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Kathryn R. Bown

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Kathryn - Our health specialist likes to share with the readers the latest news from the field. Nobody understands better than her the relation between healthy mind and healthy body.

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Russia’s Sputnik V is the third coronavirus vaccine approved for use in India amid a deadly second wave of infections.

The Russian vaccine has been deemed to be safe, and works in a way similar to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is being made in India as Covishield.

Sputnik V gives around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal.

India has so far given more than 100 million doses of two approved vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin.

Sputnik V’s approval came on a day when India overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of cases globally.

With the total case tally of more than 13.5 million cases, India is now only behind the US which has reported more than 31 million cases. With 13.4 million cases, Brazil is now at number three.

The Indian government aims to vaccinate 250 million “priority people” by the end of July. But experts say that the pace of vaccination has been slow and unless the drive is scaled up, the target could be missed.

Sputnik V, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, initially generated some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.

But scientists say its benefits have now been demonstrated.

The vaccine uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.

Safely exposing the body to a part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognize the threat and learn to fight it off, without the risk of becoming ill.

After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies especially tailored to the coronavirus.

This means that the immune system is primed to fight coronavirus when it encounters it for real.

Sputnik V can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees) making it easier to transport and store.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is marketing the vaccine, has signed deals to produce more than 750 million doses of Sputnik V in India with six domestic vaccine makers, according to reports.

Unlike other similar vaccines, the Sputnik shot uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and the second dose – given 21 days apart.

They both target the coronavirus’s distinctive “spike”, but use different vectors – the neutralized virus that carries the spike to the body.

The idea is that using two different formulas boosts the immune system even more than using the same version twice – and may give longer-lasting protection.

As well as proving effective, it was also safe with no serious reactions linked to the vaccine during the trial.

Some side-effects to a vaccine are expected, but these are usually mild, including a sore arm, tiredness and a bit of a temperature. There were no deaths or serious illnesses in the vaccinated group linked to the jab.

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As well as Russia, Sputnik V is being used in a number of other places, including Argentina, Palestinian territories, Venezuela, Hungary, UAE and Iran.

It will be weeks before Sputnik will be rolled out in India and until then, the country has to make do with Covaxin and Covishield.

Covaxin is an inactivated vaccine which means that it is made up of killed coronaviruses, making it safe to be injected into the body.

Bharat Biotech, a 24-year-old vaccine maker with a portfolio of 16 vaccines and exports to 123 countries, used a sample of the coronavirus, isolated by India’s National Institute of Virology.

When administered, immune cells can still recognize the dead virus, prompting the immune system to make antibodies against the pandemic virus.

The two doses are given four weeks apart. The vaccine can be stored at 2C to 8C.

The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 81%, preliminary data from its phase 3 trial shows.

India’s regulators gave the vaccine an emergency approval in January while the third phase of the trial was still underway, sparking skepticism and questions from experts.

Bharat Biotech says it has a stockpile of 20 million doses of Covaxin, and is aiming to make 700 million doses out of its four facilities in two cities by the end of the year.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. It says it is producing more than 60 million doses a month.

The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness.

When the vaccine is injected into a patient, it prompts the immune system to start making antibodies and primes it to attack any coronavirus infection.

The shot is administered in two doses given between four and 12 weeks apart. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2C to 8C and can easily be delivered in existing health care settings such as doctors’ surgeries.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which is currently being administered in several countries, must be stored at -70C and can only be moved a limited number of times – a particular challenge in India, where summer temperatures can reach 50C.

International clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed that when people were given a half dose and then a full dose, effectiveness hit 90%.

But there was not enough clear data to approve the half-dose, full-dose idea.

However, unpublished data suggests that leaving a longer gap between the first and second doses increases the overall effectiveness of the jab – in a sub-group given the vaccine this way it was found to be 70% effective after the first dose.

Image source: indiatvnews.com

India has become the “fastest country in the world” to administer more than 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, amid a deadly second wave of infections.

The country achieved the feat in 85 days, whereas the US took 89 days and China 102 days, the Indian health ministry said.

However, India reported a record daily increase of over 150,000 cases – and more than 800 new deaths – on April 11.

There are reports the vast vaccination drive itself is struggling.

This week, half a dozen states reported a shortage of doses even as the federal government insisted that it had 40 million doses in stock and that the “allegations” of vaccine scarcity were “utterly baseless”.

The inoculation drive aims to cover 250 million people by July, but experts say the pace needs to pick up further to meet the target.

Everyone aged over 45 is now eligible for immunization at vaccination centers and hospitals. Most doses have so far been given to frontline workers and the over-60s.

The third phase – which began on April 1 – opened amid a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases. India has been reporting an average of more than 90,000 cases every day since then.

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On April 4, India became the second country after the US to report 100,000 new cases in a single day. More than half of those were confirmed in Maharashtra, which has India’s largest city Mumbai as its capital.

The country’s caseload had dropped sharply by the time it began vaccinating people early this year. It was adding under 15,000 infections daily. But cases began to spike again in March, largely driven by poor test-and-trace and lax safety protocols.

Experts say India’s second wave is being fuelled by people being less cautious – and mixed messaging by the government.

Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 12 million cases and over 167,000 deaths. It’s the third-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the US and Brazil.

India launched its vaccination program on January 16, but it was limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff – a sanitation worker became the first Indian to receive the vaccine.

From March 1, the eligibility criteria was expanded to include people over 60 and those aged between 45 and 59 with other illnesses.

The third phase included everyone above the age of 45.

India’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Several other candidates are at different stages of trials.

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Germany’s vaccine committee (Stiko) has advised giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only to people aged 60 + because of a risk of rare blood clots.

The German drugs regulator found 31 cases of a type of rare blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who had received the vaccine in Germany.

Canada earlier suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab in people under 55.

AstraZeneca said international regulators had found the benefits of its vaccine outweighed risks significantly.

The company said it was continuing to analyze its database to understand “whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia occur any more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people”.

“We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have,” AstraZeneca added.

