News from Bioethics.com

CVS and Walgreens Under Fire for Slow Pace of Vaccination in Nursing Homes

6 hours 9 min

(Kaiser Health News) – The effort to vaccinate some of the country’s most vulnerable residents against covid-19 has been slowed by a federal program that sends retail pharmacists into nursing homes — accompanied by layers of bureaucracy and logistical snafus. As of Thursday, more than 4.7 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna covid vaccines had been allocated to the federal pharmacy partnership, which has deputized pharmacy teams from Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate nursing home residents and workers. Since the program started in some states on Dec. 21, however, they have administered about one-quarter of the doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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China COVID Vaccine Reports Mixed Results–What Does That Mean for the Pandemic?

6 hours 17 min

(Nature) – Long-awaited results about the effectiveness of a leading Chinese COVID-19 vaccine were tinged with disappointment and confusion this week. But researchers say the vaccine could help reduce deaths from the disease. Researchers in Brazil reported that CoronaVac, developed by Beijing-based Sinovac, was 50.4% effective at preventing severe and mild COVID-19 in late-stage trials. That’s significantly lower than the 90% efficacies of several leading vaccines. The CoronaVac figures were much lower than those from early trials of the same vaccine in Turkey and Indonesia, and below the efficacy first reported by the Brazil trial team last week.

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China Builds New Quarantine Center as Virus Cases Rise

6 hours 22 min

(Associated Press) – A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the annual Lunar New Year travel rush.  State media on Friday showed crews leveling earth, pouring concrete and assembling prefabricated rooms in farmland in an outlying part of Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province, which has seen the bulk of the new cases. 

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In LA, Ambulances Circle for Hours and ICUs Are Full. Is This What Covid-19 Has in Store for the Rest of the Country?

6 hours 26 min

(STAT News) – The situation here is dire. Every minute, 10 people test positive for Covid-19. Every eight minutes, someone dies. Ambulances circle for hours, unable to find ERs that can accept patients. Hospitals are running out of oxygen. ICU capacity is at zero. Patients lie in hallways and tents. Emergency room nurses have more patients than they can handle — sometimes six at a time. The National Guard has arrived, not to help treat patients, but to manage the flood of bodies. As Los Angeles County approaches its millionth case of Covid-19, doctors describe their wards as war zones. Even the gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have gotten sick.

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EU Regulator: Hackers ‘Manipulated’ Stolen Vaccine Documents

6 hours 39 min

(ABC News) – The European Union’s drug regulator said Friday that COVID-19 vaccine documents stolen from its servers in a cyberattack have been not only leaked to the web, but “manipulated” by hackers. The European Medicines Agency said that an ongoing investigation into the cyberattack showed that hackers obtained emails and documents from November related to the evaluation of experimental coronavirus vaccines. The medicines agency, which regulates drugs and medicines across the 27-member EU, had troves of confidential COVID-19 data as part of its vaccine approval process.

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Pfizer Temporarily Reduces European Deliveries of Vaccine

6 hours 50 min

(Associated Press) – U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer confirmed Friday it will temporarily reduce deliveries to Europe of its COVID-19 vaccine while it upgrades production capacity to 2 billion doses per year.  “This temporary reduction will affect all European countries,” a spokeswoman for Pfizer Denmark said in a statement to The Associated Press. Line Fedders said that to meet the new 2 billion dose target, Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, which “presupposes adaptation of facilities and processes at the factory which requires new quality tests and approvals from the authorities.”

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Saliva-Based COVID-19 Tests as Accurate as Those Using Nose, Throat Samples

6 hours 59 min

(UPI) – COVID-19 tests that use patients’ saliva to screen for the virus are just as effective as those that use swabs collected from the nose and throat, an analysis published by JAMA Internal Medicine found. Saliva-based tests correctly identified those infected with the new coronavirus 83% of the time, while nose-throat swab tests were 85% accurate, the review of data from 16 studies showed. 

