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Pfizer and BioNTech to Submit Covid-19 Vaccine Data to FDA as Full Results Show 95% Efficacy

November 18, 2020

(STAT News) – Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that the efficacy portion of their Covid-19 vaccine trial has been completed, showing the vaccine to prevent 95% of cases of the disease. The companies said that they plan to submit to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization “within days,” and will also submit to regulatory agencies around the globe.

More People Are Getting COVID-19 Twice, Suggesting Immunity Wanes Quickly in Some

November 18, 2020

(Science) – Scientists are keenly interested in cases like hers, which are still rare but on the rise. Reinfections hint that immunity against COVID-19 may be fragile and wane relatively quickly, with implications not just for the risks facing recovered patients, but also for how long future vaccines might protect people. “The question everybody wants to answer is: Is that second one going to be less severe most of the time or not?” says Derek Cummings, who studies infectious disease dynamics at the University of Florida. “And what do reinfections teach us about SARS-CoV-2 immunity in general?”

Children in U.S. May Miss 9 Million Vaccine Doses in 2020, Report Warns

November 18, 2020

(The New York Times) – Children in the United States are on pace this year to miss nine million vaccine doses for measles, polio and other highly contagious diseases, according to medical claims data — a disruption that health care authorities called alarming and attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. The data was made public on Wednesday by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, one of the nation’s largest federations of insurance companies, which said that routine childhood vaccinations had declined by as much as 26 percent, compared with 2019.

COVID-19 Fatality Rate Down 30% Since April Study Finds

November 17, 2020

(Medscape) – The likelihood that a coronavirus infection will prove fatal has dropped by nearly a third since April due to improved treatment, researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) said on Thursday. In the United States, COVID-19 now kills about 0.6% of people infected with the virus, compared with around 0.9% early in the pandemic, IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray told Reuters.

Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy Service

November 17, 2020

(BBC) – Amazon has launched its own online pharmacy that will allow customers to buy prescription medicines. Amazon Prime members are eligible for free two-day delivery and discounts of up to 80% on generic medicines and 40% on prescribed brand-name drugs. Customers need to provide some basic health information, such as whether they are pregnant, as well as date of birth, gender and insurance details. Some questioned the wisdom of giving health data to a tech corporation.

‘They’ve Been Following the Science’: How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Been Curtailed in Cherokee Nation

November 17, 2020

(STAT News) – With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma, where the White House coronavirus task force says spread is unyielding. Elsewhere in the U.S., tribal areas have been hit hard by the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that American Indian and Alaskan Native populations have case rates 3.5 times higher than that of white individuals.

Buying a Baby on Nairobi’s Black Market

November 17, 2020

(BBC) – Vulnerable women are being preyed on in Nairobi to feed a thriving black market for babies. Over the course of a year-long investigation, Africa Eye has found evidence of children being snatched from homeless mothers and sold for massive profits. We uncovered illegal child trafficking in street clinics and babies being stolen to order at a major government-run hospital

A Lifetime of Pain in 24 Hours: A French ICU in the Pandemic

November 17, 2020

(Associated Press) – France is two weeks into its second coronavirus lockdown, known as “le confinement.” Associated Press journalists spent 24 hours with the intensive care team at La Timone, southern France’s largest hospital, as they struggled to keep even one bed open for the influx of patients to come. The doctors and nurses tell themselves and each other that they just have to hold on a little longer. Government tallies show infections may have reached their autumn high point, and hospitalizations dropped last weekend for the first time since September.

Long-Term Care Workers, Grieving and Under Siege, Brace for COVID’s Next Round

November 16, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Many of these workers struggle with grief over the suffering they’ve witnessed, both at work and in their communities. Some, like Silvestri, have been infected with the coronavirus and recovered physically — but not emotionally. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 616,000 residents and employees at long-term care facilities have been struck by COVID-19, according to the latest data from KFF. Just over 91,000 have died as the coronavirus has invaded nearly 23,000 facilities. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF.)

Doctors Are Calling It Quits Under Stress of the Pandemic

November 16, 2020

(New York Times) – Many other doctors are also calling it quits. Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic, according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group. About 8 percent of the doctors reported closing their offices in recent months, which the foundation estimated could equal some 16,000 practices. Another 4 percent said they planned to shutter within the next year.