The EU and UK medicine regulators both backed the vaccine after previous cautionary suspensions in Europe this month.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stressed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continued to outweigh the risk of side effects.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the most widely used coronavirus vaccines in the West, and is meant to be supplied on a not-for-profit basis to the developing world.

The EU’s rollout of its vaccination program has been dogged by delays because of delivery and production problems, and Germany is among several states now fearing a third wave of infections.

On March 30, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their first doses of AstraZeneca in a display of confidence in the vaccine.

Ahead of the Stiko announcement, the German cities of Berlin and Munich, and the region of Brandenburg, halted use of the vaccine in people below the age of 60.

“After several consultations, Stiko, with the help of external experts, decided by a majority to recommend the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only for persons aged 60 years and older on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects,” the committee said, as quoted by Reuters.

“Regarding the question of administering the second vaccine dose to younger persons who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Stiko will issue a supplementary recommendation by the end of April.”

Germany was one of the European states which briefly suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month pending an EMA review into the possible link to blood clots.

When the EMA declared the vaccine “safe and effective”, Germany and others resumed its use but investigations continued.

The German medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, has found 31 cases of cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT) among people who received AstraZeneca in Germany.

Almost all the cases are reportedly in younger and middle-aged women.

France already limits use of AstraZeneca to those aged over 55.

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health

Getting diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder may have left you feeling hurt and confused. Although there are treatments available for many autoimmune conditions, they will usually last a lifetime and often require you to make changes to your lifestyle and monitor your health closely. However, the good news is that despite your diagnosis, you can lead a normal life and do the things that you enjoy. Here are some tips for living better that you might find useful.

Speak with Your Doctor

A good doctor will support you through putting together a plan of action for living your best life with your condition, so it’s important to speak to your doctor as early as possible. They will be able to provide you with more information so that you are fully informed and educated on your condition, along with recommending treatments that can help to minimize flare-ups and keep your health strong. You might find it helpful to prepare a list of your symptoms and any questions that you would like to ask beforehand.

Change Your Diet

Depending on the condition that you have been diagnosed with, you may need to make some changes to your diet to ensure that you can stay in good health. Certain foods might trigger a flare-up; for example, people with Crohn’s disease do not usually react well to fatty or fried foods. You can determine which foods you are best avoiding by trying an elimination diet. You can do this by removing all foods that you suspect impact your health negatively for a few weeks. Then gradually introduce them back into your diet while keeping a close eye on your symptoms. Many people with autoimmune diseases find that a heavily plant-based diet that is low in processed food is best for them. There are also several supplements to add to your diet that you may find useful, such as Kratom. KratomIQ covers it here.

Manage Stress Levels

Chronic stress will never do your body any good, and if you have an autoimmune disease, the impact on your health and wellbeing can be even worse. Stress can be one of the biggest causes of flare-ups, and research shows that people with high stress levels tend to develop autoimmune diseases earlier in life and will often suffer from multiple conditions. Because of this, managing your stress levels is more crucial than ever before. Getting enough sleep, sticking to a daily routine and planning your time in advance so that you’re able to easily stay in control are just some of the best ways to minimize stress in your life. Meditation may also help some people or you could try talking therapy to learn healthier ways to cope with stress.

Exercise Gently

Getting your body moving can often be a great natural pain reliever for a range of autoimmune disorders but, sadly, exercising with many of these conditions is not easy and can sometimes be painful. The trick is to try gentle exercises that are relaxing along with getting your body moving, such as swimming. Swimming is often recommended for people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, for example, since the buoyancy of the water will support your body weight and relieve any pressure on your joints. Yoga and tai chi are also ideal since they are low-impact, and cycling is a good idea if you want a cardiovascular exercise to do on land that won’t affect your joints in the same way as jogging or running.

The good news is that working closely with your doctor and making some healthy changes to your lifestyle can help you live a good, happy and healthy life with an autoimmune disease.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

AstraZeneca has announced it downgraded the efficacy result of its coronavirus vaccine trial in the United States after health officials questioned the results.

The company adjusted the efficacy rate of its vaccine against Covid-19 symptoms from 79% to 76%, but said the trial results confirm it “is highly effective in adults”.

US health officials had been concerned the trial was using outdated data.

AstraZeneca said it now looked forward to getting US regulatory approval.

The US trials of the AstraZeneca jab had involved more than 32,000 volunteers, mostly in America, but also in Chile and Peru.

In the results announced on March 22, the company said the vaccine was found to be 79% effective at stopping symptomatic Covid-19 disease and was 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill.

On March 23, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been informed by data and safety officials monitoring the trial that information may have been used that provided an “incomplete view of the efficacy data”.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor, then warned reporters the company would “likely come out with a modified statement”.

AstraZeneca’s revised results now put the vaccine’s overall efficacy at 76% instead of 79%. Among the over 65s, its efficacy rose from 80% to 85% and against severe disease it remains 100% effective.

On March 25, Mene Pangalos, an executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said: “We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the US and preparing for the rollout of millions of doses across America.”

The US had ordered 300 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine when it emerged as a frontrunner in the global race to immunize people against Covid-19.

However, delays and controversies have seen three other vaccines beat it to a US rollout.

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Although many people believe that complications during surgery typically only occur in more invasive procedures such as heart or brain surgery, potentially life-changing errors can occur during any surgical procedure. There are several common types of surgical errors that occur more frequently than others, making it important to understand the risks of any type of surgery before undergoing a procedure.

The following are five of the most common types of surgical errors that may be surprising to some.

1. Anesthesia Errors

Some of the most dangerous surgical errors involve anesthesia mistakes. Too much or too little anesthesia can cause serious problems or even death. While insufficient anesthesia can lead the patient to awake during surgery and suffer a significant amount of pain, too much anesthesia can lead to insufficient oxygen intake, leading to severe brain damage or even death.

2. Foreign Objects Left in the Body

Another common type of surgical error involves leaving various surgical instruments in the patient’s body following surgery. Foreign objects left in patients’ bodies often include pads, clamps, gauze, or scalpels. When left behind, these materials could cause serious pain and lead to severe internal injuries, culminating in infections. In more extreme cases, these incidents can even lead to the patient’s death.

