News from Bioethics.com

CDC: Severe Allergic Reaction to COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Exceedingly Rare’

1 week 2 days

(UPI) – A severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine is “exceedingly rare,” reported by 21 of 1.9 million people in the United States who have received the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday. Of those 21 who experienced anaphylaxis after being vaccinated, 17 had a history of similar reactions to other vaccines or medications, the CDC said. All 21 recovered, though some required hospital care.

CDC Records Highest-Ever Drug Deaths in a 12-Month Period

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(Medical Xpress) – Between May 2019 and May 2020, 81,230 Americans died of drug overdoses—the highest number of drug deaths ever recorded in a 12-month span, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.  After a drop in 2018, overdoses began increasing again in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said in an advisory published last month. But early data shows that spike has accelerated during the pandemic, with the largest overdose increases taking place between March and May—when the first lockdowns began.

Brazil Suspends Syringe Purchase Effort as Vaccination Lags

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(ABC News) – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Wednesday his administration is suspending an effort to buy hundreds of millions of syringes just as the country is preparing to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign against COVID-19. Bolsonaro said on his social media channels that prices for syringes have soared, so, “The Health Ministry has suspended the purchase until prices return to normal.”

Covid-19 Immunity Likely Lasts for Years

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(MIT Technology Review) – Covid-19 patients who recovered from the disease still have robust immunity from the coronavirus eight months after infection, according to a new study. The result is an encouraging sign that the authors interpret to mean immunity to the virus probably lasts for many years, and it should alleviate fears that the covid-19 vaccine would require repeated booster shots to protect against the disease and finally get the pandemic under control.

Blood Plasma Reduces Risk of Severe Covid-19 if Given Early

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(New York Times) – A small but rigorous clinical trial in Argentina has found that blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients can keep older adults from getting seriously sick with the coronavirus — if they get the therapy within days of the onset of the illness. The results, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, are some of the first to conclusively point toward the oft-discussed treatment’s beneficial effects.

New York, Florida Tell Hospitals to Dispense COVID-19 Vaccines Quicker or Lose Supply

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(Medscape) – New York state will begin fining hospitals that do not administer allotted COVID-19 vaccines within a week of receiving their supplies and will decline to provide them with further doses, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference on Monday.

LA County Paramedics Told Not to Transport Some Patients with Low Chance of Survival

1 week 3 days

(NPR) – Paramedics in Southern California are being told to conserve oxygen and not to bring patients to the hospital who have little chance of survival as Los Angeles County grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 patients that is expected to get worse in the coming days. The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued a directive Monday that ambulance crews should administer supplemental oxygen only to patients whose oxygen saturation levels fall below 90%. In a separate memo from the county’s EMS Agency, paramedic crews have been told not to transfer patients who experience cardiac arrest unless spontaneous circulation can be restored on the scene.

South African Variant Unlikely to ‘Completely Negate’ COVID Vaccines, Scientist Says

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(Reuters) – A variant of the coronavirus first detected in South Africa is unlikely to completely negate the immunising effects of vaccines, a researcher studying it told Reuters. British scientists expressed concern on Monday that COVID-19 vaccines may not be able to protect against the variant identified by South African scientists and which has spread internationally.

Covid-19: Experts Question Vaccine Approvals, Say Key Info Must Be Made Public

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(Times of India) – Several experts have raised questions on the approval process of the two Covid-19 vaccines, Covishield of Serum Institute and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech by the drug controller general of India (DCGI). Former president of the International Association of Bioethics, Dr. Anant Bhan, pointed out that the only other countries to approve vaccines without making the efficacy data public were Russia and China.

Experts Debate Wisdom of Delaying Second COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

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(Medscape) – A proposal to delay administration of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines — suggested as a strategy to boost the number of people who get some degree of protection from a single immunization with the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines — is inciting a strong debate among clinicians and public health officials. Proponents argue that getting some degree of protection to a greater number of Americans is worthwhile, particularly as case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise and with the emergence of a more contagious variant.

