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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.

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.

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

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.

South Africa Considering Swaping or Selling AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine

South Africa Suspends Rollout of AstraZeneca Vaccine over New Covid Variant

France Approves AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Only for People Under 65

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.

South Africa Suspends Rollout of AstraZeneca Vaccine over New Covid Variant

France Approves AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Only for People Under 65

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.

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.

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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Pfizer Vaccine Can Target New Covid Variant

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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Pfizer Vaccine Can Target New Covid Variant

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.

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

Covid-19: EU Kicks Off Mass Vaccination Campaign

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

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.

Covid-19: EU Kicks Off Mass Vaccination Campaign

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.

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The EU is launching a co-ordinated mass vaccination to fight Covid-19, in what the bloc’s top official Ursula von der Leyen says is a “touching moment of unity”.

On December 26, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to all 27 member states.

Some countries started administering the jabs on the same day, saying they were not prepared to wait another day.

The EU has so far reported more than 335,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

More than 14 million people have been infected, and strict lockdown measures are currently in place in nearly all the member states.

The EU mass vaccination comes as cases of the more contagious variant of the virus are confirmed in several European countries as well as Japan and Canada.

Mass vaccination for the EU’s 446 million people is due to begin in the coming hours.

This comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission authorized the German-US Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The EU has secured contracts for more than two billion vaccine doses from a range of drug companies.

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Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU. The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on December 26: “This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, trucks with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states. Further deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow.

“This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It’s the key for us getting back our lives.”

Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait for December 27 and started immunizing elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt.

The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the vaccine: “We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again.”

In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital on December 26, the state news agency says.

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Image by Jürgen Rübig from Pixabay

For many women, turning 30 is a big moment in their lives. Often, turning 30 coincides with numerous lifestyle changes. Women in their 30s may decide to start a family; or focus on their career. Or women in their 30s may decide to move to a new city, start a new business venture, or develop new relationships. Whatever your plan for the next ten years is, it’s important for women who are turning 30 to understand how to ensure their long-term health and wellness for years to come. Thankfully, this blog will help you achieve just that. Check out our top four health tips for women in their 30s:

Stay Active

As people get older, they tend to find it more difficult to stick to a rigorous exercise routine. However, it’s crucial that you maintain –– if not improve –– your workout habits moving forward. Regular exercise can not only help you achieve a healthy weight, but it can protect you from the onset of numerous medical conditions and illnesses. Now might be a great time to try out new exercise techniques that you may have overlooked so far.

Speak to Your Doctor

Individuals in their 20s may not feel the need to speak with their doctor all that often. Yet, as women enter their 30s, they should make it a priority to visit their doctor on a regular basis. Indeed, this is particularly true for women who are concerned with their fertility or who may want to have kids. Some women may even need to schedule an appointment with a tubal reversal doctor to improve their chances of conception. Regardless, all women in their 30s should seek to consult with their doctor more frequently.

Cut Out Bad Habits

Poor health decisions like staying up late, indulging in fast food, or engaging with cigarettes/alcohol are bad no matter when you start them. For women in their 30s, though, it’s imperative that you cut out these bad habits ASAP. Getting enough sleep, practicing a smart diet, and avoiding detrimental activities are all vital steps to building a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t Neglect Mental Health

You’re never too old to experience feelings of anxiety or depression. No one is immune to experiencing mental health issues, so it’s key that women in their 30s take their mental well-being seriously. At the very least, do your best to communicate your mental and emotional needs to others. And don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health expert should you require clinical assistance. Remember, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness –– it’s an example of your strength!

A new variant of coronavirus has been blamed for the introduction of strict tier four mixing rules for millions of people, harsher restrictions on mixing at Christmas in the UK, and other countries placing the UK on a travel ban.

Specialists have “moderate” confidence that the new variant is more able to transmit than other variants.

All the work is at an early stage, contains huge uncertainties and a long list of unanswered questions.

Three things are coming together that mean it is attracting attention:

  • It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus
  • It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important
  • Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells

All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily.

However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time – such as London, which had only tier two restrictions until recently.

But already the justification for tier four restrictions is in part to reduce the spread of the variant.

The variant was first detected in September. In November around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.

The virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, is not the same one you will find in most corners of the world.

The D614G mutation emerged in Europe in February and became the globally dominant form of the virus.

Another, called A222V, spread across Europe and was linked to people’s summer holidays in Spain.

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An initial analysis of the new variant has been published and identifies 17 potentially important alterations.

There have been changes to the spike protein – this is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway to our body’s cells.

One mutation called N501Y alters the most important part of the spike, known as the “receptor-binding domain”.

This is where the spike makes first contact with the surface of our body’s cells. Any changes that make it easier for the virus to get inside are likely to give it an edge.

