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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.

China has rejected the next stage of a WHO plan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organization wants to audit laboratories in the area the virus was first identified.

Zeng Yixin, China’s deputy health minister, said this showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance toward science”.

WHO experts said it was very unlikely the virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but the theory has endured.

Investigators were able to visit Wuhan – the city where the virus was first detected in December 2019 – in January 2021.

However, earlier this month WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outlined the terms of the inquiry’s next phase. This included looking at certain science research institutions.

He has now called on China to be more co-operative about the early stages of the outbreak.

Dr. Tedros urged China to “be transparent, to be open and co-operate” with investigators and provide raw patient data that had not been shared during the first probe.

US Accuses China of Hacking Covid-19 Vaccine Labs

Speaking at a press conference on July 22, Zeng Yixin said he was extremely surprised by the WHO proposal because it focused on alleged violations of China’s laboratory protocols.

He said it was “impossible” for China to accept the terms, adding that the country had submitted its own origins-tracing recommendations.

“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Reuters quoted Zeng Yixin as saying.

Yuan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, also appeared at the press conference. He said the virus was of natural origin and maintained no virus leak or staff infections had occurred at the facility since it opened in 2018.

More than 4 million people have died worldwide since the start of the pandemic and the WHO has faced growing international pressure to further investigate the origins of the virus.

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With 2020 now over, people are ready to put the isolation factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic behind them. For many, the first order of business is travel! Currently, the demand for travel in the U.S. is high. However, the industry has changed since the 2020 interim year of lockdown and this in turn is influencing traveler habits. Here’s what we can expect to see.

Travel is Booming

Once vaccination options were announced, people immediately began to think about summer travel. During the first week of March 2021, Airbnb and VRBO saw a surge in bookings that even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Other travel companies, such as airlines, hotels and online travel platforms, were also the busiest they’d been since before the pandemic.

This trend hasn’t stopped, and industry experts are projecting summer travel could thrive. A Tripadvisor survey in April found more than half of Americans planned to travel, but 97% planned domestic travel. Travel agencies report that business is shaping up to exceed expectations. Rising airline prices, typical annual gas increases, and even difficulty securing rental cars (at higher than normal prices) are additional signs of increased travel.

Accommodation Preferences

For the most part, hotels are projected to make a big comeback as travelers become more comfortable and ready to explore beyond their backyards, but vacation rentals are still the accommodation of choice due to people preferring to avoid crowds and shared spaces. People have generally gotten used to enjoying certain aspects of social distancing and this may not change as things get back to normal.

Families especially like to avoid the cramped conditions of a hotel room, where the kids have to be taken everywhere to eat and to be entertained. They have long found that rental accommodations with their own kitchens and a washer/dryer, and loaded with in-house entertainments and attractions are the way to keep the whole family happy and actually let Mom get some rest. Others are catching on to this, and Gatlinburg cabins are booming this year, as nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, already America’s most visited national park, sees record-breaking numbers of visitors.

New Travel Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the way people live and this is undoubtedly overlapping with their travel preferences. Workcations have now become a thing, as many employers embrace work from home – having learned during the pandemic that productivity didn’t drop just because people were out of the office. As a result, up to 80% of employers plan to allow remote work at least part of the time.

Workers have grasped the options for workcation travel, such as working for an extended period of time at a beachfront rental, or spending a week or two in a cabin by a mountainside lake, or even moving to another city and exploring how the locals live for a month or two. The possibilities are endless as people discover new ways to tick off their bucket-list places without using up valuable vacation time.

Pod Travel happens when people plan secluded trips with others they trust, to minimize risks associated with group travel. Travel pods are groups consisting of two or more unrelated households, multigenerational groups, extended families, solo travelers, and friend groups.

The idea is that everyone agrees to specific health protocols before and during the trip, even including a rapid test before meeting up to assure self and others of a clean bill of health. On the trip, participants stay contained within their pod to reduce exposure to other travelers. Travelers going pod-style often rent large homes, or charter boats, reserve small hotels, arrange tours designed for large private groups, or go camping.

Staying near family has renewed interest from people largely separated from their loved ones during the pandemic. Family visits are increasingly popular and the next few years will likely be spent catching up with family. Travelers are likely to stay with family or reserve a nearby rental home where they can socialize more privately. Multi-generational living has already been on the rise in America, and the same may be true for vacationing.

