LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: A woman wearing a face mask walks past a piece of street art depicting an NHS worker on April 21, 2020 in the Shoreditch area of London, England. The British government has extended the lockdown restrictions first introduced on March 23 that are meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Share on Pinterest
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  • The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
  • Known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus has resulted in more than 163 million infections and more than 3.3 million deaths.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infection causes COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 has now been reported on every continent.
  • Keep up to date with the latest research and information about COVID-19 here.
  • For vaccine information, visit our live vaccine updates article.

05/17/2021 14:51 GMT — New report indicates some neurological issues are highly prevalent in COVID-19

A newly published report in JAMA Network Open suggests that people who develop COVID-19 frequently experience associated neurological issues.

According to the report, symptoms such as headaches and a loss of smell or taste are very common, but the most frequently clinically observed neurological symptom appears to be acute encephalopathy.

This refers to a disease that affects the structure or function of the brain. Acute encephalopathy occurred in 50% of the patients surveyed in this study.

Most worryingly, the report associates experiencing neurological issues due to COVID-19 with an increased risk of death during hospitalization.

Read the story in full here.

05/14/2021 13:17 GMT — B.1.617.2 variant surging in UK

As the United Kingdom begins to open up, concerns mount over the B.1.617.2 variant. According to Prof. Paul Hunter, who sits on a number of COVID-19 advisory committees for the World Health Organization (WHO), the variant is now in most regions of the U.K.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, there is “no firm evidence yet to show this variant has any greater impact on severity of disease or evades the vaccine.” However, some experts believe that it may be more transmissible.

The U.K.’s Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says that the government is considering reducing the gap between vaccine doses for people in areas where the variant is most prevalent.

As it stands, the U.K. will ease COVID-19 restrictions further on May 17 and then again on June 21. However, Prof. Hunter believes that this second easing “is in doubt.”

05/14/2021 10:12 GMT — New study investigates COVID-19 in children

Currently, there is little information about the symptoms and outcomes of children with SARS-CoV-2 infections. A study in Scientific Reports analyzed data from 12,306 children with lab-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections. It showed that only 25.1% of the children had at least one of the typical COVID-19 symptoms.

The authors found that 16.5% of the children experienced respiratory symptoms; 13.9% had gastrointestinal symptoms, which included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; 8.1% had a rash; 4.8% experienced headache; and 18.8% had other nonspecific symptoms, such as fever, malaise, pain in the muscles or joints, and changes to their sense of smell or taste.

In this study population, just 5.5% (672 children) needed hospital care. Of those, 4.1% (38 children) needed mechanical ventilation.

Dr. Julian Tang is an honorary associate professor and clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. He was surprised at the high rate of infections in children that were not associated with a fever, cough, or shortness of breath (74.9%).

He explains that earlier studies had reported lower levels of asymptomatic cases. For instance, one conducted in South Korea “found that 22% of 91 children were asymptomatically infected.” However, the participants in this study had been mostly recruited in hospitals.

Dr. Tang observes that the “higher atypical symptomatic proportion may well be explained by the fact that community (non-hospitalized) children are also included in the study [and that these children] are more representative of the majority of otherwise healthy children that are attending school, for example.”

He continues, “More importantly, these findings also raise concerns about the spread of the virus via infected children in society, when most may not exhibit typical COVID-19 symptoms.”

05/13/2021 11:34 GMT — Sri Lanka imposes travel ban

To address the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, officials in Sri Lanka have introduced a 3-day travel ban across the country. The ban will be in place from Thursday night until Monday morning. People who work in healthcare, food supply, and power services are exempt.

Anyone who is seeking healthcare will also be exempt, as will those who are traveling to the airport for air travel. This move adds to the existing bans on public gatherings and parties, school closures, and restrictions on public transport.

With a population of almost 22 million, Sri Lanka has registered 133,527 cases of COVID-19 and 850 deaths.

05/13/2021 11:00 GMT — More side effects after mixing COVID-19 vaccines?

A new study investigated giving the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the Pfizer vaccine 4 weeks later, or vice versa. This mixed vaccine schedule led to more frequent side effects after the second dose than giving the same vaccine both times.

Read more on this story here.

