#AstraZenecaVaccine, #79percentEfficatyInPreventingCovid19; #Canada; #US #100percentPreventsSevereDiseaseHospitalization;
New York/Canadian-Media: Advanced trial data on its AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from a U.S. study showed 79 percent effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, and 100 percent effective in halting severe disease and hospitalization, said AstraZeneca in a statement this morning.
AstraZeneca Covid19 vaccine. Image credit: Wikimedia commons
The effectiveness of the vaccine across adults of all ages including older people was reported by the investigators, which other countries with previous studies had failed to establish.
"These findings reconfirm previous results observed," said Ann Falsey of the University of Rochester School of Medicine, who helped lead the trial. "It's exciting to see similar efficacy results in people over 65 for the first time," CBC News reported.
Also, no safety concerns related to the vaccine were identified by AstraZeneca's experts, including a rare blood clot that was identified in Europe.
It was found by the scientists that there was no increased risk of clots among the more than 20,000 people who got at least one dose of the shot, which was developed with Oxford University.
Although the vaccine has been approved for use in 50 countries, including Canada, it has not yet been approved in the U.S.
Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford product from the U.S. government perhaps as early as this week.
#UNWeatherAgency; #WMO; #WarmerTemperature; #CoronavirusSpread
UN/Canadian-Media: The UN weather agency on Thursday, cautioned that the current onset of warmer temperatures in the northern hemisphere, should not be used as a trigger to relax measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.
In a new report, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) highlighted that contrary to popular assumptions about warm weather dampening viral spread, infections rose in late spring – and that “there is no evidence” that this year would be any different.
“At this stage, evidence does not support the use of meteorological and air quality factors as a basis for governments to relax their interventions aimed at reducing transmission,” Ben Zaitchik, co-chair of an interdisciplinary and international WMO Task Team that produced the report, said.
“We saw waves of infection rise in warm seasons and warm regions in the first year of the pandemic, and there is no evidence that this couldn’t happen again in the coming year”, Mr. Zaitchik, from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, added.
The report highlighted that COVID-19 transmission dynamics last year appear to have been controlled primarily by government interventions rather than meteorological factors. Other relevant drivers include changes in human behavior and demographics of affected populations, and more recently, virus mutations.
Infection seasonality ‘not yet well understood’ The report looked at the potential role of seasonality, as respiratory viral infections, like cold or influenza frequently show some form of seasonality, such as the autumn-winter peak for influenza in temperate climates. This led to speculation that, if it persists for many years, COVID-19 could be a strongly seasonal disease.
“It is premature to draw conclusions for the COVID-19 virus”, WMO said.
The underlying mechanisms that drive seasonality of respiratory viral infections are not yet well understood, according to the report.
“A combination of direct impacts on virus survival, impacts on human resistance to infection, and indirect influence of weather and season via changes in human behaviour may be at work”, it said, noting that laboratory studies of COVID-19 causing SARS-CoV-2 virus “yielded some evidence that the virus survives longer under cold, dry, and low ultraviolet radiation conditions”.
“However, these studies have not yet indicated if direct meteorological influences on the virus have a meaningful influence on transmission rates under real world conditions”, the report added.
Air quality influence ‘still inconclusive’ The Task Team further noted that the evidence on the influence of air quality factors is still inconclusive.
It said that there is “some preliminary evidence” that poor air quality increases COVID-19 mortality rates, but not that pollution directly impacts airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The report also noted that at present there is no direct, peer reviewed evidence of pollution impacts on the airborne viability of the virus.
#WHO; #Covid19Vaccine; #UNHealthAgency; #SAGE
WHO/Canadian-Media: The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was publicly approved for international use on Wednesday by UN health agency expert advisory board, SAGE, which allayed concerns over clotting events being associated by some countries, without definitive evidence, with coronavirus jabs.
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is delivered to a warehouse in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image credit: © UNICEF/Sibylle Desjardins
In a virtual press conference from Geneva, SAGE hailed the one-dose Janssen shot – produced by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary - as a safe and lifesaving addition to the three other vaccines it has already approved for use: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
The expert panel also noted that clotting episodes - also known as hypercoagulable events - were a symptom of COVID-19, amid the suspension of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine by several European countries, pending scientific review.
‘These are lifesaving products’
“The world is in a place where there is insufficient supply to meet the requirements of people who need to be vaccinated; clearly, any of these vaccines are lifesaving products”, said Dr. Kate O’Brien, Director, Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at the World Health Organization (WHO).
She insisted that the vaccines “need to be used as quickly as we can get them deployed. People can have confidence in their safety and efficacy and in the quality of the manufacture of the products.”
