News from Bioethics.com

Need for Speed in Vaccines Heaps Pressure on Health Teams

3 days 4 hours

(Medscape) – As of January 11, about 25.5 million doses had been distributed to states, but only about 35% had been administered in vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the numbers shift by the day, vaccination success varies widely across the country, from a low of about 19% of available doses administered in Georgia to almost 73% in North Dakota. There is a built-in lag time in the CDC data because health providers report their vaccinations up to 72 hours after they deliver them.

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Scientists Are Monitoring a Coronavirus Mutation That Could Affect the Strength of Vaccines

3 days 4 hours

(STAT News) – As scientists try to track the spread of a new, more infectious coronavirus variant around the world — finding more cases in the United States and elsewhere this week — they are also keeping an eye on a different mutation with potentially greater implications for how well Covid-19 vaccines work. The mutation, identified in a variant first seen in South Africa and separately seen in another variant in Brazil, changes a part of the virus that your immune system’s antibodies get trained to recognize after you’ve been infected or vaccinated.

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One Ambulance Ride Leads to Another When Packed Hospitals Cannot Handle Non-Covid Patients

3 days 4 hours

(Medscape) – Connolly was caught in a situation experts have warned about since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic: Covid-19 patients are overwhelming hospitals, squeezing space and staff needed to treat emergencies like Connolly’s. While it has happened in pockets throughout the country since the spring, the pressure on hospitals is widespread now — reaching into both urban and rural communities at an alarming pace, even as local officials and citizens continue to slam public health departments and pandemic guidelines. Traveling nurses are hard to come by as their services are in high demand nationwide and their pay has escalated beyond the reach of some smaller hospitals.

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Going Big: US Dispensing Shots at Stadiums and Fairgrounds

3 days 4 hours

(Associated Press) – The U.S. is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.

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Deciding Who Should Be Vaccinated First

4 days 3 hours

(The New Yorker) – Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (A.C.I.P.) recommended that COVID-19 vaccines be given first to frontline health-care workers and adults over the age of seventy-five. Earlier in the month, A.C.I.P. had released preliminary recommendations and suggested that it would place the greatest emphasis on protecting frontline workers, in part because those workers are disproportionately members of hard-hit communities of color. But the new recommendations bring the C.D.C. more in line with Canada and the majority of European countries, which have released plans focussing on older people, and which most public health officials believe are likely to save the most lives. I recently spoke by phone with Barry Bloom, an immunologist and professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

IPhone 12 Will Stop Your Implantable Defibrillator

4 days 3 hours

(Medical Xpress) – In a recent paper in the journal Heart Rhythm, doctors describe how they turned off the potentially life-saving cardiac defibrillator function of an implanted Medtronic device simply by holding an iPhone 12 near it. The authors had nothing personal against Medtronic, or for that matter, against the new iPhone. The main reason they singled the phone out here was because it is compatible with some of the most advanced new technologies available for various magnetic-based communications and charging.

Argentine Judge Orders Unproven Treatment for COVID Patient

4 days 3 hours

(Medical Xpress) – An Argentinian judge has compelled a private clinic to administer chlorine dioxide, used as a powerful disinfectant, to a coronavirus patient in a case medical doctors have labelled “a scandal”. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies warn that chlorine dioxide, touted as a “miracle cure” online, can be hazardous to human health if consumed.

Hospitalization Risk Four Times Higher in Blacks with T1D, COVID-19

4 days 4 hours

(Medscape) – After adjustment for health insurance status and other potential confounders, the difference in DKA rates in COVID-19 was a significant fourfold higher in Black versus White patients with type 1 diabetes. For Hispanic patients with type 1 diabetes the DKA risk was double that seen in White patients, but that difference didn’t achieve statistical significance. All patients with DKA were hospitalized.

The New Strain: How Bad Is It?

4 days 4 hours

(The New Atlantis) – News is buzzing of a new strain of coronavirus that emerged in the United Kingdom in September, seems to be the cause of rapidly spiking case counts there, and has now reached American shores. But we have also heard alarm bells throughout the pandemic of possible dangerous new developments, most of which have not materialized. And of course, vaccination campaigns are now underway. So is this just one last scare, or is it poised to bring us back into darkness just when light was emerging?  We offer this Q&A to make sense of the new Covid strain — and what needs to be done about it.

Vaccine Rollout Hits Snag as Health Workers Balk at Shots

1 week 10 hours

(ABC News) – The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots. It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

EU Regulators OK Increasing Doses from Virus Vaccine Vials

1 week 10 hours

(Associated Press) – The European Union’s drug agency on Friday approved doctors drawing one more dose from each vial of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech, in a move that — combined with the purchase of 300 million extra shots of the serum — could speed up the pace of vaccinations in the 27-nation bloc. The European Medicines Agency said its human medicines committee recommended updating the product information for the vaccine to clarify that each vial contains six doses instead of the five that were advised when it originally greenlighted the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21.

The Next Phase of Vaccination Will Be Even Harder

1 week 10 hours

(The Atlantic) – The vaccine rollout is not going as planned. Since mid-December, the U.S. has distributed 21.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines; fewer than one-third have actually made it into people’s arms. The problems have been many and varied: holiday delays, scheduling scams, long lines in some places, and not enough demand in others. These initial kinks are getting worked out, but that alone will not get us back to normal anytime soon. The next phase of the vaccine campaign—reaching tens of millions of elderly people and essential workers, along with the rest of the community—will be even harder.

Covid in the UK: Why Is It So Bad Now and When Will Cases Decline?

1 week 10 hours

(The Guardian) – Just how bad has the second wave become compared with the first? The UK is seeing record numbers of people testing positive for coronavirus, with more than 60,000 positive tests reported twice this week. But mass testing was not available during the first wave, and even now testing is aimed at those with symptoms so does not capture all cases. Similarly, population surveys such as that from the Office for National Statistics only began in late spring. However, the latest ONS data shows about one in 50 people in the community in England had coronavirus in the most recent week: an alarmingly high figure.

