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The year there was no Boston Marathon.

October 11 is a little different this year. Some people will still be celebrating Columbus Day. (Time, here, explains why some Italians feel positive about the explorer.) Others will recognize Monday as Indigenous People’s Day, honoring the tribes who were here before the arrival of Europeans and the devastation they brought. Rhode Island, for example, plans to use its the PRONK parade to celebrate Native Americans.

And here’s something that hasn’t happened in October before: the Boston Marathon. Erik is running again, so my husband and I will be there, cheering him on.

The Boston Marathon is usually run at the April holiday New Englanders call Patriots Day, the day that in 1775 the “embattled farmers” stood at the North Bridge in Concord “and fired the shot heard ’round the world.”

In 2020, Covid cancelled the Marathon. And 2021 was touch and go, too, until organizers at the Boston Athletic Association decided the pandemic might be under control by October.

Well, it is and isn’t. So there are unusual Marathon protocols in place.

Says the BAA, “Entrants in the 125th Boston Marathon, scheduled for Monday, October 11, will need to either provide proof of vaccination or produce a negative COVID-19 test in order to participate in the fall race. It is strongly recommended that all entrants, staff, and volunteers are vaccinated. Masks will not be required while running the 26.2-mile course, but will be enforced on participant transportation and in other areas in accordance with local guidelines.

“We understand that COVID-19 related-travel restrictions may prevent many international participants from toeing the line in Hopkinton. In recognition of this unique and extenuating circumstance, any Boston Marathon participant who resides outside of the United States can move their entry to the virtual race and be refunded for the difference.

“Prior to bib number pick-up, Boston Marathon participants will be required to either produce proof of a complete vaccination series of a World Health Organization-certified vaccine or produce a negative COVID-19 test, which will be administered on site in a Boston Marathon medical tent.”

According to the Boston Globe, “there will be 14 former champions in the field, with a combined 32 first-place Boston finishes, including two-time men’s winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, as well as countryman Asefa Mengstu, who has the fastest personal best in the field and the 23rd-fastest marathon ever at 2:04:06.

“The women’s field features nine sub-2:22:00 marathoners, including Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese, whose 2:19:36 personal best ranks fastest in the field. Melese will have some tough competition from fellow Ethiopian Mare Dibaba, the 2015 world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.”

If an aspiring runner hasn’t run the required number of previous races at the required times, she or he can still participate if sponsored by a charity and willing to raise money for it. The Globe says, “There are 41 charity organizations, with 2,090 runners, participating. Over the past 32 years, more than $400 million has been raised for charity.”

And here’s an interesting note: “For the only time in its history, the Boston Marathon will take place on Oct. 11 — which is recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in cities and towns on the route.

“Patti Catalano Dillon, a three-time Boston runner-up and a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe, will be interviewed at Fan Fest Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. about setting the American marathon record at Boston 40 years ago. She also will serve as an official starter.

“A ceremony will be held Oct. 8 to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Ellison Brown’s first of two marathon titles. A banner will be presented to the grandchildren of Brown, who was a member of the Narragansett tribe.”

More at the Globe, here.

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Today’s story reminds me of an old-time jingle my father used to sing: “Shave and a haircut: Two bits!” But the article says that instead of getting a shave with your haircut for only a quarter (two bits), you can now get a Covid shot. And maybe a fried fish sandwich.

Lena H. Sun has the story at the Washington Post. “Reginald Alston never expected to get a coronavirus vaccine and never expected anyone would change his mind about it.

“But his best friend, a hair salon owner, kept telling him he was being shortsighted and maybe even a little bit selfish. What about his niece and her newborn who live with him? How would he feel if they became sick? Also, his job as a contractor and painter meant he was often going into other people’s homes. Didn’t he want to be protected?

“By the time that friend, Katrina Randolph, told him about the nearby barbershop hosting a vaccination clinic, and offered to drive him there, Alston, 57, was far along on the journey to changing his mind.

‘She really influenced me to get it,’ he acknowledged, standing on the sidewalk outside the Hyattsville, Md., barbershop earlier this month after getting immunized. ‘I listen to Katrina. I know she wants me to be around.’

