Posts tagged with "CDC"

FDA moves closer to clearing Moderna and J&J COVID booster shots this week

October 12, 2021

Millions of Americans will be one step closer to receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this week when a key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel meets Thursday and Friday, October  14 and 15, to debate extra doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, reports CNBC.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meetings come less than a month after U.S. regulators authorized COVID booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine to a wide array of Americans, including the elderly, adults with underlying medical conditions; and those who work or live in high-risk settings, like health and grocery workers.

More than 7 million Americans have received a booster dose in the United States as of Saturday, October 9, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Members on independent committees by the FDA and CDC and Prevention said at the time they were frustrated that only Pfizer recipients would be eligible to get the extra shots, leaving out millions of Americans who got Moderna or J&J’s shots.

The FDA advisory group is scheduled Thursday to discuss data on the safety and effectiveness of a Moderna booster shot in adults. On Friday, the committee is expected to debate J&J booster shots for adults. The FDA could make a final decision within days of the meetings, handing it off to the CDC and its vaccine advisory committee to make their own decision.

The CDC’s next vaccine advisory meeting is scheduled to take place from October 20 to October 21, when it’s expected to discuss the boosters.

Research contact: @CNBC

Overeating doesn’t cause obesity? Scientists claim it’s all about what you’re eating, not how much

September 15, 2021

There may be no need to turn down that second portion and push back from the table. A team of scientists now says it’s  actually what you eat, not how much you eat that leads to obesity, Study Finds reports.

Their study finds processed food and rapidly digestible carbohydrates may be what’s really behind society’s growing waistline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of American adults classify as obese. This places nearly half the population at higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, the USDA’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020 to 2025 maintains that losing weight “requires adults to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase the amount expended through physical activity.”

However, lead author Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School,  says that this age-old energy balance model for weight loss doesn’t actually work in a world full of highly palatable, heavily marketed, cheap processed foods. Indeed, he points out, despite years of public health messaging about eating less and exercising more, cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases continue to rise.

His team claims that its new carbohydrate-insulin model better explains the global trend towards obesity and weight gain, noting that the model even points to more effective and long-lasting weight loss strategies.

“During a growth spurt, for instance, adolescents may increase food intake by 1,000 calories a day. But does their overeating cause the growth spurt, or does the growth spurt cause the adolescent to get hungry and overeat?” asks Dr. Ludwig in a media release.

But if overeating is not the main cause of weight gain, what is? The real culprit is processed, rapidly digestible carbohydrates.

The study finds such foods also cause hormonal responses which alter an eater’s metabolism, drive fat storage, and lead to weight gain. When people consume carbohydrates, the body increases the amount of insulin it secretes. This signals fat cells to store more calories and leaves fewer calories for the body to use as muscle fuel.

As a result, the brain thinks the body isn’t getting enough energy to keep going and starts sending out the hunger signals. Moreover, the researchers say, a person’s metabolism can also slow down as the body tries to “conserve fuel. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves people thinking they’re still hungry and continuing to pile on more non-filling food.

Reducing consumption of the rapidly digestible carbohydrates that flooded the food supply during the low-fat diet era lessens the underlying drive to store body fat. As a result, people may lose weight with less hunger and struggle,” Dr. Ludwig says.

The findings appear in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Biden to deliver six-step plan on COVID

September 10, 2021

On Thursday, September 9, President Joe Biden was expected to outline new approaches to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which rages on despite the wide availability of vaccines, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

In his speech, Biden planned to focus on six areas—among them, new plans to get more people vaccinated, enhancing protection for those who already have had shots, and keeping schools open, according to a White House official.

In addition, the official said, the president would discuss increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting an economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “We have more work to do, and we are still at war with the virus.”

Increasing infections have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Just over 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated, including almost two-thirds of the adult population, according to CDC data. The disease has killed more than 649,000 Americans.

With many Americans still skeptical of the shots, the White House already has announced plans to give those who are fully vaccinated booster shots for more additional protection.

