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Why celebrities have a moral responsibility to help promote lifesaving vaccines

An ethicist argues that choices made by celebrities could impose unjustified risk of harm on others.

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Many celebrities have expressed concerns about bodily autonomy while refusing COVID-19 vaccination. Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In the heated debate about vaccine mandates, celebrities have not hesitated to raise their voices. Most prominently, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has stated he would rather not participate in tennis tournaments than get the vaccine required to play. And Joe Rogan has used his highly popular podcast to spread vaccine misinformation, saying the vaccine could alter one’s genes.

While some resistance is based on misinformation or distrust of the vaccines, some is rooted in concerns about bodily autonomy. In January 2022, actor Evangeline Lilly attended a rally protesting vaccine mandates in the name of bodily sovereignty, claiming she was “pro-choice” and stating, “I believe nobody should ever be forced to inject their body with anything, against their will.” Comedian Rob Schneider echoed this reasoning, proclaiming “My body, my choice” in a tweet. Actor LaKeith Stanfield expressed in a now-deleted Instagram post that vaccines should be solely a matter of “personal choice.” These celebrities oppose the state’s or other institutions’ requiring them to get the vaccine and claim that it should be up to individual choice.

This claim is of particular interest to me as an ethicist who has recently co-authored an academic paper assessing the anti-vaccine mandate activists’ appropriation of the “my body, my choice” argument from the abortion-rights movement. In that paper, I argue that those who oppose vaccine mandates for reasons of bodily autonomy have yet greater reason to oppose abortion restrictions, because they entail far greater impositions on bodily autonomy. Thus, being against vaccines for reasons of bodily autonomy but opposing abortion is not a coherent position.

The celebrity claim to “my body, my choice” in opposing vaccination is another matter. Celebrities have great influence over others, that can have consequences that go beyond their own health.

‘Do no harm’ principle

Anyone can get infected with COVID-19 and risk transmitting the virus to others. Spreading COVID-19 risks causing them severe harm, including death, hospitalization, or long-term sickness and disability.

Indeed, celebrities themselves have been the victims of COVID-19. The disease has taken singer and songwriter John Prine, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and, reportedly, the legendary entertainer Meat Loaf.

While liberal societies such as the U.S. generally privilege the freedom to make individual choices, even if ill-advised, they also endorse a prohibition on harming others. According to philosopher John Stuart Mill, people are allowed to do as they wish except when they could harm one another.

There are two components to Mill’s harm principle. First, there is a duty not to harm others. But second, Mill claims that enforcing this duty is the only legitimate reason to limit people’s liberties.

The first part, the duty not to harm, is not contentious. It is in people’s rational best interest to endorse a mutually respected rule of not harming one another. The second part is controversial. The political libertarians endorse it; other liberals reject it.

But even if one thinks, as Mill and the libertarians do, that the government prerogative to interfere with individual liberties is restricted to enforcing the duty not to harm, vaccine mandates can still be justified. In other instances, people endorse the state’s right to limit liberties that risk imposing harm on innocent others. Driving with worn brake pads greatly increases the risk of causing an accident and injuring or killing someone. The government can rightly restrict people, by threat of fine or other penalty, from driving with a car in disrepair.

Likewise, someone who is infected with COVID-19 risks spreading it to someone who could die or be seriously ill from it. While vaccination does not guarantee that one will not become infected or transmit the virus to others, a three-dose course of vaccines greatly decreases the odds of infection and thus reduces transmission rates. Further, vaccines are low cost or free and very low risk. For the same reasons as above, the government can rightly deny people access to certain activities if they refuse to get vaccinated.

The “my body, my choice” claim fails to recognize that some people’s choices, such as failing to get a low-risk, effective vaccine against a deadly disease, impose unjustified risk of harm on others that the government has a right to prevent. Even libertarians should by their own commitments agree. This requirement applies to all individuals, whether famous or not.

Promoting good

When it comes to what the state can do, celebrities are not special. But some celebrities seem to be overlooking the possibility that they have special moral responsibility in light of their stature. For better or worse, many people look up to celebrities as people to admire and to emulate. Celebrities can influence others to also get vaccinated.

