Yale Daily News

After nearly two years of life shattered by the coronavirus pandemic, four of Yale’s public health experts analyzed the lessons learned to end the current pandemic and prevent the next one.

Looking to the future, each expert explained that ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines while combating misinformation is of the utmost importance for global health. Akiko Iwasaki, professor of epidemiology and immunobiology, said that Yale as an institution manages vaccines good. University instituted terms of reference for students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral fellows. Yale now has a 99.5% vaccination rate among students. But as students enter the winter season, with an increased risk of transmission from indoor activities and vacation travel, the four Yale experts discussed public health measures that should be taken nationally and globally to address the future of the pandemic.

“In the future, we need to do a much better job of educating and communicating with the public,” said Iwasaki. “Even if we produce great vaccines, if half the population does not want to take it, we will still be in the same position..

According to Iwasaki, there are two main reasons why individuals might not be vaccinated. In some populations, the problem is lack of accessibility. Other populations with access to vaccines may experiencing hesitation due to misinformation.

Albert Ko, professor of public health and epidemiology, explained that populations in poverty, both globally and locally in New Haven, have been disproportionately affected by the new variants of COVID-19 .

These pockets of unvaccinated individuals are of concern, not only because of the risk of an epidemic, but also because of the potential for new variants to emerge, he explained. According to Ko, variants such as Alpha and Delta appeared in populations that exhibited uncontrolled transmission of the virus. Although the vaccines remain effective against existing variants, there is a dangerous possibility that a vaccine resistant strain will develop in the future.

“I think for the world the big problem is how quickly we can get immunization programs up and running, and especially in our poorest countries,” Ko said.

In terms of vaccination rates among students at Yale, Iwasaki, Ko and Saad Omer – the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health – agreed that Yale, as an institution, has mitigated COVID-19 using effective public health policies. In the last academic year, before mRNA vaccines became widely available, the University instituted a twice-weekly COVID-19 testing policy, as well as strict face mask and social distancing rules.

“Yale has had a pretty good response in terms of vaccination,” Omer said. “It was both policies, but also student compliance, especially undergraduates.”

Although Yale successfully implemented its vaccination requirements, Omer pointed out that many other universities have not achieved the same levels of vaccination among students.

He specifically noted that many public schools were prohibited from requiring vaccination against COVID-19. Due to Political reasons.

“There may be a disparity in risk due to pockets of higher vulnerability in public schools, especially those that are not entitled to have a vaccine mandate,” Omer said.

According to Omer, this risk is of particular concern in the perspective of the winter months. There may be a higher risk of transmission once activities and gatherings move indoors, especially in public schools which already have denser gatherings due to the larger student population.

Ko echoed Omer’s concerns, noting that there was a ascend in cases across the country last winter, including New Haven. In addition to the increase in time spent indoors, both Ko and Omer have said vacation travel could play a role in the spread of COVID-19.

In order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the coming months, Omer suggested that policymakers institute a vaccination mandate for airlines and other forms of travel. Knowing that vacation travel could contribute to an increase in cases nationwide, he said instituting such an anticipatory warrant is a good opportunity to minimize damage. Currently, airports have a mandatory mask policy until January 2022.

Professor of epidemiology Robert Dubrow stressed the importance of acting globally to fight the pandemic.

“One of the most important steps the world can take to deal more effectively with current and future pandemics would be for the nations of the world to agree to provide significantly greater resources and authority to the World Health Organization,” which needs to grow and be universally recognized as the world’s premier public health agency, ”Dubrow wrote in an email to The News.

Even if 99.5% of Yale College students are vaccinated, Ko noted that the vaccines are not 100% effective against infections. He said Yale could see cases of COVID-19 occurring, but stressed that vaccination prevents severe forms of infection. In addition, he said that increasing vaccination rates in the general population will reduce the risk of these breakthrough cases.

While Yale may see small clusters of COVID-19 cases in the future, Ko said he does not anticipate a large outbreak disrupting prices. The most important thing is to educate the students, he said, and changes in infection rates or policies are unlikely to have an impact on education.

Ko speculated that Yale could implement more conservative guidelines for winter gatherings in response to the increase in infections, although he noted that thThe busy Harvard-Yale game is currently scheduled for November 20.

“Winter is going to test us, but I think the vaccinations, along with the face masks, are going to go a long way,” Ko said. “And I think we’re just going to need to see if we get it. need to have weekly tests on vaccinated people. “

According to Ko, looking ahead to the next semester and beyond, people will have to learn to live with the virus on an endemic level. Iwasaki agreed that the pandemic will eventually become endemic – most people will be immune. However, she said it may take some time before most people have developed some immunity to infection or vaccination.

Although Ko is optimistic about the future at Yale, he said he was concerned about low vaccination rates across the country.

“There is going to be transmission of COVID,” Ko said. “What we can hope for is low level transmission or clusters and not large outbreaks, and certainly not the large outbreaks that we have experienced in the past.”

Yale saw 23 positive cases over the past seven days, according to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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