This month’s guest contributor is Dr. Suellen Hopfer, Assistant Professor of Public Health in the Department of Health, Society & Behavior. Dr. Hopfer has conducted extensive research on health and risk communications with special focus on vaccine interventions and has been instrumental in the Program in Public Health’s COVID-19 response. With vaccine hesitancy on the rise, this month, we look to Dr. Hopfer her expert insight into today's issues and an update on a parent-adolescent Covid-19 vaccine study as we look to vaccinating children this summer and fall.
Suellen Hopfer, MS, PhD
Assistant Professor, Public Health, UCI Program in Public Health
Assistant Professor, Center for Virus Research
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, UCI School of Medicine
Sharing Vaccination Stories as we Move Toward a New Normal

There is hope on the horizon toward a future living beyond the pandemic that will be the new normal. With three emergency authorized COVID-19 vaccines available to the public in tiers now, each vaccine shows great promise to be effective at preventive COVID-19 hospitalizations and death. In light of the vaccine rollout in 2021, vaccinating, after having engineered several effective vaccines, will be critical for reducing the severe morbidity and mortality outcomes from COVID-19. With one third of the public quite hesitant about vaccines for a variety of reasons, we’ve learned that context, history, listening to people’s questions and concerns, and importantly, answering questions and allowing people time to process the evolving science will be important for people and communities to feel comfortable arriving at their personal vaccine decisions.
 
Public health and the medical fields have a unique opportunity to build trust, be transparent, and share authentically the evolving and growing science that informs COVID-19 vaccine decision-making. To that end, it will be important to not minimize the complex factors shaping each individuals’ immune response to vaccinating but at the same time highlight the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination. Efforts continue to be underway on a weekly basis to reach out to communities, especially BIPOC communities, to share and explain what is known as increasing data emerge, to share these data in digestable ways, and to build comfort and confidence with vaccine decision-making. Continued investment in educational efforts in multiple formats tailored to various communities is warranted to build trust, comfort, and understanding for the various considerations involved in vaccine decision-making. Individuals and communities have many questions ranging from details about the three vaccines available, to better understanding factors that shape immune responses, and what individuals can do to minimize adverse effects and optimize a positive response, to logistical questions of where to get the vaccine, to the need to continue with other additional preventive measures as we gradually return to a new normal. Getting good sleep, exercise, nutrition, and avoiding stressors are likely to optimize positive vaccine responses. It will also be important for public health messaging to continue emphasizing wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping physical distance.
 
As we look to the future including in-person school re-openings, UCI is conducting a study that involves discussion with parents and their middle and high school children to gauge their thoughts on vaccinating children in the next year. A range of responses and questions have been voiced from adolescents eager to return to in-person school and comfortable with vaccinating, to those unsure taking the “wait and see approach”, to witnessing their grandparents and parents vaccinate. Some parents take the perspective that they can be “walked off the ledge” by confident and clear recommendations from their doctor while other families feel the COVID-19 risk is manageable and consider vaccinating for the sake others who are vulnerable. We will continue to gauge needs and concerns as well as share known and unknown science as data emerge this summer from clinical trials on the unique considerations of vaccinating adolescents. 
 
We’ve learned from social psychology and communication sciences that vaccine hesitancy often expresses as one or more of five considerations. These include vaccine confidence – for example, trust in vaccine safety and those who provide and produce it including historical community factors, to vaccine complacency – low perceive risk or need, vaccine constraints – practical barriers such as access, cost, or fear of needles, vaccine collective responsibility – vaccinating for the protection of others or the community to avoid cluster outbreaks, and vaccine calculation – overly seeking health information, weighing costs and benefits. Rarely is vaccine hesitancy or vaccine deliberation determined by a single belief, but rather typically a constellation of factors or fears motivating vaccine questioning.  As we move forward in time, we will need to address concerns and questions in its varied forms taking special care to take history and context into consideration as well as listening to community concerns. We will need to adapt public health messaging to address the unique concerns and questions collective communities have to make informed personal vaccine decisions.
Maribel Cervantes-Ortega
PhD Student, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Reflections on the Year of COVID-19

Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So, it is no surprise that many of us are experiencing fear through the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Added to the fears surrounding our health and safety in the presence of COVID-19 are the significant changes we have endured in efforts to contain and slow the spread of the virus. Faced with the realities of masking, social distancing, and working from home, I look to my peers and wonder if it’s okay to feel angry. As we begin yet another academic quarter under stay-at-home orders with news that friends and family will be unable to attend the 2021 commencement, there is a sense of overwhelming frustration that we just can’t seem to get everything under control fast enough to return to normal.
 