Health and Budget-Conscious

Going forward, travelers are likely to be more focused on safety and budget. Increased vigilance about health protocols and being budget-minded are likely to be dominating factors for travel planning even after this initial travel rush (aka revenge travel) is over.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener and people will be more conscious of sanitary practices and promoting good health. Consumers are also less likely to take anything for granted – a travel opportunity today may not be there tomorrow, as the pandemic showed us. On the other hand, many have noticed how much money they didn’t spend in 2020 and are likely to be less impulsive and, instead, be driven by price.

Consumer Expectations

Consumer expectations are also evolving, and the industry is changing to suit. Companies associated with travel have been making goodwill gestures to try and lure people back. Hotel chains charging resort and parking fees are now lifting them, while airlines are offering more promotions and easier ticket changes.

Cleanliness is now a high value: accommodations, rental cars and airlines are promoting deep cleaning protocols. Businesses are discouraging people from traveling while sick. And the industry as a whole is offering more flexible refund policies and better customer service across the board.

From the traveler’s point of view, touchless and digital experiences enhance just about any aspect of travel, because people like the ease and control they have from their phones. The pandemic brought to the fore many desires for improvement that travelers had long held. Now, as the travel industry embraces its returning wave of travelers, we could see many improvements that make the nuts and bolts of travel easier and more fun.

China’s Sinovac Covid vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use.

Sinovac is the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light from the WHO, after Sinopharm.

The WHO approval opens the door for the vaccine to be used in the Covax program, which aims to ensure fair access to vaccines.

Sinovac, which has already been used in several countries, has been recommended for over 18s, with a second dose two to four weeks later.

The emergency approval means the Chinese vaccine “meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing”, the WHO said.

Studies showed that Sinovac prevented symptomatic disease in more than half of those vaccinated and prevented severe symptoms and hospitalization in 100% of those studied, it added.

It is hoped that the decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use will give a boost to the Covax initiative, which has been struggling with supply problems.

“The world desperately needs multiple Covid-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general for access to health products.

“We urge manufacturers to participate in the Covax facility, share their know-how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control,” she said.

As well as China, Sinovac is already being administered in countries including Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.

Sinovac says it has supplied more than 600 million doses at home and abroad as of the end of May. It says more than 430 million doses have been administered.

US to Share 60 Million Doses of AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine with Other Countries

One of Sinovac’s main advantages is that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius. This means Sinovac is a lot more useful to developing countries which might not be able to store large amounts of vaccine at low temperatures.

The emergency approval came as the heads of the WHO, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank appealed for a $50 billion investment fund to help end the pandemic.

In a joint statement they said the world had reached a perilous point, and that inequalities in access to vaccines risked prolonging the pandemic, and many more deaths.

They have called for the money to be invested in areas including vaccine production, oxygen supplies, and Covid-19 treatments, ensuring they are distributed fairly.

They also called on wealthy countries to donate vaccine doses immediately to developing nations.

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Losing weight is hardly ever easy. Even though we all might know the basic formula for shedding pounds and maintaining an ideal weight — to eat less and move more — there are other factors at play that cause our bodies and minds, as well as our environments, to wreak havoc with our chances for weight loss success.

If you’ve attempted one diet after another and struggled through every exercise program under the sun but still haven’t managed to hit your weight loss goal, it could be time for a different approach. Here are four tips to try; one of them just might help you ditch those stubborn pounds once and for all!

Do a (Natural) Cleanse

While an extreme cleanse isn’t recommended — it can starve the body of vital nutrients and lead to bacterial imbalances, decreased immunity, general malaise and sustained ill health — there are ways to boost natural detox processes within the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. Drink water; eat healthy, protein-rich (not carb-loaded) food that aids digestion (like tea, healthy fats, berries and leafy greens); and keep moving! With impurities flushed away, your body (and especially your mind) might be more ready for  healthier living in the future, making weight loss more likely to obtain.

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Research shows that when you eat could be as important as what you eat when it comes to weight loss. And if that doesn’t influence you to try intermittent fasting, research also shows that fasting can help fend off and even cure certain diseases! Sign us up!

Basically, intermittent fasting involves limiting the time you eat to a few hours each day or to eating only a certain number of calories every few days. Normal eating patterns have us consuming food all day, every day. By limiting food consumption to a specific time period or specific caloric intake, the body is able to more readily exhaust available calories and start burning fat. And when our bodies burn fat, we lose weight.

Try Lipotropic Injections

Many people have had success using a specific combination of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to boost their weight loss progress. Usually given as a weekly injection, these shots (called lipotropic injections) are offered through many natural health and medspa providers (such as the Institute of Natural Health in St. Louis). It is believed that these added nutrients foster improved energy consumption and increase metabolism, thereby aiding in general weight loss.

