"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 3rd Aug 2022

Hygiene Helpers
Hong Kong Experts Back Covid Shots Starting at Six Months of Age
A Hong Kong panel of health advisers said children as young as six months old should be offered Covid-19 vaccines from BioNTech SE and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in an effort to protect the city’s youngest residents, according to Lau Yu-lung, the chairman of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Disease. The committee unanimously approved both Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines for children aged six months and above, Lau told reporters on Monday evening. “Both vaccines are safe and induces effective immunity, we all agreed on this,” he said.
Analysis | What Experts Know About 'Long Covid' and Who Gets It
Most people who suffer from Covid-19 fully recover. Millions of others find complete healing to be frustratingly elusive, in what’s often referred to as long Covid. Symptoms range from pulmonary, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal or neurological problems to cognitive issues such as so-called brain fog. No single explanation, diagnosis or treatment can be applied to them. Colloquially known as long-haulers, these patients reflect the pandemic’s lasting burden on society and the economy.
People vaccinated against Covid share common symptom after testing positive
While it may be widely known that common symptoms of Covid include fatigue, a sore throat, and headaches, there is another widespread symptom being cited among sufferers. According to data gathered by the ZOE Health Study app, diarrhoea is a common symptom of Covid for vaccinated Britons. Data shows that there was a rise in people reporting this symptom in January 2022, and that some of this was related to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. However, the ZOE team pointed out that there seemed to be a “wave of other non-Covid tummy bugs going around too”. The team said that diarrhoea can be an early symptom of the virus, starting on the first day of infection and getting worse throughout the week.
B.C. to begin vaccinating kids under five against COVID-19 on Tuesday
When COVID-19 vaccinations open for young children on Tuesday, Tarin Springer and her 18-month-old son Flynn will be among the first in line. “We want him to be protected and help protect the community,” Springer told Global News. “We’ve had really good experiences, all of us being vaccinated, and we’ve been lucky not to get COVID so far. … We just want him to have the best protection possible.”
Testing negative to COVID-19 but still have symptoms? Here's what you need to know
You have the telltale signs of COVID — fever, headache, dry cough and exhaustion — but your rapid antigen test is returning a negative result. You're not alone. So, if you're testing negative on a RAT but still have symptoms, or if you need to record a positive RAT test result — here's a refresh on what to do.
Covid-19: is omicron less lethal than delta?
Soon after the omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern was first reported to the World Health Organization on 24 November 2021, preliminary observational studies in South Africa suggested this highly transmissible variant was associated with lower hospital admission and mortality rates in people with covid-19 infection.1 However, given omicron’s increased propensity to cause reinfections and vaccine breakthrough,23 it was unclear if this effect was due to previous immunity in the population or an inherent property of the genetically divergent variant. Subsequent analyses further supported a lower risk of severe outcomes in infections with omicron compared with delta, although these data were limited to all cause deaths within 28 days of diagnosis. Additionally, many public health measures previously enacted to curb SARS-CoV-2 transmission were being relaxed in early 2022, potentially resulting in more infections in relatively low risk populations. These limitations complicated efforts to assess the true risk of severe disease and mortality associated with omicron infection.
Apple drops mask requirements for most of its corporate workers - The Verge
Apple Inc is dropping its mask mandate for corporate employees at most locations, the Verge reported on Monday, citing an internal memo. This comes even as COVID-19 infections in the United States have been on the rise with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant accounting for more than 90% of infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Community Activities
If You Test Positive for Covid, Can You Still Cancel Flights, Hotels and Travel?
A recent rise in Covid-19 cases is making travel even tougher this summer. The Omicron subvariant BA.5 has been spreading just as people are taking long-awaited vacations. More than half of American travelers report having taken at least one trip in July, according to the most recent survey from Destination Analysts, a market-research firm. But travel hasn’t been easy. Travelers have faced flight delays, cancellations, long lines and lost luggage. Airlines and hotels laid off staff and have struggled to rehire them, which means there aren’t enough baggage handlers, pilots and housekeepers, among others. For those looking to hit the road or travel by plane, the wise move is to plan ahead. Read up on your airline or hotel’s cancellation policy before a trip, consider travel insurance and have a contingency plan in case you do test positive while traveling.
Austria mourns suicide of doctor targeted by anti-COVID vaccine campaigners
Austrian leaders appealed for national unity after a doctor who faced death threats from anti-vaccination activists and coronavirus pandemic conspiracy theorists took her own life. "Let's put an end to this intimidation and fear mongering. Hate and intolerance have no place in our Austria," President Alexander Van der Bellen said, hailing Lisa-Maria Kellermayr as a doctor who stood for healing people, protecting them from disease and taking a cautious approach to the pandemic. "But some people have been enraged by this. And these people scared her, threatened her, first on the internet and then also in person, directly in her practice." The body of the doctor -- who had often given media interviews about fighting the coronavirus pandemic and promoting vaccinations -- was found in her office in Upper Austria on Friday.
Life expectancy drops for Native Americans due to COVID-19
Native Americans experienced disproportionately high rates of deaths from COVID-19 due to poverty, crowded housing, high rates of chronic disease, employment in frontline jobs, and limited access to quality health care. Less is known about the pandemic's effects on life expectancy for this population, which makes up 2% of the U.S. population. Noreen Goldman of Princeton University and Theresa Andrasfay, Ph.D. '20 of the University of Southern California investigated life expectancy at birth in 2020 and 2021 -- when COVID-19 rates were surging -- compared to 2019. Life expectancy is a metric of population-level mortality in a given year, and it is sensitive to deaths at younger ages.
France Ends All Covid-19 Travel Restrictions And Tests
It was one of the last European countries to do so, but this month France has rescinded all its Covid-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements for any travelers entering the country. Crucially, France has come out of the State of Emergency that President Macron's government instigated at the outset of the pandemic, which means that the country requires less bureaucracy of its visitors. As of 1 August 2022, it is no longer necessary to show proof of having had Covid-19, any vaccinations or the results of any testing. Nor is it a requirement anymore to sign an attestation saying that you are devoid of Covid-19 symptoms (that had been necessary up until last week). For both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, it is not a legal requirement either for visitors to justify why they are traveling.
Working Remotely
Hybrid work is not a perfect solution to our changing workplace
It’s a mistake and a failure of leadership to conflate forced working from home during a pandemic with true remote work. During the pandemic, many workers experienced an at-home version of the traditional work environment. In-person meetings were replaced with daily stand-up calls. Happy hours were replaced with after-work Zooms. The remote work we experienced during the pandemic lacked flexibility and autonomy. Now, many companies are pushing their employees back to the office touting “flexible” or “hybrid” approaches that aren’t actually flexible. This is a failure of management to explore a new way of thinking about work.
Opinion: Remote working could be a game changer for local towns in these uncertain times
We must take immediate action to realise the massive opportunity remote work presents for the development of towns and villages across rural and regional Ireland. The national debate on the cost of living and predicted recession must take into account how geographical location impacts people’s access to good quality job opportunities. There is a clear argument that remote work can be an effective win-win solution in times of crisis, as was clearly evidenced during the pandemic. We now need to recognise that remote work has the potential to be a significant mitigating factor if the predictions of a recession, or an escalation of the energy crisis, are to materialise.
Virtual Classrooms
Online Learning Platforms: The Different Types And Their Benefits
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning platforms have drastically increased in popularity over recent years. Students of all levels, including those in corporate training, now rely on the internet to deliver their educational materials. This article discusses how online learning platforms work and which platform to choose based on your needs.
How much has remote learning damaged Hong Kong students and how quickly can the damage be undone? Teachers talk about the harm and how they’re helping the healing
Primary and secondary school students in Hong Kong have had more than two years of on/off remote learning as opposed to Western countries’ schools that shut for only a few months. Younger students missed out on key developmental milestones, while special educational needs (SEN) students suffered by not having direct access to their teachers.
Public Policies
Hong Kong Will First Roll Out Only Sinovac Shot for Infants
Hong Kong will initially offer only one choice when it expands Covid-19 vaccine access to some of its youngest residents: CoronaVac from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Children six months to three years of age will become eligible for the Sinovac shot from Thursday, health care officials said at a press briefing on Tuesday. While a panel of medical advisers recommended that an immunization from Germany’s BioNTech SE should also be available, the government doesn’t yet have access to the proper dose, said Chuang Shuk-kwan, an official at the Health Department’s Center for Health Protection.
Despite mild to moderate adverse events, COVID-19 vaccination recommended in United States for children aged 5 to 11 years
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children aged 5 to 11 receive the BNT-162b2 vaccination. In a recent study, investigators examined data from 3 United States safety monitoring systems to monitor adverse events in children aged 5 to 11. The data studied the test group for 6 weeks after they received the BNT-162b2 vaccination. Of the 8.7 million vaccines administered during this time, 42,504 children were involved in a safety findings test from v-safe, a smartphone system which, with permission, surveys for safety signals. An additional 4249 Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) reports were included in this data. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created a survey system to monitor vaccine reactions in children. Parents voluntarily enrolled their children in these programs after the vaccination was injected. They then filled out health surveys throughout the testing period. The first of these, which were sent out during the first week, asked about system reactions and health impacts. Parents could describe the severity as mild, moderate, or severe. Throughout the testing period, more surveys were sent out with further questioning.
US locks up 66M retooled COVID shots from Moderna
As U.S. regulators turn their attention to revamped, variant-specific COVID-19 vaccines for the fall, Pfizer and Moderna could have their retooled shots ready shortly after Labor Day, according to multiple reports. But while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) late last week inked deals with both companies to initiate a new booster campaign in a couple of months, it warned in its release that this stock would not be enough for every single U.S. resident. The HHS locked up a deal for 66 million doses of Moderna’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster candidate. It also inked an agreement to get 105 million bivalent booster doses from Pfizer and BioNTech. Should the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sign off on the updated prophylactics, HHS says it expects to receive its first deliveries of the retooled Pfizer and Moderna shots in “early fall.”
Hong Kong lowers age for Sinovac vaccine shot to six months
Hong Kong on Tuesday reduced the minimum age for getting vaccinated with China's Sinovac COVID-19 shot to six months from three years after several young children became infected with the virus. Adults and children in the Asian financial hub, which retains some of the world's toughest COVID precautions, are required to have at least three coronavirus vaccine shots. "Recently a series of young children have been infected with the new coronavirus. The situation of severe illness and even death is of great concern," the government said in a statement announcing the reduction in age.
Commission buys COVID vaccine from Spain’s HIPRA
The European Commission has closed a deal for up to 250 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Spanish pharmaceutical company HIPRA, it announced Tuesday. The vaccine is still being assessed. The European Medicines Agency in March started a rolling review of the shot, which is designed to protect against both the Alpha and Beta variants of the coronavirus, and would be deployed as a booster. The Commission said that 14 countries are participating in the joint procurement. If the vaccine is approved, they will be able to put in orders on the terms negotiated by the Commission. Those terms were not disclosed.
FDA reauthorizes Meridian's COVID-19 test after changes to enable omicron detection
The Food and Drug Administration reauthorized Meridian Bioscience’s Revogene SARS-CoV-2 molecular assay for emergency use. U.S. regulatory officials warned late last year that the previous version of the test was unable to detect the omicron COVID-19 variant, leading Meridian to modify the design of the assay. The work led Meridian, which is the subject of a pending $1.53 billion takeover, to submit initial data on the revised assay in March and ultimately to win renewed emergency use authorization (EUA).
Maintaining Services
Midwives ask officials to justify ongoing Covid vaccine mandate
Health officials are being asked to reconsider the evidence used to ban midwives from working if they are unvaccinated against Covid-19. In a letter to Minister of Health Andrew Little and then-minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins, dated May 11 2022 and obtained under the Official Information Act, College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy urged the government "to ensure a robust evidence review is undertaken as soon as possible". She wanted the review to inform decisions about the future of the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, "given the critical nature of the midwifery workforce shortages". "This review needs to quantify the threat posed by unvaccinated health care workers who have access to daily pre-work RATs (rapid antigen tests) and PPE (personal protective equipment), against the risks posed by a lack of qualified health practitioners available to provide essential maternity care."
Health officials predict COVID-19 cases will rise once school starts, as millions of kids remain unvaccinated
Health officials predict COVID-19 cases will rise once school starts, fueling community spread, as millions of kids remain unvaccinated and the BA.5 omicron subvariant remains the dominant strain.
Covid-19: Two months of 'substantially lower infections' ahead
New Zealand is likely in for “a couple of months” of lower Covid-19 infections now the second Omicron peak has passed, experts say. However, there are plenty of other viruses circulating and people should keep up health measures, such as wearing masks and staying home when sick, they say. A panel of health experts answered reader questions on all things Covid-19 – including what we should expect in the next six months – in a live discussion on Stuff.
Healthcare Innovations
Fewer pregnant women had severe COVID amid Omicron, after vaccination
Fewer pregnant women had severe COVID-19 in the Omicron variant-era than during periods dominated by previous strains, and vaccinated patients were better protected than their unvaccinated peers, according to research published yesterday in the American Journal of Infection Control. Investigators from South Korea retrospectively examined the electronic medical records of 224 pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 and 82 quarantine deliveries from Nov 1, 2020, to Mar 7, 2022, at a single hospital. Average maternal age was 32 years. Pregnant women admitted to the hospital before Jan 17, 2022 were considered to be infected with the Delta variant, while those after that date were considered infected with Omicron. Of the 224 women, 39 (17%) were vaccinated, and 185 (83%) were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccine patch offers more robust protection against omicron, delta COVID-19 variants
A COVID-19 vaccine patch is more effective at fighting variants such as delta and omicron than a traditional needle shot, a new study has found. The research, conducted by Australia’s University of Queensland and in partnership with Brisbane-based biotech company Vaxxas, deduced that the needle-free COVID-19 vaccine patch could offer more robust protection against the virus, which has so far claimed over 6.4 million lives since the outbreak in December 2019. The researchers analyzed the Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine using Vaxxas high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) technology. “The high-density microarray patch is a vaccine delivery platform that precisely delivers the vaccine into the layers of the skin which are rich in immune cells,” said Christopher McMillan of Queensland University in a statement.