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Routine childhood vaccinations plummeted during the early days of pandemic, CDC report finds

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Childhood vaccinations were a casualty of the spring 2020 lockdowns, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds.

Vaccination rates for children under two years old fell by about 20 percent while rates for older children fell by over 60 percent between March and May 2020 

The rate for DtaP shots – including diphtheria and tetanus – fell by 38 percent overall compared to 2018-2019, while the rate for MMR shots – measles, mumps, and rubella – fell by 43 percent.

Though immunization rates rose in the summer of 2020 after lockdown orders lifted, the increase wasn’t enough to catch up the kids who missed their shot earlier in the year.

This lack of catch-up vaccinations ‘might pose a serious public health threat’ because disease outbreaks could threaten school reopenings and other post-COVID recovery efforts, the CDC researchers say.

Childhood vaccinations fell during the spring 2020 stay-at-home orders, the CDC found

MMR vaccination rates – including measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines – dropped during spring 2020 and did not rise enough to make up for the difference in the summer

The U.D. has made great strides towards reducing infectious disease outbreaks in recent decades thanks to childhood vaccinations.

‘Before the measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, the virus infected at least two million Americans a year,’ Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease exprt, wrote in 2019. 

This virus caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations each year.

The COVID pandemic threatened progress against measles and other diseases the new report confirms.

While the spring 2020 lockdowns did reduce COVID cases and prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, they had consequences for other aspects of U.S. public health.

People suffered from mental health issues, opioid overdoses increased, and birth rates dropped – among other negative impacts.

Human papillomavirus (or HPV) vaccinations fell by over 80 percent in some states

Childhood vaccinations were another casualty of the lockdowns.

The CDC analyzed vaccine administration data from ten U.S. jurisdictions with detailed reports available from March to September 2020.

These jurisdictions included Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York City, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

All ten jurisdictions had significantly lower vaccination rates from March to May 2020 – when most states had stay-at-home orders in place. 

Out of the nine states included in the study, only Iowa and North Dakota didn’t issue stay-at-home orders.

The CDC looked at four categories of childhood vaccinations.

For DTaP vaccines – which include diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis – the vaccination rate fell by 16 percent for children under two years old and by 60 percent for children from two to six years old.

That’s an average drop of 38 percent  compared to the same months in 2018 and 2019.

For MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines, the vaccination rate fell by 22 percent for children 12 to 23 months old and by 63 percent for children two to eight years old, with an average drop of 43 percent overall.

Vaccination rates dropped more for those vaccines administered to older children, like HPV

Vaccination rates dropped even further for those childhood vaccines administered to older children.

The administration rate for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine dropped by 67 percent for children ages nine to 17. 

And the rate for the TdaP vaccines – tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis – fell by 64 percent for children in that same age group.

After stay-at-home orders were lifted in the summer, childhood vaccination rates rose. 

Rates for most vaccines approached – or even surpassed – pre-pandemic numbers between June and September 2020.

But the increases weren’t high or sustained enough to catch up those children who missed their vaccinations in the spring. 

Many states saw further COVID outbreaks over the summer, and many parents still feared that they would become infected in a doctor’s office or while traveling to an appointment.

Plus, thousands of school districts remained in remote or hybrid learning through the 2020-2021 school year – meaning they may not have enforced immunization requirements.

 

Still, the continued childhood vaccination lag worries public health experts. 

The CDC researchers describe these vaccinations as a ‘critical frontline tool’ against infectious disease outbreaks and that even a temporary decline can compromise herd immunity.

They reference an infamous measles outbreak that hit Rockland County, New York in 2018 and 2019.

 Vaccination coverage for the impacted schools was 77 percent – a high number compared to COVID vaccination rates, but far below the 93 percent required for herd immunity against measles.

If children don’t get their vaccinations done soon, schools may face similar outbreaks in the coming school year – the researchers call this a ‘serious public health threat.’

Outbreaks of measles and other diseases could derail reopening efforts, causing further school closures for kids whose communities finally recovered from COVID. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Combination of two oral drugs boosted survival rates for leukemia patients from 83% to 96%

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A novel combination of two oral drugs can help leukemia patients survive and recover from their disease, a new study shows.

Researchers looked at three years of data of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and found patients had a 96 percent survival rate and a 75 percent rate of seeing their cancer disappear after taking the ‘cocktail.’

All patients involved with the trial were older or had genetic indicators marking them as high-risk for leukemia.

The team, from the team from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, says further research into drugs like the combination tested in this trial will make it easier for leukemia patients to beat their disease and live healthy lives.