Meditate

There’s little doubt that the mind is a powerful contributor to overall health. There have been numerous studies that support the mind-body connection. Thus, it makes sense that controlling our minds can help us control our bodies. For instance, many nutritionists and other health care providers recommend meditation as a tool for clearing our thoughts so that we have the ability to focus on and commit to beneficial habits (like eating well, exercising and avoiding unhealthy triggers). When done correctly and consistently, meditation has been shown to improve the practitioner’s well-being and aid in his or her weight loss when needed.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The United States will share up to 60 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as they become available, the White House has announced.

The doses will be able to be exported in the coming months after a federal safety review.

The US has a stockpile of the vaccine even though its regulators have not yet authorized it for public use.

Critics have accused the government of hoarding the vaccine, while other countries are in desperate need.

Last month President Joe Biden pledged to share about 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Mexico and Canada – both of which have approved the vaccine.

The crisis in India has also piled pressure on the Biden administration to share US health resources.

On April 26, the White House said it expected that about 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine could be released when the FDA finishes its review in the coming weeks.

It said that another 50 million doses were in various stages of production.

At a news briefing, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said FDA officials would carry out quality checks on doses before they were exported.

She added: “Our team will share more details about our planning and who will be receiving offers from here, but we’re in the planning process at this point in time.”

Denmark Halts AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Rollout

Germany Suspends AstraZeneca Vaccine Use Under-60s

Sputnik V Becomes Third Covid Vaccine Approved in India

The US has already announced that it will provide raw materials for Indian vaccine manufacturers as the country battles a devastating surge in cases.

In a “warm and positive” phone call with Indian PM Narendra Modi on April 26, President Biden promised more emergency assistance “including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics”, a White House statement said.

Washington is also looking at supplying oxygen, Covid tests, personal protective equipment (PPE) and the antiviral drug remdesivir to India’s health service.

The FDA has so far authorized three vaccines against Covid- 19: Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). Experts say it looks likely that these will provide all the country’s needs and the AstraZeneca jab may not be needed.

According to the latest figures, more than 53% of adults in the US have so far received at least one dose of vaccine.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of people who have died worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic has surpassed three million.

The milestone comes the day after WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far.

India – experiencing a second wave – recorded more than 230,000 new cases on April 17 alone.

Almost 140 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic began.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on April 16 that “cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates”.

He added that “globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months”.

The US, India and Brazil – the countries with the most recorded infections – have accounted for more than a million deaths between them, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Last week saw an average of 12,000 deaths a day reported around the world, according to AFP.

However, official figures worldwide may not fully reflect the true number in many countries.

Up until a few weeks ago, India appeared to have the pandemic relatively under control. Cases had been below 20,000 a day for much of January and February – a low figure in a country of more than a 1.3 billion people.

But then infections began to rise rapidly: April 17 saw a record set for the third day in a row, with more than 234,000 cases reported.

Hospitals are running low on beds and oxygen. Sick people are being turned away, and some families are turning to the black market to get the drugs they need.

The capital Delhi has gone into lockdown over the weekend, with restrictions put in place in several other states, as officials try to stem the tide.

Brazil – which has recorded the third highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second highest number of deaths – is still struggling to control the outbreak.

On April 16, the health ministry announced more than 85,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours and 3,305 deaths.

Canada has also reported a recent rise, registering more cases per million than the US over the last week – the first time this has happened since the pandemic began.

South Africa Suspends Rollout of AstraZeneca Vaccine over New Covid Variant

Coronavirus: Wuhan Increases Death Toll By 50%

Papua New Guinea has also been highlighted as a cause for concern. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted “the potential for a much larger epidemic” in the Pacific nation following a sharp increase in cases.

He added that Papua New Guinea – which has received 140,000 vaccine doses through Australia and the Covax scheme – is a “perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important”.

More than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, in 165 countries worldwide.

However, the WHO chief told UN officials on April 16: “Vaccine equity is the challenge of our time – and we are failing.”

Some countries have secured and delivered doses to a large proportion of their population.

Those with high vaccinations rates, such as the UK and Israel, have seen their numbers of new infections drop sharply.

While Israel has distributed 119 doses per 100 people, just 2.81 doses per 100 have been given in the Palestinian territories, recent data from Our World in Data at Oxford University showed.

However, many more countries are still waiting for their first shipments to arrive.

That is leading to warnings about growing “vaccine inequity”.