5/12/2021 13:11 GMT — Independent Panel says pandemic was a ‘preventable disaster’

In a damning report, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response points to the systemic underfunding and lack of preparation to deal with infectious threats that allowed COVID-19 to become a pandemic.

The panel, which the World Health Organization (WHO) established, presented their report today, which included that “coordinated, global leadership was absent” as COVID-19 turned into a worldwide threat.

In response to these findings, the group makes a number of recommendations to address the immediate need not only for action to curb the pandemic but also for long-term measures to stop future pandemics.

Read more here.

5/11/2021 13:10 GMT — FDA extends the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTtech vaccine for emergency use in adolescents

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just extended the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents aged 12–15 years. 

Commenting on the decision to extend the vaccine’s EUA to adolescents, Acting Commissioner of FDA Dr. Janet Woodcock, said: “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine [EUAs].”

Find out more here.

05/10/2021 10:24 GMT — COVID-19 anxiety syndrome may be the pandemic phenomenon to reckon with

Some researchers have argued that a new mental health phenomenon is taking hold — that of COVID-19 anxiety syndrome.

The syndrome is defined as a fear of leaving one’s house because of the infection risk — even when the risk is minimal — frequent and compulsive symptom checking, and avoiding social situations or people.

“Some of the potential reasons why [this may happen] include high levels of exposure to social media and news, disruption to routines and anchors caused by lockdowns and restrictions, and difficulties disengaging from the threatening stimuli, including [virus] variants and the situation in other countries,” psychologist Lee Chambers told Medical News Today.

Read more about this topic here.

05/07/2021 15:26 GMT — COVID-19 vaccines: Straight answers to common questions

Read more here.

05/07/2021 09:27 GMT — US government agrees to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines

Patents mean that other companies cannot produce generic versions of a pharmaceutical company’s drugs for a set amount of time — often 20 years.” However, in a surprise move, the United States government has announced its support of waiving patents for COVID-19 vaccines. Eventually, this could help boost supplies around the world.

Read more on this story here.

05/07/2021 08:48 GMT — Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: The side effects

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which is also known as mRNA-1273, is a two-dose vaccine to prevent the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2. In a recent feature, Medical News Today investigates the possible side effects and safety recommendations associated with this mRNA vaccine.

Read the article here.

05/06/2021 09:31 GMT — COVID-19 treatment: Hepatitis C drugs may enhance remdesivir

Although vaccines are now available for most of the world, a more successful treatment for COVID-19 is still necessary. A recent study finds that drugs already approved for treating hepatitis C might boost remdesivir’s effectiveness at reducing viral replication by “as much as 10-fold.”

Read more on this research here.

05/05/2021 11:49 GMT — Can the US reach a vaccination target of 70% by Independence Day?

In the wake of a slowdown in vaccine uptake, United States President Joe Biden announced a new vaccination target yesterday: 70% of the adult population are to receive at least one shot by July 4th. 

Read more here.

05/05/2021 11:42 GMT — How have COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns affected our immune systems?

With much of the world having lived with lockdowns for extended periods of time since the start of the pandemic, researchers are turning their attention to how this might affect our immune system.

Under normal circumstances, our daily interactions see us exposed to a host of microbes on a daily basis. These exposures play an important role in training and maintaining effective immune responses.

In a Special Feature, we look at what effect physical distancing might have on the immune systems of adults, children, and infants born during the pandemic.

Read the full feature here

05/05/2021 10:43 GMT — A high dose of vitamin D has no effect on COVID-19

According to a new study in the journal JAMA, giving a high dose of vitamin D to patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 who are receiving treatment in the hospital made no difference to the length of their hospital stay.

There have been conflicting results about whether vitamin D plays a role in how likely a person is to fall seriously ill with COVID-19 and whether the so-called sunshine vitamin is a serious contender as a treatment option.

Researchers in Brazil tested whether a single high strength dose of vitamin D would reduce the time that people with COVID-19 had to spend in the hospital. They saw no difference between patients receiving the vitamin and those receiving a placebo.

Read our full coverage of the research here.

05/04/2021 12:25 GMT — Novavax expands its vaccine clinical trial to include children

Novavax, the biotechnology firm that developed NVX-CoV2373, a recombinant protein vaccine candidate against COVID-19, announced that it expanded its clinical trial to include children and teens.

