Jeanette Contreras portrait

La tercera vacuna trae esperanza

By NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras

La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los EE. UU. (FDA, por sus siglas en inglés) acaba de aprobar una autorización de uso de emergencia para la vacuna de Johnson & Johnson, la tercera vacuna para combatir el coronavirus en EEUU. Aunque parece que no es tan efectiva como las otras dos, la vacuna de Johnson & Johnson ofrece una protección de 85 por ciento contra casos severos de COVID-19 y 100 por ciento de eficacia para evitar hospitalización y mortalidad, a causa del COVID-19. Con solo una dosis, esta vacuna ofrece protección de 72 por ciento contra el COVID-19 que ultimadamente ayuda controlar la pandemia en la población y alcanzar un nivel de inmunidad necesaria para regresar a la vida normal.

Una ventaja enorme de esta vacuna en términos de administración, es que se puede mantener en refrigeración normal por meses. Las otras vacunas requieren mantenimiento de temperatura súper baja en refrigeradores industriales que solo se encuentran en hospitales grandes. La vacuna de Johnson & Johnson es ideal para distribuir a comunidades rurales y en clínicas comunitarias. La aprobación de esta tercera vacuna, aumenta la disponibilidad y nos da esperanza de poder vacunar a más personas, más rápido con solo una dosis.

Sabemos que la comunidad Latina sufre de una taza de contagio más alta que otros grupos. Latinos constituyen una gran cantidad de empleados en trabajos esenciales con alto riesgo de contagio, como en la producción de comida y en puestos de trabajo de pequeños negocios. Mientras muchos esperan vacunarse, otros tendrán dudas o miedo de vacunarse. La campaña Depende De Ti nos asegura que es normal tener preguntas y ofrece información y respuestas en Español para educar a la comunidad latina.

Campañas educativas como esta son necesaria para combatir información falsa y mitos que circulan en las redes sociales. Se escuchan mitos que las vacunas en general hacen daño o que alteran o cambian el ADN. Sin embargo, está comprobado científicamente por siglos que las vacunas han salvado vidas y nos han protegido. Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC, por sus siglas en inglés) tiene una página dedicada a información para derribar los mitos más frecuentes acerca de estas vacunas.

Para alentar a la población a vacunarse, muchas empresas grandes están ofreciendo tiempo pagado o incentivos financieros a los empleados que se vacunan. Por ejemplo, supermercados como Publix les da $125 y Kroger les da $100 a empleados cuando reciben la vacuna completa. Dollar General les aumenta cuatro horas de pago normal a los que se vacunan.

Gracias a la autorización de la nueva vacuna, Presidente Biden afirma que para el fin de mayo habrá vacunas para todos los adultos en EEUU. Las personas que deciden vacunarse, pueden buscar información confiable en el recurso de Telemundo – PlanificaTuVacuna.com para verificar la elegibilidad de acuerdo a las ordenes de cada estado.

Getting more vaccines in arms: Trust and efficiencies

Guest blog by Farah Towfic, PharmD, MBA, director of the U.S. Pharmacopeia COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit

In the United States, nearly 200 million doses of influenza vaccines are administered annually. Clearly, pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare practitioners have demonstrated a successful track record of delivering robust immunization programs for many years. However, the unprecedented scale and speed at which the COVID-19 vaccinations must be delivered to curb the devastating impact of this pandemic has surfaced enormous challenges—which have been further compounded by significant vaccine supply demand.​ Never before have we had to distribute multiple doses to more than 15 billion individuals around the world, with more than 300 million in the U.S. alone.

The pandemic has also recharged the focus on vaccine hesitancy, a challenging and complex issue which, at its core, is about trust based on a person’s experience and perspective. According to the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, a growing share of the public is open to getting vaccinated, but many of the same groups that were hesitant in December 2020, when the first COVID-19 vaccines were released, remain hesitant now. When deciding whether to get vaccinated, most people say they will likely turn to pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers as the source for information. The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor also notes that 85 percent of people trust their own doctor or healthcare provider at least a fair amount for reliable vaccine information.

