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Counties at Highest Risk for COVID Harm Often Have Lowest Vaccination Rates

April 30, 2021

(ProPublica) – A ProPublica analysis of county data maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that early attempts to prioritize people with chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and obesity have faltered. At the same time, healthier — and often wealthier — counties moved faster in vaccinating residents, especially those 65 and older. (Seniors are a more reliable measure of vaccination progress than younger adults, who are less likely to have been eligible long enough to receive their second shots.) Counties with high levels of chronic illnesses or “comorbidities” had, on average, immunized 57% of their seniors by April 25, compared to 65% of seniors in counties with the lowest comorbidity risk.

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Virologist Angela Rasmussen on the Controversy Surrounding Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 Vaccine

April 30, 2021

(STAT News) – Russia has emphasized that the vaccine costs less than $10 per dose and that it can be stored at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit, making it easier to use around the world than the vaccines that have to be kept ultra cold. It says Sputnik V is already registered in more than 60 countries. But some regulators are now starting to ask questions about the vaccine. Brazil’s, in particular, this week rejected the vaccine, saying questions remained about its safety, manufacturing and development. STAT sat down with Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and research scientist affiliated with the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security and VIDO-InterVac at the University of Saskatchewan, to discuss.

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HHS to Prioritize Newborn Screening Programs’ Pipette Tip Orders

April 30, 2021

(STAT News) – Programs that screen newborns for potentially deadly genetic conditions will now have higher priority when ordering pipette tips — a critical laboratory supply that is in shortage. STAT highlighted the pipette tip shortage, which is affecting researchers across the country, on Wednesday. Later that day, a working group within the Department of Health and Human Services officially granted prioritization to newborn screening programs, according to a memo it sent to the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

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The Covid-19 Vaccine Club: How the World’s Biggest Producers Depend on Each Other

April 30, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – International tensions over access to Covid-19 vaccines have intensified as supply hiccups disrupt mass rollouts of shots. But trade experts warn that restrictions on vaccine exports risk making a bad situation worse. That’s because the world’s major vaccine producers rely on each other for the essential ingredients to manufacture vaccines through a web of cross-border supply chains in complex chemicals, fatty acids and glass vials. If governments restrict vaccine exports, they risk retaliation from other members of this exclusive club of vaccine makers, who could withhold vital supplies, squeezing production just when it is needed most.

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Researchers Are Closing in on Long Covid

April 29, 2021

(The Economist) – IN THE 1890s one of the biggest pandemics in history, known at the time as “Russian flu”, swept the world. It left 1m people dead. Russian flu is now thought to have been misnamed. It was probably not influenza, but rather a coronavirus ancestral to one that now just causes symptoms described by sufferers as “a cold”. When it was new, however, few people had immunity to it, so it was often lethal. And not only that. For, as the pandemic receded, it left in its wake a wave of nervous disorders. A similar wave followed the next big pandemic, the “Spanish” flu of 1918 (which, though nothing much to do with Spain, really was influenza). One common symptom was lethargy so bad that in Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania) it helped cause a famine because so many people were too debilitated to pick the harvest. Something similar is happening now, with the covid-19 pandemic. A wave of what has become known as “long covid” is emerging in countries where acute cases have been falling.

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In a First, FDA Cites Violation of Clinical Trials Reporting Law

April 29, 2021

(Science) – In an unprecedented enforcement action, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday informed a clinical trial sponsor that it had violated the law requiring that results from human studies of medical treatments and devices be posted to the federal repository ClinicalTrials[dot]gov. The action was leveled against the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based drug company Acceleron Pharma for its failure to provide data from a completed trial of its experimental drug to treat kidney cancer.

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Doctors More Likely to Prescribe Opioids to Covid ‘Long Haulers,’ Raising Addiction Fears

April 29, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Covid survivors are at risk from a separate epidemic of opioid addiction, given the high rate of painkillers being prescribed to these patients, health experts say. A new study in Nature found alarmingly high rates of opioid use among covid survivors with lingering symptoms at Veterans Health Administration facilities. About 10% of covid survivors develop “long covid,” struggling with often disabling health problems even six months or longer after a diagnosis.

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Indians Turn to Black Market, Unproven Drugs as Virus Surges

April 29, 2021

(Associated Press) – As India faces a devastating surge of new coronavirus infections overwhelming its health care system, people are taking desperate measures to try to keep loved ones alive. In some cases they are turning to unproven medical treatments, in others to the black market for life-saving medications that are in short supply.

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Brazil Covid-19 Variant Tears Through South America in Warning to World

April 29, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The surge here offers lessons for the rest of the world. The P.1 variant has spread to countries including Canada, where in the province of British Columbia, officials have recorded 2,062 cases of P.1 as of April 26, up from 974 as of April 9. Turkey and Hungary have struggled with large surges partly fueled by the more infectious U.K. variant. Doctors in India are studying whether new variants there might be adding to a record rise in cases and deaths. One variant, B.1.617, has already popped up in the U.S. and 18 other countries. 

