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A prescription for surviving COVID-19 nutritionally intact: eat well, get sunshine

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

Overeating or eating poorly during this pandemic is understandable. However, a healthy diet is vital for you and your family’s health. As most people are aware, a healthy diet consists of protein, fruits, vegetables, and grains and is low in salt, unsaturated fats, and free sugars. But there’s more to it than that.

While it’s important to have protein in one’s diet, it is not always necessary to get protein from meat products. One of the best sources is legumes (as known as beans) such as white peas, kidney beans, moong, masoor, chickpeas, lentils, and many others according to Thrive Global. Consider whipping up a salad, making tasty lentil soup with carrots and cilantro, or a chickpea curry to quench your taste buds! Preparing a simple, easy, and delicious meal doesn’t have to be hard, you can find many recipes and cooking guides on YouTube or Google Search.

Eating healthy sometimes means breaking bad habits, so the first step is by keeping healthy and nutritious snacks around, such as cheese with an apple, hummus and carrots, or nuts and dried fruit. Eating yogurt once a day is a good habit to get into along with fruit and cereal. If you’re full from a good breakfast, you are less likely to snack on junk food. Thrive Global noted that certain bacteria are highly recommended to keep you healthy and fit.

Remember to top up on your fruits! They are a rich source of minerals and vitamin C, which is especially good for boosting your immune system during COVID-19. Rangers, Apples, kiwis, and persimmons are just a few fruits rich in vitamin C. Kale, brussels sprout, broccoli, and parsley are also on the list. Vitamin D is also important in the immune response to COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin D is usually sourced by the action of sunlight on the body but since many of us are staying at home due to the lockdown and unable to get the necessary daily exposure, we must depend on vitamin D rich food sources such as; salmon, swordfish, oysters, mushrooms, and eggs, according to 10FAQ Health. And these vitamin D rich foods can make for very delicious dishes like garlic butter baked salmon or chargrilled oysters. Check out recipe sites like Food Network for more meal ideas.

Eating healthy is particularly important during the time of COVID-19. By incorporating foods of color—carrots, beans, various cheeses, kale, and more—you can make delicious dishes. Try new recipes and enjoy a healthy nutritious meal. And remember, eating healthy contributes to the boosting of the immune system. Let us all try to stay healthy and safe during COVID-19!

Alcohol consumption during COVID-19: What the consumer needs to know

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

While most people are stuck at home in America during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have increased their alcohol purchase and consumption. During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly stated at the end of prohibition, “what America needs right now is a drink.” American’s are now facing another crisis, a pandemic and are adhering to this call.

According to a survey done by the research firm Nielsen, off-premise sales of alcohol spiked nationwide following stay-at-home orders. A new study from Alcohol.org stated that 1 in 3 Americans are drinking alcohol while working from home during COVID-19 lockdown. About 32 percent of Americans are more likely to be drinking while working from home, with 36 percent of men and 26 percent of women drinking while working.

In 2018, National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) disclosed data showing that 86.3 percent of Americans ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70 percent reported they drank in the past year; 55.3 percent reported that they drank in the past month. NSDUH also indicated in 2018 that 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States. This includes 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women. The survey went onto disclose an estimated 401,000 youth ages from 12 to 17 had Alcohol Use Disorder.

According to Healthline, Americans expressed that their daily routine has changed and many have faced unemployed. This increased uncertainty, anxiety, and fear brought on by the pandemic has resulted in binge drinking.

What is defined as “binge drinking”? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines it as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.

Binge drinking has some serious risks and is associated with many health problems, including:

  • sudden infant death syndrome;
  • obesity;
  • chronic diseases such as high blood pressures, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease;
  • cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon;
  • memory and learning problems;
  • alcohol use disorders;
  • and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

The CDC stated in 2010 that alcohol misuse cost Americans an estimated $249.0 billion. These costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77 percent of these costs or $191 billion.

Many consumers are unaware that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has not mandated “Alcohol Facts” on alcoholic beverages. Consumers have access to labeling information that contains nutritional facts on every single thing they consume except alcoholic beverages. As a result, consumers have little means of knowing the most basic information about alcoholic beverages. At the National Consumers League (NCL), we think the need for alcohol labeling is long overdue. Over the last two decades, NCL has petitioned the federal government for standardized “Alcohol Facts” and, this summer, will be calling for action on Alcoholic Beverage Labeling. Join your voice with ours by signing the forthcoming petition addressed to TTB and demand the drafting and implementation of rules that mandate a standardized “Alcohol Facts” label on all alcoholic beverages. It’s time to end the confusion so consumers can make informed and responsible purchasing and consumption decisions.