US Govt Partners with Pharmacy Chains to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access

November 16, 2020

(Medscape) – The U.S. government is partnering with regional pharmacy chains and independent community pharmacies to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines whenever they are made available, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday. The partnership will cover about 60% of pharmacies throughout the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. health agency said.

‘Breakthrough Finding’ Reveals Why Certain COVID Patients Die

November 16, 2020

(Medscape) – In some cases, provocative new research shows, some people — men in particular — succumb because their immune systems are hit by friendly fire. Researchers hope the finding will help them develop targeted therapies for these patients. In an international study in Science, 10% of nearly 1,000 COVID patients who developed life-threatening pneumonia had antibodies that disable key immune system proteins called interferons.

2nd Virus Vaccine Shows Striking Success in US Tests

November 16, 2020

(Associated Press) – A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine — this one from Moderna Inc. — yielded extraordinarily strong early results Monday, another badly needed dose of hope as the pandemic enters a terrible new phase. Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine looked 90% effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

Prayers and Grief Counseling After COVID: Trying to Aid Healing in Long-Term Care

November 13, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Workers are already emotionally drained and exhausted after staffing the front lines — and putting themselves at significant risk — since March, when the pandemic took hold. And residents are suffering deeply from losing people they once saw daily, the disruption of routines and being cut off from friends and family. In response, nursing homes and assisted living centers are holding memorials for people who’ve died, having chaplains and social workers help residents and staff, and bringing in hospice providers to offer grief counseling, among other strategies. More than 2 million vulnerable older adults live in these facilities.

‘No One Is Listening to Us’

November 13, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Hospitals have put their pandemic plans into action, adding more beds and creating makeshift COVID-19 wards. But in the hardest-hit areas, there are simply not enough doctors, nurses, and other specialists to staff those beds. Some health-care workers told me that COVID-19 patients are the sickest people they’ve ever cared for: They require twice as much attention as a typical intensive-care-unit patient, for three times the normal length of stay. “It was doable over the summer, but now it’s just too much,” says Whitney Neville, a nurse based in Iowa. “Last Monday we had 25 patients waiting in the emergency department. They had been admitted but there was no one to take care of them.” I asked her how much slack the system has left. “There is none,” she said.

We’ll Need More Than One Vaccine to Beat the Pandemic

November 13, 2020

(Wired) – That’s an ember of hope, but it’s sitting under a bucket of cold water, ready to pour. The Pfizer vaccine is finicky—hard to make, transport, and deliver. Because of desperate need, it’s in short supply even before it becomes available—1.3 billion doses is several billion short of what the world needs. The press release wasn’t peer-reviewed science, and it lacked critical details about how the vaccine works, and on whom. Even the simple fact of this vaccine’s existence, some analysts have argued, might jeopardize the testing and success of potentially better vaccines down the line, a case of the imperfect being the enemy of the good.

Microsoft: Russian, North Korean Hackers Target Vaccine Work

November 13, 2020

(Associated Press) – Microsoft said it has detected attempts by state-backed Russian and North Korean hackers to steal valuable data from leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers. It said in a blog post Friday that most of the attacks in recent months were unsuccessful, but provided no information on how many succeeded or how serious those breaches were. Chinese state-backed hackers have also been targeting vaccine-makers, the U.S. government said in July while announcing criminal charges.

Lessons from Europe, Where Cases Are Rising But Schools Are Open

November 13, 2020

(NPR) – Across Europe, schools and child care centers are staying open even as much of the continent reports rising coronavirus cases, and even as many businesses and gathering places are shut or restricted. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy appear to be following the emerging evidence that schools have not been major centers of transmission of the virus, especially for young children. And experts say these nations are also demonstrating a commitment to avoiding the worst impacts of the pandemic on children. 

Situation ‘Dire’ as COVID Spike in West, Midwest Worsens, Experts Say

November 13, 2020

(Medscape) – Coronavirus infections are expected to continue to climb in the upper Midwest and intermountain West of the United States, which will strain an already-maxed-out system as increased hospitalizations and deaths follow, say infectious diseases specialists.

Nearly 10% of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 Later Readmitted

November 13, 2020

(Medscape) – About one in 11 patients discharged after COVID-19 treatment is readmitted to the same hospital, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Older age and chronic diseases are associated with increased risk, said senior author Adi V. Gundlapalli, MD, PhD, chief public health informatics officer of the CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.

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