Biden Asks US Intel Officials To Investigate COVID-19 Origin
Speaker 1: 00:00 President Biden asks us intelligence to determine how the pandemic, Speaker 2: 00:05 This hypothesis that it came from the left sort of has grown as the other hypothesis, just isn't paying off Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. San Diego reaches a 20 year franchise deal with SDG and E. Speaker 3: 00:28 So this franchise agreement is essentially what allows SDG and E to keep all of its equipment poles, pipelines, wires on public land. Speaker 1: 00:38 Does the COVID vaccine have an impact on women's reproductive health? And the podcast port of entry brings us on a cross border medical journey to an IVF clinic that's ahead on midday edition. Speaker 4: 01:01 While the state of the pandemic has begun to stabilize in San Diego as the counties, hospitalization number dips below 100 for the first time, since April of last year, many questions on the origins of the virus remain unanswered just today. President Biden has instructed the intelligence community to report on the origins of the virus within 90 days. What remains the most controversial theory on the emergence of COVID-19 is that it was not the product of a natural transmission between humans and animals, but instead that the virus was manmade and escaped containment from China's Wu Han Institute of virology, joining me to discuss this story is author Alan editor of California health line author. Welcome. Thank you for having me now, Arthur, you spoke to Peter de shack, the only American on a 10 member team that the world health organization sent to China this winter to investigate the origins of the virus. He said that while he can't disprove the lab leak theory, he remains unconvinced of it. Uh, de Shaq has a long history studying bat Corona viruses. How has that influenced his opinion on the origins of this virus? Well, Speaker 2: 02:13 There are some people who feel that he has a conflict of interest in that he shouldn't have participated in this who visit to China that occurred during the winter, because he didn't really disclose to the world that, you know, he helped fund this laboratory, which is the center of these suspicions, that there might've been a leak, but in any case, he, you know, has committed a huge amount of his career to investigating these viruses and showing just how dangerous they are and how close they were to sort of jumping over to humans and causing the kind of pandemic that the world has seen. Um, he has said that he doesn't see any evidence that this occurred in the lab in [inaudible] that he was working with. I should clarify he doesn't personally work in the lab, but he thinks that he's satisfied that he has seen enough of their data to be sure that they weren't working on a virus similar to this. Speaker 4: 03:12 The notion that COVID-19 was created in a lab began as speculation. How did this theory emerge and why have we seen it gain traction in recent months? Speaker 2: 03:22 It emerged initially because of some intelligence reports that, uh, people had gotten sick at the [inaudible] laboratory. And also just the fact that this virus was known to be associated with bats that are often found in caves 600 miles away from UConn. So the fact that this laboratory was working with them and was sort of the world's leading laboratory for this kind of research, you know, made people wonder. And then what added to that is the fact that there hasn't been really any evidence found of this sort of missing link between bats carrying hundreds of different Corona viruses, but none that similar to the one to SARS cov two, the one that is, you know, has plagued the world. And so that, that missing link and the fact that they've sampled many animals since then, and nothing has been found that would indicate that this might've been the means for some kind of virus to go from bats, maybe to an intermediate species or, or directly to people. There's just no evidence of that. And the fact that there's no evidence I think has added to suspicions or to the feeling that really this other hypothesis, which isn't the mainstream, but this hypothesis that had came from the lab sort of has grown or, or the feeling that it needed to be investigated more, has grown as the other hypothesis, sort of just isn't paying off a Speaker 4: 04:51 Recent us intelligence report, confirming the illness of a number of researchers at the UConn Institute of virology contracted COVID-19 like symptoms before the disease was actually reported in the general public has actually raised more questions. How has this news further polarize the debate on COVID origins? Speaker 2: 05:12 Well, I mean, it's another, it's a, it's a piece of evidence by no means definitive, but it's another piece of suggestive evidence that maybe the virus might've jumped and that it was sort of covered up. I'd seen people hypothesizing that maybe there was an outbreak. Somebody at the lab got sick and then there were several cases in the community and they thought they had controlled it back in the fall and then it busted out again. And the idea is that this was very embarrassing and that it might've been covered up. I mean, you got to figure this, if it really is a cover-up of these dimensions, there have to be a lot of people who know about it. I mean, we really