"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
The end of quarantine? What people should know about the CDC's new Covid-19 guidelines
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced key changes to its nationwide Covid-19 guidelines. Among them was the end of required quarantine after someone is exposed to a close contact with the coronavirus. The CDC also revised isolation guidance for people infected with Covid-19. With the required quarantine ending, what should people do if they've been exposed? How long should they isolate if they do get infected? What's the rationale for making the changes? And are there exceptions—who should take precautions above and beyond the new recommendations? To guide us through the changes, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Hygiene Helpers
Experts warn Omicron vaccine booster rollout will be slowed by Covid complacency, putting vulnerable at risk
Scientists fear complacency and Covid fatigue will reduce take-up the autumn booster campaign, putting the most vulnerable at greater risk of hospitalisation and death. Those people who are over 50 or clinically vulnerable will be offered a booster jab that has been specifically designed to tackle Omicron after the regulator gave Moderna’s new vaccine the green light on Monday. But there are fears that, with many people having had Covid at least once and surviving, and a high level of pandemic fatigue, the rate of take-up will be markedly lower higher than in previous booster campaigns.
Covid jabs will have to be tweaked annually like flu until universal vaccine is discovered
Covid vaccines are likely to become like influenza jabs, that are tweaked every year and offered to vulnerable people every autumn, according to a leading vaccine developer. Professor Robin Shattock of Imperial College London says “there are two approaches to next generation vaccines”; the annual flu jab approach and the Holy Grail of the one-vaccine-fits-all-variants approach. “In the same way that the influenza vaccine is updated every year and given to the vulnerable population, an annual vaccine could be given for Covid as well,” said Professor Shattock, a pioneer of the same RNA vaccine technology that is used by the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.
WHO releases interim statement on COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents
The World Health Organization (WHO), with the support of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), has released an interim statement on the role of COVID-19 vaccines in children and adolescents in the context of the continuing global disparities in vaccination. In the statement, it is concluded that before considering implementing primary vaccination series in children and adolescents, attaining high coverage of primary series – and booster doses as needed – in highest and high-priority-use groups must be pursued. WHO refers to the global inequity in vaccine rollout, with only 25% of older populations having received a complete primary series of COVID-19 vaccines in lower income countries – the very places where healthcare access is more limited.
A complicated fall vaccine campaign: Updated Covid boosters, flu shots, and how to time the jabs
For the health officials who steer vaccination campaigns, it’s going to be a complicated fall. The U.S. plan to roll out updated Covid-19 boosters will not only coincide with the logistical tangle of the regular flu shot drive, but will also face questions about when people should get the new shots to provide themselves with the best protection through our third Covid winter. It’s a balancing act that health officials run into every year with flu. Vaccinating tens of millions of people takes weeks. People also need a few weeks after their shot for their immune systems to be fully primed. And yet, vaccinators don’t want to put shots in arms too early, either.
Community Activities
Australia, Israel share notes on pandemic
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant will lead a team of delegates to Israel next month for a high-level information exchange on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifteen Australian public health experts and clinicians will meet with counterparts from Israel's health and foreign affairs ministries along with leading academics to discuss ongoing handling of the viral disease.
California appeals court rejects COVID-19 fines for church
A California church that defied safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding large religious services won't have to pay about $200,000 in fines, a state appeals court ruled. Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastors were held in contempt of court and fined in 2020 and 2021 for violating state and county limits on indoor public gatherings. The rules were aimed at preventing the spread through close contract of the virus, which has caused more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 93,500 deaths since the pandemic began in mid-2020, according to state public health figures.
Working Remotely
Spurred by Remote Work, All-Virtual Companies Thrive
A couple years ago, as the Covid crisis struck, forcing just about every company to operate as a virtual enterprise, run out of living rooms and home offices. While many have called employees back to the office at least part of the time, others have discovered they operate just fine — or even better — as 100% virtual enterprises. It is estimated that at least 16% are fully remote, and 62% of employees work remotely at least part of the time. Leaders of what are now all-virtual companies say the forced virtualization of 2020 turned out to be a pleasant surprise for them.