In doing so, they have rejected arguments from the World Health Organization and other advocates that rich countries should hold off on booster shots before more people worldwide have been inoculated.

Research contact: @thomsonreuters

Supreme Court blocks part of New York’s eviction moratorium

August 16, 2021

On Thursday, August 12, the Supreme Court blocked part of an eviction moratorium in New York State that had been imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic—a move the law’s supporters said might expose thousands to eviction, The New York Times reports.

“This is a very serious setback for our ability to protect tenants in the middle of a pandemic,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat and one of the sponsors of the moratorium law.

Randy M. Mastro, a lawyer for the landlords who had challenged the law, told the Times that the court’s decision would permit “cases that have been stopped in their tracks by the state moratorium law to proceed so that both landlords and tenants can be heard.”

Still, the court’s order, which was unsigned, stressed that it applied only to a provision that bars the eviction of tenants who file a form saying they have suffered economic setbacks as a result of the pandemic, rather than providing evidence in court.

“This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case,’” the SCOTUS majority wrote.

The order left other parts of the law intact, including a provision that instructed housing judges not to evict tenants who have been found to have suffered financial hardship.

Other challenges to eviction moratoriums, including one recently imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may reach the court soon. According to the Times, that federal moratorium is on precarious legal ground in light of a ruling in June in which a key justice said it could not be renewed without congressional approval.

It was not clear how many people could immediately be affected by the ruling on Thursday. More than 830,000 households in New York State, the majority of them in New York City, are behind on rent, with a total estimated debt of more than $3.2 billion, according to an analysis of census data by the National Equity Atlas, a research group associated with the University of Southern California.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D), who is set to become New York’s next governor in less than two weeks after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo leaves office amid a sexual harassment scandal, said in a statement that she would work with state lawmakers to “quickly address the Supreme Court’s decision and strengthen the eviction moratorium legislation.”

“No New Yorker who has been financially hit or displaced by the pandemic should be forced out of their home,” she said.

The court’s three liberal members dissented from the order. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for himself and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the law was set to expire in a matter of weeks and was not plainly unconstitutional.

“The New York Legislature is responsible for responding to a grave and unpredictable public health crisis,” Justice Breyer wrote. “It must combat the spread of a virulent disease, mitigate the financial suffering caused by business closures and minimize the number of unnecessary evictions.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Hundreds of thousands of bikers expected in Sturgis despite Delta variant

August 9, 2021

The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began on Friday, August 6 and will run through  August 15—just as the infectious Delta variant of COVID is producing a surge in cases nationwide, The New York Times reports.

Although most large events shut down last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally forged ahead, panicking health experts as nearly a half-million motorcycle enthusiasts descended on the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This year’s rally, is expected to draw an even larger crowd, just as the infectious Delta variant is producing more new virus cases nationwide than this time last year.

But which path the virus will take through Sturgis remains to be seen, the Times notes.

Transmission is more difficult outdoors, vaccines greatly reduce the risk of serious illness, and South Dakota has the fewest new virus cases per capita in the United States. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Delta as contagious as chickenpox; and people are traveling from across the country—several Southern states are in their worst outbreaks of the pandemic—to a region with a relatively low vaccination rate.

Hundreds of new cases were linked to last year’s rally, but because infected bikers returned to their home states, it made contact tracing difficult and obscured the true tally.

Sturgis officials emphasized that the upcoming rally, which lasts for more than a week, would offer coronavirus tests, free masks, and hand sanitizer stations. For the first time, attendees will be allowed to carry alcoholic drinks outside without fear of being fined, in an effort to limit crowds inside bars.

Those precautions are being accompanied with warnings.

“We are encouraging people who are in a high-risk category, whether it be age or because of comorbidities, that they come next year,” Dan Ainslie, Sturgis’s city manager, told the Times.

Other large outdoor events have returned this summer, in part because of the availability of vaccines. Attendees at the recent Lollapalooza music festival, which packed people into downtown Chicago, had to either provide proof of vaccination or show a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours.