If we are going to mitigate the impact of this pandemic, we need to help build and maintain trust in COVID-19 vaccines. As an independent, nonprofit, scientific organization, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) has been dedicated—for more than 200 years—to improving global health and building trust in medicine through public standards and related programs that help ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of our drugs. With our shared goals to provide patient access to quality medicines, USP is proud to be a founding member of the National Consumers League (NCL) Health Advisory Council. The Council’s informative communication and opportunities for engagement provide critical perspectives that help shape and inform USP’s strategic focus and initiatives. The Health Advisory Council also demonstrates the power of collaboration—which is a cornerstone of USP’s work.

By working together with stakeholders, partners in industry and the U.S. government, we are able to identify the COVID-19 vaccine operational challenges and also provide solutions. One of these solutions is the recently released USP COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit, which addresses gaps that slow getting shots in arms and helps healthcare practitioners safely deliver vaccines in a variety of settings.

As millions of additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines are released, the USP COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit is helping doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare practitioners create operational efficiencies to vaccinate more people in their communities quickly and safely, all the while maintaining quality. It includes strategies in three key areas:

  • Preparation and labeling to support different practitioners preparing and administering vaccines including how to maximize the number of doses per vial and enabling pre-drawing of vaccines in advance of large immunization events.
  • Storing, handling, and transporting the vaccine to mass vaccination clinics, nursing and long-term care facilities, and more.
  • Waste prevention and disposal to support settings in preventing vaccine waste and addressing gaps for vaccine administrators in proper disposal of ancillary supplies, such as syringes.

“Using the strategies from the USP Vaccine Handling Toolkit for pre-drawing syringes and streamlining our processes and workflow we increased shots in arms by 50% per day,” says Patricia W. Slattum, Pharm.D., Ph.D., BCGP, a vaccine administrator with the Virginia Medical Reserve Corp and Virginia Commonwealth University.

More than 40 independent expert volunteers along with U.S. government representatives developed this toolkit that enables healthcare practitioners to benefit from consistent, scientific-based strategies developed by independent experts that close efficiency gaps across states and territories.

The USP COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit is one of several initiatives USP is undertaking to support quality and build trust in COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and preventatives. For example, our Hand Sanitizer Toolkit, launched in spring 2020, is being used by many around the world to ensure quality preparation of this essential COVID-19 preventative.

As the nation’s pioneer consumer organization, that leads the charge on the importance of adherence to live-savings medicines, NCL plays a pivotal role in helping to build trust in vaccines. USP values the opportunity to share the COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit with NCL and looks ahead to future opportunities to partner with NCL and other stakeholders in the patient advocacy community.

As more is learned about COVID-19 vaccines, additional information will be shared in the future. We encourage NCL’s readers to sign-up for updates at www.usp.org/covid-vaccine-handling​.

About USP
USP is an independent scientific organization that collaborates with the world’s top experts in health and science to develop quality standards for medicines, dietary supplements, and food ingredients. Through our standards, advocacy, and education, USP helps increase the availability of quality medicines, supplements, and food for billions of people worldwide.

NCL testimony before FDA on Janssen Biotech COVID-19 vaccine

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

February 26, 2021

NCL’s Associate Director of Health Policy Nissa Shaffi testified before the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Read her testimony.

Hana El Sahly, M.D., Chair
Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee
Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20993

RE: Docket No. FDA-2021-N-0173; for Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee

Good Afternoon. I am Nissa Shaffi, present today on behalf of the National Consumers League. I have no conflicts of interest to disclose. Our organization extends its gratitude to the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, for the opportunity to amplify consumer voices regarding the Janssen Biotech COVID-19 vaccine.

For over 120 years, NCL has championed efforts to increase vaccine education, safety, and access for consumers. As consumer advocates, we thank the Food and Drug Administration for their commitment to fostering public trust throughout the development and approval of a vaccine for COVID-19. We have been encouraged by the transparency and opportunities for engagement afforded to the public during this process.

Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)

Consumers are relying on the FDA more than ever for guidance pertaining to treatments for COVID-19, and preserving their confidence in the Agency is of vital importance at this time. Emergency Use Authorization, while not intended to replace randomized clinical trials, has been a critical component to the nation’s pandemic strategy. NCL appreciates the FDA’s recognition of clinical trials as vital to demonstrating the safety and efficacy of a treatment.

Safety and Effectiveness

We are encouraged by reports indicating that the Janssen Biotech vaccine has proven to be effective against hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. The added benefit of another vaccine is to decrease virus mutation. Presently, three, far more contagious, variants of COVID-19 spread and could hamper efforts to quell the virus. We are reassured that the Janssen vaccine has demonstrated efficacy against certain variants. As new data is collected, we call on the FDA to perform post-market surveillance to monitor ongoing efficacy.

Health Equity

Vaccine hesitancy and social determinants of health remain critical obstacles in the vaccine rollout process. The Janssen Biotech single-shot vaccine has the potential to increase access for hard-to-reach communities, bringing us closer to herd immunity. This week, we marked a grim milestone, as half a million Americans have now perished from this relentless virus. Amidst this loss, the continued development of vaccines for COVID-19 has provided the nation with much-needed hope and respite.

As the Committee deliberates on the Janssen Biotech COVID-19 vaccine, we request the Agency to also consider the benefit its release would have for historically disadvantaged communities, for which this vaccine would be logistically more accessible than the prior two vaccines.

Thank you to the Committee for your consideration of our views. Through our consumer education work, NCL will continue to support FDA in its efforts to develop a safe, effective, and expedited pathway towards a vaccine for COVID-19.

Sincerely,

Nissa Shaffi
Associate Director of Health Policy
National Consumers League

 

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
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Preventing the spread of COVID-19: Testing & genetic sequencing efforts in response to emerging variants

With growing concerns regarding the impact of emerging COVID-19 variants, testing and genetic sequencing are critical components of broader return-to-work, return-to-school, and public health surveillance efforts.

Addressing health inequity: A critical step towards a successful national vaccine rollout strategy

Nissa Shaffi

By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy

The COVID-19 vaccines have provided much needed doses of hope as consumers eagerly wait for their shots. However — due to competing pressures of managing inadequate supplies, complex state-managed distribution plans, emerging viral variants, and unaddressed health disparities — the national vaccine rollout has fallen short of its intended goals.

To date, more than 40 million have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 16+ million people are currently fully-vaccinated. On average, providers around the country are administering 1.6 million doses per day. According to experts, 70 to 90 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated if we are to achieve herd immunity and return to normal everyday activities.

The delays in the vaccine rollout have been attributed to variations among states and territories, which have been expected to set their own distribution plans and eligibility criteria. All states have made the vaccine available for healthcare workers, and nearly 43 states and the District of Columbia have expanded their eligibility to include occupation-based vaccination programs. These include members of the non-medical essential workforce, like grocery store employees and police officers.

While vaccine hesitancy among some Americans remains a problem, it’s becoming less of a concern as more and more people are getting vaccinated. COVID-19 has further exposed both vulnerabilities in our infrastructure and social determinants of health — conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect their overall health — that threaten to impede access. Throughout the rollout, vulnerable communities have experienced barriers in booking vaccine appointments due to limited access to broadband, phones, and accessible, affordable transportation.

Vaccine hesitancy and social determinants of health remain the primary obstacles in the rollout process. Going forward, addressing health disparities will be a critical strategy in realizing a successful national response, because — without health equity — the virus will continue to ravage the most vulnerable communities. The National Consumers League supports comprehensive strategies to address the glaring disparities in health and access that COVID-19 has exposed.