Dr. Tedros pointed out that in high-income countries, one in four people have received a vaccine, compared with only one in 400 in poorer countries.

The WHO is working on a global scheme, Covax, to get rich countries to share their vaccine with lower income countries. Covax plans to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year, but many vaccines require two doses per person.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Denmark has decided to completely stop the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine rollout amid concerns about rare cases of blood clots, the first European country to do so fully.

The move is expected to delay Denmark’s vaccination program by several weeks.

Drug watchdog the European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week announced a possible link with clots but said the risk of dying of Covid-19 was much greater.

Several European countries had previously briefly suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Most have now resumed vaccinations with AstraZeneca, but often with limits to older age groups.

On April 13, the US, Canada and the EU paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for similar reasons over clotting.

South Africa has also paused its use, despite the Johnson & Johnson being its preferred vaccine because of its effectiveness against the South African variant.

For both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the blood clot side effects are extremely rare.

The EU’s vaccine rollout has been criticized by the WHO for being too slow, and there are concerns this latest delay could throw it into further turmoil.

Both vaccines work by a similar method, known as adenoviral vectors.

Danish officials said that all 2.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be withdrawn until further notice.

The Danish Health Authority said studies had shown a higher than expected frequency of blood clots following doses, affecting about one in 40,000 people.

It comes after two cases of thrombosis in Denmark were linked to vaccinations, AFP reported. One of the cases, in a 60-year-old woman, was fatal.

Director General Soren Brostrom said it had been a “difficult decision” but Denmark had other vaccines available and the epidemic there was currently under control.

However, the authority said it could not rule out using it again at another time.

During the press conference the head of Denmark’s Medicines Agency, Tanja Erichsen, fainted and was taken to hospital as a precaution. The agency later tweeted that she had recovered.

Germany Suspends AstraZeneca Vaccine Use Under-60s

Sputnik V Becomes Third Covid Vaccine Approved in India

Almost one million people in Denmark have been vaccinated, with approximately 150,000 of them receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are also in use.

Adenoviruses are found in humans and other animals. Scientists use a modified version of one of these adenoviruses, known as a vector, to deliver important instructions to cells, according to the CDC.

They work by entering cells and using the cell’s machinery to produce a harmless piece of the virus that causes Covid-19, known as a spike protein. The cell then recognizes that the spike protein does not belong there and this triggers the immune system to fight back against what it thinks is an infection.

This process allows our bodies to learn how to protect us against Covid-19, according to the CDC.

Regulators are now investigating whether an unusual immune response to the adenovirus vaccines is causing the rare but severe incidences of blood clotting.

An official from the FDA told Reuters it was “plainly obvious” that the cases of blood clots linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were “very similar” to those linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The US paused rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women under 50 developed rare blood clots after getting the shot. In the UK 30 people had developed unusual blood clots and seven of them had died after getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, out of a total of 18 million vaccinated.

Some European countries have limited the use of adenovirus vaccines to older people, who have been less affected by the rare blood clotting condition.

After the Danish announcement, France said it viewed the AstraZeneca vaccine as an “essential tool”.

France will also go ahead with plans to give the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those aged over 55, the spokesman said. The country has already received 200,000 doses. Belgium will also give the doses it has received, while Greece and Italy will not.

Meanwhile the Czech Deputy PM Jan Hamacek said he had instructed the Czech ambassador in Denmark to try to buy the 2.4 million AstraZeneca vaccines doses that the Danes would no longer be using.

Jan Hamacek said he would also travel to Moscow to arrange deliveries of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine – another adenovirus vaccine – once its use is approved by the EMA.

Denmark was the first country to postpone use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March. It was followed by numerous other European countries.

In a separate development, the European Commission said Pfizer-BioNTech would deliver an extra 50 million doses to the EU in the next few weeks.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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.

India Becomes Fastest Country to Administer 100 Million Covid Vaccine Doses

Coronavirus: India in Total Lockdown for 21 Days

Coronavirus: India Observes 14-Hour Janata Curfew to Combat Pandemic

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.

Coronavirus: India in Total Lockdown for 21 Days

Coronavirus: India Observes 14-Hour Janata Curfew to Combat Pandemic

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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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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.

Remember to still take care of your body post workout too. A protein shake is a fast and easy addition at the end of your training so that you cannot only provide your body the necessary nutrients to build muscle and strength but to also recover quickly after a workout or injury.  Look for a high quality, pure supplement like Naked Whey Grass Fed Protein Powder  which is completely free of additives, artificial sweeteners and only one ingredient – grass fed whey protein. 

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.