Grocery stores and safety measures needed to protect workers and customers during COVID-19

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

It was a rainy Thursday afternoon when I decided to take a trip to Mom’s Organic Market (MOM’s) in College Park, Maryland. MOM’s CEO, Scott Nash, was the subject of NCL’s We Can Do This! podcast a few months ago because he is infamous for consuming food whose “sell by” date is expired and living to tell the tale.

As expected, the parking lot was partially empty due to many neighboring businesses being forced to close due to coronavirus. I exited my car, pulled my mask over my mouth and nose, and walked in. I was greeted by a store employee also wearing a mask. He politely asked me if I needed a cart, disinfected it, and handed it to me. As I entered the grocery store, there were two signs: one that highlighted measures “Helping Each Other” during COVID-19, and the other noted that it is mandatory by law to wear a mask. It was good to read that if you forgot your mask, Mom’s Organic Market may be able to provide you with a disposable version.

In the produce section, everyone was practicing social distancing and wearing masks. I continued my journey through the grocery store from aisle to aisle, picked up a few things that I needed for my pantry, and went to pay for my items. As my turn to check out was approaching, I decided to engage the staff member who was standing on the side guiding customers on social distancing. I introduced myself and asked if she was a manager, and she responded with enthusiasm that she was. I asked her a few questions regarding the safety measures MOM’s is taking during COVID-19 and whether any staff members at the College Park location had tested positive. She said no but that if any staff member does test positive for COVID-19 or presents a doctor’s note stating that they need to quarantine for 14 days because they have been exposed,  they will be given 14 days of paid sick leave. Also if they want to stay home for longer, they could choose to do so without being paid, but would not be terminated. She also told me that if any staff member comes to work feeling sick, they would be sent home. All staff members are outfitted with masks and gloves and protective glass at check out counters. It was reassuring to know the safety measures that Mom’s Organic is taking during COVID-19 to protect workers and customers.

The experience I had at Mom’s Organic Market was one that I could relate to at other grocery stores across Maryland. But to understand what other stores are doing, across the country, I embarked on creating a survey, which we distributed to NCL Board Members who reside in different States. The grocery stores patronized were Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter, Costco, and Gelson’s Market. According to our board, 80 percent of these grocery stores require that all customers are mandated by law to wear a mask while shopping. 13 percent of the grocery stores provide a mask if you do not have one. and 88 percent did not provide a mask. Among the stores, there is no mandated policy for customers to wear gloves while shopping. 89 percent of the grocery stores did not provide gloves to customers while 11 percent did. Regarding social distancing, 90 percent practice social distancing while 10 percent did not. 75 percent of grocery stores sanitized the carts and then handed a cart to the customer while 25 percent did not.

When asked the question: Does your preferred grocery store limit the number of customers that enter at each given time? 80 percent said yes while 20 percent said no. When asked if grocery store cashiers wear masks, 90 percent said yes and 10 percent said no. 70 percent of the grocery stores in this survey have a protective glass at the cashiers while 30 percent did not. 89 percent of the grocery stores have hand sanitizing stations for customer use while 11 percent did not. It is safe to conclude that most grocery stores are taking the necessary measure to protect customers and staff during COVID-19.

As luck would have it, the daughter of one of my NCL colleagues works at the Safeway bakery. I also talked to her about grocery store COVID-19 related safety precautions. She told me that each staff member at Safeway was provided with a mask, made of either medical or reusable cloth and that some staff who requested face shields were also provided with it. All cash registers were outfitted with protective glass and employees must practice social distancing—six feet apart.  Each hour, the intercom prompts workers to stop working and wash their hands while cashier wash their hands more frequently because they interact more with customers.

Safeway staff go through a checklist daily prior to their shift, with these questions asked:

Do you have any symptoms pertaining to COVID-19 or is there anyone in your family who has tested positive for COVID-19? If any staff member answers yes to any of the questions they are immediately sent home for 2 weeks of paid sick leave. Again, social distancing markers appear on floors at Safeway, and wipes are provided to sanitize shopping carts. Many of us visit grocery stores once or twice a week. It’s great to know that most of the grocery stores we visited or learned about are taking the necessary safety measures to protect workers and customers during COVID-19 and providing generous sick leave protections to ensure workers can afford to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

National Consumers League statement of support for Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund

May 12, 2020

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

 

Washington, DC–Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives today unveiled a new COVID-19 stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, that includes a new $50 per month subsidy ($75 per month for Tribal lands) to support access for low-income Americans to broadband. At time when the effects of the Digital Divide have never been more apparent, NCL is proud to support this effort.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We have long known that affordability is a significant barrier to millions of American families who lack access to broadband. The COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted as never before the societal costs of cutting off millions of families from the Internet. The inability to connect to distance learning, support networks and online government resources will make recovering from this pandemic even tougher for consumers who lack affordable access to broadband. It is for this reason that NCL strongly supports the proposed Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund subsidy.”