Native Americans Reliant on Hospital Feel Abandoned by U.S. During Pandemic

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(New York Times) – The Indian Health Service had a problem. Fed up with substandard care, one of the two pueblos whose federal funding helped support the health service’s Acoma-Cañoncito-Laguna hospital in Acoma Pueblo, N.M., decided to take its share of the hospital’s budget and start its own independently run clinic. But doing so left the I.H.S. short of money for the hospital. In effect, the health service was caught between the desire of one constituency to take control of its own health care and the need of another to keep a well-established hospital operating. In the end, it slashed services at the hospital in November, closing its inpatient critical care unit, women’s services and emergency room.

World Leaders Urged to Make Covid Vaccine Available to Millions of Refugees

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(The Guardian) – Global humanitarian figures and NGOs have urged world leaders to urgently make Covid-19 vaccinations available to millions of refugees and others displaced by war, as the pandemic continues to overwhelm some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. The impact of the contagion has sharply intensified across the Middle East in recent weeks, matching soaring global numbers. However, it has been further amplified by drastically underresourced medical responses that cannot cope with the numbers of dying or seriously ill.

‘Last Responders’ Brace for Surge in Covid Deaths Across US

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(Kaiser Health News) – As covid-19 has spread from big cities to rural communities, it has stressed not only hospitals, but also what some euphemistically call “last responders.” The crush has overwhelmed morgues, funeral homes and religious leaders, required ingenuity and even changed the rituals of honoring the dead.

A Continent Where the Dead Are Not Counted

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(New York Times) – As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in 2020, it became increasingly evident that in the vast majority of countries on the African continent, most deaths are never formally registered. Reliable data on a country’s deaths and their causes are hard to come by, which means governments can miss emerging health threats — whether Ebola or the coronavirus — and often have to formulate health policy blindly.

Britain Takes a Gamble with Covid-19 Vaccines, Upping the Stakes for the Rest of Us

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(STAT News) – In an extraordinary time, British health authorities are taking extraordinary measures to beat back Covid-19. But some experts say that, in doing so, they are also taking a serious gamble. In recent days, the British have said they will stretch out the interval between the administration of the two doses required for Covid-19 vaccines already in use — potentially to as long as three months, instead of the recommended three or four weeks. And they have said they will permit the first dose and second dose for any one person to be from different vaccine manufacturers, if the matching vaccine is not available.

Pfizer and BioNTech Speed Up Timeline for Offering Covid-19 Vaccine to Placebo Volunteers

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(STAT News) – Pfizer and its partner BioNTech plan to offer their Covid-19 vaccine to any clinical trial volunteer who received placebo by March 1, several months earlier than initially planned. The decision represents the conclusion of a complex and public kabuki dance between the Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer, and vaccine volunteers, as well as with Moderna, which developed its own Covid-19 vaccine. The FDA and its advisers pushed hard for volunteers to remain on placebo as long as possible to gather more safety and efficacy data about the vaccines, while the companies argued volunteers should receive the vaccines sooner for both ethical and practical reasons.

Pregnant Women Agonize Over Whether to Get Coronavirus Vaccine

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(Washington Post) – With the exception of the smallpox vaccine, which can cause a rare but serious infection of the fetus, vaccines have been safe and enormously beneficial for pregnant women and their babies. Experts say the safety of the new mRNA vaccines, which do not contain live virus, would probably be similar in pregnant and nonpregnant people. What’s more, pregnant women face the potential of severe illness from covid-19, which may also increase the risk of preterm birth and other serious outcomes for both mother and infant. Experts also warn against lumping the two distinct biological phases of pregnancy and lactation together.

Still Happening: Pelvic Exams on Anesthetized Patients. Why?

