from the desk of Meenakshi Prabhune
Hello fellow Sci-Schmoozers,
As we continue adjusting to our new normal and hoping to control the havoc created by SARS-Cov-2
virus, there is another battle that many of us have been fighting. Science supporters have always had
some resistance, but these are special times. The misinformation around COVID-19 is in abundance and
spreading like wildfire. Herb had also touched upon this issue in the past newsletters. While those that
are willfully ignoring evidence cannot be helped, I am finding even rational friends and relatives
genuinely confused by conflicting news and falling prey to fake news. One important reason is that them
not being familiar with the scientific details is not new, but even scientists still figuring out details of this
virus is complicating the situation further. As new data emerges, scientists are compelled to rectify
previous stances, which (for some people) might seem like contradicting and confusing information.
In such times, it is also hard to know what (and who) to believe. Here are my tips on how to identify real
news vs fake information:
-The most important step is to check the source. Is it a reliable, well-known news outlet? If not, has a
similar story been covered by trustworthy outlets? It is always a smoking gun when you see a “breaking
news” article saying that coronavirus can be cured in a day with some magic bullet that no other news
outlet seems to have covered that news.
-Secondly, look for data. Anecdotal stories are NOT data. This means, “one doctor said…” cannot be
enough to assume it as the truth unless their team has actually published their experimental findings for
everyone to see.
– Last, but not the least, know the difference between progress vs availability when it comes to vaccines.
It is true that many companies and researchers are in pursuit of finding a suitable vaccine. Moderna is a
front runner in the US, and recently Astrazeneca and Oxford also published their promising trial results in
a medical. This is all very exciting and great progress in record timelines. However, it is important to
know how trials work before a vaccine becomes available to the public. Because another thing I keep
hearing is that a vaccine is now “almost here”. Here’s a helpful figure showing the different phases of
clinical trials that a vaccine/drug needs to go through before it gets FDA approval for public usage (including specific info around COVID-19 ones).
Stay safe and curious,
Meenakshi Prabhune (a.k.a Minu)
Science Journalist and Writer