Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

FDA Places Strict Limits On Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it is limiting the emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for individuals 18 and older. The vaccine is now available for adults who don’t have access to other vaccinations and for adults who aren’t able to receive the other Covid-19 vaccine for personal medical reasons. 

The FDA released a statement in which they detailed the changes and why they’re being made. They explained that the change is being implemented due to the rare risk of a dangerous clotting condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after receiving the vaccine. 

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“We’ve been closely monitoring the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and occurrence of TTS following its administration and have used updated information from our safety surveillance systems to revise the EUA,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. 

“We recognize that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine still has a role in the current pandemic response in the United States and across the global community. Today’s action demonstrates the robustness of our safety surveillance systems and our commitment to ensuring that science and data guide our actions.”

The agency also confirmed that the updated authorizations apply to booster doses as well. The FDA also emphasized that the benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the risks for certain individuals as well. 

In their statement, they wrote that individuals who had a severe allergic reaction to an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), have personal concerns over mRNA vaccines, or don’t have access to mRNA vaccines should definitely receive the J&J jab. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18.7 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the US, and of all the Americans who are currently fully vaccinated, about 7.7% got the J&J vaccine. 

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The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee issued their own statement on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, saying it “makes a preferential recommendation for the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the Janssen adenoviral-vectored COVID-19 vaccine in all persons aged  ≥ 18 years in the United States.”

Both the CDC and FDA have made these statements mainly due to TTS concerns. When rare clotting events began appearing in the initial periods of vaccination in the US, Johnson & Johnson made a statement emphasizing their commitment to giving Americans a safe and effective vaccine. 

“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority. We are aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots in combination with low platelets in a small number of individuals who have received our COVID-19 vaccine. … We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public.”

The FDA released data that showed around 60 cases of TTS since the J&J vaccine began its distribution, nine of those unfortunately were fatal. 

The FDA emphasized, however, that the risk for TTS is extremely rare. Current data shows that there’s about three cases of TTS for every million doses administered. 

Symptoms of TTS can appear within one to two weeks after vaccination, and they include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms like headaches or blurred vision, and red spots appearing under the skin at the site of vaccination.

New Study Finds Humans Need Better Therapies, Not Just Antidepressants 

According to a new study, while antidepressants are the main solution for treating depression, their use may not be that effective long-term. The study showed that depressed individuals who aren’t medicated, but in a stable and consistent therapy program have been able to have a greater quality of life in the long run when it comes to their mental health. 

Lead pharmacoepidemiologist for the study Omar Almohammed, emphasized that the point of the study is not to deter individuals from using antidepressants, as these drugs do save lives, but instead bring light to the fact that many people who do take them think that it’ll be enough to combat their depression, when that’s not the case for a lot of people. 

“For some, these meds do little to relieve depression and can have unwanted side effects such as weight gain, insomnia, loss of sex drive, and even withdrawal-like symptoms if they are stopped abruptly.”

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“Improving people’s overall wellbeing, especially their quality of life, for years and not just a few short months, is the ultimate goal of therapy. However, whether antidepressants help achieve this goal is questionable, to say the least.” Almohammed and colleagues wrote.

Antidepressants in general have a history of being either unreliable or ineffective. This is partially due to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has long suppressed piles of trial data that prove some antidepressants can be ineffective.

The study took data from the US Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a nationwide study that tracks which health services are used by Americans. The researchers found that antidepressants leave many people “desperate” for better treatments, specifically, between 2005 and 2016, roughly 17 million adults were diagnosed with depression each year. 

The analysis found that while antidepressant use was associated with some improvements in the immediate mental health of these individuals, the physical aspects of their quality of life tended to diminish. 

About two-thirds of the individuals researched throughout the 11-year dataset were women, which also reflects the gender-disparities that exist in the mental health industry. Nearly 60% of the women in the data were treated with antidepressants. 

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“People tended to report that their psychological distress and well being improved with antidepressants, but their physical health problems, bodily pain, and lack of vitality often remained.”

“Doctors and health professionals should consider looping people into psychotherapy or social support sessions before resorting to or when prescribing antidepressants mainly since there was no persisting impact for these medications on people’s quality of life,” the team writes

Again, the authors of the study emphasized that antidepressants shouldn’t be distributed, but instead clinicians should be rethinking the best way to help their clients through therapy and other programs in addition to, or in lieu of, antidepressants.  