During trials for the Janssen vaccine involving nearly 44,000 people, 10 of the 22,000 people who received the blank dose developed a blood clot – or thrombo-embolic events - while 14 of the remaining 22,000 who were inoculated, developed a clot.
“This is about the same”, for both groups said Dr Annelies Wilder-Smith, SAGE Technical Advisor. “There’s a slight imbalance, but it’s still not statistically significant,”
No evidence clots related to vaccines
“As for the vaccine itself, we have not seen it in a trial, there’s no reason to think and no biological causability as far we understand now, that the vaccine could cause thrombo-embolic events itself. However, we have to be open for new events, and we have to take it seriously.”
Dr Wilder-Smith explained that those recruited for vaccine testing were intentionally chosen because they were people who were “at high risk” of developing blood clots.
“COVID really pre-disposes patients to a hypercoagulable state where indeed many of the deaths that we see in the severe cases are due to thrombo-embolic events”, Dr Wilder-Smith said, ahead of an expected announcement by the European Medical Agency (EMA) on the issue on Thursday.
In a statement released on Wednesday specifically adressing the AstraZenica suspension by some European nations, the agency said it was "good practice" to investigate the possible linkages, that the benefits of the vaccine "outweigh its risks" and WHO "recommends that vaccinations continue."
Infections heading up
The development comes amid a rise in new cases of coronavirus infection worldwide, increasing by 10 per cent in the past week, to more than three million new reported cases.
WHO reported on Wednesday that after peaking in early January 2021, when there were just under five million cases a week - new cases then declined to around 2.5 million in the week commencing 15 February 2021.
But the past three weeks have seen cases increasing again.
This week, the Americas and Europe continue to account for more than 80 per cent of new cases and new deaths, with rises in new cases in all regions - apart from Africa, where they remained the same as last week.
As of 17 March 2021, there have been 120,164,106 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,660,422 deaths, reported to WHO.
More than 363,000,000 vaccine doses have been administered globally.
#WHO; #AstraZenecaCOVID19vaccine; #Safety; #RareBloodCoagulation
WHO/Canadian-Media: WHO made the following statement on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safety signals.
Some countries in the European Union have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure based on reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the vaccine. Other countries in the EU – having considered the same information - have decided to continue using the vaccine in their immunization programs.
Vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes. Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally.
In extensive vaccination campaigns, it is routine for countries to signal potential adverse events following immunization. This does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them. It also shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place.
WHO is in regular contact with the European Medicines Agency and regulators around the world for the latest information on COVID-19 vaccine safety. The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public.
At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.
#UN; #WHO; #AstraZenecaCovidVaccine; #JohnsonAndJohnsonsCovidVaccine
New York/Canadian-Media: The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that it was aware of blood clot concerns linked to “a specific batch” of AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, but maintained that to date, no-one has died from any coronavirus vaccine.
Cambodia takes delivery of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility. © UNICEF/Antoine Raab
“As of 9 March, there have been over 268 million doses of vaccine delivered since the start of the pandemic, and based on data reported – that’s data reported to WHO by national governments - no causes of death have been found or been caused by COVID-19 vaccines to date”, said spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris.
Speaking via videoconference in Geneva, Dr Harris noted that the WHO’s independent expert global advisory board, SAGE, was currently assessing reports on the AstraZeneca vaccine and that those findings would be made public as soon as they were available.
Causal link not shownBlood clotting episodes are common in people “so it’s not clear if this was something that was going to happen”, or whether the vaccine was responsible, the WHO spokesperson explained.
“A causal relationship ….has not been shown”, she said, while also underscoring that the European Union medical agencies’ risk assessment committee, Pharmacovigilance, had also decided that the vaccine’s benefits “continue to outweigh the risks”.
“The panel had taken the position that the jab should continue to be administered, while an investigation of cases of these thrombo-embolic events is ongoing”, Dr Harris continued.
Countries that have reportedly paused their inoculation campaigns include Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania Norway, Iceland and Thailand.
Hundreds of vaccine candidates
According to the WHO COVID-19 vaccine tracker, there are 81 vaccines in clinical development and more than 180 in the pre-clinical development phase.
To date, WHO has approved two vaccines for emergency use against COVID-19: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - approved on 31 December 2020 – and two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, on 15 February 2021.
The Chinese Sinovac jab is currently in the last stage of clinical evaluation and may be approved for use by the end of the month, Dr Harris said
“Certainly, we are looking at the Chinese vaccine and there is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to consider, and we are looking at a number of others,” she added.
Green light for Johnson & Johnson single shot
Later on Friday, WHO also announced it had given clearance to the vaccine developed by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), for emergency use in all countries and for the international UN-partnered effort to roll-out vaccines equitably across the world, COVAX.
