More Indians getting flu vaccine amid COVID-19 spread: Experts

Agencies
November 25, 2020

In view of the winter season and COVID-19, health experts on Wednesday said that many people are taking pneumonia and influenza vaccines as a precaution to save themselves from respiratory infections.

Experts have warned that it is highly possible that people may contract both influenza and the COVID-19 infection in winter, leading to devastating consequences.

Dr Avi Kumar, Consultant - Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi said, "What we are generally following is that in post COVID patients we are giving flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine."

"Because right now we are at the start of winter and this is generally the beginning of flu season as well as coronavirus. Both are RnA viruses so the vaccine which is available against influenza is known to be very helpful in reducing hospitalization," Kumar explained.

International researchers have recently found that receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person's risk of contracting COVID-19 or worsen associated morbidity or mortality.

Published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, the study shows the flu vaccine is the single most important intervention to help in staying healthy this fall and winter.

"More studies need to be done to confirm the same, only a few studies cannot confirm it," Kumar said.

"However, what is available with us right now is prevention of other respiratory infections in the form of flu as well as pneumonia so that hospitals are not overburdened with other respiratory illnesses as well as Covid patients," he added.

"Hence, we prefer tetravalent inactivated flu vaccine which has been given to every patient in post Covid status.

"In addition we have been giving them vaccines for pneumonia, conjugate vaccine is been given to the age group of above 65 years, this vaccine is given only once in a lifetime. We are also giving a polyvalent vaccine which is to be repeated once in every five years," Kumar said.

According to Dr Akshay Budhraja, Consultant Department of Pulmonology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, in the absence of a vaccine specific to the Covid-19 virus right now, they are checking the vaccination history of the patient.

"We give one shot of flu vaccine every year and pneumococcal vaccine is given once in five years. As of now, we have not faced any shortage," Budhraja told IANS.

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News Network
January 17,2021

Oslo, Jan 17: Norwegian officials said 29 people had died in the country a short time after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Of those deaths, at least 13 have been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Norway said Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill, the most cautious statement yet from a European health authority as countries assess the real-world side effects of the first shots to gain approval.

“For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said. “For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant.”

The recommendation does not mean younger, healthier people should avoid being vaccinated. But it’s an early indication of what to watch as countries begin to issue safety monitoring reports on the vaccines. Emer Cooke, the new head of the European Medicines Agency, has said tracking the safety of Covid vaccines, especially those relying on novel technologies such as messenger RNA, would be one of the biggest challenges once shots are rolled out widely.

Pfizer and BioNTech are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths in Norway, Pfizer said in an e-mailed statement. The agency found that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations,” Pfizer said.

Allergic reactions have been uncommon so far. In the US, authorities reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from December 14-23 after administration of about 1.9 million initial doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. That’s an incidence of 11.1 cases per million doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though both Covid-19 vaccines approved so far in Europe were tested in tens of thousands of people -- including volunteers in their late 80s and 90s -- the average trial participant was in his or her early 50s. The first people to be immunized in many places have been older than that as countries rush to inoculate nursing-home residents at high risk from the virus.

Norway has given at least one dose to about 33,000 people, focusing on those considered to be most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved late last year has been used most broadly, with a similar shot from Moderna Inc. approved earlier this month also now being administered.

Of 29 cases of potential side effects investigated by Norwegian authorities, almost three-quarters were in people age 80 or older, the regulator said in a January 14 report.

In France, one frail patient died in a care home two hours after being vaccinated, but authorities said given the patient’s previous medical history there is no indication the death was linked to the vaccine. The French pharmaceutical safety agency on Thursday reported four cases of severe allergic reactions and two incidents of irregular heartbeat after vaccination.

The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will probably be published at the end of January, the regulator’s key medicines committee said Friday. Vaccine makers are required to submit data monthly.

In the UK, which has carried out more immunizations per capita than anywhere else in Europe, authorities will assess safety data and plan to publish details of suspected reactions “on a regular basis,” the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said, without giving a date.

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Agencies
January 16,2021

Scientists have developed a rapid blood test that can predict within a day of hospitalisation which patients with COVID-19 are at the highest risk of severe complications or death, an advance that may help identify those who may best benefit from specific investigational treatments.

The test, described in the journal JCI Insight, measures levels of mitochondrial DNA -- a unique type of genetic material that normally resides inside the energy factories of cells.

According to the researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine at St. Louis in the US, mitochondrial DNA spilling out of cells and into the bloodstream indicates that a type of violent cell death is taking place in the body.

"Doctors need better tools to evaluate the status of COVID-19 patients as early as possible because many of the treatments are in short supply, and we know that some patients will get better without intensive treatments," said study co-author Andrew E. Gelman.

"We need to understand why some patients, irrespective of their ages or underlying health in some cases, go into this hyperinflammatory death spiral. Our study suggests that tissue damage may be one cause of this spiral, since the mitochondrial DNA that is released is itself an inflammatory molecule," Gelman added.

Viruses are known to cause a type of tissue damage called necrosis that is a violent, inflammatory response to the infection, the researchers said, adding that this may lead to cells breaking open and releasing their contents including mitochondrial DNA.

"In COVID-19 patients, there has been anecdotal evidence of this type of cell and tissue damage in the lung, heart and kidney. We think it's possible that measures of mitochondrial DNA in the blood may be an early sign of this type of cell death in vital organs," Gelman explained.

The scientists believe the new test could help predict disease severity and also act as a tool to better design clinical trials -- identifying patients who might benefit from specific investigational treatments.

"We will need larger trials to verify what we found in this study, but if we could determine in the first 24 hours of admission whether a patient is likely to need dialysis or intubation or medication to keep their blood pressure from dropping too low," said Hrishikesh S. Kulkarni, another co-author of the research.

In the study, the researchers assessed 97 patients with COVID-19, measuring their mitochondrial DNA levels on the first day of their hospital stays.

They found that mitochondrial DNA levels were much higher in patients who eventually were admitted to the ICU, intubated or died.

According to the study, this association held independently of a patient's age, sex and underlying health conditions.

It noted that mitochondrial DNA levels were about tenfold higher in patients with COVID-19 who developed severe lung dysfunction or eventually died.

Those with elevated levels were almost six times more likely to be intubated, three times more likely to be admitted to the ICU and almost twice as likely to die compared with those with lower levels, the scientists said.

They said the test could also predict outcomes as well as, or better than, existing markers of inflammation currently measured in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

According to the scientists, the test is quick to perform, returning results in less than an hour, and uses the same machinery that processes the standard PCR test for COVID-19.

They said the method allows mitochondrial DNA levels to be quantified directly from patient blood samples without requiring intermediate steps to extract the DNA from the blood.

The researchers hope to verify that the test is accurate in a larger multi-center trial before applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

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Agencies
January 6,2021

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Geneva, Jan 6: The 'UK' coronavirus variant had been detected in 41 countries/territories, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

"As of 5 January 2021, the VOC-202012/01 variant initially detected in the United Kingdom has been detected in a small number of cases in 40 other countries/territories/areas in five of the six WHO regions, and the 501Y.V2 variant initially detected in South African in six other countries/territories/areas," the WHO said.

On December 14, 2020, the UK announced that a new coronavirus strain had been detected in the country, with the new variant being 70 per cent more transmissible.

After the news emerged, many countries suspended travel to and from the UK.

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