Science and policy are the cornerstones of our society, and it is essential to have a source that engages the intersection of both with an exploratory, analytical, and nonpartisan framework presented concisely. The governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the manner in which science is communicated to the public and how policymakers use science have a direct impact on societal outcomes. COVID-19 has killed more than 480,000 Americans. A vaccine may prevent the death toll from rising and may mark the end of the deadly pandemic that has changed the lives of millions of people. However, the vaccine's safety and effectiveness have been called into question. How was a vaccine developed in a year? What does it mean that the vaccines have been approved for emergency use only? Why is the vaccine's rollout so slow? Why are African Americans more hesitant to receive the vaccine than other demographic groups?
We tackle these questions and more with a number of guest experts. We discuss the biology behind the COVID-19 vaccines with Dr. Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, and explore vaccine hesitancy with Reverend Diann Holt. a member of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. Both were appointed personally by New York Governor Cuomo and seek to bring scientific, social, and economic perspectives to these burning questions. From a legislative perspective, COVID-19 has had detrimental effects on the economy. We learn more about the ways in which a scientific perspective and background can play a role in legislation with Congressional Representatives Seth Moulton (MA-6) and Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6). Both armed with backgrounds in STEM, they give us insights into their journey to the Hill and their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic with specific emphasis on the CARES Act.
Finally, public health data models are used to predict and explain trends in public health outcomes, such as is the case with pandemics, food insecurity, maternal mortality, and hospital resources. These models inform policy-making and public health decisions at the institutional, communal, and federal level, with the potential to impact the lives of millions of people. How are these models built? How do modelers interact with policymakers? Why is it important for modelers to engage with the community they are modeling? These questions are explored with Dr. Ayaz Hyder, PhD, from Ohio State University and Dr. Ashleigh Tuite, PhD/MPH, from the University of Toronto, both of whom are mathematical modelers.
The COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines. To better understand the biology behind the vaccines, click below.
The FDA Review Process
Drugs and vaccines have to go through an intensive review process to obtain FDA approval. The COVID-19 vaccines were no different.
The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
Durham's Maternal Stress-Free Zone
Rev. Holt is the Founder/Executive Director of Durham's Maternal Stress-Free Zone, which supports expecting mothers.
The CARES Act
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Secuity (CARES) Act was enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was co-sponsored by Reps. Moulton and Houlahan.
The Defense Production Act
A Cold War-era law, the DPA gives the President power over domestic industries, which was enacted to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine production.
Both the Peace Corps (international) and AmeriCorps (domestic) were discussed by Rep. Moulton. See below for a hub of volunteer opportunities.
The ALEXA Act
Introduced by Rep. Moulton, the Automatic Listening and Exploitation (ALEXA) Act protects the data devices like Alexa collect about us.
The Women in STEM Caucus
A bipartisan group of members of Congress focused on advancing the role of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Early Career Scientist Resources
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the largest disciplinary scientific society that believes STEM can address challenges and issues.
Challenges in Modeling
As Drs. Hyder and Tuite discussed, there are many challenges in modeling for public health policy.