. While acknowledging the hardship of the pandemic, “we also have to fight for cinema and our love of it and the way it has gotten us through things,” she said.
About 58% of theaters have reopened in the United States and Canada, most restricted to 50% capacity or less. The biggest operators – AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld – make up roughly half the overall market.
Industry leaders project optimism, forecasting a big rebound after restrictions ease and studios unleash new blockbusters.
Coming attractions include a new Bond adventure, the ninth “Fast & Furious” film, a “Top Gun” sequel and several Marvel superhero movies.
“Avatar 2,” Cameron’s follow-up to the highest-grossing film of all time, is set to debut in December 2022. Some box office analysts predict 2022 ticket sales will hit a record.
Supporters point to late March release “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which brought in roughly $48.5 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its first five days, even though audiences could stream it on HBO Max.
“That was a big win for the entire industry,” said Rich Daughtridge, president and chief executive of Warehouse Cinemas in Frederick, Maryland.
But near- and long-term challenges loom, particularly for smaller cinemas.
Theaters are negotiating with landlords over back rent. A federal aid program was delayed due to technical problems.
Plus, media companies are bringing movies to homes sooner. Executives say streaming is their priority, pouring billions into programming made to watch in living rooms as they compete with Netflix Inc.
Most at risk are theaters with one or two screens, Wedbush Securities’ Pachter said. He said his best guess is between 5,000 and 10,000 screens could go permanently dark in coming years.
“I think we’ll see a gradual decline in the number of screens,” Pachter said, “just like we’ve seen a gradual decline in the number of mom-and-pop grocery stores and bookstores.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Rollo Ross in Los Angeles, Alicia Powell in New York and Nathan Frandino in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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