May 13, 2021

GHN News

Elderly people wait to receive a Cuban COVID-19 vaccine yesterday in Havana.
Image: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty

The Other Epicenter

While India has captured the world’s focus, Latin America is emerging as a global hotspot for the pandemic.
The region accounted for almost 40% of all COVID-19 deaths reported last week, and 80% of the region’s ICU beds are occupied, according to PAHO, Reuters reports.

Radar: The B.1.617 variant driving India’s outbreak has been detected in 6 Latin American countries.

Vaccine Vacuum: Many countries lack “financial firepower” to compete with wealthy nations that have been buying up vaccines, NBC News reports.
Much of the region is relying on insufficient supplies of vaccines from China and Russia—and plans to produce the AstraZeneca jab in Argentina and Mexico have stalled.

Zooming In:
Nicaragua: With just 184 deaths reported, physicians and critics say longtime president Daniel Ortega is fudging the numbers. Concerned citizens are filling in the gaps, NPR reports.
Chile and Uruguay: Lauded for their early pandemic responses, they are now seeing record case numbers amid concerns that their strong vaccination programs have dampened risk perception, SciDev.Net reports.
Cuba: The country’s well-known biopharma sector has produced 5 homegrown vaccines. Like other countries, Cuba has begun rolling out their jabs before completing clinical trials. The top candidates are slated for emergency approval next month—and that may vastly improve the region’s vaccine fortunes, Reuters also reports.

ICYMI: Against the odds, Cuba could become a coronavirus vaccine powerhouse – The Washington Post

Global Health Voices


The Latest

Global Numbers
  • 160,513,476 cases
  • 3,333,245 deaths
  • 1,374,276,505 vaccine doses administered
Source: Johns Hopkins University

Key Developments

Messaging that focused on the personal benefits of vaccines rather than collective benefits was more successful at swaying people strongly hesitant about COVID-19, according to a study of 15,000+ adults. The Lancet Public Health
People are going without food, medicines, and other necessities in Cambodia’s strict “red zone” lockdown areas, where many have been barred from leaving home since mid-April. The Guardian
Taiwan—an early pandemic success story—could be headed for its first-ever lockdown as infections are cropping up in large cities (though numbers are still tiny compared to elsewhere). Quartz
Mixing Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines is more likely to lead to mild and moderate side effects like chills and headaches, according to preliminary data from an Oxford University study of 830 volunteers. BBC


COVID-19 spirals out of control in Nepal: 'Every emergency room is full now' – National Geographic

Hospital waiting list numbers in England hit record high – The Guardian

Analysis shows 87% of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given in wealthier countries, despite surges in cases in conflict-affected countries – IRC (news release)

Latino and Black Californians less likely to have received COVID-19 vaccineLos Angeles Times

Vaccines seem to work well against coronavirus variants. It’s also complicated – STAT

Risk of dying from Covid-19 40 times the risk of rare blood clot after receiving J&J vaccine – CNN

Most COVID-19 Infections and Hospitalizations are in Unvaccinated – Cleveland Clinic (news release)

CDC Director Statement on Pfizer’s Use of COVID-19 Vaccine in Adolescents Age 12 and Older – CNN

Pfizer's argument against waiving patent rights – Axios

How expanding vaccine eligibility for kids will impact mothers – The 19th

New mothers twice as likely to have post-natal depression in lockdown, study finds – University College London via ScienceDaily

Drug Overdose Deaths Before and After Shelter-in-Place Orders During the COVID-19 Pandemic in San Francisco – JAMA Open

Are ‘covid nails’ a sign you had the virus? Experts weigh in. – The Washington Post

Ohio to give $1M away to 5 vaccinated adults, 5 full-ride college scholarships – The Columbus Dispatch
public health

Confidence Lost

Just when the stakes couldn’t be higher, America’s trust in public health is faltering, a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll of 1,305 American adults confirms.
  • Just 52% of Americans polled have a great deal of trust in CDC advice; 1 respondent told NPR she lost trust because of the agency’s inconsistent, “all over the board” guidance during the pandemic

  • Just 41% express strong trust in state and local health departments. That falls to 37% for the NIH and FDA

  • Only 34% gave high marks to US’s public health surveillance system—down from  43% in 2009

  • 27% of Republicans greatly trust CDC, compared to 76% of Democrats

Key reason: “Our nation’s public health system entered the pandemic underfunded and understaffed—problems that have persisted for generations—and the consequences of this underinvestment over the past year have been devastating,” notes Richard Besser, RWJF chief, in a news release.
Problem: “We’re in a period of distrust of government in general,” notes Robert Blendon, a Harvard emeritus professor who led the survey. And without trust, he says, “people won’t agree “to change their lives, take preventive [measures], take vaccines.”
Silver linings:
  • 71% of those polled favor substantially boosting federal spending on public health 

  • 72% agree that public health agencies are extremely or very important to Americans’ health

Global Health Voices

noncommunicable diseases

How to Save 70,000 Lives

A disease of extreme poverty, rheumatic heart disease afflicts 40 million of the world’s most vulnerable people, the World Heart Federation reports.
To help stem RHD in Africa—which has the world’s highest RHD prevalence—a first-of-its-kind study offers a cost-benefit analysis of interventions like penicillin, cardiac surgery, and early detection. 

The Lancet Global Health study found RHD mortality could be cut 30% over the next decade by: 
  • Investing $100 million a year to integrate cardiac care in rural primary care facilities

  • Increasing access to the right medicines and cardiac surgery
The bottom line: 70,000 lives saved over the next decade.
politicization of science

Stop the Next ‘Sharpiegate’ 

Seeking to tighten the rules of scientific integrity, a new Biden administration task force convenes for the first time tomorrow.
Its mandate: Investigate political interference back to 2009 in decisions that should have been based on scientific evidence.
The move is seen largely as a response to Trump administration efforts to undermine science—but it also highlights flaws in the scientific integrity system set up under President Obama.
Prominent example: “Sharpiegate.” In 2019, a White House official edited a National Hurricane Center warning to indicate danger in Alabama, aligning with President Trump’s comments and  contradicting meteorologists.


Daily Diversion

Quick Hits

Annual screening for ovarian cancer does not save lives, study finds – The Guardian

Scientists unveil new Ebola virus vaccine design – News-Medical.Net

MSF: Governments must support UN resolution on diabetes and insulin access – Médecins Sans Frontières

When Racism Waits along the Academic Path – Scientific American (commentary)

Re-Imagining The Asylum System: Recommendations From Asylum Medicine Experts – Health Affairs

Residential coal use in China results in many premature deaths, models indicate – American Chemical Society

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is spreading from people to chimpanzees – World Economic Forum

CDC study shows rise in resistant Salmonella infections – CIDRAP

Damage to a Protective Shield around the Brain May Lead to Alzheimer’s and Other Diseases – Scientific American

A mysterious, devastating brain disorder is afflicting dozens in one Canadian province – The Washington Post

Mysterious Ailments Are Said to Be More Widespread Among U.S. Personnel – The New York Times
Issue No. 1827

Global Health NOW is an initiative of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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