News from Bioethics.com

New Ebola Outbreak Likely Sparked by a Person Infected 5 Years Ago

4 weeks 1 day

(Science) – An Ebola outbreak in Guinea that has so far sickened at least 18 people and killed nine has stirred difficult memories of the devastating epidemic that struck the West African country between 2013 and 2016, along with neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, leaving more than 11,000 people dead. But it may not just be the trauma that has persisted. The virus causing the new outbreak barely differs from the strain seen 5 to 6 years ago, genomic analyses by three independent research groups have shown, suggesting the virus lay dormant in a survivor of the epidemic all that time.

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China Asks Visa Applicants to Get Inoculated with Chinese-Made Vaccines.

4 weeks 1 day

(New York Times) – China raised the stakes in the international vaccine competition on Saturday, saying that foreigners wishing to enter the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong will face fewer paperwork requirements if they are inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines. The policy announcement, which covers foreigners applying for visas in the Chinese territory, comes a day after the United States, India, Japan and Australia announced plans to provide vaccines more widely to other countries. The four so-called Quad powers promised to help finance the production in India of at least a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year.

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South Africa’s Drop in Covid-19 Cases Adds to Questions About Waves of Infections

4 weeks 1 day

(Wall Street Journal) – Then something unexpected happened: Covid-19 cases started dropping. Since mid-January, confirmed Covid-19 infections in South Africa have fallen from a record of nearly 22,000 a day to around 1,000, without a large-scale vaccination campaign or stringent lockdown. Fewer than 5% of Covid-19 tests are finding traces of the virus, a sign that health agencies are missing fewer cases. The government has lifted most of its remaining virus restrictions for the country of 60 million people. The cause of this steep decline in cases remains somewhat of a mystery. 

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Pfizer/BioNTech Say Data Suggests Vaccine 94% Effective in Preventing Asymptomatic Infection

4 weeks 1 day

(Medscape) – Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Thursday that real-world data from Israel suggests their COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, meaning it could significantly reduce transmission. The companies also said the latest analysis of the Israeli data shows the vaccine was 97% effective in preventing symptomatic disease, severe disease and death. That is basically in line with the 95% efficacy Pfizer and BioNTech reported from the vaccine’s late-stage clinical trial in December.

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Global Rise in Childhood Mental Health Issues Amid Pandemic

1 month 2 days

(Associated Press) – For doctors who treat them, the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of children is increasingly alarming. The Paris pediatric hospital caring for Pablo has seen a doubling in the number of children and young teenagers requiring treatment after attempted suicides since September. Doctors elsewhere report similar surges, with children — some as young as 8 — deliberately running into traffic, overdosing on pills and otherwise self-harming. In Japan, child and adolescent suicides hit record levels in 2020, according to the Education Ministry.

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EU Regulator Investigates COVID Vaccines for Link to Bleeding Disorder

1 month 2 days

(Reuters) – The European Union’s drugs regulator is investigating whether any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the bloc might be linked to a blood clotting deficiency that can cause internal bleeding. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday that several cases of immune thrombocytopenia, a lack of platelets in the blood that can lead to bleeding and bruising, had been reported under its vaccine safety monitoring process.

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COVID-19 Brings a New Dawn for Messenger RNA Vaccine

1 month 2 days

(Axios) – The blockbuster success of messenger RNA vaccines in the COVID-19 pandemic could give a boost to efforts to use the technology to tackle cancers, malaria and other intractable illnesses. Why it matters: There’s a pressing need for new ways to prevent infection from viruses like HIV and influenza that conventional vaccines have struggled to address and to treat rare genetic diseases and cancers that kill millions each year. Vaccines and therapies based on messenger RNA (mRNA) hold promise as a solution, but the technology is still in its infancy. 

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A Genetic Curse, a Scared Mom, and the Quest to ‘Fix’ Embryos

1 month 2 days

(Wired) – Mitochondrial diseases represent a rare but devastating constellation of illnesses that typically derive from a single misplaced letter of DNA, usually in the mitochondria but sometimes in the cell nucleus. Almost from the moment of birth, many children with mitochondrial disease (at least 1,000 each year in the US) struggle to move, breathe, or develop normally. There are a number of mitochondrial diseases, but among the most feared is Leigh’s syndrome. Infants born with Leigh’s rarely survive to their second birthday. As Messer scoured the internet for any tidbit of information that might help Ari, she thought, “Please don’t be this one.”