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Feds Plead for Greater use of Monoclonal Antibodies to Fight COVID

7 hours 9 min

(Medscape) – Federal officials are urging healthcare professionals and patients to use monoclonal antibody treatments to help stave off more severe COVID-19 illness, and have now set up three federally supported infusion sites. In its push, the government also has posted an online locator for sites offering the therapies and is encouraging use at long-term care facilities and other alternative locations.

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China in Darkest Period for Human Rights Since Tiananmen, Says Rights Group

1 day 1 hour

(The Guardian) – China is in the midst of its darkest period for human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre, Human Rights Watch has said in its annual report. But 2020 was also the year that world governments found “safety in numbers” to push back on China’s policies of repression, with less fear of retaliation, it said. Worsening persecutions of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, targeting of whistleblowers, the crackdown on Hong Kong and attempts to cover up the coronavirus outbreak were all part of the deteriorating situation under President Xi Jinping, the organisation said.

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CDC Describes COVID-19 Trends in Nursing Home Residents, Staff

1 day 1 hour

(Medical Xpress) – Among residents and staff members in U.S. nursing homes, the rates of COVID-19 increased in June and July, then decreased by September, and increased again by late November, paralleling trends in surrounding communities, according to research published in the Jan. 8 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Oxygen Shortage in Amazon City Forces Mass Patient Transfer

1 day 2 hours

(ABC News) – Scores of COVID-19 patients in the Amazon rainforest’s biggest city will be transferred out of state as the local health system collapses and dwindling stocks of oxygen tanks mean Brazilians have started to die breathless at home. Doctors in Manaus, a city of 2 million people, are choosing which patients to treat and at least one of the city’s cemeteries asks mourners to line up to enter and bury their dead.

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Why COVID Demands Genetic Surveillance

1 day 2 hours

(Axios) – A seemingly more transmissible coronavirus variant is threatening the world — and exposing the U.S.’ lackluster genetic surveillance. Why it matters: A beefed-up program to sequence the genomes of infectious disease pathogens infections could help the U.S. identify dangerous new coronavirus variants — and get the jump on pathogens that could ignite the pandemics of the future.

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The Covid-19 Death Toll Is Even Worse Than It Looks

1 day 2 hours

(The Wall Street Journal) – The recorded death count from the Covid-19 pandemic as of Thursday is nearing 2 million. The true extent is far worse. More than 2.8 million people have lost their lives due to the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 59 countries and jurisdictions. This tally offers the most comprehensive view yet of the pandemic’s global impact. Deaths in these places last year surged more than 12% above average levels.

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Justices Say Women Must Obtain Abortion Pill in Person

2 days 11 min

(ABC News) – The Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that women must visit a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic in person to obtain an abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic, though similar rules for other drugs have been suspended during the public health emergency.

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Critical Care Staff Suffer Trauma and Severe Anxiety Due to COVID-19–UK Study

2 days 22 min

(Reuters) – Nearly half of staff working in intensive care units (ICU) in England in the COVID-19 pandemic have severe anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, with some reporting feeling they’d be better off dead, according to a study published on Wednesday. Many ICU nurses and doctors meet the clinical threshold for PTSD, anxiety or problem drinking, and symptoms are so severe that some reported contemplating self-harm or suicide.

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The Coronavirus Variants: What You Need to Know

2 days 27 min

(Axios) – The big picture: Viruses mutate, often without impacting the severity of disease or how the virus spreads. But sometimes mutations are consequential for public health and scientists say it’s important to monitor them. Both Pfizer and Moderna are in the process of testing their vaccines against the variants. Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday the mutation N501Y found in both variants B.1.1.7 and 501.V2 was tested against their vaccine and found “no reduction in neutralization activity against the virus.” But there are multiple mutations and more studies are underway.

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California Opens Scarce Vaccines to Those 65 and Older

2 days 48 min

(Associated Press) – California is immediately allowing residents 65 and older to get scarce coronavirus vaccines, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. The move puts seniors in line before emergency workers, teachers, childcare providers and food and agriculture workers even as counties complain they already don’t have enough doses to go around. 

