Category: Current Events

Love Vs. Vaccine Mandates

May we live in interesting times. Check this out. What you will see is my friend Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s blog post which further develops a theme I wrote about recently. In my post, I talked about the PSA offered by Pope Francis, in which he described getting the COVID vaccine as “An act of love.” Here, Jane notes that the Catholic Health Association has mounted an entire campaign wrapped around the notion of getting vaccinated being a way to “Love thy neighbor.”

AND. As I wrote this on September 9th, a clearly perturbed President Biden announced that he was “out of patience” with the unvaccinated, and proceeded to issue a mandate for almost 100 million people to get vaccinated. Federal employees, those doing business with the Government, employees of large corporations, etc.

Bottom Line. An interesting juxtaposition of events. A message based on love and a Presidential mandate. Will these forces combine to get the hardcore unvaccinated to take the plunge? What will the percentage of success be? How quickly will all of this unfold?

Stay tuned!

Does “Confidence” Cause “Action???”

Here’s an interesting one. A recent Harris Poll indicated that formal FDA approval of Comirnaty increased respondents’, both vaccinated and unvaccinated respondents, “confidence” in the vaccine. Interesting thought in and of itself. Reading this left me to ponder how many people could outline, even at the 20,000-foot level, the differences in the hurdles that a vaccine has to clear in order to obtain “emergency approval” versus “FDA approval.” I certainly couldn’t and look at what I do for a living!

The plot thickens. According to this same article, about 50% of those who are unvaccinated are moved enough by this increase in confidence that they “probably” or “definitely” will be vaccinated, and about 60% of parents are now willing to get their children vaccinated. Color me skeptical on that one. Talking with patients on the topic of vaccination, I have heard religious objections. I have had patients say that they are afraid that the vaccine since it is “Messenger RNA,” will alter their genetic makeup. Or have a negative impact on their fertility. Then there are those who believe that the vaccine will “magnetize” them or allow the government to track their movements. Does “FDA approval” relieve them of these objections?

Bottom Line. Just as I had finished reading this piece, I was scheduled to do one of my On Doctors’ MindsSM conversations to get an update for our hundreds of subscribers as to what is happening in office-based practices as a result of the pandemic. This doctor, a more senior primary care physician in a rural practice in Pennsylvania, offered that about 60% of his patients had been vaccinated and that he saw little likelihood of any more doing so. He has tried hard to get the balance to get vaccinated, but to no avail.

Survey research results versus the opinion of a physician with 50 years of experience under his belt. Which do we believe? Oh, and other factors, like major corporations, government agencies and academic institutions now feeling empowered to issue vaccine mandates given FDA approval might well have a significant impact on the outcome here.

What will Cominarty’s approval translate into in terms of new patients journeying out to get the “Fauci Ouchie?” 

Stay tuned!

What’s in a Name???

Here’s an interesting one, the likes of which we have never seen before. When the Pfizer vaccine received final FDA approval, the company quickly rolled out a brand name for the product. Comirnaty. You can see the “creatives’” minds at work coming up with this one.  “Co” for COVID. “mirna” for the first authorized messenger RNA. “ty” for community. 

The only question is whether any of this marketing fluff will matter. Likely “the Pfizer vaccine” is a term heard, around the world, more frequently than the name of any other pharmaceutical product prior to its FDA approval.  As we have often discussed, habits are strong forces, and I scratch my head wondering whether anyone will take the time to learn the new “brand name,” and to substitute it for the terminology now entered on hundreds of millions of vaccination cards. Will the result be clarification or confusion?

Bottom Line. While I see why Pfizer felt the need to promote this name, I wonder how many times someone will say “Comirnaty,” get a quizzical look from a listener, and respond, “You know! The Pfizer vaccine!!!” 

Will Pfizer spend a lot of money to drive the new name home? Will it matter? It will be interesting to watch and see!!!

Are We Entering the “Dark Ages???”

Our friend the Country Doctor certainly thinks so. Check this out! What you will see is his riff on the current collective state of mind of the United States. A sort of shared craziness that has the country more afraid of a vaccine than the disease it has been developed to prevent. Over 600,000 Americans dead and counting, and still half our population is unvaccinated, and many of them proud of it. Science has become a nasty word in the minds of many. Terms like “mandate” fly right into the face of the LMA (“Leave Me Alone”) generation and have led to demonstrations and violence. Flight attendants are literally getting punched when they tell passengers to put on masks. The result? I have seen several FB posts that have suggested that this might well be Armageddon, the end of the world as forecast in Revelation. 

Bottom Line. I know, I know. Chicken Little speak. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!! We typically make fun of people whose stock and trade is the prediction of the end of the world.  BUT. I think that the doctor has a point here that should be considered. Are things bad now? Arguably, yes. Are things likely to get worse? Maybe. What will that look like?

And most importantly, what can be done to get our collective consciousness back on a positive track? I think the good doctor is correct. If things get better, it will be due to “dumb luck or divine intervention.” It will NOT be due to everybody doing their parts! 

Pope Francis and the COVID-19 Vaccine

We have an interesting situation here on Hilton Head Island, SC. Reported statistics indicate that about 70% of Caucasians here are fully vaccinated.  And 40% is the number being bandied about for Blacks, while the estimated number for our LatinX citizenry is 20%. 

A couple of points here. First, the explanation for the White vs. Black disparity has been heard many times. From the Tuskegee Experiment (In which Black men were purposefully injected with syphilis and left untreated to “see what would happen”) on forward, Blacks have unfortunately been provided with many “good” reasons to distrust medicine, doctors, etc.

