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States Ready Plans to Get Pfizer COVID Vaccine to Younger Teens

May 11, 2021

(Medscape) – State health officials today shared plans to distribute Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds after the FDA authorized its use in this age group late Monday. Some states hope to start the vaccinations as early as Thursday, officials said at an Association of State and Territorial Health Officials news conference today.

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Internal Emails Reveal WHO Knew of Sex Abuse Claims in Congo

May 11, 2021

(Associated Press) – A WHO staffer and three Ebola experts working in Congo during the outbreak separately told management about general sex abuse concerns around Diallo, The Associated Press has learned. They said they were told not to take the matter further. WHO has been facing widespread public allegations of systemic abuse of women by unnamed staffers, to which Tedros declared outrage and emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said, “We have no more information than you have.” But an AP investigation has now found that despite its public denial of knowledge, senior WHO management was not only informed of alleged sexual misconduct in 2019 but was asked how to handle it.

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The Last Mile: Uganda’s Covid-19 Vaccine Struggle

May 11, 2021

(NBC) – Dr. Eva Kabwongera’s job is to make sure life-saving Covid-19 vaccines reach Uganda’s 45 million people. On a recent morning, that journey took her to a tiny island that is home to less than 2,000 people.  The 40 doses Kabwongera brought with her to Namatale had traveled more than 3,000 miles via plane, truck, ferry and boat from Pune, India, to get to the outcrop in Africa’s vast Lake Victoria.

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The Doctors Who Bet Their Patients’ Lives on COVID-19 Test Results

May 11, 2021

(The Atlantic) – There’s one specific branch of medicine where even these modest risks of error simply cannot be abided. For the more than 107,000 Americans who are now waiting for an organ transplant—and for those who have already received an organ—the stakes of COVID-19 testing are amplified many times over. It’s easy to understand how a missed infection in a donor could lead to deadly complications for the transplantee, as in the tragedy last fall. But a false-positive result—a COVID-19 case that isn’t real or is long-recovered—may be fatal too, when it delays or prevents an organ from reaching a desperate patient. It’s hard enough for frontline doctors to interpret a surprising test result. For those who work in transplant medicine, decisions made under this uncertainty could be irreversible.

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Researchers Fear People of Color May Be Disproportionately Affected by Long Covid

May 10, 2021

(STAT News) – It’s well-known now that people of color have shouldered a disproportionate burden in the Covid-19 pandemic. Now researchers and clinicians are increasingly concerned that history is repeating itself in the case of long Covid. Long Covid — one name for the mysterious multitude of problems that persist after Covid-19 infections have cleared — affects all populations to some degree; it also afflicts people regardless of whether they had mild or even no symptoms, or needed ICU care to survive.

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Blind Patients Hope Landmark Gene-Editing Experiment Will Restore Their Vision

May 10, 2021

(NPR) – Kalberer and Knight are two of the first patients treated in a landmark study designed to try to restore vision to patients such as them, who suffer from a rare genetic disease. The study involves the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR, which allows scientists to make precise changes in DNA. Doctors think CRISPR could help patients fighting many diseases. It’s already showing promise for blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and is being tested for several forms of cancer. But in those experiments, doctors take cells out of the body, edit them in the lab and then infuse the genetically edited cells back into patients.

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International COVID-19 Trial to Restart with Focus on Immune Response

May 10, 2021

(Nature) – A landmark programme to test potential COVID-19 therapies in dozens of countries is restarting with a fresh roster of treatments — this time aimed at tempering the raging immune responses that can worsen severe disease. The clinical trial, named Solidarity and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), will test three drugs that dampen inflammation, an approach that has already shown promise in people hospitalized with COVID-19. 

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EU Says US Stand on Patent Virus Waiver Is No ‘Magic Bullet’

May 10, 2021

(Associated Press) – European Union leaders cranked up their criticism of the U.S. call to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents Saturday, arguing the move would yield no short-term or intermediate improvement in vaccine supplies and could even have a negative impact.  On the second day of an EU summit in Portugal, the European leaders instead urged Washington to lift export restrictions if it wants to have a global impact on the pandemic. 

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J&J Vaccine Pause Stoked Hesitancy That Threatens Covid-19 Vaccination Drive

May 10, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The 10-day halt in administering Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has made it harder to inoculate the hard-to-reach and hesitant, health officials said, complicating efforts to reach community vaccination goals.  Many people who live in rural and other areas canceled appointments during the temporary pause last month, and many of them haven’t rescheduled, vaccination sites said. Meantime, some people hesitant to get inoculated told pollsters after the J&J halt they were less likely to take a shot.

