News from Bioethics.com

Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Protects Younger Teens

1 week 6 days

(Associated Press) – Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, a step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall. Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide are for adults, who are at higher risk from the coronavirus. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic — and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption.

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Pfizer to Test Covid-19 Vaccine That Doesn’t Need Ultracold Storage

1 week 6 days

(Wall Street Journal) – Pfizer Inc. PFE 0.33% and partner BioNTech SE BNTX 4.55% plan to begin soon testing a freeze-dried version of its Covid-19 vaccine, which if proven to work safely could ease storage and handling of the shots in rural U.S. areas and low-income countries. In April, Pfizer is set to start a clinical trial evaluating a so-called lyophilized formulation in adults 18 to 55 years old in the U.S., according to a government database, clinicaltrials[dot]gov, and confirmed by the company.

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Canada’s Nursing Homes Have Worst Record for COVID-19 Deaths Among Wealthy Nations: Report

1 week 6 days

(CBC) – Canada has the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes compared with other wealthy countries, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). The study found that the proportion of deaths in nursing homes represented 69 per cent of Canada’s overall COVID-19 deaths, which is significantly higher than the international average of 41 per cent. In Canada, between March 2020 and February 2021, more than 80,000 residents and staff members of long-term care homes were infected with the coronavirus. Outbreaks occurred in 2,500 care homes, resulting in the deaths of 14,000 residents, according to the report.

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The Two Hospitals Have Similar Infant Death Rates–Until You Look at Extremely Premature Babies

2 weeks 6 hours

(ProPublica) – The infant’s gut had stopped functioning, clogging his feeding tube with undigested food. That is sometimes a sign of an inflammatory condition of the intestines, called necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC, that’s a leading cause of hospital deaths among extremely preterm babies. These babies’ problems can spiral into life-threatening conditions in a matter of hours. There’s no indication that Lovelace improperly handled the infant’s treatment. But extremely preterm babies died at the hospital with striking frequency, according to an analysis of state health data by New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica. A yearlong investigation by the news organizations found that at Lovelace, the tiniest, most premature babies died at up to twice the rate as they did a few miles away, at Presbyterian Hospital, another major maternity and newborn facility.

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The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different.

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(The Atlantic) – The United States has an advantage that countries such as Canada, France, Germany, and Italy, who are also experiencing surges from this variant, don’t. The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines work very well against this variant, and the U.S. has been using them to vaccinate more than 3 million people a day. That’s more than 4 percent of our vaccine-eligible population every three days. An astonishing 73 percent of people over 65, and 36 percent of all eligible adults in the country, have already received at least one dose. More than 50 million people are now considered fully vaccinated, having received either their booster dose or the “one and done” Johnson & Johnson shot. Many states have already opened up vaccination to anyone over 16, and everyone eligible is expected to have a chance to get at least a first dose no later than May.

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Getting One Vaccine Is Good. How About Mix-and-Match?

2 weeks 7 hours

(New York Times) – In January, Britain made a change to its vaccine guidelines that shocked many health experts: If the second dose of one vaccine wasn’t available, patients could be given a different one. The new rule was based on sheer guesswork; there was no scientific data at the time demonstrating that mixing two coronavirus vaccines was safe and effective. But that may change soon.

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Covid-19: Mexico Revises Coronavirus Death Toll Up by 60%

2 weeks 7 hours

(BBC) – Mexico has published revised figures indicating that the number of deaths caused by coronavirus is 60% higher than previously reported. More than 321,000 people are now believed to have died from Covid-19 in the country.  The revised toll places Mexico with the second highest number of Covid-related deaths in the world, after the US.

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As Daily Deaths Near 4,000, Worst May Lie Ahead for Brazil

2 weeks 8 hours

(Associated Press) – Brazil currently accounts for one-quarter of the entire world’s daily COVID-19 deaths, far more than any other single nation, and health experts are warning that the nation is on the verge of even greater calamity.  The nation’s seven-day average of 2,400 deaths stands to reach to 3,000 within weeks, six experts told the Associated Press. That’s nearly the worst level seen by the U.S., though Brazil has two-thirds its population. Spikes of daily deaths could soon hit 4,000; on Friday there were 3,650.