No, a recession won’t kill remote work. It will actually strengthen it
Extensive evidence shows that remote work is more productive. A Stanford University study found that remote workers were 5% more productive than in-office workers in the summer of 2020. By the spring of 2022, remote workers became 9% more productive, since companies learned how to do remote work better and invested into more remote-friendly technology. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, meanwhile, found that productivity growth in businesses widely relying on remote work grew much faster than industries where in-person contact is needed.
Virtual Classrooms
Eight questions to ask your training lead
Any good e-learning partner will appreciate that digitising your learning programme can be a complex and sometimes nerve-wracking process. To help prepare you for that important first meeting with your chosen L&D lead – whether that is an external provider or your inhouse L&D lead or team – we’ve put together eight essential questions that should be covered when a new digital learning project is started.
Department for Education provided 2 million laptops to students for remote learning
The Department for Education (DfE), the UK government department responsible for the English education sector, has provided nearly two million electronic devices to children and young people to support their education. The research, retrieved via the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and analysed by the Parliament Street think tank, observed the number of laptops, tablets and phones purchased by the DfE over the past three years, for staff, teachers, and students during the era of remote learning over the pandemic.
Public Policies
Thailand health ministry to further downgrade COVID-19, reduce days for treatment
The Public Health Ministry of Thailand will ask the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to downgrade the status of the disease at its next meeting expected on
CDC Director Outlines Restructuring Plans
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be restructured to strengthen its response to public-health threats, the agency’s director said, acknowledging shortcomings in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that she intended to improve the agency’s communication, timeliness and accountability. The CDC has at times amended its guidance on masking, isolation and other mitigation efforts in ways that spurred confusion or lagged behind the trajectory of the pandemic. The agency has faced new criticism recently for its response to the monkeypox outbreak. “In our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Dr. Walensky said. “I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”
Regulators in Britain approve new COVID-19 vaccine booster
Regulators in Britain are the first in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine booster that targets two coronavirus variants. Tina Kraus reports for CBS2.
The Morrison government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout missed key targets, major review finds
An auditor-general's report has criticised the previous coalition government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout for missing key targets. The report said while about 90 per cent of the eligible population were vaccinated by the end of 2021, the rollout was not implemented effectively. None of the five timeline targets set by the government were met, including the rollouts to aged care, the vulnerable and Indigenous people.
JCVI publishes advice on COVID-19 vaccines ahead of autumn booster campaign
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its advice on which COVID-19 vaccines should be used in this year’s autumn booster programme. For adults aged 18 years and above, the JCVI’s advised vaccines include Moderna’s mRNA (Spikevax) bivalent Omicron BA.1/original wild-type vaccine, as well as its mRNA (Spikevax) original wild-type vaccine. The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) original wild-type vaccine is also advised, and in exceptional circumstances, the Novavax Matrix-M adjuvanted wild-type vaccine (Nuvaxovid) when ‘no alternative clinically suitable UK-approved COVID-19 vaccine is available,’ the JCVI stated. The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) original wild-type vaccine is the only vaccine the JCVI advises for people aged 12 to 17 years, and its paediatric formulation is the only advised for those aged five to 11 years old.
No plans for UK to order more supplies of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine
There are no plans to order further supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for the UK, it has been revealed, as experts expressed hope that a new jab designed to target two variants will form the backbone of the autumn booster programme. Deemed a British success story, and estimated to have saved millions of lives worldwide, the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab played a key role early in the UK’s vaccination programme. But Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has suggested it is unlikely to be used in the future.
Novavax Nuvaxovid™ COVID-19 Vaccine Granted Expanded Provisional Approval in New Zealand as a First and Second Booster for Adults
Following the expanded provisional approval decision by Medsafe, New Zealand, people may now choose Nuvaxovid as their first and/or second COVID-19 booster dose(s) after completion of their primary series using any of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines. “We are pleased to offer another booster choice and the only protein-based COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 18 and older in New Zealand,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer, Novavax. “As New Zealand endures winter months where thousands of COVID-19 infections are being recorded each day, we believe our vaccine is a strong option, particularly given its broad immune responses to a wide range of circulating variants.”