NCL applauds White House efforts to expand vaccine rollout

For immediate release: February 22, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) strongly supports the White House’s latest efforts to ramp up supplies to help expedite the national vaccine rollout plan. The Biden Administration has unveiled plans to mobilize federally-organized distribution channels to ensure Americans get as many shots in arms as possible. President Biden has promised to increase vaccine supply capacity to inoculate 100 million people within the first 100 days of his presidency. The ultimate goal is to have 300 million vaccines (600 million doses) in supply by this summer, which means that at least 50 percent of the population can be partially vaccinated by June. At this rate, we can expect that nearly 90 percent of the population will be fully vaccinated by December.

To meet these demands, the President has invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE). The Administration has also partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to set up vaccination sites around the country. To help expand capacity and access to vulnerable communities, President Biden has galvanized Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the national response. As of February 15, FQHCs will receive supplies of the vaccines to reach individuals most at risk during the pandemic. Community pharmacies have also been engaged in rollout efforts to broaden access to historically disadvantaged communities, located farther from health services.

NCL appreciates the confidence this administration has placed in community health centers and pharmacies as a critical component in the national COVID-19 response.

“NCL has long recognized the vital role that pharmacists and other health professions play in our nation’s public health, through our decade of hosting the public health outreach campaign, Script Your Future,” said NCL Associate Director of Health Policy Nissa Shaffi. “We commend the Administration’s efforts to augment access to vaccines by leveraging federal and community resources. These newly-forged relationships will bring the nation closer to reaching herd immunity and making strides in achieving health equity.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

What the new COVID-19 variants mean for consumers

Nissa Shaffi

By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy

Viruses mutate, and SARS CoV-2—more commonly known as COVID-19—is no exception to that rule. When a virus evolves and mutates from its predominant virus, all that we know about it changes as well. It may be too soon to glean what impact the variants could have on vaccine rollout and efficacy, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided the detailed evidence they’ve uncovered thus far.

Three new strains of COVID-19 have been identified presently in four countries: the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), Japan and Brazil (P.1), and South Africa (B.1.351). These new variants have not been observed to be more deadly, nor have they made people sicker, but one thing they all have in common is that they are more contagious than COVID-19. Cases for these strains have been found in 33 countries, including the United States.

While the variants all differ slightly in their function, they all possess a specific mutation called D614G — a shared trait that allows these new strains to spread more quickly than the predominant virus. The strain found in the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, has an estimated 50 percent transmissibility rate, or how quickly it spreads from person to person. Considering ongoing efforts to release new vaccines for inclusion in a national rollout to curb this pandemic, a mutating virus presents unique challenges for an already overburdened healthcare system.

So, what does this mean for travel, testing, vaccines, and so on? The CDC has released a helpful questionnaire for individuals to consider before they pursue travel, requesting that people delay non-essential travel whenever possible. For those that plan to travel, the CDC has released guidance which states that individuals traveling via air into the United States must provide proof of a negative test result or documentation of recovery, before boarding their flight. Masks are required on all forms of public transportation, including planes. The CDC has issued travel notices regarding global travel and each country’s corresponding risk-level.

Scientists are continuously gathering data to determine how the variants will impact the efficacy of certain therapies, vaccines, and tests. Until further evidence suggests, states are reluctant to enforce stringent lockdown procedures. According to public health experts, the best way to rein in the transmission of these highly contagious variants and to ensure a successful vaccine rollout, is to practice physical distancing and double masking. Layering two masks, as double masking suggests, provide added layers of protection and a better-fitting face covering. Not all masks are equal. To learn more about how to maximize protection against the coronavirus with masks, click here.

As new information emerges, it is important to adjust our safety measures to successfully navigate an ever evolving situation. Consumers are understandably experiencing pandemic-fatigue. Rest assured that the fruits of our collective efforts are closer than they appear, if only we work together towards protecting ourselves and our communities from unnecessary transmission.

NCL: Biden pandemic plan is a welcome step towards an equitable COVID-19 response

For immediate release: February 10, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Today the National Consumers League applauds the Biden’s Administration’s focus on addressing health disparities in its national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equality is a clear and welcome indication that the health and well-being of racial and ethnic minority communities is a priority for this administration,” said NCL Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras. “We are also encouraged by the fact that the leadership within the Biden Administration is the most ethnically diverse in our nation’s history. Our nation’s leaders can no longer turn a blind eye to the consequences of racial inequality on the health and economic status of people of color. As a result, the White House Domestic Policy Council is being tasked with applying a racial equity lens to all policies impacting the American people.”

