Scientist Holding Moderna Vaccine

Moderna Applies For Emergency Use Authorization Of Covid-19 Vaccine In US And Europe

Moderna announced today that it would be asking US and European regulators to allow emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine. The submission is a result of new study data confirming that the shots offer a very strong protection against the coronavirus. 

Moderna quickly followed Pfizer in their announcement of the development of a vaccine, which is crucial considering multiple Covid-19 vaccines will need to be made available in order for the pandemic to come to a true close. Moderna created its shot treatment with the US National Institutes of Health, and according to the company this past weekend’s data showed that the vaccine is more than 94% effective. 

Within the massive US clinical trial that Moderna performed, 196 participants became infected with Covid-19. Of that number, 185 received the placebo vaccine, while the other 11 got the real vaccine. The only individuals who got severely ill with the virus were those who received the placebo as well, proving the vaccines effectiveness. Dr. Tal Zaks, one of Moderna’s chief medical officers, recently rejoiced with the media about this amazing advancement. 

Embed from Getty Images

“I allowed myself to cry for the first time, we have already, just in the trial, saved lives. Just imagine the impact then multiplied to the people who can get this vaccine.”

Moderna claims that so far they’ve only seen temporary flu-like side effects come from the vaccine, the same type of symptoms that appear after getting a regular flu shot. The safety data up until this point has already met the US Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) requirements for emergency use, the company just needed to complete its final trial testing before it could have all the necessary information for the FDA’s review. 

The European Medicines Agency, which is like Europe’s version of the FDA, will also likely be granting Moderna with emergency use authorization in the coming weeks. Before the FDA approves either vaccine from Moderna or Pfizer a panel of scientific advisers will publicly debate if there’s enough evidence to release either or both vaccines to the public. 

Pfizer and German tech partner BioNTech will present their vaccine data to the FDA on December 10th and Moderna is set to present theirs on December 17th. If approved, Moderna expects to distribute 20 million doses within the US by the end of the year. Recipients need two doses, meaning the initial rounds will go to 10 million people. 

Embed from Getty Images

Pfizer projects that they’ll be able to distribute 50 million doses throughout the world in December if approved; 12.5 million of those doses are reserved for the US. If the FDA approves of either of the vaccines they will begin being shipped within 24 hours. This week a panel of experts established by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also be meeting to decide how the vaccine will be distributed throughout the country once approved. 

The first doses will likely be reserved for health care workers who are at the most risk of exposure, and then will go to higher risk groups like the elderly and immunocompromised. As the vaccine’s continue in their development and distribution, other essential workers and individuals at higher risk for infection will receive their doses first. “Higher risk” could also be determined based on location and how severe the Covid-19 outbreaks have been for certain parts of the country. 

The UK ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, however, that doesn’t mean the company’s December supply will all be going to the UK at first. Like in the US, all parts of the world will have their own plans for distribution to higher risk/healthcare workers initially. Both Moderna and Pfizer have used messenger RNA from the Covid-19 virus itself to make their vaccines, which is why these two have likely proven to be the most effective around the same time. 

As the world continues to wait to see when and how these vaccines will be distributed, continue to listen to your healthcare providers and follow all the necessary precautions to protect yourself, and your loved ones.

Young Boy Playing Video Game

Good News For Gamers

Video games have long held a reputation by some as being one of the main causes of increased violence and crime in the world with Grand Theft Auto being one of most often named games for this theory, something that has been disputed several times over.

However there is some good news for gamers. A study by scientists at the UK’s University of Oxford has concluded that in fact, playing video games can have a positive effect on the player’s mental health.

The Oxford Internet Institute had some of their researchers look at the data from two games – Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville – to research what, if any, the relationship was between the behavior of a game and the gamer’s mental health.

With grants from the Economic and Social Research Council as well as the Huo Family Foundation, the research was carried out alongside Nintendo of America and Electronic Arts and saw the scientists come to the conclusion that those who were enjoying playing the games saw a positive change in their mental health.

Leading the study was the director of research of the Oxford Internet Institute, Professor Andrew Przybylski, who said that the results spoke for themselves, showing that ‘video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health’.

As well as an improvement to your mental health, the study also discovered other psychological factors that helped the player to maintain a healthy wellbeing. The results were compiled via a survey that the 2,756 players of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a portion of the 518 gamers that were playing Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville were asked to complete.