3. Nerve Damage

Surgery requires precision throughout, from making initial incisions to addressing the primary health issue. Instruments such as scalpels can cause serious punctures and cuts that lead to permanent nerve damage. Nerve damage could then lead to debilitating injuries, infection, and long-term disability that changes a patient’s life.

4. Surgery on the Wrong Side

Many surgeries occur on the wrong side, which entails performing surgery on the wrong one of a pair of organs or limbs. For example, surgical procedures could be performed on the wrong kidney or ovary, or on the wrong leg or arm. As a result, the wrong organ or limb may be amputated while the diseased or damaged counterpart remains, leading to unnecessary injury and further complications resulting from the unhealthy body part.

5. Surgery on the Wrong Patient

While some surgeries involve procedures performed on the wrong side, others can involve the wrong patient entirely. Surgery on the wrong patient can occur if patients aren’t properly identified and verified before the operation, or if any miscommunication takes place between surgeons or other staff. Subsequently, patients may undergo surgery that they don’t need while their actual health issue goes ignored entirely.

Other Potential Surgical Errors

In addition to these common surgical errors, there are others that could occur depending on the nature of the procedure. For example, perforation of the bowel could occur when removing polyps or even during a routine examination of the colon via a colonoscopy procedure. Perforation of the bowel could lead to sepsis, which is potentially fatal if left untreated.

Another possible surgical error involves lacerations of organs such as the colon or bladder, which could cause internal bleeding. Over time, this bleeding could cause clotting that travels to the lungs, potentially causing a pulmonary embolism, which is often fatal.

Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice

Oftentimes, surgical errors are the result of a surgeon or other medical professional’s negligence. Like other professionals, medical staff are required to meet a standard of care and do what they can to prevent injury to patients during surgery. While surgical procedures often come with certain inherent risks, negligence can still occur during surgery that leads to serious life-altering injuries and death.

If patients sustain serious injuries or wrongful death as a result of surgical errors, it may be possible for victims or their families to file malpractice lawsuits against liable negligent medical staff. Compensation recovered in these cases could help cover medical costs and other related damages resulting from surgical errors.

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Image source France24

France and Poland have re-imposed partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks.

In France, some 21 million people in 16 areas, including Paris, are affected as the country fears a third wave.

In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are now closed for three weeks.

Poland has the highest new daily rates of Covid-19 cases since November 2020.

Covid-19 cases are also rising exponentially in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel warning it is likely that the country will now need to apply an “emergency brake” and re-impose lockdown measures.

The vaccine rollout across the EU has been hindered by delayed deliveries, as well as the suspension in several countries of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, over fears of possible side effects.

In France, the partial lockdown took effect from midnight on March 19.

Trains leaving Paris for parts of the country where lockdown restrictions do not apply, such as Brittany and Lyon, were reportedly fully booked hours before the measures were due to come into effect.

Traffic jams were reported on several roads leaving the capital.

The new restrictions are not as strict as the previous lockdown, with people allowed to exercise outdoors.

Non-essential businesses are shut, but schools remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”.

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France has reported more than 4.2 million infections since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 92,000 Covid-related deaths, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

In Poland, the three-week lockdown began on March 20.

Polish health officials earlier warned the nationwide restrictions were necessary because of a rampant British variant of Covid-19 in the country. The variant now makes up more than 60% of infections.

Poland has had more than two million confirmed infections, and nearly 49,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Germany said on March 19 it was now classifying neighboring Poland as high risk. This means that from March 21 anyone crossing the border from Poland must provide a negative coronavirus test.

Despite assurances from the European medicines regulator that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, some countries remain reluctant to resume their campaigns using the jab.

Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands are among the countries that have restarted their AstraZeneca vaccination campaigns.

Health authorities in France have recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be offered only to people aged 55 and over.

Finland’s health authority has announced a pause in its use of the vaccine that will last at least a week. That move, which follows two reports of blood clots in patients who had received the jab in the country, was said to be a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, Sweden, Denmark and Norway said on March 19 that they needed more time to determine whether they should resume AstraZeneca inoculations.

On March 20, Denmark said that two members of hospital staff in Copenhagen had developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reviewed the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots and found it was not associated with a higher risk of clots.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Netherlands has become the latest country to halt use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine over concerns about possible side effects.

The WHO and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) say there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and reports of blood clots.

Eight countries have so far fully suspended the AstraZeneca vaccinations.

The WHO told Reuters it was important that vaccination campaigns continued.

About 17 million people in the EU and the UK have received a dose of the vaccine, with fewer than 40 cases of blood clots reported as of last week, AstraZeneca said.

Experts say the number of blood clots reported after the vaccine were no more than those typically reported within the general population.

However, the Dutch government said its suspension, which will last until at least March 29, was a precaution.

Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria and Iceland have paused inoculations with AstraZeneca vaccine, while the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia have delayed the start of their AstraZeneca rollouts. Several European countries, including Italy and Austria, have suspended the use of certain batches of the drug as a precautionary measure.

Thailand announced that it would start using the vaccine on March 16, following a brief delay to the rollout over safety concerns.

The EMA – which is currently carrying out a review into incidents of blood clots – said the vaccine could continue to be administered.

In a statement, the Dutch government said it was acting out of precaution following reports from Denmark and Norway of possible serious side effects.

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Dutch drug watchdog Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb later said that 10 cases of possible adverse side effects had been reported in the Netherlands, according to Reuters.

“We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

“We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.”

Speaking on an early morning talk show on March 15, Hugo de Jonge said he hoped the suspension would last “no longer than a couple of weeks”, adding: “We need vaccines to be able to put this nasty period behind us.”

The government’s decision will now cause delays in the Dutch vaccination program.

The authorities had pre-ordered 12 million doses of AstraZeneca, with nearly 300,000 shots scheduled in the next two weeks.

AstraZeneca said there was no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

It said that across the EU and UK there had been 15 events of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in a vein – and 22 events of pulmonary embolism – a blood clot that has entered the lungs – reported among those vaccinated.