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Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Appear Safe, Effective During Pregnancy

April 29, 2021

(Medscape) – The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines appear to be safe in pregnant patients, according to preliminary findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said pregnant people have an increased risk of being severely ill from COVID-19; however, this group was excluded from major clinical trials that led up to the current vaccine approvals.

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The New Malaria Vaccine Is a Total Game Changer

April 28, 2021

(Vox) – Vaccination has worked wonders to drive down deaths from infectious disease. A few hundred years ago, less than 60 percent of children saw their fifth birthday. Now, 95 percent do. Vaccines — against smallpox, measles, polio, diphtheria, and more — have driven that progress. But one of childhood’s biggest killers — malaria — has eluded effective vaccination. That, at long last, looks to be changing. 

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India’s Covid-19 Agonies Highlight Growing Rich-Poor Gap in Vaccinations

April 28, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – A global divide is widening between rich nations that are quickly vaccinating their populations against Covid-19 and poor countries that are lagging badly behind, aggravated by a devastating outbreak in India that is helping to drive daily infections world-wide to their highest level yet. The dramatic climb in Covid-19 cases in India, which has fully inoculated less than 2% of its 1.4 billion people, is further disrupting stuttering efforts to vaccinate in developing nations.

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Brazil Rejects Russian Covid-19 Vaccine

April 27, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Brazilian health authorities have blocked the importation of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, citing a lack of reliable data on its safety and efficacy, raising questions over a shot that is in use around the world to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. In a unanimous decision, the five directors of Anvisa, Brazil’s health agency, voted not to recommend importing the vaccine after its researchers reported flaws in product development in all stages of the vaccine’s clinical studies.

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Iraqi Medics Recount Horrors from Baghdad’s Hospital Inferno

April 27, 2021

(Associated Press) – It was a night of unimaginable horror as flames engulfed the intensive care unit of a Baghdad hospital: deafening screams, a patient jumping to his death to escape the inferno and relatives staying by their loved ones, refusing to abandon coronavirus patients tethered to ventilators.  Iraqi doctors, medical staff and rescue workers who witnessed the first moments of the catastrophic blaze described the scenes to The Associated Press, many overcome by trauma and saying that night is forever seared in their memory.

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‘Cannon Fodder’: Medical Students in India Feel Betrayed

April 27, 2021

(Associated Press) – The challenges facing India today, as cases rise faster than anywhere else in the world, are being compounded by the fragility of its health system and its doctors. There are 541 medical colleges in India with 36,000 post-graduate medical students, and according to doctors’ unions constitute the majority at any government hospitals — they are the bulwark of the India’s COVID-19 response. But for over a year, they have been subjected to mammoth workloads, lack of pay, rampant exposure to the virus and complete academic neglect.

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U.S. Pharmacies Are Told to Offer Second Vaccine Doses to People Who Got First Shots Elsewhere.

April 27, 2021

(New York Times) – Federal health officials said on Tuesday that they were directing nearly all drugstores and grocery-store pharmacies to offer second doses of Covid-19 vaccines to people who received their first shot from a different provider. Growing numbers of Americans who received a first shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccine are not getting their second shots, in part because of challenges with access.

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US to Share Up to 60 Mln AstraZeneca Vaccine Doses Globally: White House

April 27, 2021

(Medscape) – The United States will start to share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine with other countries as soon as the next few weeks, the White House said on Monday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the United States would release the doses to other countries as they become available. She said there could be 10 million doses cleared for export “in coming weeks.” About 50 million more doses are currently being produced and could ship in May and June.

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COVID Treatment Has Improved, But Many Wish for an Easy Pill

April 27, 2021

(Medscape) – Developing drugs for respiratory diseases is tough, partly because doses have to be high enough for the medicine to reach deep into the lungs yet not so high that they’re toxic. Research on treatments also was slower because the US government initially gave priority to vaccines. It wasn’t until the end of April 2020 that the first COVID-19 treatment showed benefit in a big government-sponsored study.

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SOS Messages, Panic as Virus Breaks India’s Health System

April 26, 2021

(Associated Press) – India was initially seen as a success story in weathering the pandemic, but the virus is now racing through its population of nearly 1.4 billion, and systems are beginning to collapse. SOS messages like the one Singh sent reveal the extent of the panic. In addition to oxygen running out, intensive care units are operating at full capacity and nearly all ventilators are in use. As the death toll mounts, the night skies in some Indian cities glow from the funeral pyres, as crematories are overwhelmed and bodies are burned in the open air.

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Virus Surge in Crowded Gaza Threatens to Overwhelm Hospitals

April 26, 2021

(Associated Press) – More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, some of the worst fears are coming true in the crowded Gaza Strip: A sudden surge in infections and deaths is threatening to overwhelm hospitals weakened by years of conflict and border closures. Gaza’s main treatment center for COVID-19 patients warns that oxygen supplies are dwindling fast. In another hospital, coronavirus patients are packed three to a room.

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