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(Medscape) – The practice of medical students giving unconsented pelvic exams to women patients under anesthesia seems to be continuing, although recent new laws aim to change the situation. “When I was doing Ob/gyn as a med student, the attending would have me do a pelvic right after the patient was under and before we started surgery,” said one participant in an online forum. “We didn’t exactly get permission but it was for teaching purposes.” Yet others don’t see what the commotion is about.

With Limited Surveillance of Covid-19 Variant, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

2 weeks 1 day

(STAT News) – As health officials in the United States announced a second and possibly a third person infected with a new, more transmissible strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, infectious diseases experts are feeling a sense of déjà vu all over again. A little less than a year ago, the early response to the coronavirus crisis was stifled by an inability to scale up testing to detect the virus and curb its spread. Now, once again, it’s unclear how prevalent the new strain, which first surfaced in the U.K., might be in the U.S. Already a possible and a probable case have been detected in Colorado and one case has been reported in California. But it’s likely the variant’s spread hasn’t stopped there.

America Has Not Fixed Its Deadliest Pandemic Errors

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(The Atlantic) – Yet the country has never succeeded at protecting the vulnerable, our data show. In December alone, at least 20,455 people have died in long-term-care facilities and nursing homes, the greatest toll since the COVID Tracking Project began collecting long-term-care data in late May. And in every region of the country but the Northeast, more people died in long-term-care facilities in the summer and fall than in the spring.

Here’s Why Distribution of the Vaccine Is Taking Longer Than Expected

2 weeks 1 day

(The New York Times) – In Florida, less than one-quarter of delivered coronavirus vaccines have been used, even as older people sat in lawn chairs all night waiting for their shots. In Puerto Rico, last week’s vaccine shipments did not arrive until the workers who would have administered them had left for the Christmas holiday. In California, doctors are worried about whether there will be enough hospital staff members to both administer vaccines and tend to the swelling number of Covid-19 patients.

‘It’s Crazy.’ Upbeat COVID-19 Vaccine News from China and U.K. Leaves Scientists Wanting More Details

2 weeks 1 day

(Science) – It’s not clear why the efficacy announced today for the Sinopharm vaccine is lower than the UAE claimed 3 weeks ago. And the paucity of detail in CNBG’s announcement perplexed some scientists. “I think that in America, rightly, you need to persuade the public that you’re giving them a safe and effective vaccine, and in China, it’s a somewhat different dynamic,” Moore says. “They just go, ‘Look, the government has said it works so give me your arms.’” “Most importantly we need to see the phase III study results after peer review,” says Dale Fisher, an infectious disease specialist at the National University Hospital, Singapore.

U.S. Vaccinations in 2020 Fall Far Short of Target of 20 Million People

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(Reuters) – Only about 2.8 million Americans had received a COVID-19 vaccine going into the last day of December, putting the United States far short of the government’s target to vaccinate 20 million people this month. Shots are reaching nursing home residents at an even slower pace than others first in line even though they are most at risk of dying of the virus.

The Winter Surge Is Fracturing

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(The Atlantic) – Three weeks ago, the COVID-19 winter surge was well under way and terrifyingly broad. Every day, the Northeast, South, and Midwest were seeing more than 100 deaths per million people, and the West was just shy of that, at 94 per million, with deaths increasing. The winter surge was the first time conditions had worsened nationwide; previously, the spring saw cases concentrated largely in the Northeast, followed by a summer surge across the South and West. But by early October, all four regions, as defined by the census, saw climbing hospitalizations. Now, the pandemic’s geography is fracturing again. 

China’s Sinopharm Says Its Coronavirus Vaccine Is 79% Effective

2 weeks 2 days

(CNN) – China’s state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm has announced its coronavirus vaccine is 79.34% effective. Interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials show the vaccine is safe and people who received two doses produced high-level antibodies, according to a statement published Wednesday by Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., a Sinopharm subsidiary. The company said it was seeking formal approval from China’s regulators to distribute the vaccine to the public.

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