A mural on a building depicts a man with a tennis racket, with writing in Cyrillic script across the top.
Tennis player Novak Djokovic has refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Vladimir Zivojinovic/Getty Images

There is strong reason to think that in some circumstances we do have the responsibility to help others and promote the good. That is, morality is not limited to just not causing harm. Philosopher Peter Singer famously argued that someone who walks by a shallow pond and finds a child at risk of drowning in the pond is morally required to wade in and pull the child out. After all, the risk to the rescuer is so minor – perhaps ruining some nice shoes. But the benefit to the child is life itself.

Thus, people have some duties to do good for others in addition to the duty not to harm. As Singer argues, when so great a thing as life itself is at stake, people have a moral duty to do what they can to save lives if the cost to them is not overly burdensome.

[Over 150,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.]

The situation with COVID-19 is similar in morally relevant ways. Encouraging others to get vaccinated and setting an example by doing so oneself is low cost, given the low-risk profile of the vaccine. But in doing so, one can literally save lives.

Celebrities are uniquely positioned to do this promotional lifesaving work at low cost. Singer’s principle suggests they are obligated to do so. Celebrities claiming “my body, my choice,” in my view, are mistaken on both these fronts.

The well-accepted duty not to harm is the ground for justified vaccine mandates. Celebrities are well positioned and thus morally responsible to help promote lifesaving vaccines.

Tina Rulli does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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US: The New Real Hoaxes?

US: The New Real Hoaxes?

Authored by Pete Hoekstra via The Gatestone Institute,

The investigative reporting by these two organizations…

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US: The New Real Hoaxes?

Authored by Pete Hoekstra via The Gatestone Institute,

  • The investigative reporting by these two organizations [the New York Times and the Washington Post] was so thorough and groundbreaking it turned up things that were not even there.

  • For having refused to rescind these awards, the Pulitzer Committee should receive its own Pulitzer -- for fraud.

  • The real hoax appears to have been the CCP's ostensible good behavior and the now-hugely-discredited initial reporting on the virus.

  • Or how about the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up? Once again, On October 14, 2020, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a critical story of possible extensive influence-peddling with senior intelligence officers in the CCP, Russia and Ukraine by the son of a presidential candidate. The contents of the laptop raised questions that the candidate at the time, Vice President Joe Biden, could be compromised. The entire subject was decisively pushed aside, along with the potential threat to national security that such an eventuality might entail.

  • Also not allowed during the January 6th hearings have been any witnesses for the defense, any cross-examination, or any exculpatory evidence.

  • One wonders, for instance if the January 6th Committee will consider the July 29, 2022 tweet by General Keith Kellogg, that on January 3, 2021, Trump, in front of witnesses, did indeed ask for "troops needed" for January 6. Kellogg wrote: "I was in the room."

  • The January 6th Committee has also not released any information about government informants or FBI undercover law enforcement officers who might have been in the crowd, and Pelosi is also said to be blocking access to a massive quantity of documents. Finally, according to attorney Mark Levin, under the Constitution's separation of powers, Congress, has no legitimacy even to hold a criminal investigation: that power belongs to the Judiciary. The entire proceeding is illegitimate and a usurpation of power.

  • Is it surprising that after the Pulitzer decision, the Russia collusion hoax, the Whitmer kidnapping hoax, the Covid origin hoax, the Hunter Biden laptop hoax, and now the January 6th Committee hoax, that many Americans believe there is something wrong with the system?

Recently former US President Donald Trump challenged the award of Pulitzer Prizes to the New York Times and the Washington Post for their investigative reporting on alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

The investigative reporting by these two organizations was so thorough and groundbreaking it turned up things that were not even there.

You have to hand it to them for this so-called "great reporting": the Pulitzer Committee sure did.

We now know, of course, the grand conspiracy pushed by these papers is nothing more than thoroughly debunked disinformation. For having refused to rescind these awards, the Pulitzer Committee should receive its own Pulitzer -- for fraud.

The intractability of the Pulitzer Committee is only the latest example of why so many Americans have been losing trust in their institutions, both public and private. Rather than admitting that these awards were a mistake, and that much of the reporting was not investigative reporting, but merely a recitation of fabrications put forward by political hacks for campaign purposes, the Pulitzer Committee announced that it will stand by its initial decision, facts be dammed.

The Russia hoax is emblematic of the model built by the anti-Trump, anti-America First, anti-populist movement that the American people have experienced for the last six years. It embodies many of the characteristics that have frustrated Americans. It is a combination of influential forces -- media, social media, political players, and government -- that put forward information detrimental to one -- oddly always the same -- political viewpoint. In this instance, populists -- believers in the rights, wisdom or virtues of the common people, according to Merriam Webster -- who might embrace the concept of personal freedom espoused by the Constitution, a free market economy, economic growth, energy independence, school choice, equal application of the law and decentralized governance.

Much of the material used to foster the Russia hoax originated from the discredited "Steele Dossier," pedaled by former British spy Christopher Steele, funded by Clinton-linked opposition research firm FusionGPS, and pushed by Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman. This discredited information was shared widely -- and often, it seems, with prior knowledge of its falseness -- through the mainstream media and social media when it was leaked to the press early in 2017 just before Donald Trump was sworn in as president. The material contributed to the launching of the Mueller "Russiagate" investigation, which cast a shadow over the first two years of the Trump administration. Government officials were involved as CIA Director John BrennanFBI Director James Comey and DNI James Clapper all lent their credibility to the supposed authenticity or seriousness of the Russian materials. All of this did tremendous damage to the effectiveness of the Trump administration, as it sought to govern, by putting it under a cloud of suspicion and illegitimacy from the outset.

This, however, was not the only example. Consider the disrupted kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in her key swing state for presidential elections. "The FBI got walloped [in April]", according to the New York Post, " when a Michigan jury concluded that the bureau had entrapped two men accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Those men and others were arrested a few weeks before the 2020 election in a high-profile, FBI-fabricated case...."

The media, however, for the most part portrayed the kidnapping plot as the work of domestic terrorists, with the implied inference being they were right-wing Trump supporters. Whitmer went so far as to accuse Trump of being complicit in the plan, even though it emerged that these alleged plotters had also supposedly wanted to hang Trump. The FBI, it was later shown, had been heavily involved in the plot through informants and individuals it had placed in the group. By the time the case came to trial after the election, Biden had won Michigan's electoral votes and the damage had been done.

Consider, also, the COVID pandemic. The "facts" at the time were supposedly that it came from "nature" and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government had supposedly known nothing about its human-to-human transmissibility, even though it had "made whistleblowers disappear and refused to hand over virus samples so the West could make a vaccine."

The CCP, early on, was portrayed as a constructive player in controlling the spread of the virus, even as it was recalling and hoarding all of its Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This fiction was reinforced by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the World Health Organization, and other prominent participants – apart from Taiwan, which futilely tried to warn the WHO of the coronavirus's fierce human-to-human transmissibility, only to be dismissed.

The mainstream media and social media also quickly began parroting the "official" story line. Social media companies suspended the accounts of whoever might have had a different opinion and some were even canceled.

For the 10 months leading up to the November 2020 election, the narrative was set: COVID-19 was a naturally occurring virus and the CCP was in the clear. Imagine how different the 2020 presidential election might have been if the debate was how the world would have held the CCP accountable for the leak and coverup of COVID from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Now in 2022, a lab-leak is considered the most "likely cause" of the coronavirus, but again the political damage, and a gigantic amount of non-political damage, has already been done. The real hoax appears to have been the CCP's ostensible good behavior and the now-hugely-discredited initial reporting on the virus.

Or how about the Hunter Biden laptop cover-up? Once again, On October 14, 2020, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, a critical story of possible extensive influence-peddling with senior intelligence officers in the CCP, Russia and Ukraine by the son of a presidential candidate. The contents of the laptop raised questions that the candidate at the time, Vice President Joe Biden, could be compromised. The entire subject was decisively pushed aside, along with the potential threat to national security that such an eventuality might entail.