Embed from Getty Images

Looking at their answers it was clear that the study resulted in a happy experience for most, however the researchers have admitted that the study only shows a fraction of the experiences they would want to look into. If further studies were to be approved the scientists would want to look at the player’s subjective experiences while they are playing, as they believe this could be a larger influence on their wellbeing than just the amount of time they were playing for.

The study reads, “Contrary to many fears that excessive game time will lead to addiction and poor mental health, we found a small positive relation between gameplay and wellbeing.”

“Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and wellbeing,” Professor Przybylski said. And while the paper alleges that those playing the game that experienced enjoyment saw a more beneficial reaction to their wellbeing, further information from the gaming companies would provide more in-depth details.
Professor Przybylski continued, “Without objective data from games companies, those proposing advice to parents or policymakers have done so without the benefit of a robust evidence base.

“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a person’s wellbeing.

“In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health – and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.

“Working with Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America we’ve been able to combine academic and industry expertise.

“Through access to data on people’s playing time, for the first time we’ve been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behavior and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers.”

Embed from Getty Images

The study also stated that “Overall, our findings suggest that regulating video games, on the basis of time, might not bring the benefits many might expect, though the correlational nature of the data limits that conclusion.”

It then appeals for more research saying that “Policymakers urgently require reliable, robust, and credible evidence that illuminates the influences video games may have on global mental health.

“In this study we show that collaborations with industry partners to obtain adequate data are possible.

“Research with these data can be done to academic standards – ethically and transparently.

“We are optimistic that collaborations of this sort will deliver the evidence required to advance our understanding of human play and provide policymakers the insights into how they might shape, for good or ill, our health.”

A previous study by scientists at the Massey University, Stetson University and the University of Tasmania had taken another look at several long-term studies that had researched whether violent video games invoked aggression in the player.

The study, led by Stetson University in Florida’s psychology professor Chris Ferguson found that children who played games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto had not become more aggressive, a claim that Ferguson had already discounted when discussing whether there was a link between violent behavior and video games.

The paper, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, stated that, “Studies do not appear to support substantive long-term links between aggressive game content and youth aggression.”

COVID Virus Causes Deaths

The US Reports 2,100 Covid-19 Deaths In A Single Day 

Over 2,100 deaths were reported in the US this past Tuesday, marking the highest one-day coronavirus death toll the nation has reported since May. The highest Covid-19 death tally in a single day for the US was 2,603 back in April, however, the country hasn’t come close to that number since, until now. 

Cases and hospitalizations have been surging for a couple of weeks now, and officials are preparing for the worst in terms of new deaths. It’s been three weeks since the US has had less than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases appear in a single day. For the 15th consecutive day this week the US also beat its own record of Covid-19 hospitalizations; with over 88,000 patients in hospitals nationwide currently. 

Holiday celebrations have the nation’s leading healthcare experts even more worried. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even released an official recommendation not to travel for Thanksgiving this year, and after a recent poll taken by Axios-Ipsos, about 61% of Americans have changed their Thanksgiving plans, and 1 in 10 Americans say they no longer plan to celebrate the holiday at all. 

Embed from Getty Images

On the opposite, more concerning, end, more than 1 million travelers have already passed through airport security this past Sunday alone, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, recently spoke with the press about how everyone needs to make adjustments for the holidays this year unless we want to continue to see this devastation occur. 

“People shouldn’t rely on a negative test to give them confidence to mingle with other households for Thanksgiving, because tests can miss the virus in the newly infected. Instead, people should have quarantined 14 days beforehand.”

America’s average daily death toll for a given week is 1,601; for comparison in the summer it was around 1,130. As daunting as these stats may seem healthcare experts are really more concerned with the coming weeks after Thanksgiving when even more cases start appearing. As a result, many states are implementing more restrictions to hopefully combat the surge that’s likely to come after the holidays. 

Embed from Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that all public schools would be closing and more restrictions would be on the way. In Nashville, Tennessee, the mayor limited restaurant and bar capacity to 50% with a 10 p.m. curfew. In El Paso, Texas, which has been hit particularly hard within the past month, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced a partial curfew for 10 p.m. 

The reality is, unless the country shuts down completely again, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will continue to rise, and while multiple vaccine options are showing great promise for the spring, we still have a decent amount of time to go before Americans can expect to be vaccinated. 

