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How Dementia Locks People Inside Their Pain

February 12, 2021

(The Atlantic) – When a patient’s cognitive condition prevents reliable self-assessment, as is the case for my grandmother, our ability to see a person’s pain and treat what we see is even further limited. For caretakers of people with dementia, the riddle of their suffering becomes nearly unsolvable. Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can undermine the entire process of conveying pain, from perception to communication. A person with Alzheimer’s might express discomfort by wandering, moaning, or refusing to eat or sleep, but the same behaviors might express loneliness, or hunger, or sadness—or they might be symptoms of the disease itself.

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‘An Existential Threat’: Disabled and Chronically Ill Californians Criticize Vaccine Policy

February 12, 2021

(The Guardian) – Disabled and chronically ill Californians say that the state’s coronavirus vaccine distribution is leaving them in the lurch, as the death toll in the country’s most populous state continues to climb. California abruptly announced last month that it was changing its vaccination policies to prioritize age, rather than underlying risk, in deciding who will get the inoculation next. The state is currently giving vaccines to people who are 65 years or older, nursing home residents and workers in health care, education, childcare, emergency services agriculture and food services. It had originally intended to vaccinate workers in transportation and manufacturing, people who are incarcerated, disabled people and people with high-risk medical issues next.

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Vaccine Delay in North Macedonia Stirs Political Tension

February 12, 2021

(Associated Press) – As its neighbors boast of progress in their vaccination programs, North Macedonia is still waiting to deliver its first shot — adding political tension to the tiny nation’s pandemic health crisis, and highlighting difficulties that some countries bordering the European Union are facing. In a statement to The Associated Press, the country’s government on Friday said plans to receive 8,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from neighbor Serbia this week had been held up for “technical reasons” with additional documentation needed for the transfer.

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Some Hospitals Are Giving Wealthy Donors Early COVID-19 Vaccinations–And That Could Damage Trust in Health Care at a Critical Time

February 12, 2021

(MarketWatch) – Relief over the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. quickly curdled into frustration over supply shortages, delivery problems, and unequal distribution.  But one group has gotten a head start in receiving the coveted shots: people who’ve donated money to hospitals distributing the vaccine.  Hospitals from coast to coast have offered their wealthy contributors early access to vaccines, prompting at least one investigation by state health authorities. 

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Neanderthal-Like ‘Mini-Brains’ Created in Lab with CRISPR

February 12, 2021

(Nature) – Researchers have created tiny, brain-like ‘organoids’ that contain a gene variant harboured by two extinct human relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans. The tissues, made by engineering human stem cells, are far from being true representations of these species’ brains — but they show distinct differences from human organoids, including size, shape and texture. The findings, published in Science on 11 February, could help scientists to understand the genetic pathways that allowed human brains to evolve.

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UN: Over 2 Million Yemeni Children May Starve in 2021

February 12, 2021

(Associated Press) – More than 2 million Yemeni children under the age of 5 are expected to endure acute malnutrition in 2021, four United Nations agencies said Friday, urging stakeholders to end the yearslong conflict that has brought the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.

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New York City’s Surveillance Battle Offers National Lessons

February 12, 2021

(Wired) – In January, when New York’s Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act went into effect, the City of New York Police Department was suddenly forced to detail the tools it had long kept from public view. But instead of giving New Yorkers transparency, the NYPD gave error-filled, boilerplate statements that hide almost everything of value. Almost none of the policies list specific vendors, surveillance tool models, or information-sharing practices. The department’s facial recognition policy says it can share data “pursuant to on-going criminal investigations, civil litigation, and disciplinary proceedings,” a standard so broad it’s largely meaningless.

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France Recommends Single Vaccine Dose for People Who Have Had COVID

February 12, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – France on Friday recommended that people who have already recovered from COVID-19 receive a single vaccine dose, becoming the first country to issue such advice. All three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the European Union are administered in the form of two doses, delivered several weeks apart.

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South Africa COVID Variant Found for First Time in California, North Carolina and Illinois

February 12, 2021

(Newsweek) – A COVID variant first detected in South Africa has been identified for the first time in Illinois, North Carolina and California this week, state health officials announced. The variant, known as B.1.351, seems to be more transmissible than the original, although there is no evidence that it causes more severe illness. It has now been identified in six U.S. states, which have reported more than a dozen cases in total.

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The Newest Diplomatic Currency: Covid-19 Vaccines

February 11, 2021

(The New York Times) – The coronavirus vaccine — one of the world’s most in-demand commodities — has become a new currency for international diplomacy. Countries with the means or the know-how are using the shots to curry favor or thaw frosty relations. India sent them to Nepal, a country that has fallen increasingly under China’s influence. Sri Lanka, in the midst of a diplomatic tug of war between New Delhi and Beijing, is getting doses from both.

