COVID-19 lockdown reduced sleep quality, mental health, says study

Agencies
October 24, 2020

Washington, Oct 24: The initial phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, which was imposed through March and April in several countries, may have dramatically altered people's personal eating and sleeping habits, according to a new study based on a first-of-its-kind global survey.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, evaluated the inadvertent changes in health behaviours that took place under the pandemic's widespread restrictions.

According to the survey, conducted by the researchers, including those from Louisiana State University (LSU) in the US, the lockdown's effects were magnified among people with obesity.

"The stay-at-home orders did result in one major health positive. Overall, healthy eating increased because we ate out less frequently. However, we snacked more. We got less exercise. We went to bed later and slept more poorly. Our anxiety levels doubled," said study co-author Leanne Redman from Louisiana State University.

"Overall, people with obesity improved their diets the most. But they also experienced the sharpest declines in mental health and the highest incidence of weight gain," Redman said.

The survey ran during the month of April and included responses from 7,754 people and the majority of the respondents were in the US with residents of Australia, Canada, the UK, and more than 50 other countries also participating.

It revealed that about one-third of surveyed people with obesity gained weight during the lockdown, compared to 20.5 percent of people with normal weight or overweight.

"This study is the first to survey thousands of people across the globe on lifestyle behaviour changes in response to stay-at-home orders. The study demonstrates that chronic diseases like obesity affect our health beyond the physical," said John Kirwan, another co-author of the study.

The scientists believe physicians and scientists should modify the way they manage patients with obesity in two ways.

One of these methods is by increasing the number of mental health screenings during and after the pandemic, said Emily Flanagan, lead author of the study from LSU.

Flanagan said physicians should also monitor patients by remaining connected to the study participants through remote visits and telehealth to prevent irreversible health effects from the pandemic.

The scientists believe virtual visits via telehealth checkups can assuage patients' concerns about the safety of in-person visits.

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Agencies
November 24,2020

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Geneva, Nov 24: "There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic," said the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO chief's remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was up to 90 percent effective, making it the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

"The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development," Tedros added.

He pointed out now the international community must set a new standard for access, as "the urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly."

Worried that the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines, WHO established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator to support global efforts in developing vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and has joined so far 187 countries in the COVAX facility to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, ensuring affordable prices, volumes and timing for all countries.

According to the WHO chief, some US $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments, while additional US $23.8 billion will be needed next year.

"The International Monetary Fund estimates that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost US $9 trillion by the end of 2025," he said.

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Agencies
December 1,2020

Pune, Dec 1: Vaccine development company Serum Institute, India on Tuesday said the Covidshield vaccine will not be released for mass use unless it is proven immunogenic, and safe.

The company also said the serious adverse event (SAE) that happened to a city based volunteer though unfortunate was in no way induced by the vaccine.

Serum Institute which had earlier said it would claim over Rs 100 crore damage from the volunteer for damaging its reputation said it was sympathetic with the volunteer's medical condition and the incident is highly unfortunate.

"However, we would like to clarify that all the requisite regulatory and ethical processes and guidelines were followed diligently and strictly," the company said.

According to Serum Institute, the concerned authorities were informed and the Principal Investigator, Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) and the Ethics Committee independently cleared and reckoned it as a non-related issue to the vaccine trial.

"Post which we submitted all the reports and data related to the incident to the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India). It is only after we cleared all the required processes that we continued with the trials," the company said.

"Taking into consideration the complexities and existing misnomers about vaccination and immunisation; the legal notice was sent therefore to safeguard the reputation of the company which is being unfairly maligned," the company added.

The 40-year-old city based volunteer, who works as a business consultant had wanted to investigate the cause of him contracting severe neurological health complications he had suffered after being vaccinated with Covidshield shots under development at Serum Institute, but the company was intimidating him with a threat of over Rs 100 crore damage suit, his advocates had said.

According to the advocates, their client was vaccinated on September 29 and developed severe neurological health complications and instead of probing the cause and stopping the trials Serum Institute and others kept silent.

"We are yet to get any reply for the legal notice sent to various parties, including Serum Institute. We have seen news reports about Serum Institute threatening our client with a suit for over Rs 100 crore," N.G.R. Prasad, Advocate, Row & Reddy, told IANS.

"Our client had restricted his claim only for Rs 5 crore and wanted investigation to start as to the cause of him suffering severe neurological problems and stop the vaccine from affecting other people," Prasad added.

A family friend of the volunteer told IANS: "He was a healthy young male. He had no pre-existing ailments. Not even blood pressure. But 10 days after the vaccination, he had developed severe neurological complications."

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Agencies
November 26,2020

Geneva, Nov 25: Approximately once every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was infected with HIV last year, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

Prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations, and in 2019, a little less than half of children worldwide did not have access to life-saving treatment, UNICEF said in a new report.

Nearly 3,20,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV and 1,10,000 children died of AIDS last year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before Covid-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

According to UNICEF, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere, and there are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.

"Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic," said Fore.

Data from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), cited in the report, showed the impact of control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment, and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.

Pediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries fell by 50 to 70 per cent, and new treatment initiation by 25 to 50 percent in April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns to control the novel coronavirus.

Health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services by approximately 10 percent.

Though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain, and the world is still far from achieving the global 2020 pediatric HIV targets, said UNICEF.

Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children.

While the Middle East and North Africa region recorded 81 percent pediatric ART coverage, only 46 per cent and 32 per cent were covered in Latin America and the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, respectively.

The South Asia region recorded 76 per cent coverage, Eastern and Southern Africa 58 per cent, and East Asia and the Pacific 50 per cent.

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