AstraZeneca said these figures were “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed Covid-19 vaccines”.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Denmark has temporarily suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine as a precaution, after reports of a small number of blood clots and one death.

According to the Danish health authority, it was too early to say whether there was a link to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Austria earlier stopped using a batch of the drug, prompting the EU medicines agency (EMA) to say there was no indication the vaccine caused blood clots.

AstraZeneca says its safety has been studied extensively in clinical trials.

A spokesperson said: “Patient Safety is the highest priority for AstraZeneca.

“Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.”

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Peer-reviewed data confirmed it had been “generally well tolerated”, the statement added.

Denmark’s decision came days after Austria suspended use of a particular batch of the drug because a woman died 10 days after taking it. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg have also stopped using the batch.

Danish authorities said they were pausing use of the vaccine for 14 days in what Health Minister Magnus Heunicke called a “precautionary measure”.

Although no link had been established, he said “we must respond in a timely and careful manner” until a conclusion was reached.

The decision to put the vaccine on hold in Denmark and Austria is a setback for a European vaccination campaign that has stuttered into life, partly due to delays in delivery of the AstraZeneca drug.

The Danish authority said it was not an easy decision as it was during the biggest and most important rollout in the country’s history.

The EMA said its safety committee was reviewing the Austrian case, but made clear that “there is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine”.

The number of “thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population”, it added.

The FDA has formally approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, the third to be authorized in the US.

The vaccine is set to be a cost-effective alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer.

Trials found the vaccine prevented serious illness but was 66% effective overall when moderate cases were included.

It is made by the Belgian firm Janssen.

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to provide the US with 100 million doses by the end of June. The first doses could be available to the public as early as next week.

The UK, EU and Canada have also ordered doses, and 500 million doses have also been ordered through the Covax scheme to supply poorer nations.

President Joe Biden hailed it as “exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development”, but warned that the “fight is far from over”.

He said in a statement: “Though we celebrate today’s news, I urge all Americans – keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing masks..

“As I have said many times, things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread, and the current improvement could reverse.”

The FDA authorization came after an external committee of exerts unanimously backed the vaccine on February 27.

Results from trials conducted in the US, South Africa and Brazil showed it was more than 85% effective at preventing serious illness, and 66% effective overall when moderate cases were included.

Notably, there were no deaths among participants who had received the vaccine and no hospital admissions after 28 days post-vaccine.

Overall protection was lower in South Africa and Brazil, where virus variants have become dominant, but defense against severe or critical illness was “similarly high”.

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South Africa began administering the unapproved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to healthcare workers as part of a study earlier this month. It came after early trials suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild disease from the variant dominant in large parts of the country.

So far the only other country to approve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use is Bahrain, which gave it the green light on February 25.

Because the vaccine will require fewer doses than its two-shot Pfizer and Moderna counterparts, it will also require fewer vaccine appointments and medical staff.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been engineered to make it harmless.

It then safely carries part of the coronavirus’s genetic code into the body. This is enough for the body to recognize the threat and then learn to fight coronavirus.

This trains the body’s immune system to fight coronavirus when it encounters the virus for real.

This is similar to the approach used by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

Ghana has become the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax vaccine-sharing initiative.

A delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Accra on February 24. The first recipients are due to be healthcare workers.

The Covax scheme aims to reduce the divide between rich countries and poorer nations unable to buy doses.

The program is planning to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year.

Ghana, which has a population of over 30 million, was chosen as the first recipient of the free vaccines after promising quick distribution and meeting the criteria set by Covax.

Further deliveries are expected to neighboring Ivory Coast later this week, the Covax alliance says.

Vaccinations are expected to start in Ghana next week, and, as well as health workers, those over 60, people with underlying health conditions, and senior officials are due to be prioritized.

The vaccines delivered to Accra were produced by the Serum Institute of India and developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine has been approved by the WHO and its roll-out in Ghana is not part of a trial.

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The doses being sent to lower-income countries such as Ghana are funded by donations. As well as procuring and delivering the vaccines, Covax partners are supporting local authorities in areas such as training people to administer the vaccine and helping provide an adequate cold-chain storage and delivery system.

Many nations in the developed world, which began their own vaccinations months ago, have faced criticism for buying or ordering more vaccines than they need.

However, many of those countries placed orders for doses with pharmaceutical companies before knowing whether the vaccine in development would be effective. They were hedging their bets – placing multiple orders in the hope that at least some of them would work out.

The Covax scheme is led by the WHO and also involves the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

In a joint statement, the WHO and the United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) said it was a momentous occasion and “critical in bringing the pandemic to an end”.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will be tested on children aged between 6 and 17 in a new trial.

Some 300 volunteers will take part, with the first vaccinations in the trial taking place later in February.

Researchers say they will assess whether the vaccine produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.

The vaccine is one of two being used to protect against serious illness and death from Covid-19 in the UK, along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

As many as 240 children will receive the vaccine – and the others a control meningitis vaccine – when the trial gets under way.

Volunteers who live near one of the four study sites – the University of Oxford, St George’s University Hospital, London, University Hospital Southampton and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children – are being asked to sign up.

Those interested in taking part must complete a short questionnaire.

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AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Approved for EU Market

Andrew Pollard, professor of pediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, noted that most children were relatively unaffected by Covid and were unlikely to become unwell with the virus.

However, Prof. Pollard said it was important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children might benefit from vaccination.

There are currently no plans for children to be vaccinated with the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine in the UK, as it has only been authorized to prevent Covid-19 in people aged 18 or over.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is only authorized in those aged over 16. The vaccine priority list also excludes anyone under the age of 16, even the clinically extremely vulnerable.

The University of Oxford said it was the first trial of a Covid vaccine in the 6 to 17 age group. It said other trials had begun but only measuring efficacy in those aged 16 and 17.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

South Africa is considering swapping or selling the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the health minister announces.

The African country has 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, plans to use it to vaccinate health workers have been put on hold after a small study suggested a “minimal” effect against the South African new variant in young people.

