2 0 2 1 H E A L T H C A R E E D I T I O N
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT There are many myths surrounding COVID-19 vaccines that medical professionals hope to dispel, but there are still unknowns surrounding available vaccines.
Susan Bailey President of the American Medical Association
BY MATT STEPHENS
A board-certied immunologist and allergist, Susan Bailey was elected president of the American Medical Association in June 2020. Bailey said taking on the role in the middle of the pandemic was “analogous to being a wartime president.” But her original plan to reduce burdens for physi- cians so they could focus on patients has not changed. The AMA was founded in 1847 and is the country’s largest physician membership organization. The organization’s goal during the pandemic has been to ensure physicians have the supplies and information needed to care for patients as well as resources to help keep practices open, Bailey said. As the pandemic progressed, she said the AMA became focused on vaccine transparency and distribution. “We had to make sure physicians were thoroughly informed about COVID vaccines because if they were completely condent about the safety and ecacy of the vaccines, then we’d be able to convince our patients,” she said. Bailey spoke with Community Impact Newspaper on April 21. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CAN COVID-19 VACCINES:
Cause someone to contract the virus?
Cause someone to test positive for COVID-19?
Alter someone’s DNA?
Cause problems with pregnancies?
Protect against existing variants in the U.S.?
Cause someone to have u-like symptoms? Cause blood clots in rare cases with women younger than 50?*
Be eective against the virus for longer than 6 months?
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES TOVACCINE DISTRIBUTIONMOVING FORWARD? We predicted this in the beginning that initially there would be a big rush of people that wanted the vaccine and the demand would far outpace the supply. Eventually those two would meet up. And now we are entering the phase where most folks who desperately wanted to get the vaccine have had that opportunity. ... And now, the task is to, you know, help increase vaccine con- dence in those individuals that haven’t been sure they … wanted to get it. … So we’re going to see a transition frommass vaccination events like the one at NRG [Stadium], you know, in Houston and at AT&T Stadium in Arlington to smaller, more local events. And one thing AMA has been advocating for since the vaccines were authorized is to get them into more physicians’ oces because physicians have always been vaccines’ greatest ambassadors. ... We also, in more cases, are going to need to bring the vaccines to people rather than asking people to come to the vaccines. Patients in marginalized communities without the transpor- tation, without good internet access, maybe even without a primary care physician or health clinic to go to—we are going to need to get vaccines into those communities. WHAT IS HERD IMMUNITY, AND HOWDOWE REACH IT? The concept of herd immunity is
that if you get enough individuals vaccinated, that the few that aren’t vaccinated will still be protected because there’s not enough disease in the community anymore to spread. … I don’t focus on those numbers that much anymore because we know that there is some degree … of immunity among people that have been recently infected. And we know that it’ll be a while before we’re able to immunize children who comprise, what, 20% of the population? So I think we need to strive for, you know, 80% of the adult population but realizing that it’s not a switch that’s going to get ipped. …We just are going to have to keep trying, and right now we are in a race with emerging variants. Right now, all of the vaccines that are available … are eective against the variants that have so far been discovered in the United States. … But the more people that are vaccinated and the greater the level of immunity in the population is, the less viral replication is taking place where a variant can develop. COULDADDITIONAL VARIANTS ARISE THE VACCINES ARE NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST? It’s a denite concern, and that’s why we’re in a race with the vaccine to make sure that we can get the level of disease spread in the community so low that the odds of a more infec- tious, more dangerous variant are much less. But that possibility exists and is one of the reasons why we recommend that even after people get vaccinated that they continue to
*AS OF CDC’S UPDATED RECOMMENDATIONS MAY 6, ALL BLOOD CLOTS CAUSED BY THE JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE WERE WOMEN YOUNGER THAN 50 WITH LOW BLOOD PLATELET COUNTS. THE CDC BELIEVES THE VACCINE’S BENEFITS OUTWEIGH THE RISKS, BUT RECOMMENDS WOMEN YOUNGER THAN 50 BE AWARE AND SEEK TREATMENT IF THEY SUFFER BLOOD CLOT SYMPTOMS
SOURCES: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION; SUSAN BAILEY, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENTCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
I AMCONVINCEDWEWILL BEAT COVID. WEWILLWIN THIS
FIGHT. BUT ... WE’RE ALL GOING TOHAVE TOPULL OURWEIGHT. SUSAN BAILEY, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
HOWMUCHOF A CHALLENGE HASMISINFORMATION BEEN TOVACCINE DISTRIBUTION? Vaccine misinformation and delib- erate disinformation are denitely out there and are risks to vaccine condence. There are, you know, patients that … just don’t understand how the vaccines work. … It’s so important to have those conversations and help patients that have questions about vaccines to understand that it’s normal to have questions. We expect you to have questions, and we want to answer your questions. Very often, when you just have that conversation … and reassure them that they can’t get COVID from the vaccine, that they’re really very safe. They’re very eective. No, they weren’t rushed. …We’re not going to convince 100%. But, you know, an empathetic conversation that encour- ages questions from someone that you can trust can be incredibly powerful in increasing vaccine condence.
wear masks, to physically distance, to wash their hands, to avoid crowded indoor gatherings. ... Our basic public health recommendations work. HOWLONGWILL THE VACCINES BE EFFECTIVE?WILL PEOPLE NEED SHOTS EVERY YEAR? We would all like to know the answer to that. …We know that the mRNA [vaccines] give us at least six months, hopefully much longer than that. But it’s just going to take time to keep following patients, you know, very closely to see how … long their immunity lasts. The manufacturers— Pzer and Moderna—have both come out in the last week saying they’re thinking that we may need boosters eventually, but we really don’t know. Another reason that we might need a booster shot is if new variants develop that aren’t covered by the current vaccines so that they can update the vaccines, and we’ll need a booster of that one.
LAKE TRAVIS WESTLAKE EDITION • JUNE 2021
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