Why we are still in a pandemic

Dr. Ashish Jha has a theory about why the Covid-19 pandemic is not over after two years.

According to Ja, the White House’s co-ordinator for the Covid response, scientists and public health officials have led the medical response to the pandemic: As experts have learned more about the coronavirus, the US has continually adapted its safety guidelines and treatment plans accordingly.

These experts often fail to communicate those advances effectively, leading many Americans to distrust science and turn to publicly appointed doctors for health information on social media, Jha said last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado. and scholars.

“We got the biological science right, but we didn’t get the social science right,” Jha said.

The medical response to Covid has been truly impressive: in record time, scientists have developed several safe Covid vaccines that are exceptionally effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. New booster shots targeting specific strains of Covid — for even stronger protection — are on track for federal approval.

Several therapeutic drugs are currently on the market, many of which are in development, for those who are particularly ill from Covid-19. Jha attributed these advances directly to the interstellar connection in science.

“The amount of collaboration in the scientific community has been unprecedented,” Jha said, adding: “That was the main reason we had vaccines and treatments, and all the scientists trusted each other. [each other’s] information is smart.”

But frequent changes to the country’s safety regulations, especially early in the pandemic, have undermined the trust many people have in official statements surrounding Covid-19, leading public health experts to interpret much of the information as inaccurate. This mistrust may prevent some people from getting vaccinated even today, and the country’s lagging vaccination rates are a significant reason why the virus is still spreading.

Jha highlighted a particularly poignant fact: the country’s initial Covid guidelines weren’t even based on the coronavirus itself. The virus was too new for scientists to know much about it, so public health agencies developed their own recommendations for a comparable virus: the flu.

An inability or unwillingness to report that fact in the early days of a pandemic can have far-reaching consequences, Jha said. Our mental model of influenza. That’s how the flu spreads, so now we’re talking about it.

Such an approach could preserve public trust and leave more room for experts to change guidelines, Jha said.

“On the first draft, you don’t get it right,” he explained. “I think that’s fine. But you have to explain to people why you’ve changed your mind, and in the beginning . . .”

A similar pattern emerged in early 2021 when Covid vaccines became available to the general public, Jah said: Because public health experts assumed most Americans would want to get vaccinated right away, they focused their messages on things they didn’t know about. vaccines than they know.

“Most scientists went out there and said, ‘We don’t know if these vaccines reduce transmission.’ Most Americans heard, ‘These vaccines don’t reduce transmission,'” Jha said. “Because we weren’t sure, we took ‘don’t know,’ which was assumed to mean ‘no.'”

Going forward, Jha said health care workers, including himself, must make a concerted effort to put everything on the table. Often, he says, people don’t necessarily need trust. They should get a summons from a reliable source.

“Science is a journey. Science is a process,” Jha said. “I don’t think that’s been made clear to people.”

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