Coronavirus Tidbits #126 3/3/21

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First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I’m getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don’t be shy about that.


Refreshing: Biden says pandemic preparedness, health security, and global health are top national security priorities

Update: National Security Directive 1 was redesignated as National Security Memorandum 1.

Amid the whirlwind of White House activity following inauguration last week, President Biden issued his first presidential directive on national security to designate pandemic response as a priority.

“My Administration will treat epidemic and pandemic preparedness, health security, and global health as top national security priorities, and will work with other nations to combat COVID-19 and seek to create a world that is safe and secure from biological threats,” the President wrote.

See National Security Directive 1, January 21, 2021.

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Mutations and Texas idiocy:

Houston Is First City to Register Major COVID Strains, New Study Finds

Houston is the first city in the country to register all major variants of the new coronavirus, many of which are more contagious than the original strain.

“The number of major variants that we have identified in our large sequencing study is disturbing,” said Dr. James Musser, who leads the expert team at Houston Methodist Hospital. behind the new find. “The genome data indicates that these important variants are now geographically widely distributed in the greater Houston region.”

At the same time, Abbott gets rid of mask mandate! 

…and other states following suit…

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Sex Differences in Immune Responses to Viral Infection

Stronger interferon production, greater T cell activation, and increased susceptibility to autoimmunity are just some of the ways that females seem to differ from males.

Among the many health disparities characterizing the COVID-19 pandemic, one that’s received particular attention is the difference in outcomes between men and women. As early as February last year, researchers observed that, although men and women were contracting COVID-19 at similar rates, men seemed far more likely to die from the disease.

Evidence of the gap has continued to emerge as COVID-19 datasets have expanded. For instance, data aggregated by The Sex, Gender and COVID-19 Project indicate that, although statistics vary substantially among countries around the world, men with the disease are around 20 percent more likely to be hospitalized than women. Once hospitalized, men are more likely to require intensive care, and once there, they’re more likely to die.

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3. Moderna and Pfizer also used HEK293 cells to perform confirmatory testing of their vaccines. 4. None of the vaccines contain actual fetal tissue. 5. If you are “pro-life,” presumably you also object to millions dying from a preventable infectious disease as well as abortion.


still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

Using Defense Production Act, Biden administration confirms partnership between rivals Merck and Johnson & Johnson to produce vaccine

Sanofi — which had to reboot its clinical trials of a vaccine candidate after early stumbles — announced last week that it would help Johnson & Johnson with final production steps and bottling in vials in Europe. Projected capacity from a Sanofi plant in France is 12 million doses per month. BioNTech, Pfizer’s German partner on its mRNA vaccine, also announced deals in January for rivals Sanofi and Novartis to fill and finish vaccine vials in Europe.

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Perceptions about J&J vax present continued problems, raise concerns about racial and geographic inequities.

Decisions to send the shots to harder-to-reach communities make practical sense, because Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine is easier to store and use. But they could drive perceptions of a two-tiered vaccine system, riven along racial or class lines — with marginalized communities getting what they think is an inferior product.

“All vaccines will reach all communities,” Marcella Nunez-Smith, who heads the administration’s coronavirus equity task force,

The easier storage and scheduling requirements position the Johnson & Johnson product to penetrate hard-to-reach populations, such as those without housing, as well as transient groups, including people moving through the criminal justice system….

his pitch for Johnson & Johnson is simply this: “It’s going to save your life, which we think is a pretty high value. It has a downside of slightly lower efficacy to prevent you from getting a headache — but you only have to have one shot instead of two.”

the one-shot vaccine may be especially appealing to younger or less vulnerable people,

it matters less what product “you get individually” than the fact that the “population you’re circulating in is protected.”

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Statin use associated with increased survival in severe COVID-19

People who took statins to lower cholesterol were approximately 50% less likely to die if hospitalized for COVID-19, a study by physicians at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and NewYork-Presbyterian has found.

