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Hundreds of doctors have asked the FDA not to rush—or politicize—a coronavirus vaccine

"There's only one thing more dangerous than a bad virus, and that's a bad vaccine," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies programme, said in March. "We have to be very, very, very careful in developing any product that we're going to inject into potentially most of the world population."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have said that developing a vaccine and getting it through the necessary safety and efficacy protocols would take, at minimum, 12 to 18 months. Yet here we are, 7 months in, and Vladimir Putin has just announced that Russia has already approved a vaccine for the coronavirus.

According to the BBC, there are more than 100 vaccines in various stages of development and testing. Six of those have reached phase 3 trials, involving more widespread testing in humans. Russia's vaccine is not among those six.

Meanwhile, hundreds of U.S. doctors have signed a letter urging the FDA not to rush or politicize vaccine trials.


"We are experts in virology, epidemiology, vaccinology, infectious disease, clinical care and public health," the letter opens, before declaring the "urgent" need for a COVID-19 vaccine. "We are committed to promoting the broad uptake of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The need is urgent but all vaccines must be rigorously studied to determine whether their benefits exceed their risks."

The letter expresses concern that public confidence in a vaccine will be greatly undermined by rushing the process, and that thorough safety trials must be followed through in order for doctors themselves to confidently recommend and administer one.

For those reasons, the doctors urged transparency in the process of trialing and documenting any potential vaccines:

"The foundation of public confidence in vaccine safety has long been, and must remain, the well-established and trusted FDA approval procedures. The public is typically and rightly able to comment on vaccine approval. It is important that investigators share Phase 3 trial design details. For example, Data Safety Monitoring Boards apply predetermined 'stopping rules' to decide whether a study should be terminated early based on the detection of early benefits, the likelihood of no benefit, or the emergence of serious safety problems. These stopping rules should be publicly available. There must also be continuous monitoring for unexpected severe side effects that might only become apparent after large numbers of people are vaccinated."

Finally, they drove home the point that doctors can only recommend a vaccine if they believe it is safe, and that evaluating safety can only be done with a transparent process unmarred by politics.

"We can only perform as advocates if we ourselves are persuaded that the vaccine(s) truly is safe and effective. We must be able to explain to the public what we know and what we don't know about these vaccines. For that to happen, we must be able to witness a transparent and rigorous FDA approval process that is devoid of political considerations."

Russia's announcement could very well push vaccine makers and the government to rush the development and trialing process, which would be a mistake. Vaccine development usually takes years, not months, and skipping safety steps in the name of competition or expediency could make public health problems worse, not better.

As always, government needs to listen to the health experts on this front. We need a vaccine as soon as possible, but we also need to make sure we utilize the knowledge and processes that will ensure any vaccine will be safe to administer, no matter which company or country gets there first.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


At 1:30 am on Monday morning an AMBER Alert went out in southern Louisiana about a missing 10-year-old girl from New Iberia. It was believed she had been kidnapped and driven away in a 2012 silver Nissan Altima.

A few hours later at 7 am, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, sanitation workers for Pelican Waste, were on their daily route when they noticed a vehicle that fit the description in the alert.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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