Whenever a vaccine is officially approved by the FDA and CDC for distribution, health care workers and individuals at a higher risk of infection will receive the injections first, and then states with major Covid-19 hot spots will likely receive the next rounds. Dr. Anthony Fauci projects that the general public can expect to be vaccinated by spring/summer of 2021. In the meantime, however, we all need to do our part to curb the excess spreading we’re witnessing of this virus throughout the country. Wear a mask, stay home unless necessary, practice proper hand washing/hygiene, and social distance.

World Health Organization

Secret Recordings Highlight Differences in Internal and External Announcements by WHO

There have been many commentators discussing the ‘failings’ of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, most notably President Donald Trump who believes that they have been far more favorable to China, and news of private meetings within WHO saying they believed some countries’ had become “an unfortunate laboratory to study the virus” due to their handling has not gone down well.

The Associated Press has obtained this recording, along with several others, that shows that while they were being praised by governments for the way they were handling the crisis, internally it was not as clear-cut.

In June Trump announced he was so concerned with the way WHO were handling the crisis he would be withdrawing their funds as well as removing America from the organization, a move that president-elect Joe Biden has confirmed he will be overturning.

However WHO have agreed to have an independent panel review how they have managed their response after some of their member countries called for an inquiry, a move that Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said will allow the agency to become stronger “for the sake of the people we serve.”

Embed from Getty Images

One of the main issues relating to WHO is the fact that while they are able to make recommendations based on discussions within member states, they currently have no authority to enforce any of the suggestions they make. Because of this critics have claimed that WHO are afraid to ‘call out’ countries that could be causing harm to the issues in hand. For instance, the agencies discussed the countless mistakes that countries including Britain, Japan and France repeatedly made however refused to publicly criticize them due to them being large donors to the agency.

And some public health experts are saying that WHO’s ‘failure’ in making the most of their influence had allowed some countries to implement policies that were always destined to fail, potentially allowing the outbreak to continue for so long. International politics professor at Queen Mary University in London, Sophie Harman, said, “We need WHO to be bold and to use their political power to name and shame because the consequences are so devastating. This is their Spanish flu moment… by not speaking up when countries are doing questionable things, WHO is undermining its own authority while the planet burns.”

However others, including Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of Geneva, believe that unless WHO’s members gives the agency more power – a move that both France and Germany have put forward in recent months – then politically it would be wrong for WHO to speak out saying “If Tedros was to take a very aggressive stance toward member countries, there would be repercussions.”

Spokesperson for WHO, Farah Dakhlallah confirmed that since the outbreak was first reported, “WHO officials have had and continue to have frank and open discussions with government counterparts… We are proud of an organizational culture that fosters candid discussion with the aim of reaching life-saving solutions.”

Meanwhile, emergency chief Dr. Michael Ryan has also said, “The WHO doesn’t interact in public debate or criticize our member states in public. What we try to do is work with our member states constructively.”

Embed from Getty Images

Although WHO do not like to challenge their member states in public it is not unheard of. During the SARS outbreak the agency warned they would close their China office after it was discovered that they were not honest about the number of cases they had. They have also accused Tanzania of withholding information regarding their Ebola epidemic in 2019.

The review into how WHO have handled their role in this year’s pandemic has come at a time when they are being asked to assist in the purchase and distribution of vaccines to countries around the world, ensuring poorer nations also benefit. Countries including Russia and America have already stated they will not help in the task however with Biden’s election win WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan is hoping America will change their mind.

Trump is not the only one who believes that WHO has not done enough to condemn China over the pandemic. A meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Tedros in January left Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for the crisis, saying that the agency did not have “enough detail to say what has worked and what hasn’t” leaving many governments not knowing what to do for more weeks than necessary.

However a media briefing at the time saw Tedros announce, “China is doing many good things that are slowing the virus and the facts speak for themselves.”

When discussing an outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which itself was placed under lockdown rules after cases increased between their stops in Hong Kong and Yokohama, WHO’s Dr. Thomas Grein warned that it was a “very, very sensitive issue and we need to tread carefully.” However scientists believed the liner’s outbreak could help them to learn how the virus was transmitted with Ryan saying it was a “useful opportunity to study the natural history of the virus.”

Positive Coronavirus

Over 900 Clinic Staff Members In The Midwest Got Covid-19 Within Two Weeks 

More than 900 staff members working within the Midwest’s Mayo Clinic system have been diagnosed with the coronavirus within the past two weeks alone. That’s about 30% of the total number of cases that have appeared in the area since March. Kelley Luckstein recently spoke with the press about the severity of the situation that the Midwest is currently experiencing. 