South Africa now intends to use a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson instead.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told at a news conference: “There are already some countries that are asking that we must sell it to them.

“Our scientists will continue with further deliberations on the AstraZeneca vaccine used in South Africa and depending on their advice, the vaccine will be swapped before the expiry date.”

Zweli Mkhize added that he was due to speak with the WHO shortly after the news conference.

South Africa has recorded almost 1.5 million cases of coronavirus, and 47,000 deaths – far more than anywhere else on the continent.

Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the UK’s Oxford University carried out the trial, which has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, on around 2,000 healthy, young people with an average age of 31.

They found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of the South Africa variant of coronavirus in that low-risk group.

This means that even in people who’ve been vaccinated, the virus could still spread from person to person.

However, the research did not look at the impact of the vaccine on severe disease from Covid-19 because there was no-one in the study who was in a high-risk category (over 50) or had an underlying health condition.

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AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Approved for EU Market

Oxford University researchers say promising results from other trials using similar vaccines in South Africa suggest their shot should be effective at preventing severe cases – the main aim of all Covid vaccines.

South Africa now plans to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to a group of 100,000 older nurses and healthcare workers.

That’s to see if it is effective against the new variant and in preventing severe illness in an older age group.

The South Africa variant carries a mutation that appears to make it more contagious or easy to spread.

However, there is no evidence that the variant causes more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected.

As with the original strain, the risk is highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

Scientists say the variant accounts for 90% of new Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

At least 20 other countries, including the UK, Austria, Japan, Kenya and Norway have found cases of the variant.

The health minister for neighboring Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, said on February 9 that it would no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The health authorities in Malawi have said they still plan to use the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Negotiations are still going on over the amount and the price South Africa will pay for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is made by Belgian pharmaceutical firm Janssen.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not yet been approved for use in South Africa.

The first of the nine million doses it has ordered are due to arrive next week.

The South African health minister said these would be provided to some 500,000 health workers as “an implementation study”, possibly starting as early as next week, but this was still to be confirmed.

He also promised to explain next week just how much of the vaccine will be coming to South Africa.

Zweli Mkhize said that South Africa had already secured vaccine doses from Pfizer which it has agreed to bring in earlier than originally agreed.

South Africa is also in discussions with other manufactures, including the makers of Sputnik V, Sinovac and Moderna vaccines, he added.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

South Africa has decided to suspend its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold after a study showed “disappointing” results against its new Covid variant.

According to scientists, the new variant accounts for 90% of new Covid cases in South Africa.

The trial, involving some 2,000 people, found that the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases.

However, experts are hopeful that the vaccine will still be effective at preventing severe cases.

South Africa has recorded almost 1.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 46,000 deaths since the pandemic began – a higher toll than any other country on the continent.

South Africa has received one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and was preparing to start vaccinating people.

France Approves AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Only for People Under 65

AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Approved for EU Market

On February 8, the WHO warned against jumping to conclusions about the efficacy of Covid vaccines.

Dr. Katherine O’Brien, the WHO’s director of immunization, said it was very plausible that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would still have a meaningful impact on the South African variant, especially when it came to preventing hospitalizations and death.

She stressed that the WHO’s expert panel held “a very positive view” of proceeding with the use of the vaccine, including in areas where variants were circulating, but that more data and information would be needed as the pandemic continued.

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his government would wait for further advice on how best to proceed with the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the findings.

In the meantime, he said, the government would offer vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.

Early results from Moderna suggest its vaccine is still effective against the South Africa variant, while AstraZeneca has said its vaccine provides good protection against the UK variant first identified late last year.

Early results also suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine protects against the new variants.

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When someone you care about loses someone they love, the feelings that the death can dredge up can be extremely difficult to manage and highly complex. You are likely to feel highly helpless, as the person you care about may be in a great deal of pain, leaving you feeling utterly helpless to help them. It’s important to remember that you aren’t supposed to be able to remove that individual’s grief, only be there for them as best you can. As such, here are three easy ways to express sympathy to someone who lost someone.

Gift Baskets

If you feel compelled to buy something for this person who lost something, sympathy gift baskets from Hickory Farms may be the perfect present. After all, these gift baskets can be useful on many levels. These baskets can be customized to be more than just a thoughtful thought, as they can contain a variety of useful foods or presents that may be able to bring a smile to the face of someone who is in pain. However, more importantly, it is a gesture that shows you care. These gift baskets are high end presents designed to help someone in pain. It is an extremely thoughtful gesture, one that the individual in question is sure to appreciate.

Get A Service

Someone who lost someone is likely to be overwhelmed by the array of newfound responsibilities in front of them. They now have to plan for a funeral, arrange for an estate to be disposed of, and embrace a whole new array of responsibilities that they had never previously used. That’s why the nicest thing to do for the person you care about may also be the simplest: Get them a service that they can use. Arrange for a handyman to take care of any of their needs. Get a chef to cook them meals for a couple of weeks. Call a housekeeper and buy them a month’s worth of visits. Just do something that will ease their burden and make their lives easier, particularly during the adjustment period, as they figure out how to live a new life.

Ask

Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is also the best. As you can, talk to the person who lost someone, and ask them a very simple question: What do they need? Or, more specifically, what do they need help with? They may reveal that they want everyone to go away and let them grieve in peace. They may also say that they have a few specific items that they need help with, like arranging the funeral home or disposing of the possessions of the deceased. Regardless, there’s only one way to find out what they truly need: Ask them.

When someone you care about loses someone they love, it can be a nightmare. The best thing you can do is help that person by getting them something thoughtful or asking them how you can be most helpful.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Russian coronovirus vaccine showed around 92% protection against Covid-19, late stage trial results published in The Lancet reveal.

Sputnik V vaccine has also been deemed to be safe – and offer complete protection against hospitalization and death.

The vaccine was initially met with some controversy after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released.

However, scientists said the Russian vaccine’s benefit has now been demonstrated.

Sputnik V joins the ranks of proven vaccines alongside Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen.

It works in a similar way to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK, and the Janssen vaccine developed in Belgium.