The other mutation – a H69/V70 deletion, in which a small part of the spike is removed – has emerged several times before, including famously in infected mink.

Work by Prof Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has suggested this mutation increases infectivity two-fold in lab experiments.

Studies by the same group suggest the deletion makes antibodies from the blood of survivors less effective at attacking the virus.

The variant is unusually highly mutated.

The most likely explanation is the variant has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus.

Instead their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate.

There is no evidence to suggest that the infection is more deadly, although this will need to be monitored.

However, just increasing transmission would be enough to cause problems for hospitals.

If the new variant means more people are infected more quickly, that would in turn lead to more people needing hospital treatment.

It appears that all three leading vaccines develop an immune response against the existing spike, which is why the question comes up.

Vaccines train the immune system to attack several different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still work.

Vaccine escape happens when the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine and continues to infect people.

This may be the most concerning element of what is happening with the virus.

This variant is just the latest to show the virus is continuing to adapt as it infects more and more of us.

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Image source: Unsplash

When you’re shopping for furniture and trying to put together a room you can enjoy spending time in, rugs are usually an afterthought. But actually, rugs do much more than provide plush padding for your feet. They provide the foundation for a room. They’re essentially like artwork for your floor.

All this means that you should choose one carefully, especially since they can be quite pricey. But with so many options, it can get confusing. Well, you don’t have to spend months doing research. Here are the three most important things to consider when buying a rug.

The Size of the Rug

The size of the rug is very important. If it’s too small, it looks out of place. If it’s too big, it makes the room look and feel smaller. If you get just the right size, you can bring warmth and balance to your living space.

Rugs come in a variety of sizes. The most common are:

  • 3 feet by 5 feet
  • 4 feet by 6 feet
  • 7 feet by 10 feet
  • 8 feet by 11 feet
  • 9 feet by 12 feet

Most people get rugs that are too small. If they moved into a new house, many have spent a lot of money on flooring, and they don’t want to cover it with a carpet. But the right area rug won’t hide your floor. It will enhance its beauty.

The right size depends on the dimension of your room and its function. For the living room, you’ll most likely place the rug underneath the coffee table. The sofa and armchairs can be placed either with all four legs on the rug or just the front two. But it has to be uniform, so for example, you shouldn’t put the sofa with all four legs on the rug and the armchairs with just the front two.

In the dining room, it will usually be placed underneath the dining table, so it has to be large enough that people can push their chairs back when they stand up. That means you have to measure your table and add 36 inches to the width and length. If you have a round table add 72 inches to the diameter.

For the bedroom, you want to leave about 18 to 24 inches on each side of the bed, taking into account nightstands and any furniture you have at the foot of the bed.

Rug Weaves

The rug’s weave is also important because it determines how long it will last and how it will feel when you step on it.

You’ll get the best quality from a hand-knotted rug, but they can be quite expensive. That’s because they’re made through a meticulous and time-intensive process. If you want to see a wide variety of luxury designer rugs compliments of Lawrence of La Brea and read more about how they’re made and their maintenance, you can visit the website.

Tufted rugs are a more budget-friendly alternative to hand-knotted rugs. They’re made by pulling the loops of yarn through the back of the rug. These loops are sheared, which results in a flat and plush surface. The disadvantage is that they’re prone to shedding.

If you want to avoid shedding, you can get a hooked rug. They’re made through a similar process, but the loops are not sheared, which gives them a more textured feel.

The most affordable option remains machine-made rugs. You can still find good quality and elaborate patterns. Another advantage is that they offer better stain resistance because they’re mostly made from synthetic materials.

Materials

The materials will determine the durability, softness, and price of your rug.

Wool is the most common fiber since it’s affordable, soft, and has good insulation properties.

Cotton rugs are less durable than wool but very low maintenance, and you can wash them in the washing machine, so they’re ideal for kitchens.

Silk is a more luxurious option that you’ll usually find with hand-knotted rugs. It gives the rugs a natural sheen and softness, but it also makes them more sensitive to moisture. If you want something that looks like silk at a lower price, you can try viscose.

Synthetic fibers are great for high traffic areas because they’re quite resistant to fading and staining.

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The practice of medicine focuses on anticipating and reducing risk based on current and historical patient data. Medical professionals historically have made decisions that don’t always have clear, certain outcomes, but with advances in new technologies, this is beginning to change.

Predictive analytics helps clinicians and medical professionals determine the likelihood of events and outcomes before they happen so that health issues can be more effectively prevented and treated. The algorithms used in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) provide historical and real-time data that help users make meaningful predictions. Predictive algorithms support clinical decision making for individual patients, show interventions on a population level, and can be applied to operational and administrative challenges.