are talking about a conspiracy and I think de shack feels that he trusts these scientists. He's worked with them for years. He doesn't. Speaker 2: 05:56 And many other virologists that I've spoken with in the U S they say, these are some of the leading scientists in the world working on viruses. And they don't believe that they would just hush something up like this. But on the other hand, China has a different system and you really can't say anything without authorization at this level in China. What's also interesting to me is that, you know, our relationship or the relationships among us scientists and Chinese scientists working in this field were really reduced by the Trump administration. And, uh, we went from having 45 public health, us public health service scientists there to 10 during his period in office. And, you know, having fewer people on the ground means you don't pick up as much of the scuttlebutt. I mean, even if people aren't going to directly tell you what's happening, you don't see that they're looking nervous, they're running around, you know, something's going on. And then you ask questions. So we might have been heard. And we, you know, we might have, if indeed the lab hypothesis is factual, we would have been in a much better position to have found it out. If we had, you know, continued to strengthen our presence in China, which was reduced quite a bit during the Trump administration earlier Speaker 4: 07:09 This month, a group of scientists asked for the Wuhan Institute of virology to open its database for more scrutiny. They said, no, what other information do scientists need to come to a definitive conclusion to this question? Speaker 2: 07:23 Well, it's difficult because what we're asking or what the people that I'm seeing are some of these investigators who are scientists, um, sort of unofficially working and spreading the information on Twitter that they find are saying that they've found things like research papers that show that some Chinese scientists in Wu Han are working with viruses that weren't reported to these international sort of databases where it's customary to report your findings if you're working in genetics or in virology. And so you're saying that the fact that these viruses or virus sequences weren't registered is one thing that leads to suspicion that they're hiding something. And that's that, you know, this database that they shut down in September might have more clues as to sort of the intermediate species or the, or the work that was being done at the Wu Han lab that could have led either to the creation of this virus, but more likely just to it's somebody being infected with it in the laboratory. And then it leaking. And by leak, we mean somebody got sick and they went out and infected other people. Peter Speaker 4: 08:33 De Shaq says he has received threats and lost scientific funding as a result of his work on bad Corona viruses. He says attacking scientists is quote, shooting the people with the conduit to where the next Corona virus might happen. How has this debate impacted public trust in the scientific community? And in government Speaker 2: 08:54 Trust in has come under strain during this pandemic. And many of these questions have become so politicized because they're used as political tools because of, you know, all the pressure that people feel under economically and so on because of these public health measures. And I think this lab leak hypothesis, unfortunately, in addition to being, you know, a really important question to answer has also become a political football. Speaker 4: 09:21 A lot of scientific conflict over this question is related to a debate over the risks associated with lab experiments involving deadly infectious disease. And just today, the Senate passed amendments to the endless frontier act, which would affect funding for these kinds of experiments. Can you talk about how the roots of this debate are affecting what we're seeing? No. Speaker 2: 09:44 I mean, there's a number of scientists. We're worried about some of the research that's done with viruses that involves creating sort of hybrids that we're always, you know, these are not nobody's out trying to make monster viruses, but they might create a Hybris hybrid in order to test whether a drug will work against a certain type of virus or a certain piece of the virus. But a lot of scientists feel like there hasn't been much, that's come out of this kind of research that's been useful, and that it's potentially dangerous because of the kind of nightmare scenario that we're discussing in regard to COVID. So there are a number of scientists who were sort of suspicious of this kind of research. And, um, some of them suspect that this kind of research was going on at move-on, although not all of them, for many of them, it's still separate issues, but they have become sort of enmeshed one in another, because some of the same people who were questioning this kind of research are now asking questions about whether this kind of research was being done in move-on and whether it might have led to this leak. Speaker 2: 10:53 I've been Speaker 4: 10:54 Speaking with Arthur Allen editor for California health line author. Thanks so much for joining. Yes. Thank you so much for having me Speaker 1: 11:09 The San Diego city council Tuesday renewed its