CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election
The appearance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking orders from political leaders grew stronger this week as the organization told states to prepare facilities for a coronavirus vaccine before November's general election. The issue raised alarm for health experts who worry that a vaccine will be rolled out before its safety and efficacy are well established, according to The New York Times.
The letter, written by Director of the CDC Dr. Robert Redfield, is dated August 27 — the same day that President Trump gave his speech at the Republican National Convention claiming that a vaccine would be available before the end of the year. The letter says that the CDC had entered a contract with McKesson Corp. to distribute hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to state and local health departments nationwide in less than two months, according to NBC News.
The New York Times obtained a planning document that the CDC sent out. It described an evolving vaccine landscape, but touted the promise of two different vaccine candidates, and laid out a scenario where 2 million doses could be distributed before November and another 10 to 20 million doses distributed by the end of that month.
Both vaccine candidates would require two injections taken a couple of weeks apart and it identified at-risk populations and frontline workers as the people to receive the vaccine first.
"These scenarios are designed to support jurisdictional, federal, and partner planning, but they are still considered hypothetical," one document reads, as CNN reported.
In the documents, Redfield asks governors to expedite applications for the vaccine distribution facilities that McKesson would run, according to NBC News.
"If necessary," Redfield wrote, the agency "asks you to consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from being fully operational by November 1, 2020," as NBC News reported.
Public health officials worry that the Trump administration is looking to roll out a vaccine prematurely, or at least to hype one, before the election as a way to score political points, as The New York Times noted. There are Herculean logistical challenges involved in distributing and storing a vaccine in sub-zero temperatures to a messy and disjointed healthcare system.
"This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications," said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist based in Arizona, to The New York Times. "It's hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine."
Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins, however, told CNN that he doesn't see it as a premature rush to distribute a vaccine. He said it's proper planning should one of the two vaccine candidates tested show fast, clear evidence that it is protecting people.
"Now, keep in mind that the likelihood of that is pretty low," Collins told CNN. "This is like the Boy Scout motto, 'Be Prepared.'"
"Even if it's very low likelihood, if everything happened to come together really beautifully and we had an answer by then and we knew we had a vaccine that was safe and effective, wouldn't you want people to be ready to figure out how to do the distribution? That's all that CDC is saying," he added.
Medical experts did appreciate that the CDC earmarked the first vaccines for healthcare workers, essential workers and people who work in national security, according to The New York Times. The guidelines also said early vaccines should go to older people, indigenous people, minority groups and to prison populations — all communities that have been most affected by the novel coronavirus.
That specific direction is beneficial for public health, "so it doesn't just all wind up in high-income, affluent suburbs," said Dr. Cedric Dark, an emergency medicine physician at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, to The New York Times.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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