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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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FDA to Warn J&J Vaccine Can Increase Guillain-Barre Risk: Media

July 13, 2021

(Medscape) – People receiving the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could be at increased risk for developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce as early as tomorrow, according to multiple media reports. Although the FDA is projected to add the new warning to the labeling for the vaccine, the agency still calculates the benefit of vaccination with the J&J product continues to outweigh the risk. Benefits include protection against the Delta variant and serious COVID-19 outcomes. (Read Full Article)

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The U.S. Says Humans Will Always Be in Control of AI Weapons. But the Age of Autonomous War Is Already Here.

July 13, 2021

(The Washington Post) – Drones have been a key part of warfare for years, but they’ve generally been remotely controlled by humans. Now, by cobbling together readily available image-recognition and autopilot software, autonomous drones can be mass-produced on the cheap. Today, efforts to enact a total ban on lethal autonomous weapons, long demanded by human rights activists, are now being supported by 30 countries. But the world’s leading military powers insist that isn’t necessary. The U.S. military says concerns are overblown, and humans can effectively control autonomous weapons, while Russia’s government says true AI weapons can’t be banned because they don’t exist yet. But the facts on the ground show that technological advancements, coupled with complex conflicts like the Syrian and Libyan civil wars, have created a reality where weapons that make their own decisions are already killing people. (Read Full Article)

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Death Toll Rises to 92 in Blaze at Coronavirus Ward in Iraq

July 13, 2021

(Associated Press) – The death toll from a fire that swept through a hospital coronavirus ward climbed to 92 on Tuesday, Iraq’s state news agency reported, as anguished relatives buried their loved ones and lashed out at the government over the country’s second such disaster in less than three months. Health officials said scores of others were injured in the blaze that erupted Monday at al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah. The tragedy cast a spotlight on what many have decried as widespread negligence and mismanagement in Iraq’s hospitals after decades of war and sanctions. (Read Full Article)

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J&J’s Covid-19 Vaccine May Trigger Neurological Condition in Rare Cases, FDA Says

July 12, 2021

(STAT News) – Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine may trigger a rare neurological condition in a small number of people who receive the vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday. Reports to a database operated jointly by the agency and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control suggest there may be a link between the inoculations and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a form of progressive paralysis that is generally reversible, the FDA said in a statement. (Read Full Article)

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Why We May Never Know Whether the $56,000-a-Year Alzheimer’s Drug Actually Works

July 12, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – The Food and Drug Administration’s approval in June of a drug purporting to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease was widely celebrated, but it also touched off alarms. There were worries in the scientific community about the drug’s mixed results in studies — the FDA’s own expert advisory panel was nearly unanimous in opposing its approval. And the annual $56,000 price tag of the infusion drug, Aduhelm, was decried for potentially adding costs in the tens of billions of dollars to Medicare and Medicaid. But lost in this discussion is the underlying problem with using the FDA’s “accelerated” pathway to approve drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, a slow, degenerative disease. Though patients will start taking it, if the past is any guide, the world may have to wait many years to find out whether Aduhelm is actually effective — and may never know for sure. (Read Full Article)

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The Rationing of a Last-Resort Covid Treatment

July 12, 2021

(New York Times) – Throughout the pandemic, such scenes have played out across the country as American doctors found themselves in the unfamiliar position of overtly rationing a treatment. But it was not ventilators, as initially feared: Concerted action largely headed off those shortages. Instead, it was the limited availability of ECMO — which requires expensive equipment similar in concept to a heart-lung machine and specially trained staff who can provide constant monitoring and one-on-one nursing — that forced stark choices among patients. (Read Full Article)

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Human Genome Editing: Recommendations

July 12, 2021

(WHO) – The recent application of tools, such as CRISPR-Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; Cas9 nuclease), to edit the human genome with the intention of treating or preventing disease and the gaps in our scientific understanding, in addition to some of the proposed applications of human genome editing, raise ethical issues that have highlighted the need for robust oversight in this area In December 2018, WHO established a global, multidisciplinary expert advisory committee (the Expert Advisory Committee on Developing Global Standards for Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing, hereafter called the Committee) to examine the scientific, ethical, social and legal challenges associated with human genome editing (somatic, germline and heritable). The governance framework on human genome editing, along with the recommendations of the Committee, form a set of two publications that provide advice and recommendations on appropriate institutional, national, regional and global governance mechanisms for human genome editing. A position paper on human genome editing provides a summary of these two publications. (Read Full Article)

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After Backlash, Predictive Policing Adapts to a Changed World

July 12, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – It was a seductive pitch to city governments and police departments: Use predictive software to deter crime before it is committed. Artificial intelligence-powered algorithms, the software companies said, could chew up data on incident reports, weather, time and other variables, learn historical patterns, and spit out forecasts faster, cheaper and more accurately than human analysts. Using big data to put cops in the right place at the right time would help discourage crime. Federal funding helped push such tools to police departments in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere in the 2010s. More recently, however, those tools have faced pushback. (Read Full Article)

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Prisoners, Doctors, and the Battle Over Trans Medical Care

July 12, 2021

(Wired) – An oddity of medical care in the US is that access to it is a constitutional right—at least on paper—for a single category of Americans: the incarcerated. Courts have long interpreted the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment to mean that prisons must provide “adequate” and “medically necessary” care. Over the past 20 years, transgender prisoners have argued in lawsuits that gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery should qualify.  (Read Full Article)

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