Predictive analytics is a branch of advanced analytics that uses current data and historical data to model forecasts about the likelihood of future outcomes in business processes. The best predictive analytics tools make it easy to gain predictive insights and actionable insights that improve business intelligence. Built-in data science with linked views and one-click predictions simplify the predictive analysis with custom visualizations and predictive models that give real-time results. Easy access to machine learning (ML) algorithms trains data to produce accurate predictions and insights for stronger forecasting. The best predictive analytics tools elevate a business’s analytics knowledge to aid in important decision making and future outcomes.

Risk Scoring for Chronic Diseases

There are many predictive analytics applications in healthcare. Prediction and prevention are essential to delivering quality patient care. Healthcare providers can pinpoint patients with higher risks of developing chronic conditions earlier in a disease’s progression than ever before. Such insights give patients the best chances of avoiding long-term, costly health problems. Predictive modeling is key to identifying and managing high-risk patients and improving quality and cost outcomes.

Identifying Equipment Maintenance Needs

Predictive analytics is useful for identifying equipment maintenance needs before they happen. Components of some medical equipment degrade over time with regular use. Being able to predict when equipment needs maintenance or replacement parts minimizes unplanned workflow disruptions that affect healthcare providers and patients. The more that new technologies and advanced equipment is used by healthcare providers, the more important predictive maintenance becomes.

Paraplegics confined to wheelchairs and patients with spinal cord injuries who need to learn how to rewalk can greatly benefit from a wearable robotic exoskeleton. Robot suits have proven useful as a means of reducing workplace injuries and aiding those who struggle to stand upright.

Ekso Bionics is the global leader in exoskeleton technology, providing disruptive clinical robotics for rehabilitation. Workplace injuries caused by repetitive motions, overexertion, and fatigue can be alleviated with the use of an exoskeleton. Their FDA-approved exoskeleton suit enhances the wearer’s natural abilities, endurance, and overall quality of life. Exoskeleton technology empowers human mobility and enhances strength and endurance with advanced robotics.

Predicting Patient Utilization Patterns

Another predictive analytics application in healthcare is the prediction of patient utilization patterns. Medical clinics that operate without fixed schedules have to vary their staffing levels in anticipation of fluctuations in patients. Analytics help predicts patterns in utilization so that clinics can have sufficient staff scheduled to manage the flow of patients while reducing wait times and improving patient satisfaction. Visualization tools and analytics help clinics make better decisions about workflow adjustments and scheduling changes.

Precision Medicine and New Therapies

The more that precision medicine and genomics evolve, the more analytics are used to supplement clinical trials and drug discovery techniques. Predictive modeling and simulation predict clinical outcomes, guide clinical trial designs, supports effectiveness, optimizes dosage, predict product safety, and evaluates potential adverse outcomes. Prescriptive analytics is especially useful in drug individualization, modeling, and simulation.

There are many predictive analytics applications in healthcare including risk scoring for chronic diseases, predictive equipment maintenance, predicting patient utilization patterns, and precision medicine and new therapies.

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Image source: Getty Images

The US Covid-19 vaccination has began, as the country gears up for its largest ever immunization campaign.

Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse in Long Island, New York, is believed to have been the first person to be given the vaccine.

Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being distributed, with 150 hospitals expected to receive them on December 14.

The US vaccination program aims to reach 100 million people by April.

Covid-19 fatalities are nearing 300,000 in the US, which has by far the world’s highest death toll.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received emergency-use authorization from the FDA on December 11.

President Donald Trump tweeted following the news from New York: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!”

The roll-out of the vaccine comes as the epidemic continues to ravage the US. Deaths have been rising sharply since November and the number of people in hospital with the disease has also continued to grow steadily, with more than 109,000 people currently admitted, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

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Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the vaccine live on camera. Footage was streamed on the Twitter feed of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was the epicenter of the US epidemic in the first wave earlier this year.

She said: “It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine.

“I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – a collaboration between a US pharmaceutical giant and a German biotechnology company – offers up to 95% protection and is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved by US regulators.

The vaccine is already being rolled out in the UK, while Canada is also beginning its inoculation program on December 14, with an initial 30,000 doses going to 14 sites across the country.

Anita Quidangen, a caregiver at the Rekai Centre nursing home in Toronto, was the first to receive the vaccine in Canada.

The first three million doses in the US are being distributed to dozens of locations across all 50 states by cargo plane and truck.

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The US mass vaccination will begin on December 14 after it was authorized for emergency use, officials say.

The first three million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine would be shipped “across all states” this weekend, said General Gustave Perna, who is overseeing distribution.

The vaccine offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 and was deemed safe by the FDA.

On December 12, the US recorded a daily toll of 3,309 Covid-related deaths.

The figure, reported on the Johns Hopkins University website, is the highest total in a single day anywhere in the world.Coronavirus deaths have been rising sharply since November in the US.

