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Vaccination plus infection offered most protection during Delta surge, U.S. study shows – CBC News

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Protection against the previously-dominant Delta variant was highest among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID-19 infection, according to a report published Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report also found those who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.

Protection against Delta was lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the CDC report continued.

“The evidence in this report does not change our vaccination recommendations,” Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors told a media briefing.

“We know that vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19,” he said.

The findings do not apply to the Omicron variant of the virus, which now accounts for 99.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Study includes data from May to November

For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant.

It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.

That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Silk told the briefing.

“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.

In the summer and fall of 2021, however, when Delta became the predominant circulating iteration of the virus in the United States, “surviving a previous infection now provided greater protection against the subsequent infection than vaccination,” he said.

But acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by Nov. 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.

The analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection, nor does it account for the full range of illness caused by prior infection.

One important limitation to the study was that it ended before administration of vaccine booster doses was widespread.

WATCH | Experts agree the science behind booster shots is sound:

The safe science behind COVID-19 booster shots

5 days ago

Duration 1:55

While some Canadians who have received their booster shots have later tested positive for COVID-19, medical experts agree that the science behind booster jabs is sound. 1:55

‘Clearly shows’ vaccines provide safest protection

Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said in an email that the study “clearly shows” that vaccines provide the safest protection against COVID-19 and they offer added protection for those with prior infections.

“Outside of this study, recent data on the highly contagious Omicron variant shows that getting a booster provides significant additional protection against infection, hospitalization and death,” Pan said.

Silk said the CDC is studying the impact of vaccination, boosters and prior infection during the Omicron surge and expects to issue further reports when that data becomes available.

So far, Omicron has proven to evade some level of immunity from both vaccination and previous infection, but vaccines are still largely preventing serious illness and death.

An Israeli hospital on Monday also said preliminary research indicates a fourth dose of leading mRNA-based vaccines provides only limited defence against infection from the variant.

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Quebec bill would give Alzheimer’s patients access to medical aid in dying

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MONTREAL — Quebec has tabled a bill that would extend the province’s assisted death legislation to people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said today that Bill 38 would allow people with severe and incurable diseases to consent to an assisted death before they become mentally or physically incapable of doing so.

The bill comes after a special legislative committee recommended last December to expand end-of-life care.

Quebec’s medical aid in dying law requires that patients give written consent to an assisted death within 90 days of the procedure.

Patients with severe Alzheimer’s, however, are usually incapable of offering clear and informed consent and are therefore prohibited under law from accessing medical aid in dying.

Bill 38 was tabled late in the legislative session and will only be adopted before the summer break — and the fall election — if it receives unanimous support from all five parties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

The Canadian Press

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B.C. launches Canada’s first lung cancer screening program for high-risk residents

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VANCOUVER — British Columbia has launched the country’s first provincewide lung cancer screening program for residents who are at high risk of getting the disease.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the innovative program will both save lives and improve their quality.

Screening will be available at 36 centres across all health authorities using existing CT scans for those who are between 55 and 74, currently smoking or have previously smoked, and have a smoking history of 20 years or more.

People who meet that criteria are encouraged to call the program for a consultation and risk assessment to determine eligibility.

Dr. Stephen Lam, medical director of the screening program, says lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide.

He says 70 per cent of all cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage and the program aims to change that trend by detecting lung cancers earlier when treatment is more effective.

Dr. David Byers, CEO of the Provincial Health Services Authority, credits BC Cancer for making the launch possible, adding a centralized system will reduce the burden of cancer, “including among Indigenous people, who are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer.”

BC Cancer says that after an appointment, a radiologist would look for spots, or nodules, on a scan, and both the patient and their primary care provider would get results within three weeks.

It says screening works best when scans are done regularly to monitor for any changes.

The Health Ministry says in a release that an estimated 10,000 patients are expected to be screened in the first year of the program, and that number is expected to jump by about 15 per cent per year.

