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Moderna shot protects against new virus variants; higher blood thinner dose keeps patients off ventilators

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By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

 

Moderna vaccine protects against new variants

The COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc protects against the new virus variants found in Britain and South Africa, researchers reported on Monday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review. They found no reduction in the effect of vaccine-induced antibodies on the UK variant. They did see significantly reduced effectiveness of the antibodies on the South Africa variant, although Moderna still believes its two-dose vaccine will provide protection. The company said it will test a new booster shot aimed at the South Africa variant that could be made available if necessary. Dr. Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel, said he was only mildly concerned that the vaccine would not protect against the variants. “It is a little worrisome that you see a lesser neutralizing antibody response,” he said, but even these lower levels may still be enough to protect against serious infections. “The goal of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you out of the morgue. If you get a symptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection that is not a burden to the healthcare system,” Offit said. (https://bit.ly/3ocFUBD; https://reut.rs/2Mj0Z06)

 

Full-dose blood thinners help keep patients off ventilators

A trio of trials has found that giving full-dose blood thinning treatments to moderately ill patients hospitalized for COVID-19 reduced their need for vital organ support, such as mechanical ventilation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Friday. Blood clotting is a serious problem in COVID-19. The three trials, conducted at more than 300 hospitals on four continents, tested whether there is a greater benefit to administering a full dose of the blood thinner heparin compared to the lower dose typically used to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients. In December, the researchers reported that the higher dose was harmful in patients already on life support. The new data show “that when we give higher doses of blood thinners to patients who are not already critically ill, it is beneficial and should become standard of care,” study leader Matthew Neal of the University of Pittsburgh said in a statement. The researchers said the cheap, readily available treatment could help reduce the burden on intensive care units. The trials also suggest a possible survival benefit with full-dose heparin in patients not yet on life support, but that needs further study, the NIH said. The agency has not released the complete study data. (https://bit.ly/39j1BMp)

 

Lifetime smoking history linked with COVID-19 death risk

Former smokers who have quit still face higher risks from COVID-19 than never-smokers, a new study shows. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Health System in Ohio and Florida studied 7,102 COVID-19 patients, including 6,020 never smokers, 910 former smokers, and 172 current smokers. The risk of hospitalization and death went up with the cumulative amount patients had ever smoked and the increases in risk were similar for current smokers and former smokers, researchers found. Those who had smoked the most – the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for at least 15 years – had 2.25 times higher odds of hospitalization and were 89% more likely to die following a COVID-19 diagnosis when compared with never smokers, the researchers reported on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Lifetime tobacco smoking history is therefore linked with risk for hospital admission and death from COVID-19, the research team concluded, adding that illnesses typically linked with smoking, like heart and lung diseases, probably contributed to those poorer outcomes. (https://bit.ly/3caMeHu)

 

One-in-three with COVID-19 may not know it

At least one third of people infected with the highly contagious coronavirus may not realize it, a new report warns. Some of them are “presymptomatic,” meaning they have no symptoms but will eventually develop them. Others will remain asymptomatic for the duration of their infection. “Infection without symptoms … is important because infected persons can transmit the virus to others even if they have no symptoms,” the researchers said on Friday in Annals of Internal Medicine. They analyzed data from 43 studies that used gold-standard PCR testing to diagnose COVID-19 and 18 that used antibody testing to look for evidence of previous infection. These studies “provide compelling evidence that the asymptomatic fraction of SARS-CoV-2 infection is sizable,” they said. The researchers called for new strategies to control the spread of the virus, such as “inexpensive, rapid home tests to identify and contain presymptomatic or asymptomatic cases, along with government programs that provide financial assistance and, if necessary, housing to enable infected persons to isolate themselves.” It will be important to know whether vaccines are preventing asymptomatic infections, they said. (https://bit.ly/3oiHFNG)

 

Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Manas Mishra and Caroline Humer; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Polio virus found in New York City wastewater, suggesting local transmission – CBC News

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Health officials identified the virus that causes polio in New York City’s wastewater, suggesting local transmission of the virus, state authorities said on Friday, urging unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

“The NYC Heath Department and the New York State Department of Health have identified poliovirus in sewage in NYC, 
suggesting local transmission of the virus,” the city’s health department said in a statement on Friday.

“Polio can lead to paralysis and even death. We urge unvaccinated New Yorkers to get vaccinated now.”

The identification comes weeks after a case of polio in an adult was made public on July 21 in Rockland County, marking the nation’s first confirmed case in nearly 10 years.

