What we need to do now

February 18, 2021
We have COVID-19 vaccines—but we’re not done yet. We also need to tackle vaccine hesitancy, health equity, and pandemic preparedness. Read to the end for insights for biotech investors and an introduction to a young Black chemist who achieved a number of firsts in her…
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We have COVID-19 vaccines—but we’re not done yet. We also need to tackle vaccine hesitancy, health equity, and pandemic preparedness. Read to the end for insights for biotech investors and an introduction to a young Black chemist who achieved a number of firsts in her short life. (825 words, 4 minutes, 7 seconds)

 

What we need to do now

 
 

We developed COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in record time, and they’re making their way to patients now—but the work’s not done yet. On Day 2 of the BIO CEO and Investor Digital Conference, experts discussed two things we need to do next.

1. We have to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

“We are facing an incredible hurdle of vaccine hesitancy,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, Chief Patient Officer and EVP at Merck and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Trust is probably as difficult as vaccine distribution—and we spent so much money getting vaccines and countermeasures available for this, but I don’t think we’ve invested nearly enough in how we’re actually going to deploy them and build confidence in their value,” she continued.

Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics Policy, explained how community leaders are boosting confidence in the vaccine in Black and Latin American communities:

 

 
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2. We have to tackle health equity.

However, there’s a “silver lining,” Arthur continued: “the activation going on in communities of color around health care” that could help us tackle health equity beyond COVID-19.  

“We’re definitely advocating and championing for using COVID as a model of access to medicine,” she said. This includes making sure people can get vaccines for free, and longer term, ensuring diversity in clinical trials.

“Let’s think first about what our patients need most,” said Gerberding. They need to be able to take the medicines they need without fearing “financial catastrophe.”

On the bright side: “We’re going to see really good conversations with our industry and communities about how to improve health equity,” concluded Arthur. “And we’re going to see a lot of people come to the table and discuss it.”

A few more things we learned on Day 2…

 

More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: CDC announces $200 million ‘down payment’ to track virus variants
“Scientists say the new investment will help in the next couple of months, but hope that the stimulus package will provide much more.”

 
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And one more thing: pandemic preparedness

 
 

We know you don’t want to think about the next pandemic while we’re still in the middle of this one—but we need to think about better pandemic preparedness so COVID-19 isn’t a dress rehearsal for a potentially worse pandemic in the future. 

“Up to 75% of new and emerging diseases are zoonotic in origin,” according to the CDC—including COVID-19, which we know likely originated in a bat and jumped to humans most likely with the help of a wet market.

“The fact that we may have caught COVID from bats isn’t so much their fault as ours,” says John Oliver in this must-watch clip from his show, Last Week Tonight, which clearly explains why pandemic preparedness and infectious disease research is so important.

31% of new and emerging diseases are linked to deforestation, according to recent research—and things like wildlife trade, exotic pet ownership, wet markets, and, yes, even state fairs allow zoonotic diseases to spread to humans more easily.

This is why we need a “One Health perspective,” continues Oliver—“where we recognize that the health of humans, animals, and environment are all interconnected and take that into account when making decisions on everything from environmental regulations to urban planning.” 

And we can’t get complacent. “We really need to remember the way we feel right now and invest accordingly,” he concludes. 

Watch the whole thing.

Learn more about how we can stop disease outbreaks through One Health.

 
 
 
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BIO Celebrates Black History Month
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Young chemist Alice Ball achieved a number of firsts—including discovering the first treatment for leprosy. 

Born in 1892 in Seattle, Washington, Alice Ball was the first woman AND the first African American to earn a Master’s in chemistry from the College of Hawaii, in 1915. 

At 23 years old, she discovered how to safely inject chaulmoogra oil to use as a treatment for Hansen’s Disease (a.k.a. leprosy). Until the discovery of antibiotics, this was the only effective treatment for this stigmatized and lethal disease. 

Sadly, however, Alice died at 24—and another chemist published the findings and took credit for her work. It wasn’t until the 1970s that researchers at the now-University of Hawaii uncovered her research and gave her credit for what would be known as the “Ball Method.”

 
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President Biden’s Thursday: He and VP Harris will receive a COVID-19 briefing at 10:30 AM ET. Meanwhile, President Biden is working his Senate ties to move his agenda, reports The New York Times.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: House Financial Services is holding a virtual hearing, Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide. (ICYMI: Here’s what Nasdaq’s CEO said you need to know about the GameStop saga.)

 
 
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