Discussion of Hunter Biden's laptop with its reportedly incriminating information about the Biden family business dealings with the CCPRussia, and other actors in what appeared to be a model of pay-for-play, was instantly shut down. Fifty-one former government intelligence officials , who we now know were perfectly well aware that the laptop was real – the FBI had been holding it for months -- wrote a letter describing the contents of the laptop as having "all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation" designed to damage Joe Biden.

NPR famously downplayed the story, and once again, if you used social media to post information originally reported by the New York Post, you were canceled.

A year and a half after the election, the facts were finally "officially" accepted: Well, what do you know, it really was Hunter Biden's laptop and the material on it "is real!"

Once again, the leadership at the FBI, the media, social media, and former government officials had developed a hoax to damage their political opposition and the people who supported it.

Finally, there is the January 6th Committee, a one-sided investigative body, sometimes called "the third (attempted) impeachment." The Committee appears to have been put in place to stop Trump from running for office again. Before the proceeding even began, its outcome was predetermined: Trump was to be found guilty of -- something. As Stalin secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria used to say during Soviet Russia's reign of terror, "Find me the man and I'll find you the crime." So the US show trial commenced.

Even its start was ominous. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an unprecedented move, vetoed the committee appointments of Representatives Jim Banks and Jim Jordan. This rebuff led House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to pull his five Republican candidates from participating. Pelosi, it appeared, wanted only anti-Trump folks to serve on the Committee. Also not allowed during the January 6 hearings have been any witnesses for the defense, any cross-examination, or any exculpatory evidence.

One wonders, for instance if the January 6th Committee will consider the July 29, 2022 tweet by General Keith Kellogg, that on January 3, 2021, Trump, in front of witnesses, did indeed ask for "troops needed" for January 6. Kellogg wrote:, "I was in the room:"

"Great OpEd. Reinforces my earlier comment on 6 Jan Cmte. Has quote from DOD IG Report regarding 3 Jan 2021 meeting with Actg Def Secy Miller/CJCS Milley in the Oval on the 6 Jan NG request by POTUS on troops needed. I was in the room."

While purportedly examining in detail every decision and action by Trump and his team, the Committee refuses to question Pelosi, among the leading figures responsible for the security of the Capitol. She reportedly "turned down" requests for greater security. According to the Federalist:

"Four days after the riot, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned his post in the aftermath, told The Washington Post his request for pre-emptive reinforcement from the National Guard ahead of Jan. 6 was turned down. Sund said House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, overseen by Pelosi, thought the guard's deployment was bad "optics" two days before the raid.... Despite the Associated Press and Washington Post's best efforts to run interference for the speaker, suddenly exonerating her of duties overseeing Capitol security, the riot on Jan. 6 was a security failure Pelosi owns. If the "speaker trusts security professionals to make security decisions," then why, as the police breach unfolded, did Irving feel compelled to seek the speaker's approval to dispatch the National Guard, as The New York Times reported? How could Pelosi also order the extended shut down of the Capitol to visitors, citing coronavirus, and install metal detectors in the House chamber?"

The Committee has not evaluated the performance of the Capitol Police or other law enforcement agencies, but it has targeted the "private records of individuals with no connection to the violence."

The January 6th Committee has also not released any information about government informants or FBI undercover law enforcement officers who might have been in the crowd, and Pelosi is also said to be blocking access to a massive quantity of documents. Finally, according to attorney Mark Levin, under the Constitution's separation of powers, Congress, has no legitimacy even to hold a criminal investigation: that power belongs to the Judiciary. The entire proceeding is illegitimate and a usurpation of power. The Committee's narrative is clear: Donald Trump is responsible for the events of January 6, now let us manufacture the evidence to prove it.

This article has not even delved into the 28 states that "changed voting rules to boost mail-in ballots." Some States apparently omitted both state law and the need for states' legislatures to be the sole arbiters of election law, as required by the Constitution; the $400 million spent by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg; the 2000-plus "mules" and the algorithms that sent conservative emails to spam while emails with liberal content went through to the addressees.

Is it any wonder that many Americans have lost faith in their institutions and leaders? Is it surprising that after the Pulitzer decision, the Russia collusion hoax, the Whitmer kidnapping hoax, the Covid origin hoax, the Hunter Biden laptop hoax, and now the January 6th Committee hoax, that many Americans believe there is something wrong with the system? The media, social media, government officials and others have been complicit in undermining our rule of law and possibly even subverting an election.