While COVID-19 cases continue to decrease, there is no forgetting all that it has taken from us. Holidays, celebrations, vacations. More importantly, we think of all our friends and family who have been infected or have succumbed to the virus. All of this only compounded by the continuous news of protests, shootings, and hate crimes. We must all remember that resilience is key and while we may not all know each other; we are a community of support. It is imperative that we each take the necessary time to focus on our mental, physical, and emotional health during these difficult times. Doing so will only put each of us in a better position to further help and support those around us.
UCI Podcast: What’s next with COVID

Public health researcher Andrew Noymer discusses how the novel coronavirus will be us for a while in this special UCI Podcast episode. Listen here >>
The Year of COVID: How the Anteater Community Now Only Survived but Thrived  - UCI News

From hand-washing demonstrations with Peter the Anteater to the COVID-19 chatline and consultancy projects with our actOC surveillance study, an array of Program in Public Health initiatives are featured in this special UCI News report on the past year of responding to COVID-19. Read more >>
Featured Publication: Estimated seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among adults in Orange County, California (actOC)

The full report on actOC is now available in Nature Scientific Reports! In this large-scale, population-based study, our researchers revealed an elevated prevalence of COVID-19 among Latinos and low-income adults in Orange County, proving again that COVID-19 is indeed a disease of disparities. They also found that population seroprevalence is seven-fold greater than that using official County statistics. Read more >>
3/5/21: Dropping the Wait
(Bernadette Boden-Albala)
Lessons from the Longest Year: Dean Bernadette Boden-Albala featured in UCI Magazine

In UCI Magazine's Winter 2021 issue, Dean Bernadette Boden-Albala reflects on her experience and lessons learned during the year of COVID-19. See pg. 38-39. Read more >>
Featured Publication:
Toxicant Effects on Mammalian Oocyte Mitochondria


Environmental Health Science, Environmental Toxicology Track Doctoral Student, Kelli Malott, and her advisor, Professor Ulrike Luderer, co-authored a review paper discussing the effects of toxic chemicals and ionizing radiation on oocyte mitochondria. This is important because all of the mitochondria in offspring are derived from mitochondria in the oocyte. The review was published in Biology of Reproduction. Read it here >>
Dr. Stephen C. Bondy serves on the International Journal of Molecular Sciences Editorial Board

As a member of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences Editorial Board, Dr. Stephen C. Bondy  plays a critical role in editing special issues like the 2020 Molecular Basis for the Environmental Promotion of Neurodegenerative Disease. He is one of 52 Editorial Board Members in the "Molecular Toxicology" section and one of 16 distinguished scientists to join in 2020.
NIH Researchers Develop Guidelines for Reporting Polygenic Risk Scores

As a member of the National Working Group for the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), Dr. Karen Edwards recently co-authored a groundbreaking paper that outlines a promising new approach for assessing a person's inherited risk for diseases like Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer by calculating polygenic risk scores. Scores provide an estimate of an individual's risk for specific diseases based on DNA changes. Read more >>
Featured Publication: A Multi-Contextual Examination of Non-School Friendships and their Impact on Adolescent Deviance and Alcohol Use

Despite decades of research on adolescent friendships, little is known about adolescents who are more likely to form ties outside of school. In this study, Dr. Cynthia Lakon and team examine multiple social and ecological contexts including parents, the school, social networks, and the neighborhood to understand the origins and health significance of out of school ties. More info >>
Gabby Gussin selected as TIPH Global Ambassador

 

Please join us in congratulating PhD student Gabby Gussin on being selected as a Global Ambassador for “This is Public Health” (TIPH). TIPH is sponsored by the Global Network for Academic Public Health, which convenes leaders from around the world to share, learn, collaborate, and act to advance academic public health.

