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Shortage of Intubation Drugs Threatens Brazil Health Sector

April 16, 2021

(Associated Press) – Reports are emerging of Brazilian health workers forced to intubate patients without the aid of sedatives, after weeks of warnings that hospitals and state governments risked running out of critical medicines. One doctor at the Albert Schweitzer municipal hospital in Rio de Janeiro told the Associated Press that for days health workers diluted sedatives to make their stock last longer. Once it ran out, nurses and doctors had to begin using neuromuscular blockers and tying patients to their beds, the doctor said.

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Next-Generation Covid-19 Vaccines Are Supposed to Be Better. Some Experts Worry They Could Be Worse

April 16, 2021

(STAT News) – In short, when your body is introduced to a particular threat for the first time — either through infection or a vaccine — that encounter sets your immune system’s definition of that virus and what immune weapons it needs to detect and protect against it in the future. That imprint can be helpful. In the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, elderly adults were protected by immune responses they’d generated more than half a century earlier, in childhood, through encounters with a related virus. But it can also interfere with your body’s ability to mount responses against strains that have evolved from the one you were first exposed to. In the case of Covid, some scientists are concerned that the immune system’s reaction to the vaccines being deployed now could leave an indelible imprint, and that next-generation products, updated in response to emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2, won’t confer as much protection.

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Annual Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shots Likely Needed, Pfizer CEO Says

April 16, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Pfizer Inc. PFE +2.02% Chief Executive Albert Bourla said it is likely that people who receive Covid-19 vaccines will need booster shots within a year afterward, and then annual vaccinations, to maintain protection against the virus as it evolves. “The variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Mr. Bourla said during a virtual event hosted by CVS Health Corp. that aired Thursday but was recorded April 1.

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J&J Privately Asked Rival Covid-19 Vaccine Makers to Probe Clotting Risks

April 16, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – As concerns mounted last week over rare cases of blood clots, J&J asked AstraZeneca AZN +0.17% PLC as well as Pfizer and Moderna to join its efforts looking into the reports, people familiar with the matter said. J&J, through emails and phone calls, also sought to build an informal alliance to communicate the benefits and risks of the shots and address any concerns raised among the public by the blood-clot cases, some of the people said. Six women who got J&J’s vaccine developed clots, and one died, out of more than seven million doses administered across the U.S., according to federal health officials. The specific adverse event hasn’t been reported by people who received the Pfizer and Moderna shots, the officials said.

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China Presses Hong Kongers to Accept a Chinese Vaccine

April 16, 2021

(The Economist) – SINCE THE middle of March all Hong Kong residents over the age of 30 have been entitled to book a vaccination. They even have the luxury of a choice: between the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine created in Germany or one produced by Sinovac, a Chinese firm. Yet despite plentiful supply only about 8% of the population have chosen to get a shot. One reason is rock-bottom trust in the government, the product of two years of political turmoil. It is only one way that the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms has made controlling the virus more fraught.

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Microsoft Makes a $16 Billion Entry Into Health Care AI

April 16, 2021

(Wired) – When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke to investors Monday about his company’s plan to acquire speech-recognition specialist Nuance for $16 billion, he emphasized the importance of artificial intelligence in health care. Nuance’s software listens to doctor-patient conversations and transcribes speech into organized digitized medical notes. This helps explain the hefty price tag, even as voice recognition has become commoditized and now comes packaged with every smartphone and laptop. But Microsoft may also see much broader potential for Nuance’s technology.

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Vaccines Carry Far Lower Risk for Rare Blood Clots Than COVID, Study Shows

April 16, 2021

(Medscape) – The risk of developing cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) from COVID-19 was “many-fold” higher than from receiving the AstraZeneca/Oxford or the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, researchers have concluded. A preprint study by the University of Oxford found that from a dataset of over 500,000 COVID patients, CVT would have occurred in 39 per million people. CVT has been reported to occur in about 5 per million people after a first dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. In over 480,000 people receiving either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines, CVT occurred in 4 per million.

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COVID-Related Inflammatory Syndrome Tied to Neurologic Symptoms in Kids

April 16, 2021

(Medscape) – About half of children with pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) have new-onset neurologic symptoms, research shows. These symptoms involve the central and peripheral nervous systems but do not always affect the respiratory system. In addition, neurologic symptoms appear to be more common in severe presentations of this syndrome.

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Pausing the J&J Vaccine Was Easy. Unpausing Will Be Hard

April 15, 2021

(Wired) – Despite the hastily called press conference on Tuesday, the late-night meetings, and the growing worry over a potentially fatal side effect, the decision to pause the use of one of the three Covid-19 vaccines available in the United States was a relatively easy one. Figuring out how to unpause, though—that’s going to be a lot trickier. The public health community had some hope that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might find a fast path through the data fog. But that vanished late Wednesday, when an emergency meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices ended without a recommendation. Amid a global pandemic and a race for mass vaccinations, the pause continues pausing.

