How newcomer Madison Reyes landed ‘Julie and the Phantoms’

Madison Reyes says her starring role in "Julie and the Phantoms" was tailor-made for her.
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Amy Coney Barrett, Handmaids and Empathy for the Unfamiliar | Opinion
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Paging Dr. Hamblin: What If the Vaccine Only Works Half the Time?
Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, James Hamblin takes questions from readers about health-related curiosities, concerns, and obsessions. Have one? Email him at Dr. Hamblin,I heard an immunologist on the radio today say that a coronavirus vaccine could be only 50 percent effective, in which case we’d still have to “live” with the virus even after it arrives. With all the talk of the vaccine being the way out, this is terrifying. What if the vaccine isn’t totally effective? Will the virus really be with us forever?Sydney LevittToronto, Canada No vaccine is perfectly effective. That isn’t bad news; it’s just a basic fact. No medicine is perfectly effective, no parachute is perfectly effective, and no person is perfectly effective at … whatever it is they do. But though vaccines are only partly effective at protecting a single person, they can still be extremely effective collectively.Vaccine “effectiveness” takes into account lots of different factors: What percentage of vaccinated people develop antibodies? How many antibodies? How long do the antibodies last? How well do they protect the person from disease? Ultimately, you’re left with a rough average: what percentage of people who get vaccinated are protected for a meaningful amount of time.The most successful vaccines that we have, such as those against measles, are about 97 percent effective—meaning almost everyone develops fully protective, long-lasting immunity. Not every vaccine is so reliable. Technically, all that a vaccine does is stimulate our immune systems. From there, it’s up to our bodies to develop and maintain immunity—without inadvertently attacking our own cells in the process. Vaccines are developed to try and thread the needle of stimulating a robust and lasting antibody immune response while not making anyone too sick. As we’ve seen with the flu vaccine, which fewer than half of Americans choose to get most years, even a slight chance of a sore arm or a mild fever after a shot will deter some people from getting it—let alone a one-in-a-million chance of a more serious reaction.The variability of our immune responses is the quintessential challenge of vaccine making. It is why safe and effective vaccines take so long to develop. Even once you have an effective formula, the process of vaccination has historically happened over decades, not months or years. The first polio inoculation studies were initiated in the 1930s, and a viable vaccine wasn’t discovered until the 1950s. Even though global eradication efforts began in the 1980s, there are still dozens of known cases of the disease every year, mostly in children. Through a century of vaccination efforts, smallpox is the only virus that has ever been totally eliminated through vaccination.Developing a vaccine is never easy, but the coronavirus makes it uniquely challenging. The virus can affect people in many ways and to varying degrees of severity, largely because our immune systems respond very differently from person to person. When the vaccines eventually come, we should expect that some people will respond differently than others. For that reason, especially with a new vaccine that’s being produced at a fraction of previous record speeds, drugmakers and regulatory agencies could have an incentive to err on the side of under-stimulating the immune system, rather than overstimulating it and potentially causing unwanted symptoms. This would mean that fewer people would be fully protected after taking the vaccine, but might mean that more people take the vaccine. (The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t specify an exact minimum level of effectiveness in order to take a product to market.)We don’t know how the numbers will play out yet, but we should have a preliminary sense as clinical trials wrap up near the end of the year. Each vaccine candidate—and there are dozens—could have different numbers. During the Phase 3 trials that are happening right now, people are being monitored to see whether they contract COVID-19 despite having been vaccinated. The process could have been sped up with a controversial approach known as vaccine challenge trials, in which people volunteer to be purposely exposed to the virus. But the scientific community opted not to do that for ethical reasons.Instead, we are waiting to see whether people are infected organically. This takes time. The longer that trials go on, the more valuable the results. But even if a trial lasted five years, the results wouldn’t be able to account for every possible long-term, real-world condition. The process can give only a window into what’s likely to happen when billions of people take the product. But do not expect a vaccine to give you 100 percent certainty of protection.Still, if everyone in a population takes a vaccine that is, say, 70 percent effective, the effects add up quickly. The result is a population that is protected—and that more quickly achieves “herd immunity” than a population with a less effective vaccine. Occasional cases of COVID-19 might arise, but enough people will be protected to prevent widespread outbreaks. When Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, mentioned the possibility of a vaccine being 50 percent effective, he wasn’t saying it as though the vaccine would be a failure. He was saying he would consider it a success—an intervention worth using, and better than nothing. Though, his hope would be to start with a product that’s somewhere closer to 75 percent effective.No matter how effective the coronavirus vaccines prove themselves to be, their overall impact will ultimately depend on how many people take them. That means how many people have access to them globally, as well as how many people consent to taking them. In a Pew Research Center poll out this week, only 21 percent of Americans surveyed said they would “definitely” take a vaccine if it were available now. This rate is half of what it was in May, and has decreased in step with the president’s unsubstantiated and impossible claims about a vaccine being widely available before the election. People will rightly require transparency and rigor from their politicians and public-health officials if a vaccine is to be widely trusted and used. The most valuable thing that any population can have in a pandemic is clear, accurate information. Without this, even a mythical, perfectly effective vaccine could fail to stop the pandemic.“Paging Dr. Hamblin” is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.