*  *  *

Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently Chairman of the Center for Security Policy Board of Advisors and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Tyler Durden Fri, 08/12/2022 - 23:55

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TechCrunch+ roundup: Down-funnel growth metrics, RIF planning, is e-commerce aggregation over?

It’s hard to argue with the proverb “measure twice and cut once,” especially when it comes to laying off employees.

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In the video game Katamari Damacy, players control an avatar who rolls a sticky ball that captures anything it touches. The goal is to create a sphere large enough to become a star or moon.

E-commerce aggregators work in much the same way by purchasing smaller brands, then optimizing their manufacturing and sales channels to boost market share.

This was effective in a pre-vaccine era when consumers stopped visiting stores, but is the brand-rollup model still viable today?


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Use discount code TCPLUSROUNDUP to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


“Decreased consumer confidence, inflated brand value, and a freeze in investment capital are creating a perfect storm,” says David Wright, co-founder and CEO of Pattern, an e-commerce accelerator. “Unless aggregators change how they operate, their future is bleak at best and nonexistent at worst.”

Scaling an online business until it’s large enough to flip sounds great, but Wright (who clearly has a vested interest) says small brands should partner with companies that can help them navigate the market, not swallow them whole.

“It’s comparable to the financial crisis of 2008, when poor financial products were lumped together in order to diversify risk and make them look better than they actually were,” he writes.

“We all know how that turned out.”

Thanks for reading — I hope you have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Editorial Manager, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

Pitch Deck Teardown: Five Flute’s $1.2M pre-seed deck

Follow-on funding is harder to come by, but seed-stage founders who have a strong idea and good presentation skills can still close rounds.

To wit: Five Flute, an issue-tracking platform for hardware product managers, recently raised a $1.2M SAFE note to ramp up its marketing and hire more technical talent.

Five Flute’s founders shared their slightly redacted pitch deck with us. Besides the standard slides for TAM and GTM strategies, their presentation does a compelling job of describing the problems to be solved and why they believe they’re poised for success:

“We’ve felt this pain personally.”

Dear Sophie: Which immigration options are best for a decentralized team in the US?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

We just raised a $20 million Series A, and we need to hire more engineers to fully develop our product.

In addition, we’d like to bring our overseas PEO contractors to the States to join us more locally and in-timezone.

We’re excited about being decentralized — which immigration options are best for us?

— Elated Entrepreneur

To optimize for growth, study your down-funnel metrics

Illustration showing man tweaking funnel with lever to optimize for growth; growth marketing down funnel

Image Credits: erhui1979 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Early-stage startups put a lot of time and energy into marketing and acquisition: These levers direct new customers into the top of your sales funnel to drive growth. And investors love growth.

But in August 2022, they like revenue even better, which is why Jonathan Martinez says companies should turn their attention to down-funnel metrics.

“Varying messaging by user cohort is your largest lever for moving users through the funnel,” writes Martinez in his latest TechCrunch+ post.

“It’s imperative to slice users into their respective buckets, because it opens the opportunity for unique targeting and messaging.”

How to conduct a reduction in force: Planning, execution and follow-up

Office chairs piled in corner of empty office

Image Credits: Pulp Photography (opens in a new window) / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

It’s hard to argue with the proverb “measure twice and cut once,” especially when it comes to laying off employees.

Few managers have overseen a reduction in force, which is why Nigel Morris, co-founder and managing partner of QED Investors, has been sharing a five-page document with his portfolio company CEOs to give them guidance.

“We broke the process down into three parts: planning, execution and follow-up,” he writes in a TechCrunch+ post that condenses the advice he’s giving the founders he works with.

“The unavoidable reality is that while you’ll need to conduct the RIFs in an organized manner that is grounded in strong business rationale, there is always an overarching need to deliver the message with empathy and respect.”

7 investors discuss why edtech startups must go back to basics to survive

Graduation cap as a part of laptop; edtech investor survey 2022

Image Credits: Boris Zhitkov (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, edtech was not an especially frothy sector: In 2019, these startups received approximately $7 billion in VC funding, according to Crunchbase.