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How mRNA Technology Could Change the World

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(The Atlantic) – Synthetic mRNA, the ingenious technology behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, might seem like a sudden breakthrough, or a new discovery. One year ago, almost nobody in the world knew what an mRNA vaccine was, for the good reason that no country in the world had ever approved one. Months later, the same technology powered the two fastest vaccine trials in the history of science. Like so many breakthroughs, this apparent overnight success was many decades in the making. More than 40 years had passed between the 1970s, when a Hungarian scientist pioneered early mRNA research, and the day the first authorized mRNA vaccine was administered in the United States, on December 14, 2020. In the interim, the idea’s long road to viability nearly destroyed several careers and almost bankrupted several companies.

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More Than a Dozen States Open Vaccines to All Adults

2 weeks 1 day

(Associated Press) – More than a dozen states will open vaccine eligibility to all adults this week in a major expansion of COVID-19 shots for tens of millions of Americans amid a worrisome increase in virus cases and concerns about balancing supply and demand for the vaccines. Meanwhile, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that she had a recurring feeling of “impending doom” about a potential fourth wave of infections after cases in the U.S. rose 10% over the last week. She pleaded with Americans not to relax preventative practices such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

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‘I’m Empty.’ Pandemic Scientists Are Burning Out–And Don’t See an End in Sight

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(Science) – From academic research centers to intensive care units (ICUs) to scientific journals to government agencies, scientists fighting the pandemic say they are hitting a wall, 16 months after the first report of a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, introduced the virus that would upend their lives. “The pace that led to the incredible generation of knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 has put enormous demands on the people who are expected to generate that knowledge,” says David O’Connor, a viral sequencing expert at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has been tracking the spread of the virus, doing Zoom Q&A sessions with the vaccine hesitant, and helping neighborhood schools set up diagnostic testing. “This is a terrible time and we should all do what we can to help. But is it going to be sustainable?”

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Scandal Over COVID Vaccine Trail at Peruvian Universities Prompts Outrage

2 weeks 1 day

(Wall Street Journal) – A clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccines in Peru has sparked outrage and triggered a series of high-profile resignations at universities and in government. Politicians, researchers and some of their family members who were not enrolled as trial participants nevertheless received vaccines — breaching standard protocols. Investigations are ongoing as the country struggles to inoculate its general population with limited doses.

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Support for Covid-19 Vaccine Passports Grows, with European, Chinese Backing

2 weeks 1 day

(Wall Street Journal) – Many international travelers will likely need to prove they are vaccinated or free of Covid-19 if they plan trips later this year, after the European Union and China both said they would move ahead with plans for “vaccine passports.” China is working toward launching certificates that will declare a person’s vaccination status or recent test results, according to its foreign ministry. Similarly, the European Commission plans this month to present proposals for a “digital green pass” for EU citizens, which will specify if someone has been vaccinated, and if not, carry details of their test results. 

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Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Highly Effective After First Shot in Real-World Use,–U.S. Study

2 weeks 1 day

(Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc reduced risk of infection by 80% two weeks or more after the first of two shots, according to data from a real-world U.S. study released on Monday. The risk of infection fell 90% by two weeks after the second shot, the study of nearly 4,000 U.S. healthcare personnel and first responders found. The results validate earlier studies that had indicated the vaccines begin to work soon after a first dose, and confirm that they also prevent asymptomatic infections.

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Covid-19 Shots for Children Hold Key to Herd Immunity

2 weeks 1 day

(Wall Street Journal) – Countries are racing to immunize adults against Covid-19 and move toward a more normal future. To achieve the vaccination rates that health authorities are aiming for, the shots must eventually reach the arms of children and teenagers, too. Children aren’t going to be vaccinated for several months at least, however, because drugmakers are still testing shots in younger ages. That means health authorities can’t be confident of securing community protection against the virus, known as herd immunity, until later this year at the earliest, because children under 18 make up a significant proportion of many countries’ populations.

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‘Strong Immune Response’ from One Dose of Pfizer Vaccine: Study

2 weeks 1 day

(Medscape) – People previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 showed higher antibody and T-cell responses after one dose of Pfizer’s BNT162b2 messenger (mRNA) vaccine compared with people who had a first dose without previously contracting the virus, according to research led by the universities of Sheffield and Oxford. The early findings from the Protective Immunity from T cells to COVID-19 in Health workers study (PITCH) said the findings suggested that one dose of the vaccine protected against severe disease. That supported the UK’s policy of prioritising first doses to boost the speed of the vaccine rollout, researchers said.