Sputnik V uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the body.

Safely exposing the body to part of the virus’s genetic code in this way allows it to recognize the threat and learn to fight it off, without risking becoming ill.

After being vaccinated, the body starts to produce antibodies specially tailored to the coronavirus.

This means the immune system is primed to fight coronavirus when if it encounters it for real.

The Russian vaccine can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees) making it easier to transport and store.

But unlike other similar vaccines, Sputnik V uses two slightly different versions of the vaccine for the first and second dose – given 21 days apart.

They both target the coronavirus’s distinctive “spike”, but use different vectors – the neutralized virus that carries the spike to the body.

The idea is that using two different formulas boosts the immune system even more than using the same version twice – and may give longer-lasting protection.

As well as proving effective, it was also safe with no serious reactions linked to the vaccine during the trial.

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Some side effects to a vaccine are expected but these are usually mild, including a sore arm, tiredness and a bit of a temperature.

There were no deaths or serious illness in the vaccinated group linked to the Russian vaccine.

As well as Russia, Sputnik V is being used in a number of other places, including: Argentina, Venezuela, Hungary, UAE, Iran, Palestinian territories.

The authors of the Lancet paper pointed out the analysis only included symptomatic cases of Covid, and more work would need to be done to understand whether it stops even asymptomatic cases, and prevents the virus from being passed on by vaccinated people.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

France has restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine to people under age of 65.

The move is the latest recommendation from an EU member state approving the vaccine with such restrictions, citing insufficient data on its efficacy for older people.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU drugs regulator, has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults, but it is up to each member to set its own rollout policy.

Germany and Austria have already recommended the vaccine be limited to under-65s.

There has been criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations in the EU and the campaign has been hit by delays to deliveries of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, among others.

The European Commission – the EU executive – was caught up in a row with AstraZeneca last week, after the company said it could not supply the expected doses on time.

The president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in particular, has been under fire for her own handling of the rollout, but she defended her stance on February 2.

Ursula von der Leyen told France’s Le Monde: “I am convinced that the European strategy on vaccination is the right one.”

AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Approved for EU Market

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed the EU’s approach in a TV interview.

France’s health regulator said there was still not enough data about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine for patients over 65 years of age.

“These data will arrive in the coming weeks. In the meantime we recommend its use for people under 65 years old,” it said.

It recommended the vaccine for health workers and vulnerable people between the ages of 50 and 65.

More than 1.5 million people have received a Covid vaccine so far in France.

Last week Germany’s vaccine commission said it could not recommend the use of the vaccine in people aged over 65.

On February 2, health authorities in Sweden and Poland made similar announcements and Belgium’s health minister said the vaccine, for the moment, would only be given to people below the age of 55. Italy’s medicines agency on Saturday also approved the jab for all adults under 55.

In a study yet to be formally published, scientists at Oxford University have said the vaccine could lead to a “substantial” fall in the spread of the virus.

Individual EU countries are free to decide who vaccines should be given to once they have been approved at EU level.

In her TV interview on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “every vaccine is welcome in the European Union”, adding that good data had emerged for the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

In her interview with Le Monde, Ursula von der Leyen admitted that the EU had made missteps.

She said: “When you make urgent decisions – and in this year of crisis we’ve taken around 900 – there’s always the chance of missing something.”

However, Ursula von der Leyen said 18 million vaccine doses had been delivered across the EU so far and many more would follow over the next two months.

No-one who received the Oxford vaccine in trials was hospitalized or became seriously ill due to Covid-19.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is given via two injections to the arm, the second between 4 and 12 weeks after the first.

When it approved it last week, the EMA noted that most participants in test studies were under 55 years of age.

The agency said that while there were not yet enough results to show how well the vaccine will work in older people, “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines”.

AstraZeneca has said a US study will shortly provide additional data on the vaccine’s efficacy in older adults.

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Regular workout and sport are essential for us. It keeps us physically as well as mentally fit. However, in these activities, there are some chances of getting hurt, which can be very critical at times. A study shows that around 41% of Gym users get injured while working out. But you can make sure to not become one of them by planning little and following simple things. What are they? Follow through the post and you’ll find out.

Have a Routine Checkup
You don’t have to be an Olympic-level athlete to go see a doctor for your fitness test. It’s essential to have a routine physical. It can minimize the chances of workout injuries to a minimum.

Hire a Personal Trainer
Many people ignore the importance of a personal trainer and find it unnecessary to hire one. Googling everything is good to an extent but taking assistance from the professional is another thing. So, don’t put your health at stake and if you’re just starting out the gym, get a good personal trainer for yourself. It surely would cost you additional bucks with the gym membership, but a qualified trainer would eliminate all the chances of workout injuries and help you achieving fitness goals fast, be it muscle building, weight loss, or merely fitness.

Don’t Miss the Warm-Up
One of the major causes of sports or workout injuries is not warming up well before starting out. You can see many people just start running on the treadmill or lifting weights right after entering the gym. This habit causes severe muscle and joint injuries in people. That’s why it’s essential to stretch the muscle and warm up the body a little before doing any exercise.

Workout Gears are Must
Lack of workout equipment causes most of the injuries that could’ve been avoided merely by wearing them. The safety equipment for sports includes clothing, protective guards, and most importantly, footwear. Yes, you heard it right. Footwear is a crucial part of the workout equipment that boosts performance and minimizes the risk of injuries during workouts. People usually go for cheap footwear due to high prices, but instead, you can use finish line discount codes to get huge discounts on the footwear of all the famous sports brands.

Don’t Exercise on Empty Tank.
It’s a very common myth that staying on an empty stomach is healthy and causes weight loss. Many people follow this myth in the gym routine, which is very harmful to the body. You need to fuel your body for exercise, which also includes water intake. Because during workout our body burns the calories and lose fluids through sweat. However, one should workout immediately after eating. There should be a minimum hour or more gap between the last meal and workout.

