Public Health Without the Public

3 MINUTE READ
Written by Dr. Steve Eisenberg

Chief Precision Medicine Officer @ Invaryant

Are we losing the “public” in public health?

The political divide over COVID has damaged a system that has taken hundreds of years to build. Greek Mythology tells us that the Greek god Zeus placed all the diseases, vices and crimes that afflict humanity into a box and then gave it to Pandora’s husband, Epimetheus. Pandora’s curiosity about the box’s contents caused her to open the box when Epimetheus was gone hence releasing all the ills of the box throughout the world.

Fast forward to 2020 and COVID has been released throughout the world. Our initial lack of knowledge coupled with the unprecedented advancements of science and medicine since the virus was identified have caused a significant shift in our thinking about the virus. Unfortunately, like Pandora, people’s curiosity and their need for scientific unity in medical leadership have left doubt and questions as they receive mixed messages from a variety of agencies and professionals. This flawed system of delivering accurate and consistent information has led people to turn to the internet and alternative sources for their answers. Hence, public confusion has led to the distrust of the system as well as the development of conspiracy theories about COVID.

A vaccine is coming, but at what cost?

We are now about to lose the public in the public health system. Vaccines are on the horizon but surveys predict that between 50% and 70% of Americans are planning to take this vaccine. This is no longer just about COVID. A potentially failed vaccine program will handcuff the CDC’s effort to vaccinate future diseases and set back their vaccine programs for decades. A 3 month trial that is successful in developing antibodies and protecting you from getting COVID is a remarkable feat in such a short period of time and I might be the first on line to receive the vaccine when offered. However, I would want to know that there is a system in place to track my status as well as those of others. There are significant concerns to consider – What happens at 6 months, 1 year or later? Why is it protecting some people and not others? What happens when a long term side effect occurs? When do you sound the alarm? How do you locate the people that might be affected? Do we want more scientific inconsistencies reported by the internet and media? Maybe it was an anecdotal case affecting 1 out of hundreds of millions. The CDC will point to the FDA who will then point to Pharma. Is this what we really want at this time? Is this going to gain the confidence and trust of the American people so they will want to vaccinate against future viruses and diseases? Healthcare technology has made remarkable strides and has the capability of following hundreds of millions of individuals and answering these questions.

Pandora’s curiosity is a part of human nature. An individual has a right to question a drug or vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects. We are at an inflection point in public health. As well as funding, you need a consistent message to have a successful public health system. This consistency will keep people’s trust in the system. We have the technology to take public health to a new level. Don’t lose the public to the internet and conspiracy theories at this time of global crisis. It might take decades to get them back.