Novavax asks FDA for emergency authorization of its COVID-19 booster
Novavax has submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster in adults that can be used on top of its primary vaccine series or to mix and match with a different primary series, the company announced. "It's important for people to have a choice as they evaluate how to stay protected against COVID-19, and boosters are an invaluable tool to build upon immunity obtained from previous vaccinations," Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax, said in a statement on Monday. "Based on the data presented to the FDA's VRBPAC and the CDC ACIP, we believe our vaccine offers a broad, long-lasting immune response against a range of variants," Erck said.
New York City Department of Education relaxes COVID-19 rules for public schools
The New York City Department of Education will no longer randomly test students for COVID-19 when the new school year begins Sept. 8, the department said Tuesday. Instead, test kits will be sent home for students, parents and teachers to use if they are exposed to the virus. As part of the department's new COVID-19 protocols, students will no longer be required to submit a daily health screening form.
Maintaining Services
Covid vaccine volunteer army set for autumn rollout return as thousands of extra helpers sought
Thousands of extra volunteer vaccination staff will be recruited across the country to assist with the autumn booster rollout. St John Ambulance said it was looking for around 5,000 volunteers to help meet demand and is already training hundreds of people ahead of the booster campaign starting next month. It played a leading role in the delivery of the initial Covid vaccination campaign and is now stepping up its resources as it anticipates a surge in demand over autumn and winter.
Quebec will offer 5th dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults as of Aug. 29
With the upcoming school year and the return to work looming for many Quebecers, the province is launching a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign. In his first appearance at a COVID-19 news conference in six months, Premier François Legault said life is almost back to normal thanks to the vaccine. He's urging people who have not had a dose in the past five months or more to get another shot. "More people will be inside, there will be more contagion," Legault said. "So it's a really good time to be launching a massive vaccination campaign."
BMA raises 'serious concerns' about GP workload and funding for autumn COVID boosters
The BMA has raised 'serious concerns' about the workload implications of this autumn's COVID-19 booster programme and argued that practices will be underpaid for the work they are doing.
Healthcare Innovations
BCG vaccine can protect against Covid, new report finds
The world may have another tool with which to fight the effects of the Covid-19 virus. A new study published in Cell Medicine Reports has found that the Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, developed to help fight tuberculosis in the early 1900s, may offer a measure of protection against Covid and a range of other infectious diseases and bacteria by strengthening the immune system. The study in question began before the first Covid outbreak in the United States, back in January 2020. It was designed to see whether BCG vaccinations could help people with Type 1 diabetes resist infections – including, ultimately, Covid.
Hypertension remains a significant risk factor for severe COVID-19 in fully vaccinated
The presence of hypertension still poses a significant risk factor for more severe disease in COVID-19, even among those fully vaccinated. Patients with hypertension even after receipt of three COVID-19 vaccination doses, remain at an elevated risk of severe breakthrough infections with the Omicron variant according to researchers from the Department of Cardiology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, US. Although full vaccination against COVID-19 initially required individuals to have two doses, the fact that immunity appears to wane over time has led to a recommendation for a third dose. In fact, a third dose appears to provide greater protection with data showing how a third dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine administered a median of 10.8 months after the second dose provided 95.3% efficacy against COVID-19 compared with two doses.
Higher risk of vein blood clots in COVID vs flu patients
Hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients before and after SARS-CoV-2 vaccine availability had significantly higher odds of venous—but not arterial—thromboembolism than those hospitalized for influenza before the pandemic, finds a study published today in JAMA. A team led by University of Pennsylvania researchers retrospectively studied rates of venous thromboembolism (blood clot in a vein) and arterial thromboembolism (blood clot in an artery) in 41,443 COVID-19 patients hospitalized before the vaccine rollout (April to November 2020), 44,194 COVID-19 patients admitted after vaccines became available (December 2020 to May 2021), and 8,269 patients hospitalized with the flu from October 2018 to April 2019. Thromboembolism can cause blockage of a blood vessel and thus can be severe.