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Pfizer COVID-19 Shot Expanded to US Children as Young as 12

May 10, 2021

(Associated Press) – COVID-19 vaccines finally are headed for more kids as U.S. regulators on Monday expanded use of Pfizer’s shot to those as young as 12, sparking a race to protect middle and high school students before they head back to class in the fall. Shots could begin as soon as a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, expected Wednesday.

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A Potentially Fatal Fungal Infection Is Cropping Up Among India’s Covid Patients.

May 10, 2021

(New York Times) – Doctors in India are concerned about an increasing number of potentially fatal fungal infections affecting either people who have Covid-19 or those who have recently recovered from the disease. The condition, known as mucormycosis, has a high mortality rate and was present in India before the pandemic. It is caused by a mold that thrives in wet environments and can attack through the respiratory tract, potentially eroding facial structures and harming the brain.

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Vaccination Against COVID ‘Does Not Mean Immunity’ for People with Organ Transplants

May 7, 2021

(NPR) – For most people, COVID-19 vaccines promise a return to something akin to normal life. But for the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who have a transplanted organ, it’s a different story. That includes Burns, who got a double lung transplant nearly five years ago. New research published this week in the medical journal JAMA suggests many transplant recipients may not get protection from vaccination, even after two doses.

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Persuading the Body to Regenerate Its Limbs

May 7, 2021

(The New Yorker) – Levin had been invited to present at an A.I. conference because his work is part of a broader convergence between biology and computer science. In the past half century, scientists have come to see the brain, with its trillions of neural interconnections, as a kind of computer. Levin extends this thinking to the body; he believes that mastering the code of electrical charges in its tissues will give scientists unprecedented control over how and where they grow. In his lab, he has coaxed frogs to regenerate severed legs, and tadpoles to grow new eyeballs on their stomach.

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Why Some Researchers Oppose Unrestricted Sharing of Coronavirus Genome Data

May 7, 2021

(Nature) – The debate has caught the attention of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) — which runs its own genome repository, called GenBank — and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has considered encouraging grantees to share on sites without such strong protections, Nature has learnt. But many researchers — particularly those in resource-limited countries — are pushing back. They tell Nature that they see potential for exploitation in this no-strings-attached approach — and that GISAID’s gatekeeping is one of its biggest attractions because it ensures that users who analyse sequences from GISAID acknowledge those who deposited them. The database also requests that users seek to collaborate with the depositors.

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How Many COVID Deaths Are Acceptable in a Post-Pandemic World?

May 7, 2021

(Nature) – As more people get vaccinated, scientists and health officials are pondering how societies can live with the virus, and what level of risk they are willing to absorb. In some countries, such as Australia, the threshold is low. But in some nations worn down by a year of restrictions, such as India and the United States, communities remain open even in the face of high transmission.

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Covid-19 Retreats in the West, But the Pandemic Fight Is Far From Over

May 7, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The center of the global Covid-19 pandemic has shifted decisively to low- and middle- income countries, fueling sickness and death on a scale that trends suggest could quickly exceed the world-wide toll in 2020. Already this year, more than 1.4 million Covid-19 deaths have been reported globally as the virus has torn through Latin America and swaths of Asia, according to official tallies compiled at the University of Oxford.

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Pfizer, BioNTech to Donate Covid Vaccines to Tokyo Olympics Athletes

May 7, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Participants in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will have access to donated doses of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccines, the International Olympic Committee said Thursday, as the Games’ organizers attempt to boost the prospects of a giant global event whose status remains uncertain. The vaccines are approved for use in less than half the nations around the world, however, and some public health advocates believe they are coming too late to make a significant difference.

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The Race to Avoid a Possible “Monster” COVID Variant

May 7, 2021

(Axios) – Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact. Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

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Moderna Announces First Data Showing Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccine Booster in Development

May 7, 2021

(Medscape) – The Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccine booster developed specifically with variant B.1.351 in mind shows efficacy against that strain and the P1 variant among people already vaccinated for COVID-19, according to first results released on Wednesday. Furthermore, data from the company’s ongoing phase 2 study shows the variant-specific booster, known as mRNA-1273.351, achieved higher antibody titers against the B.1.351 variant than a booster with the original Moderna vaccine.

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DHHS: Fully Vaccinated Nebraska Woman Dies of COVID-19

May 7, 2021

(Medscape) – A south-central Nebraska woman who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 recently died of the disease, state health officials said Wednesday. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release that the woman was in her 80s and had underlying health conditions. Officials with Two Rivers Health District, based in Kearney, said the woman lived in the district and was hospitalized for more than two weeks well after receiving two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

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