“Pairing antidepressants with support from a psychotherapist seems key to improving people’s quality of life, more so than the drugs or talking therapy alone.”

“Although we still need our patients with depression to continue using their antidepressant medications, long-term studies evaluating the actual impact for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions on these patients’ quality of life are needed,” the team concluded.

E-Cigarettes Using Synthetic Nicotine To Go Under FDA Regulation

This past Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gained the power to regulate e-cigarettes and other products that utilize synthetic nicotine, which has been the source of legal ambiguity.

According to the administration, the change allows them to “protect the public health from the harms of tobacco products, regardless of the source of nicotine.” With the regulation, companies now have to register with the FDA and submit their products for review within 30 days.

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Companies in the e-cigarette industry had attempted to use the synthetic nicotine as a loophole for their products to bypass FDA requirements. Previously, the law — which was introduced in 2009 — stated that a tobacco product was defined as being made or derived from tobacco.

Synthetic nicotine copies the nicotine alkaloid that’s found in tobacco plants, but without possessing any extracts that connect it to tobacco. Thus, the products didn’t fall under those restrictions. The new regulation will target Puff Bar and several other prominent manufacturers that engaged in those loopholes.

“As a cardiologist, I’ve personally seen the devastating health effects of tobacco use, so I’m highly motivated for the FDA to help reduce death and disability caused by these products,” FDA commissioner Robert Califf said in a press release last month.

“We know that there is a demand among adult smokers to use e-cigarette products to try to switch from more harmful combusted cigarettes, but millions of youth are using these products and getting addicted to nicotine.”

While the FDA won’t immediately ban Puff Bar’s or other companies’ products, they’ll still fall under the same guidelines that previous tobacco-extracted nicotine products fell under. In September of last year, the FDA stated they were reviewing over 6.5 million tobacco-“deemed” products, rejecting almost 950,000 of the applications.

At the time, the majority of those applications were e-cigarettes — or more formally, “electronic nicotine delivery systems” — which the FDA noted had never been through the application process before. Some of those products were on the market already, while others had been proposed by the companies.

The Associated Press explained that Stanford researchers had found synthetic nicotine products were up for sale online at sites like Ebay, Amazon, and Target, which under the old law wouldn’t have been able to sell tobacco-based products. The new law will now ensure synthetic sales face those same sale restrictions.

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, while around 2.5 million teenagers in middle and high school use at least one tobacco product.

The youth is a particularly targeted demographic by e-cigarette companies, with 85.8% of high school students and 79.2% of middle school students stating they used a flavored e-cigarette within the past 30 days in 2021. The CDC also found e-cigarettes are the most common tobacco product used by youth since 2014.

Those facts were heavily implemented within the FDA’s regulation process. “Assessing the impact of potential or actual youth use is a critical factor in our determination as to whether the statutory standard for marketing is met,” the release stated.

BA.2 Subvariant Nows Makes Up 72% Of New COVID-19 Cases

Another day, another COVID-19 subvariant that could once again send safety protocols back into full effect. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nowcast, the BA.2 strain made up 72.2% of cases within the U.S. from March 27 to April 4. Other members of the Omicron family include BA.1.1, which made up 25%, and B.1.1.529, making up a miniscule 2.5%.

Of course, the subvariant isn’t just making waves in the States. Across the globe, Omicron accounted for 99.8% of COVID-19 cases within the last week, with BA.2 making up 93.6% of that. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), BA.2 is now dominant within all six of its regions and in 68 countries where data sequencing is available.

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Among the countries that have been most hit by the subvariant include the U.K. — which saw over 225,000 new cases on March 21, the most for them in a single day since early January — Germany, where over 3 million new cases have occured between March 24 to April 6, and Italy, which had close to two million cases in that same span.

As Scientific American notes, BA.2 is vastly different from its predecessors in terms of its genetics. While BA.2 shares many of the 60 mutations BA.1 ended up acquiring that were not in the original SARS-COV-2 virus, BA.2 possesses 28 unique mutations of its own. It also holds the dubious honor of being 30% to 50% more contagious than BA.1.

Still, despite the strong push of the highly-transmissible subvariant in the U.S. and world, health experts like Dr. Christopher Murray maintain that Americans shouldn’t be worried of another possible outbreak that could take improvements two steps back.