The phase 3 clinical trial will test the vaccine candidate’s “efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity” in up to 3,000 participants aged 12–17 years. 

For more details, head here.

04/29/2021 14:33 GMT — Long COVID and children: The unseen casualties of COVID-19

Most children recover from COVID-19 within a few weeks. But for some, symptoms last much longer.

In a Special Feature, we highlight the stories of four parents whose kids still experience debilitating symptoms. We also speak to medical experts about long COVID in children.

Read the feature here.

04/29/2021 14:31 GMT — Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can stay at refrigerator temperature for 3 months

In a press release, Moderna announced that storage of its COVID-19 vaccine at refrigerator temperate could be extended from 1 to 3 months, subject to authorization by health authorities. 

Read more on here.

04/28/2021 15:05 GMT — Household transmission reduced after first vaccine shot

A new study by Public Health England, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, indicates that people who have received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are 40–50% less likely to pass on the SARS-CoV-2 virus if they contract it.

Read more on this story here.

04/28/2021 10:51 GMT — New mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people in the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new mask wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people in the United States yesterday, confirming that they will not need to wear masks during outdoor activities such as walking, exercising, attending small gatherings, and dining outside. 

Meeting indoors with other fully vaccinated people or those from one other household, even if they have not had the vaccine, can also take place without masks. 

Yet, the CDC highlights that fully vaccinated people should continue to wear a mask when meeting indoors with people from more than one household, with anyone who is at high risk of severe COVID-19, in indoor public spaces, and when attending large gatherings. 

Read the full recommendations here.

04/27/2021 14:03 GMT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: What are the side effects?

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a single-dose vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The most common side effects are:

  • headache
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • pain, irritation, redness, and swelling at the injection site

Read more here.

04/27/2021 10:51 GMT — India continues to see soaring cases and deaths

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in India was higher than 300,000 once again on Monday, as the total number of deaths nears 200,000. Meanwhile, the first international shipments of medical supplies to aid the struggling health system have arrived. 

Daily new cases in India have stood above 300,000 for 6 consecutive days. Images of mass cremation ceremonies show the stark reality of a struggling healthcare system. According to Reuters, the country is bringing in its armed forces to provide help.

As India struggles to contain soaring case rates and look after the country’s sickest patients amid shortages of oxygen and medical supplies, countries around the world are committing to sending aid. 

The United States announced yesterday that it would send raw materials for vaccine production, rapid diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment, and medical equipment to India. According to the Associated Press, epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also due to travel to India soon to help with the country’s public health measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Keep up to date with the latest information on our COVID-19 hub.

04/26/2021 10:17 GMT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine use resumes in the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended on Friday that vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine resume in the United States.

Read more on this story here.

04/26/2021 09:32 GMT — Gum disease linked to COVID-19 outcomes

Researchers at McGill University have found that people with the gum disease periodontitis were 3.5 times more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19 and 8.8 times more likely to die.

The team assessed the dental and health records of 568 people living in Qatar to look for possible links between periodontitis and COVID-19. They found that biomarkers signifying inflammation were present at significantly higher levels in the blood of people with COVID-19 who also had periodontitis. 

Senior author Dr. Faleh Tamimi told Medical News Today, “What we suspect is happening is that, upon COVID-19 infection, periodontal patients start the course of the disease with an already high level of inflammation in their bodies.” 

“This puts the patients at a disadvantage if their COVID-19 disease derives in hyperinflammation, rendering them more susceptible to the severe outcomes of the disease.”

However, the researchers acknowledge that their study has several limitations. For example, the study does not establish a causal relationship between periodontitis and severe COVID-19 outcomes, only an association between the two.

Read our full coverage of the research here

04/23/2021 15:40 GMT — Is there a link between COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease?

Although extremely rare, Parkinson’s-like symptoms have occurred in a few people with COVID-19. Scientists are now investigating whether there is a link between SARS-CoV-2 and Parkinson’s disease. In a recent feature, MNT explores the connection.

Read the feature here.

04/23/2021 09:52 GMT — India: COVID-19 surge continues to worsen

India continues to report record numbers of COVID-19 cases, registering 332,730 new cases today. The already fragile health system is failing to keep up with the influx of patients. In desperation, some hospitals have taken to social media to ask the government to provide more oxygen.