A combination of two already-approved leukemia drugs dramatically increases patients’ chances of survival and remission, a new study shows

Patients in the study had a 96 percent survival rate and a 93 percent rate of surviving without cancer progression

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, lymphatic system, and other parts of the body that carry blood.

Someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with an estimated 60,000 people diagnosed with leukemia in 2020.

Leukemia and other blood cancers cause about one in ten cancer deaths in the U.S., but the survival rate for this disease has greatly improved in recent decades thanks to research and new treatments.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (or CLL) is a type of this disease that’s most common in U.S. adults. 

Adults may have CLL developing in their bodies for years without knowing they have it and the survival rate is higher than other forms of leukemia, about 83 percent.

Doctors rely on certain genetic markers – abnormalities in a person’s DNA – to identify chronic leukemia patients. 

Previous cancer treatment, exposure to certain chemicals, and smoking can also increase the risk of leukemia.

There are several drugs approved for chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment, including three Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitors – which stop the blood cells involved in leukemia from multiplying out of control.

In past studies, these drugs have been administered on their own, leading to partial recovery.

But two of these drugs may work better when administered together, according to the study, which was published JAMA Oncology.

After previous research showed that the combination of ibrutinib and venetoclax (two existing leukemia drugs) worked well in a lab setting, they took this treatment to patients. 

The trial included 80 patients who hadn’t previously been treated for leukemia. Half of the patients were in a later, more critical disease stage – and the majority had genetic markers predisposing them to leukemia.

Many of the patients were older, about a third were over age 70, and the majority of patients – 94 percent – were white.

The researchers administered the leukemia drug combination for about two years. If patients still had evidence of cancer after those two years, they became eligible for a third year of treatment.

The majority of patients in the study saw lower levels of cancer in their bone marrow after taking the drug combination for two years

Results from this trial show that the two drugs tested work better together than they do individually.

Three-quarters of the patients in the study achieved cancer remission – meaning the disease had disappeared – within three years of starting treatment. 

Some patients achieved remission even more quickly with 66 percent reaching remission in two years, and 56 percent reaching it in only one year.

Almost all patients, 93 percent, survived the trial without any cancer progression and 96 percent survived overall.

None of the patients had their leukemia progress to a later, more severe stage during the trial, though a small number did suffer from other forms of cancer.

Notably, patients with different genetic makeups – including those with predisposed high risk for leukemia – responded well to the drug combination.

Leukemia patients have much better chances of survival now than they did decades ago, thanks to advances in treatment

‘These long-term results show that two years of oral targeted therapy can achieve lasting disease remission for patients with CLL,’ said Dr Nitin Jain, lead author of the study, in a statement.

‘The majority of patients achieved bone marrow MRD remission and no patients on the trial had CLL disease progression.’

The results from this study are consistent with another study that used the same drug combination. 

However, because the trial overwhelmingly looked at white leukemia patients, it may have missed side effects or complications for patients of color. 

The need for trial diversity has become an increasing focus for the medical research community in recent years.

Future studies will need to examine how well the drugs work for more diverse patient groups, as well as treatment timing. 

The two drugs studied in this trial can confer their own adverse effects if patients are using them for a long time.

‘I think this will be one of several standard of care treatments available for patients with CLL,’ Jain said.

‘There are pros and cons to each of those approaches, and physicians will have to decide which option is best for their patient.’ 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Woman says ‘severe allergic reaction’ to second dose of Oxford vaccine left her unable to talk

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A 43-year-old woman claims she was left unable to speak after receiving the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sofia Gomes, from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, thinks she had ‘a severe allergic reaction’ that prevented her from talking a few hours after getting the jab on May 19.

Doctors at King’s Lynn Hospital in Norfolk, where she went after developing the strange reaction, were ‘baffled’ after performing scans on her throat and not finding anything wrong, she said.

She stayed at the hospital for a week and was seen by several specialist who could not explain her condition, but said it may have been caused by the vaccine, according to Ms Gomes.

But a Edinburgh university professor said her loss of voice was likely a coincidence. 

The UK drug regulator the MHRA said there was ‘no evidence’ Ms Gomes losing her voice was linked to the vaccine. 

She was told her voice will return and is waiting for speech therapy through the NHS.

Common side effects from the jab include a sore arm where the vaccine was injected, headaches, muscle pain and tiredness. The jab has also been linked with low platelet levels and an extremely small risk of blood clots.