Last year, that figure rose to $20 billion after efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 impacted students of every age.

To learn more about how edtech is faring during the current downturn, Natasha Mascarenhas spoke to seven VCs about the advice they’re offering portfolio companies, where edtech is crossing over into other sectors, and how they prefer to be pitched:

  • Ashley Bittner and Kate Ballinger, Firework Ventures
  • Jan Lynn-Matern, founder and partner, Emerge Education
  • Malvika Bhagwat and Kriti Bansal, Owl Ventures
  • Jomayra Herrera, partner, Reach Capital
  • Rebecca Kaden, general partner, Union Square Ventures

“I would say the past few years have been more of an anomaly, and we are getting back to a more sustainable pace,” said Reach Capital partner Jomayra Herrera.

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UT researchers receive $2.75 million grant to investigate movement of amphibian pathogens in wildlife trade networks

The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of…

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The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a $2.75 million grant to identify disease mitigation strategies that will minimize the risk of amphibian pathogens spreading from captive pet populations to wild populations and negatively impacting biodiversity.

Credit: Pixabay

The evolution, emergence and spread of novel pathogens has been widely discussed even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in 2019. A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a $2.75 million grant to identify disease mitigation strategies that will minimize the risk of amphibian pathogens spreading from captive pet populations to wild populations and negatively impacting biodiversity.

The project, “Socioeconomic and Epidemiological Drivers of Pathogen Dynamics in Wildlife Trade Networks,” is being funded by the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, a joint program of the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The work is overseen by Principal Investigator Matt Gray, professor in the UT Institute of Agriculture Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and associate director of the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health. The project’s two UT co-principal investigators are Neelam Poudyal, also a professor in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries; and Nina Fefferman, director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and an associate director of the UT One Health Initiative.

The goal of the study is to identify how socio-economic decisions and pathogen dynamics impact each other in a wildlife trade network.

“It is important to study how human values and knowledge impact behavior in preventing transmission of pathogens within and beyond the trade network,” says Poudyal. “This study will enable us to understand factors that determine human decisions to engage in biosecurity practices, assess the feasibility of market-based mechanisms to promote healthy trade, and characterize the public value of protecting natural populations of amphibian biodiversity.”

For the next five years, the team will determine what aspects of the trade, like species composition and the number of animals, influence pathogen occurrence. With more than 2.5 million live animals moving throughout more than 180 nations per year, the need for advanced pathogen mitigation is critical. This is the first study to investigate the bidirectional coupling between socioeconomic factors and pathogen dynamics across a tractable wildlife trade network.

“Global and domestic trade of wildlife is one of the major pathways for movement and introduction of wildlife and zoonotic pathogens,” says Gray. “Our research is focusing on amphibian pathogens in trade but will be used as a model for other pathogens of concern.”

Many infectious outbreaks, like that of monkeypox, chronic wasting disease and COVID-19, have been linked to wildlife trade. These outbreaks cost economies trillions of dollars, cripple biodiversity and result in substantial loss of human life.

“Especially as global trade markets have become more interconnected, we’ve seen over and over again how animal trade practices can either foster or else help prevent the emergence of infectious disease outbreaks in wildlife and people, sometimes with devastating effects,” says Fefferman. “Our work to discover how people make choices about how they buy, transport, and sell animals and how that shapes pathogen dynamics will help us guide policies to support conservation and prevent the next global pandemic.”

The collaborating institutions on this project are the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, including the UT Institute of Agriculture; Washington State University; Michigan State University; University of Massachusetts; and Rutgers University. The team is also collaborating with the amphibian trade industry through a partnership with the Pet Advocacy Network.

This research project was initially supported by the UT One Health Initiative through one of its seed grants. More information about that grant can be found at onehealth.tennessee.edu/pijac. Carrie Castille, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president of UTIA, which oversees the UT One Health Initiative, is excited to see the initiative receive such recognition. “This grant recognizes the importance of our researchers’ work to protect the health of humans and the natural world around us. The synergies that exist within the UT One Health Initiative and the contributing institutions are unique and incredibly important to our nation and the global society,” she said.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.
 


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