For instance, Max Hospitals, which run a hospital network, sent a tweet warning that they had just 1 hour of oxygen left. Two hours later, a follow-up message confirmed receipt of oxygen but advised that it would only last another 2 hours.

According to Railroad Minister Piyush Goyal, the government has started running two Oxygen Express trains, which carry liquid medical oxygen tankers. A statement from the Railways explains:

“Indian Railway is running Oxygen Express in response to its fight against COVID-19. […] Oxygen Expresses are getting prepared to leave with liquid medical oxygen from Visakhapatnam and Bokaro today for Maharashtra and [Uttar Pradesh], respectively.”

So far, India has reported 15 million cases and around 180,000 deaths. However, these figures are likely to be underestimates.

04/23/2021 09:15 GMT — Oxford researchers plan a COVID-19 reinfection human challenge trial

Experts still have a lot to learn about the likelihood that people who have had COVID-19 can contract SARS-CoV-2 again. Scientists at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, have announced a human challenge trial to gather data that will provide a better understanding of how reinfection works.

Read more here.

04/22/2021 14:56 GMT — How COVID-19 has changed the face of the natural world

Today is Earth Day, and to mark this occasion, Medical News Today published a feature exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the natural environment. The article outlines both positive and negative impacts and asks whether these observations might help us shape a better future.

Read the feature here.

04/22/2021 09:17 GMT — Oral drug successfully treats SARS-CoV-2 infections in hamsters

Scientists recently demonstrated that an oral antiviral called MK-4482 effectively reduces the impact on the lungs of SARS-CoV-2 infections in hamsters. Although the study was very small, other similar findings corroborate their results.

Read more about the study here.

04/21/2021 09:06 GMT — B.1.1.7 variant 45% more contagious than original virus

A recent study, which appears in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, analyzed data from 300,000 polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests taken throughout Israel. The scientists conclude that the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is 45% more contagious than the original virus.

The scientists were able to chart the rapid spread of the new variant. They found that on December 24, 2020, only 5% of cases were attributable to the B.1.1.7 variant. By January 2021, the variant was responsible for 90% of cases. Today, that figure is around 99.5%.

Speaking about the results of the study, one of the authors, Prof. Ariel Munitz, says: “To explain this dramatic increase, we compared the R number of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with the R of the [B.1.1.7] variant. In other words, we posed the question: How many people, on the average, contract the disease from every person who has either variant? We found that the British variant is 45% — almost 1.5 times — more contagious.”

04/21/2021 09:04 GMT — European Medicines Agency finds ‘possible link’ between J&J vaccine and blood clots

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) — the European Union’s drug regulatory agency — has found a “possible link” between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and extremely rare blood clots. The agency also reiterated that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of side effects.

Read more on this story here.

04/20/2021 14:55 GMT — UK: More than 10 million fully vaccinated

According to the latest figures, more than 10 million people in the United Kingdom have now received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This equates to 19% of all adults. A further 33 million have had one dose.

Find more vaccine updates here.

04/20/2021 09:09 GMT — Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19: What are the side effects?

In a recent feature, Medical News Today outlines some of the most common side effects associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The article also addresses concerns around allergic reactions and false claims regarding risks to pregnancy and fertility.

Read the feature here.

04/19/2021 12:36 GMT — Delhi announces lockdown

Officials in Delhi, the capital of India, have announced a 1-week lockdown after a significant spike in cases. On Sunday, they reported 24,462 new cases of COVID-19. Since April 15, India has been reporting more than 200,000 new cases each day.

For the next 7 days, government offices and essential services will remain open, but malls, cinemas, restaurants, public parks, gyms, and spas will close.

All social, religious, and political gatherings have been banned, and weddings and funerals are only allowed limited attendees.

In a press conference, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “I have always been against lockdowns, but this one will help us amplify the number of hospital beds in Delhi. This was a difficult decision to take, but we had no other option left.”

He also asked Delhi’s migrant workers not to leave the city. During last year’s lockdown, these people went back to their villages.

