Dec 11, 2020

GHN News

UPS official Wesley Wheeler shows a sample Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine vial yesterday in Washington, DC.
Image: Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty

US: First Pfizer Doses Likely to Arrive in Days

The US is poised to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses within days—with health workers and nursing home residents getting first dibs.
An FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly (17–4) yesterday to endorse the 2-dose vaccine after a marathon review processall but guaranteeing the FDAs prompt OK for emergency use, Reuters reports.
On the same day, US state health departments reported a record 3,347 coronavirus deaths, noted The Washington Post
  • 2 dissenters took issue with including 16- and 17-year olds, who are low-risk for severe illness and weren’t well-represented in the trial.
  • Pregnant women weren’t included in the US vaccine trials. Though no specific risks have been flagged from the vaccine, the FDA will likely advise mothers-to-be to consult with doctors.

The Pfizer rollout will be one of many. And poised for approval next is Moderna’s candidate, which also claims 95% efficacy. 
  • Between the 2 vaccines, US officials expect to have enough vaccine to inoculate 20 million people by year's end.

Will Americans Give it a Shot?

To beat the pandemic with herd immunity, vaccine uptake would have to be between 58–94%, depending on the efficacy of the candidates used.
That’s much higher than the usual vaccine benchmarks for illnesses like the flu, according to a McKinsey analysis.
And there’s plenty of skepticism amid the excitement: New polling shows that only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves.     
  • About a quarter say they won’t take it—with many citing safety concerns and a desire to see how the initial rollout fares, AP reports.  
  • Who’s most hesitant? Earlier polls show that Blacks, Republicans, and women were more unsure about getting immunized, FiveThirtyEight reports.  

Covid: Australian vaccine abandoned over false HIV response – BBC
Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine efficacy – The Lancet (commentary)
The US is about to begin the first big test of Covid-19 vaccine distribution: What we can learn from the initial phase of vaccinating health care workers in the US. – Vox

Coronavirus vaccine line depends largely on the honor system – Axios 

ICYMI: When Will Pregnant Women Benefit from a COVID Vaccine? – Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health 

Global Health Voices


The Latest

Global Numbers
  • 69,728,763 cases
  • 1,584,788 deaths
  • 44,997,168 recovered
Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

Key Developments

Latin America is suffering dearly
from the pandemic’s latest wave with weekly deaths soaring in Mexico since October, stubbornly high case numbers in Brazil, and Chile bracing for a dire new wave of cases in January. The Guardian
South Africa has also hit a serious second wave with 6,700 new cases reported Wednesday, which health officials attribute to large gatherings of young people shirking safety measures. Radio Free International
People recently diagnosed with cancer are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 than those without the disease, and that risk is significantly higher for Black people compared to whites, according to an AI-based study published in JAMA Oncology. STAT
More Americans are stealing food to survive the dire economic reality wrought by the coronavirus, and among the shoplifted items are family staples like bread and baby formula. The Washington Post


Call for Action: Managing the Infodemic Manifesto – WHO

Fauci says herd immunity possible by fall, ‘normality’ by end of 2021 – Harvard Gazette

The Future of the U.S. National Stockpile Isn’t a Bigger Stockpile – Bloomberg Businessweek

200 hospitals have been at full capacity, and 1/3 of all US hospitals are almost out of ICU space – CNN

India vaccine maker sees virus as wake-up call – AP

Mark B. Leick: Telephone – New England Journal of Medicine (commentary)

Global Fund chief on COVID-19 funding, global health security – Devex

India’s drug regulator has failed the pandemic stress test. The U.S. should take notice – STAT (commentary)

The placebo paradox: Why a COVID-19 vaccine trial participant might drop out – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Coronavirus (COVID-19): dealing with awkward social situations - guidance – Scottish Government Thanks for the tip, Cecilia Meisner!