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Even When Covid-19 Vaccines Arrive, EU Struggles to Get Shots in Arms

2 weeks 4 days

(Wall Street Journal) – Europe is experiencing a flurry of coronavirus infections, but authorities are moving slowly to ramp up vaccination programs that have been hobbled by shortages and red tape. The European Union has injected 13.7 vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants, versus 39.4 in the U.S. and 46.7 in the U.K., according to Our World in Data. At the current pace, the EU won’t have vaccinated the majority of adults until well after the summer.

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‘How Did You Qualify?’ For the Young and Vaccinated, Rude Questions and Raised Eyebrows

2 weeks 4 days

(New York Times) – As public health officials push to get more at-risk people vaccinated, many of the newly qualified are discovering an unwelcome side effect of vaccination: Intrusive questions about their personal health. The majority of states now have expanded vaccine eligibility to include people with underlying health conditions that put them at risk for complications from Covid-19, such as high blood pressure, a compromised immune system or obesity.

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What It Will Take to Vaccinate the World Against COVID-19

2 weeks 4 days

(Nature) – Within just a few months, pharmaceutical firms have produced hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine. But the world needs billions — and as fast as possible. Companies say they could make enough vaccines to immunize most of the world’s population by the end of 2021. But this doesn’t take into account political delays in distribution, such as countries imposing export controls — or that the overwhelming majority of doses are going to wealthier countries. This situation is fuelling a campaign to temporarily waive intellectual-property rights so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make the vaccines more quickly themselves.

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Scientists Plan to Track Possible Virus Spread in Vaccinated College Students.

2 weeks 4 days

(New York Times) – Can people immunized against the coronavirus still spread it to others? A new study will attempt to answer the question by tracking infections in vaccinated college students and their close contacts, researchers announced on Friday. The results are likely to be of intense interest, because they may help determine how careful vaccinated people need to be — whether they can throw away their masks, for example, or must continue to wear them to protect unvaccinated people.

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Serbia Vaccinates Migrants Amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases

2 weeks 4 days

(ABC News) – Bashir Ahmad Shirzay lived through wars in Afghanistan, survived a harrowing journey to reach Europe and has no intention of taking a gamble with the coronavirus. He was among the first to roll up his sleeve for a COVID-19 shot on Friday as Serbia became the first European country to vaccinate people living in its refugee camps and asylum centers, according to United Nations officials.

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Tiny Minority of Vaccinated Minnesotans Test Positive for COVID-19

2 weeks 4 days

(Star Tribune) – Minnesota has identified 89 “breakthrough” infections of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in people who have been fully vaccinated. None are among Minnesota’s 6,798 COVID-19 deaths, including nine deaths reported Wednesday, and doctors said even those who were hospitalized after being vaccinated had milder illness.

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Women in 40s, 50s Who Survive COVID More Likely to Suffer Persistent Problems: UK Studies

2 weeks 4 days

(Medscape) – Women in their 40s and 50s appear more at risk of long-term problems following discharge from hospital after COVID-19, with many suffering months of persistent symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and brain fog, two UK studies found on Wednesday. One study found that five months after leaving hospital, COVID-19 patients who were also middle-aged, white, female, and had other health problems such as diabetes, lung or heart disease, tended to be more likely to report long-COVID symptoms.

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EMA to Convene ‘Ad Hoc Expert Group’ to Discuss AZ COVID-19 Shot

2 weeks 4 days

(Medscape) – The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced that it will convene an ad hoc expert group to provide “additional input” into the assessment of thromboembolic events occurring in European Union (EU) residents who have received AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The group will meet this coming Monday, EMA noted in an update today. Several EU countries stopped using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in mid-March following reports of blood clots in vaccinated individuals.

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Covid Passports: What Are Different Countries Planning?

2 weeks 5 days

(BBC) – The need to get a Covid vaccine certificate before you travel across Europe this summer is closer to becoming reality. EU leaders are discussing the introduction of a “Digital Green Certificate” in time for Europe’s summer, but some countries, inside and outside the EU, have already announced plans for so-called “vaccine passports”.

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