“Our staff are being infected mostly due to community spread, which accounts for 93% of the staff infections. This impacts our ability to care for patients.”

Across the Midwest the Mayo Clinic system has about 1,500 staff members working specifically with restrictions related to Covid-19 exposures and diagnosis’. The entire Mayo clinic system consists of various clinics, hospitals, and other facilities that work to serve patients living in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

Embed from Getty Images

Midwestern states have been impacted severely throughout this pandemic, especially within the latest wave of new cases appearing throughout the nation. Wisconsin’s governor declared a new state of emergency this week while Minnesota’s governor announced a slew of new restrictions that would be enforced in the coming weeks. Dr. Amy Williams is the executive dean of the Mayo Clinic practice and offered the public a general Covid-19 update for the week to express her concern over all the new surges in cases. 

“There are three things you need to take care of any patient: Space, supplies and staff. And what we are most worried about is staff.”

Staff members to the clinic being infected with the virus is a worst case scenario situation, and is the main reason America has continuously needed to enforce things like mask wearing and social distancing. While like may have returned to normal in certain areas of the country, our nation’s hospitals have not taken a break from seeing all the devastation this pandemic has caused. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We don’t want families to be sick. We don’t want families to lose loved ones. We want everyone to be safe. We will get through this, but we need to be safe, we need to protect each other.”

In northwestern Wisconsin, the Mayo Clinic Health System reported last week that 100% of its hospital beds were now full with Covid-19 patients. “The public urgently needs to treat COVID-19 as the health emergency it is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed,” the health system said in last week’s statement.

About 50% of the ICU is occupied with Covid-19 cases as well. The health system also stated that Covid-19 patients typically need to stay in the hospital two to three times longer than any non-Covid patient. 

“While we are temporarily deferring elective procedures in order to free up beds for COVID-19 patients, the public needs to understand we continue to care for other patient populations in addition to COVID patients — we remain open for trauma, emergency care, and urgent care needs while also caring for COVID patients. We need your help and we need it now,” Williams stated. 

Williams urged the public to continue to take this pandemic seriously and to protect themselves and their loved ones, and is also preparing for the coming weeks where even more cases are expected to appear and overwhelm the hospitals throughout the nation yet again. 

Pfizer Says Final Analysis Shows Covid-19 Vaccine Is 95% Effective With No Safety Concerns

A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine shows that it’s 95% effective in preventing infections with no serious side effects, even in older adults. Of the participants that took part in the trial the company counted 170 cases of Covid-19; 162 of those infections were in people who were given the placebo vaccine, which was just plain saline, while eight of the infections were in those who got the actual vaccine, making the efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine 95%.

Initially, Pfizer’s data showed that the vaccine was only 90% effective, which still would’ve been more than enough to be distributed and used among the world, however, after further analysis Pfizer and partner BioNTech claimed that “efficacy was consistent across age, race and ethnicity demographics. The observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%,” the two said in a joint statement. 

Embed from Getty Images

Pfizer claims that it will be seeking emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration “within days” now that they have these final results. The data will also be submitted to other regulatory agencies around the world for manufacturing and distribution. Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, recently spoke with the media about how hopeful his whole team has been in regard to this vaccine and all the advancements the science community is starting to see that will help finally bring this pandemic to an end. 

“The rapid protection this vaccine provides — combined with its tolerability profile in all age groups studied so far — should help make this vaccine an important tool to address the current pandemic.”

The Phase 3 clinical trial for Pfizer’s vaccine began on July 27th. Of the 43,661 volunteers enrolled, 41,135 had received a second dose of either the vaccine or placebo. The FDA said that it wanted at least two months of safety tracking on said volunteers after they got their second dose. The companies also made it a point to hire as diverse of a group of volunteers as possible to ensure the vaccine won’t impact certain demographics differently. 

“Approximately 42% of global participants and 30% of U.S. participants have racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and 41% of global and 45% of U.S. participants are 56-85 years of age,” Pfizer said, adding that the 150 clinical trial sites in the United States, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina will continue to collect information about efficacy and safety for two more years.

Embed from Getty Images

“Based on current projections, the companies expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.”

Pfizer has three US vaccine manufacturing sites located within Michigan and Massachusetts. Many states, however, have expressed their concern over the fragility of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at a temperature of minus 75 degrees Celsius; far below the capacity of the average medical freezer located in pharmacies and doctors offices. 

