News from Bioethics.com

No Half Measures and Mind the Gap: UK Nod for AstraZeneca Vaccine Raises More Questions

2 weeks 2 days

(Reuters) – British health officials greenlighted the AstraZeneca and Oxford COVID-19 shot on Wednesday but also rebuffed one of their central claims: that a half-dose followed by a standard dose offered more protection against infection. The reassessment of the best dosing regimen for the vaccine was an unexpected move by Britain’s medicines regulator based on its own analysis of as-yet-unpublished data and it raised fresh questions about the efficacy of a vaccine which has yet to be approved in other countries.

UK Is First to Authorize Easy-to-Handle AstraZeneca Vaccine

2 weeks 2 days

(Associated Press) – Britain became the first country to authorize AstraZeneca’s inexpensive, easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, gaining another weapon against the virus amid a resurgence so severe that the government extended lockdowns to three-quarters of England’s population. The country also changed course by deciding to dispense the first dose of its vaccines to as many people as possible right away, to give them at least some protection. Until now, authorities have been holding large amounts of vaccine in reserve, to make sure those who receive the first dose get the required second one on time.

China Clamps Down in Hidden Hunt for Coronavirus Origins

2 weeks 2 days

(Associated Press) – Deep in the lush mountain valleys of southern China lies the entrance to a mine shaft that once harbored bats with the closest known relative of the COVID-19 virus.  The area is of intense scientific interest because it may hold clues to the origins of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide. Yet for scientists and journalists, it has become a black hole of no information because of political sensitivity and secrecy. A bat research team visiting recently managed to take samples but had them confiscated, two people familiar with the matter said. Specialists in coronaviruses have been ordered not to speak to the press. And a team of Associated Press journalists was tailed by plainclothes police in multiple cars who blocked access to roads and sites in late November.

EXPLAINER: Scientists Trying to Understand New Virus Variant

2 weeks 2 days

(Associated Press) – Does it spread more easily? Make people sicker? Mean that treatments and vaccines won’t work? Questions are multiplying as fast as new variants of the coronavirus, especially the one moving through England and now popping up in the U.S. and other countries. Scientists say there is reason for concern and more to learn but that the new variants should not cause alarm.

The Autopsy, a Fading Practice, Revealed Secrets of COVID-19

2 weeks 2 days

(Medscape) – The COVID-19 pandemic has helped revive the autopsy. When the virus first arrived in U.S. hospitals, doctors could only guess what was causing its strange constellation of symptoms: What could explain why patients were losing their sense of smell and taste, developing skin rashes, struggling to breathe and reporting memory loss on top of flu-like coughs and aches? At hospital morgues, which have been steadily losing prominence and funding over several decades, pathologists were busily dissecting the disease’s first victims — and finding some answers.

COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions: Allergy Group Updates Guidance

2 weeks 2 days

(Medscape) – The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) has updated its advice regarding risks of allergic reactions to new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, such as those manufactured by Moderna and by Pfizer-BioNTech. “Reactions to vaccines, in general, are rare,” the ACAAI says. Still, the group says, the new vaccines should be given in health care settings where reactions can be treated, and patients “must be observed for at least 15-30 minutes…to monitor for any adverse reaction.”

Some California Hospitals Rationing Care Due to Spike in COVID-19 Hospitalizations

2 weeks 3 days

(ABC News) – Many hospitals across California are starting to either think about rationing care or they have already started due to the COVID-19 surge in the state. Kaiser Permanente has already started to postpone non-urgent surgeries in Northern California due to the surge, which could cause serious issues for those patients who have underlying health conditions.

Facial-Recognition Tools in Spotlight in New Jersey False-Arrest Case

2 weeks 3 days

(The Wall Street Journal) – A New Jersey man is suing local authorities who he says wrongly arrested him based on a false facial-recognition match, in a case that risks further inflaming debate over the utility and accuracy of the fast-emerging technology.

The Error of Fighting a Public Health War with Medical Weapons

2 weeks 3 days

(Wired) – Here’s the wild part, the most 2020 thing about 2020: That schism—that conflict between public health and private well-being, between personal liberties and communal gain—is as old as pandemics. The germ of the idea was, in fact, the idea of the germ.