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Fentanyl Has Spread West and Overdoses Are Surging

April 15, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – In the Seattle area, overdose deaths involving fentanyl were up 57% in 2020 over the previous year, according to data from the county medical examiner. Preliminary data show deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl rose 162% in the Las Vegas area last year. In Los Angeles County, a recent report blamed fentanyl for a 26% jump in overdose deaths among the homeless population during the first seven months of 2020. The problem is particularly acute in San Francisco, where a record 708 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, a 61% increase from the previous year. By comparison, 254 people died of Covid-19 in the city last year.

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Americans Will Likely Have to Navigate a Maze of Vaccine “Passports”

April 15, 2021

(Axios) – Many private businesses and some states are plowing ahead with methods of verifying that people have been vaccinated, despite conservative resistance to “vaccine passports.” Why it matters: Many businesses view some sort of vaccine verification system as key to getting back to normal. But in the absence of federal leadership, a confusing patchwork approach is likely to pop up.

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Lab-Grown Embryos Mix Human and Monkey Cells for the First Time

April 15, 2021

(Science) – By slipping human stem cells into the embryos of other animals, we might someday grow new organs for people with faltering hearts or kidneys. In a step toward that goal, researchers have created the first embryos with a mixture of human and monkey cells. These chimeras could help scientists hone techniques for growing human tissue in species better suited for transplants, such as pigs.

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First Monkey-Human Embryos Reignite Debate Over Hybrid Animals

April 15, 2021

(Nature) – Scientists have successfully grown monkey embryos containing human cells for the first time — the latest milestone in a rapidly advancing field that has drawn ethical questions. In the work, published on 15 April in Cell, the team injected monkey embryos with human stem cells and watched them develop. They observed human and monkey cells divide and grow together in a dish, with at least 3 embryos surviving to 19 days after fertilization. 

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Getting Sick for the Sake of Medical Research

April 14, 2021

(Undark) – Bernot was participating in a human challenge trial: a kind of study in which researchers infect participants with a pathogen, often for the purpose of testing a new vaccine or treatment. Over the years, challenge trial volunteers have been bitten by malaria-infected mosquitoes, drunk water contaminated with typhoid-causing bacteria, and inhaled various strains of influenza. They have been given whooping cough, cholera, parasitic worms, and even gonorrhea. Now, after months of debate, Covid-19 has joined that list.

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The mRNA Vaccines Are Looking Better and Better

April 14, 2021

(The Atlantic) – The protein-based vaccines have moved too slowly to matter so far. J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19—but a small number of recipients have developed a rare type of blood clot that appears to be linked to the adenovirus technology and may ultimately limit those shots’ use. Meanwhile, with more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S, the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. The unusual blood clots have not appeared with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA technology. A year later, the risky bet definitely looks like a good one.

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Gynecologist Exiled from China Says 80 Sterilizations Per Day Forced on Uyghurs

April 14, 2021

(Newsweek) – In a recent interview, an exiled doctor from the Uyghur ethnic minority provided a vivid account of forced sterilizations carried out in Xinjiang, China. “On some days there were about 80 surgeries to carry out forced sterilizations,” Gülgine, 47, said in an interview with The Sankei Shimbun, according to Japan Forward. Gülgine was a gynecologist in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region, which is largely popular by the Uyghur Muslim minority. The doctor, who left China for Istanbul in 2011, admitted her own role in the sterilization procedures at a hospital in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

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Humanitarian Crisis Feared in St. Vincent Amid Eruptions

April 14, 2021

(Associated Press) – Ongoing volcanic eruptions have displaced about 20% of people in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent as a U.N. official on Wednesday warned of a growing humanitarian crisis. Between 16,000 to 20,000 people were evacuated under government orders before La Soufriere volcano first erupted on Friday, covering the lush green island with ash that continues to blanket communities in St. Vincent as well as Barbados and other nearby islands. About 6,000 of those evacuees are considered most vulnerable, said Didier Trebucq, United Nations resident coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

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J&J Vaccine and Blood-Clot Cases to Be Reviewed by U.S. Health Panel

April 14, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – A federal advisory panel will meet Wednesday to debate whether and how Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine should continue to be used in the U.S., following reports of rare but severe blood clots among a few recipients. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, is expected to review clinical data gathered to date on six women between the ages of 18 and 48 years who developed blood clots after receiving J&J’s vaccine, according to a draft agenda of the meeting posted online Tuesday. The committee’s virtual emergency meeting, scheduled for three hours Wednesday afternoon, will be open to the public.

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Worry Over 2 Covid Vaccines Deals Fresh Blow to Europe’s Inoculation Push

April 14, 2021

(New York Times) – First it was AstraZeneca. Now Johnson & Johnson. Last week, British regulators and the European Union’s medical agency said they had established a possible link between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and very rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots. On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said it would pause the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and the United States over similar concerns, further compounding the continent’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back efforts to quickly get people immunized against the coronavirus. European officials had been confident that they had secured enough alternative vaccine doses to take up the slack of the AstraZeneca problems and achieve their goal of fully inoculating 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population — about 255 million people — by the end of the summer.

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COVID-19: ‘No Evidence’ That UK Variant Causes More Severe Disease

April 14, 2021

(Medscape) – Two new studies have suggested that the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible than other strains but found no evidence to suggest it led to more severe disease or caused worse symptoms. One of the studies found no evidence that B.1.1.7, sometimes known as the Kent or UK variant, increased the risk of developing long COVID compared to other variants.

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