“It is estimated the program will diagnose approximately 150 lung cancer cases annually, with more than 75 per cent of these diagnosed at an earlier stage than without screening.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

 

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What vaccines, treatments do we have to combat monkeypox? – Financial Post

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LONDON — With cases of monkeypox inexplicably on the rise outside of Africa – where the viral disease is endemic – public health officials are using contact tracing, isolation and targeted vaccination to curb its spread.

Global health officials have tracked more than 200 suspected and confirmed cases of the usually mild viral infection in 19 countries since early May. The monkeypox variant implicated in the current outbreak has a case fatality rate of around 1%, though no deaths have been reported so far.

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Here’s what we know about the existing range of vaccines and treatments:

VACCINES

The smallpox and monkeypox viruses are closely related, and the first generation of smallpox vaccines appear up to 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, the World Health Organization has said.

There are currently two smallpox vaccines available.

One made by Danish company Bavarian Nordic goes by the brand name Jynneos, Imvamune or Imvanex – depending on geography.

It contains a weakened form of the vaccinia virus that is closely related to, but less harmful than, than the viruses that cause smallpox and monkeypox. This modified version of vaccinia does not cause disease in humans and cannot reproduce in human cells.

It has U.S. approval for the prevention of both smallpox and monkeypox. European Union approval is for smallpox, although doctors can prescribe it off-label for monkeypox. Bavarian Nordic said it would probably apply for a label extension with the EU’s drug watchdog to include monkeypox.

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The reported side-effects include pain and swelling at the injection site as well as headache and fatigue.

The other, older vaccine, currently made by Emergent Biosolutions, is called ACAM2000.

It also contains the vaccinia virus, but it is infectious and can replicate in humans. As a result, it can be transmitted from the vaccine recipient to unvaccinated people who have close contact with the inoculation site.

Apart from side-effects associated with many vaccines, such as a sore arm and fatigue, it also carries a serious warning for a potential range of severe complications, including heart inflammation, blindness and death.

It is also not designed to be used in certain groups of people, such as those with compromised immune systems.

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ACAM2000 has U.S. approval for people at high risk for smallpox infection. It does not have EU authorisation.

ANTIVIRALS

Symptoms of monkeypox – which can include fever, headaches, distinctive rashes and pus-filled skin lesions – can last for two to four weeks and often resolve on their own.

Patients may receive extra fluids and treatment for secondary bacterial infections. An antiviral agent called tecovirimat – branded as TPOXX and made by SIGA Technologies – has U.S. and EU approval for smallpox, while its European approval also includes monkeypox and cowpox.

Another drug, branded as Tembexa and developed by Chimerix , has U.S. approval to treat smallpox. It is not clear whether it could help people infected with monkeypox.

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Both TPOXX and Tembexa were approved based on studies in animals showing they are likely to be effective, because they were developed after smallpox in human beings had been eradicated through mass vaccination.

STOCKPILES

The WHO classified smallpox as an eradicated disease in 1980, but there have been longstanding concerns that the virus could be used as a bioweapon, leading countries to stockpile vaccines.

The WHO holds 2.4 million doses at its Swiss headquarters dating from the final years of the eradication program. The agency also has pledges from donor countries for more than 31 million additional doses.

U.S. officials say there are more than 1,000 doses of the Bavarian Nordic vaccine in the national stockpile and expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks. The country also has 100 million doses of ACAM2000.

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Germany has said it had ordered 40,000 doses of Bavarian Nordic’s vaccine, to be ready to vaccinate contacts of cases if needed.

Other countries, including Britain and France, are also offering or recommending vaccines to people with close contact to infected people and healthcare workers.

Bavarian Nordic, which has an annual production capacity of 30 million doses, told Reuters multiple countries have approached it interested in buying its vaccine, without providing details. A spokesperson said it does not need to expand production.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Twitter @NatalieGrover; Additional reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Michael Erman in New Jersey; editing by Michele Gershberg, Josephine Mason and Jane Merriman)

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