Statin use was not associated with a statistically significant decrease in the use of invasive mechanical ventilation (18.6% in statin users vs. 21.9%), days on a ventilator (13.5 vs 12.8), or length of hospital stay (7 vs 7).

Why Look at Statins?

“In addition to their well-known cholesterol-lowering effect, statins are known for their anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and immunomodulatory properties.”

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COVID meta-analysis: No benefit from convalescent plasma

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled studies concludes that use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 patients doesn’t appear to improve survival or clinical status, shorten hospital stays, or reduce the need for mechanical ventilation.

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In another blow to convalescent plasma, the much-hyped proposed treatment for covid-19, the “Convalescent Plasma in Outpatient with COVID-19,” or “C3PO” trial has stopped recruiting new patients and has been halted early. The C3PO study was designed to study benefit in less sick patients who did not yet require hospitalization.

[This is] more egg on the face of Dr. Stephen Hahn, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration under Donald Trump. In August, Hahn heralded convalescent plasma as an important breakthrough in the treatment of covid-19. Even then it was clear that such a declaration was overstated and possibly even outright false. Hahn’s now infamous statements at a White House press briefing reflected a view of the emerging literature that was remarkably amateurish…

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ACIP Leery of Delaying Second COVID Vax Doses

— Lack of evidence, concern about variants persists

[This is part of an ongoing debate as to whether to delay the 2nd dose and instead prioritize getting one dose into more people.]


Epidemiology/Infection control:

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Rapid vaccine rollout in Israel leads to sharp decline in severe COVID-19

A rapid vaccine rollout in Israel that prioritized older adults led to 67% decline in the ratio of COVID-19 patients aged 70 years or older who required mechanical ventilation compared with patients younger than 50 years –from 5.8 to 1 to 1.9 to 1– a study showed.

According to the study, which was published in MMWR, approximately 84% of people aged 70 years or older and 10% of people aged 50 years or younger had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as of this month.

In December, Israel instituted a national vaccination campaign using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It prioritized individuals aged 60 years or older, health care workers and individuals with underlying conditions for vaccination.

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Prioritizing the oldest for COVID-19 vaccines saves more lives, potential years of life

Challenging the idea that older people with shorter life expectancies should rank lower in coronavirus immunization efforts, new UC Berkeley research shows that giving vaccine priority to those most at risk of dying from COVID-19 will save the maximum number of lives, and their potential or future years of life.

The findings, published Feb. 25 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, address the ethical dilemma of who should be first in line for a limited supply of vaccine shots amid a contagion that so far has killed 500,000 in the United States and 2.4 million globally.–pto022621.php

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Q&A: COVID-19 risk, vaccination in patients with asthma

The relationship between asthma and severity of COVID-19 remains unclear. Research continues to accumulate on the effect of asthma on COVID-19 severity.

Currently, there is no evidence of increased infection rates in patients with asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Initial reports early in the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that patients with asthma are at high risk for severe COVID-19 and hospitalization. The CDC states that moderate to severe asthma might increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Many studies have looked at the relationship between COVID-19 and asthma. To date, the vast majority of these studies have found no increased risk of COVID-19 severity in patients with asthma and, moreover, research does not indicate that asthma is a risk factor for COVID-19, according to a statement from AAAAI.

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Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

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See also

You Got the Vaccine! What Can You Do Now?


Governor Abbott:

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Safeguarding Health in Conflict

A new interactive map highlights 1172  attacks and threats against health workers, facilities, and transport around the world during 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed health systems to their limit and sparked widespread violence against frontline health workers.

Some 412 of these 1172 incidents were directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and response measures, such as the arson of COVID-19 testing facilities, the targeting of health workers on their way home from clinics, and violent responses to mask requirements.The COVID-19-related attacks reveal a disturbing new dimension of violence against health care, which has in the past related primarily to attacks on health care amid armed conflict or routine health services provision.

Some 802 incidents in 2020 were related to ongoing wars and violent conflicts, ranging from the bombing of hospitals in Yemen to the abduction of doctors in Nigeria.

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Feel good du jour:

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Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


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