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Farms have bred chickens so large that they’re in constant pain
Chickens on a farm in China. | Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images Why humanely raising animals is more complicated than just a good living environment. Being a chicken on a factory farm is pretty awful. Some of the reasons are obvious. Farms pack in chickens tightly to maximize profits, so a chicken in captivity has very little space and is surrounded by a sea of other chickens. There isn’t dirt to peck in or root into; instead, they walk through their own waste, and the entire warehouse smells very strongly of ammonia from all the chicken poop. There’s no sky or fresh air — even farms that claim birds have “access to the outdoors” often pack tens of thousands of birds into a warehouse that has a tiny yard that can fit a dozen of them. In principle, we could fix all of those things, and movements to create more humane conditions on factory farms are working on it. We could require less restrictive cages, more space, a reasonable number of cage mates, dietary variety, and genuine access to the outdoors. But the awfulness of life as a chicken in a factory farm goes much deeper than that. For decades, we’ve been breeding chickens to be maximally economically efficient, which mostly means that we raise them quickly, and to be much, much meatier. And it turns out this causes agonizing chronic pain, joint and movement problems, and other issues — even if you try to give the birds good living conditions. That’s the finding of a recent two-year study from the University of Guelph that looked at more than 7,500 broiler chickens from 16 genetic strains — that is, varieties of chicken just like there are breeds of dog. The study found that the fast-growing chicken varieties common on factory farms have tons of health problems separate from the ones caused by their appalling conditions,meaning that, even in an ideal environment, they experience a lot of suffering. Since these breeds specifically designed to fill our platesgrow so quickly, it’s hard for them to move, and they spend much of their time immobile. They develop painful lesions and foot injuries. The birds that grow fastest had signs of heart and lung problems. On the whole, pretty much everything that can go physically wrong in a chicken’s body does when the chicken has been bred to reach full size as quickly as biologically possible. “Strains with faster growth rates and higher breast yields had lower activity levels, poorer indicators of mobility, poorer foot and hock health, higher biochemical markers of muscle damage, higher rates of muscle myopathies, and potentially inadequate organ development,” the paper finds, concluding, “Fast growth rate coupled with high breast yield is associated with poor welfare outcomes.” What does this mean? Well, the most important takeaway is that we can’t just hope to prevent animal cruelty on factory farms by requiring good conditions for animals (though we should do that!). We mayalso need newrules about which varieties of animals are bred and raised for food in the first place. Chickens from strains that have been aggressively selected to grow incredibly fast will likely be in constant pain; by contrast, it may beeasier to provide a humane environment for slower-growing birds. It should be noted that there are some trade-offs here too — if we switch to raising birds that are a little smaller, even more of them will have short, difficult lives and be killed for food to produce the same amount of meat. It’s a knotty issue, but solving it starts with taking chicken suffering seriously. How do you measure a chicken’s suffering? Chickens don’t express pain like humans do, and, like many animals, they’re motivated to hide distress so they don’t attract predators. Animal behavioral scientists look at lots of different cues. The primary ones are behavioral: If a chicken is in enough pain, it should change how willing it is to walk around or get food. The Guelph researchers measured activity levels — how often chickens stood up or moved around, compared to how often they stayed motionless. They took food out of the cage briefly and put the food back on the other side of a beam, then measured how willing the chickens were to cross the beam to get food. Better Chicken Project summary report They also looked at chickens’ footpads for sores and lesions, which other animal research has confirmed are painful and debilitating for animals, and they looked at signs