Exit Interview: C.D.C. Head Redfield Reflects on His Time on the Job
When they talk about rebuilding the infrastructure, the public infrastructure in this country is the first infrastructure they need to rebuild. We need to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared from a public health perspective, especially when it comes to challenging infectious pathogens. Because timing is everything – do you know what to do in the first 36 hours, 48 hours? First week or two?
Answers to your vaccine questions
If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine?
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.
When can I get back to normal life after vaccination?
Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible that people spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Scientists don’t yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.
Do I still have to wear a mask after the vaccination?
Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without experiencing a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.
Will it hurt What are the side effects?
The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that people will have to plan to take a day off or go to school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system’s encounter with the vaccine and a strong response that ensures lasting immunity.
Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?
No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given point in time, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.
What was your biggest disappointment?
My biggest disappointment was the lack of consistency in the public health news and the inconsistency of the heads of state to reinforce the public health message. You can read between the lines what that means – “Citizens’ Guide”.
You can see that different parts of our society have different perspectives on what needs to be done. Controlling the pandemic has always been effectively aimed at maintaining the economic health of our nation, in my opinion. It wasn’t an either / or – we showed that in schools. You can keep businesses, hospitals, etc. open and do so in a safe and responsible manner. There are some parts of our economy that have to be constrained. I would argue that people in a crowded bar who drink three or four beers without a mask keep talking louder so they keep spraying their breath secretions is probably something that needs to be restricted.
But the fact that we had no alignment meant that the private and public sectors were all grappling with how to put them together independently. So the reality is that we are in very difficult times and I think I would have liked to have been proven wrong. I still believe the worst is yet to come.
Why was the introduction of vaccines problematic?
First, we’ve always said that for some time – probably April and May – we would be in a state where the demand for vaccines could outweigh the availability of vaccines. I consider it a tremendous achievement that we are here saying within six, seven months that we will have a vaccine in the first year. Basically, two manufacturers can produce around 10 million cans a week.
How do you react to CDC staff who say you haven’t stood up enough against the White House and the Secretary for Health and Human Services?
First and foremost, I stood up for the agency at every turn. I never gave in. I think you can find a number of people at the agency who would tell you that who were actually in the arena with me.
There are people who say to me, “Why didn’t you tell the President that?” or: “Why are you telling the President that?” There are some people who are only satisfied if you criticize the president personally. I’m a chain of command guy.