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Global Dimensions of COVID-19: A Conversation with Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo

April 20, 2021

Speakers:

  • Jennifer Nuzzo, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Eliot A. Cohen, Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS

The school welcomed epidemiologist, Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, for a discussion on the global dimensions of COVID-19. Nuzzo began by sharing insights on today’s global pandemic preparedness, outbreak detection and response. According to Nuzzo, the absence of global approaches has made it more challenging to combat the pandemic. She pointed out how countries look inward, yet the tools, strategies, and resources that they need to end the pandemic are global, as we are currently seeing with vaccines.

On vaccinations, Nuzzo noted how the American approach was to tackle those most at risk instead of those most susceptible to mass transmission. This she found was in opposition to the Indonesia model which prioritized vaccinating young virus carriers over the elderly suffering from comorbidities. While each technique had various negative and positive aspects, Indonesia ultimately adopted the American model. Nuzzo also touched on the concerns many people have about vaccines, particularly those who question their ineffectiveness against mutations and are therefore hesitant to be vaccinated. Nuzzo called for greater education and empathy in dealing with individuals who harbored these anti-vaccination tendencies.

Speaking on the larger repercussions of the pandemic, Nuzzo noted that soon we would have to define what is the acceptable ‘new normal’ in society. In her opinion, masks were not needed while walking your dog, but definitely needed indoors or if attending a football game. She called for the government to act with nuance, not paternalize people, and for political leaders to stop playing with people’s fears and insecurities. She noted a greater emphasis needed to be made to return children to school, and that mandatory vaccinations may lead to a hardening of views.