Will COVID-19 Vaccines Work on the New Coronavirus Variant?

2 weeks 3 days

(Associated Press) – Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant? Experts believe so, but they’re working to confirm that. A coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom has caused alarm because of the possibility that it might spread more easily. But even if that turns out to be true, experts say the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out will likely still work on the variant.

Do-It-Yourself Contact Tracing Is a ‘Last Resort’ in Communities Besieged By COVID-19

2 weeks 3 days

(NPR) – COVID-19 cases are spreading so fast that they’re outpacing the contact-tracing capacities of some local health departments. Faced with mounting case loads, those departments are asking people who test positive for the novel coronavirus to do their own contact tracing.

Algorithms Are Deciding Who Gets the First Vaccines. Should We Trust Them?

2 weeks 3 days

(MSN) – When front-line workers at Stanford Health Care were passed over for the first wave of coronavirus vaccines, officials at the hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., blamed the “very complex algorithm” it had built to decide employees’ place in line. But unlike the sophisticated machine-learning algorithms that underpin the modern Internet, Stanford’s system was actually just a basic formula, simple enough for an Excel spreadsheet. And a breakdown of the algorithm, sent to medical residents and first published by MIT Technology Review, shows that its real error came from the humans who had designed it: namely, prioritizing employees based on age rather than their exposure to the virus at work.

China Warns Against Lunar New Year Travel After Finding Cases in Two Cities.

2 weeks 4 days

(The New York Times) – Last January, when the government of China imposed an unprecedented lockdown on the city of Wuhan in a belated effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it was right before the start of the Lunar New Year, the country’s most important holiday. Soon the shutdown was extended to encompass all 60 million people in the surrounding province of Hubei, and fear of the virus led millions more to cancel their holiday plans. Now the virus is likely to disrupt the holiday for a second year, with officials advising the public not to travel as they battle outbreaks in two major cities.

Spain Will Register Those Who Choose Not to Get Vaccinated, and Will Share the Information with the E.U.

2 weeks 4 days

(The New York Times) – Spain plans to collect and share with other European Union nations information about residents who decide not to get vaccinated for Covid-19, the country’s health minister said on Monday. Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, stressed that vaccination would not be made compulsory, but, he said, a register would be set up that would include all the people who turned down the vaccine after being called up for vaccination by Spain’s public health service.

British Hospitals Scramble for Space as Virus Cases Soar

2 weeks 4 days

(ABC News) – British hospitals are canceling non-urgent procedures and scrambling to find space for COVID-19 patients as coronavirus cases continue to surge despite tough new restrictions imposed to curb a fast-spreading new variant of the virus. Another 41,385 confirmed cases were recorded across the U.K. on Monday. It was the first time the daily number of cases reported in the country surpassed 40,000, although many more tests are being performed than earlier in the pandemic.

Small Number of Covid Patients Develop Severe Psychotic Symptoms

2 weeks 4 days

(The New York Times) – Beyond individual reports, a British study of neurological or psychiatric complications in 153 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 found that 10 people had “new-onset psychosis.” Another study identified 10 such patients in one hospital in Spain. And in Covid-related social media groups, medical professionals discuss seeing patients with similar symptoms in the Midwest, Great Plains and elsewhere.

Novavax Starts Late-Stage Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine in the United States

2 weeks 4 days

(Medscape) – Novavax Inc has begun a large late-stage study of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, the drug developer said on Monday, after delaying the trial twice due to issues in scaling up the manufacturing process. It will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers across about 115 sites in the United States and Mexico, with two-thirds of them receiving the shot 21 days apart and the rest getting placebo, the company said.

Scant Risk for SARS-CoV-2 from Hospital Air

2 weeks 4 days

(Medscape) – Everywhere they look within hospitals, researchers find RNA from SARS-CoV-2 in the air. But viable viruses typically are found only close to patients, according to a review of published studies. The finding supports recommendations to use surgical masks in most parts of the hospital, reserving respirators (such as N95 or FFP2) for aerosol-generating procedures on patients’ respiratory tracts, said Gabriel Birgand, PhD, an infectious disease researcher at Imperial College London, United Kingdom.