The motorcycle rally in Sturgis will not have a similar screening process. Vaccines will be made available at the event, including the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, but it takes time for them to strengthen immune systems.

Meade County, which includes Sturgis, has a 37% vaccination rate—significantly lower than the half of Americans who are fully vaccinated—and the six counties that border it have even lower vaccination rates.

Research contact: @nytimes

GOP congressman who is suing Pelosi over mask mandate contracts coronavirus

August 9, 2021

Representative Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina)—one of three Republican members of Congress whom last week filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the House mask mandate, has tested positive for COVID-19, he said in a statement on Thursday, August 5, The Washington Post reports.

“After experiencing minor symptoms this morning, I sought a COVID-19 test and was just informed the test results were positive,” Norman tweeted on Thursday afternoon. “Thankfully, I have been fully vaccinated and my symptoms remain mild.”

Norman added that he would be in quarantine for the next ten days and work virtually “to every extent possible.”

A week ago, Norman—along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky)—filed a lawsuit against Pelosi (D-California), arguing that fines they had incurred for not wearing masks on the House floor were unconstitutional. The three were each fined $500 in May for mask violations.

They argued that, at the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had changed its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people most likely did not have to wear masks. Pelosi, however, kept in place the mask mandate on the House floor, sparking a backlash among House Republicans, who accused Pelosi of wanting simply to “control” the chamber.

With the more contagious Delta variant driving a surge in coronavirus infections across the country, Pelosi last week reimposed a mask requirement in the House, leading again to protests by House GOP members.

“Government-imposed mask mandates represent a harmful combination of virtue signaling and unjustified fear,” Norman tweeted last week.

Representatives for Norman’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

 

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine pause likely to last only a few days

April 14, 2021

On Tuesday morning, federal officials said they expected the recommended pause in administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to last only a few day—and said it should not impact the United States’ vaccination goals, Roll Call reports.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced early on March 13 that the they were recommending a pause in Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations after six female patients out of the 6.8 million Americans who had received the vaccine to date reported the development of a rare type of blood clot six to 13 days after vaccination. The women were between the ages of 18 and 48.

The Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Peter Marks, told reporters on a call that the pause is necessary to educate providers about the type of blood clot caused by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, called a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

Standard blood clot treatment does not work for this type of clot, which, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, occurs in the brain’s venous sinuses. Such a clot prevents blood from draining out of the brain. As a result, blood cells may break and leak blood into the brain tissues, forming a hemorrhage—and leading tio a life-threatening stroke.

The experts warn that, if the standard course of treatment is followed for a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, it could cause further harm or even be fatal, Roll Call reports.

Marks said there is no known link to birth control or contraceptives. The only hypothesis health officials mentioned is that the adenovirus vaccine creates an extreme immune reaction in some people that causes platelet clots.

The CDC’s Vaccine Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is set to meet on Wednesday, March 14, to review these cases and discuss the potential significance.

CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told reporters that anyone who was vaccinated with this one-shot vaccine a month ago or more should not worry. But anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in the past few weeks should watch for symptoms including severe headaches, leg pain, or abdominal pain that differs from typical post-vaccination symptoms.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said these reactions are extremely rare and should not deter Americans from getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The pause is due to regular safety monitoring, she said.

“The message to patients who haven’t been vaccinated is to continue to get vaccines that may still be available to them,” Woodcock said.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters the delay would not have a significant impact on the U.S. vaccination plan. The one-shot vaccines from Johnson & Johnson make up less than 5% of recorded shots in arms to date.

The U.S. has secured enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer to continue vaccinating 3 million people per day, Zients said. States and the federal government plan to work quickly to get anyone scheduled for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine rescheduled for a two-dose shot by Moderna or Pfizer.

The pause will immediately impact the places that receive vaccines directly from the federal government: retail pharmacies, community vaccination clinics, mobile vaccinations units and FEMA-run sites.

The move could shutter some mass vaccination sites. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is working with states to find other vaccines.

“FEMA is committed to helping the President’s goal to ensure everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be. In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately FEMA will stop administering this vaccine at our pilot Community Vaccination Clinics, as well as via our Mobile Vaccine Units,” said Acting Administrator Bob Fenton in an emailed statement. “We are working with our state partners to determine the path forward and find alternative vaccine options for these sites.”

Georgia, North Carolina, and Colorado have reportedly shut vaccination sites because of adverse events experienced by people receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Several states—including Maryland, New York, and Ohio—confirmed Tuesday morning that they would pause administering the vaccine.

Research contact: @rollcall

In USA, a staggering 40,000 children have lost a mother or father–or both—to COVID-19

April 7, 2021

Losing a parent at any age is a devastating experience. However, when a young child experiences such a major disruption of his or her loving support system, his or her entire future may be put in jeopardy—and that has become one of the harshest realities of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, researchers at Penn State estimate that nearly 40,000 American children have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, Study Finds reports.  According to their statistical models, every 13th COVID death in the United States costs a child his or her parent.

Of those who have lost a parent or both parents to date, three-quarters are adolescents. One in four is in elementary school.

And without immediate assistance, many youngsters (some now orphans) are at high risk for prolonged grief and depression, lower educational achievement, and economic insecurity. Even worse, Researcher Ashton Verdery adds that the risk of accidental death or suicide can also rise without proper parental supervision.

“When we think of COVID-19 mortality, much of the conversation focuses on the fact that older adults are the populations at greatest risk. About 81% of deaths have been among those ages 65 and older according to the CDC,” says Verdery, an associate professor of Sociology, Demography, and Social Data Analytics, in a university release.

“However, that leaves 19% of deaths among those under 65—15% of deaths are among those in their 50s and early 60s; and 3% are among those in their 40s. In these younger age groups, substantial numbers of people have children, for whom the loss of a parent is a potentially devastating challenge,” he recently told Study Finds.

The study finds parental death is especially impacting Black families. Researchers estimate that 20% of the children losing parents to COVID are African American. This comes even though Black children only make up about 14% of all youths in the U.S.

Study authors also predict that, in all, the pandemic will send the number of parental bereavement cases soaring by 18% to 20%. This will continue to strain a system the team says already has problems when it comes to connecting eligible children with proper government resources.

“I think the first thing we need to do is to proactively connect all children to the available supports they are entitled to, like Social Security child survivor benefits — research shows only about half of eligible children are connected to these programs in normal circumstances, but that those who do fare much better,” Verdery concludes. “We should also consider expanding eligibility to these resources. Second, a national effort to identify and provide counseling and related resources to all children who lose a parent is vital.”

The study appears in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Biden Administration works with industry to develop COVID-19 vaccination ‘passports’

March 30, 2021

Along with private technology and travel companies, the Biden Administration is working to develop credentials—referred to as passports, health certificates or travel passes—showing proof of vaccination as individuals and businesses emerge from lockdown, The Washington Post reports.

The effort has gained momentum amid President Joe Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy this summer; and with a growing number of companies—from cruise lines to sports teams—saying they will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again.

The Administration’s initiative has been driven largely by efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. The White House this month took on a bigger role managing government agencies involved in the work, led by Coronavirus Coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days, said one official.

 “Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” Zients said at a March 12 briefing.

According to the Post, the passports offer a glimpse of a future after months of COVID-19 restrictions. Officials say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world. But it also raises concerns about dividing the world along the lines of wealth and vaccine access—creating ethical and logistical issues for decision-makers around the world.

“A chaotic and ineffective vaccine credential approach could hamper our pandemic response by undercutting health safety measures, slowing economic recovery, and undermining public trust and confidence,” reads one slide at a March 2  conference prepared by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

There are several private-sector initiatives creating passports. Among them is the trade group for global airlines, the International Air Transport Association, which is testing a version it calls Travel Pass.

It is not clear, however, whether any of the passports under development will be accepted broadly around the world, and the result could be confusion among travelers and disappointment for the travel industry.

Vaccine passports will be most common on international flights. Some countries already require proof of vaccination for diseases such as yellow fever, and the United States now requires a negative test for COVID-19 to enter the country.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against travel even as the agency has relaxed other guidelines for people who have been vaccinated.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative is a coalition trying to standardize tracking data of vaccination records in an attempt to speed up a return to normal, Fox News reports.

“The busboy, the janitor, the waiter that works at a restaurant, [want] to be surrounded by employees that are going back to work safely—and [want] to have the patrons ideally be safe as well,” said Brian Anderson, a physician at Mitre, a company helping lead the initiative. “Creating an environment for those vulnerable populations to get back to work safely—and to know that the people coming back to their business are ‘safe,’ and vaccinated— would be a great scenario.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Why President Biden can’t make states vaccinate teachers—or anyone else for that matter

Febraury 24, 2021

Although President Joe Biden wants to vaccinate teachers in order to speed school reopenings, more than half the states are not making either of those actions a priority—highlighting the limited powers of the federal government, even during a devastating pandemic.

“I can’t set nationally who gets in line, when, and first—that’s a decision the states make,” Biden said while touring a Pfizer plant in Michigan on Friday, February 19, reports NBC News. “I can recommend.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, the powers of the federal government are far-reaching, but not all-encompassing. States historically have retained control over public health and safety—from policing crimes to controlling infectious diseases; including distribution of coronavirus vaccines that Washington helped create.

Now, as the United States leads the world in COVID deaths, criticism of the federalist system that has allowed the states to do as they please is spiking.

“There’s a pretty strong argument that the confusion we’ve created has, in fact, cost human lives,” Donald Kettl, a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas told NBC News, adding, “We pay a pretty high price sometimes for letting states go their own way.”

The federal courts—not the federal government—have been able to exert their will over the states on issues from school desegregation to abortion to voting rights. But schools, abortion clinics and elections are still run or regulated by the states.

The federal government has spent the past two centuries trying to come up with creative ways to push its agenda on the states, sometimes by dangling the promise of federal funding as a carrot—and the threat to withhold it as a stick.

For instance, to build the Interstate highway system, the feds promised to foot 90% of the bill if states put up just 10%. The catch was that the roads had to abide by regulations that started small—bridges needed to be tall enough to allow tanks to pass under, to cite one requirement—but quickly grew to encompass the nationally uniform system of roads we take for granted today.

Washington pulled a similar move in 1984, NBC notes, when it forced states to raise the drinking age to 21 if they wanted highway money.

But just as often, the courts have pushed back against what they view as Washington overreach.

“When you boil it down, the delivery of public health interventions resides, really, at the state and local level,” Josh Michaud, associate director for Global Health Policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told the news outlet. “That’s been the model since very early on in our republic.”

So, for example, today, states can institute mask mandates, but many have questioned the constitutionality of Biden’s proposed national mandate. He ended up, instead, issuing mask mandates for federal property and interstate travel, like planes and buses, over which the courts have long ruled that the feds have authority.

Similarly, the CDC legally can’t force states to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations with any particular priority, said Sarah Gordon, an assistant professor of health law and policy at Boston University.

“They are actually quite limited in what they can do,” Gordon said. “The federalist separation of national versus local public health authority in the United States has, repeatedly, hamstrung rapid and effective pandemic response.”

The CDC has called for vaccinating all essential workers, including teachers, before moving on to those under 75. But several states have chosen to vaccinate people over 65 and those with pre-existing conditions first.

“We are going to rely on the CDC definition of an essential worker. But that’s a lot of people, including teachers,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont told the Hartford Courant‘s editorial board. “I’m not sure you move grandma to the back of the line so you can move [teachers] forward.”

Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies education policy, said Biden’s most effective tool to push states to vaccinate teachers might be the bully pulpit.

“What the federal government can do is mostly a combination of guidance, cover and pressure,” he said. “Teachers unions can be a lightning rod, and if you’re prioritizing teachers because the CDC or the federal government says to, it helps to protect you from critiques.”

Research contact: @NBCNews