Concise answers to common flu vaccine questions

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Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Flu season is upon us, so I thought I would take some time to gather and answer some common questions about influenza and the influenza vaccine. The answers are brief, which means they are necessarily simplified. For more information/research, I have linked references in the text. As a virologist who is involved in active influenza research, this topic is of great interest to me, and I know that there is a vast amount of complex, confusing, and sometimes conflicting information out there. I hope these answers are concise and can help you navigate the vast amount of information that is out there. …

How our understanding of influenza can give us clues for what to expect this winter with the pandemic.

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Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Covid-19 cases are on the rise as the dark night of winter looms large over our country, as well as many other countries in the northern hemisphere. A question that is on many people’s minds is, “What will winter mean for the coronavirus?” It seems second nature that winter brings with it cold and flu season, and by extension, yet another wave of coronavirus cases. But why is this the case? Why are respiratory viruses seasonal?

This has been one of my favorite things to learn about since joining a flu research lab because the simple answer to this question is, well, we don’t really know. Fascinating, right? Though we have known about the seasonality of respiratory diseases for quite some time, we actually don’t have a clear understanding of why they are seasonal. …

Science is most effective when it is given the most amount of room to be wrong

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In November of last year, a novel virus emerged in China and soon spread across the globe. In the early days of the pandemic little was known about the virus. Even today, despite an unprecedented fever of scientific activity and attention, precious little data has been able to shed much light on the situation. This hasn’t stopped science and health professionals from issuing public health recommendations. We’ve seen pandemics before and know how bad things can get. …

A young conservative boy grows into a man with a deeper faith

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The man, the myth, the legend (?) (ca. 2020). Photo by the marvelous Jessie Harrington.

There is something very vulnerable about telling your story. On the one hand, you don’t really know someone (even yourself) until you know their story. And when we know other’s stories, it helps us understand who they are and gives us a valuable perspective of where they are coming from.

But on the other hand, there are are so many personal ideas and beliefs that you could go into that no matter what you say, there will come a point when someone disagrees with you. …

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings everything into being.
Who gives the sun and the rain, the continuing cycles that bring forth life.
Who appoints the days and the seasons to bless the sons of men.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, whose breath goes forth and sustains all.
Who is in all and through all, a God near and not far.
In whom we live and move and have our being.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Who gives fertility to our lands, and blesses our tables with food. …

A poem of praise in every situation

A person standing in front of a large body of water with arms outstretched
A person standing in front of a large body of water with arms outstretched
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

When times are rough, and days are long,
When comes the end of days gone wrong,
When cares are great and struggles endure,
It’s then that we praise Thee.

When the sun is high, and the day is clear,
When hearts are bright, all full of cheer,
When comes the end of a beautiful week,
It’s then that we praise Thee.

When sadness is drawn from so deep a well,
When the lonely ache of our heart swells,
When a light at the end we can all but see,
It’s then that we praise Thee.

When time flies and emotions soar,
When fast the pace of our feet on the floor,
When we cannot stop for much at all,
It’s then that we praise Thee. …

The language we use is important for public perception and policy implementation

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Despite its widespread usage in current discussions throughout the country, the term ‘social justice’, and by extension the concepts of social justice, remains somewhat ambiguous. This is at least in part due to the use of the term by various groups and political organizations. It has become a buzz word co-opted by different groups to serve their needs and agendas.

For this reason, we should be cautious when we use this word in a professional sense in Public Health, as our language matters (if not, at the very least, for the public perceptions of our discipline). …

Diminishing Returns in Public Health

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Photo by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash

Are we victims of our own success? Over the past century, we have reaped huge public health dividends. Has this growing field progressed to the point where our success threatens the very field that made it possible?

Public health initiatives in the 20th century addressed issues such as smoking, occupational safety, and vaccination, resulting in a significant improvement in the expected average lifespan of an American adult. These results are extremely encouraging for the public health field and cast a positive outlook on the work going forward.

However, the successes of the 20th century pose unique challenges for the future of public health. One of the biggest challenges I believe that public health will face soon (or is already facing) is diminishing returns on new policies. …

What do the clinical trials say?

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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

As medical professionals scramble to determine effective treatments for the novel coronavirus that emerged late last year, one potential drug has attracted strong praise and criticism, often finding itself at the base of conspiracy theories and political arguments. Too often politicization can lead to strong opinions that are not grounded in evidence. But what does the actual data say? Here, I present my analysis and overall conclusion of several clinical trials and studies that have examined COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine to determine its therapeutic potential. …

Political morality separated from its Christian foundation

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Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

Our social and political climate today is inundated with angry voices that are convinced of their own righteousness and their opponent’s depravity. We are quick to highlight the sins of others and call for their due penance, all while ignoring the beam in our own eye. Why use words and phrases with such religious overtones to describe our secular cultural moment? I believe that much of the anger and fighting that is becoming more and more part of our culture today is intimately connected with the separation of our shared morality from its foundation.

I propose that the major driver of self-righteousness in American political discussions is largely due to the embrace of a moral framework that is broadly Christian in nature without being grounded in the life and teachings of Christ. In other words, as a society, we have accepted the Christian moral framework while rejecting the foundation on which it stands. …


Walter Harrington

Ph.D. | Postdoctoral fellow studying the influenza virus at St. Jude. Disciple of Christ. I write primarily about science and religion.

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