franchise agreement with San Diego gas and electric, which has been in place for decades, but this time it was very different than necessary. Two thirds approvals squeaked by on a six to three vote, much of the public testimony was against the deal and a council member got SDG and E to agree to a last-minute change in the payment schedule. The franchise agreement allows SDG and a to use the public right of way to install and maintain infrastructure such as poles and wires and pipes to deliver power to customers. The new deal could last up to 20 years, but even the length of the agreement is subject to revision. Joining me is Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, and welcome Andrew. Hi Maureen. Thanks. First of all, let's clear this up. How is this agreement different from the new San Diego community power program? Speaker 3: 12:05 Well, San Diego community power is a public agency, uh, made up of five different cities in San Diego county. And it is responsible only for purchasing electricity on behalf of customers. So homes and businesses, SDG, and E is a private for profit company. And it's responsible for delivering the power and maintaining the grid. So doing repairs on power lines, fixing outages, et cetera. So this franchise agreement is essentially what allows SDG and E as you hinted at to keep all of its equipment poles, pipelines, wires on public land. And it's kind of like a lease agreement. So SDG pays rent to the city, uh, and the agreement sets out how much it has to pay and lots of other terms and conditions. Speaker 1: 12:51 So how much is STG and paying the city to maintain its poles and wires on city land? Speaker 3: 12:56 Well, the minimum bid for these two contracts, they're technically separate for, um, gas and electricity was $80 million. And that is how much SDG and E actually submitted. And it's bid so $80 million over 20 years, just for the privilege of holding this contract and this right to, you know, keep its equipment on public, uh, the public right of way. In addition to that, the city also charges SDG and E franchise and utility undergrounding fees, which are kind of passed on to rate payers. So it's not money from shareholders in SDG is parent company, but rather, um, fees that, that are charged the city charges, the utility and the utility then passes onto customers. And those are estimated, uh, the city estimates those in this agreement to be about $130 million per year. So it's a pretty significant revenue source. And then, uh, mayor Gloria also, Todd Gloria also got SDG and need to agree to another $20 million for the city's climate equity fund, which funds a it's supposed to, or will fund projects to help disadvantaged communities prepare for and adapt to climate change. Speaker 3: 14:05 And then on top of that as well, there was a $10 million agreement for, um, solar energy rebates in underserved and fire prone areas. So the city says that the total revenue of this contract over 20 years is about $2.7 billion. And just really quickly, the, you noted the, the change in the payment schedule. So this $20 million for the city's climate equity fund was originally not going to start coming in until 2037. And so council member, Sean ULA Rivera, who represents a lot of low-income communities, including city Heights said, you know, we need this money sooner. If we're going to expect these communities to start adapting to climate change. So instead of pushing that, those funds far into the future, those will be starting immediately. Speaker 1: 14:51 Now these franchises could last up to 20 years, but they may not tell us about the exit ramp built into this deal. Speaker 3: 14:59 The initial term is 10 years and it would be renewed automatically for another 10 years, unless two thirds of the city council vote to exit the deal at that point. Um, if the city takes that route, however, it would have to forego, uh, $20 million of that 80 million minimum bid. So it wouldn't get all of the money that it had been counting on, and it would have to refund, uh, 18 point $75 million in revenue that it already received. So, uh, you know, there's a financial incentive for the city to just keep this deal in place at the halfway point. Um, the off-ramp at 10 years has meant to be an accountability measure. So if SDG and he knows that it could lose this business halfway through the contract, it's, uh, you know, theoretically incentivized to be a good partner with the city and it's worth noting, um, the city and STG need to not have a great relationship. The city has sued SDG and E to recoup almost $50 million related to a water recycling project in the city. They've also accused SDG of overcharging, uh, for the cost of burying power lines underground. So, you know, accountability and transparency and, uh, you know, just trying to create a good cooperation between the two sides was a big priority in this agreement. And, um, frankly critics didn't really see much teeth in what was actually agreed to Speaker 1: 16:25 Where did support come from? Speaker 3: 16:27 Well, obviously SDG wanted this deal approved. They want the certainty of their revenue and their business. Um, several nonprofits that get charitable donations from SDG also called in, uh, for their support. And then a big player here was also organized labor. So SDG employees are unionized