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Data Fuel Debate Over Whether J&J’s One-Dose Covid Vaccine Will Measure Up

2 days 55 min

(STAT News) – Johnson & Johnson published updated early data on its Covid-19 vaccine Wednesday, showing that it provided participants in a clinical trial with at least some immunity after one dose. The data, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer only hints to a tantalizing question: Could the vaccine, given as a single shot, perform as well as the vaccines that U.S. regulators have already authorized, which are given as two?

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Spain: Judge Orders Incapacitated Woman to Get Virus Vaccine

2 days 1 hour

(Associated Press) – A judge in northwest Spain has overruled a family’s objections and decided to allow health authorities to administer a coronavirus vaccine to an incapacitated woman in a nursing home. The case appears to be the first known instance of a court in Europe requiring someone to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Spanish government repeatedly has stressed that shots would be voluntary, as have authorities in other European countries.

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Doctor’s Death After Covid Vaccine Is Being Investigated

2 days 23 hours

(New York Times) – Health authorities are investigating the case of a Florida doctor who died from an unusually severe blood disorder 16 days after receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist in Miami Beach, received the vaccine at Mount Sinai Medical Center on Dec. 18 and died 16 days later from a brain hemorrhage, his wife, Heidi Neckelmann, wrote in a Facebook post. Shortly after receiving the vaccine, Dr. Michael developed an extremely serious form of a condition known as acute immune thrombocytopenia, which prevented his blood from clotting properly. In a statement, Pfizer, the maker of the vaccine, said it was “actively investigating” the case, “but we don’t believe at this time that there is any direct connection to the vaccine.”

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EU Regulator Is Considering Oxford-Astra Zeneca Vaccine

3 days 4 min

(Associated Press) – The European Medicines Agency said Tuesday that AstraZeneca and Oxford University have submitted an application for their COVID-19 vaccine to be licensed across the European Union. The EU regulator said it received a request for the vaccine to be greenlighted under an expedited process and that it could be approved by Jan. 29 “provided that the data submitted on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine are sufficiently robust and complete.”

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CRISPR and the Splice to Survive

3 days 22 min

(The New Yorker) – The Odin, in Oakland, California, is a company that sells genetic-engineering kits. The company’s founder, Josiah Zayner, sports a side-swept undercut, multiple piercings, and a tattoo that urges: “Create Something Beautiful.” He holds a Ph.D. in biophysics and is a well-known provocateur. Among his many stunts, he has coaxed his skin to produce a fluorescent protein, ingested a friend’s poop in a D.I.Y. fecal-matter transplant, and attempted to deactivate one of his genes so that he could grow bigger muscles. (This last effort, he acknowledges, failed.) Zayner calls himself a genetic designer and has said that his goal is to give people access to the resources they need to modify life in their spare time.

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India’s Quick Not to Homegrown COVID-19 Vaccine Seeds Doubt

3 days 26 min

(ABC News) – As the director of a large hospital in the Indian state that has seen the country’s most coronavirus cases, Dr. S.P. Kalantri had been waiting for the day a vaccine would be approved and bring protection not only to his community but also himself. But now he has his doubts about getting the shots after India took a regulatory shortcut to approve a vaccine by Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech before late clinical trials showed it was effective in preventing illness from coronavirus infections.

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Identical Twins Are Not so Identical Study Suggest

3 days 28 min

(The Guardian) – Genetic differences between identical twins can begin very early in embryonic development, according to a study that researchers say has implications for examining the effects of nature versus nurture. Identical – or monozygotic – twins come from a single fertilised egg that splits in two. They are important research subjects because they are thought to have minimal genetic differences. This means that when physical or behavioural differences emerge, environmental factors are presumed to be the likely cause.

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Chinese Coronavirus Vaccine Shows 50% Efficacy in Brazil

3 days 45 min

(Medical Xpress) – The Chinese-developed Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated a 50 percent efficacy following tests in Brazil, the organization in charge of its production in the South American country said on Tuesday. Coronavac has been given to frontline health care workers in close contact with coronavirus patients.

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