Respect your Body
Our body communicates with us through the pain. One must not idolize giving extreme pain to the body for any fitness goal. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean gain. Workouts can be hard, but they should never ever in pain. When you’re feeling extreme pain during a workout, it’s your body asking, giving your signal about the injury, and you should listen to your body. This intense pain can cause permanent injuries to the body internally. If you feel any sort of pain, leave the workout and rest until your body gets ready to handle the stress again.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for people aged over 18 has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EU’s drugs regulator said the AstraZeneca vaccine was about 60% effective in the trials on which it based its decision.

The move comes amid a dispute over whether Anglo-Swedish drug-maker is breaking its vaccine delivery commitments to the EU.

The European Commission has published its contract with Astra-Zeneca, hoping to show a breach.

Last week, AstraZeneca said vaccine supplies would be reduced because of problems in one of its EU factories.

The shortfall is expected to be about 60% in the first quarter of 2021. The EU has also received fewer than expected doses of the two other vaccines it has approved – from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

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The EU has said AstraZeneca must honor its commitments and deliver the doses it ordered by diverting doses manufactured in the UK. However, the company said its contract for UK supplies prevents this.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told German radio on January 29 that the EU contract signed in August contained “binding orders”, and called for an explanation.

The commission later said it had agreed a plan to introduce export controls on coronavirus vaccines. It means individual member states will decide whether to allow the export of vaccines produced in their territory. It will be in place until the end of March.

A European Commissioner said it was being introduced to enhance transparency and to ensure that all EU citizens had access to vaccines.

Germany’s vaccine commission said this week that it could not recommend the use of AstraZeneca vaccine in people aged over 65, citing a lack of data on how it affected this age group.

The UK has been using the AstraZeneca vaccine in its mass immunization program for weeks now, and public health officials say it is safe and provides “high levels of protection”.

Confirming it had approved the vaccine, the EMA said that most participants in the test studies were between 18 and 55 years old. It said that while there were not yet enough results to show how the vaccine will work in older people, “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”

Individual EU countries can still decide who vaccines should be given to, once they have been approved.

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Janssen’s single dose Covid-19 vaccine is 66% effective, the Belgian company has announced.

However, nobody needed hospital treatment or died from coronavirus after the vaccine took effect in the international trial.

Crucially, the trial looked at giving just one dose of the vaccine, which makes it significantly easier to roll out than those requiring two.

Although there are also signs the vaccine is less effective against the new variant that is spreading in South Africa.

The news comes shortly after Novavax announced their vaccine was 89% effective overall in the UK and 60% in South Africa. Both new vaccines will need to be reviewed by regulators before they can be used.

Janssen, a pharmaceutical company owned by Johnson & Johnson, is also investigating whether giving two doses will give either stronger or longer-lasting protection.

The fact the vaccine works as a single dose and can be kept in a standard fridge, while others need super-cold storage, means the vaccine could have a significant role around the world.

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Dr. Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said: “A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings.”

He added the vaccine could “potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of Covid-19”.

Janssen is aiming to make one billion doses in 2021.

The Janssen vaccine uses a common cold virus that has been engineered to make it harmless.

The vaccine then safely carries part of the coronavirus’s genetic code into the body. This is enough for the body to recognize the threat and then learn to fight coronavirus.

This trains the body’s immune system to fight coronavirus when it encounters the virus for real.

This is similar to the approach used by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

Dr Mathai Mammen, from Janssen, said: “A single dose regimen with fast onset of protection and ease of delivery and storage provides a potential solution to reaching as many people as possible.

“The ability to avoid hospitalizations and deaths would change the game in combating the pandemic.”

The results are based on nearly 44,000 people who took part in the trial and 468 cases of Covid-19.

However, the Janssen vaccine was just 57% effective in the South African part of the trial, where a new version of the coronavirus is spreading, compared with 72% in the US.

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Image source: Florida Foundation Authority

When people spend time at home, it is only natural that they want to feel relaxed and comfortable. This is a place where you get to spend time with loved ones, enjoy some downtime, and shut yourself away from the noise and stress of the outside world. This is why you need to ensure your Myrtle Beach home is comfortable and provides a setting where you can chill out whenever you want to.

There are some things that can have a big impact on your comfort levels at home, and this includes issues that may arise from your crawl space. For those who have a crawl space under the home, it is vital that this is looked after in order to help ensure a comfortable home environment. You can enlist the help of a specialist in crawl space repair in Myrtle Beach if there is any damage that needs to be addressed. In addition, you should waterproof the space and keep it clean in order to reduce the risk of issues in your home.

How Caring for This Space Can Benefit Your Comfort Levels

Given that most people do not spend time in the crawl space, you may be wondering how crawl space maintenance can make your home more comfortable. Well, there are lots of issues that can affect your main home if you do not look after the crawl space. By maintaining the space, it will help you avoid these problems, which means a more comfortable home environment.

One of the ways in which caring for your crawl space can benefit your home environment is by reducing the risk of mold and dampness in your home. When these problems occur, you could find that many of your rooms are affected, which can create a home setting that is unpleasant to look at. It can also affect air quality in your home, increase the risk of health issues, and result in a setting that is cold and difficult to keep warm.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that a crawl space that is damp and in poor condition can heighten the risk of pest infestations in your home. If your home is overrun with pests, it means that you will be in an unhygienic setting and a home where pests could cause a huge range of serious issues. Pests can result in a lack of hygiene and they can also spread disease to those in the home. They can also cause bad smells in the home as well as a lot of stress for people in your property.

There are lots of ways in which the state of the space under your home can affect your actual home. This then impacts everyone in the property and can result in a home setting that is not pleasant to spend time in. By looking after your crawl space, you can avoid major issues that could impact your life quality at home.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Israel has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination campaign to teens aged 16 -18, in an effort to enable them to sit exams.

More than 25% of Israel’s population of 9 million have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine since December 19, the health ministry says.

Israel started with the elderly and others at high risk, but people aged 40 and over can also now get the vaccine.

It hopes to start reopening its economy in February.

The inclusion of 16 to 18-year-olds – with parental permission – is meant “to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams”, an education ministry spokeswoman said.