Speaking to NBC News, Murray — a University of Washington professor of health metrics sciences — said that he would not be “hugely concerned” with BA.2, and explained he expects it to remain at low levels as the weather warms up over the next few months.

“Right now we’re in this period where immunity is high and we’re heading into the summer and transmission tends to be a bit lower, so the combination should lead in the Northern Hemisphere to pretty low levels after the BA.2 wave.”

Indeed, despite the 72% mark, BA.2 hasn’t made a surge in cases. April 6 saw over 49,000 new cases, but the country has steadily remained around a seven-day average of 29,000 to 30,000 for nearly a month. That’s a significant improvement over the seven-day averages from December to late February, which ranged from 100,000 to 800,000. Meanwhile, the seven-day average for daily deaths has dropped from 1,059 on March 16 to 558 on April 6.

If projections like Murray’s hold true, it would be the first time a COVID-19 subvariant has taken over as the dominant strain in the U.S. without causing an uptick in cases. Of course, there may be several factors at play for why cases haven’t statistically increased just yet, one being that the government is no longer offering free tests for uninsured.

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Another possible reason why is that Americans have built up an immunity, with the latest CDC seroprevalence survey showing that around 95% of the population have some level of combined infection and vaccine-induced seroprevalence. 43% are estimated to have antibodies from just past infections, though attempting to build up protection this way certainly wouldn’t be recommended.

Of course, just because a country-wide outbreak might not occur doesn’t mean specific areas wouldn’t be at risk of severe case rises, some experts told Today. People that live in an area with high population density, along with a low vaccination rate, should be more precautious than those who live in an area with a low population density or higher vaccination rate.

China’s Covid Cases Continue To Surge, Shanghai Begins Lockdown Procedures 

Shanghai has begun to phase in lockdown measures for its citizens as an Omicron-fueled wave of new Covid-19 cases is spreading rapidly throughout mainland China. The country is currently experiencing its second highest caseload since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. 

According to city officials, the eastern side of the Huangpu River, which divides Shanghai, will be under lockdown between Monday and Friday, which will be followed by similar restrictions across its western side in the coming week. Massive covid testing is also taking place across the city. 

Shanghai alone is the home for over 25 million people, making it one of the leading hotspots in a nationwide outbreak of Covid-19 that began in the beginning of the month. 

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Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping urged his officials to “minimize the impact of the virus on the economy and reflect on the zero-Covid policy.” 

Shanghai ruled out locking down the city as a means of protecting the economy. However, a record 3,450 asymptomatic cases were reported within the city last week, accounting for nearly 70% of China’s current Covid-19 cases. 

China’s National Health Commission on Monday reported “5,134 new asymptomatic cases for the previous day, and 1,219 local confirmed infections. Although the case numbers remain relatively insignificant in a global context, they are China’s highest since the first weeks of the pandemic.”

The city government said in a public notice on Sunday that “the two-part lockdown is being implemented to curb the spread of the epidemic, ensure the safety and health of the people and root out cases of infection as soon as possible.”

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The eastern half of Shanghai, known as Pudong, will be locked down until April 1st as residents undergo mass testing procedures. The western half of the city, known as Puxi, will be locked down until April 5th for the same procedure. 

Shanghai’s public security bureau said it was “closing cross-river bridges and tunnels, and highway toll booths concentrated in eastern districts until April 1st. Areas to the west of the Huangpu River will have similar restrictions imposed.”

A member of the city’s pandemic taskforce had over the weekend vowed Shanghai would “not shut down. A lockdown in Shanghai, the country’s major financial and trading hub, would impact the entire national economy and the global economy. 

“If Shanghai, this city of ours, came to a complete halt, there would be many international cargo ships floating in the East China Sea.”

“It seems clear that the authorities have been trying to rely on targeted measures to the maximum extent possible, but clearly they now feel they cannot afford to wait any longer in Shanghai,” said Thomas Hale of Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government.

“Overall, we’re now seeing more [Chinese cities] using restrictive measures than any other time since 2020.”

Experiencing Brain Fog From Long Covid? Here’s How To Cope 

Brain fog is a term used to describe feelings of mental fuzziness which can occur due to a multitude of reasons. The idea of brain fog has become more prevalent in recent years as it’s one of the most common symptoms associated with long Covid. 

Scientists are in the beginning stages of understanding how exactly Covid affects the brain, but there’s an increasing amount of evidence supporting that even mild to moderate Covid-19 cases can cause brain damage and trigger problems with memory, concentration, and overall functioning. 

In most of the cases associated with Covid-19, the brain fog typically resolves itself naturally within a matter of weeks. However, some individuals are developing chronic brain fog that persists for months, and maybe even years. 

According to James Giordano,a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, “there’s something unique about the brain fog that comes with COVID. With most of these other conditions, brain fog typically resolves when the infection clears or the treatment stops. COVID, however, seems to cause a much more intense and sometimes long-lasting, widespread inflammatory effect — and the brain fog can persist for weeks or months on end.”

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“The brain fog people experience with long COVID is most likely a result of direct and indirect inflammatory effects on the brain.”

Covid is known for triggering a massive inflammatory response within the body that could potentially cause tissue damage throughout the body depending on how severe the case is. Covid-19 can also directly impact cells surrounding the brain, which creates yet another inflammatory response which could result in brain fog symptoms. 

A recent study found that even mild to moderate cases of Covid can cause damage to the brain and a potential decline in cognitive function. 

“Now we are really seeing inflammatory changes in the brain, and those inflammatory changes disrupt the functional architecture of the way brain nodes and networks are operating to control certain aspects of cognition and behavior,” Giordano said.

“That’s one of the really fascinating things about this virus: Each body that it goes into, it can affect so differently. This makes it very hard to predict who will develop brain fog.” said Dr. Mill Etienne, an associate professor of neurology and medicine at New York Medical College.

“Age seems to also play a role, as older people are more at risk for experiencing cognitive issues after COVID. But even some young, otherwise healthy people diagnosed with COVID have found themselves struggling with brain fog,” according to Giordano. 

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“You don’t have to have a severe case of COVID in order to have this long COVID syndrome,” Etienne said.

Giordano said the “specific symptoms of brain fog also vary from person to person. Some people experience fatigue after the slightest level of physical or mental exertion. It’s not just that they feel tired; they literally feel like they can’t do this anymore — in other words, they have to stop doing anything and just kind of rest.”

So what exactly can you do if you’re experiencing some level of brain fog after being sick with Covid? Etienne says most of the time the brain fog will clear up naturally over time, but unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone. 

Giordano advised “if you’ve been battling brain fog after COVID, try to acknowledge that you have it and recognize its impact on your daily functioning and quality of life. Consult with a physician and be specific about what brain fog feels like to you. Doing so will help your doctor develop a tailored treatment plan that will help mitigate the specific effects you are experiencing. In certain instances, medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended.”

It’s also recommended in general for individuals who are experiencing brain fog to keep as physically active as they can. While it may be difficult to do so, depending on how severe of a case you have, keeping your body moving keeps your brain active and can help it build up recuperative skills. 

“Lastly, get adequate rest and stay hydrated. People usually take those things for granted, but in this particular case, it’s rather important because both rest and hydration can be very recuperative to brain metabolism,” Giordano said.

House Passes Bill To Help Veterans Exposed To Burn Pits

On Thursday, the House approved a bill, referred to as the “Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021,” that will expand benefits for post- 9/11 veterans that were sickened by toxins, such as from burn pits, during their military service. The final vote was 256-174, with 34 Republicans voting in addition to the entire 222 Democrats.

The passing comes two days after President Joe Biden gave an extra push for the legislation during his State of the Union speech. “I’m also calling on Congress to pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and the comprehensive health care that they deserve,” Biden said.

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According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), an estimated 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to burn pits, which are used to discard waste at military camps and can cause headaches, nausea, difficulty breathing, and other life-threatening, long-term symptoms.

“This year, 86% of respondents [to IAVA’s yearly member survey] reported exposure to burn pits or other toxins and 89% of those exposed reported symptoms that are or might be caused by that exposure,” IAVA stated. Among other hazardous toxins that servicemembers are exposed to include contaminated groundwater, Agent Orange — a herbicide chemical — radiation exposure, and embedded fragments.

“They came home, many of the world’s fittest and best trained warriors in the world, never the same. Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin,” Biden said, adding that he wasn’t sure if burn pits were responsible for his late son Beau Biden’s brain cancer, which took his life in 2015.

The bill would designate 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers as being likely linked to toxic exposures related to burn pits and other hazards. It would also see nearly $300 billion spent over the next 10 years, a price that some political opponents are hesitant of.

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At a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday that featured numerous supporters like political commentator Jon Stewart and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, tribulations caused by exposure were recounted by former veteran and the American Legion’s director of health policy Katie Purswell. “I struggle to think of a single person that I deployed with who may not have been exposed, at some point, to toxins while deployed.”

“While it was our decision to raise our hands and fight our nation’s wars for those who cannot or will not, what we didn’t know was that our long-lasting health issues might not even begin to show during our time in service.”

Veterans of the Vietnam War would also benefit, making nearly 490,000 servicemembers with illnesses like hypertension and bladder cancer eligible for disability. Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee noted that 2018 findings showed “sufficient evidence of an association” between hypertension and Agent Orange.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee is undergoing its own approach to the issue of toxic exposure to veterans. According to ABC News, sources familiar with the process said the House and Senate will have to figure out policy differences and take their respective bills to conference over the next few months in order to reach a final compromise.

UK Fighting against Covid-19

UK To Roll Out Additional Covid-19 Vaccines For Vulnerable People And Elderly 

The UK announced this week that it will be rolling out an additional Covid-19 vaccine for the elderly and clinically vulnerable populations. Adults over the age of 75, nursing home residents, and anyone who’s immunocompromised will be given an extra dose of a Covid vaccine in the spring. 

Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said the rollout is a part of a “precautionary strategy for 2022,” adding that individuals over the age of 18 will be offered Pfizer/BioNTech or the Modernas vaccine for the spring dose, while 12 to 18-year-olds will be given Pfizer/BioNTech exclusively. 

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“An extra booster shot will be given 6 months after an eligible individual’s most recent dose. For older people in the U.K., this will be the fourth vaccine dose they have been offered. For people with a severely weakened immune system, it will be the fifth vaccine shot they have been offered. The bulk of the population has been offered three shots, two vaccinations and one booster,”  the JCVI said.

“There remains considerable uncertainty with regards to the likelihood, timing and severity of any potential future wave of Covid-19 in the U.K.”

“There may be a transition period of a few years before a stable pattern, such as a regular seasonal wave of infection, is established,” the JCVI said.

A majority of the UK’s oldest, and most vulnerable, adults received their most recent Covid vaccine in September or October. The JCVI noted that “the immunity this group gained through their booster shot may wane substantially before the fall, when we plan to roll out a wider booster program.” 

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Details on the fall program have not been published yet. 85% of those aged 12 and older in the eligible population of UK residents have received their two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and two-thirds of that group has received a booster shot.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also preparing to announce and end to all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England, a move which many medical professionals have criticized. 

Most of England’s Covid restrictions have already been lifted. The legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus is one of the few requirements still in place. 

Johnson is also planning to announce that access to free Covid tests will be scaled back, even though the nation recorded 25,696 new cases this Sunday alone. About 508 individuals per 100,000 people are currently infected with Covid-19 in England. 

“Thanks to our COVID-19 vaccination rollout, we are already the freest country in Europe. It has saved countless lives, reduced pressure on the National Health Service, and is allowing us to learn to live with the virus,”  U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement on Monday.

According To Study, 1 In 3 Older Adults Develop New Conditions After COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, older adults have always been the most vulnerable demographic groups. Adults ages 65 and up have seen 679,808 deaths involving the virus, which makes up around 76% of all U.S. deaths. Now, it appears those who have contracted the virus may have to be aware of long-term conditions as well.

A new study, published in the BMJ, has found that one in three of adults ages 65 and older went on to develop new conditions after contracting COVID-19, as opposed to one in fifth adults that did not have COVID-19.

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As Medical News Today notes, the acute phase of the virus typically involves the respiratory tract, though the virus can affect multiple organs throughout the body. “Understanding the magnitude of this impact and the specific organ systems that can be affected by the post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 is critically important information,” study author Dr. Ken Cohen said.

The study examined the medical records of 133,366 patients who had a “primary, secondary, or tertiary diagnosis” of COVID-19 prior to April 1, 2020. The researchers then compared this group to three other groups: two groups that did not have COVID-19 in 2019 and 2020, and a group that did not have COVID-19, but did have a viral lower respiratory tract illness.

Scientists then identified new conditions occurring three weeks or more after a COVID-19 diagnosis. 32% of participants were diagnosed with “persistent or new clinical sequelae that required medical attention” during the acute stage, 11% higher than the 2020 comparison group.

Of that 32%, 16% had one diagnosis that required medical attention, while 16% had two or more diagnoses. The group of participants with one or more sequelae was also 7.9% higher than the 2019 group, and 1.4% lower than the viral tract infection group.

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When compared to the 2020 group, the new conditions that had the greatest risk difference included respiratory failure, hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney injuries, memory difficulties, and mental health diagnoses. The study also noted that those aged 75 or older with COVID-19 had a larger risk difference than those aged 65-74 for several neurological sequelae, which include amnesia and dementia.

Speaking to MNT, director of Transitional Care Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine Dr. Alicia Arbaje explained that the study is extremely important and timely when considering both the population being focused on and the current phase of the pandemic.

“So I think this study is important, because it can help for planning purposes to help us see longer-term what we may need. This is not a simple pneumonia or an illness that comes and goes. It’s something that we’re starting to learn has longer-term effects beyond the respiratory component.”

Arbaje added that the study would also help to give doctors new perspectives while honoring the patient’s “disease journey” they’re on, as contrasted to research typically focusing on just one disease. “With older adults, it’s so important to look at the entire picture from the person’s perspective, the person’s journey,” Arbaje said.

However, Arbaje did caution there were some limitations of the research. These include the inability to study causation, the fact that this study is meant to lead other studies, and that the participants looked at were a Medicare Advantage population, not the traditional Medicare population which would’ve been more representative of the majority of adults in the country.

Despite Cases Falling, WHO Director-General Warns That “COVID Isn’t Finished”

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized that despite falling cases, “COVID isn’t finished with us” – a phrase that may sound like a broken record to many.

“Depending on where you live, it might feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over, or, it might feel like it is at its worst. But wherever you live, COVID isn’t finished with us,” Tedros said, adding that while the pandemic’s trends can change at any moment, we have the vaccines and resources necessary to combat it.

“Diseases know no borders, and as we all know from Omicron, any feeling of safety can change in a moment. We know this virus will continue to evolve. But we are not defenceless. We have the tools to prevent this disease, to test for it, and to treat it.”

The world has seen a very positive decrease in recent weeks after hitting the worst high since the pandemic began. On Jan. 25, 3,774,458 COVID-19 cases were recorded globally, bringing the seven-day average to 3,371,138. Since then, the numbers have slowly but surely dropped, with Feb. 8’s seven-day average hitting 2,660,107.

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The Associated Press noted that in the WHO’s weekly epidemiological report, released Tuesday, showed cases fell 17% worldwide over the last week, while deaths rose 7%. In the U.S. — the world’s leading country in total cases and deaths — cases dropped 50%

However, the U.S. was still the top country with 1,874,006 new cases in the report. Among other countries with the highest COVID-19 cases recorded include France (1,738,189 cases, 26% decrease), Germany (1,285,375 cases, 22% increase) and Brazil, which didn’t see any significant increases or decreases.

“Where people have access to those tools, this virus can be brought under control,” the director-general explained, while saying that in places that don’t have access to resources, COVID-19 continues “to spread, to evolve, and to kill.” Tedros gave his remarks at the launch of the WHO’s ACT-Accelerator campaign for global equity in COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and equipment.

The ACT-Accelerator campaign is currently asking 55 countries for $23 billion in funding to accomplish those goals of further resources globally. The WHO insisted that with every month of delay, the world stands to lose “four times” the investment the campaign needs.

According to the organization, 4.7 billion COVID-19 tests have been administered since the beginning of the pandemic, though just 22 million have been given in low-income countries, 0.4% of the global total. Meanwhile, 10% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dosage.

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Tedros explained that the emergence of Omicron — which has a new subvariant, Omicron BA.2 — makes securing treatments and aid globally that much more crucial. WHO’s regional director Dr. Dorit Nitzan, explained that BA.2, which currently only accounts for 4% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., will likely become dominant due to its high tramissionability.

However, some officials appear more optimistic than others regarding the lull. The director of WHO’s Europe office, Dr. Hans Kluge, stated that the continent is facing a “plausible endgame” in regards to the pandemic. “This period of higher protection should be seen as a cease-fire that could bring us enduring peace,” Kluge said.