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Authorizing the emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 11, the FDA – which had come under intense pressure from the Trump administration to do so – said the move was a “significant milestone” in the pandemic.

During a news conference on December 12, Gen. Perna – speaking for the government’s vaccination campaign Operation Warp Speed – said doses of the vaccine would be packed into shipping containers for transportation “within the next 24 hours”.

He said: “Expect 145 sites across the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday.”

He also said that next week’s distribution would complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and cover about three million people.

Gen. Perna told reporters he was “100% confident” that the doses “needed to defeat the enemy Covid” would be transported safely.

However, he warned that while it had been a week of progress, “we are not done until every American has access to a vaccine”.

The Pfizer vaccine has already received regulatory approval in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Like those countries, US health authorities are expected to prioritize health workers and care home residents for the first doses.

More Americans outside the highest-priority groups are likely to be able to get the vaccine in January, with general availability expected by April.

On December 10, medical experts advising the FDA recommended the emergency-use authorization. A 23-member panel concluded the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks.

Emergency use, the FDA said, was not the same as full approval, which would require Pfizer to file a separate application to secure.

The Pfizer/BioNTech product was the first coronavirus vaccine to show promising results in the latter stages of its testing process.

It is a new type called an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight Covid-19 and build immunity.

The FDA said: “The vaccine contains a small piece of the [Covid-19] virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive ‘spike’ protein.”

British and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved.

According to the researchers, mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people.

The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it’s not clear how many people will be involved.

Oxford recently published results showing their vaccine was safe and effective in trials on people.

The researchers are still collecting data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in older age groups while waiting for approval from the UK regulator, the MHRA.

AstraZeneca said it was exploring combinations of different adenovirus vaccines to find out whether mixing them leads to a better immune response and, therefore, greater protection.

The Oxford vaccine, developed in partnership with AstraZeneca, and the Russian Sputnik vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, are similar because they both contain genetic material from the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein.

They work differently to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has been approved in the UK, Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and recommended for approval by medical experts in the US.

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

Russia was the first country to register a Covid vaccine for emergency use – in August, despite only having been tested on a few dozen people.

Sputnik V is now being offered to Russians as part of a mass vaccination campaign.

AstraZeneca said it was “working with industry partners, governments and research institutions around the world, and will soon begin exploring with Gamaleya Research Institute in Russia to understand whether two adenovirus-based vaccines can be successfully combined”.

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been approved in the UK, paving the way for mass vaccination.

The UK becomes the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine.

Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.

The first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

People should wait to be contacted by the NHS, he added.

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Elderly people in care homes and care home staff are top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

However, because of the limited stocks and need to store at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospitals so care home residents may not be immunized until later.

The Pfizer/BioNTech product is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the free jab – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Matt Hancock said, with the first load next week and then “several millions” throughout December.

UK’s PM Boris Johnson said: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be non-compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK:

  • Hospitals
  • Vaccination centers
  • In the community, with GPs and pharmacists.

Around 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers – in venues such as conference centers or sports stadiums – are being set up now.

Because the initial doses are being delivered to hospitals, which already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospital hubs – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted.

It is thought the vaccination network could start delivering more than one million doses a week once enough doses are available.

Pfizer and BioNTech are filing for emergency authorization in the US of their Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, November 20.

The FDA will decide if the vaccine is safe to roll out.

It is not clear how long the FDA will take to study the data. However, the US government expects to approve the vaccine in the first half of December.

Data from an advanced trial showed the vaccine protects 94% of adults over 65.

Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s trial involved 41,000 people worldwide. Half were given the vaccine, and half a placebo.

If FDA authorization does come in the first half of next month, Pfizer and BioNTech will “be ready to distribute the vaccine candidate within hours”, the two companies said.

This would be remarkably quick for vaccine development – within 10 months of detailing the genetic code. The average wait for approval in the US is nearer eight years.

On November 19, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the filing for emergency use was a “milestone in our journey to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine to the world”.

Initial doses would be scarce, though, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) will decide who is first in line.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU could move quickly too – by the end of the year.

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Data released this week suggested the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine had 95% effectiveness.

This effectiveness was also consistent across age groups – essential given the vulnerability of the elderly – as well as ethnicities and gender.

The vaccine also had only mild-to-moderate and short-lived side-effects.

It uses an experimental approach, called mRNA, which involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body to train the immune system.

Antibodies and T-cells are then made by the body to fight the coronavirus.

The US this week passed 250,000 deaths in the coronavirus outbreak, by far the largest number in the world.

Its confirmed cases since the pandemic began stand at 11.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University research, again a global first.

Cases have also been soaring over the past week, reaching record daily highs.