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Worry Over 2 Covid Vaccines Deals Fresh Blow to Europe’s Inoculation Push

April 14, 2021

(New York Times) – First it was AstraZeneca. Now Johnson & Johnson. Last week, British regulators and the European Union’s medical agency said they had established a possible link between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and very rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots. On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said it would pause the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and the United States over similar concerns, further compounding the continent’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back efforts to quickly get people immunized against the coronavirus. European officials had been confident that they had secured enough alternative vaccine doses to take up the slack of the AstraZeneca problems and achieve their goal of fully inoculating 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population — about 255 million people — by the end of the summer.

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COVID-19: ‘No Evidence’ That UK Variant Causes More Severe Disease

April 14, 2021

(Medscape) – Two new studies have suggested that the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is more transmissible than other strains but found no evidence to suggest it led to more severe disease or caused worse symptoms. One of the studies found no evidence that B.1.1.7, sometimes known as the Kent or UK variant, increased the risk of developing long COVID compared to other variants.

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The Gender Vaccine Gap: More Women Than Men Are Getting COVID Shots

April 14, 2021

(Medscape) – Public health experts cited many reasons for the difference, including that women make up three-quarters of the workforce in health care and education, sectors prioritized for initial vaccines. Women’s longer life spans also mean that older people in the first rounds of vaccine eligibility were more likely to be female. But as eligibility expands to all adults, the gap has continued. Experts point to women’s roles as caregivers and their greater likelihood to seek out preventive health care in general as contributing factors.

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12% of Children with COVID Are Hospitalized, Study Says

April 14, 2021

(Medscape) – About 12% of U.S. children with COVID-19 were hospitalized in 2020, and nearly a third of those had severe disease that required mechanical ventilation or admission to an intensive care unit, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open on Friday. That means about 1 in 9 kids with COVID-19 needed hospitalization, and about 1 in 28 had severe COVID-19.

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Budesonide, a Cheap Asthma Drug, Can Alleviate Covid-19 at Home

April 14, 2021

(The Economist) – AS VACCINATION against covid-19 gathers speed, the end of the covid-19 pandemic is starting to hover on the horizon. But not everyone will take the vaccine and none of the jabs is 100% effective at preventing any illness at all. Even where vaccination rates are high some people will, at some point, become infected. Results from a clinical trial in Britain published today show that budesonide, a cheap generic drug they can take at home, will make their illness slightly less miserable.

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Researchers Call for Greater Awareness of Unintended Consequences of CRISPR Gene Editing

April 13, 2021

(PhysOrg) – Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have revealed that CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing can lead to unintended mutations at the targeted section of DNA in early human embryos. The work highlights the need for greater awareness of and further research into the effects of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, especially when used to edit human DNA in laboratory research. 

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Three Virus Patients Die at a Hospital in Romania After Its Oxygen Supply Malfunctions

April 13, 2021

(New York Times) – Three people infected with the coronavirus died at a hospital in Bucharest on Monday evening after the oxygen supply stopped functioning, according to the authorities, the latest incident involving oxygen failure, which in many countries has driven up the virus death toll. It was also another fatal setback for Romania’s ageing and overwhelmed health care system, which has suffered two fires in Covid-19 wards in recent months, killing at least 15 people.

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South Africa Halts J&J Vaccine Jabs; Europe Rollout Delayed

April 13, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – South Africa suspended giving Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots Tuesday as a “precautionary measure” and the company delayed its European vaccine rollout following an FDA decision to pause the jabs while very rare blood clot cases are examined. South Africa has given more than 289,000 doses of the J&J vaccine to the country’s health workers without any reports of rare blood clots, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize told reporters.

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US Agency Says Women Can Get Abortion Pill Via Telemedicine

April 13, 2021

(Associated Press) – Women seeking an abortion pill will not be required to visit a doctor’s office or clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. health officials said Tuesday in the latest reversal in an ongoing legal battle over the medication.

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Covid Spawns ‘Completely New Category’ of Organ Transplants

April 13, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Nearly six months later, the transplant landscape has radically changed. Covid-related transplants are surging as hospitals grapple with a growing subset of patients whose organs — most often hearts and lungs — are “basically destroyed by the virus,” said Dr. Jonathan Orens, a lung transplant expert at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Nearly 60 transplants were performed through March 31 for patients with covid-related organ disease, according to figures released Monday by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees transplants in the U.S.