with the electrical workers union, uh, and they saw a, you know, a short-term franchise agreement or, or, um, the city taking over the utility as a threat to all of their collective bargaining agreements, the wages and benefits that they've negotiated over the past several decades. Speaker 1: 17:02 Well, as you say, many environmental groups and three council members, opposed this franchise agreement, what were their objections? Speaker 3: 17:11 Well for the environmental groups, uh, SDG and E's parent company, Sempra energy is heavily invested in fossil fuels. So they say that the city cannot expect SDG and E to be a good faith partner on its renewable energy goals and climate action plan, knowing that the company has made big bets on, on natural gas and fracking. And, um, you know, there are a host of other things to SDG wants to lower incentives for rooftop solar. Uh, it tried to pass on costs from the 2007 wildfires onto rate payers, even though it was their equipment that, that caused those wildfires. Um, you know, say the critics say SDG and E charges, some of the highest energy rates in the country while making, uh, you know, last year it reported $824 million in profits. Um, and then there's a group, uh, of critics that would also just rather see the city take over the grid and form a municipal utility, um, which could result in either lower rates or potentially reinvesting those profits into back into the community. Speaker 1: 18:15 I want to ask you, that's my final question to you, because as part of this deal, the mayor agreed to begin a study into that on San Diego setting of its own utility company, what would that entail? Speaker 3: 18:26 Well, it would look at how much it would cost to purchase SDG assets within the city limits. Uh, and it would also assess all of the legal risks. So municipalization is, uh, not something that happens very often in California, even though every city has the right to do it. Um, basically what happens is, you know, the city says, we think all these assets are worth X, number of dollars. The utility then says, no, it's actually worth way, way more. And there's this protracted legal battle over the price tag and that, you know, of course just increases the cost even more. So it's one of the reasons why, um, some council members didn't support this plan. They felt like, you know, they needed a, uh, mechanism to streamline the process of municipalization. If, if the city ever decides to go that route and you know, it it's, uh, expensive process. One with benefits that would probably not be realized for many years down the road, but it's something that a significant portion of the city council and, uh, and residents of the city still want to be looked at really seriously. Speaker 1: 19:32 I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew, thank you. My pleasure, Maureen. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heineman. The Southern border remains close to almost all asylum seekers, but in recent weeks, increasing numbers of migrants have been allowed to enter the United States KPBS reporter. Max Rivlin nether was on the ground in Tijuana, as it was decided who must stay and who can enter Speaker 5: 20:14 The migrant camp. And I'll chop it out. Plaza in Tijuana has only grown in recent weeks. Hundreds of asylum seekers from central America, from Africa, from the Caribbean wait for the day, the United States fully restores its asylum system along the Southwest border. But for the first time, since the camp sprung up in February, there's some hope a few families who have been living here are getting into the United States, escaping the cramped and dangerous spaces of the haphazard camp. Speaker 6: 20:44 I mean, these are terrible conditions. You know, you have kids that are running around, uh, it wasn't until recently that, uh, that local governments put in bathrooms and showers. Um, and so it's been a struggle for them. Speaker 5: 20:56 It's Pedro Rios with the American friends service committee. His organization is one of the few groups, still making trips to the camp to offer support face masks, hygiene kits, and some advice about this new way to safely enter the United States. It's part of a deal struck between the American civil liberties union and the Biden administration stemming from a lawsuit, challenging a migrant expulsion policy known as title 42. The deal now allows for 250 families or individuals to enter the United States along the Southwest border each day to pursue their asylum claims, deciding who ends up on the list that gets sent to the U S government is up to the service providers on the ground in Tijuana. It's based, not on their claims of asylum from their home countries, but how much danger they face in Mexico. Robert Vivar is swamped as he tries to make it through the encampment, looking for someone whose case he's looking into. Speaker 6: 21:55 You know, you can imagine how many, uh, parole requests, you know, are being handled at this time, just at the port of entry alone, Speaker 5: 22:02 Used with United us deported veterans and has an office just down the block from the camp. Dozens of people ask him when they'll get a call back from overworked, immigration lawyers or tell him their child is sick and endanger. There's just no way for Vivar to help everyone. But he's trying, Speaker 