HHS: States Can Vaccinate Lower-Priority Groups if Doses Would Otherwise Sit in Freezer

1 week 10 hours

(NBC News) – Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Wednesday that he is advising states to begin vaccinating lower-priority groups against Covid-19 if the doses they have on hand would otherwise be sitting in freezers.

People Without Symptoms Spread Virus in More Than Half of Cases, CDC Model Finds

1 week 10 hours

(The Washington Post) – People with no symptoms transmit more than half of all cases of the novel coronavirus, according to a model developed by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their findings reinforce the importance of following the agency’s guidelines: Regardless of whether you feel ill, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay socially distant and get a coronavirus test. That advice has been a constant refrain in a pandemic responsible for more than 350,000 deaths in the United States.

Asian Nations Toughen Virus Curbs as Europe Fights New Strain

1 week 1 day

(Medical Xpress) – Asian countries stepped up their fight against the coronavirus on Thursday to suppress a contagion they had previously tamed, as warnings grew in Europe over a new fast-spreading variant.  Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo as the capital region clocked a 24-hour record of almost 2,500 infections, while China imposed emergency measures to tackle an outbreak in the northern city of Shijiazhuang.

Poorest Countries Can Expect Vaccines Within Weeks: WHO

1 week 1 day

(Medical Xpress) – The world’s poorest countries can expect to start receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine doses between the end of January and mid-February, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Vaccination is already under way in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, including the United States, Britain, European Union countries and Canada.

Could New COVID Variants Undermine Vaccines? Labs Scramble to Find Out

1 week 1 day

(Nature) – As concern grows over faster-spreading variants of coronavirus, labs worldwide are racing to unpick the biology of these viruses. Scientists want to understand why SARS-CoV-2 variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa seem to be spreading so quickly, and whether they might diminish the potency of vaccines or overcome natural immunity and lead to spate of reinfections.

Death of Florida Doctor After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine Under Investigation

1 week 1 day

(USA Today) – A Florida doctor has died several weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, although it’s not yet clear whether his death Monday was related to the shot he received on Dec. 18. Dr. Gregory Michael, 56, an OB-GYN at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, died after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke apparently resulting from a lack of platelets. Miami medical examiners are investigating his death,the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

U.S. Endures Pandemic’s Deadliest Day, Overshadowed by Washington Mob Assault on Capitol

1 week 1 day

(Reuters) – As the events that unfolded in Washington on Wednesday captured the nation’s attention, the raging coronavirus pandemic claimed its highest U.S. death toll yet, killing more than 4,000 people in a single day, according to a Reuters tally.

Debate Intensifying Over Dosing Plans for Authorized COVID-19 Vaccines

1 week 1 day

(Science) – As the COVID-19 pandemic surges, fueled in some places by new, fast-spreading variants, officials and public health experts are debating strategies for stretching limited supplies of vaccines. And vaccinemakers have been caught in the middle. Over the past week, one has endorsed a U.K. decision to extend the interval between an initial priming vaccine dose and the booster shot to up to 12 weeks. Another has pushed back. The maker of a third COVID-19 vaccine has so far stayed silent on yet another plan, floated by the scientist heading the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine effort but opposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to stretch supply by halving both its prime and booster doses.

After Slow Start, Europeans Call for Quicker Vaccines Against COVID-19

1 week 1 day

(NPR) – Around the world, many pandemic-weary citizens have been awaiting vaccines against COVID-19. But in much of Europe, where some governments have passed successive rounds of restrictions to stop the virus’ rapid spread, the public was anticipating more efficient vaccination programs. Some of the strongest reactions are in France. It has the EU’s highest confirmed coronavirus case count and its second-highest death toll from COVID-19. Yet as of Wednesday, France has administered just 5,000 vaccination doses for its nearly 65 million people, according to Our World In Data, a website run by Oxford University.

The Growth of “Pharmacy Deserts”

1 week 1 day

(Axios) – Neighborhoods in cities like Chicago are rapidly becoming places where people can’t fill medical prescriptions locally because their drugstores have shuttered or don’t accept Medicaid. Why it matters: The pandemic has accelerated the growth of “pharmacy deserts” as unprofitable and less-profitable stores have closed. It’s a worrisome trend for the urban poor, who are less likely to try online pharmacies and more likely to let their drug regimens lapse when they can’t get medication locally.

Free Airbnb with Your COVID-19 Vaccine? Firefighters Offered Prizes Along with Priority Access

1 week 1 day

(Los Angeles Times) – How about an Airbnb gift card with your high-priority COVID-19 vaccine? Or a home security system? A new bicycle? Or a free ride from Lyft? Those are some of the prizes dangled by top brass at the Los Angeles Fire Department seeking to entice an unexpected group: firefighters unwilling to get the shots. The reluctance of L.A. firefighters adds to the list of frontline workers in the state who are declining to take the vaccine, a trend that health experts say could have serious public health implications. Last week, The Times reported that up to 50% of healthcare workers in some regions are declining to be vaccinated, citing a variety of reasons that include concern over side effects and skepticism of the science.

Singapore Says COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Data Can Be Requested by Police

1 week 2 days

(NPR) – Privacy concerns have been raised after ministers in Singapore’s government acknowledged that data collected by its widely used COVID-19 contact-tracing program may be turned over to police for criminal investigations. Desmond Tan, minister of state for home affairs, told Parliament on Monday, “The Singapore Police Force is empowered … to obtain any data, including TraceTogether data, for criminal investigations,” Reuters reported. That was in contrast with previous assurances by the government.

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