04/19/2021 08:58 — Over 50% of US adults have received COVID-19 vaccine

On Sunday, the United States government announced that 50.4% of all adults in the U.S. — 130 million people — have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 32.5% of the population are now fully vaccinated.

Find more vaccine updates here.

04/19/2021 08:49 GMT — Antipsychotic drugs may provide COVID-19 protection

According to a recent study, people treated with antipsychotics may have a lower risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, and if they do, they are more likely to have less severe COVID-19. The results of the new study appear in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Read Medical News Today’s coverage of the research here.

04/16/2021 12:18 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in India now detected in UK

According to an update, Public Health England (PHE) has detected cases of the B.1.617 variant in the United Kingdom for the first time. Health experts first identified this variant in India. Currently, PHE classes it as a “variant under investigation.” In total, the organization detected 77 cases.

B.1.617 has two mutations in the spike protein. Scientists believe this might make it more transmissible and better able to avoid the body’s immune response.

According to Prof. Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., “These two escape mutations working together could be a lot more problematic than the South African and Brazilian variants, [which] have only got one escape mutation. It might be even less controlled by vaccines than the Brazilian and South African variants.”

However, at this stage, there is very little data on this variant. As Prof. Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London in the U.K., explains, “We do not know yet whether it can escape existing vaccines, but it has several concerning mutations.”

04/16/2021 09:04 GMT — People may need third vaccine dose within 12 months

According to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, people are likely to need a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of their second dose. Although more data need to become available to confirm this, he believes that yearly COVID-19 vaccinations might be necessary.

Read more on this story here.

04/16/2021 08:44 GMT — TV news was the main source of early COVID-19 misinformation for some in the US

A new study finds that people in the United States who got health information from TV news during the early days of COVID-19 were the most misinformed. The second least knowledgeable group were those who got their information from Facebook. People who learned about COVID-19 from government sites were the most knowledgeable about the topic.

Read more about this research here

04/16/2021 08:38 GMT — Exercise and mental health during COVID-19: Study explores link, trends

A recent study finds that those who have remained physically active during the pandemic have done so primarily to maintain their mental health. For others, mental health problems have become a barrier to exercise. The new research appears in the journal PLOS One.

Read more about the study here.

04/15/2021 12:20 GMT — Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains on hold in the US

It is unclear when vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States will resume. Experts on the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held off on voting on their recommendations, asking for more time to gather and assess data on rare blood clots.

Read more on this story here.

04/15/2021 09:00 GMT — COVID-19 and air pollution: What is the link?

In a recent review, researchers outline the evidence connecting air pollution and worse COVID-19 outcomes. They argue for stricter air pollution standards and taking action to end the disproportionate amount of air pollution in marginalized neighborhoods. The article appears in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

04/14/2021 08:56 GMT — ‘Mix and match’ vaccine trial expanded

A trial in the United Kingdom is investigating whether COVID-19 vaccines can be “mixed and matched.” The so-called Com-Cov study is recruiting people in the U.K. who have already had their first dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine.

Read more about this study here.

04/14/2021 08:24 GMT — Johnson & Johnson rollout paused in South Africa and Europe

Yesterday, the United States decided to pause rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following reports of incredibly rare blood clot events. South Africa has followed suit. The company has also delayed distribution in Europe.

Read more on this story here.

04/13/2021 15:28 GMT — CDC and FDA halt administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the US

In a statement released to the press today — April 13, 2021 — a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and another for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the two federal agencies now recommend halting the administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine.

The spokespeople cited reports of six blood clotting cases that followed the administration of this vaccine, all of which occurred in adult women. They said that the CDC and FDA cannot support the vaccine’s continued rollout until a more in-depth investigation takes place.

Dr. Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control, has commented on this decision, calling it “a highly precautionary move.”

“The alert related to the AstraZeneca vaccine, where a similar association is considered possible, will have raised awareness of a possible association with other vaccines,” Dr. English said.

“Nevertheless,” he added, “the fact that such a small possible risk has been identified is very reassuring — it shows that pharmacovigilance systems are working.”

Read more about this story in our COVID-19 vaccine live blog.