 

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About the National Consumers League

 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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.

 

Protecting consumers from COVID-19 Scams: A virtual panel event with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and fraud experts

May 8, 2020

Watch recording here


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

 

Washington, DC –Washington, DC / Harrisburg, PA—Next Monday, May 11, the National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, will host a virtual fireside chat with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a panel of consumer protection experts on the growing threat of scams linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consumer watchdog organization aims to raise awareness in Pennsylvania about the risk of COVID-19 related fraud and arm consumers with information they can use to spot and avoid these scams.

 

Since the pandemic began, NCL, which operates the website Fraud.org, has seen an uptick in complaints about a variety of scams preying on increasingly vulnerable, financially strapped, and fearful consumers. Scammers running phishing schemes, stimulus check fraud, and even pet adoption scams have all been working overtime to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to defraud consumers. The experts at NCL forecast these scams will continue to increase and evolve and are eager to work with AG Shapiro to get the word out about how Pennsylvanians can protect themselves.

 

WHAT
Virtual “fireside chat” featuring Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro and NCL, followed by a panel discussion on resources and tips to avoid COVID-19 fraud and scams

 

WHEN
Monday, May 11, 2020
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM EDT

 

WHO
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro
John Breyault, Vice President, National Consumers League

 

Lorrie Cranor, Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
Mary Bach, Chair, AARP Pennsylvania Consumer Issues Task Force
Andrew Goode, Esq., Vice President, Metro Philadelphia Better Business Bureau

 

HOW TO WATCH
YouTube Live Link will be provided following registration via Eventbrite

 

*** Members of the media are welcome to attend but must RSVP to Carol McKay, National Consumers League, carolm@nclnet.org. If you are unable to attend, a recording of the interview and panel can be provided upon request after the event concludes ***

 

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About the National Consumers League

 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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.

 

Water shut-offs across the country threaten our health and safety during pandemics

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

We all depend on running water to maintain good hygiene. Yet, as America grapples with the worst pandemic in several generations, unemployment is causing people to fall behind on essential utilities, like their water bill.

Consumer Reports notes that millions of Americans are at risk of losing running water. Two-fifths of the country relies on water utilities that have not put in place a policy of suspending shutoff for nonpayment during COVID-19. This is due to a confluence of related factors—institutional racism, environmental injustice, and poverty—which means communities that are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are also being the most adversely impacted by water shutoffs. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. How can you do so without running water?

According to NBC News, more than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks due to COVID-19. And in Michigan, 23.8 percent of residents have filed for unemployment since March 14, the third-highest number in the country. To add to their woes, Detroit residents that fall behind on waters by as little as $150 are being faced with water shut off. At the start of the pandemic, 2,800 homes were estimated to be without water. Those numbers will soar if action isn’t taken to protect those who can’t pay their water bills. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that reconnected shut off water service and started a $2 million grant program to help communities comply with the order, according to ECO Watch.

On the national level, no similar grant program has yet been introduced. The third rescue package included $1.5 billion to assist low-income households with water bills during the crisis, with a condition that required localities and utilities to suspend shutoffs to quality for financial aid. But the clauses were left out of the final bill approved by the Senate. There is some sign of political will with congressional Democrats wanting $12 billion for water subsidies in the fourth rescue package, with grants for utilities conditional on shutoff moratoriums, according to Consumer Reports.

Michigan also has one of the highest water rates in the country. Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Erik Olson points out that Coca Cola and Pepsi get months to pay their water bills and then turn around and sell bottled water at 100 times the cost of tap water. Consumer Reports found that most bottled water sold in the United States comes from the same source and just goes through a purification process before being sold to the consumer.

For those not facing utility shutoffs, Consumers Reports confirms that there is no shortage of safe drinking water and health officials–assuring us that the public water supplies are not contaminated by the Coronavirus–are prohibiting hoarding of bottled water. The bottom line is that running water is part of the solution to beating this pandemic. No one should lose access to water if we truly want to flatten the curve and move beyond COVID-19.