The White House COVID-19 response plan has called for the establishment of a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force to provide oversight on disparities in the public health and economic response. The Administration has also demonstrated its commitment to racial equity by establishing that the COVID-19 Task Force will become a permanent Infectious Disease Racial Disparities Task Force after the pandemic has ended.

In order to address health disparities and implement an equitable response to the pandemic, advocates argue it is critical that race and ethnicity data be collected. President Biden’s plan calls for the creation of a Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that provides real-time data on key metrics, such as cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will host a public dashboard tracking transmission rates by zip code.

“Current reporting of transmission rates reveals the inconsistent collection of data across the country—data that is incredibly important to decision-making across all aspects of daily life,” said Contreras. For example, school boards across the country rely on local transmission data to base their decisions on when it’s safe to return to in-person instruction, and city officials rely on this data to decide when to allow indoor dining at restaurants.

Access to testing will remain a vital tool in curbing the pandemic. The Administration has pledged to double the number of drive-through testing sites to alleviate the long lines and shortages that characterized the pandemic in 2020. As remotely-functioning employees return to worksites, there will be an ongoing need for employee testing. President Biden’s plan calls for a Pandemic Testing Board that will ensure the production of testing supplies meets the increased demand. Advocates welcomed the Administration’s swift enactment of the Defense Production Act to produce more vaccination supplies, at-home tests, and personal protective equipment.

“The lack of leadership from the Trump Administration left state and local health officials essentially flying blindly without data to inform their decisions,” said Contreras. “We are facing the consequences today, with evidence that communities of color are being vaccinated at disproportionately lower rates than their white counterparts. The Biden Administration’s COVID-19 plan offers federal officials a comprehensive framework for coordinating an equitable response to the pandemic. The National Consumers League applauds this Administration in its foresight and intention to build trust in communities of color to ensure our most vulnerable populations are not ignored moving forward.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

No PPP for anti-vaxxers! Ten advocacy groups tell SBA to claw back $850,000 in PPP Funding to anti-vaxxers

For immediate release: February 5, 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org(412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org(202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—Ten patient and consumer advocacy organizations are demanding that the Small Business Administration claw back nearly a million dollars worth of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) monies granted to the leading American anti-vaccine groups.   

The advocacy organizations sent a joint letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration to express their collective concerns about the fact that, according to the Washington Post, five of the most virulent anti-vaccine organizationseach of which has spread misleading information about the coronaviruswere granted more than $850,000 in loans from the federal PPP. 

“Recipients of PPP loans include organizations that engage in conspiracy theories and lies about the safety and efficacy of vaccines generally and in this current environment, have spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine,” stated the letter. 

Operation Warp Speed—the federal government’s program to develop, produce, and distribute enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 300 million Americans in record time—has cost the American taxpayer roughly $12 billion so far, a number expected to grow more than two-fold at $26 billion. 

It is unfathomable and utterly counterproductive that taxpayer money was awarded to anti-vaccine groups during this national public health crisis,” the groups wrote. They called upon the Small Business Administration and the Biden Administration to investigate and rescind the loans made to the following anti-vaccination groups:   

Mercola.Com Health Resources ($335,000) 

Mercola.Com Health Resources received an astonishing $335,000 to maintain its operations during the pandemic. In December 2019, Mercola’s founder, Joseph Mercola, authored an article falsely stating that COVID-19 vaccines released via emergency authorization may cause massive side effects. In 2019, Mr. Mercola funded pervasive anti-vaccine efforts while the nation was grappling with widespread spikes of measles cases.  