The decision comes on the back of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorization, which was announced on Thursday.
“Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic,", said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“But the hope offered by these tools will not materialize unless they are made available to all people in all countries. I urge governments and companies to live up to their commitments and to use all solutions at their disposal to ramp up production so that these tools become truly global public goods, available and affordable to all, and a shared solution to the global crisis.”
The vaccine from Janssen is the first to be listed by WHO as a single dose shot, which should facilitate vaccination logistics in all countries, the agency said. "The ample data from large clinical trials shared by the company also shows that the vaccine is effective in older populations", said the agency in a press release.
As of Friday 12 March, there have been 118,058,503 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,621,046 deaths, reported to the UN health agency.
The highest number of cases of confirmed infection continues to be in the Americas, with 52,386,995, followed by Europe (40,438,291), South-East Asia (13,819,871), Eastern Mediterranean (6,793,641), Africa (2,924,244) and Western Pacific (1,694,716).
The development comes after several European countries suspended the rollout of the jab as a precaution.
#UN; #WomenDoctors;#WomenScientists; #Covid19Pandemic; #Discrimination
UN/Canadian-Media: Women doctors and scientists on the frontlines of the global battle against COVID-19 have revealed how the pandemic has exposed gender gaps in both access to healthcare and professional development in their fields.
Dr Rokhiatou Babio (left) is one of the few women in Benin who spearheads a medical team on the frontline to save human lives from the coronavirus pandemic. Image credit: © Aboudou Souleymane
Dr. Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director of Women in Global Health, and two scientists who have developed COVID-19 vaccines – Professor Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University and Dr. Özlem Türeci of German company BioNTech, one of the vaccine pioneers – were guest speakers at the bi-weekly briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) held on Monday, International Women’s Day.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, who have faced challenges ranging from rising violence, to higher levels of unemployment. And although women make up the majority of health workers globally, or 70 per cent, they only account for a quarter of those in leadership roles.
Last month, the UN agency launched the Gender Equal Health Initiative whose objectives include boosting the proportion of women health leaders, promoting equal pay, and ensuring safe and decent working conditions for health workers, which includes having access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccines.
Inequality at the table
Dr. Dhatt, a physician in the United States, spoke of her “rollercoaster” year treating COVID-19 patients while also working to expand her organization and manage duties at home.
She warned that the fundamental flaws and inequalities which the pandemic has exposed must be resolved urgently before the next global crisis.
“The extraordinary work done by women in the health and care workforce in this pandemic has not earned them an equal seat at the decision-making table, and as a result, we have all lost out on their talent and expertise”, she said.
Although proud of her contributions, Dr. Dhatt said like many health professionals, she felt furious that richer nations were not prepared for the pandemic “even though it was not unexpected”.
She was also angry that her sickest patients tend to be black or Latina “and this is not new”, she said, adding “COVID-19 does not discriminate, but societies do.”
Pandemic hits career prospects Professor Gilbert from Oxford University in the United Kingdom previously worked on vaccines for influenza, Ebola and MERS, which was also caused by a coronavirus.
She acknowledged women’s “enormous contribution” during COVID-19, including in comprising two-thirds of the team that developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
“However, of the senior positions in the team, only one-third are women”, she said, emphasizing that more needs to be done so that women can progress in the field and other disciplines.
“There are concerns that the pandemic has had more of an effect on the careers and livelihood of women than men, and as we begin to make our plans for recovery, we must not neglect this,” she stated.
Professor Gilbert reported on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s effectiveness in protecting older populations, but pointed to the work ahead in assessing its ability against COVID-19 variants. Preparations are being made to update the vaccine, if necessary.
Increase vaccine partnerships “As vaccinations are rolled out around the world, with the most vulnerable being protected first, we need to continue to monitor virus transmission and apply all available measures to reduce it to protect those not yet vaccinated and reduce the chances of new variants arising”, she recommended.
“And to increase the amount of vaccine doses that can be delivered across the world, I encourage vaccine manufacturers to form new partnerships in diverse geographical locations to manufacture, fill and distribute vaccines that are already approved.”
As a self-described “wanderer between three worlds” – medicine, immunology and entrepreneurship, Dr. Türeci has witnessed lack of gender equality “every day”.
‘Making the seemingly impossible, possible’
But things are different at BioNTech, the company she co-founded with her husband, Professor Uğur Şahin, as women make up 54 per cent of employees and nearly half of the top management.
“We like to think that being a gender-balanced team has been critical for making the seemingly impossible possible: to develop the COVID-19 vaccine within 11 months without shortcuts,” she said.