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Novavax’s Covid-19 Vaccine Effective in U.K. Study

1 month 2 days

(Wall Street Journal) – Novavax Inc. NVAX +6.04% released final results from clinical studies indicating its Covid-19 vaccine was effective against the coronavirus and a variant that emerged in the U.K., but less so against another variant in South Africa. The final data, reported Thursday by the Gaithersburg, Md., company, was generally consistent with interim results the company released from the same studies in late January. 

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WHO Says Its Advisory Committee Looking at AstraZeneca Vaccine Issues

1 month 2 days

(Reuters) – A World Health Organization expert advisory committee is currently looking at AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after some countries paused distribution of it, but there is no reason not to use it, a spokeswoman said on Friday. Health authorities in several countries including Denmark, Norway, Iceland have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine following reports of the formation of blood clots in some people who have been vaccinated.

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First Independent Report into Xinjiang Genocide Allegations Claims Evidence of Beijing’s ‘Intent to Destroy’ Uyghur People

1 month 3 days

(CNN) – The Chinese government’s alleged actions in Xinjiang have violated every single provision in the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, according to an independent report by more than 50 global experts in international law, genocide and the China region. The report, released Tuesday by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy think tank in Washington DC, claimed the Chinese government “bears state responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghur in breach of the (UN) Genocide Convention.”

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Special Report: Insider Alleges Eli Lilly Blocked Her Efforts to Sound Alarms About U.S. Drug Factory

1 month 3 days

(Reuters) – Mula was a top human resources officer at what was one of America’s largest biotech plants. Over the years, she had been investigating employee complaints about manufacturing problems related to multiple drugs, including the company’s blockbuster diabetes medication, Trulicity, according to internal company documents and email correspondence reviewed by Reuters.

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Denmark, Norway and Iceland Suspend AstraZeneca COVID Shots After Blood Clot Reports

1 month 3 days

(Reuters) – Health authorities in Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following reports of the formation of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated. Austria earlier stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism. Still, the European medicine regulator EMA said the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks and could continue to be administered.

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Parents Are Demanding Surrogates Who Won’t Get the COVID Vaccine

1 month 3 days

(Vice) – As the availability of the coronavirus vaccines expands across the U.S., demand is booming among would-be parents for surrogates who have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine and are willing to stay unvaccinated for nine months. Surrogacy agencies have been fielding so many requests for unvaccinated women that several have started specifically matching vaccine-averse prospective parents with surrogates who are willing to stay unvaccinated. But for those with pregnancies already underway, the decision about whether to vaccinate is forcing surrogates and would-be parents into tough conversations. Pregnant people face higher risks of severe illness if they catch COVID-19—which could lead them to give birth too early.

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New Analysis Seeks to Guide Educators on Reopening Schools

1 month 3 days

(Wall Street Journal) – A year after a new coronavirus prompted an abrupt wave of school closures, the science is becoming clearer about how schools can reopen safely and what role they play in further spread. A new analysis of more than 130 studies related to school reopening and safety across the world concludes that Covid-19 transmission is limited in schools with precautions in place, reopening doesn’t lead to increased cases in a community, and closing classrooms “should be a last resort.”

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License-Plate Scans Aid Crime-Solving but Spur Little Privacy Debate

1 month 3 days

(Wall Street Journal) – License-plate readers are feeding immense databases with details on Americans’ driving habits, helping solve crimes despite little public awareness about the breadth of the data collected or how it is used. The vast network of automated license-plate scanners, which has been growing for decades, makes it nearly impossible to drive anywhere in the U.S. without being observed. The scanners first appeared on telephone poles and police cars, then on toll plazas and bridges, and in parking lots. Today, scanners are routinely placed on tow trucks and municipal garbage trucks, gathering images of plates on cars they pass while making their rounds.