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Pfizer Vaccine Found to Give Strong Immune Response to New Covid Variants

February 11, 2021

(The Guardian) – People who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been found to have strong T-cell responses against the Kent and South African variants of Covid, suggesting that the vaccine will continue to protect against serious disease in the coming months. In the first study to test immune responses against the variants circulating in populations, researchers found that although antibody responses against the new variants were blunted, they may still be high enough to protect most people from becoming infected, after a second dose of vaccine has been given.

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COVID Deaths in Africa Jump 40% in One Month: WHO

February 11, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – Deaths from COVID-19 in Africa surged by 40 percent over the last month, the World Health Organisation said Thursday, as the continent’s toll approaches 100,000.  “Over 22,300 deaths were reported in Africa in the last 28 days, compared with nearly 16,000 deaths in the previous 28 days,” said the WHO Africa office based in the Republic of the Congo capital Brazzaville.

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The Vaccine Had to Be Used. He Used It. He Was Fired.

February 11, 2021

(New York Times) – Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator. After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath. For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 — a shun-worthy misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe.

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Covid-19 Vaccination Rates Follow the Money in States with the Biggest Wealth Gaps, Analysis Shows

February 11, 2021

(STAT News) – The findings back up, with hard data, anecdotal reports from around the country that wealthy people have been able to gain access to vaccines ahead of low-income people. “We’re seeing individuals who have privilege and access who are edging out the people who don’t,” said Tekisha Dwan Everette, executive director of Health Equity Solutions in Connecticut and a member of the governor’s Covid-19 advisory task force in that state. But the analysis also reveals that some states appear to be distributing vaccines more equitably than others. Among states with the greatest wealth gaps, Texas, Tennessee, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Illinois did not show a significant county-level income divide in vaccination rates.

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FDA Grants Emergency Use to Monoclonal Antibody Combo for COVID

February 11, 2021

(Medscape) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to two monoclonal antibodies in combination for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 for people 12 years and older who test positive. Bamlanivimab and etesevimab (both Eli Lilly) are authorized to treat people with elevated risk for severe disease, including adults over 65 and those with relevant comorbidities

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In Switch, South Africa to Give Health Workers J&J Vaccine

February 10, 2021

(Associated Press) – South Africa will start vaccinating front-line health workers next week with a shot that is still in testing — an unorthodox strategy announced Wednesday after officials abandoned plans to use another vaccine that a small study suggests is only minimally effective against the variant dominant in the country. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa would switch to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and, at least for now, not use Oxford-AstraZeneca’s — which has been heralded as one of the most promising for the developing world because it’s cheaper and does not require freezer storage like some other leading vaccines.

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Government Investigating Massive Counterfeit N95 Mask Scam

February 10, 2021

(Associated Press) – Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus. 

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Charging Patients Just $10 More for Medications Leads to More Deaths

February 10, 2021

(Vox) – It turns out $10 can be a matter of life and death, according to a new study on how patients respond to higher health care costs. Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley examined what happened when Medicare beneficiaries faced an increase in their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. They found that a 34 percent increase (a $10.40 increase per drug) led to a significant decrease in patients filling their prescriptions — and, eventually, a 33 percent increase in mortality. The rise in deaths resulted from people indiscriminately cutting back on medications when they had to pay more for them, including drugs for heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes.

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Electronic Health Records May Be Delaying COVID-19 Vaccinations

February 10, 2021

(NPR) – Why has it been so hard to get a COVID-19 vaccination? One reason may be the software that almost all medical records in the U.S. are built on.  It makes up the systems nurses and doctors type patients’ vital signs and prescriptions into — whether they’re getting a routine physical or going to the emergency room with a broken arm. And it’s the same type of program used to log patient data when COVID-19 shots are given. But those electronic health records often aren’t connected and don’t share information easily. 

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‘These Numbers Are Incredibly Important’: Doctors and Lawmakers Call on FDA to Address Racial Disparities in Pulse Oximeters

February 10, 2021

(STAT News) – Along-documented, under-the-radar disparity is garnering new attention as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches into another year: Some pulse oximeters, which measure oxygen levels and are critical to making decisions about patient care, aren’t as accurate in Black patients and other people of color. New research on the issue has drawn the attention of lawmakers and clinicians alike, who say they want to see the Food and Drug Administration launch sweeping studies to analyze how well pulse oximeters used in the hospital and at home work in a diverse pool of patients.

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