04/13/2021 14:47 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine side effects: Video update

04/13/2021 09:47 GMT — Asthma drug may speed up recovery

According to the preliminary results of a study, the asthma drug budesonide may speed up recovery from COVID-19. The researchers found that early treatment with the drug shortened recovery time by a median of 3 days. Budesonide is a corticosteroid that is widely available and inexpensive.

The interim analysis included data from 1,779 people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection and “risk factors for adverse outcomes.” The researchers provided 751 of the participants with a budesonide inhaler and standard care, while the remaining 1,028 received only standard care.

Although the results are encouraging, it is important to note that this paper is a preprint, so it has not yet been peer reviewed.

04/13/2021 08:59 GMT — Literature review shines light on ‘long COVID’

There have been numerous reports of people who survived COVID-19 developing various long-term health issues. In a new literature review, researchers provide a thorough overview of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, otherwise known as long COVID. The review appears in the journal Nature Medicine.

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

04/12/2021 15:08 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine: What to know about side effects

In a recent feature, Medical News Today provides a rundown of the side effects associated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The article also covers some of the recent controversies surrounding rare blood clotting incidents linked to the vaccine.

Read the feature here.

04/12/2021 09:49 GMT — Bhutan vaccinates almost all adults in 16 days

Bhutan, with a population of 800,000 people, recently vaccinated 93% of all adults within 16 days. This equates to 62% of the entire population. Although the nation received 150,000 vaccine doses from India in January, it only began the rollout in late March.

Read more about Bhutan’s vaccine program here.

04/12/2021 09:25 GMT — COVID-19: 1 in 3 diagnosed with brain or mental health condition

A recent study suggests that in the United States in 2020, around a third of COVID-19 survivors received a diagnosis of a neurological or mental health condition within 6 months of their COVID-19 diagnosis. The findings appear in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Read more about the research here.

04/09/2021 15:35 GMTThe United Kingdom may have achieved herd immunity, projections from University College London claim

Researchers from University College London (UCL) have recently updated their long-term forecast of the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United Kingdom.

In their latest release, UCL scientists say that their modeling study indicates that a “herd immunity threshold (of 73.4%) will be reached” on April 9, meaning that on this day, an estimated 73.4% of the U.K. population will have become immune to SARS-CoV-2 — by either having overcome infection with this virus or having received a full COVID-19 vaccine.

This contradicts previous UCL estimates, which indicated that herd immunity would be reached in the U.K. by mid-May.

Other researchers — unaffiliated with the study at UCL — have expressed doubts about the accuracy of these predictions.

For example, Prof. Paul Hunter — who is a professor in medicine at The Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia — has said that he is “quite skeptical of the conclusions reported by the Dynamic Causal Modelling group at UCL.”

“For any infection, herd immunity can only be said to have been achieved if a sufficient proportion of the population has acquired immunity either from immunization or natural infection to bring the R value below 1 [so] that the disease [will] ultimately disappear. But for herd immunity to really happen, that immunity has to last. At present, we do not know how long the immunity generated by immunization will last nor what impact the emergence and spread of new variants will have on vaccine effectiveness,” he noted.

Dr. Louise Dyson, an associate professor in epidemiology at the University of Warwick, has further commented that the UCL research “does not appear to be internally consistent.” She has observed that the UCL group’s definition of the “herd immunity threshold” and its understanding of “the history of the epidemic” in the U.K. have shifted with each monthly update.

“It would seem unwise to base any policy decisions on estimates that change so much in their understanding of the history of the epidemic, without investigating the reasons for such changes,” Dr. Dyson warned.

04/08/2021 13:45 GMT — First ever images show how cells respond to COVID-19 vaccine

For the first time, researchers have been able to obtain images of the spike proteins that develop on the surfaces of cells that have been exposed to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and compare them with the “original,” or “native,” spike proteins that characterize the new coronavirus.

Co-lead study author Max Crispin, who is a professor of glycobiology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said: “In this study we set out to see how closely the vaccine induced spikes resembled those of the infectious virus. We were really pleased to see a large amount of native-like spikes.”

“This study will hopefully provide further understanding for the public, helping them see how the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine works,” Prof. Crispin added.

“Many people may not realize how their cells become little factories manufacturing viral spikes that then trigger the immune response needed to fight off the disease. This may also provide reassurance that the vaccine is doing its job and generating the material that we need to present to our immune systems.”

