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By Creating Mouse Eggs Entirely from Scratch, Researchers Raise the Prospect of a Futuristic Fertility Treatment

July 16, 2021

(STAT News) – The tiny clump of mouse cells didn’t look like an ovary. For one thing, it was much smaller, microscopic. And instead of being attached to a uterus it was floating in a test tube. And yet, from within the pocket of cells, oocytes began to form, then grow, maturing into eggs. Later, when some of these eggs would get fertilized and gestate all the way to healthy, fertile, newborn mice, this feat would be made all the more astonishing by the fact that the “ovarioids” that had made them were produced entirely from stem cells. (Read Full Article)

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Indonesia’s Hospitals Overflow with Covid-19 Patients as Gravediggers Work into the Night

July 16, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Cases and deaths have climbed rapidly in Indonesia in recent weeks, as the Delta variant has helped fuel a devastating surge that echoes the one that tore through India in the spring, with whole families becoming ill, hospitals being overwhelmed and people lining up to buy oxygen. Daily cases hit a record on Thursday with 56,757 new cases reported, along with 982 deaths, according to the country’s health ministry. (Read Full Article)

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Why Some Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics Won’t Be Vaccinated

July 16, 2021

(Axios) – Olympic organizers have made a series of major, last-minute policy changes to reduce the risk of a superspreader event, but they declined to employ one particularly powerful tool: a vaccine mandate. The big picture: Mandatory vaccinations would have been a massive logistical and ethical puzzle. But without one, the threat of infection will loom over the Olympic Village and could ultimately extend well beyond it. (Read Full Article)

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Report: China Plans BioNTech Booster for Its Population

July 16, 2021

(The Diplomat) – Chinese media outlet Caixin is reporting that China plans to use an mRNA vaccine, jointly developed by China’s Fosun Pharma and German company BioNTech, as a booster shot for those who have been fully vaccinated using Chinese vaccines. “Chinese authorities plan to use the vaccine, which goes by the brand name Comirnaty, as a booster shot for people who have received inactivated-virus vaccines, people close to regulators told Caixin,” according to the report. The vaccines produced by Chinese companies – including China’s two leading COVID-19 vaccine producers, Sinopharm and Sinovac – both use inactivated particles of the virus, rather than the newer mRNA technology, to produce an immune response. (Read Full Article)

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COVID-19 Takes Toll on Catholic Clergy in Hard-Hit Countries

July 16, 2021

(Associated Press) – The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll among Roman Catholic priests and nuns around the world, killing hundreds of them in a handful of the hardest-hit countries alone. The dead include an Italian parish priest who brought the cinema to his small town in the 1950s; a beloved New York pastor who ministered to teens and the homeless; a nun in India who traveled home to bury her father after he died from COVID-19 only to contract the virus herself.  In some countries, most of those lost were older and lived in nursing or retirement homes where they didn’t regularly engage in person-to-person pastoral work. Other places, though, saw a bigger hit to active clergy, accelerating a decades-old decline in the ranks that Pope Francis in 2017 called a “ hemorrhage.” (Read Full Article)

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COVID-19’s Effects on Kids Are Even Stranger Than We Thought

July 15, 2021

(The Atlantic) – This month, The New England Journal of Medicine published new treatment guidelines for the occasionally fatal, COVID-related condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). When kids first started showing signs of MIS-C in early 2020—rash or conjunctivitis; low blood pressure; diarrhea or vomiting; etc.—doctors guessed it was an inflammatory disease that occurs most often in toddlers called Kawasaki disease. Now most experts believe it’s a separate condition, affecting kids at an average age of 8. No more than a few hundred children in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic—compared with more than half a million deaths overall—but more than 4,000 have developed MIS-C, and we still don’t have foolproof ways to cure it. But a handful of scientists think they’ve found important clues about what drives MIS-C. The disease, they say, may have something to do with a dangerous condition most commonly associated with tampon use. (Read Full Article)

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Cleveland Clinic and Mount Sinai Won’t Administer Aduhelm to Patients

July 15, 2021

(New York Times) – In a striking reflection of concern over the approval of the controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, two major American health systems have decided that they will not administer it to patients. The Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest and most respected medical centers in the country, said in a statement that a panel of its experts had “reviewed all available scientific evidence on this medication,” which is also called aducanumab. (Read Full Article)

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Deaths from COVID ‘Incredibly Rare’ Among Children

July 15, 2021

(Nature) – A comprehensive analysis of hospital admissions and reported deaths across England suggests that COVID-19 carries a lower risk of dying or requiring intensive care among children and young people than was previously thought. In a series of preprints published on medRxiv, a team of researchers picked through all hospital admissions and deaths reported for people younger than 18 in England. The studies found that COVID-19 caused 25 deaths in that age group between March 2020 and February 2021. About half of those deaths were in individuals with an underlying complex disability with high healthcare needs, such as tube feeding or assistance with breathing. (Read Full Article)

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U.S. Drug-Overdose Deaths Soured Nearly 30% in 2020, Driven by Synthetic Opioids

July 15, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Drug-overdose deaths in the U.S. surged nearly 30% in 2020, the result of a deadlier supply and the destabilizing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to preliminary federal data and public health officials. The estimated 93,331 deaths from drug overdoses last year, a record high, represent the sharpest annual increase in at least three decades, and compare with an estimated toll of 72,151 deaths in 2019, according to provisional overdose-drug data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Read Full Article)

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The Pandemic Has Worsened Childhood Vaccination Rates Around the World

