CDC Monitors New COVID Strain, Stresses Vaccine Safety

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Stacy Brown || NNPA Newswire The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring a new strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom. The agency is in constant communication with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Jeffrey E. Hall, the CDC’s COVID-19 Chief Health Equity Officer, said during a live interview with the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Dr. Hall noted that the CDC and state and local health departments are continually monitoring and studying the virus spreading in the United States to detect any changes quickly. “We just put up a website about the new variant, and it lays out the full story,” Dr. Hall remarked. “One thing to note about the conversation about mutation, everyone tends to be frightened by that … those things tend to plant these concepts of what happens in nature that could lead to negative outcomes, but this is a situation when it comes to virality, that science, mutation is part of what is expected where that process is concerned. Because of the profile of COVID-19, people are understandably concerned. But our agency is watching this intently.” Dr. Hall, who holds degrees in epidemiology, general sociology, and psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, previously served as a Lead Behavioral Scientist in the Surveillance Branch of the Division of Violence Prevention of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. His professional interests include developmental epidemiology and social psychology applications within violence prevention, structural and environmental methods for reducing violence-related health disparities, and community-based models for violence surveillance, research, and prevention. A medical sociologist by training, Dr. Hall’s work has focused on topics across the life span, including infant homicide, youth, young adult violence, and elder abuse. As an African American, Dr. Hall said he understands the Black community’s hesitation about the new vaccines approved to fight the virus. “To be able to heal and progress and really approach this opportunity from an informed position, we have to take into account all the things that might influence people,” Dr. Hall surmised. “We can’t dismiss the importance of the Tuskegee Experiment, the Cincinnati Radiation Experiment, and we know the Henrietta Lacks story.” Each of those medical experiments went awry.In Lacks’ case, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore gave Lacks’ cancerous cell samples to a researcher without her knowledge or consent. Lacks’ cells turned out to have an extraordinary capacity to survive and reproduce. Today, work done with what is now referred to as HeLa cells have been involved in critical discoveries in many fields, including cancer and infectious disease. One of their most recent applications has been in research for COVID-19 vaccines. Lacks’ family has never been compensated and are barely recognized for her immense contribution. “These stories often pop up as African Americans,” Dr. Hall said. “When new social injustices arrive, it can call our faith into question. But, for us to potentially benefit from opportunities for health, we have to lay it all out on the table and talk it through and look at what’s represented in opportunities like flu vaccination, COVID opportunities, and preventive services.”


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