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COVID-19 vaccines not linked to pregnancy loss; mixing vaccines may confer greater protection

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The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

COVID-19 vaccines not linked with pregnancy loss

Two studies in major medical journals add to evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe before and during pregnancy. One study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, tracked nearly 18,500 pregnant women in Norway, including about 4,500 who had miscarriages. Researchers found no link between COVID-19 vaccines and risk of first-trimester miscarriage, regardless of whether the vaccines were from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, or AstraZeneca. Overall, the women with miscarriages were 9% less likely to have been vaccinated, according to the researchers’ calculations. In a separate study published on Thursday in The Lancet, researchers tracked 107 women who became pregnant while participating in trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Seventy-two of the women had received the vaccine while the others got a placebo. AstraZeneca’s vaccine had no effect on the odds of safely carrying the pregnancy to term, the researchers reported. “It is important that pregnant women are vaccinated since they have a higher risk of hospitalizations and COVID-19-complications, and their infants are at higher risk of being born too early,” the authors of the Norwegian study wrote. “Also, vaccination during pregnancy is likely to provide protection to the newborn infant against COVID-19 infection in the first months after birth.”

Vaccine combinations with different technologies may be best

Healthcare workers in France who got a first shot of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and then the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for their second shot showed stronger immune responses than those who had received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, in a recent study. Combining different technologies is known to boost immune responses to other viruses, and the current study suggests it may be true for the coronavirus as well. Both vaccines in the study deliver instructions that teach cells in the body to make a piece of protein that resembles the spike on the coronavirus and that triggers an immune response. But they do it in very different ways. Both protocols provided “safe and efficient” protection, said Vincent Legros of Universite de Lyon in France, coauthor of a report published on Thursday in Nature. But combining the AstraZeneca shot with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine “conferred even better protection” than two doses of Pfizer’s shot, including against the Delta variant, Legros said. The two technologies combined induced an antibody response of better quality, with more neutralizing antibodies that could block the virus, and more cells that have been “trained” by the vaccine to have increased defense potential, he said. Combination vaccination “is safe and may provide interesting options… for clinicians to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Legros concluded.

Cognitive problems seen in middle-aged COVID-19 survivors

A “substantial proportion” of middle-aged COVID-19 survivors with no previous dementia had cognitive problems more than half a year after diagnosis, researchers have found. They looked at 740 people who ranged in age from 38 to 59. About half were white, and 63% were female. On tests of thinking skills, 20% had trouble converting short-term memories to long-term memories, 18% had trouble processing information rapidly, and 16% had trouble with skills needed for planning, focusing attention, remembering instructions, and juggling multiple tasks. The average time from diagnosis was 7.6 months. About one-in-four patients had been hospitalized, but most of them were not critically ill. “We can’t exactly say that the cognitive issues were lasting because we can’t determine when they began,” said Dr. Jacqueline Becker of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who co-led the study published on Friday in JAMA Network Open. “But we can say that our cohort had higher than anticipated frequency of cognitive impairment” given that they were relatively young and healthy, Becker said.

Data support use of Pfizer vaccine in children and teens

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a trial of children ages 5 to 11, the U.S. drugmaker said on Friday in briefing documents submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but not formally published. The children were given two shots of a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine – a third of the strength given to people 12 and older. The study was not primarily designed to measure efficacy against the virus. Instead, it compared the amount of neutralizing antibodies induced by the vaccine in the children to the response of recipients in their adult trial. Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine induced a robust immune response in the children. Outside advisers to the FDA are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to vote on whether to recommend authorization of the vaccine for that age group. A separate study from Israel conducted while the Delta variant was prevalent and published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, compared nearly 95,000 12- to -18-year-olds who had received Pfizer’s vaccine with an equal number of adolescents who had not been vaccinated. The results show the vaccine “was highly effective in the first few weeks after vaccination against both documented infection and symptomatic COVID-19 with the Delta variant” in this age group, the research team reported.

Click for a Reuters graphic https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Additional reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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In a first, three white-tailed deer test positive for Covid in Canada – WION

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In a first, Canada has detected coronavirus cases in three white-tailed deer. While humans were struggling to battle with the deadly virus and its newly emerging variant, now, even the wildlife is also in danger of being infected by the virus. 

According to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the samples were collected early in November in the Estrie region of Quebec. The samples were collected through a “big-game” registration station. 

“Similar to findings in the United States, the deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease, and were all apparently healthy. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was notified on December 1, 2021,” read the statement by the agency.

Also read | In a first, Covid variant Alpha found in pets, says study  

The agency further stated that as of now, there is limited information on the spread of the virus in wild deer.

