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Early Approval of a COVID-19 Vaccine Could Stymie the Hunt for Better Ones

October 15, 2020

(Science) – Success in the push to find a COVID-19 vaccine at record-breaking speed could hand the world a new problem. The first vaccine to cross the finish line might be only marginally effective, yet it could become the enemy of the good—or even the great—candidates in the wings by disrupting ongoing studies.

AI Is About to Face a Major Test: Can It Differentiate Covid-19 from Flu?

October 15, 2020

(STAT News) – With Covid-19 cases surging in parts of the U.S. at the start of flu season, developers of artificial intelligence tools are about to face their biggest test of the pandemic: Can they help doctors differentiate between the two respiratory illnesses, and accurately predict which patients will become severely ill? Numerous AI models are promising to do exactly that by sifting data on symptoms and analyzing chest X-rays and CT scans.

Chinese Firm Gives Experimental Covid Vaccines to Students

October 14, 2020

(The Wall Street Journal) – China is expanding distribution of its coronavirus vaccines outside of clinical trials, with a state-owned company offering them to students going abroad amid a campaign by officials to boost public confidence in homegrown inoculations.

Russia Approves 2nd Virus Vaccine After Early Trials

October 14, 2020

(ABC News) – Russian authorities have given regulatory approval to a second coronavirus vaccine after early-stage studies, two months after a similar move prompted widespread criticism from scientists both at home and abroad.

Central Europe, Spared in the Spring, Suffers as Virus Surges

October 14, 2020

(New York Times) – Much of Central Europe locked down quickly in the spring, before the coronavirus took root, and largely avoided widespread infection during the first wave of the pandemic. But now — from the Polish port city of Gdansk on the Baltic to the ancient fortress town of Kotor on the Adriatic in Montenegro — the virus is sweeping across the region. Hospitals beds are filling up in Poland; doctors in Hungary are issuing dire warnings about a lack of medical workers; the authorities in Romania are struggling to track new cases; and health care workers are falling ill in Bulgaria. The Czech Republic has the highest coronavirus transmission rates in Europe.

3 Covid-19 Trials Have Been Paused for Safety. That’s a Good Thing.

October 14, 2020

(New York Times) – Clinical trials experts said these delays were comforting, in a way: They show that the researchers were following proper safety procedures. But for now, details about the nature of the volunteers’ illnesses are scant. And although pauses of vaccine trials are not unusual, some experts said that pausing treatment trials — like that of Eli Lilly’s antibody drug — is rarer, and perhaps more worrisome.

Eli Lilly’s Antibody Trial Is Paused Over Potential Safety Concern

October 13, 2020

(New York Times) – A government-sponsored clinical trial that is testing an antibody treatment for Covid-19 developed by the drugmaker Eli Lilly has been paused because of a “potential safety concern,” according to emails that government officials sent on Tuesday to researchers at testing sites. The company confirmed the pause. The news comes just a day after Johnson & Johnson announced the pause of its coronavirus vaccine trial because of a sick volunteer, and a month after AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial was halted over concerns about two participants who had fallen ill after getting the company’s vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine Study Paused Due to Unexplained Illness in Participant

October 13, 2020

(STAT News) – The study of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a study participant. A document sent to outside researchers running the 60,000-patient clinical trial states that a “pausing rule” has been met, that the online system used to enroll patients in the study has been closed, and that the data and safety monitoring board — an independent committee that watches over the safety of patients in the clinical trial — would be convened. The document was obtained by STAT.

Scientists Confirm Nevada Man Was Infected Twice with Coronavirus

October 13, 2020

(NPR) – A 25-year-old was infected twice with the coronavirus earlier this year, scientists in Nevada have confirmed. It is the first confirmed case of so-called reinfection with the virus in the U.S. and the fifth confirmed reinfection case worldwide. The cases underscore the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even if you were previously infected with the virus, and they raise questions about how the human immune system reacts to the virus.

From a Small Town in North Carolina to Big-City Hospitals, How Software Infuses Racism into U.S. Health Care

October 13, 2020

(STAT News) – A STAT investigation found that a common method of using analytics software to target medical services to patients who need them most is infusing racial bias into decision-making about who should receive stepped-up care. While a study published last year documented bias in the use of an algorithm in one health system, STAT found the problems arise from multiple algorithms used in hospitals across the country. The bias is not intentional, but it reinforces deeply rooted inequities in the American health care system, effectively walling off low-income Black and Hispanic patients from services that less sick white patients routinely receive.