Here’s a Plan to Stop the Coronavirus From Mutating

3 weeks 1 day

(Wired) – The emergence of this worrying variant comes at a pivotal moment in the course of the pandemic: Public health officials are just now trying to decide who should be prioritized to receive the first Covid-19 vaccines approved for distribution in the US. Reports that so many mutations have arisen all at once in the new coronavirus—and that these mutations could have epidemiological consequences—add an important, but so far unappreciated, wrinkle to these deliberations. The pathogen likely has more opportunity to develop mutations in immunocompromised individuals than in other carriers. As a result, to guard against the emergence of new and more dangerous variants of SARS-CoV-2, we should consider moving immunocompromised people—who are themselves at higher risk of dying from Covid-19—closer to the front of the vaccination line.

Kuwait Starts COVID-19 Jabs as Gulf Rolls Out Mass Vaccinations

3 weeks 1 day

(Medical Xpress) – Kuwait began coronavirus vaccinations on Thursday, following several other Gulf states in rolling out a mass inoculation campaign. “This vaccine is safe and has been approved by many countries,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, who was the first to receive the jab, state media reported. Kuwait, which has officially confirmed more than 148,000 coronavirus cases including 924 deaths, received the first 150,000 doses of the the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Wednesday.

Kenya: Doctors Call Off Strike, Nurses Continue Picketing

3 weeks 1 day

(ABC News) – Doctors, pharmacists and dentists in Kenya called off a three-day strike over inadequate personal protective equipment and insurance Thursday after the government acquiesced to their most immediate demands. However, most other health workers remained on strike as nurses and clinicians vowed to stay off the job until their different set of demands is met. Two people reportedly died after they could not get anyone to attend to them at government hospitals in Mombasa and Nairobi, family members said.

Additional Modeling Shows British Variant’s High Transmissibility.

3 weeks 1 day

(New York Times) – A team of British scientists released a worrying study on Wednesday of the newly discovered coronavirus variant sweeping Britain. They warned that the variant was so contagious that new control measures, such as closing down schools and universities, might be necessary. The study, released by the Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has not yet undergone review by a scientific journal. The study compares a series of models as predictors of data on infections, hospitalizations, and other variables. Other researchers are studying the variant in laboratory experiments to determine if it is biologically distinct.

The Pandemic Is Delaying Cancer Screenings and Detection

3 weeks 1 day

(Scientific American) – The rate of routine cancer screenings plummeted from January through April, according to an analysis by the Epic Health Research Network. Screenings for breast and cervical cancers dropped by 94 percent. Colon cancer screenings were down by 86 percent. “We had a backlog of over 5,000 colonoscopies alone from the spring shutdown,” says John Carethers, chair of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. Some people had to have their appointments deferred because of the continuing backlog, Carethers says. Others were reluctant to come in at all for fear of contracting COVID.

Artificial Intelligence for COVDI-19: Saviour or Saboteur?

3 weeks 1 day

(The Lancet) – As 2020 draws to a close, one thing is certain: the COVID-19 pandemic has had an irreversible effect on the world. The effect on digital health is no exception. The pandemic has forced health-care providers and governments around the world to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and scale up their use in medicine, even before they are proven to work. An untested AI algorithm has even received emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration. But will the use of untested AI systems help or hinder patients with COVID-19?

As the Terror of COVID Struck, Health Care Workers Struggled to Survive. Thousands Lost the Fight.

3 weeks 2 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Ten months into the pandemic, it has become far clearer why tens of thousands of health care workers have been infected by the virus and why so many have died: dire PPE shortages. Limited COVID tests. Sparse tracking of viral spread. Layers of flawed policies handed down by health care executives and politicians, and lax enforcement by government regulators. All of those breakdowns, across cities and states, have contributed to the deaths of more than 2,900 health care workers, a nine-month investigation by over 70 reporters at KHN and The Guardian has found. This number is far higher than that reported by the U.S. government, which does not have a comprehensive national count of health care workers who’ve died of COVID-19.

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