48: Pt 2 -State of the COVID-19 Response

Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO President and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about the importance of COVID vaccines for young children; Executive coach Larry Lewis explains the value of recognizing small victories even...


Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO President and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about the importance of COVID vaccines for young children; Executive coach Larry Lewis explains the value of recognizing small victories even during a crisis; ASTHO releases nine regional reports covering ASTHO members’ work to address adverse childhood experiences; and Dr. Tomas Aragon, Director and State Public Health Officer for the state of California, offers insight in a new ASTHO Member Spotlight.

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Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, October 18th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

The fight to control the COVID-19 virus comes into focus this month with key decisions about vaccine boosters, the study of a new anti-COVID pill to help those already infected, and a review of Pfizer's vaccine formula for kids.

We start there with ASTHO president, Dr. Nirav Shah. It's part two of our extended morning conversation.

At the end of this month, there will begin a conversation about the safety of vaccines for children, those younger than age 12.

What's the opportunity there, and what do you foresee as the challenges?

  1. NIRAV SHAH:

There are two opportunities when we think about vaccinating children between the ages of five to 11.

The first is, of course, protecting them; although, generally speaking, children are not as effected nor severely as effected by COVID as are adults, they are and can be affected, to say nothing over the longer term implications of having COVID for younger children. The vaccine first and foremost is an ability and opportunity to protect those younger children against COVID—both the immediate as well as the long-term.

The epidemiological question is to what extent will vaccinating children between the ages of five to 11 contribute to greater or higher levels of population-level immunity?

In our—in my state, for example, in Maine, there are about 80,000 children between the ages of five to 11. If even 10%—let alone 90%—of those kids get vaccinated, to what extent will fully vaccinating those 80,000 or so children bend the COVID curve even further by preventing more community transmission?

It's an open epidemiological question, but it's part of the calculus right now, as well as being part of the opportunity.

JOHNSON:

We've seen polls that say two thirds of parents are not sure, or they're not interested, in vaccines for their younger children.

Can we move those numbers?

SHAH:

Well, you know, the first thing I'll note, Robert, is that much as when adult vaccines were first coming onto the market, we saw high rates of individuals say that they weren't interested in getting vaccinated. But those numbers changed as more people became familiar with and understood how the vaccines work and saw firsthand that they were safe.

That's important because it suggests that none of these beliefs are set in stone and that, with proper and thoughtful public health education and communication, we can actually move people onto the side of vaccination.

What has to happen for that with children and their parents is somewhat similar to what we had to do with adults and adolescents, which is to say be open with people, be honest with people about what the vaccine can do, what it can't do, and what the potential side effects are. That remains the most tried and true approach.

JOHNSON:

Overall, looking at the state of the fight against COVID-19 and its variant, how would you grade the effort so far?

And what are you looking forward to or not looking forward to through the end of this year?

SHAH:

Well, I think we've made significant progress, notwithstanding the surges that we've seen; even though those surges are deeply concerning, they are, unfortunately, part of how the virus itself behaves.

I am disappointed that the United States as a country and as a public health organization didn't take more steps to foresee and plan for the arrival of the Delta variant in a manner that I think would have helped mitigate some of the effects that we've seen.

That being said, early signs are that the variant is receding.

One question on the table for the rest of the year is what manner will that recession of the Delta variant look like? Will the United States go the way of some countries where COVID rates spiked and then largely collapsed? Or will it go somewhat more the way of, say, the UK, where rates spiked, came down a little bit, and remain at a somewhat high plateau.

I think that's going to be the question for the end of the year or through the remainder of this year—what will the nature of the second half of the Delta spike look like?

JOHNSON:

If you missed part one of the conversation, that aired on Friday. The newscast is right behind this one in the daily feed. If you follow us, it's already on your mobile device. Check it out and let us know what you think.

 

ASTHO members looking for small victories hidden in the chaos of the pandemic can find inspiration in a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast.

Executive coach Larry Lewis talks about the work ASTHO members have done to celebrate the wins.

LARRY LEWIS:

And especially here in the states and in the territories, they're finding programs that they're starting—they're not curing COVID, they're not getting everybody vaccinated with just as one program, but it's a start.

And when they celebrate it, oh, you know, they're glowing inside, and it's inspiring.

JOHNSON:

ASTHO president elect, Dr. Anne Zink, joins Lewis on the podcast. She makes the case for the moments that can motivate and sustain overworked public health teams.

Listen now everywhere you stream audio.

 

Also today, ASTHO has posted nine regional reports focused on the many ways states and territories have organized to address adverse childhood experiences in their jurisdictions.

The ACECAT reports help audiences understand who're doing the work in their region, how teams are working with each other and with community partners, and what systems are in place to support prevention programs.

Find a link to the report for your region in the show notes.

 

Finally, as National Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, we hear from Dr. Tomás Aragón, director and state public health officer for the state of California.

He discusses the biggest public health challenges facing California's Hispanic and Latino community and explained his role in addressing disparities.

 

Find a link to Dr. Aragón's member spotlight, along with a link to all nine ACECAT regional reports, in the show notes.

 

Also, remember to follow us on Apple podcasts or Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

And, if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review.

 

Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.