“COVID-19 remains largely a disease of human concern and typically spreads from human to human. Adhering to public health advice and getting fully vaccinated are key ways to protect against COVID-19,” read the statement. 

Meanwhile, earlier in November, cases of Alpha variant of Covid virus were detected in pets when two cats and dogs tested positive in a PCR test.   

The team, which conducted the study, also clarified Covid in pets remained ‘relatively rare’. The transmission seems to be taking place from humans to pets and not the other way round.   

Also read | In Pics | COVID-19 in animal world, here is a list of the infected species

In addition to these animals, two other cats and a dog displayed antibodies 2-6 weeks after developing signs of cardiac disease.    
These pets had an acute onset of cardiac disease, which includes severe myocarditis. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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​Covid NI: Executive issues statement on Omicron variant and keeping schools open – Belfast Live

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The Northern Ireland Executive has said its priority remains keeping children and young people in school as it issued an update on the current Covid-19 situation.

In a joint statement on Thursday afternoon, Stormont ministers said that while no cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, the situation is likely to change in the coming days.

They said: “Today we received an update from our medical and scientific advisers on the latest Covid-19 situation and, in particular, the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“The emergence of this new strain of the virus is a serious and concerning development worldwide. And while there is no need for alarm, it is vitally important that everyone redoubles their efforts to drive infection rates down.

“The evidence on the new variant is being very closely monitored. And our public health experts will continue to liaise with colleagues in other jurisdictions as the situation develops globally and locally.

“No cases of the Omicron variant have yet been confirmed here, but that situation is likely to change in the coming days. The public will be kept informed and health protection measures will be actioned as appropriate.”

Urging people to use this time wisely to drive Covid infection rates down, the Executive statement added: “It is still unclear whether the clinical impact of this new coronavirus variant will be more serious so it is essential that we take preventative action now.

“We are grateful to the public for how they have responded so far. People’s actions are already having an impact and we thank everyone for the steps they are taking.

“The effectiveness of the booster vaccination programme is evidenced in reduced hospital admissions; the large number of people coming forward for first dose vaccine in recent weeks will make a real difference; and the collective effort to adhere to the public health advice has helped in reducing the number of cases.

“We know what works. And as we approach Christmas, it is vital that we all continue to work together to keep our society open, protect our health service and save lives.”

We urge everyone to remain vigilant and play your part in slowing the spread of the virus by following these simple steps:

  • Get first and second vaccine doses, and get your booster when eligible- up to date information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine;
  • Limit your social contacts;
  • Meet outdoors when possible;
  • If meeting indoors, make sure rooms are well-ventilated;
  • Wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings;
  • Work from home if possible;
  • Practise good hand and respiratory hygiene;
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate immediately and get a PCR test as soon as possible.

“We thank everyone for continuing to make safer choices that will help to protect you, your family and our society.”

Earlier this week, teaching unions called for a ‘circuit breaker’ to be introduced over the Christmas period to control the spread of Covid-19 infection in Northern Ireland’s schools.

In response, Stormont said today: “Our priority remains keeping our children and young people in school.

“We recognise the challenges being faced across all our educational settings and the work that teachers and all staff are doing at this difficult time to support young people.

“We will continue to work with all concerned to keep our schools open and safe.”

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Longer intervals between COVID-19 shots can increase immunity, Canadian study suggests – Maple Ridge News – Maple Ridge News

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University of B.C.-assisted research suggests waiting longer between first and second COVID-19 vaccination doses provides better immunity.

According to a press release, a peer-reviewed study with principal investigator Brian Grunau, UBC department of emergency medicine professor, found that “a longer dose interval (of mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna) leads to a stronger immune response.” The research, published Tuesday (Nov. 30), compared blood tests from 186 paramedics, some who received their shots in under the recommended four weeks and others who were vaccinated after six to seven weeks.

“We found significantly higher levels of antibodies in individuals who had longer vaccine intervals, and this was consistent regardless of which mRNA vaccine was administered,” Grunau said in the press release.

With half of the people in the world vaccinated, the research has “implications for the ongoing global vaccination effort,” stated the press release. Increasing time between doses could see better “long-term immune response” and lead to better “community-level access” to first vaccine shots, it said.

“This longer interval strategy enables early access to first doses in the population and ensuring the best protection possible with the two-dose series,” said Grunau.

People who participated in the study are part of the larger COVID-19 Occupational Risks, Seroprevalence and Immunity among Paramedics project, said the press release, a Canada-wide study looking at the pandemic’s effect on paramedics.

Research was funded by money from the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

According to the latest COVID-19 numbers from the health ministry, there were 375 new cases reported in the province and 88.4 per cent of eligible adults in the province have received two vaccine shots.

RELATED: B.C. calls on retired medical staff to help with COVID-19 vaccinations

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