But what’s with the LatinX number? The marketing researcher in me would love to know what’s going on here, but there are likely many factors at work, and we are desperately short on time.  Since talking science has not made much of a change in this number or overcome whatever factors are at work, maybe a campaign based on the Pope’s recent PSA, in which he declared that receiving the vaccine is an “Act of Love,” might be more effective in persuading the largely Catholic LatinX population to get vaccinated. If the Pope and these bishops say they should do it, with many of them speaking in Spanish, some probably will.

Bottom Line. Over the decades I have been studying health psychology, I haven’t seen religion pop up very frequently in health-related conversations. Now might be a good time to use religion to support vaccination, especially since anti-vaxxers’ “religious objections” are heard frequently!

Ivermectin, the “New Hydroxychloroquine”

Check this out. What you will see is a piece describing how a major piece of the “scientific data” offered to support the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug used in veterinary medicine, in the treatment of COVID-19 in humans is quite likely fraudulent. Not just inconclusive or errant. Purposefully fraudulent.

As the story points out, we have seen this movie before. As with ivermectin, claims of data supporting the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine were last year’s quick fix for the pandemic. So, what’s going on here? In brief, the psychology behind all of this seems to be that we need a treatment for COVID-19 now, this drug may be worth a try, so it’s not a bad thing to conjure up some bogus supporting “data” to convince people to use it.

Bottom Line. Yeah, BUT!!! During a pandemic of a “novel” virus, with real scientists running around like crazy trying to figure out how to prevent and treat, about the last thing the world needs is another distraction like this. 

Stop it!

The Ethics of Telemedicine

In my On Doctors’ MindsSM research that tracks the adaptations that office-based physicians have made to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been fascinated to learn about how quickly clinicians were able to adapt to telemedicine, and some of the hurdles they encountered going up the learning curve involved in using this new technology.

But check this out. What you will see is a discussion of whether it is ethical for a physician to limit the treatment of unvaccinated patients to telemedicine visits. Survey results revealed that 69% of doctors thought this was ethical given the risk such patients pose to medical staff. A medical ethicist weighing in on the same topic agreed, but put in the caveat that if a patient’s condition requires personal contact for good treatment, e.g., in the management of a movement disorder, it was incumbent upon the practitioner to either allow personal visits or refer the patient to an HCP that would provide such service.

Bottom Line. Think about it. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it, among many other things, a slew of new and important ethical questions with which healthcare providers must wrestle daily. As with so many aspects of the pandemic, I am thinking that the results of these wrestling matches will substantially modify thinking in the field of medical ethics for years to come.

If not forever!

Surgical Concierge

Check this out. Press the Eye On Health SurgiQuality button and watch a fascinating video with an interesting premise. More specifically, the point of the video is that when patients are told that they need surgery, they are “shocked”, “nervous”, “scared” and “they don’t know what questions to ask.” Sounds right. Follow through the video and scroll around the SurgiQuality site, and you will see a service designed to deal with all these issues.  A service that will gather all of the paperwork necessary to approach surgery intelligently, or even to pursue non-surgical options which might be recommended by other clinicians. Case materials will be distributed to multiple providers to determine, if a patient elects to proceed with surgery, the highest quality and most cost-effective provider to employ.

Bottom Line. This approach is a very different one from what usually happens in real life. When a patient is told she needs surgery, the usual response is to proceed with the surgeon who has made the diagnosis, and to assemble as much paperwork as necessary to get the procedure scheduled and paid for. 

Does the SurgiQuality approach appear to be more rational than this? Absolutely! But I have two questions. First, to what extent will patients actually seek out this service rather than simply relying on the surgeon who has made the diagnosis and who has at least the beginnings of a viable patient relationship? Second and perhaps even more importantly, to what extent will surgeons repeatedly review cases, offer opinions and make bids for surgeries that they know that they will most likely not wind up being compensated for in most cases? This “competition,” which is described by SurgiQuality as being healthy, might seem less so to a doctor who is asked repeatedly to spend precious time without the guarantee of remuneration.

This will be an interesting one to watch!

“Drag Nuns,” Mandatory Face Masks, a Pandemic, and Uber

Silly me. I had never heard of “drag nuns,” nor was I aware that there seems to be a business opportunity in having groups of them perform. So check this out. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this piece, because its point is a simple one. That is, Uber and Lyft drivers cannot legally discriminate against LGBTQ passengers or Blacks. BUT. They can refuse rides to passengers not wearing masks. SO. They simply report to their company that someone whose appearance is unacceptable or scary to them is not wearing a mask, and off they drive without the aforementioned potential passenger in the car.

Bottom Line., So what’s my point here? Like I said, a simple one! The COVID-19 pandemic has now been knit into all kinds of social controversies. “Mask Mandates.” “Vaccine Mandates.” News reports of people getting injured in fights breaking out between groups on opposite sides of these issues. And now this. Masks, or the purported absence thereof, being used as excuses for otherwise unacceptable discriminatory behavior.

My guess? These psychological perturbations that have resulted from the pandemic will linger in our society long after the virus itself has been brought under control! 

 

Broken

Check this out. Picture, from a physician’s perspective, the horror of combined pandemics. COVID-19 like the whole world is experiencing, with a dollop of civil war and lawlessness being thrown in at no extra charge. That’s the story in South Africa today, and in many places around the world as well. Dreadful!

Bottom Line. This blogging physician ends his piece better than I could, so I will just use his line.  “Now I know our democracy is broken, and it is time to move on to heal.” Too true in South Africa, too true here, too true in so many parts of the world in 2021. 

It is, indeed, time to move on to heal!