6: 22:19 It's pretty difficult to tell people to have patients when they're running away because of persecution. You know, it's not safe, you know where they're coming from, or, or even here, you know, they, uh, they've had threats, you know, that they've been followed and it just it's a difficult situation for them. And you can understand why they would be so desperate Speaker 5: 22:39 Right now. The focus has been to locate pregnant women, people with pressing medical needs and those in immediate danger in Mexico, but migrants without working papers or homes are constantly under threatened Mexico, Rafa and Teriana. A member of the LGBT community is one of those people who could have a strong asylum case where he allowed into the U S he says, he fled Honduras. After his house was burned down. He was beaten and his friends were killed under the current arrangement. He's not being prioritized. Speaker 6: 23:16 [inaudible] Speaker 5: 23:16 Because it's been hard because the volunteer lawyers that come, they're asking for families, for people with serious illnesses. So we can't find representation. It's really hard to be alone for a situation like this one Speaker 6: 23:30 [inaudible] Speaker 5: 23:31 Every morning and afternoon customs and border protection agents call out names at the port of entry into quad [inaudible] Late Thursday afternoon. Several families entered the United States to begin an asylum process that will take years to resolve Dulce Garcia. The executive director of border angels spent three weeks working in the encampment, finding the people who can get to safety. Now you will Speaker 7: 23:57 Now saying the tent next to me is leaving because they're crossing to the U S finally Speaker 5: 24:03 Garcia hopes that the system won't last much longer pressure is growing on the Biden administration to drop title 42 and restore the asylum system along the border. Until that happens, the encampment at El Chapo trial, won't be going anywhere. Robert Vivar says, Speaker 1: 24:23 Yeah, joining me is KPBS reporter max Rogan, Nadler, max, welcome back. Good to be here. Is there any estimate of how many people are camped in the El Chaparral Plaza? Speaker 8: 24:35 It's tough right now to get a real accurate count sing as though a lot of these tents are right on top of each other, but I've heard anywhere between 500 people to a thousand people. And a lot of them being very young children. And Speaker 1: 24:48 Is the migrant camp at El Chaparral, the only place asylum seekers are camped in Tijuana, or is it one of several Speaker 8: 24:56 Only large migrant camp and the kind of makeshift form that we see with these tents that are covered with tarps? A lot of people are staying in shelters spread throughout. Tiquana the reason why the camp has become a popular place for people just arriving in Tijuana is because those shelters are full without any release valve for people able to enter the United States. There hasn't really been any capacity added for people to stay in places that are a lot more formal and safe. Speaker 1: 25:23 You and I spoke about title 42 recently, that's the public health code used by the Trump administration to close the border. During the height of the pandemic, many health experts were skeptical about its usefulness even then. So why is it still in effect? Speaker 8: 25:39 That's a great question. Even testifying this morning in front of Congress, um, DHS secretary Mayorkas said that it's in effect because of health measures, because it's needed to control the spread of COVID-19. Now the CDC itself, and many people involved in policymaking around health care in this country have said, it doesn't really do anything. We know this because thousands of people cross the border every day without being tested. In fact, people who get in through the asylum system in the U S are often tested far more often and frequently than people who are just crossing for work or cross in other formal ways, like taking a flight. Can you Speaker 1: 26:18 Give us more of a sense of what life is like for the asylum seekers waiting in Tijuana? It's really Speaker 8: 26:24 Difficult into Quan or right now a lot of these people have been there for a while. Yeah. There are some new arrivals, but a lot of people I've spoken to have been there for a year or longer. It's incredibly hard to find work in a pandemic and not have, um, a work permit that a lot of these people either, they got it when they entered through Southern Mexico and work permits have expired, or they never had one to begin with. So just day-to-day basics is really difficult. Finding food. A lot of people are going hungry. The camp itself is a cramped environment. A lot of children are getting sick and basically there's not really much to do besides hang around and that's allowed some, you know, criminal elements to, to come into the camp and try to make some money off of it, either through extortion or just basically redirecting of, of charitable donations Speaker 1: 27:13 And who sets the standards for who gets chosen first across into the U S you say, these agencies are looking for pregnant women or people who are sick. Is that their call or are these government priorities Speaker 8: 27:27 Right now? It's the government that's making the final call. All these aid organizations and legal aid organizations