However, Pfizer is confident that their custom vaccine packaging will maintain the vaccine’s freshness and ensure it remains safe and effective by the time it’s injected into patients. “The companies have developed specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shippers utilizing dry ice to maintain temperature conditions of -70°C. They can be used as temporary storage units for 15 days by refilling with dry ice. Each shipper contains a GPS-enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment across their pre-set routes leveraging Pfizer’s broad distribution network.”

Between this vaccine and Moderna’s announcement that their vaccine is also testing at 95% efficacy, the world is beginning to regain some hope in terms of this pandemic coming to an end. For now, however, it is imperative that every individual doesn their part to continue to curb the spread by wearing a mask, staying home, and social distancing when prompted. 

Pharmacetucal Covid-19 Vaccine

Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s Vaccine Battle

Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca are battling against each other to produce and release their Covid-19 vaccine as early and to as many people around the world as possible. As countries continue to struggle with the global pandemic, both companies are working to secure contracts and ensure their vaccines are as effective as possible.

A much better than expected efficacy has been cited by Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer Pfizer after the pharmaceutical company studied its initial trial data. The firm has said that the vaccine, which will be distributed around the world, has so far shown that it is more than 90% effective. However, AstraZeneca’s Oxford vaccine is now thought to be cheaper to distribute and administer than the Pfizer vaccine and there are some indications that it could be ready by Christmas.

The Oxford vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that normally causes infections in chimpanzees but has been genetically altered so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans. Pfizer’s vaccine, meanwhile, is based on part of Covid-19’s genetic code. It uses this to prepare cells to produce the necessary antibodies if the patient does become infected.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.

Embed from Getty Images

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen. With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

“I want to thank the thousands of people who volunteered to participate in the clinical trial, our academic collaborators and investigators at the study sites, and our colleagues and collaborators around the world who are dedicating their time to this crucial endeavor,” added Bourla. “We could not have come this far without the tremendous commitment of everyone involved.

The announcement comes after the conclusion of Pfizer’s first interim efficacy analysis, which was completed last week. Results of the analysis were naturally highly anticipated from inside the company of Pfizer and even across the world as governments continue to struggle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is a higher number than Pfizer was anticipating.

Based on this initial efficacy analysis, Pfizer have announced their intention to submit an application for Emergency Use Authorization to the US Food and Drug Administration for their vaccine in the third week of November. This timeline, however, is dependent on a number of other safety milestones being first met by the pharmaceutical giant.

Clinical trials will continue until Pfizer’s conclusionary analysis at 164 confirmed cases of coronavirus. These trials are conducted in order to carry on collecting relevant data and to measure and compare the potential vaccine’s performance against previous data.

Embed from Getty Images

“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder and CEO.

“When we embarked on this journey 10 months ago this is what we aspired to achieve. Especially today, while we are all in the midst of a second wave and many of us in lockdown, we appreciate even more how important this milestone is on our path towards ending this pandemic and for all of us to regain a sense of normality. We will continue to collect further data as the trial continues to enroll for a final analysis planned when a total of 164 confirmed COVID-19 cases have accrued. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to make this important achievement possible.”

Pfizer have said that they expect to produce more than 50 million vaccines for the global market this year, with 1.3 billion the expected figure for 2021. Pfizer’s vaccine has not been supported by Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s coronavirus vaccine effort, but the federal government has invested almost $2 billion in Pfizer’s vaccine in order to help the company produce more than a billion doses by next year. Pfizer has tested the vaccine alone, however, and has said it intends to distribute the vaccine itself.

President-elect Joe Biden declared that the Pfizer announcement is “excellent news,” but warned that mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be necessary.

“How long this protection lasts is something we don’t know,” Bourla told CNN in an interview.
“I think it is a likely scenario that you will need periodical vaccinations,” Bourla told Gupta. “The reason why we selected the RNA technology was exactly that. This is a technology that you can boost without problems of creating antibodies against your vaccine, again and again and again.”

UN Flag

United Nations To Meet To Discuss Coronavirus

Following the ‘unprecedented’ effects the continuing Covid-19 crisis is having around the world, the United Nations has voted to hold an emergency summit in December where they will discuss the effects the pandemic is having on global trade, economies, societies, travel and employment.

Following a General Assembly vote which saw Armenia and Israel abstain as well as America, 150-0 voted in favor of the meeting which will feature Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), leading a discussion as well as see leaders from the 193 U.N. member nations record speeches to be shown as well as the observer states of the Holy See and Palestine. If there is enough time there will also be some speeches shown from non-governmental organizations.