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US Recommends ‘Pause’ for J&J Shots in Blow to Vaccine Drive

April 13, 2021

(Associated Press) – The U.S. on Tuesday recommended a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots, setting off a chain reaction worldwide and dealing a setback to the global vaccination campaign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were investigating unusual clots in six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died. 

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Why Would a Covid Vaccine Cause Rare Blood Clots? Researchers Have Found Clues

April 13, 2021

(STAT News) – Most tellingly, both the paper from Norway and the second paper, which looked at patients from Austria and Germany, found that blood clots were seen in people who had high levels of antibodies to platelet factor 4, the same types of antibodies reported, infrequently, after treatment with heparin. That doesn’t explain why a vaccine is causing the immune system to produce those antibodies, or whether other vaccines might do the same. But it provides a first step toward explaining the side effect, which experts say is extremely rare, and to looking into whether the same types of rare clots could occur with other shots.

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China’s mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine May Start Late-Stage Trial in May: State Media

April 13, 2021

(Reuters) – China’s locally developed COVID-19 vaccine candidate that uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology could start late-stage clinical trial overseas as early as next month, official media said on Tuesday. ARCoV, the China-developed mRNA vaccine candidate that is furthest along the clinical trial process, may get overseas approval to conduct Phase III clinical trial by as early as end-April, China National Radio said in an article on its website.

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AZ COVID Vaccine: Causal Link to Severe Thrombosis Established

April 13, 2021

(Medscape) – Two scientific studies establishing a causal relationship between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and severe thrombotic complications have now been published. The articles — one from a German/Austrian/Canadian collaboration and one from a Norwegian group — were published online April 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine. A preliminary report of the German-led study was first published as a preprint on Research Square on March 28.

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Tweaked COVID Vaccines in Testing Aim to Fend Off Variants

April 13, 2021

(Medscape) – Dozens of Americans are rolling up their sleeves for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine — this time, shots tweaked to guard against a worrisome mutated version of the virus. Make no mistake: The vaccines currently being rolled out across the U.S. offer strong protection. But new studies of experimental updates to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines mark a critical first step toward an alternative if the virus eventually outsmarts today’s shots.

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More Colleges Say They’re Require Students to Have Covid-19 Vaccines for Fall

April 12, 2021

(NPR) – Duke University in North Carolina has announced that it will require students to have a COVID-19 vaccine when they return this fall. And the list of campuses with such policies is growing. Rutgers University in New Jersey was the first, and since then more than a dozen residential colleges have followed. The University of Notre Dame; two Ivy League universities, Brown and Cornell; and Northeastern University in Massachusetts are among those requiring the vaccine for the fall. Cleveland State University will do so for all students living on campus.

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Some Quebec Health-Care Workers Will Now Need to Show Proof of Vaccination

April 12, 2021

(CBC) – Quebec’s Health Ministry issued a decree Saturday that verges on making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health-care workers in certain sectors. In a news release Saturday afternoon, the ministry said the move is necessary due to “the growing risk presented by the transmission of new highly contagious variants” and concerns about “large-scale outbreaks” that could threaten vulnerable people or essential services. The decree is effective immediately.

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Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Efficacy Is ‘Not High,’ Top Health Official Admits

April 12, 2021

(CNN) – The efficacy of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines is “not high” and authorities are weighing options to bolster protection — including mixing different shots, China’s top disease control official has said. “The protection rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told a conference in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Saturday. He listed two options to solve the problem: one is to increase the number of doses, or adjust the dosage or interval between shots; the other is to mix vaccines developed from different technologies.

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South African Variant May Evade Protection from Pfizer Vaccine, Israeli Study Says

April 12, 2021

(Reuters) – The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa may evade the protection provided by Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is very low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study, released ahead of peer review on the medRxiv website on Friday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease.

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The Foundations of AI Are Riddled with Errors

April 12, 2021

(Wired) – The current boom in artificial intelligence can be traced back to 2012 and a breakthrough during a competition built around ImageNet, a set of 14 million labeled images. In the competition, a method called deep learning, which involves feeding examples to a giant simulated neural network, proved dramatically better at identifying objects in images than other approaches. That kick-started interest in using AI to solve different problems. But research revealed this week shows that ImageNet and nine other key AI data sets contain many errors.

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