The matriculation exams that Israeli students sit at the end of high school play an important role in deciding where they will go to university. Their results can also affect their placement in the military, where many young Israelis do compulsory service.

However, the education ministry has said it is too early to say whether schools will reopen next month.

Covid-19 Vaccine: Israel Leads the World in Vaccination Rate

Israel started its rapid vaccination drive – the fastest in the world – in on December 19, reaching 10% of its population by the end of 2020.

The country has recorded more than 596,000 cases and 4,392 deaths with Covid-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

On January 24, the government said it would ban passenger flights in and out of the country from January 25 for the rest of the month, in an effort to halt the spread of new virus variants.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign.”

Foreigners have largely been blocked from entering Israel during the pandemic.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Hungary is the first country in the EU to give preliminary approval to the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V.

On January 21, PM Viktor Orban’s chief of staff confirmed both the Russian vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been given the green light by the health authorities.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is travelling to Russia for further talks, where he is expected to discuss a shipment and distribution deal.

Early results from trials of the Russian vaccine have shown promising results.

Hungarian health officials are also in Beijing for talks with the Chinese authorities over the approval and immediate delivery of one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is already being used in neighboring Serbia.

Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, announced last month that phase three trials of its vaccine showed that it was 79% effective – lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna.

However, PM Viktor Orban has said the only way Hungary can satisfy the demand for vaccination, given the “frustratingly” slow delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, is by buying from Russia and China.

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At least 140,000 Hungarians have already been vaccinated. But government efforts to popularize the Russian and Chinese vaccines have already run into opposition.

The skepticism and suspicion among Hungarians is, in the public imagination at least, related to the Communist domination of the country from 1948 to 1989.

The move has also drawn criticism from the EU, which is wary of yet another example of Viktor Orban’s government going its own way and undermining EU solidarity.

Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian biochemist who left the country for the United States in 1985, played a key role in developing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Some polls suggest only seven percent of Hungarians would accept the Sputnik V vaccine, while acceptance of the Chinese version has been measured as low as one percent by some surveys.

Russia is funding and building a major expansion of Hungary’s nuclear power station at Paks. The Chinese Fudan University is also due to open a campus in Budapest in 2024, and plans are advancing for a high-speed Chinese railway that would link Budapest to Thessaloniki and bring Chinese goods to Europe.

According to recent reports, 6,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine will be administered to 3,000 paid Hungarian volunteers in phase three of a clinical trial in the coming weeks.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

According a study by the University of Texas, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can still target a key mutation that has emerged in two new variants of coronavirus.

However, this is only one of many mutations that are found in the new forms of the virus.

So while the study has been welcomed, it is not being seen as definitive scientific evidence about how the vaccine will perform.

New variants have been detected in the UK and South Africa.

Both variants are spreading more quickly and this has raised questions over what level of protection vaccines can offer against them.

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The widely held view is that vaccines will still work, but researchers are on the hunt for proof.

The study focuses on a mutation called N501Y, which is emerged in both new variants.

This is thought to be important because it is in the part of the virus that makes first contact with our body’s cells and changes could make it easier to get in and cause an infection.

The researchers created two forms of the virus – one with and one without the mutation – and then bathed those viruses in blood samples taken from 20 patients that had been vaccinated in clinical trials.

The study results showed the immune systems of vaccinated patients were able to take out the new mutation.

However, the variant that emerged contain multiple mutations whose combined effects may help the virus evade the immune system.

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Israel has the highest coronavirus vaccination rate in the world with 11.55 doses per 100 people.

It is followed by Bahrain at 3.49 and the UK at 1.47, according to a global tracking website affiliated with Oxford University.

In comparison, France had vaccinated 138 people in total by December 30.

More than 1.8 million people have now died of Covid-19 around the world.

The comparative figures on vaccination are put together by Our World in Data, which is a collaboration between Oxford University and an educational charity.

They measure the number of people who have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Most of the vaccines approved for use so far rely on two doses, given more than a week apart.

The US fell far short of its target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, with just 2.78 million having received a jab by December 30.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he does not agree with UK plans to give as many people as possible a first vaccine dose, while delaying second doses.

He said the US would not be adopting a similar strategy.

India has meanwhile approved two vaccines for emergency use – the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Covaxin vaccine, developed locally by Bharat Biotech and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

Two further vaccines are awaiting approval. India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by the middle of the year and has been staging drills to prepare for mass distribution.

India is holding a national drill for its vaccination program, which is aiming to reach 300 million people by the middle of the year.

It will rely on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has now been recommended by a government panel. The Oxford vaccine does not require the same storage at extremely low temperatures as the Pfizer vaccine, making it suitable for distribution to areas without sophisticated health care facilities.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is known as Covishield in India, where it is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Another vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech, has been approved for emergency use.

Covid-19 has already claimed nearly 150,000 lives in India, with about 10 million people infected – second only to the number infected in the US.

Israel began vaccinations on December 19 and is delivering the shot to about 150,000 people a day, with priority given to the over-60s, health workers and people who are clinically vulnerable.

It secured supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine following negotiations early on in the pandemic. It is contacting people with priority access to the vaccine through its health care system – by law all Israelis must register with a recognized health care provider.

Israel has safely subdivided shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -70C, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told YNet TV news. This means smaller batches of the vaccine can be sent out to remote communities.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who is campaigning for re-election, has predicted Israel could emerge from the pandemic as early as February. It is currently in its third national lockdown.

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Joe Biden Sets 100M Covid Vaccinations Goal for First 100 Days

In the first three days of the EU vaccination campaign, which launched on December 27, France inoculated fewer than 100 people. In comparison, Germany had given more than 190,000 vaccines by January 2.

Part of the difficulty in France stems from the widespread scepticism about the vaccination. In a 15-country poll carried out by Ipsos Global Advisor, just 40% of French respondents said they would be willing to have the vaccine.

This compares to 80% in China, 77% in the UK, and 69% in the US.

Earlier this week, the French health minister defended the slow pace of vaccinations, saying authorities had chosen to give the vaccine in care homes to elderly residents, rather than making them travel.