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Texas Hospital Workers Sue Over Vaccine Mandates

June 2, 2021

(Medscape) – A group of 117 people who work at the Houston Methodist Health System has filed a lawsuit against the medical center, objecting to its policy of requiring employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs. Plaintiffs include Jennifer Bridges, RN, a medical-surgical nurse at the hospital who has become the public face and the voice of healthcare workers who object to mandatory vaccination, as well as Bob Nevens, the hospital’s director of corporate risk. (Read Full Article)

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Federal Gov’t Says Employers Can Offer Vaccine Incentives

June 2, 2021

(Politico) – Employers can offer incentives to their employees to get the coronavirus vaccine without running afoul of federal anti-discrimination law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Friday. In an update of its Covid-19 guidance, the agency said employers may offer incentives to employees who provide documentation of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine outside of work, because requesting proof of vaccination “is not a disability-related inquiry” or an “unlawful request” under federal anti-discrimination laws. (Read Full Article)

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Immunocompromised People Turn to Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shots

June 2, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Now, Ms. Merritt and millions of other people with compromised immune systems and their doctors are scrambling to figure out what to do in an evolving science project playing out in real time. Some are taking a third shot to try to jar their immune systems into generating the antibodies that protect them from the virus. Others are considering modifying their immunosuppressants in consultation with their doctors in hopes another shot will be effective. And a few are jumping through bureaucratic hoops to get access to monoclonal antibodies, which could provide protection until more people in the general population are vaccinated. (Read Full Article)

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Despite Vaccines, Nursing Homes Struggle with Outbreaks

June 1, 2021

(Associated Press) – COVID-19 vaccines have allowed nursing homes in the U.S. to make dramatic progress since the dark days of the pandemic, but senior care facilities are still experiencing scattered outbreaks that are largely blamed on unvaccinated staff members. The outbreaks and ensuing shutdowns have jolted family members who were just starting to enjoy in-person visits with loved ones for the first time in a year.  (Read full Article)

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Coronavirus Variants Get Greek Names–But Will Scientists Use Them?

June 1, 2021

(Nature) – When researchers in South Africa spotted a highly mutated strain of coronavirus driving the country’s second wave in late 2020, they called it variant 501Y.V2. Naming schemes developed by other scientists have called it B.1.351, 20H/501Y.V2 and GH/501Y.V2. But many media outlets — and some scientists — describe the same virus as ‘the South African variant’.  To quell such confusion and avoid geographical stigmas, everyone should now just call it ‘Beta’, according to a naming scheme announced on 31 May by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and described in a forthcoming article in Nature Microbiology. (Read Full Article)

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The World Health Organization Authorizes the Sinovac Vaccine for Emergency Use.

June 1, 2021

(New York Times) – The World Health Organization has cleared a coronavirus vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac for emergency use, the agency announced on Tuesday. The decision, which comes about a month after the agency authorized another Chinese vaccine, made by Sinopharm, for emergency use, means that Sinovac’s vaccine can potentially be included in Covax, a worldwide initiative to supply coronavirus vaccines to low-income countries. (Read Full Article)

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Covid: Zero Daily Deaths Announced in UK for First Time

June 1, 2021

(BBC) – The UK has announced zero daily Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the first time since March 2020. The latest figures also reported another 3,165 new cases, compared with 3,383 on Monday and 2,493 one week ago. It comes amid concern over a recent small rise in cases linked to the variant first identified in India. (Read Full Article)

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Covid-19 Prevention Measures Are Keeping Childhood Diseases Like Chickenpox at Bay

June 1, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The disinfecting and hand-washing that became common during the Covid-19 pandemic have also served as powerful tools against a host of childhood ailments such as chickenpox, stomach viruses and strep throat, recent data suggest. Doctors say that as countries with widespread Covid-19 vaccination, including the U.S., get back to normal, people would be well-advised to keep up some of the practices they have adopted—even if pandemic weariness makes them less than eager to take that advice. (Read Full Article)

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Brazil’s Experiment to Vaccinate Town with Chinese Corona Vac Reduced Covid-19 Deaths by 95%

June 1, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Brazil’s experiment to vaccinate an entire town with the Chinese CoronaVac shot reduced Covid-19 deaths by 95%, providing more evidence of the efficacy of the vaccine being rolled out across much of the developing world. All adults in Serrana, a town of 45,000 people in southeastern Brazil, were offered CoronaVac between February and April as part of the “Project S” experiment, the first mass trial of its kind against Covid-19. (Read Full Article)

