Author Archives: Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Covering oversight of federal government pandemic spending

NY National Guard staffing a mobile testing center

PHOTO: The National Guard via Flickr

The pandemic laid bare the woeful underfunding of the nation’s public health system as states and localities continue to struggle to provide timely testing, contact tracing, clear guidance to the public and reach vulnerable and underserved communities.

Though the pace of vaccinations has picked up considerably in the past month, the paucity of staff and resources at state and local health departments has meant that many public health departments could not get vaccines into the arms of the public as quickly as hoped, given the continued spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Continue reading

One journalist’s efforts to counter misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines

Daniel Funke

Daniel Funke

Alarm over the impact of COVID-19 misinformation has been growing, especially with increasing efforts by right-wing groups to spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

The effort to end the pandemic through vaccination could stall if too many people refuse to take the vaccine because they don’t have the correct facts to make a decision. It can be a daily battle by journalists to correct false statements on social media — especially for those on the fact-checking beat.

“It is hard to stay on top of everything,” Daniel Funke, staff writer at PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking website, said during a recent How I Did It interview for AHCJ. “We don’t have a great way to quantify misinformation and where it is coming from because we’d have to fact check everything on the internet.” Continue reading

Overprescribing of antibiotics prevalent in early times of pandemic

Photo: Paul Mazumdar via Flickr

Photo: Paul Mazumdar via Flickr

Are you looking for new COVID-19 story angles and stories beyond the current pandemic? Pay attention to “superbugs,” the term for bacteria that have developed resistance to antimicrobial drugs.

Overprescribing of antibiotics in U.S. hospitals during the first months of the pandemic increased the likelihood that the threat of antibiotic resistance has grown over the past year, according to a recent study. Continue reading

Story ideas for covering COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Video screen capture: National Association of Broadcasters

National Association of Broadcasters

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, Americans want to know more about safety and potential side-effects (including any possible long-term impact on fertility), as well as the logistics of getting their shot, according to a recent survey, according to a new survey.

Media research firm SmithGeiger conducted the survey, which was partially funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. It was shared first with AHCJ members during a March 17 webcast about potential story ideas for journalists covering the vaccine rollout and efforts by public health leaders to boost confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Continue reading

How one journalist pivoted her writing during the pandemic

Stephani Sutherland

Stephani Sutherland

At the beginning of the pandemic, Stephani Sutherland, a freelance writer focused on chronic pain issues, was — like many writers — finding that publications suddenly wanted COVID-19 stories and not much else.

Sutherland, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, decided to get up to speed in areas of infectious diseases and virology as fast as she could. As she delved into the research, she learned about an interesting connection between pain research and some of the long-term symptoms being felt by those infected with SARS-CoV-2, such as brain fog and loss of smell. Continue reading

One year later: What we know (and still don’t) about COVID-19

Photo: Olgierd via Flickr

Photo: Olgierd via Flickr

I know all health care journalists have been taking stock over the past year and how COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives. For me, it’s been astonishing, exhausting, gratifying and heartbreaking to be a part of writing the first draft of this pandemic history.

Though I had been writing about the potential for a pandemic for years, I didn’t become genuinely scared that we were really heading towards a pandemic until Feb. 12, 2020. I had listened to a U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs hearing called, “Roundtable: Are We Prepared? Protecting the U.S. from Global Pandemics,” in which former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned committee members that it was likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was circulating undetected in the U.S. and we would be seeing the impact within a few weeks. Continue reading