First, a Vaccine Approval. Then Chaos and Confusion.

October 12, 2020

(New York Times) – The first vaccines may provide only moderate protection, low enough to make it prudent to keep wearing a mask. By next spring or summer, there may be several of these so-so vaccines, without a clear sense of how to choose from among them. Because of this array of options, makers of a superior vaccine in early stages of development may struggle to finish clinical testing. And some vaccines may be abruptly withdrawn from the market because they turn out not to be safe.

Remdesivir Effective, Well-Tolerated in Final Trial Report

October 12, 2020

(Medscape) – A final report from the multinational placebo-controlled ACTT-1 trial confirms that remdesivir is effective and well tolerated for shortening the time to recovery from COVID-19 infection. In May 2020, remdesivir received Food and Drug Administration approval for emergency treatment of severe COVID-19 on the basis of a preliminary report on this trial.

Hacking’s Next Targets

October 12, 2020

(The Wall Street Journal) – Implanted medical devices, such as insulin pumps, pacemakers and cochlear implants, have been hacked repeatedly, but so far only by researchers, ethical hackers and fictional characters in television shows. The risk of criminals targeting these devices is expected to increase as more of them come equipped with GPS trackers, Bluetooth and internet connectivity. The devices also pose a “potential unwitting insider threat to national security,” according to research from Virginia Tech’s Hume Center for National Security and Technology. 

Lessons for the Next Pandemic–Act Very, Very Quickly

October 12, 2020

(The Wall Street Journal) – Here’s how the next outbreak of a dangerous new virus should unfold: Several people in a city develop a fever and cough, and a few land in the hospital. Machine-learning algorithms quickly detect anomalies in their lung scans. Scientists notice a pattern of strange infections in routinely collected blood samples. Whatever has sickened people is spreading, the samples suggest.

Schools Aren’t Super-Spreaders

October 9, 2020

(The Atlantic) – Fear and bad press slowed down or canceled school reopenings elsewhere. Many large urban school districts chose not to open for in-person instruction, even in places with relatively low positivity rates. Chicago, L.A., Houston—all remote, at least so far. It’s now October. We are starting to get an evidence-based picture of how school reopenings and remote learning are going (those photos of hallways don’t count), and the evidence is pointing in one direction. Schools do not, in fact, appear to be a major spreader of COVID-19.

Covid Cases Increase Rapidly as Next Steps Planned

October 9, 2020

(BBC) – Coronavirus cases in England have “increased rapidly”, data shows, as ministers grapple with what to do next. Estimates suggest between one-in-170 and one-in-240 people you meet in the street has the virus. Both current cases, and the speed at which they are increasing, are much higher in the north of England than the national average. Scientific advisers warn hospital admissions are “very close” to levels in early March.

China Joins COVAX Coronavirus Vaccine Alliance

October 9, 2020

(Associated Press) – China, which has at least four coronavirus vaccine candidates in the last stage of clinical trials, said Friday it is joining an international initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide known as COVAX, a move that may help the country find an international market for its coronavirus shots.

Eli Lilly in Deal to Supply COVID-19 Drugs to Low-Income Countries

October 9, 2020

(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N said on Thursday it had entered into an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for potential supply of its experimental antibody treatments for COVID-19 to low and middle-income countries. As part of the deal, Lilly said it will make antibody therapies available to lower-income countries prior to April 2021, but did not elaborate on the number of doses. Separately, Fujifilm Holdings Corp 4901.T said its facility in Denmark would manufacture treatments next year.

COVID-19 Risk Deemed Low in Intubation, Extubation, Study Suggests

October 9, 2020

(Medscape) – Tracheal intubation and extubation may not produce enough aerosols to warrant being designated as procedures associated with high risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2, researchers say. The researchers’ sampling of particle sizes in operating rooms calls into question the extreme infection protocols that have been mandated in many hospitals since the outbreak of COVID-19.

US Medical Supply Chains Failed, and COVID Deaths Followed

October 8, 2020

(ABC News) – The Associated Press and “FRONTLINE” launched a seven-month investigation — filing Freedom of Information Act requests, testing medical masks, interviewing dozens of experts from hard-hit hospitals to the White House — to understand what was behind these critical shortages. Medical supply chains that span oceans and continents are the fragile lifelines between raw materials and manufacturers overseas, and health care workers on COVID-19 front lines in the U.S. As link after link broke, the system fell apart.

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