More tips for staying healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

COVID has changed the way we live and has brought with it some drastic changes, like social distancing.

While we don’t want to live like this any longer than we have to, there are new habits that will not only help us get through this challenging time, but can stay with us as helpful tools in our everyday lives.

  1. Maintain hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  2. Wear face coverings. Even in pre-COVID times, it has been common practice in other countries to wear face masks to protect oneself from those sick with a cold or flu and to protect others when you are sick.
  3. Establish routines. It’s important for your mental, emotional, and physical health to maintain healthy eating habits and to get adequate sleep.
  4. Be wise on portion size. Most of us are less active during this time and it’s easy to overeat. Drink plenty of water and buy small cans of soda rather than super-sized containers.
  5. Plan your meals. This will help you reduce the number of trips you take to the grocery store, stick to your budget, and avoid food waste. Knowing what portions are appropriate for you and your family is also helpful. Try not to overdo it with fast food consumption, which tends to be higher in fat, salt, and sugar.
  6. Stay physically, mentally active. Walk outside and get some sunshine! If that’s not an option, there are plenty of workouts on YouTube! Pilates, yoga, Zumba, and many other exercise programs are available for free if you can’t get out of the house.
  7. Keep everyone connected. We have so many options nowadays like phone calls, text, Facetime, Zoom, and more. Houseparty, for example, is a newly popularized app that allows you to play games with a group of family and friends.
  8. Get some sun! Vitamin D is important for the immune response and getting sun will increase your vitamin D reserves. Open shades and windows while sitting in sunny areas of your home. And, if possible, go outside. Just remember to adhere to social distancing guidelines (maintaining 6+ feet between yourself and others).
  9. Manage your environment. This is especially important for those of us working from home. If you have the ability, designate a work area so that you can keep your work life and personal life separate.
  10. Stay informed. Pay attention to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and check your local government website. Getting your news from a variety of sources will ensure that you’re in the know about new developments in the fight against COVID-19 internationally and locally.

NCL calls on insurers to cover air medical services during COVID-19 crisis

May 5, 2020

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) last week sent a letter to the CEOs of Cigna, Aetna, and UnitedHealth Group, urging them to enter into productive negotiations with air medical service providers to ensure coverage of emergency air medical transportation. The ask comes as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the country, making air medical services even more essential, particularly in rural America.

In its letter, NCL notes that it is increasingly concerned about emergency air medical access during this crisis, and that it believes this life-saving care should be covered by every insurance plan. NCL asks that insurers review the robustness of their coverage policies and immediately to enter into network negotiations with air medical providers so that this critical service is covered, and patients are never left with a bill they cannot pay.

Text of the letter, signed by NCL Executive Director Sally Green is below:

Dear Mr. Wichmann, Mr. Cordani, and Ms. Lynch:   

The National Consumers League has long advocated for health care as a right and argued for fair treatment for all stakeholders across the health care spectrum – patients, physicians, hospitals, health plans, and health care providers. Our mission is particularly acute during the global COVID-19 pandemic, when medical professionals are on the frontlines fighting for our health and safety, stricken patients need life-saving care, and nearly everyone is focused on their health and that of their loved ones.

In this vein, we are increasingly concerned about access to emergency medical care, especially in rural America, as the virus indiscriminately makes its way across the country. When minutes count, Americans who fall victim to COVID-19 must be assured that they can get to the nearest, most appropriate medical facility as quickly as possible. As COVID-19 strains hospital capacity and critical medical equipment like ventilators become attenuated, emergency air medical transports between facilities are often the only way for patients to get the care they need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85 million Americans can only reach a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center within one hour if they are flown by an air medical helicopter. The effects of this access problem are staggering, and even more pronounced as we wrestle with the COVID-19 crisis. For many Americans, air medical ambulances are a vital link to timely, life-saving care.

We believe that such life-saving care should be covered by insurance. Patients pay their monthly premiums – and copays and deductibles – so they are not bankrupted should the worst befall them or their loved ones. Unfortunately, there have been far too many stories of people who were transported by air ambulance because it was ordered by a first responder or doctor, only to be told later by their insurance company that they would have to shoulder the bulk of the cost. This should not be the case anytime, but especially now as our nation wrestles with a pandemic.

