COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
European regulator 'convinced' benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh risks as suspensions continue
After virtually all of western Europe temporarily suspended the use of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, the continent's top medicines regulator struck out against safety concerns around the shot, saying there is "no indication" that it causes blood clots and that its lifesaving benefits outweigh the risk of any potential side effects.

The backing from Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, came after France, Spain, Germany, Italy and more than a dozen other countries halted use of the vaccine, even as the continent confronts a third wave of the pandemic and faces criticism over sluggish vaccination rollout campaigns.


The actions of European governments have surprised experts and caused a myriad of questions among people who have had or are in line to get the shot.

But the pervading message from health experts has been one of calm; when placed in context the reported cases of blood clotting are rare and no greater than numbers would be in the general population, while the vaccine has been proven to work in reducing Covid-19 cases.

"These vaccines are to protect against a pandemic virus. There is an urgency to the rollout," Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, told CNN. "So pausing a vaccine campaign without a very good reason at this point in time just seems a bad move."
Read the full article: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/16/europe/who-astrazeneca-europe-coronavirus-tuesday-intl/index.html

Disruptions in health services due to COVID-19 “may have contributed to an additional 239,000 child and maternal deaths in South Asia”
Health services must urgently be restored and strengthened to contain the pandemic’s impact on the most vulnerable families

The United Nations Children's Fund says the pandemic "may have contributed" to an additional 228,000 child deaths, 11,000 maternal fatalities and 3.5 million unintended pregnancies in South Asia in 2020.
Read the full article: https://www.unicef.org/rosa/press-releases/COVID-19-Modelling-Report-Launch

Global coronavirus cases rise 10 percent over past week, in continuing reversal of downward trend
The planet's population as a whole is far from out of the woods. In previous weeks, global infection numbers were dropping — but the decline has stopped, and now cases worldwide are on the upswing. This was the third straight week in which cases rose, according to the World Health Organization.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/03/17/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/#link-QGNS7ZZA2JD3LKQEJTUJPYQIHA

14 Lessons for the Next Pandemic
One year. More than 500,000 dead. What did the United States do wrong in handling Covid-19? What needs to be rethought?
  • Prepare for What We Can’t Imagine
  • Put Science First
  • Figure Out Who Gets Priority Treatment
  • Don’t Leave It Up to the States
  • Stop the Mixed Messaging
  • Invest in the Numbers
  • Be Nimble in Providing Treatment
  • Don’t Let Race and Class Determine Who Lives and Dies
  • Don’t Be Ageist
  • Communities Need to Prepare Too
  • Stop With the Fringe Treatments
  • Let Teenagers Be Teenagers
  • The China Problem
  • Look in the Mirror and See Who We Are
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/15/science/lessons-for-the-next-pandemic.html

Tanzania President John Magufuli, A COVID-19 Skeptic, Has Died
Magufuli had not been seen in public since the end of February, fueling speculation that he was ill. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced his death on state television.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978336051/tanzania-president-john-magufuli-a-covid-19-skeptic-has-died

C.D.C. Addresses Virus Testing Inequality

On Wednesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced a new initiative to address inequalities in testing, which she argued will be key to halting community transmission of the coronavirus.

Importantly, until now, limited test capacity has resulted in our use of tests for largely diagnostic purposes when someone presents with symptoms or has been exposed. Only in selected places have we capitalized on the benefits of how testing can be used as a screening intervention with frequent tests to identify asymptomatic disease and prevent clusters before they start. To end this pandemic, everyone must have equal access to affordable and timely testing, with fast turnaround time for results to identify infections and reduce community spread. So I’m proud to share the C.D.C. is announcing new funding for $2.25 billion in grants to public health departments — on average, $20 million per grant to more than 100 health departments to address Covid-19 health disparities and advance health equity among people who are at high risk and underserved, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural areas. A large component of this funding will focus on strategies to improve testing and contact tracing, along with funding to support continued implementation and prevention strategies for Covid-19.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007659946/cdc-testing-inequality-walensky.html

Coronavirus Reinfections Are Rare, Danish Researchers Report
The vast majority of people who recover from Covid-19 remain shielded from the virus for at least six months, researchers reported on Wednesday in a large study from Denmark.

Prior infection with the coronavirus reduced the chances of a second bout by about 80 percent in people under 65, but only by about half in those older than 65. But those results, published in the journal Lancet, were tempered by many caveats.

The number of infected older people in the study was small. The researchers did not have any information beyond the test results, so it’s possible that only people who were mildly ill the first time became infected again and that the second infections were largely symptom-free.

Scientists have said that reinfections are likely to be asymptomatic or mild because the immune system will suppress the virus before it can do much damage. The researchers also did not assess the possibility of reinfection with newer variants of the virus.

Still, the study suggests that immunity to a natural infection is unpredictable and uneven, and it underscores the importance of vaccinating everyone — especially older people, experts said.


... The immune system grows progressively weaker with age, and people over 80 typically mount weak responses to infection with a virus. The lower protection in older people seen in the study is consistent with those observations, said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University.

“I think we kind of tend to forget how the vaccines have been pretty amazing in offering protection in this age group, because you can see that natural infection doesn’t confer the same kind of protection,” she said. “This really does emphasize the need to cover older people with the vaccine, even if they have had Covid first.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/17/health/coronavirus-reinfections.html

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia