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lunar

China Gearing Up For Likely Covid-19 Surge As Travel For The Lunar New Year Begins

The Lunar New Year holidays, also referred to as the spring festival, officially begins on January 21st. Local media outlets have already been reporting massive spikes in Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths, along with supply and drug shortages to combat the spread.

covid

60,000 People Have Died In China From Covid-19 Since December

Around 60,000 individuals in China have died from Covid-19 since early December when the country abandoned its strict “zero Covid” policy. 

covid

China Foreign Minister Calls International Travel Restrictions For Citizens ‘Unacceptable’

The United States, Canada, France, and Japan are among the countries implementing restrictions for travelers from China due to an ongoing concern over their rise in Covid-19 cases. Nations are asking travelers to provide a negative Covid-19 test before arrival at their destination.

China has responded by calling these international restrictions on travelers “unacceptable,” following more than a dozen nations’ announcements of the new restrictions. 

China’s recent spike in Covid-19 cases came after Beijing lifted their zero-Covid policies in December, which has led to a sudden rise in hospitalizations and deaths; crematoriums have also reported being overwhelmed according to the Aljazeera publication. 

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Beijing is continuing to follow through with their reopening plans, and have even gotten rid of their mandatory quarantine requirements for individuals arriving into the city. Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning held a briefing this week to discuss the reopening and recent international travel restrictions from other countries. 

“Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travelers. This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable.” 

Ning also warned that China may “take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne stated that the restrictions made sense, and as a nation they are “performing [their] duty in asking for testing.” 

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Overall, the international travel restrictions will impact everyone traveling out of China, not just its citizens. The US and other countries have stated that Beijing hasn’t been fully honest regarding their infection data and risk factors surrounding new variants. 

“As health workers nationwide battle a surge in cases, a senior doctor at one of Shanghai’s top hospitals said 70 percent of the megacity’s population may now have been infected with COVID-19,” state media reported.

Chen Erzhen, a member of Shanghai’s COVID expert advisory panel, estimated that “the majority of the city’s 25 million people may have been infected.

Now the spread of the epidemic in Shanghai is very wide, and it may have reached 70 percent of the population, which is 20 to 30 times more than [in April and May],” he told Jiangdong Studio.

flu

Americans May Face a ‘Tripledemic’ This Winter With the Spread of Influenza, RSV and Covid-19

At least three viruses—influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—are threatening to overwhelm the country this holiday season. Americans will grapple with multiple respiratory pathogens, both old and new.

run

Study Finds Regular Physical Activity Could Reduce Covid-19 Risk 

According to a data analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular exercise can lower the risk of developing Covid-19 or getting seriously ill when one contracts the virus. The data suggests that about 20 minutes of exercise a day yielded the greatest results. 

The study stated that a weekly total of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity would give the greatest results. 

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“Regular physical activity seems to be related to a lower likelihood of adverse Covid-19 outcomes,” the team of researchers wrote. 

“Our analysis reveals that individuals who engage in regular physical activity have a lower likelihood of Sars-CoV-2 infection, Covid-19 hospitalization, severe Covid-19 illness and Covid-19-related death than physically inactive individuals, independent of design and instrument used.”

In general, exercise has a protective effect when it comes to respiratory infections. Regular physical activity reduces one’s chances of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and a multitude of other illnesses, most recently Covid-19. 

The researchers emphasized that the analysis was relatively limited, so the results shouldn’t be taken at face value. The team attempted to quantify the specific threshold of physical activity needed to make an actual difference in lessening the risk of contracting Covid-19, or lessening the severity should one become infected. 

The study observed data from 1.8 million adults, 54% of which were women, and the median age of each individual was 53. 

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The data analysis showed that, overall, “those who included regular physical activity in their weekly routine had an 11% lower risk of infection with Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid.”

Those individuals also had a 36% lower risk of hospitalization, a 44% lower risk of severe Covid-19, and a 43% lower risk of death from Covid-19. 

The research team also warned that the data was a result of “observational studies, differing study designs, subjective assessments of physical activity levels, and concerned only the Beta and Delta variants of Sars-CoV-2 rather than Omicron, all of which could weaken the findings.”

“There are plausible biological explanations for what we found. Regular moderate-intensity exercise may help to boost the body’s anti-inflammatory responses, as well as cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, all of which may explain its beneficial effects on Covid-19 severity,” the researchers said. 

“Our findings highlight the protective effects of engaging in sufficient physical activity as a public health strategy, with potential benefits to reduce the risk of severe Covid-19.”

“Given the heterogeneity and risk of publication bias, further studies with standardized methodology and outcome reporting are now needed,” they wrote. 

moderna

UK Approves Updated Covid-19 Vaccine From Moderna, Targets Omicron And Original Strain 

The United Kingdom has become the first nation to approve an updated version of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine booster, meant to target the omicron strain as well as the original virus that first appeared in 2020. 

“An updated version of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna that targets two coronavirus variants (known as a “bivalent” vaccine) has today been approved for adult booster doses by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness,” read an official government release.

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“Half of the booster, called Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron, targets the original coronavirus strain while the other half targets Omicron,” it said.

The MHRA, the UK government’s independent expert scientific advisory board, endorsed the decision to approve of the new vaccine after carefully reviewing the evidence. 

The clinical trial by Moderna reported that the booster targets Omicron and showed a stronger immune response against the variant in addition to the original strain. The company said the “updated booster showed a potent response against BA.4 and BA. 5 sub variants.” 

“The side effects are the same as for the original Moderna booster dose and found to be typically mild and self-resolving. No serious safety concerns were identified,” the UK government release said.

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MHRA Chief Executive Dr. June Raine said that “the new Moderna booster will help keep communities protected.

“The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives. What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armory to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization will advise on the vaccine’s rollout, as it is not yet clear who will be offered the booster or when. 

Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said on Twitter he was “delighted the vaccine had been approved.”

“This represents the first authorization of an Omicron-containing bivalent vaccine, this bivalent vaccine has an important role to play in protecting people in the UK from Covid-19 as we enter the winter months.”

Besides Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech have been testing two Covid-19 vaccine boosters that will also target the Omicron variant.

comic con

San Diego Comic-Con Mandating Masks And Health Pass Screenings To Attend 

San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) has released their set of safety protocols for attendees as the world combats the sixth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to the set of health and safety protocols, all convention attendees must provide vaccine verification that proves they’ve received at least two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, or proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours. 

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Additionally, attendants must be wearing a mask the entire time they’re at the convention. Guidelines state that “face coverings should completely cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly against the side of the face, and not have any gaps.” 

The Los Angeles Times reported that as of Monday, “the California COVID Assessment Tool, published by the state Department of Public Health, said the spread of the coronavirus is likely increasing, with every infected Californian likely spreading it to 1.15 other people.”

“When you look at the [coronavirus] case counts, they’re no longer reliable. There are tremendous undercounts, and the number of cases now probably is not all that dissimilar to what we saw during the massive surge in December and January,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the UC San Francisco Department of Medicine, said. 

According to the SDCC’s FAQ page about attending the event, individuals can download the CLEAR app to easily upload their Covid-19 vaccine verification. 

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For unvaccinated individuals, SDCC says that “adults and children aged 5 and older who are not fully vaccinated, a recent negative COVID-19 test result must be obtained. All COVID-19 tests must be done by a certified lab, clinic, or physician. A negative test result must show the specimen was collected within 72 hours. Additionally, both PCR and antigen are acceptable as long as testing is conducted within the time frame.”

The website for SDCC also emphasizes that they will have health and safety protocol enforcers at the event to ensure that everyone in attendance is adhering to the guidelines that are implemented for everyone’s safety. 

During May’s Star Wars celebration in Anaheim, California, and June’s Anime Exposition in Los Angeles similar protocols were put in place, which allowed staff at SDCC to prepare for the convention itself and enforce the covid safety protocols. 

SDCC kicks off with preview night this Wednesday, July 20th, and ends Sunday July 24th.

white house

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Explains Why Some Americans Don’t Trust The Science

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid response coordinator, recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival and explained why Americans continue to grow less trusting of medical advice from experts. One of the biggest reasons cited is due to a lack of representation in the scientific/medical field. 

“If you look at the experience of the way the public health system has treated, let’s say, African Americans in America, there’s a lot of basis for mistrust. It is not a glorious history.”

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According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 29% of US adults say they believe medical scientists are acting in the best interest of the public: that percentage is down from 40% in late 2020. 

Jha said that for many people of color, that mistrust can be rooted back to not seeing enough representation or diversity in the medical field in general, especially when it comes to positions of power in the public health system. 

“We have to do a much better job at diversifying our scientific workforce. It will make science better. It’ll make the communication better. The proportion of Black men in medical school is the same today as it was 40 years ago.” 

According to a 2015 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), only 1,337 Black men applied to US medical schools in 2014, compared to 1,410 Black men in 1978. Less than 6% of all physicians in America are Black, according to a 2018 study by UCLA. 

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Diversity in medicine has been luckily on the rise recently; January data from the AAMC shows that there were roughly 20% more Black male first-year medical students in the US in 2021 when compared to 2020. However, the report also cited an 8.5% decrease in American Indian and Alaska Native first-year students. 

Jha noted that “diverse doctors and healthcare workers could help get more people of color on board with vaccinations. The words of trusted community members often carry more weight than government officials, even publicly elected ones.”

“Here are communities that have been served badly, where the health system has treated them badly, and then someone shows up and says, ‘You want a vaccine?’ and you’re surprised that people are not immediately jumping for it?”

“You saw incredible vaccine uptick rates in lots of communities of color, but, when you work with those right partners. It was proof of this principle that if you get the right partners, you do this humbly, you do this in an effective way, it really moves the needle,” said Jha.

ICU

Severe Cases Of Covid-19 Linked To Long-Term Air Pollution Exposure

According to a study conducted in 2020 using healthcare data from 4,443 fatal cases of Covid-19, long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) correlated to an increased risk of severe/potentially fatal cases of Covid-19.

Child Vaccine

FDA Says Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine Safe And Effective For Children Under 5

Staff for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said on Sunday that the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech is safe and effective for children under the age of 5. Staff members said the vaccine is effective in producing a virus-blocking response without any major safety concerns, now the results will be studied by a group of independent advisers for the FDA.

Independent experts working for the agency will review a request for emergency use authorization for the vaccine in children under the age of 5. The group will also review a similar request from Moderna for the use of their vaccine for children under the age of 6. 

After the advisers make their recommendations, the FDA will then decide whether or not to follow the panel’s advice, which it likely will. If the agency approves, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do the same, the vaccines could be available for young children and infants as soon as the beginning of next week. 

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According to the FDA, “overall preliminary data indicated the vaccine was 80.4% effective in preventing symptomatic covid-19. The rate was 75.6% for babies and toddlers six to 23 months old, and 82.4% for children 2-to-4-years-old.

It’s still too soon, however, to reach definitive conclusions on the vaccine’s effectiveness.”

“Side effects were minimal and included irritability and drowsiness for children 6-to-23-months-old, and pain at the injection site and fatigue for children 2 to 4. Babies and children younger than 5 — a group numbering 19 million — remain the only age group in the United States not yet eligible for a coronavirus vaccine.”

The FDA also emphasized with these findings that they believe vaccines for the youngest group of Americans are critical for navigating the rest of the pandemic. 

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“Given the uncertainty of the pandemic and likely continued virus transmission in coming months, deployment of the vaccine for use among children 6 months through 4 years of age will likely have a beneficial effect on COVID-19 associated morbidity and mortality in this age group,” the agency said.

Assuming that both Pfizer and Moderna receive an emergency use authorization, most children will likely be able to receive their shots at their pediatricians office, however, many states and communities are already gearing up to set up vaccine clinics and make the shots available throughout local pharmacies. 

Sallie Permar, an expert in pediatric vaccines, said that her facility will offer both vaccine options to ideally make it easier for the parents to choose what they want their child to receive. 

“While there may be some confusion over the difference between the two vaccines, offering both gives you more flexibility. Parents can weigh all the information and decide,” she explained.