“Alston got his jab of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, along with a free fried fish sandwich and a $30 coupon toward a haircut and a shave, at The Shop Spa, a barbershop that serves a predominantly Black and Latino clientele. It’s the first coronavirus vaccine clinic in a barbershop in Maryland and organizers hope it will become a national model. A newly formed partnership that includes Black community and business leaders, the University of Maryland and the White House covid-19 response team is working to make that happen. …

“ ‘Why not go where people already have trust — the barbershop and the salon?’ said Stephen B. Thomas, a health policy professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, who founded the barbershop initiative known as HAIR (Health Advocates In-Reach and Research) more than a decade ago. …

“As the United States enters what is likely to be the toughest stretch of its ambitious immunization effort, health officials are moving away from mass vaccination sites and focusing instead on small clinics like The Shop Spa that rely on word-of-mouth and use trusted, often nontraditional messengers. …

“Alston’s friend, Randolph, 52, [is] part of the cadre of barbers and stylists trained as health educators through the University of Maryland program. The initial focus was colon cancer, diabetes and other diseases that disproportionately affect Blacks. But with vaccination levels lagging in Black and Brown communities, the program seemed a natural to persuade those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic but are often reluctant to get shots. …

“Mike Brown, 49, The Shop Spa’s lead barber, sees sharing such information as one more way to connect with regulars. ‘These are people we genuinely care about, and have become part of their family,’ he said. ‘Sometimes we’re like marriage counselors, sometimes fashion consultants, sometimes drinking buddies. We’re respected in the information that we give.’ …

“To get the word out about the barbershop clinic, Thomas and his team canvassed churches, local businesses and homeless communities and came up with about 100 people who hadn’t been immunized yet.

“Getting them to come to the clinic was another matter. During preregistration calls, Thomas said, some people hung up when they learned the vaccine being offered was from Johnson & Johnson. Others declined even after face-to-face conversations with the team administering the jabs.

“ ‘J & J is radioactive in the Black community because of the baby powder issue,’ he said, referring to the product the company stopped selling last year after it was ordered to pay billions of dollars related to claims the product causes cancer. The company has denied the allegations. …

“Other people opted out of the clinic over worries about the rare but severe type of blood clot that has been linked to the vaccine, even though federal health officials have said the vaccines’ benefits far outweigh those risks.

“Still others expressed a distrust of the health-care system that Thomas says can be overcome only by expanding these health-care outreach efforts beyond coronavirus vaccinations. …

“All in all, 35 people received the shots during that first clinic, Thomas said. … Despite the initial small turnout, the barbershop clinic is starting to generate buzz. … ‘Now we have demand,’ Thomas said. ‘People are bringing people.’

“Randolph figures she has changed the minds of at least 75 people. That includes Alston, her 63-year-old aunt who has such limited access to health care that she has no front teeth, and Jamar Gibbons, 36, a postal worker — all of whom showed up for a shot and a free fish sandwich.

“Luz Castillo, 20, who works at the restaurant next door came to the clinic because she was worried about exposure to unvaccinated customers. She, too, was concerned about blood clot risks linked to the vaccine. But she said she was reassured after a Spanish-speaking health worker answered her questions and pointed to the millions of vaccinated people who have had no problems.” By the way, Suzanne had J&J. No problems.

More at the Post, here.

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An unassuming Indian American scientist, a former commuter-rail acquaintance of mine, led the teams behind the dengue-fever vaccine approved in December for use in Mexico.

Rogerio Jelmayer at the Wall Street Journal reports the vaccine was next approved for the Philippines and Brazil. “Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of France’s SanofiSA, [has] secured approval from Brazilian authorities to market its dengue fever vaccine amid an explosion of cases across Latin America’s largest nation. …

“The approval of Dengvaxia comes as Brazil is battling two other serious mosquito-borne diseases for which there are no vaccines. In addition to dengue, Brazil also has seen a rise in the number of cases of chikungunya, [but] the most worrisome epidemic is the spread of the Zika virus.” The Wall Street Journal article is behind the firewall, so read more at the NY Times, here.

I’m hoping that my train buddy’s vaccine will come to the rescue for zika, too, as a blog I just visited suggests: “France’s Sanofi SA, which won endorsement toward the end of last year for the principal dengue immunization, has said it is inspecting the likelihood of applying its innovation for Zika.”

For all the negative press about drug companies, they do have teams quietly laboring for years on vitally necessary vaccines and cures.

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
An Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue fever.

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