July 15, 2021

(NPR) – Nearly 23 million children around the world missed out on routine childhood vaccinations last year due to service disruptions from the pandemic, the World Health Organization and UNICEF report. In a new analysis released Thursday that highlights data from around the world, the two organizations said immunization rates among children fell in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. India represented the largest increase in children not receiving their first diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine from 2019 to 2020. (Read Full Article)

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Colleges, Universities with Covid Vaccination Mandates Facing Pushback

July 15, 2021

(NBC News) – Hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation are requiring students to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before returning to campuses in the fall, but the mandates may be difficult to enforce fully. Some schools such as Princeton University are requiring students to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1, but it’s still unclear how others will manage vaccination and mask mandates — or what alternatives to on-campus learning may be offered to students who aren’t inoculated against Covid-19. (Read Full Article)

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Africa Records a Million New Cases in a Month, Its Fastest Increase So Far.

July 15, 2021

(New York Times) – The coronavirus is sweeping across Africa at a pace not seen before in the pandemic, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, highlighting the severity of a third wave driven by the spread of the Delta variant. One million Covid infections were reported on the continent in the past month alone, pushing the overall caseload to six million, according to the W.H.O., which urged wealthier nations to distribute more vaccine doses. (Read Full Article)

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Covid-19 Vaccines Are Becoming Mandatory in Parts of China

July 14, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Several local governments in China are planning to bar residents who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 from accessing public venues, stirring controversy as the country makes a push for herd immunity. In recent days, a dozen counties and cities in the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi set late-August deadlines for people 18 years or older to complete a two-shot vaccine regimen, according to similarly worded online statements. Many of them also set dates in late July by which unvaccinated people would be barred from entering schools, libraries, prisons, nursing homes and inpatient facilities at hospitals without a valid medical exemption.  (Read Full Article)

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Dying Patients with Rare Diseases Struggle to Get Experimental Therapies

July 14, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Definitive numbers are hard to find, but studies from researchers, actions by drugmakers and insights from experts suggest that getting expanded access to unproven therapies for rare diseases is more difficult than for more common illnesses, such as cancer. Even with experimental treatments on the rise, patients with rare diseases frequently face an unwillingness by drug companies to provide them before clinical studies are completed. Developing drugs for these diseases is an especially fragile process because the patient populations are small and often diverse, having different genetics, symptoms and other characteristics, which makes studying the drugs’ effects difficult. (Read Full Article)

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U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Record 93,000 in 2020 During Pandemic

July 14, 2021

(STAT News) – Overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. government reported Wednesday. That estimate far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounts to a 29% increase. “This is a staggering loss of human life,” said Brandon Marshall, a Brown University public health researcher who tracks overdose trends. (Read Full Article)

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In Cuba, Covid-19 Stress Pushes Unrest to the Edge

July 14, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Many governments have been shaken by dissatisfaction with their management of a pandemic that has dragged millions of people into extreme poverty and left millions of others dead. But Cuba now stands out after seeing a sixfold rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases since June, and the government, which relies on imports to provide food, fuel and consumer goods for the entire country, is suffering from a hard-currency squeeze. The healthcare system is overrun. (Read Full Article)

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Why England’s COVID ‘Freedom Day’ Alarms Researchers

July 14, 2021

(Nature) – In less than a week, the UK government plans to drop nearly all measures for mitigating the spread of COVID–19 across England — despite steeply rising infections in the partially vaccinated population. The decision, widely hailed by its advocates as heralding a ‘freedom day’, has been sharply criticized by many scientific and public-health experts in the United Kingdom and beyond. Some scientists call the relaxation an unprecedented public-health experiment that could result in large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and increase the chances of vaccine-resistant variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerging. (Read Full Article)

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J&J, AstraZeneca Explore Covid-19 Vaccine Modification in Response to Rare Blood Clots

July 14, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Johnson & Johnson, JNJ 0.68% AstraZeneca AZN -1.34% PLC and the University of Oxford, along with outside scientists, are conducting early-stage research into whether potential modifications of their Covid-19 vaccines could reduce or eliminate the risk of rare but serious blood clots associated with the shots, according to people close to the process. Fast-developing clues into how the clots form—driven in part by independent scientists in Europe, the U.S. and Canada—are boosting hopes of identifying the cause and possibly re-engineering AstraZeneca’s shot by next year, according to some of these people. It is too early to know whether either shot can be modified, or whether doing so would make commercial sense, these people say. (Read Full Article)

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Immunized But Banned: EU Says Not All COVID Vaccines Equal

July 13, 2021

(Associated Press) – Although AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Europe has been authorized by the continent’s drug regulatory agency, the same shot manufactured in India hasn’t been given the green light. EU regulators said AstraZeneca hasn’t completed the necessary paperwork on the Indian factory, including details on its production practices and quality control standards. But some experts describe the EU move as discriminatory and unscientific, pointing out that the World Health Organization has inspected and approved the factory. Health officials say the situation will not only complicate travel and frustrate fragile economies but also undermine vaccine confidence by appearing to label some shots substandard.  (Read Full Article)

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Sinovac-Dosed Thai Health Workers to Get AstraZeneca Booster

July 13, 2021

(Associated Press) – A nighttime curfew and other new coronavirus restrictions began Monday in Thailand’s capital and several other provinces, as health officials announced that medical workers will given booster shots of AstraZeneca vaccine after already receiving two doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine. Thailand is battling rising COVID-19 cases and deaths since April worsened by the spread of the more contagious delta variant that was first identified in India. (Read Full Article)

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