can do is to identify people that desperately need to cross the border. Of course, a lot of people desperate leaning to cross the border. So they're looking for people whose lives are imminently at risk. So that could be pregnant women. I heard a heartbreaking story of a woman who miscarried with two twins. Um, that's people who need medical care immediately who might have tumors or cancer. Then again, there are people who, uh, face immediate threats of violence, and those people are getting in as well, or have been victims of violence. So there's a wide net, but it is being winnowed down by the government. Advocates are hoping that this then gets expanded over the next couple of weeks. Speaker 1: 28:09 You know, one person you mentioned in your report, Robert Vivar is with a group called United deported veterans. Can you tell us more about their work with these asylum seekers? Speaker 8: 28:20 Yeah. So Robert Vivar is kind of a, he's relatively new to working with these asylum seekers specifically. It just so happens. His office is down the block from where the migrant camp has set up. So he's been working with, uh, one woman last week who was able to enter through these title 42 humanitarian exceptions. She was the mother of somebody who was active duty in the military right now. And she'd been deported over a year ago. That's the work that Vivar is working on. Obviously that's a group that he's familiar with people, uh, veterans and their families, but more generally, he's just become one of these aid workers in the area who is able to funnel a lot of these people to lawyers to help them get on these lists. Any Speaker 1: 29:02 Plans to expand the criteria of these lists, uh, for people who are selected to cross, for instance, uh, like the member of the LGBTQ community you spoke with. Speaker 8: 29:12 Yeah, I think right now, uh, advocates are pulling for basically the largest, uh, group possible to be allowed in through these lists. But ultimately their goal is to get rid of these lists entirely and to basically get rid of title 42 and restore the asylum system along the Southern border. Right now it's being extended on an ad hoc basis month by month. It's entirely possible that the Biden administration is making these agreements with groups like the American civil union to allow 250 families into the country because they know just how vulnerable title 42 is in court. And they want to hold onto it for as long as possible before groups like the ACLU kind of force their hand and make them withdraw it. So I would expect over the summer at the very least title 42 to go away, or the categories that people could enter to be expanded so much, that it would be kind of virtually ineffective and no longer had such a detrimental effect on people seeking asylum. Speaker 1: 30:12 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Revlin Nadler, max. Thank you very much. Thank you. Speaker 4: 30:27 You're listening to KPBS day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. While the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 are documented. Doctors are still learning how that vaccine impacts reproductive health while no link has been made. Some women have described changes to their menstrual cycle. Following the COVID-19 vaccine and many pregnant women are also weighing the safety of the vaccine versus the risk of contracting the virus while pregnant. Joining me is Dr. Anthony [inaudible] and OB GYN and fertility specialist with UC San Diego health. Dr. [inaudible] welcome. Thank you. So first, how does the COVID-19 vaccine impact the menstrual cycle? We're hearing a lot of reports from people that that's happening. Speaker 8: 31:17 Eh, actually there's very little science about it. It doesn't seem to impact the menstrual cycle overall. Uh, it seems that COVID actually has effects on pregnancy. Uh, COVID vaccine can cause fever, and that may be an issue in early pregnancy and COVID can also affect males actually in many different ways, but Speaker 4: 31:41 So not necessarily the vaccine itself Speaker 8: 31:44 And not necessarily the vaccine itself, especially the second shot of Moderna or Pfizer very often can cause fever. So there's concern in the first trimester of pregnancy when the organs are forming, that either can contribute to fetal anomalies. But other than that, doesn't seem to have effect on the reproductive health so that in Speaker 4: 32:09 Mind should pregnant people get the vaccine. Speaker 8: 32:12 It's a very difficult question because we still don't know a lot. Definitely. We have to discuss with patients consequences of vaccination versus consecrations of consequences of getting COVID. We know that getting COVID in pregnancy has adverse effect both for the mother and for the baby. Getting the vaccine has theoretical adverse effect in early pregnancy only. And you can partly overcome this adverse effect by giving patients medications against fever, such as Tylenol, and what Speaker 4: 32:50 Are the risks of COVID-19 to pregnant Speaker 8: 32:52 People? Well, there's fair amount of evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk of having severe form of illness. We also know that women who get pregnant and get COVID are at increased risk of preterm birth so-called intrauterine growth restriction, which means having baby growing slower