of injuries in the chickens’ bodies once they’d been killed. “Growth rate,” the researchers concluded, “reduced activity levels, mobility and interactions with environmental enrichments.” In other studies, researchers have looked at whether chickens feel empathy. They seem to, exhibiting distress, for instance, when something unpleasant but not dangerous happens to their babies. Animal behavioral science often requires a lot of creativity even to answer questions that are straightforward to answer with humans, like, “Does that hurt?” With that creativity, though, it’s easy to find evidence that for animals, like for us, pain can restrict us from play and socialization, leave us stuck sitting in one place for hours, make even routine tasks unpleasant enough we put them off or avoid them, and leave its markers on the body. Can factory farming be made humane? Lots of meat is sold under labels assuring us that our conscience can rest easy — “humane,” “free-range,” “organic,” “cage-free,” “natural.” Polls show that most Americans care about the way their meat is made, and many people say they try to always purchase humanely raised meat. Unfortunately, these labels are often a mirage. For example, it’s not economically efficient to raise broiler chickens (chickens that we kill and eat for meat, as opposed to egg-laying ones) in single-animal cages rather than super-crowded larger spaces. As a result, they’re just crowded into enormous warehouses by the hundreds of thousands. Technically that’s “cage-free,”but it’s not a free life. Other labels are even less substantive than that — “natural” means that food should be “minimally processed,” but means nothing about whether the animals lived anything resembling natural lives. For that reason, many animal activists are cynical about efforts to make factory farms better by providing less awful conditions for animals or by changing which animals are raised on farms in favor of breeds that suffer less. They worry that these changes will assuage consumer consciences without actually ending the widespread systematic animal cruelty on factory farms. That’s probably true to some extent. But as David Coman-Hidy, the president of the Humane League, told my colleague Ezra Klein in May, little changes — while they may not change our larger culture, and while they may not be sufficient to make animal lives on factory farms less cruel, short, and torturous — still matter. Coman-Hidy works on changing how we kill chickens in slaughterhouses. Right now, they are shackled upside down on a conveyer belt, a process that can dislocate their legs and cause their organs to put suffocating pressure on their lungs. They’re dragged through electrified water, which is supposed to stun them before they’re boiled but often doesn’t. The process is horrific and traumatizing. So the Humane League is working to convince slaughterhouses to gas them instead. Is it worth taking steps that make things a little better, when they’re still so far from humane? “The thought experiment that helped me is if I could die, or have a member of my family die, by being euthanized by gas, or have what I just described happen to them, what would I give to get the gas?” Coman-Hidy said. “And the answer is everything.” The same is true with slower-growing breeds of bird. We shouldn’t kid ourselves — they’ll still be packed into warehouses full of noise, ammonia, and their own waste. They’ll still develop painful stress injuries, some of them will die before they’ve reached full size, and they’ll all be killed at a young age. But one thing — one important thing — will be a little bit better: They won’t grow up faster than their joints can hold them up, leaving them crippled by their own bodies. And for billions of birds, that matters a lot, even if it’s not enough. In the long run, I hope that we can meet the world’s demand for chicken without killing any birds at all, through plant-based or cell-grown meat options. But a problem as serious as the torture of tens of billions of animals a year ought to be tackled from as many angles as possible. Figuring out which animals are possible to raise humanely — and which experience intense pain even in good environments — is an important step toward making life a little better for birds on factory farms. Hand in hand with efforts to ban cruel treatment of animals on those farms, it might domuch reduce the humane cost of our appetite for meat. Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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