TIPH is championed in the United States by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH); in Europe by the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER), and by the Association of Schools of Public Health in Africa (ASPHA), and the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health, among other continental associations.

Gabby will work alongside Dr. Oladele Ogunseitan on a project entitled "Antibiotics Stewardship is Public Health."

Health Effects of Air Pollution Foundation Award

Congratulations to Dr. Jun Wu, who received a 2-year subcontract PI award from the Health Effects of Air Pollution Foundation of the South Coast Air Management District.  The goal of this study is to investigate the impact of air pollution and noise pollution on the risk of developing breast cancer, and examine breast cancer survival in relation to long-term air pollution exposure in racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse populations.
Latino Excellence & Achievement Award

Congratulations to Dean Bernadette Boden-Albala for receiving the UCI Office of Inclusive Excellence's Latino Excellence & Achievement Award for championing graduate student success and research excellence in the Hispanic/Latinx community at UCI and in Orange County.
CUGH Outstanding Service Award

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Oladele Ogunseitan for his recent Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) award for outstanding service on the 2021 Global Health Workforce Panel.
Title: The Science of Health Disparities [textbook]

Contributing Author: Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala

Description: The Science of Health Disparities Research is an indispensable source of up-to-date information on clinical and translational health disparities science. Released on March 23, this textbook features a chapter written by our very own Dean Bernadette Boden-Albala and framed by her ongoing work at the National Institute on Minority and Health Disparities (NIMHD). More info >>
Title: Household low pile carpet usage was associated with increased serum PFAS concentrations in 2005–2006

Authors: Yachen Zhu, Annie, Ro, Scott M. Bartell

Description: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous in the serum of the general US population. Food, drinking water, consumer products, dust, and air have been assessed as PFAS exposure sources for humans. The effects of various types of carpeting on serum PFAS concentrations have been less studied, despite the known use of PFAS in stain-resistant carpet treatments. In this study, researchers found that low pile carpet is associated with increased serum perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) and acetic acid (MeFOSAA) concentrations, and stain-resistance carpet treatment could explain accountable human PFAS exposure. More info >>
Title: Correspondence Between Perceived Pubertal Development and Hormone Levels in 9-10 Year-Olds From the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study

Author: Kristina A. Uban

Description: Puberty is an important developmental milestone that begins with rising hormone levels and leads to physical changes in secondary sex characteristics. In this study, Dr. Uban and team examined individual variability between perceived physical features and hormones of pubertal maturation in 9-10 year-old children as a function of sociodemographic characteristics. More info >>
Odd Jobs Panel

Thank you to everyone who joined our February Odd Jobs Panel, and a special thank you to our amazing panelists! We heard from alumni that work in environmental and climate planning, medical cannabis research, vector control and laboratory diagnostics, big data analysis for Weight Watchers and even planetary protection and contamination! It was fascinating to hear what a typical day looks like in their roles and also hear about the twists and turns their career paths have taken post UCI graduation.
Herschell Dayag

Congratulations to MPH student Herschell Dayag for being awarded the UCI Graduate Division's Brython Davis Fellowship Award for his outstanding academic achievements!
Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) Member Spotlights

Please join us in congratulating undergraduate program alums Malak Kudaimi and Ravi Singh Sandhu for being recognized as Phi Beta Kappa's February Member Spotlights! PBK featured Malak Kudaimi for her recent Marshall Scholarship award and Ravi Singh Sandhu for his Fulbright Award.
APHA Environmental Section Student Achievement
Poster Awardees


Congratulations to alumnae Rachel Hinanay, Courtney Pon, and Roselyn Tanghal for winning 2nd place in the APHA Environmental Section’s Student Achievement Poster Awards for their project ‘The Influence of Green Space on Cardiovascular Health: A Systematic Review’. Dr. Miryha Runnerstrom and George Washington University MPH student Yves-Smith Benjamin also served as co-authors.
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