and ultimately low birth weight in your Speaker 4: 33:17 Practice. Have any patients been complaining of a heavy period or a menstrual cycle that starts early as a result of the vaccine? Speaker 8: 33:27 Not necessarily as a result of vaccine, you know, we have patients complaining of those problems, irrespective of vaccine, but I haven't noticed any increase in those complaints. Speaker 4: 33:40 Has the medical community been able to gather enough research to fully understand if the vaccine has an impact on reproductive Speaker 8: 33:48 Health? Well, the answer is no it's still new. Uh, and especially those new vaccines have completely different methodological approach than, than all the vaccinations like flu vaccines and so on. So we are learning, but, uh, it appears that vaccines are safe. It appears that they do not cause adverse effects except for the short term muscle pain and fever, sometimes joint pains and headaches, especially after the second shot, getting Speaker 4: 34:20 The vaccine affect fertility at Speaker 8: 34:22 All. We don't know for sure, but it doesn't appear to have adverse effects on fitted it. So Speaker 4: 34:28 What's the impact of COVID on the reproductive health Speaker 8: 34:31 Of men. And it turns out that there's growing evidence that, uh, COVID, it contributes to, uh, erectile dysfunction. There appears to be, uh, association with testosterone deficiency and the lower quality of sperm. On the other hand, there's no evidence that COVID is transmitted through, uh, semen. So, uh, these fears can be laid to rest. Speaker 4: 34:58 Are there any other impacts to reproductive health, uh, from the actual COVID virus, Speaker 8: 35:07 It appears that, uh, COVID infection or pandemic itself, uh, led to a reduction in sexual satisfaction and decrease in intercourse. Frequencies could Speaker 4: 35:19 The stress of the pandemic be to blame for the sudden change? Many people are seeing in their reproductive health and not the vaccine at all. Speaker 8: 35:28 Absolutely. Uh, we know that stress, uh, is, uh, having tremendous effect on reproduction, especially as women and severe stress can actually stop menstrual cycle altogether. Speaker 4: 35:42 I've been speaking with Dr. Anthony Doleva and OB GYN and fertility specialist with UCLA health. Dr. Delever, thank you so much for joining. Speaker 8: 35:52 Thank you very much for having [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 36:05 KPBS is port of entry border podcast continues its series on medical tourism. Today's story is about crossing the U S Mexico border to try one last time to have a baby grisea and mark Devlin knew they wanted to have kids, but when the couple started trying to conceive a year, went by without success that kicked off a journey that eventually led the Southern California couple to Tijuana, where mark found that the in vitro fertilization or IVF treatment, they needed cost a fraction of what it does in the United States. Here's an excerpt in which host Alan Lilienthal talks with the Devlin's about their cross border journey to have a baby. Speaker 9: 36:46 When mark brought up, they hung out. I was like, heck no, because I had heard horror stories of people going down to Mexico, like to get, you know, I don't know lady's going to get their boob job or like getting their life or like work done on their face. And like, oh, they stole someone's kidney while they were under anesthesia. Or, you know, like this lady started hemorrhaging and they had a driver across the border to get medical help. So I was just like, oh my gosh, no, like, I don't want to do that down there. And I was like, Ooh, they're probably gonna steal my babies. Or, you know, like stuff like that. Yeah. I was just hesitant about it. Speaker 10: 37:22 Mark though kept bringing up the Tiquana option and Garcia kept hesitating, but mark was persistent enough that good sci eventually was willing to at least check it out. Speaker 9: 37:36 And then we finally went down there and we get there and this clinic is like super nice. It was clean that people were very friendly and like, you know, we're sitting in the lobby and I was like, oh wow. This is like legit. I was very surprised of how the places like I did not expect that whatsoever. Speaker 11: 37:55 It was such like a different experience. Speaker 9: 37:57 Yeah. After the first time I was like, oh yeah. Okay. We'll do it. You know, it wasn't scary at all. Speaker 11: 38:02 I feel like I'm being haggled here. I don't feel like I'm being stiffed by anybody because it was expected that I was going to be paying for a service. I think they quoted right out the gate, let something like 6,500 bucks for the egg extraction full, first of all, for the medications. Right. And the medications have their own influence on the process medications, which are a huge cost in the United States for this procedure, the egg extraction, the conception, the implantation. I think all of that was caught at like 6,500. We're like sold. You're a guy Speaker 10: 38:40 From there, mark. And grisea had appointments nearly every Wednesday for several weeks. They drive to the corner in the morning about an hour and a half or two hours drive, depending on traffic, go to the appointment, then get in the century lane and cross right back to the U S Mark's role was simple. Speaker 11: 38:58 