Face shield.

The Case for Face Shields: Improving the COVID-19 Public Health Policy Toolkit

By Timothy Wiemken, Ana Santos Rutschman, and Robert Gatter

As the United States battles the later stages of the first wave of COVID-19 and faces the prospect of future waves, it is time to consider the practical utility of face shields as an alternative or complement to face masks in the policy guidance. Without face shields specifically noted in national guidance, many areas may be reluctant to allow their use as an alternative to cloth face masks, even with sufficient modification.

In this post, we discuss the benefits of face shields as a substitute to face masks in the context of public health policy. We further discuss the implications and opportunity costs of creating policy guidance with only a small subset of scientific data, much of which is limited. We conclude by arguing that existing federal guidance should be expanded to include face shields as a policy option.

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Bill of Health - young Black man casting his vote with mask one, pandemic elections

Voter Suppression: Disinformation and Harmful Narratives around Voting

This memo was originally written by the Disinfo Defense League (DDL) and published by their writers on August 27, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has birthed a cottage industry of misinformation and disinformation. From phony cures to inaccurate information on how the virus spreads, people are receiving a vast amount of disinformation about the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this is beginning to show up in harmful narratives around voting in the November election.

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Syringe and vials of vaccine.

How Does Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Work, and Who Is Funding Its Development?

Cross-posted from Written Description, where it originally appeared on August 19, 2020. 

By Jacob S. Sherkow, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, Nicholson Price, and Rachel Sachs

Moderna, Inc., a Cambridge, MA-based biotech company, is a leading contender in the race to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine, however, works using a completely novel mechanism, unlike any other vaccine currently approved anywhere in the world. Despite this, the U.S. government—and two agencies in particular, the NIH and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)—has invested, heavily, in the vaccine’s development. This week, we explore how these investments interact through different forms of research partnerships, and what this says about IP, novel technologies, and innovation policy.

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Uganda Flag Against City Blurred Background At Sunrise Backlight 3D Rendering.

Ugandan Court Decision Enshrines Access to Basic Maternal Health Care as a Right

By Moses Mulumba

On August 19, 2020, the Constitutional Court of Uganda passed a landmark judgment in which it pronounced that the Government of Uganda’s omission to adequately provide basic maternal health care services and emergency obstetric care in public health facilities violates the right to health, the right to life, and the rights of women as guaranteed under the country’s Constitution.

Uganda’s maternal mortality rate is unacceptably high, at 343 per 100,000 live births. This means that Uganda loses 15 women each day from pregnancy and child birth related causes.

In its judgment, the Court directed the Government of Uganda to prioritize and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal health care. The Court also ordered, through the Health Minister, that all the health care workers who provide maternal health care services in Uganda be fully trained and all health centers be properly equipped within the next two financial years (2020/2021 and 2021/2022).

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Emergency department entrance.

Prioritizing Life: The Grim Irony of Capital Punishment in the Time of Coronavirus

By

As it has transformed almost every aspect of social and economic life in America, the coronavirus pandemic has forced local governments and public health officials to think about incarcerated populations in new ways. Concentrated in crowded, often unsanitary conditions where social distancing is impossible, prison populations face heightened risks of contracting COVID-19, and prisons themselves can easily become virus hotspots once an inmate is exposed. Since the end of March, when testing became widely available for incarcerated populations, there have been at least 95,000 cases reported among prisoners, with at least 847 deaths across the country. In the first few months of the pandemic, researchers reported that incarcerated populations were 5.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and 3 times more likely to die from the virus.[1] In response, many state courts and corrections departments have embraced novel protective measures, with some jails releasing inmates or reducing admissions. Even with these piecemeal measures in effect, however, incarcerated populations remain among the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, and the virus has spread like wildfire in the prisons that it has touched. As a result, new debates about the institutions of mass incarceration are emerging, as reformers approach familiar problems with renewed vigor and original perspectives.

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Santiago, Chile.

