Following the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision on May 10 to extend emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include 12- to 15-year olds, the Centers for Disease Control added its recommendation that teens in that age group should be vaccinated with the shot.
The expert panel of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes immunization recommendations, and determined that based on the evidence from a study of more than 2200 teens conducted by Pfizer-BioNTech, that the vaccine was safe and effective. During the day-long meeting, however, the members discussed whether to allow vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot along with other vaccinations teens may need to get, including against HPV, hepatitis and meningitis. Currently, out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that people not get other vaccines 14 days before or after the COVID-19 dose. But based on the safety seen from hundreds of millions of … Read the rest
In news everyone has been waiting for since last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said May 13 that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can ditch their masks, both indoors and outdoors, and stop social distancing as well.
It was welcome news, especially as politicians and many in the public have been criticizing the CDC for moving too slowly to update its guidelines as more people in the U.S.—over 35% as of today—have received a full course of vaccinations. In addition, while initial research only showed that vaccination prevented COVID-19 disease, recent data suggest that vaccinated people are also protected from getting infected with SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—and are therefore also far less likely to spread it.
In a press briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited the vaccination effort, the real-world data showing the shots are working, the dropping case counts in … Read the rest
High in the thin air of the Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, Sherpas and climbers used to walk freely from one group of tents to another, holding gatherings, singing and dancing. Now the Sherpas who escort climbers to the summit have a new job: enforcing unofficial social-distancing rules. “Climbing Everest is always a matter of life and death,” says Phunuru Sherpa. “But this year the risk has been doubled due to COVID.”
Already, dozens of people with suspected COVID-19 have been evacuated by helicopter. The outbreak reflects a broader one across Nepal, which shares a long, porous border with India. Daily confirmed cases in the Himalayan nation increased thirtyfold from April 11 to May 11, when 9,300 infections were recorded. It’s a grim omen of how India’s devastating COVID-19 crisis may be turning into an even bigger global emergency.
As countries around the world airlift oxygen, vaccines and medical supplies to … Read the rest
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), will affect some 26 million Americans at some point in their lives, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The condition, characterized by depression, hopelessness, memory problems, difficulty maintaining relationships, and recurrent visions of the trauma-causing event is notoriously hard to treat. Up to a third of people with the condition are still symptomatic 10 years after diagnosis, and the main therapeutic drugs of choice—the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors sertraline and paroxetine—fail in up to 60% of patients. A study published yesterday, however, suggests that there may be a powerful new medication to battle the condition: MDMA, the primary chemical in the drugs colloquially known as ecstasy and molly.
In a Phase 3 trial led by neurologist Jennifer Mitchell of the University of California, San Francisco, treatment with three doses of MDMA—accompanied by one-on-one therapy—over the course of 18 weeks was significantly more effective in treating … Read the rest
On May 10, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds. It’s the first COVID-19 shot authorized for this younger population.
“I cannot tell you how many people have been anxiously awaiting this day to get their kids vaccinated,” says Dr. Flor Munoz, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, and a member of the infectious disease committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The green light was based on review of data the two companies released in March showing that two doses of their vaccine provided similar protection from COVID-19 disease among this age group as it did for adults. Among the more than 2,200 teens in the study group the FDA reviewed, 16 developed COVID-19—none of them were in the vaccinated group. The companies’ studies found that levels of virus-fighting antibodies … Read the rest
“Our Mosquito Project Takes Flight,” reads a baby-blue billboard off US-1 in the Florida Keys, alongside an image of an insect tracing a path in the shape of a heart. Sponsored by the local mosquito control board and U.K.-based biotech firm Oxitec, the ad promotes a contentious plan to release millions of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes here to test a new method of bioengineered pest control. It’s the first-ever such experiment in the United States, and one that has turned this chain of sun-soaked island communities into a battleground over scientific truth, government authority, and humanity’s right to modify nature. Even this bit of roadside signage is contested. Four months ago, the billboard carried a different ad, paid for by the Coalition Against GMO Mosquitoes, an organization with the mission of stopping releases of the genetically modified insects in the U.S., “WARNING!!!,” it read then, “GENETICALLY MODIFIED MOSQUITOES TO … Read the rest
(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization gave emergency use authorization Friday to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a U.N.-backed program rolling out coronavirus vaccines.
The decision by a WHO technical advisory group, a first for a Chinese vaccine, opens the possibility that Sinopharm’s offering could be included in the U.N.-backed COVAX program in coming weeks or months and distributed through U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and WHO’s Americas regional office.
Aside from efficacy numbers, the Chinese manufacturer has released very little public data about its two vaccines – one developed by its Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the other by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
The Beijing shot is one the WHO advisory group considered for the emergency use listing.
“This afternoon, WHO gave emergency use listing to sign off on Beijing’s COVID-19 … Read the rest
Alex Denley, a 23-year-old philosophy doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, doesn’t seem like someone who would be vaccine hesitant. They’re determined to stop COVID-19 from spreading, and haven’t fallen for any vaccine conspiracy theories. However, getting the coronavirus shot was tremendously stressful for Denley. They feared it could trigger a terrible panic attack, leaving them crumpled on the floor, sobbing and shaking in front of a crowd of onlookers. They were also worried about health care providers dismissing their fears.
“I don’t want to be treated like a child because I have a phobia. I’m not a child, I’m acting like an adult with a phobia,” says Denley. “I don’t believe that vaccines are particularly painful…It’s literally just that for some reason, my brain processes this in a way that is really intense and unexpected.”
Denley struggles with “blood injection injury phobia,” also known as needle … Read the rest
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Maryland-based biotech firm Novavax report that the company’s COVID-19 vaccine is 51% efficacious in protecting people from disease.
The results come from a Phase 2 study of the two-dose vaccine, which uses a different technology than the three COVID-19 shots currently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Currently authorized shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna both use an mRNA-based technology, while Johnson & Johnson-Janssen relies on an adenovirus to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genes to the body—both approaches work by training the body’s immune cells to make viral proteins that other immune cells then attack, so these defenses are then ready to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus when infection happens. Novavax designed its shot to already contain the viral protein, so when it’s injected into the body, it’s immediately targeted as foreign.
In March, the company released … Read the rest
In a press release on May 5, Moderna reported the first results of any vaccine maker from studies on booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which some experts believe might be necessary in a year or so to keep COVID-19 under control. Based on current research, people vaccinated with the existing, authorized shot from Moderna appear to have a diminished response to the variant viruses—although it’s still sufficient to protect against serious COVID-19 illness. Still, public health experts are concerned that the variant viruses could break through that vaccine protection and start causing more infections.
The company is testing three ways to add a third dose to its current two-dose regimen to potentially increase protection against new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In its recent press release, Moderna reports on two of those strategies: adding a third dose of the existing vaccine, at half the dosage of the shots currently in … Read the rest