My, my job was to into a cup, Speaker 10: 39:01 But Garcia had to do all kinds of really difficult things. Speaker 9: 39:06 I definitely think like the process we went to, like, it takes the fun out of everything. Like it takes the fun out of like having, getting pregnant, you know, it's not a fun process. It was like work, you know, tough work, emotional and like physical work for me. Like I was literally sacrificing my body. Speaker 10: 39:28 Garcia had to sorta act like she was pregnant already, no drinking, no strenuous exercise. She had to make some lifestyle changes to make herself the perfect vessel for carrying a baby. Then she had to take medications to control her cycle. Next. She had to start growing her eggs, which involved injecting herself in the stomach. Speaker 9: 39:55 And like, they give you like a box of needles and like syringes. And that was crazy. Cause then you're like, oh shoot. Like I have to drive like a box of syringes and needles across the border to inject myself. But it was scary. Yeah. I do feel, I did feel like a drug dealer. I was like, oh no. Speaker 10: 40:16 And then about three months later it was egg retrieval date, a process that required a grisea to go under anesthesia. So the doctors could carefully extract the eggs. She'd worked so hard to grow. This was actually the most intense scariest part of the whole process for grisea. Speaker 9: 40:39 And I remember like sitting like in the, in the patient room before they took me back to the operating room and I was just like, oh my gosh, like, what am I doing? Like, I was very uncomfortable because at that point, like my stomach had gotten really swollen because I had like 20 eggs inside me. And so I knew I wanted them out. So it was painful and I was just tired and scared to be in like different place by ourselves. Who was I going to call? We were like in the Juana and nobody knows we're here. And you know, worst case scenario. Speaker 11: 41:10 I remember like being like, are you going to really do this? Like, or, you know, I definitely had some concerns Speaker 10: 41:15 Per se. Those concerns though were put to rest a few hours later, Garcia was fine, but she was pretty uncomfortable. I Speaker 9: 41:24 Remember like puking on my way home. It was gnarly, but yeah. Yeah. Cause I mean, you just had surgery, they put you under anesthesia, you know, like, like if you had your appendix out or something like that, you know, you're all drugged. So I remember like I vomited on a drive back and it was very painful Speaker 10: 41:41 In the car. Crossing back from Tijuana to San Diego, mark remembers feeling a huge amount of guilt, all those injections, all the meds, all the checkups and poking and prodding, everything Garcia was going through was because of him. And he'd added to the stress by making her go through it all while outside her comfort zone in [inaudible]. Speaker 11: 42:05 Why does she have to go through this in a different country? You know, maybe not so much guilt from the fact that we had to go through IVF in the first place, but guilt that maybe I dragged her down into Mexico to do it. She went through the brunt of it all. I, I had it fairly easy, you know, I, I was essentially just the bank and she was the one that had to take the pain. And she really was the one that sacrificed everything because of my biological failures, Speaker 10: 42:36 Garcia, extracted eggs were mixed with Marc sperm. Then it was back down to the corner. So the doctor could put two of the fertilized eggs back into Ganassi as a uterus. It's another part of the process that mark couldn't resist capturing on his GoPro. Speaker 7: 43:07 [inaudible] Speaker 10: 43:12 I wish you could see the video of this moment because the look good. I see it gives mark it's so classic. She's just completely annoyed by mark. And she clearly just was not in the mood for a GoPro cameo for glycemia. This was a really big moment. Speaker 9: 43:33 We woke up really early to get down to Mexico. I think it was like 5:30 AM. So I was very tired. And the night before I couldn't really sleep because I just like, it was like, you know, you're like, oh shoot. Tomorrow is a really big day. You know, like I'm gonna get an egg implanted into my stomach and that's technically a baby because it's fertilized CBO Speaker 10: 44:01 Mark again with his GoPro out while they were waiting for [inaudible] to be taken back to the operating room. Speaker 11: 44:07 TJ, Chris is about to go to embryos. I, them into her. She's very nervous. Speaker 9: 44:15 And uh, yeah, they just laid on the table and goes embryo. And you lay there for like 20 minutes and then you're all good to go. And then we just get in the car, drive back home. After I had the procedure, I was very and very cautious because I didn't want to do something bad that would jeopardize my pregnancy or my procedure. Like we just spent all this money and it's like, oh my God, like I need a walk on eggshells. So it was very stressful for me. I felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders to carry Speaker 1: 45:00 [inaudible] and mark Devlin talking with port of entry, host Alan Lillian Thall, find out what happens next in the Devlin's cross border IVF journey by listening to the full port of entry episode online at port of entry, pod.org or wherever you listen to pod gas.