Informed Consent Action Network ($166,000) 

The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), founded by anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree received approximately $166,000 in PPP funding. Bigtree has attracted more than 43,000 followers via ICAN, and regularly posts about his skepticism regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, actively downplaying the severity of the pandemic. In a December 2020 interview, Bigtree falsely stated that the COVID-19 vaccines would lead to “vaccine-enhanced diseases” and could cause infertility in women, arguing that the antibodies could potentially attack a woman’s placenta, rather than the spike protein as intended. “If it starts attacking placentas, no one will be able to get pregnant. These are legitimate theoretical issues.” 

National Vaccine Information Center (Less than $150,000) 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., head of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), took to social media in December of 2020 to call into question the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines: “We clearly have a systematic problem when government health regulators have utterly abdicated their responsibility to safeguard public health and refer safety concerns about shoddily tested, zero-liability vaccines to pharmaceutical companies.” Kennedy’s claims regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines have not been validated and are irresponsible. 

Children’s Health Defense (Less than $150,000) 

NVIC’s Kennedy also founded Children’s Health Defense. His group’s misinformation campaign has contributed to widespread vaccine hesitancy around the country—primarily via social media, stirring up unfounded concerns among the population. 

Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center ($72,000) 

Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, spearheaded by physician, Sherri Tenpenny, was awarded $72,000 in PPP loans. Tenpenny is the author of a book titled “Saying No to Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages.” Additionally,  Tenpenny’s online forums promote alternative health in lieu of immunization and argue against vaccinations across an individual’s lifespan. One of Tenpenny’s pages was banned from Facebook in December for spreading misinformation. 

In the joint letter to the SBA, the advocacy organizations insist that taxpayer dollars be well spent on efforts to vaccinate 60-70 percent of Americans.

“Operation Warp Speed and other related efforts are the right investment. Funding groups with a long history of using junk science to question the safety and efficacy of vaccines is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. Any funds provided to groups that oppose the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines must be returned to the Treasury. PPP funding should not contribute to efforts aimed at undermining our national efforts to fight the SARS CoV 2 virus,” said the groups. 

The advocacy organizations signing the letter are listed below:  

Alliance for Aging Research
American Immunization Registry Association
American Medical Student Association
American Muslim Health Professionals
Families Fighting Flu
Idaho Immunization Coalition
Kimberly Coffey Foundation
Meningitis B Action Project
National Consumers League
Vaccinate Your Family 

Read the letter here.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Mask up! New Executive Order mandating mask-wearing a welcome development

Nissa Shaffi

By Nissa Shaffi, NCL Associate Director of Health Policy

On January 20, just hours following a historic inauguration, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) requiring mask-wearing on federal property and inside airports, planes, trains, ships, and intercity buses. Effective immediately, refusing to wear a mask in these locations will now be considered a federal offense. The President also called on governors and local health officials to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing. This comes as especially good news for airlines and their employees, as they now have a federal rule protecting them from passengers who refuse to wear masks inflight, in turn ensuring everyone’s safety.

The EO is the latest of many efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 by influencing behavior around this necessary public health measure. The mandate to require mask-wearing is also poised to complement President Biden’s call to action for the American public to commit to 100 days of mask-wearing, during the early days of his presidency. Epidemiologists agree that concerted efforts towards pandemic-related precautions can significantly reduce COVID-19 cases in the country, providing much-needed relief for health care facilities currently operating beyond maximum capacity.

Over the course of the pandemic, mask-wearing has unfortunately morphed into a highly polarizing political issue. More than 405,000 Americans have perished in the last year, and irresponsible behavior, such as a stubbornness towards wearing masks, will only further exacerbate the crisis. There are many contributing factors behind this phenomenon, but a lot of it distills down to misinformation and propaganda.

The bottom line is that masks save lives and are powerful tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19. They should be worn to protect the wearer, as well as those they come into contact with. The EO mandating the use of masks is a great step in encouraging civic responsibility in containing the virus. As we forge ahead in our persistence against the coronavirus, consumers are encouraged to maintain adherence to federal health guidance pertaining to physical distancing, the usage of masks, and other public health measures.