To read more about the study and to see the images, click here.

04/08/2021 13:40 GMT — Brazil registers over 4,000 deaths in 24 hours for the first time

Brazil has registered over 4,000 deaths in 24 hours for the first time largely as a result of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, called the P.1 variant. This is more contagious than other variants.

The surge in cases has brought Brazil to a total death toll of 337,000. Overall, Brazil has recorded over 13 million cases of COVID-19. Globally, the country is second only to the United States in terms of both deaths and total case numbers.

Read the story in full here.

04/07/2021 16:40 GMT — EMA: ‘Possible link’ between AstraZeneca and ‘very rare’ blood clot incidents, but benefits still outweigh risks overall

Today, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) held a press briefing on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

The EMA concluded that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects” of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

However, the risk factors for this possibility remain unknown for now, and the EMA has concluded that “the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.”

Read more here.

04/07/2021 16:40 GMT — UK regulatory body issues new guidance for AstraZeneca vaccine

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom has held a press conference today to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In it, Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for “the vast majority of people.”

However, the risk-benefit analysis could be more finely balanced for young people, the experts said, as the risk of rare blood clotting incidents is higher in this age group than it is in older adults. The reasons for this increased risk, however, remain unclear.

Therefore, the MHRA recommends that people under the age of 30 who do not have a preexisting condition that may put them at a higher risk of COVID-19 should be given an alternative to the AstraZeneca shot.

Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, also explained that pregnant women should discuss the risks with their doctor before taking the vaccine. People who have had blood disorders in the past should only take the vaccine if they have decided, together with their doctor, that the benefits are greater than the risks.

Finally, people with a history of blood clotting should not take a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Read more about the press briefing here.

04/07/2021 12:20 GMT — Moderna vaccine offers protection for at least 6 months, study says

A new study finds that, in 33 people who have received the second dose of the Moderna vaccine, antibodies persisted for 6 months.

Dr. Nicole Doria-Rose of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and her team tracked antibody activity in 33 participants who enrolled in the Moderna vaccine trials.

The participants were between 18 and over 71 years old. “Antibody activity remained high in all age groups at day 209,” write the authors. “Our data show antibody persistence and thus support the use of this vaccine in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” they conclude.

The paper appears inThe New England Journal of Medicine.

04/06/2021 17:30 GMT — MNT Video update: Monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19

04/06/2021 14:31 GMT — COVID-19 deaths pass 3 million landmark

According to a Reuters assessment, as of Tuesday, April 6, the total number of COVID-19-related deaths worldwide has surpassed 3 million.

This surge in death numbers corresponds to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Europe and various countries around the world. In fact, according to Reuters, the highest increase in deaths has been reported in Brazil and India.

In Brazil, health experts attribute the surge in cases and deaths to an emerging SARS-CoV-2 variant called “P.1,” which appears to be more transmissible. The new variant may also increase the risk of death among the younger population.

The global increase in deaths is also worrying, Reuters notes. It took over a year for global COVID-19 deaths to reach the 2 million landmark. However, the third million cropped up in only approximately 3 months, according to the news organization.

04/06/2021 14:25 GMT — Large study finds no link between blood type and COVID-19 severity or risk

A new review of almost 108,000 patients concludes there is no link between blood type and COVID-19 risk or severity. The findings appear in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, from Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, UT, and colleagues, set out to investigate more deeply the possible connection between blood type and COVID-19 risk, following reports early on in the pandemic that people with type A blood may be more likely to develop the disease.

In the present study, of the total of 107,796 individuals — who were tested for a SARS-CoV-2 infection and whose blood type was recorded — nearly 11,500 tested positive for the virus. The researchers applied logistic regression analysis to examine the associations between all blood types and disease severity and risk.

“[W]e found no ABO associations with either disease susceptibility or severity,” write the researchers. “Given the large and prospective nature of our study and its strongly null results, we believe that important associations of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 with ABO groups are unlikely,” they conclude.

Read the full paper here.

04/01/2021 11:34 GMT — COVID-19 linked to tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo

A recent review identifies associations between SARS-CoV-2 and tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo. Possible causes include infection of nerves, autoimmune damage, and blood clots. The review appears in the International Journal of Audiology.

Read more about the paper here.