Quickies: Vaccines, Bananas, and Impostor Syndrome

Happy end of semester to MEEEE! 14+ months of pandemic teaching is finally behind me and I get a BREAK finally. (Where Break = time to do research and other things I had to set aside because I have a 3-3 teaching load but you already knew that.) Here are a few good reads that have come across my feed lately:

  • This one comes from fellow Skepchick Maria: Stop Telling Women They Have Impostor Syndrome. FTA: “The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals but to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles and in which diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities are seen as just as professional as the current model, which [Tina] Opie[, an associate professor at Babson College,] describes as usually “Eurocentric, masculine, and heteronormative.” A-men.
  • The banana is in danger. Can genetically modified foods help? Well… maybe. FTA: “If the priority is short-term yields and band-aids against rogue pathogens, then GM is a step in that direction. But if long-term resilience and environmental health are in our sights, it’s worth reconsidering what efforts will get us there. A real solution will require a combination of strategies.” I first saw this one shared by Skepchick Network contributor Seelix.
  • I cam across this one in a bunch of places… The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill. I can TOTALLY see how this could happen in a research setting, and yet… it was still jaw-dropping. Kudos to the grad student who did the amazing work of digging into the literature for this one.
  • The CDC’s changing mask guidance seems to have caused yet more confusion and uneasiness. Nevertheless, the CDC is hoping that this will help boost flagging vaccination rates.
  • One amazing method that has actually boosted vaccination rates: a lottery. Not a lottery to GET the vaccine. A lottery to win $1 million for getting the vaccine. H/t my colleague who shared that interesting tidbit with me.

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Nicole is a professor, astronomer, educator, geek, dog mom, occasional fitness nerd, and maker of tiny comets. She is also very loud under the right circumstances. Like what you read? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/noisyastronomer

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  1. Looking at the article about the COVID transmission issue: there were clear indications even a year ago that those assumptions about transmission weren’t correct. For instance, I remember a year ago reading newspaper articles about experiments with how far droplets would travel, and even then it was obvious that the 6 foot / 2-meter thing was bogus. They were talking about droplets traveling 30 feet or more.

    And I was reading about cases where whole groups of people who were spaced more than 6 feet apart still got it. E.g., a choir that had a rehearsal where they were all more than 6 feet apart the whole time — and everyone got infected.

    My guess is that the people who were making the recommendations were under a lot of pressure to give definitive recommendations even though they were still finding out what worked and what didn’t. Add to that the pressure from the Trump people to pretend that there was no epidemic at all. People wanted rules that would to guarrantee they wouldn’t get infected, even though there weren’t any at the time. “We don’t really know yet” was not a politically acceptable answer.

    I still haven’t figured out why they thought it was a good idea to tell people they shouldn’t use masks. It was obvious that using masks will cut down transmission of any disease that can be transmitted through the air, whether or not that is the primary means of infection.

    1. I know we’re still in this, but the dissection of the communications and decision making around this pandemic are likely to be very enlightening for years to come.

    2. There was an extreme shortage of masks and other PPE. My brother who works at a VA hospital told me they were reusing disposable masks, intended for a single use, for a WEEK because they were in such short supply. I think they knew from the beginning that masks were a good idea for everyone, but they were far more important for health care workers. It was for only about 3 weeks that they said “Don’t bother with masks unless you are dealing directly with sick people” before they changed the message to “Everyone wear masks when in public.” It was a highly dynamic situation and the CDC was trying to optimize scarce resources. (Remember trying to buy toilet paper and Purell?)

      1. Lol another outbreak of so called “Indian Variant” in Victoria this week and the first symptom was supermarkets stripped of TP! Some people never learn!

  2. But the mask thing was worldwide, you know. Our Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy (Australia’s Fauci) was giving out the same advice in early March 2020 “We don’t want to see Australians in masks everywhere”. Then later changing his tune. If only we learned faster from our Asian neighbours!

    Next thing we had an old mask factory with two machines pumping out masks as fast as they could go. Plus the military was brought in to renovate a 3rd machine under guidance from the only old guy in the country who remembered how they were put together!

    So it shits me to tears when I see Republicans trying to make out that Fauci was a liar. It was official WHO advice at the time.

    But yeah, Nicole, papers will be written about all this for the next 100 years I bet!

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