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‘Reassuring’ Data on COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy

1 month 3 days

(Medscape) – Pregnant women can safely get vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19, surveillance data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest. More than 30,000 women who received these vaccines have reported pregnancies through the CDC’s V-Safe voluntary reporting system, and their rates of complications are not significantly different from those of unvaccinated pregnant women, said Tom Shimabukuro, MD, MPH, MBA, deputy director of the CDC Immunization Safety Office.

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MIS-C Follow-Up Proves Challenging Across Pediatric Hospitals

1 month 3 days

(Medscape) – The discovery of any novel disease or condition means a steep learning curve as physicians must develop protocols for diagnosis, management, and follow-up on the fly in the midst of admitting and treating patients. Medical society task forces and committees often release interim guidance during the learning process, but each institution ultimately has to determine what works for them based on their resources, clinical experience, and patient population. But when the novel condition demands the involvement of multiple different specialties, the challenge of management grows even more complex — as does follow-up after patients are discharged. Such has been the story with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a complication of COVID-19 that shares some features with Kawasaki disease.

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Health Officials Debate Vaccine Priority for People with Pre-Existing Conditions

1 month 4 days

(Axios) – Most states are making people with underlying conditions eligible for coronavirus vaccines, but which conditions differ by state and sometimes even by county, the New York Times reports.  The big picture: With health care workers and the oldest Americans increasingly vaccinated, public health officials are grappling with who should be next in line — a decision that could have life-or-death consequences.

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Nursing Home Residents Can Get Hugs Again, Feds Say

1 month 4 days

(Associated Press) – Nursing home residents vaccinated against COVID-19 can get hugs again from their loved ones, and all residents may enjoy more indoor visits, the government said Wednesday in a step toward pre-pandemic normalcy. The policy guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, comes as coronavirus cases and deaths among nursing home residents have plummeted in recent weeks at the same time that vaccination accelerated. People living in long-term care facilities have borne a cruel toll from the pandemic. They represent about 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 1 in 3 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

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Drugmaker Lilly Says Covid Treatment Slashed Hospitalization and Deaths

1 month 4 days

(Medical Xpress) – US drugmaker Eli Lilly’s combination of two synthetic antibodies reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 by 87 percent in trials, the company said Wednesday. The results come from a Phase 3 clinical trial of 769 people aged 12 and over with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, who were considered high-risk because of their age or underlying conditions.

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Two Variants May Account for Half of New York City’s Virus Cases, Health Officials Said.

1 month 4 days

(New York Times) – Genetic analysis suggests that roughly half of coronavirus cases in New York City now are caused by two new forms of the coronavirus, city officials reported on Wednesday. One of the so-called variants, first detected in the city, now accounts for nearly 40 percent of all cases analyzed in local laboratories. The increase in the variant, B.1.526, was so striking that officials said they believed it was more infectious than the original form of the coronavirus.

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What Childhood Vaccine Rates Can, and Can’t, Teach Us About Covid Vaccines

1 month 4 days

(Kaiser Health News) – Polls show Americans are increasingly interested in getting vaccinated against covid-19, but such surveys are largely national, leaving a big question: When the vaccines become available to the general public, will enough people get it in your county, city or neighborhood to keep your community safe? Data on childhood vaccines, such as the one that protects against measles, mumps and rubella, provide hints. They show that the collective protection known as herd immunity can break down in pockets where not enough people choose to be immunized. Experts say at least 92% of the population must be vaccinated against measles to prevent it from spreading.

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Five-Day Course of Oral Antiviral Appears to Stop SARS-CoV-2 in Its Tracks

1 month 4 days

(Medscape) – A single pill of the investigational drug molnupiravir taken twice a day for 5 days eliminated SARS-CoV-2 from the nasopharynx of 49 participants. That led Carlos del Rio, MD, distinguished professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to suggest a future in which a drug like molnupiravir could be taken in the first few days of symptoms to prevent severe disease, similar to Tamiflu for influenza.

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Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Neutralizes Brazil Variant in Lab Study

1 month 4 days

(Medscape) – The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday. Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralized an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study conducted by scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch found.

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