2 0 2 1 H E A L T H C A R E E D I T I O N
Susan Bailey President of the American Medical Association
I’MEXCITED. YOUKNOW, THERE AREMORE
VACCINES ON THE HORIZON. ... I THINKWE’RE GOING TOHAVE ANUMBEROF CHOICES GOING FORWARD. I AMCONVINCED WEWILL BEAT COVID. WEWILL WIN THIS FIGHT. BUT ... WE’RE ALL GOING TOHAVE
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.” The AMA’s goal during the pandemic has been to ensure physicians have the supplies and information needed to care for patients. The AMA’s focus now includes COVID-19 vaccine transparency and distribution. Founded in 1847, the AMA is the country’s largest physician membership organization. Bailey spoke with Community Impact Newspaper on April 21. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TOPULL OURWEIGHT. SUSAN BAILEY, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES TO VACCINE DISTRIBUTION MOVING 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 condence in those individuals that haven’t been sure they … wanted to get it. … So we’re going to see a transition frommass vaccination events ... 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
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. HOWMUCHOF A CHALLENGE HAS MISINFORMATION BEEN TOVACCINE DISTRIBUTION? Vaccine misinformation and deliberate 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. ... 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 encourages questions from someone that you can trust can be incredibly powerful in increasing vaccine condence.
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 infectious, more dangerous. The odds of a more infectious, more dangerous variant are much less. 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 saying they’re thinking that we
without the transportation, 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. 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
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