This explains why we at the National Consumers League are writing to you for your input and thoughts. We believe that emergency air medical transportation should be included in every health coverage plan. We think that insurance companies and air medical providers must work together to bring these services in-network, so patients are not left footing a bill they can never hope to pay.  Adequate network agreements are imperative so that patients are not told – after the fact – that they were transported by an air ambulance that was not in-network. When an emergency happens, or worse yet, a pandemic strikes, patients are not choosing whether to take an air ambulance, let alone choosing a particular provider.  Similarly, coverage denials based on “medical necessity” should be the exception, not the rule, in light of the fact that patients are not a part of the decision-making process.

We ask that your companies immediately take a comprehensive look at your coverage policies for air medical services and the robustness of your provider networks. We urge you and the air ambulance community to enter into network negotiations, take patients out of the middle, find a middle ground on reimbursement that fairly compensates both sides, and ensure rural communities have access to air ambulance transports. Refusing to fairly negotiate is simply not an option in light of the current crisis. Entering into productive negotiations immediately will ensure that patients across the country have access to the medical care they need and that they are simultaneously protected from balance bills.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.  

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg
Executive Director
National Consumers League

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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.

 

NCL: Annual in-office eye exams help diagnose potential problems

May 4, 2020

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) has long recommended an annual, in-person eye exam as part of consumers’ annual health and wellness routines. An eye examination with an eye doctor ensures not only correct eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions, but also the opportunity for important preventive care as the eyes are a window into our overall health. An eye doctor, whether a primary eye care doctor of optometry or an ophthalmologist, can diagnose potentially hundreds of conditions during an exam, including diabetes, cancer, and macular degeneration. Through an eye exam, these doctors can catch an illness or disease early and treat it right away, making this care a critical part of our preventive care toolbox.

But now with COVID-19 keeping many of us at home, companies claiming to offer at-home vision tests are ramping up their marketing, despite the fact that there is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration- (FDA) approved at-home device that people can use to self-conduct a vision assessment, let alone a full eye examination. These devices have not been proven to even provide an accurate vision prescription. Consumers need to be wary of products that mistakenly claim that their at-home devices can provide an eye exam or a vision prescription and should instead consult their eye doctors who are available to help provide safe solutions.

NCL applauds state attorneys general for taking action and the media for publishing articles about the dubious effectiveness and potential dangers that at-home vision tests or devices present. It’s been important to tell consumers to be aware of false marketing promises.

As states begin to reopen health care access, eye doctors across the country are beginning to safely provide routine eye health examinations once again. Patients looking to schedule their annual eye examinations or update their prescriptions should contact their eye doctors, who are employing protocols to protect everyone’s health during this public health emergency.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing out the best in many companies across our country, there are those few who are taking this opportunity to mislead and misinform the public. NCL wants to remind consumers to be aware and understand that there’s no substitute for an annual, in-person comprehensive eye exam or for the doctor-patient relationship that’s at the heart of healthy outcomes, especially when it concerns our precious eye health and vision. When it comes to your eyes, you don’t fool around!

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering 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.

COVID-19 shows us the extraordinary importance of vaccines

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

What a bittersweet moment for advocates like NCL fighting off the lies and falsehoods spread by the anti-vaccine movement, as we start to see some anti-vaxxers changing their tune while still others continue to hold firm to their dangerously misinformed views. The reality is that a vaccine to fight COVID-19 would have prevented the global devastation caused by this disease and prevented the loss of nearly 60,000 lives and 27 million jobs nationwide.

Over the past decade, NCL has become a champion of vaccines and their extraordinary power to protect humans around the globe safely and effectively from many deadly diseases. Illnesses such as polio, tetanus, measles, smallpox, flu, mumps, measles, tuberculosis, human papillomavirus (HPV), that have maimed and killed billions of people, have ebbed or been eradicated, thanks to vaccines.

As a commitment to our advocacy, NCL has twice testified before the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in support of the meningitis B and pneumonia vaccine (PCV-13). In our testimonies, NCL called for universal vaccination for children and adults, reaffirming vaccines as one of the greatest gifts modern medicine has provided to the human race.

Our comments also challenged the outrageous falsehoods spread by the small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Their claims of vaccines causing autism have been debunked over and over, yet their power to scare parents lives on.

I grew up with an uncle who contracted polio a year before the vaccine was introduced. His illness was utterly devastating. Having a quadriplegic member of the family meant that from a very young age I developed an appreciation for vaccines and was comforted in knowing that I didn’t have to worry as my grandparents did about losing my son to a terrible disease.

Now Americans wait anxiously for labs and drug companies to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. This could take many months due to our remarkably high standards of safety and efficacy. I certainly hope this calamitous COVID-19 outbreak will be the death knell of the anti-vaccine movement. Sadly, I fear it will not.