The BioNTech vaccine, developed with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, was the first-ever authorized for use. Together with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it is part of the UN-backed
COVAX initiative that is working to make inoculation accessible to all people everywhere.
As more vaccines come on stream, Dr. Türeci underscored the goal of achieving herd immunity, or widescale population protection, through equitable rollout worldwide.
“'Mission Herd Immunity’ means that no one will be safe until everyone is safe: across genders, ethnicities, economies and nations”, she said, outlining the need for collective action in areas such as ramping up vaccine production, improving supply chains and securing funding.
#CambridgeUniversity; #Research; #WheezingInLungs;
New York/Canadian-Media: A team of engineers has identified the 'violent' physical processes at work inside the lungs which cause wheezing, a condition which affects up to a quarter of the world's population, medicalxpress.com reports said.
Credit: CC0 Public Domain
The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, used modelling and high-speed video techniques to show what causes wheezing and how to predict it. Their results could be used as the basis of a cheaper and faster diagnostic for lung disease that requires just a stethoscope and a microphone.
Improved understanding of the physical mechanism responsible for generating wheezing sounds could provide a better causal link between symptoms and disease, and help improve diagnosis and treatment. The results are reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
At some point, most of us have experienced wheezing, a high-pitched whistling sound made while breathing. For most people, the phenomenon is temporary and usually the result a cold or mild allergic reaction. However, regular or chronic wheezing is often a symptom of more serious conditions, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or certain cancers.
"Because wheezing makes it harder to breathe, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the lungs," said first author Dr. Alastair Gregory from Cambridge's Department of Engineering. "The sounds associated with wheezing have been used to make diagnoses for centuries, but the physical mechanisms responsible for the onset of wheezing are poorly understood, and there is no model for predicting when wheezing will occur."
Co-author Dr. Anurag Agarwal, Head of the Acoustics lab in the Department of Engineering, said he first got the idea to study wheezing after a family vacation several years ago. "I started wheezing the first night we were there, which had never happened to me before," he said. "And as an engineer who studies acoustics, my first thought was how cool it was that my body was making these noises. After a few days however, I was having real trouble breathing, which made the novelty wear off pretty quickly."
Agarwal's wheezing was likely caused by a dust mite allergy, which was easily treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. However, after speaking with a neighbour who is also a specialist in respiratory medicine, he learned that even though it is a common occurrence, the physical mechanisms that cause wheezing are somewhat mysterious.
"Since wheezing is associated with so many conditions, it is difficult to be sure of what is wrong with a patient just based on the wheeze, so we're working on understanding how wheezing sounds are produced so that diagnoses can be more specific," said Agarwal.
The airways of the lung are a branching network of flexible tubes, called bronchioles, that gradually get shorter and narrower as they get deeper into the lung.
In order to mimic this setup in the lab, the researchers modified a piece of equipment called a Starling resistor, in which airflow is driven through thin elastic tubes of various lengths and thicknesses.
Co-author and computer vision specialist Professor Joan Lasenby developed a multi-camera stereoscopy technique to film the air being forced through the tubes at different degrees of tension, in order to observe the physical mechanisms that cause wheezing.
"It surprised us just how violent the mechanism of wheezing is," said Gregory, who is also a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalene College. "We found that there are two conditions for wheezing to occur: the first is that the pressure on the tubes is such that one or more of the bronchioles nearly collapses, and the second is that air is forced though the collapsed airway with enough force to drive oscillations."
Once these conditions are met, the oscillations grow and are sustained by a flutter mechanism in which waves travelling from front to back have the same frequency as the opening and closing of the tube. "A similar phenomenon has been seen in aircraft wings when they fail, or in bridges when they collapse," said Agarwal. "When up and down vibrations are at the same frequency as clockwise and anticlockwise twisting vibrations, we get flutter that causes the structure to collapse. The same process is at work inside the respiratory system."
Using these observations, the researchers developed a 'tube law' in order to predict when this potentially damaging oscillation might occur, depending on the tube's material properties, geometry and the amount of tension.
"We then use this law to build a model that can predict the onset of wheezing and could even be the basis of a cheaper and faster diagnostic for lung disease," said Gregory. "Instead of expensive and time-consuming methods such as X-rays or MRI, we wouldn't need anything more than a microphone and a stethoscope."
A diagnostic based on this method would work by using a microphone—early tests were done using the in-built microphone on a normal smartphone—to record the frequency of the wheezing sound and use this to identify which bronchiole is near collapse, and whether the airways are unusually stiff or flexible in order to target treatment. The researchers hope that by finding changes in material properties from wheezing, and locations that wheezes come from, the additional information will make it easier to distinguish between different conditions, although further work in this area is still needed.