“I thought it was my responsibility, that it was a challenge that I had to accept. By the Friday before the imprisonment, I was already trapped, ”recalls virologist Margarita del Val, two years after everything exploded. loam, as she is known in her environment, from the moment she entered Spanish homes to make us feel “safe within the uncertainty” of the COVID pandemic. In this crisis his image, like everything else, became polarized, and some respected his advice, while others cursed his warnings. Now, after a marathon master’s degree in risk communication, del Val (Madrid, age 62) continues to lead global health forum of CSIC, the largest Spanish scientific institution. And he admits with a laugh that after two years in all the news in the country, when everything calms down, he will not miss the media.
Ask. What is your opinion of journalists after two years of intense relationship?
answer. Much better, clearly. If to know each other is to love each other, boy [ríe], And we scientists have improved too, now we are more open and less suspicious. You have sent us questions that you were asking yourself because you understand society’s concerns more sensitively. We have lost the skepticism of being given sensational headlines because the proportions are very low. It read: “Margarita del Val says something terrible that’s going to happen to us” and I thought “Have I said something terrible this week?”. I read it to myself and thought “Wow, how crazy is that”. I have made more sensational headlines in my life than ever before, and they continue to haunt me, but this has been the minority. I greatly appreciate the seriousness with which we scientists have been welcomed. Now we have to maintain it.
I once had to call a scientist I knew and say, “Sorry, we’ve been misrepresented anyway.”
P. And relationships with other scientists who voiced their opinions in the media?
R. One time I had to call someone I knew and say, “Sorry, maybe we’ve been misrepresented.” Because he faced both of us. But in general I do not need to explain it, we have recognized that different opinions can be justified.
P. Are you afraid that only the most sensational scientists are left in the media?
R. When the valley was between the two waves, the percentage of sensational headlines increased and the percentage of questions increased. squirts and, Clearly. If we now go into the era of prosperity, more of these things will happen. It is possible.
P. People on the street, what do you say?
R. People recognize me as fair. For example, I go to Cadiz, I give a conference, there the media interview me and on those days they recognize me a lot there, they stop and thank me and ask me for a selfie. But only in such situations. Or if they recognize me, they don’t contact me as much. And what they tell me is gratitude, they see in me the face of a group of scientists they don’t know and they thank science.
P. Has it become an icon?
R. Well, we also get offers from a cream company that I be their face. They tell you things like that. much less than others, such as convention; Because I don’t provide a profile and since I don’t appear in ads, they don’t call me anymore. But if they call for a conference from an institute, athenaeum or a hospital, of course I do. I am me You can’t act after so much exposure. I am like this: with my doubts, with my exaggerations… In all interviews I end up telling them that each time I have said “a lot”.
When there was a valley between two waves, the percentage of absurd questions increased
P. What was your most stressful moment in the media?
R. That’s when the side effects of vaccines started to appear. That was the most critical moment because we had some very good and safe vaccines, neither more nor less, and we could not lose faith in them. It was very important to point out that they were very safe explaining that there is no zero risk.
P. Do you miss that pressure from the media?
R. I still have, they are calling me from many places and I have to choose. I don’t remember it, because they are still calling me.
P. And do you think he’ll miss her once everything calms down?
R. I don’t have that effect.
P. Don’t you think you’re going to miss him or don’t you think he’ll calm down?
R. i’m going to miss her [ríe], I thought that things would become more calm, and now we have to settle the war. La Palma volcano fits in perfectly with the pandemic waves, I was calm, learning about the volcano.
A cream company has even offered to be my face, but I don’t give a profile.
P. Has science changed?
R. Science has been very open, much has been shared: but we scientists still want to be the smartest and best, which feels like something first. That’s why some have been released very quickly. we have searched letters [estudios científicos] Sensationalism: These People Who Give You Headlines paper And you go ahead and say “But a pitcher’s soul, what do you want me to put here”. I’m always the one who takes things a bit cold: “Don’t worry, it’s not as good or bad as you say.” It has become increasingly difficult for me to trust what is said in a tweet: over and over Twitter threads from someone I trust. Yes, science has changed and many people have understood it.
P. And has the pandemic changed you?
R. [Lo piensa unos segundos] Has it changed me? Of course it must have changed me, I think so. I try to be that. But now I prefer people, experts in other fields who can tell me their vision. as a human? I don’t expect too much, but sometimes I’m a little pain in the ass, monothematic, frankly [ríe], You have to wean yourself from swirling coconut throughout the day.
P. What do you think about those topical phrases that we will be stronger, more helpful than the pandemic…?
R. The problem in this country is that we don’t have statistics on inequalities. And we haven’t heard of the great inequalities that exist during the pandemic. In the United Kingdom, they tell you that the rich are vaccinated before the poor, the whites before the immigrants. And I’m sure the same thing happened here, but we don’t know and it will stop us from getting better. Shall we come out better? We’ll walk away, eager to forget.
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