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Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine & Board Member with Doctors for America, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: A key committee with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meets today to decide just who should get COVID-19 boosters first and when. Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Board Member with Doctors for America. Dr. Dark, always good to see you. So, look, this has been a hot button issue from within even the medical community. What do you expect to come out of this CDC vote?
CEDRIC DARK: Well, I'm hoping that the CDC goes along with what the FDA looked at in the past couple of weeks where the FDA did not approve boosters for everyone, but they did approve it for senior citizens people, above 65 years old, and also recommending that health care workers and teachers, those in the highest risk occupations, get boosters as well. Because if you remember, those are the occupations that were among the first to get vaccinated. And if we are going to see waning immunity, those are the first people that probably would show it.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So you know, the president had hoped to start rolling out those booster shots nationwide for everyone who had already been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine this week. That, obviously, not happening right now, as we wait for the CDC's guidance and for the FDA's final approval. But where do we stand with regards to the Moderna vaccine and the J&J vaccine when it comes to boosters?
CEDRIC DARK: Well, I still think that we're waiting for full FDA approval of these vaccines. They're still under UA, and I would like to see that first before we wind up going into booster conversations, because there are still a lot of people that are hesitant to become vaccinated, and they're waiting on full FDA approval before we can go further.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, you bring up a good point-- two out of the three COVID vaccines are not fully approved yet by the FDA. And at the same time, you have less than 10% of those in many poor nations fully vaccinated. And we know that the UN is in session this week. A number of state leaders are pointing to that and saying that we shouldn't be looking at giving boosters to anybody in this country yet until we start to boost the overall vaccination rate in poorer countries. What do you say to that?
CEDRIC DARK: Well, you know, there's a fact that the United States has done well in terms of vaccinations, but we're not the best. Around the world, countries like the United Arab Emirates have vaccinated 91% of their population, whereas, as you're saying, some countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and lower income countries-- for instance, Nigeria only vaccinating 2% of their population.
And I think that we all need to pay attention to what our international leaders have said and realize that we're not all safe until everyone is safe. And it's very important for Americans to realize that if we're going to get out of this pandemic, it's going to require a global response. The president has been very clear on that, and I think that vaccinating Americans versus vaccinating the world is not really a choice. It's an actual imperative.
And what we have to do is realize in a global pandemic, it requires a global response. And it's important not only for us as a country to vaccinate our fellow Americans, but we really need to get into the habit of promoting vaccination and getting shots into arms around the world.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, pressure is growing on a lot of US companies to share their COVID vaccine technology. Moderna, for instance, accepted $2.5 billion in taxpayer money to develop its vaccine, but it's still-- we're having trouble persuading the company to share its technology with others. And you know, you can see their point of view-- this is their IP. They're looking to protect it.
How do you innovate in a society that's not going to protect your IP? Do you think, though, that this is a time for these companies to be sharing their proprietary technology?
CEDRIC DARK: I certainly do. And I certainly think the folks within Doctors for America and our prescription drug affordability group would say that, yes, that too is a very important thing for us. Remember, the federal taxpayers, the American people, have already paid for a lot of these vaccines and the technology that went into producing them in advance. I think it's really important that these companies remember that and remember their obligation to society and not just their obligation to shareholders.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Dr. Dark, I know you are there in the state of Texas, and I'm looking at the numbers for the school districts there. And we're just about a month into the school year, the number of reported COVID cases among students is approaching the total from the entire school year of last year. Where do things stand on the ground right now? And how can we see improvement in schools in Texas?
CEDRIC DARK: Well, I want you to mark this date, Alexis-- do you remember through the 21st of September, the Texas Education Agency tracks these things, and, as you said before, through last year, 148,000 kids contracted COVID last year. I bet you by this time next week when they release the numbers, through yesterday, they probably will have surpassed that already.
We're already at 126,000 students with COVID as of last week. And by the time they update it for this week, I bet you we're going to be there. How do we combat this? Well, first of all, we need to get masks into schools, especially amongst adolescents in schools where children are going to and from different classrooms, and intermingling, and where risk mitigation has been very difficult to do in the state of Texas because of the leadership of the state.
Another thing we need to be doing is thinking crazily outside the box. Why don't we have, like, HGTV strike team to go into every school, make sure that we have great ventilation within the schools to help reduce the likelihood that if someone's in that classroom with COVID, that whatever they're breathing out gets ventilated out as opposed to getting breathed in by other students, and teachers, and potentially continuing the infectious cycle?
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: What about masking in schools right now? Are schools in Texas able to mandate that students come to school and wear a mask?
CEDRIC DARK: This has been something that has changed day to day and week to week based on what the governor has done and what the judiciary has said about mask mandates. Right now, it's very confusing, I think, for many schools. And some are trying to implement it individually, some schools are attempting to do that whether or not it is against the governor's executive orders. But because of the patchwork of what's happening and the lack of an overall and overarching leadership that says, you know what, we're going to do what we can to mitigate the spread of disease-- it's not as good as it could be in this state.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, thanks for being on the show today.