The Democratic Case for Social Rights in Chile’s Constitutional Moment

By Koldo Casla

We live an era of nationalistic, angry, and xenophobic challenges to human rights, a time in which the “will of the people” is maliciously presented as contrary to human rights. We have seen human rights backlashes consistent with this instrumentalization of the so-called popular will in India, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, the Philippines, the U.S., the U.K. — the list, sadly, could go on and on.

Chile, however, presents a test case for the opposite, an opportunity to refresh the democratic case for social rights, not due to natural or international law, but because human rights is what people demand.

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Washington DC.,USA, April 26, 1989. Supporters for and against legal abortion face off during a protest outside the United States Supreme Court Building during Webster V Health Services.

Event Video from “Reproductive Rights in 2020”

On July 16, 2020, the Petrie-Flom Center hosted a moderated discussion on recent developments for reproductive rights in the U.S.

2020 has been a notable year for reproductive rights, with the Supreme Court deciding June Medical Services v. Russo, and the COVID-19 pandemic affecting access to abortion, sexual health, and reproductive health services.

Watch panelists Mary Ziegler, Jamille Fields AllsbrookLouise P. King, and Julie Rikelman discuss these developments in a conversation moderated by Emily Bazelon.

Cartoon of contact tracing for COVID-19.

COVID-19, Misinformation, and the Law in Nigeria

By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe

The spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria has been paralleled by the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the novel coronavirus. In Nigeria, information casting doubt on the existence of the coronavirus is spread especially through social media channels, but also through other informal channels.

Some religious leaders with considerable influence have doubted the existence of the virus, and shared conspiracy theories on its origins and the interventions instituted to prevent further spread of the virus. Others have taken to social media to express concerns about the Nigerian government and a perceived lack of transparency. For example, the government has received criticism for continuing its school feeding program during the pandemic, at a time when schools are closed, children are at home, and the country’s financial resources are scarce.

Unproven cures and interventions are also regularly propagated, especially via social media channels such as WhatsApp. For instance, hydroxychloroquine, a drug used for malaria previously, has been touted as a cure, despite evidence to the contrary, prompting some to stockpile it and instigating much discussion on social media.

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corridor with hospital beds

Hospitals Bear the Costs of Detention and Incarceration

By Blake N. Shultz and Pooja Agrawal

While individuals with recent criminal justice involvement represent only 4.2% of the population, they make up 8.5% of all emergency department (ED) expenditures, which translates to an additional $5.2 billion in annual spending across the health care sector.

The federal government has complete control over access to medical care for incarcerated individuals and immigrants in detention facilities, and is primarily responsible for the quality of the sanitation, nutrition, and shelter accommodations. Despite this level of control, conditions in many detention facilities and prisons are exceptionally poor.

Over eighty percent of recently released prisoners are uninsured, and upon re-entry into society they struggle to obtain quality medical care for both pre-existing conditions and those that may have been caused or exacerbated by detention.  As they often do not have a medical home, upon release many will present to emergency departments (EDs) for their health care needs, and, because of the low rates of insurance coverage, hospitals are left to pick up the bill for the gaps in care created by the government’s deficiencies.

The disaggregation of government detention facilities and financial responsibility for downstream health care costs of released individuals creates a “regulatory moral hazard,” in which the government has little incentive to invest in the health and health care of incarcerated and detained individuals. In the absence of federal reform incentivizing investment and reducing cost-shifting to the health care sector, hospital systems should build interdisciplinary care teams focused on formerly incarcerated and detained individuals while investing in comprehensive, community-based health care.

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Pets and COVID-19 youtube slide.

Pets and COVID-19: Video Explainer with Tara Sklar

Are our furry friends at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus? Can pets potentially transmit COVID-19 to their human owners?

In this video explainer produced by the James E. Rogers College of Law of The University of Arizona, Tara Sklar, Professor of Health Law and Director of the Health Law & Policy Program, discusses these issues with Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

Dr. Maccabe also explains the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between veterinarians and physicians in understanding and controlling the coronavirus pandemic, as well as future zoonotic disease outbreaks. Watch the full video below: