"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 21st May 2021

Isolation Tips
Charity warns of lasting impact of pandemic on children and young people
The  coronavirus pandemic could leave a legacy of anxiety and poor mental health and wellbeing among  British  children and  young people, Barnardo’s has warned.  Polling by the UK’s children’s charity shows the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in Britain could still be worsening a year on after the pandemic first struck. In an online poll conducted by YouGov, Barnardo’s asked more than 4,000 children and young people aged eight-24 across Great Britain about how they were feeling now compared to before the pandemic. “Barnardo’s has consistently warned that the negative effects of the pandemic could last a lifetime if children and young people don’t have the right support. Our survey adds further weight to the argument that children must be front and centre of the Government’s plans for the post-COVID period."
Hygiene Helpers
Britain to work with WHO on 'pandemic radar' to track diseases
Britain will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a "pandemic radar" system to identify new coronavirus variants quickly and track emerging diseases globally to ensure the world is never "caught unawares again". Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan for a new "Global Pandemic Radar" ahead of a G20 Global Health summit on Friday in Rome, where he will speak. Johnson's office said it would involve a network of surveillance hubs that could watch out for outbreaks and share data on variants and vaccine resistance.
EU grapples over COVID-19 passes for summer travel
The European Union reached a deal on Thursday on COVID-19 certificates designed to open up tourism across the 27-nation bloc this summer, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) said. European Parliament lawmakers and current EU president Portugal representing the bloc's 27 members sealed the agreement after a fourth round of negotiations on Thursday afternoon. The certificate will take the form of a QR code on a smartphone or paper, letting authorities determine the status of a visitor based on records in their home EU country. The certificate would show if a person had received a vaccine, had a recent negative test or had immunity based on recovery.
Covid-19: Why prioritising prevention matters in a pandemic of cures
Prevention is better than cure. Simple. Clear. Logical. Except that it is easily overcomplicated, clouded, and misplaced. When we forget that prevention is better than cure, primary care becomes an easy scapegoat, even though the pandemic has reinforced its importance in improving baseline population health, reducing health inequalities, delivering a vaccination strategy, and keeping people out of hospital. We might forget the mammoth efforts of general practice to reconfigure care—and then reverse some of that reconfiguration—the extra burden and complexity created by limitless digital access of patients to health professionals,3 and the ingenuity and partnership now needed between primary and secondary care to clear a 4.7 million person waiting list with £160m of innovation funding. Or that preventing racism in general practice and in hospitals, in doctors’ education, training, assessment, and disciplinary procedures, is better for patients, an issue that the UK’s General Medical Council is now promising to tackle head on.
Experts say CDC missed mark on COVID mask guidance
When Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, announced last week that fully vaccinated Americans no longer had to wear masks in most indoor settings unless local mandates dictate so, many public health experts scratched their heads and braced themselves for what they knew would be a confusing moment in America's battle against COVID-19. "The CDC got the science right, but the policy and communication was really wrong," said Leana Wen, MD, the former Baltimore health commissioner and Washington Post contributing columnist and CNN medical analyst. "There are unintended consequences that can endanger people and sew distrust in the CDC." Each week, more studies are published that show the three vaccines currently used in the United States are highly effective in preventing transmission of the COVID-19 virus, even its newer variants.
Community Activities
'Vax & Scratch' lottery scheme aims to up New York COVID-19 shots
You gotta get poked to win, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday, unveiling a $5 million lottery prize incentive for New Yorkers who get their first COVID-19 vaccination shots next week. The "Vax & Scratch" program provides free state lottery scratch-off tickets to New Yorkers age 18 and older who get a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, shot or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine from May 24 to May 28.
Covid-19 vaccination hesitancy
Lack of confidence in vaccines for covid-19 poses direct and indirect threats to health, and could derail efforts to end the current pandemic. Concerns about unknown future effects, side effects, and a lack of trust are common reasons given by people who say they are unlikely to have a covid-19 vaccine. No single intervention is likely to be able to address vaccine hesitancy. Consider barriers to uptake of vaccination at a population level and in groups who have lower rates of vaccine uptake. Develop local approaches by engaging members of the community and co-producing communications and materials that meet population needs
Nearly 1 million excess deaths in 29 nations during pandemic
Nearly 1 million more people than normal died in 29 high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to a time series study yesterday in BMJ. University of Oxford researchers led the study, which involved calculating weekly excess deaths for each included country in 2020, adjusting for age, sex, and seasonal and annual mortality trends in the previous 5 years. They estimated that 979,000 more people than expected died of all causes during the pandemic, with rates generally increasing with advancing age. All countries, except for Demark, New Zealand, and Norway, had more deaths than expected, especially in men. But the excess death rate in the United States was higher among women than men in the 85 and older age-group.
Working Remotely
Can the 'right to disconnect' exist in a remote-work world?
Although several countries, primarily in Europe, have enacted varying levels of past legislation on the right to disconnect, Ireland is among the first countries to try and introduce a code specifically centring the new, work-from-home era. Ireland’s post-Covid-19 rules are meant to preserve work-life balance and protect all workers, including those who work remotely and flexibly – something that past laws have not considered. However, the solution may not be as straightforward as it seems. In practice, it may actually be near impossible to combine the ability to log off with the freedom to work remotely, especially if that means creating timetables different to other colleagues. And, in a worse case scenario, some experts are also warning that mismanagement of these initiatives could compromise some of the flexibility workers have only recently been able to negotiate.
How to find the perfect place in your home for a remote workspace
While home offices have been growing in popularity in recent years, they’re no longer just a trend, but the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more individuals to work and study remotely. While working from home has its perks, it’s not always a glamorous option, namely because most homes aren’t designed to function as an office, too. The good news? You don’t have to ditch your current residence and relocate to create a functional home work area. Whether big or small, turning that room, nook or corner into a home office has never been easier when you have expert designers on your side.
During remote work, men find communicating, collaborating harder than women
After a year-plus of remote work, women and men have varying takes on the experience. One of those? Men have found communicating and collaborating more challenging while working remotely than women have. FlexJobs polled more than 2,100 people this spring who’ve worked or continue to work remotely due to Covid-19. Nearly 7 in 10 women and men said they believe more remote work policies will benefit gender equality in the workplace. However, more than one-quarter of men believe their professional skills suffered during the pandemic, and 20% said remote work has hurt their chances of promotion or career advancement. By comparison, only 17% of women feel their professional skills have suffered, and 13% feel their chances of promotion have been affected.
Virtual Classrooms
'Just evil': Spotty internet an added stressor to virtual learning for rural Ontario students
Some families in rural parts of Waterloo region and nearby counties in southern Ontario say unreliable internet access has made a difficult pandemic school year even more complicated. Seager Grubb, 15, and his sister Sarene Grubb, 18, who live near Wellesley, often face frozen computer screens and lengthy download times while taking classes online. "It's hard to hear what my teacher is saying … It's just really frustrating," said Seager. "It's really slow and takes a lot more time than it should," said Sarene. Unreliable internet access was also identified as a problem by respondents to a recent CBC questionnaire, which invited educators across Canada, including in Waterloo region and Wellington County, to detail their experiences.
How America failed students with disabilities during the pandemic
More than a year after the pandemic began, officials in school districts across the country concede they failed during the crisis to deliver the quality of education that students with disabilities are legally entitled to receive. The consequences of this failure are likely to linger for years, if not decades, advocates and experts warn. More than 7 million students are eligible for special educational services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These children, each of whom follow an individualized education program that spells out what extra or different services they need at school, account for an estimated 14 percent of all U.S. schoolchildren. While some thrived while learning from home during the pandemic — including a boy whose wheelchair left him feeling out of place at school but who became indistinguishable from his classmates on Zoom — most did not, and advocates and educators say many have suffered significant developmental setbacks.
Public Policies
Latin America poised to benefit as U.S. raises exports of COVID-19 shots -sources
Latin America is poised to receive millions of U.S.-made COVID-19 shots in the coming weeks as the United States emerges as a top exporter of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The United States is considering prioritizing countries within its own hemisphere for the 80 million domestically-made vaccine doses it has pledged to send abroad, one person familiar with the matter said. Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc has begun exporting millions of its U.S.-made shots largely to countries in Central and South America, a second person familiar with the matter said.
Biden, saying 'silence is complicity,' signs COVID hate crimes bill into law
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that overwhelmingly passed Congress in a rare show of bipartisanship following a spate of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. "Silence is complicity and we cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act," Biden told lawmakers. "That's what you've done. And I can't thank you enough. I'm proud today."
Italy to introduce 20% tax break for R&D of drugs including COVID-19 vaccines - draft
Italy will introduce tax breaks of 20% for companies conducting research and development for innovative drugs, including COVID-19 vaccines, provided they grant non exclusive licenses, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters. These companies will be entitled to a tax credit equal to 20% of the costs they incurred from June 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2030 on condition they commit to grant licenses to third parties in the European Economic Area “on non-discriminatory market terms”, the draft showed.
Egyptian gov't mulls giving 3rd coronavirus vaccine dose
Egypt is considering administering a third dose of coronavirus vaccination, in anticipation of virus mutations that have appeared in other countries, Advisor to the Egyptian President for Health Affairs Mohamed Awad Tag Eddin. Tag Eddin added, in a telephone interview on MBC Masr on Wednesday evening, that China has announced that those who received two doses of its Sinopharm vaccine must receive a third dose. The United Arab Emirates, one of the first countries to use Sinopharm, announced earlier this week that it will be administering booster shots of the vaccine.
COVID-19: EU Commission signs third contract with Pfizer-BioNTech
The European Commission today announced that It has reserved an additional 1.8 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, on behalf of all 27 EU countries, from the end of 2021 to 2023.
COVID-19: Ursula von der Leyen says EU will reach vaccination targets 'without sealing itself off from the world'
The EU will reach its vaccination targets "without sealing itself off from the world", the EU Commission president has said - in what has been interpreted as a snipe at the UK and US. Ursula von der Leyen said critics of the EU vaccination campaign should keep in mind that the EU had exported 220 million jabs, almost as many as it has used for its own citizens. She added: "Others are keeping their entire vaccine production all to themselves, but the EU will reach its vaccination targets without sealing itself off from the world."
Panama says will temporarily close border with Colombia over COVID-19 risk
Panama will temporarily close its border with Colombia beginning Thursday to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and tighten security, its government said, after Colombia reopened the land and maritime crossings on the border. Panama's government said Colombia's decision to reopen the borders "puts at risk the significant progress" that Panama made to control the COVID-19 pandemic and border security. "The national government has determined to temporarily suspend the entry into the national territory by land, sea and river routes of any person coming from the border with the Republic of Colombia, as of May 20, 2021," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Japan health panel approves Moderna, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines
Japanese regulators recommended the approval of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC on Thursday, paving the way for the country to speed up its slow-moving vaccination campaign. The recommendations by a health ministry panel precede official approval by the government as early as Friday, health minister Norihisa Tamura said on Thursday. Tamura likened the approval of the new vaccines to building extra railway tracks, telling reporters: "It means that the vaccination roll-out will be smoother."
China says providing vaccines to almost 40 African nations
China said Thursday it is providing COVID-19 vaccines to nearly 40 African countries, describing its actions as purely altruistic in an apparent intensification of what has been described as “vaccine diplomacy.” The vaccines were donated or sold at “favorable prices,” Foreign Ministry official Wu Peng told reporters. Wu compared China’s outreach to the actions of “some countries that have said they have to wait for their own people to finish the vaccination before they could supply the vaccines to foreign countries,” in an apparent dig at the United States. “We believe that it is, of course, necessary to ensure that the Chinese people get vaccinated as soon as possible, but for other countries in need, we also try our best to provide vaccine help,” said Wu, who is director of the ministry’s Africa department.
EU presents WTO plan to boost COVID vaccine output
The European Union has put forward a plan it believes will help boost the production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States. Under pressure from developing countries demanding a waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU presented on Wednesday an alternative focused on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and the flexibility of existing World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Maintaining Services
Northern Ireland coronavirus vaccine programme further extended to under 30s
In Northern Ireland, Covid-19 vaccines are to be offered to those aged 25 to 29 from today. Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said this will be “welcome news” for people in the age group and is a further testament to the success of the local vaccination programme. “Vaccination is vital in helping us move through this pandemic and there is no doubt that there are people in Northern Ireland alive today because they have been vaccinated,” he said. The announcement comes as the Executive meets today to rubber-stamp more softening of curbs— including around indoor hospitality and indoor visits.
Third coronavirus vaccine dose for thousands in autumn booster trial
A trial into the use of a third booster dose against the coronavirus is to begin, with thousands of volunteers receiving one of the seven different vaccines bought by the UK. Scientists said the data would help government advisers decide how to proceed with planned autumn vaccinations for the most vulnerable. The trial, involving 2,886 patients, will look at the effects of boosters in those who have received two doses of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech jabs. Until now, people have been given the same vaccine for both doses. The purpose of the trial — announced by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, at a Downing Street press conference — is to test the effects of a third dose and see whether mixing vaccines at this stage will work.
India battles rash of "black fungus" cases hitting COVID-19 patients
India has ordered tighter surveillance of a rare fungal disease hitting COVID-19 patients, officials said on Thursday, piling pressure on hospitals struggling with the world's highest number of daily infections of the novel coronavirus. Mucormycosis, or "black fungus" usually infects people whose immune system has been compromised, causing blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.
Essex GPs deliver COVID-19 jabs from custom-built van to boost uptake
GPs in Essex are going the extra mile to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake in their area by using a custom-built van to travel to vulnerable patients. Working closely with local community leaders, the ‘Essex vax van’ is being used to bring clinics to people who may also face barriers to accessing traditional health services, including black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and the homeless. Equipped with its own temperature control fridge, as well as Wi-Fi capabilities, the van - accompanied by two supporting vehicles - allows for the safe transportation and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Healthcare Innovations
BioNTech says vaccine likely to be effective against India variant
BioNTech SE said on Thursday the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer should be roughly as effective against the new coronavirus variant first detected in India as it has been shown to be against the South African variant. The company said in a statement Chief Executive Ugur Sahin felt encouraged by recent findings in a scientific paper based on blood analysis of vaccinated individuals, which showed that the antibodies elicited by the vaccine were able to neutralise the Indian variant.
Coronavirus: Canada-wide study to investigate mix-and-matching vaccine doses
A new Canada-wide study will look at the effect of using different COVID-19 vaccine doses in Canadian adults to determine if mixing and matching vaccines yields a strong immune response and how long the response lasts. The study, announced Thursday, will investigate the use of different vaccines for first and second doses in 1,300 adult participants. The study will be conducted in conjunction with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group, Canadian Immunization Research Network and Dalhousie University. "As questions of vaccine interchangeability arise and alternative dosing intervals are being used in public health programs, our objective is to determine: what are the effects of different dosing intervals of the vaccines on immunity and safety?" said Dr. Joanne Langley, co-principal investigator of the study and professor at Dalhousie University, said in a press release.
Pharm-Olam is now enrolling UK volunteers into a pivotal Phase III COVID-19 vaccine study
Pharm-Olam, a global, midsized CRO offering full-service clinical development solutions for infectious diseases, vaccines, rare diseases, and oncology, is now enrolling UK volunteers into a pivotal Phase III COVID-19 vaccine study. Visit ukcovid19study.com for more information about participation. The Phase III "Cov-Compare" trial (VLA2001-301) will compare Valneva's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, VLA2001, against AstraZeneca's conditionally approved vaccine, Vaxzevria, in a comparative immunogenicity trial. There will be roughly 4,000 participants.