Talking about the decision to hold the summit, Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said the meeting would be “a historic moment and a test for multilateralism” which “will be defined by our collective action on one of the most critical issues of our time”.

He continued, “If anything, it is a belated first step. This is a time for action, action in memory of the souls lost to Covid-19, action to protect the most vulnerable people who are depending upon us. And action to safeguard our futures. Let us not forget that none of us are safe until we are all safe.”

Embed from Getty Images

Antonio Guterres, the U.N.’s Secretary-General, acknowledged that it was “very frustrating” that a meeting between the G20 – an collaboration of the leaders of the 20 most powerful industrialized nations – had not already put a plan in place to implement a coordinated response to the pandemic. However the March meeting saw leaders deciding on their own actions, resulting in the virus moving “every way, everywhere”.

Speaking of the spring meeting he said he had encouraged leaders to implement a “wartime” plan that would include “a task force to have a combined effort to defeat the virus” as well as a “trillions of dollars” stimulus package that would help households, employees and businesses in developing countries as they tried to deal with the pandemic.

As well as the U.N. meeting, a virtual summit of the G20 has been arranged for November 21 and 22 and Guterres has suggested that the U.N. is looking for a “guarantee” that any vaccine that is developed to combat coronavirus is made ”available and affordable for everyone, everywhere” as well as “strongly advocating” that there is an improvement on the coordination between nations.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N., confirmed that the secretary-general is hoping that the U.N. summit coming so swiftly after the G20 summit will provide a chance “for states to move forward together on facing the virus, both in the immediate-term and the longer term.”

Canada and Azerbaijan led negotiations of a General Assembly Resolution and following the collapse of three proposed amendments was put to the vote.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the amendments, put forward by America, would have seen a reference to the World Health Organization (WHO) be removed. America was withdrawn from WHO by President Donald Trump following the way he perceived the agency had managed the health crisis as well as the allegations from POTUS that China had influenced WHO inappropriately.

Israel’s proposed amendment would have seen a reference to U.N. “observer states”, that include Palestine, removed while Armenia’s proposed amendment would have seen a reference to the 120 member Nonaligned Movement eliminated.

However a response has been adopted which acknowledges the need for a global approach regarding the pandemic “that is people-centered, gender-responsive, with full respect for human rights, multidimensional, coordinated, inclusive and innovative, based on unity, solidarity and multilateral co-operation.”

Furthermore, it states “the fundamental role of the United Nations system in the comprehensive global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the crucial role played by the World Health Organization.”

It had been proposed that Ghebreyesus would make a speech at the opening of the summit however negotiations saw this muted and instead he will lead a dialogue and make a presentation on the second day of the event.

When the results of the vote were confirmed Brenden Varma, spokesperson for the General Assembly, commented, “the point of this special session is first of all to bring the membership together and to move forward collectively in fighting the pandemic. It’s also an opportunity to come and identify the gaps that exist right now in our response to the pandemic.”

At the time of writing there has been 49,159,634 confirmed cases of coronavirus – 12,850919 of those are active at the moment – throughout the world with 1,241,747 deaths. These figures are continuing to increase at an alarming rate with America seeing 9,926,637 confirmed cases and 241,026 deaths.

Despite repeated attempts to stop the spread across the country there has been an increase in new cases with daily figures coming in at around 118,319 and around 1,200 deaths.

Woman Wearing Protective Face Mask

CDC Sets New General Guidelines For Covid-19 Protection 

The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for navigating the Covid-19 pandemic as a means of updating and further emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask. The CDC made it clear in their guidelines that wearing a face mask doesn’t just protect you from the coronavirus, but everyone around you as well. 

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.”

Embed from Getty Images

Out of all of the policies that America has enacted right now as a means of curbing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, facial coverings and mask wearing is the number one way to prevent the spread of this disease when in a public setting. There have been multiple case studies that suggest the US can get their coronavirus numbers way down in a matter of weeks if every person wore a mask at all times when in public and only left their house for essential errands. 

“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer,” the CDC continued in their statement, explaining that “the relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Basically, the combination of you personally choosing to wear a mask every day when out in public and the general understanding that everyone else will do the same, will lead to a major decrease in new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. It isn’t even an argument, as we’ve seen from a slew of other countries who had strict mask mandates that it truly does work in getting the numbers down. 

