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Receiving vaccinations ‘is part of the social contract we sign up for’ in communities: Doctor

Dr. Calvin Sun, The Monsoon Diaries Founder & CEO, Clinical Assistant Professor, joins Yahoo Finnace Live to discuss Walmart's choice to lift mask mandates for fully vaccinated employees, COVID-19 cases declining, and Pfizer pulling FDA filing for vaccines for children under five-years-old.

Video Transcript

- Welcome back. You're watching Yahoo Finance. Now let's take a quick check on how COVID vaccine makers are faring today. Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, and J&J falling today as the US Food and Drug Administration delays a key meeting set for this week to discuss authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for children aged six months to five years. Pfizer's news dragging other vaccine makers down with it, Moderna taking the biggest hit, down more than 12% today so far.

- All right. Thanks so much, Michelle. We're going to continue to track and have this conversation with our next guest. As COVID cases decline, the nation's largest brick and mortar retailer and private employer, Walmart, is dropping its COVID response mask policy for employees who have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

To discuss the broader pullback of the pandemic precautions is Dr. Calvin Sun, the Monsoon Diaries founder and CEO, clinical assistant professor and attending physician in emergency medicine joining us now. And it's good to have you here with us today. With states, doctor, and private businesses such as Walmart rolling back pandemic-driven precautions, what do you believe should be the defining measure as to when and how to lift policies?

CALVIN SUN: It depends on where you are and local infection rates, vaccination rates in the culture. So if you're talking about New York City, you can literally mandate no more mandates on face coverings and New Yorkers are going to keep their face coverings on at the majority of places. They keep them on the streets still. You can hear people cuss people out for not wearing their face coverings and people apologize. In New York, they usually cuss back and bite back.

But in this case, in New York, you can release all the mandates and people still wear them, even indoors, outdoors, on the streets, in the gyms because that's the culture. And people feel comfortable doing that because New York is a small space. We're comfortable sharing a small space and looking out for one another because we're so used to having to rise up from crises over and over and over again.

So we're more like a team player. Most of us are fully vaccinated. The rates are going down. And people are still majority wise are wearing face coverings in the city. Now, if you take it somewhere else in the country where the infection rates are higher and they haven't really gotten over Omicron, maybe it's not a good idea to lift those mandates yet because you're trying to meet people where they are and it's not safe for the community as a whole. So broad stuff may not be as safe as something that's a little more clinical and surgical.

- So, doctor, with all of what we've seen, and perhaps particularly from some of the health care experts citing the availability of vaccines and antiviral treatments, Dr. Fauci believes the timeline for fully scaled back policies is a couple months. What's your estimation for how soon we'll have a gauge of population immunity and the success or shortcomings on the other end of these rollbacks right now in policies?

CALVIN SUN: I'm not one to make predictions. I'm not a betting man or a gambling person. The best thing we know is a time machine and someone from the future just tells us because you never know when a new variant rolls around or we're not vaccinating as quick enough and then a new variant from under-vaccinated population in the developing world and brings a new variant that's resistant. And then we have to start this all over again. But if things are trending the way they are, yeah, a couple of months. And I get it. People are tired. People are fatigued from this pandemic.

So people are going to pull back and try to let go as quickly as possible because people want to get back to a world where we don't have to think about this and be stressed out over this, especially over the last two years. But it all really depends. The quicker you get everyone as vaccinated as soon as possible in the developing world, you're lowering the chances of the creation of a new variant that will then prolong this and therefore these predictions that Fauci or whoever makes will then have to be scrapped because of the inflection points that we live on a daily basis in the last two years. The future depends on now.

- On the other hand, President Biden suggesting ending the policies is premature. How critical is the messaging from the administration in correlation with health care experts to give the public confidence in this strategy going forward?

CALVIN SUN: I mean, we've seen it with the annoying and frustrating update that Pfizer is delaying and requested a delay to authorize vaccinations for kids under five because they need more data. Now, it's frustrating and annoying, but it's understandable because the reasoning behind that is nobody wants to be in the receiving end of, I told you so.

They don't want to cut corners or be perceived to cut corners just in case something were to show in the future that it was not the right thing to do, and therefore giving other people the ammunition to undermine the confidence of a future vaccine that is necessary for a future pandemic that could be worse. I totally understand it. I empathize with that. But it's also very frustrating, and therefore the messaging of this back and forth and moving the goalposts is frustrating for many parents who do want to vaccinate their children.

But at the same time the understanding is they don't want to have parents or anyone that's against the vaccine to have any way to say, I told you so. It's kind of like a toxic relationship. You don't want the other person to say, yeah, I was right all along. You don't want to give them that. And therefore, they're creating that message that's a step by step to be as responsible as possible, to maintain the little to trust that I totally understand that we have in the messaging, especially the last two years, of something that happened for the first time in our generation.

- Well, since you mentioned Pfizer, and Pfizer retracting their vaccines for children under five, or at least the approval process. Seems that April is the earliest that we would see more data added for their submission. If approved for children under five, do you believe it will be required along with other shots that preschools or even daycares require in the future?

CALVIN SUN: I mean, they require like 50 million shots when I was growing up. And I just got boosted for like half of them the last four or five years alone. So I think it's probably going to be required for the safety of the community. That's the social contract we signed up for. You have to pay your taxes, even though you may not agree where your taxes are going to. Therefore if you don't agree with the vaccine schedule of the children, you might as well not pay the taxes that create the vaccine schedule in the first place to protect the community as a whole. That's a social contract.

So I can't make a prediction. And you have to realize why they wanted to prolong that, because they wanted to wait until April. April is only two months from now for a disease that literally-- Omicron was when, a month ago? They don't even have enough data yet, right. And they want to make a decision based on one month of data from a virus that's still ongoing right now or a variant that's going right now. I totally get it why they want two more months so they can actually when they authorize it feel as confident as possible to back that up rather than cut corners and then having the possibility of somebody else in the future to say, I told you so. And that's why we just have to wait two more months. Frustrating, annoying, but understandable.

- You've worked throughout this pandemic. And you've traveled to different states, different countries, and prior to vaccines even being available. And so how has this informed your view of where health care needs to evolve, not just here in the US, but internationally perhaps?

CALVIN SUN: I think that people need to-- I mean, it's the critical thinking that is required when you approach health care on such a broad spectrum. These general sweeping reforms and mandates are great in theory and intent, but really, I think we need to think more critically on, like, the answer being it depends when you ask a question. It depends on your local rates, what the local needs are, the supply and demand of how you can treat different communities, and also communicating with different communities in their understanding of, like, why it's important to do something for the benefit of the whole, as well as the understanding of a social contract.

You have to give up a little bit of your freedom for the security of the community. And finding that right balance is so difficult and so nuanced that you can't really create a sweeping generalized decision for an international community. But it does require a general sweeping effort, which is not the same as a general policy, but, really, an effort together to figure out what's the right place at the right community.

So what I'm finding is when I travel is that everyone is different. Nobody's really right or wrong. But it's really about the messaging and communicating, and also beating the demands at the time and actually adjusting for it as circumstances change depending what the variant has hit you right now or it will hit you later on. That all requires a lot of nuance and communication that our society is struggling to keep up with, especially for something that happened for the first time in a generation.

- Dr. Calvin Sun, who is the Monsoon Diaries founder and CEO, clinical assistant professor and attending physician in emergency medicine. Thanks so much for the time and insights here this afternoon. We appreciate it as always.