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Dumbed Down AI Rhetoric Harms Everyone

June 1, 2021

(Wired) – When the European Union Commission released its regulatory proposal on artificial intelligence last month, much of the US policy community celebrated. Their praise was at least partly grounded in truth: The world’s most powerful democratic states haven’t sufficiently regulated AI and other emerging tech, and the document marked something of a step forward. Mostly, though, the proposal and responses to it underscore democracies’ confusing rhetoric on AI. (Read Full Article)

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China Easing Birth Limits Further to Cope with Aging Society

June 1, 2021

(Associated Press) – China’s ruling Communist Party said Monday it will ease birth limits to allow all couples to have three children instead of two in hopes of slowing the rapid aging of its population, which is adding to strains on the economy and society. The ruling party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth but worries the number of working-age people is falling too fast while the share over age 65 is rising. That threatens to disrupt its ambitions to transform China into a prosperous consumer society and global technology leader.  (Read Full Article)

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Haiti: Child Malnutrition Surges Amid Pandemic and Crime, Unicef Says

May 31, 2021

(BBC) – Severe acute childhood malnutrition is expected to more than double this year in Haiti amid the pandemic, rising crime and low resources, Unicef says. More than 86,000 children under the age of five could be affected, compared to 41,000 last year, the UN agency said. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and more than 60% of its population live in poverty. The country has suffered from decades of political and economic crises as well as several natural disasters. (Read Full Article)

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China Allows Couples to Have Three Children as Birthrate Falls

May 31, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – China will allow couples to have three children after a census showed its population is rapidly ageing, state media said Monday, further unwinding four decades of strict family planning controls in the world’s most populous nation which have strangled the birthrate. (Read Full Article)

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Coronavirus: The Indian Children Orphaned by Covid-19

May 31, 2021

(BBC) – These are not isolated stories. Covid has devastated families across India, orphaning many children.  Smirti Irani, minister for women and child welfare, recently tweeted that both parents of at least 577 children had died with coronavirus between 1 April and 25 May. Experts say this number is likely a significant underestimate. (Read Full Article)

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Biosecurity Warning Over Loosely-Regulated Virus Labs

May 31, 2021

(BBC) – The US has just announced it is revisiting the origins of the virus, including the possibility that it escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, despite the WHO saying earlier this year this theory was “extremely unlikely”. But we have always known there’s a risk a deadly pathogen could do that. Now a leading expert on biological warfare has called on leaders of the G7 group of leading industrialised nations to consider tighter restrictions, warning loosely-regulated laboratories are a gateway for terrorists. (Read Full Article)

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How Worried Should We Be About Blood Clots Linked to AstraZeneca, J&J Vaccines?

May 31, 2021

(Medscape) – International drug regulators have said the benefits of using COVID-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca outweigh risks as they investigate reports of extremely rare, but potentially fatal blood clots. Several EU countries have restricted their use. Amid concerns that reports of rare side-effects could undermine vaccine confidence, experts have emphasised that clotting risks for both shots remain extremely low and the vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 deaths and severe disease. (Read Full Article)

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US Overdose Deaths Spiked During Pandemic Biggest Rise in Black and Latinx Communities

May 31, 2021

(Medscape) – U.S. overdose deaths increased by 42% overall in 2020 compared with 2018 and 2019, a new study of Emergency Medical Services records suggests. The analysis of data gathered from the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) found a spike in overdose-related cardiac arrests during the pandemic with the greatest increases seen among Latinx (49.7%) and African American (50.3%) individuals, researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry. (Read Full Article)

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Canada: Remains of 215 Indigenous Children Found on Former Residential School Site

May 28, 2021

(The Guardian) – A mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children has been discovered on the grounds of a former residential school in the interior of southern British Columbia. The grim discovery at the former school near the town of Kamloops was announced late on Thursday by the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc people after the site was examined by a team using ground penetrating radar. (Read Full Article)

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European Regulators OK Pfizer Vaccine for Children 12-15

May 28, 2021

(ABC News) – The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended that the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children ages 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic. (Read Full Article)

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Germany Officially Recognizes Colonial-Era Namibia Genocide

May 28, 2021

(BBC) – Germany has officially acknowledged committing genocide during its colonial occupation of Namibia, and announced financial aid worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn). German colonisers killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people there in early 20th Century massacres. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country was asking Namibia and victims’ descendants for forgiveness. But activists say the aid is not enough to address the suffering inflicted. (Read Full Article)

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