The science deniers are losing: Support for immunization jumps in new Gallup poll

There are two main factors in any successful vaccination program: 1) To have a safe and effective vaccine , and 2) To make sure enough people get the vaccine to achieve herd immunity.

Unfortunately, a combination of factors has led many Americans to be wary of vaccines. Some reticence is based in legitimate historical trauma, such as the Tuskegee experiments that left some Black Americans distrustful of government and medicine mixing. Some of it is people falling down rabbit holes of partial information or misinformation from anti-vaccine activists, as well as conspiracy theories about the pandemic in general. And some of it is people simply not knowing enough about the vaccine, how it was developed, and what the trial process entailed to make them enthusiastic about getting it.

So will there be enough people getting the vaccine to put an end to the pandemic? Time will tell, but a new Gallup poll offers some hopeful news on that front. In November, the number of Americans who say they are willing to get the coronavirus vaccine jumped to 63%, continuing the increase from 50% in September and 58% in October.


With the FDA moving forward in the approval process with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and with people already starting to be immunized in the U.K., that's encouraging news. A return to normalcy will depend on a majority of the population being immune, and widespread vaccination is a far better way to get there than through mass sickness and death.

For those who are still hesitant about getting the vaccine, check out what Dr. Samara Friedman shared about how they were developed and why she won't hesitate to get it as soon as it's available:

"The FDA is likely going to approve the Pfizer Covid vaccine when they meet on December 10th. The Moderna vaccine will probably be approved shortly thereafter. This is an incredible feat of modern medicine, and our best chance to hopefully get our lives back to near normal relatively soon. However, it is new and it was done quickly, so understandably, people may be hesitant to get it; even people who vaccinate against all other diseases.

Will I be getting the vaccine? ABSOLUTELY. As a physician, I will probably have the opportunity to be immunized prior to New Year's and yes, I will be taking it as soon as possible.

But, it is a new vaccine technology and done in record time, so aren't I worried about its safety? Nope, not any more so than any other vaccine or other medical intervention.

Why? Let's start with how this vaccine works. This is an mRNA vaccine. Past vaccines typically use a live but weakened "attenuated" virus, or dead viral material "inactivated" virus, or a piece of the virus's protein or even a toxin produced by the virus. The Covid vaccine is very different. It contains mRNA (messenger genetic material) that encodes for the Covid spike protein. This causes your cells to then produce the Covid spike protein. In contrast, when you are sick with Covid, the virus hijacks your cell to produce many copies of the entire virus. Then it destroys the cell, busting it open to release its newly formed viral particles. When your cells release just the spike protein, it will stimulate your immune system to form antibodies to the Covid spike protein without you getting sick. There is no possibility of getting Covid from the vaccine. When your body is subsequently exposed to Covid, it will quickly recognize the spike protein and destroy it before it can make you sick. This was 95% effective in preventing Covid, which is an even better percentage than most other vaccines. However, you must take both doses (about 3-4 weeks apart).

Am I concerned about it being new? And previously untested? No, I'm not. This type of technology is not entirely new. It has been studied and used in cancer research. They have been making mRNA vaccines and studying them to specifically target proteins on tumor cells and train your immune system to then destroy the tumor. In this case, it is not a vaccine in the preventive sense, as it is targeted to a tumor that you already have. It is not currently widespread because it has to be custom made for each tumor. But, it has been "around the block" for a while now. The technology was also being studied for other Coronaviruses. It never came to fruition, because the diseases never reached pandemic proportions, and then the funding dried up. The mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell, and it does not affect your DNA, and therefore has no lasting impact on your cell.

Am I concerned about the speed with which it was developed? Weren't significant corners cut in order to get this out so quickly? No and no. What was cut out of the equation was mostly red tape, and what was added was technology and funding. We were given the genetic code by scientists in China to start vaccine production in January; before Covid was even documented to have reached our shores. From there, the vaccine was developed from the technology we had from the prior Coronavirus and cancer research, and was completed in March. Normally, there would be months of waiting for the FDA to even look at the work done prior to approving Phase 1 trials. Because of the urgent nature of this, it was essentially put on the top of the wait pile, which cut out months of waiting, but did not cut any corners. Between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (both mRNA, with a slightly different delivery system), they were tested in 37,000 people in Phase 3 (and an additional 37,000 received a placebo). That is on par with, if not better than the vaccines currently available.

Aren't I concerned that the FDA is about to approve it, and there may be side effects that haven't been seen yet? Nope on this one too. We know from decades of vaccine research, since you typically just get 1, 2 or 3 doses and then you are done with it, that nearly all side effects from vaccines occur in the first 6 weeks. Like other vaccines, minor side effects may occur(soreness at injection site, muscle aches, fever). Severe adverse reactions are extremely rare, and again, occur quickly if they are going to occur at all. As a healthy 40-something year old woman, my risk of dying from Covid is about 1 in 250 to 1 in a 1,000. That is not a rare event! And even if I don't die from it, I could have long term lung damage and other issues that affect my quality of life. Because vaccines are given to healthy people (unlike medications for treating a disease that is already present) they are held to a much higher standard for approval. My risk of having a significant adverse reaction from the Covid vaccine is minuscule in comparison to my risk with Covid. In fact, there have been no severe reactions to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to date.

For the rest of the population (outside of healthcare workers or those in nursing homes), who will likely be able to get the vaccine in February or March, there will be even more time passed and more people who have received the vaccine to be the "guinea pigs" here.

Anyone who is pregnant - it has not yet been tested in your group (although I do know that many pregnant front line health care workers are planning to take it). For those under 18 years old - it is also not yet tested. Moderna will be starting a trial shortly. Hopefully it will be approved by summer. But for everyone else, I highly recommend getting it as soon as you can; for you, for your loved ones, for those who cannot (perhaps because they are immunocompromised), for the many businesses that are on the verge of permanent shut down, and for kids to safely return to schools. I will be rolling up my sleeve for it as soon as it is offered.

If you'd like, please do feel free to cut and paste on your own social media sites. Sharing of information is so important to combating this pandemic. We have now surpassed 15 million documented Covid cases in our country (5 million of which were in the last 30 days) and over 2,000 people are dying per day. I do not plan on making the post shareable, as I don't need militant anti-vaxers tracking me down.

Samara Friedman, M.D.
Orthopaedic Surgery

(While, I am not an expert in vaccines, as a physician, I do have the necessary skills to interpret medical studies and evaluate data. Additionally, I have been listening to the experts in virology, infectious disease, and epidemiology.)"

You don't have to be an expert in vaccines to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to their development. When it comes to risk, we know that there are very real risks from COVID-19, and since the incidences of adverse vaccine events are far, far lower, the risk-benefit ratio comes out greatly in favor of getting the vaccine.

Modern medicine truly has come so far, and the incredible feat of this newvaccine development should be celebrated whole-heartedly.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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