Embed from Getty Images

“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” the CDC continued; for reference 150 microns is roughly the width of a single strand of human hair. 

The agency continued to discuss how masks have various degrees of effectiveness based on the type of mask it is. “Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron,” they said. 

The CDC went on to discuss how if you’re looking to order masks online, see if you can find ones made up of materials like polypropylene, which works as a binding tool for cloth particles that will further improve the effectiveness of how well your mask filters out air. Silk masks are a prime example of this, as the material works to “repel moist droplets and reduce fabric wetting to maintain breathability and comfort.”

Cloth masks in general are extremely protective in terms of blocking large droplets and the exhalation of finer droplets. Most cloth masks can block up  to 70% of all fine droplets, and according to the CDC in some studies they’ve performed on par with surgical masks.

Woman with the Flu

Coronavirus Measures Could Mean Lighter Flu Season

As the US enters its winter months and prepares for a potential second Covid-19 surge, experts are suggesting that the flu season may be less severe than normal. The theory is that social distancing, mask wearing and general pandemic attitudes will slow the spread of the flu in comparison to previous years.

There has already been evidence of this in Australia, who have already had their winter months and witnessed the lightest flu season for many years. Experts are still suggesting that everyone take any and all precautions they can, including getting a flu shot as soon as possible.

“It’s absolutely because of the precautions we are taking,” CNN Medical Analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana S. Wen said in an earlier interview. “The same precautions that protect us against coronavirus also protect against cold, flus and respiratory pathogens.”

“It’s the fact you’re keeping your distance, wearing a mask, washing your hands more, that you’re attentive that someone might have the illness and not know it,” said Wen, who is a professor of public health at George Washington University.

“In the past, it might have been acceptable to be sneezing and cough a little and still go to work or school, and now that would not be acceptable,” she said. “That reduces the risk of transmission, too.”

Embed from Getty Images

“Right now, there’s a coronavirus storm all over the country,” Wen said. “The virus is surging in most parts of the country. We are entering an extremely concerning time for (Covid-19). This is the time for us to be hunkering down — what’s been driving the most recent surge is gatherings with family and friends.”

“There is no coronavirus vaccine but there is a flu vaccine, and it’s important for us to do the things that we can,” Wen said. “With what’s essentially the twindemics of the flu and coronavirus, get the vaccine to protect at least against one.”

According to the CDC, flu season reaches its peak between the months of December and February, but activity can continue as late as May. The overall health impact (e.g. infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from season to season and it is expected that this year will see a decrease in activity, but the effects may be worse than usual due to the strain that the coronavirus pandemic is placing on the country.

Since Covid-19, the flu and the common cold share some symptoms — including headaches, body aches and feeling generally unwell – Wen said it’s going to be “extremely difficult to sort out who has what, especially with the limited testing that we have.”

“These respiratory pathogens have a seasonal pattern,” Wen said. “They increase in spread when people are congregating indoors more. Viruses can linger longer when there’s less humidity in the air, and colder weather in the winter means less humidity indoors.”

Embed from Getty Images

It is not only the flu virus that is an issue in the winter months as a number of other respiratory viruses also circulate more than usual during the flu season. These can cause symptoms and illnesses that are similar to those seen as a result of a flu infection. These additional viruses include one cause of the common cold, rhinovirus, as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV can be a very dangerous illness and is the leading cause of severe respiratory illness in young children as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory illness in those aged 65 years and older.

The CDC recommends that those vulnerable to complications from the flu get a vaccine as early as possible. This includes anyone aged 65 or over, as well as those with asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Young children, pregnant women and those with terminal illness are also at a higher risk. People from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk for hospitalization with flu, including non-Hispanic Black persons, Hispanic or Latino persons, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons.

You can visit the CDC website to find out more information on those that are at an increased risk to hospitalization, as well as what can be done to mitigate the risks of catching the flu.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that Australia had the fewest number of flu cases “in memory” during its winter flu season, from April to September.

“They almost, as they call it, had an absent flu season,” said Fauci, speaking with Washington, DC, radio station WTOP on September 17. “The theory is that all the precautions they took to contain the pandemic actually “averted a flu season.”

“If you look at the data over many years about flu vaccines, they’re not perfect,” Fauci said. “We know from the data that flu shots not only prevent infections; they prevent people who do get infected from getting serious progressive disease sometimes resulting in hospitalization.”