COVID-19 survivor shares what to prepare if you catch the virus – Fox13 (Memphis)

They Make Patients Die Alone. And We Let Them – MedPage Today (commentary)
GHN Radar

US CDC Director’s Dark Forecast

The US can expect to see roughly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths every day for the next 60 to 90 days, CDC Director Robert Redfield said yesterday, according to The Hill
  • Redfield compared the cost in lives to a 9/11 every day. Nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
  • If his prediction stands, the US coronavirus death toll could reach 470,000 to 560,000 by early spring.

White House Accused of Meddling with ’Sacred’ CDC Reports

A CDC official says she was ordered to delete an email suggesting political interference by the White House, the AP reports.

The allegations surround an email from former Health and Human Services senior advisor Paul Alexander demanding that the CDC revise or remove an already-published scientific report about coronavirus risks to children, amid politically charged debate over school reopenings.

Charlotte Kent, editor of the CDC’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (“sacred texts in the scientific community,” according to Politico’s Dan Diamond) told congressional investigators yesterday that she believed the order to delete the August 8 email came from CDC Director Robert Redfield, NPR reports.

Rep. James Clyburn expressed “serious concern" about possible Trump administration efforts to destroy evidence of senior political appointees’ interference in the CDC’s COVID-19 response.

The HHS hit back, citing Redfield’s assertion that he told staffers to ignore the email.  

Global Health Voices


Pandemic Pressures—and Potential—for R&D

Pandemic pressures are weakening global health research and development, according to a new report from the Global Health Technologies Coalition.

Key Takeaways:

  • Intense demand for global health expertise is redirecting researchers. Example: 2 people at key US government agencies say half their teams have been redeployed to COVID-19 response.
  • 1 lab burned through its entire discretionary budget responding to state COVID-19 testing demands.
  • Clinical trials are facing indefinite delays.

The Quote: “A lot of veterans of global health R&D are confronting a confounding situation of a pandemic that has generated new appreciation for the value of their work while at the same time potentially causing long-term harm to the field,” said GHTC Director Jamie Bay Nishi in a statement.

Not All "Pain Points": The report surfaces the hope that R&D funders will be inspired by the rapid vaccine development and the surge in government and private sector alliances for COVID-19.

Your Friday Diversion


The Great British Vax-Off

In unfair Corona where we lay our scene, one William Shakespeare humored the world when he became the UK’s second recipient of the COVID-19 vaccine.

With Shakespeare clocking in at 456 years old, one couldn’t say Britain wasn't prioritizing the elderly.
The web went wild for the Bard of BioNTech, lauding his star turn in the tragedy of “Vacbeth.”

“A plague on neither of their houses!” rejoiced one Tweeter, evoking what would be a rather dull rewrite of Romeo & Juliet, The Washington Post reports.
But then in scene 2, things got even more British, when 91-year-old Martin Kenyon received his jab, The Guardian reports.
 “I hope that I’m not going to have the bloody bug now,” he explained in a deadpan CNN interview that vaulted him to internet fame, which Kenyon found “deeply uninteresting.”

But while Kenyon sees no value in going viral, avoiding the virus itself has immeasurable value for this proud grandad.

“I am looking forward to hugging my grandchildren. They are the ones who were most likely to give it [coronavirus] to me … and they like hugging me.”

An Historical Aside: Kenyon is the godfather of one of Desmond Tutu’s daughters.  

Quick Hits

One million Indian doctors on strike to protest surgeries by traditional practitioners – Reuters

UN Declares 'International Day of Epidemic Preparedness' to Highlight Health Systems Concerns – EcoWatch

Biological Risks in India: Perspectives and Analysis – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Polio vaccine candidate hoped to end mutation risk – SciDev.Net

UNICEF, Ebonyi To Prosecute FGM Practitioners – New Telegraph (Nigeria)

Biden’s HHS pick, Becerra, has taken in more campaign cash from health groups than any other industry – STAT

The promise and peril of anti-pandemic technology – Brookings Institution

World Health Organization adopts New Zealand tech company's anti-smoking AI Florence – Newshub

Diet modifications - including more wine and cheese - may help reduce cognitive decline – Iowa State University via ScienceDaily
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