Last week, the Federal Drug Administration cleared the way for children age 12 to 15 to receive the Pfizer CoVID-19 vaccine. As conversations begin on how the vaccine will be distributed and if parents will vaccinate their children, some are asking whether schools will mandate the vaccine. IU health policy expert Ross Silverman says a mandate at the elementary and secondary levels is unlikely, and maybe even unnecessary. Silverman says through the vaccine authorization process and monitoring the use of hundreds of millions of vaccines by the public, we know these vaccines are extremely safe and extremely effective in adults and adolescents. The key now, he says, is making it as easy as possible for people to connect with people they have confidence in to discuss the science, get their questions answered, and get the shots. Silverman believes the next challenge will be facilitating local points of access for both trusted information and shots, which will include working with schools, care providers, social service agencies, and employers to maximize community’s protection against the virus through high vaccination uptake.
In other news, the recent announcement of the end of Bill and Melinda Gates’ marriage shocked many, particularly those in the philanthropic world. Unlike most people, the couple’s philanthropic efforts in global public health have saved and extended millions of lives, including helping eradicate most types of polio, a disease that caused a thousand children to be paralyzed every day as recently as the 1980s. Genevieve Shaker, from the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, say the current news cycle’s fascination with the Gates’ divorce is part of a contemporary pattern of viewing big giving through the prism of celebrity. And it leads to a focus on donors’ lifestyles, personalities, relationships and motives at the expense of deeper engagement with the details of their philanthropic acts and their impact on beneficiaries. Shaker and Breeze say looking at the intersection of philanthropy with popular culture highlights how often elite giving is viewed through the lens of celebrity. Media representations do not just contain information about events, they also shape our perceptions and affirm wider conceptions about aspects of social life, they say. But Shaker and Breeze say when big donors only hit the headlines because of private matters or cynicism about their charitable intent, it impedes public understanding of philanthropy, encourages skepticism, and can inhibit giving. Rich donors, and non-rich donors, typically identify their primary reason for giving as a personal connection to, and belief in, a cause as well as a desire to make a difference and lead meaningful and enjoyable lives. This key finding, that the generous rich are not that dissimilar to the rest of us, is distorted by the focus on celebrity, resulting in an emphasis on gossip over good work when big givers are involved. Shaker and Breeze say the Gates’ philanthropy is much bigger than the two of them. The foundation is highly professional and includes offices around the world, she says. They say falling out of love need not annihilate all other shared ventures. Divorce is a common fact of life, after which many separated people work together to raise families and run businesses. In the end, Shaker and Breeze say Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are extremely recognizable “people of interest”, but interest in, and reaction to, the end of their marriage says more about their celebrity status than the future of their philanthropy.