Earlier this month, health officials said the virus was found in wastewater in the New York City suburb a month before health officials there announced the Rockland County case.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time that it was not clear whether the virus was actively spreading in New York or elsewhere in the United States.

Evidence of virus in London

There is no cure for polio, which can cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.

New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots. 

Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is the only polio vaccine that has been given in the United States since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by shot in the leg or arm, depending on the patient’s age.

On Wednesday, British health authorities announced they will offer a polio booster dose to children aged one to nine in London, after finding evidence the virus has been spreading in multiple regions of the capital. Britain’s Health Security Agency said polio virus samples were found in sewage water from eight boroughs of London, but there were no confirmed infections.

Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce 
mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear, officials said.

It can strike at any age but the majority of those affected are children aged three and younger. 

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Monkeypox: gov’t has no plans to call public health emergency – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says there are no plans at the moment to declare monkeypox a public health emergency.

While the World Health Organization and the United States have both recently done so, Tam said there is little benefit to declaring a federal public health emergency in Canada, because of the structure of regional and provincial public health authorities.

She said a federal emergency declaration would involve the Emergencies Act — which hasn’t even been invoked to address the nearly two-and-a-half-year COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Tam said thus far, Canada has already been able to mobilize vaccines, therapeutics, and funding to tackle monkeypox.

Tam also said local and provincial authorities have more flexibility, and have been able to respond to the rise in monkeypox cases. Local and provincial authorities could also decide to declare the virus a public health emergency at those levels, as many did with COVID-19.

“To date our discussions have focused on testing, working with community organizations to raise awareness on ways to limit spread the virus, and deployment of the Imvamune vaccine and therapeutics,” Tam said. “As the global monkeypox outbreak continues to be a serious concern, focusing efforts on the impacted communities in Canada and worldwide, including with vaccinations, we have an opportunity to contain the spread.”

To day, approximately 99,000 doses of Imvamune have been deployed to the provinces and territories, and more than 50,000 people have been vaccinated, Tam said.

Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the approach continues to be vaccinating higher risk communities first, and there are currently enough doses to do so.

Tam says there have been approximately 31,000 cases of monkeypox reported globally, with 1,059 in Canada, mostly in Ontario.

While cases of the virus first started popping up in Quebec, Ontario has since surpassed it in its number of infections.

To date, there have been 28 hospitalizations — two in intensive care — from monkeypox in Canada, and no deaths. Tam said it’s too soon to tell whether the number of cases has plateaued in Canada.

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COVID-19 vaccine side-effects less likely in pregnant people, says study – CP24

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Pregnant people experienced lower rates of side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than their counterparts who weren’t pregnant, a new Canadian study suggests.

The Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network collected data from 191,360 vaccinated women aged 15 to 49 between December 2020 and November 2021. The researchers asked participants to report “significant health events” that were serious enough to make them miss school or work, seek medical attention or disrupt their routines.

Of 5,597 pregnant participants, four per cent reported a significant health event within seven days of receiving their first dose of an mRNA vaccine, and 7.3 per cent of 3,108 pregnant respondents said they had side-effects from their second shots.

Among those who weren’t pregnant, 6.3 per cent of 174,765 respondents reported a significant health event after dose one, and 11.3 per cent of 10,254 participants said they felt sick after dose two.

“One of the things that was really striking was that the rates of these events happening in pregnant people was lower than the rates happening in non-pregnant people at the same age,” said Manish Sadarangani, lead author of the paper published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday. “It’s very reassuring around the safety of COVID vaccines and pregnancy.”

Studies on other vaccines have found that pregnant people experience side-effects at roughly the same rate as those who aren’t pregnant or even slightly higher, said Sadarangani, an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital.

More research is needed to understand why this might not be the case for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Sadarangani said, but he suspects the physical transformation of pregnancy could be a factor.

“There’s a lot of hormonal and immunological and physiological changes happening during pregnancy, and some of them we understand, some of them we don’t,” he said. “I’m presuming that some of these changes are leading to these lower rates.”

Thursday’s study found that rates of serious health events after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, such as hospitalization, were similarly rare across all groups.

There was no significant difference in the rates of miscarriage or stillbirth among participants who were vaccinated and those who weren’t.

Researchers are conducting a followup survey to see if participants experienced any side-effects six months after their COVID-19 shots, Sadarangani said.

Pregnant people are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications, he said, so it’s all the more important that researchers continue to study how vaccination affects them and their babies.

“All of the data we have really highlight the safety of all of these vaccines in pregnancy,” said Sadarangani. “Ultimately, this is the best way to protect this group of people in our population.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

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