July 24, 2020
Ambassador Katherine Tai
United States Trade Representative
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In early 2020, the coronavirus swept across the country and forced people to take extra safety precautions. With stay-at-home orders and state-wide quarantines put in place all over the country, the common belief among the public at the time was life would not resume normalcy until a vaccine arrived.
In July 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted a panel with health care experts to discuss the state of COVID-19 testing and a vaccine and how it affected businesses. Here are four takeaways from that conversation.
There Will Be No Catch All, Universal Vaccine
Multiple medical and pharmaceutical teams worked hard, and continue to work hard, on developing COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is a SARS virus, which means it has a propensity for mutating. Because the virus affects people of certain populations differently, it’s essential that we’re preparing multiple vaccines. As different vaccines develop, they’ll be more or less effective to different types of people.
“In certain populations or in certain demographics, some vaccines may be more effective, more protective, than others,” said Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, the CEO for the American Society for Microbiology said. “So that is why this suite of tools, that looks like will be available within the next year or so, could really give us a little bit more of a slightly more personal approach towards certain groups.”
Vaccines May Need Multiple Doses to Be Effective
One of the early mysteries of the COVID-19 virus is how long the immunity enlisted by exposure or by a vaccine would last for. We may discover that our immunity to the virus isn’t forever. Therefore, we may need to receive multiple doses of a vaccine in order for it to have long-term effectiveness. Furthermore, the immune response that develops with people who are infected with the virus is currently inconclusive.
“There's emerging evidence that it may be protective for a finite period of time,” said Dr. Lloyd Minor, the Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine. “[This raises the possibility that there would need to be redosing of the vaccine down the road,” Dr Minor said.
We Need to Prepare Strong Community and Cultural Outreach for a Vaccine
COVID-19 has disproportionally ravaged Black and Brown communities. Historically, these communities have had more distrust towards the medical establishment based on their past treatment, such as during the decades-long Tuskegee Syphilis Study. In order to make sure those who are most affected receive vaccinations, work needs to be done with the communities and develop proper educational materials.
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and her team have been focusing on preparing vaccine materials that will resonate with different communities.
“We are taking additional steps to ensure that not only materials are developed in a culturally appropriate way, but that when we do the rollout, the implementation of vaccine distribution, we do it in collaboration with all of our communities,” Dr. Barbot said.
Simple Safety Measures Can Protect Businesses from Liability
An idea that has floated around in 2020 is whether schools and businesses should require proof of vaccination in order to resume business as usual. While in theory, this seems like a good idea, the panel warned that in execution, this would disproportionately and unfairly affect communities without access to the vaccine. Businesses, however, may want proof of vaccination to protect them from being sued if an employee gets sick at work.
“It would seem to me that [strict safety measures] would go a long way towards fulfilling the obligations that an employer has to their employees,” Dr. Minor said.
He suggested businesses implement policies that consist of employees wearing masks in the work environment, observing social distancing, doing health checks that can be automated or available in apps, and staying home when sick.
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