43-year-old Sofia Gomes believes she had an allergic reaction to the Oxford jab that stopped her from speaking

The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) states that anyone having difficulty with speech from around four days after AstraZeneca should seek urgent medical advice.   

On this case a spokesperson said loss of voice is not a known side effect of the Oxford jab and there is ‘no evidence to suggest such reports are linked to vaccination’.

Reports of a suspected reaction to a vaccine does not necessarily mean that it was caused by the vaccine, as underlying or previously undiagnosed illnesses could be a factor, they said. 

Known side effects of the Covid vaccines 

The most common side effects of the Covid vaccines are a sore arm from the jab, tiredness, headaches, aches, a fever and being sick.

These symptoms tend to appear one to two days after having the vaccine.

The NHS advises managing these reactions with paracetamol if needed.

Serious allergic reactions are rare and usually occur within minutes of having the jab.

The vaccines can help stop people from getting ill or dying from Covid-19, so the benefits of the jab outweigh any risks.

The MHRA and researchers are continuing to examine links between the Oxford-AstraZeneca and very rare blood clots.

Source: NHS

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Ms Gomes, an artist from Portugal, does not have any underlying health problem and wrote that she felt ‘really frustrated, upset, and frightened for the future’.

The reaction has stopped her being able to speak to her fiancé and six children, who are aged between on and 19.

‘I am trying to stay positive for my family, but I am really worried, and this has affected me a huge amount.

‘I feel bad that I can’t help my baby develop her speech, and one of my sons is autistic so it has been difficult not being able to communicate with him properly, too.

‘I miss reading stories to my children and singing to them at night, and I miss being able to speak to my family in Portugal over the phone.

‘I find it really hard to express my feelings when all I can do is just write things down in a notepad.’  

Her fiancé Victor Plowman said Ms Gomes has been frustrated and left in tears because she cannot speak.   

‘She’s been writing stuff down on a piece of paper, and sometimes she’ll point or gesture at something to indicate what she wants.

‘But it’s been really hard for her, as she can’t properly communicate with the kids.’ 

Ms Gomes reacted to her first jab on March 1, experiencing a high fever and pain in her legs. On the evening of her second jab, she did not feel well and could only whisper to her partner.

He said she ‘started clutching at her tonsils and her throat’.

‘We thought she was having an allergic reaction – so I called her an ambulance and she went up to hospital.’     

Ms Gomes said people ‘should still go ahead and have a vaccine’ but said they should be aware of possible side effects or risks beforehand.

Professor Neil Mabbott, chair of immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh, told MailOnline that, to his knowledge, ‘there are no credible reports’ of voice loss after receiving any vaccination.

There have been ‘very rare instances’ of anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction that can cause people to feel faint, have breathing difficulties and a fast heartbeat – following one of the RNA-based covid-19 vaccines, such as Pzifer/BioNTech. 

‘These typically occur within minutes to an hour following vaccination, and could be accompanied by sore throat, breathing difficulties, hoarseness and a swollen tongue,’ he said.

But, these clear quickly with treatment, he said.

‘It seems likely that the loss of voice in this instance was chance coincidence,’ he said.

Covid-19 can cause laryngitis that can cause temporary changes to your voice and this can take several weeks to resolve, Professor Mabbott noted.

Latest UK figures show that 4,330 people tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, as new infections continue to arise amid concerns about the Indian Delta varient, while 6 people died.

Over 40.5million people have now had their first dose of the vaccine, while 28.2million have had a second dose.

Over 40.5million people in the UK have receive a first dose of the vaccine, while 28.2million have had a second dose. On Wednesday, 4,330 people tested positive for the virus on, while 6 people died.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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FDA advisor resigns after agency approves new treatment for Alzheimer’s

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Two members of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee have resigned in the wake of the agency’s approval of aducanumab, the first new Alzheimer’s treatment since 2003.

Neurologists David Knopman, who works for the Mayo Clinic, and Joel Perlmutter, of Washington University St Louis, both stepped down from the board this week in protest. 

Knopman and Perlmutter largely objected to the approval of the drug citing its rocky trial results with little evidence the drug was even effective.

The drug, which will be marketed under the name Aduhelm is being sent out to patients in the next two weeks and will cost $56,000 per year of use. 

Dr David Knopman (pictured) resigned from an FDA advisory committee after the agency gave a controversial approval to aducanumab after clinical trials showed limited effectiveness of the drug

The FDA’s approval of aducanumab adds a new drug to the arsenal of fighting Alzheimer’s for the first time since 2003. Many in the Alzheimer’s community support the drugs approval

‘The whole saga of the approval of aducanumab…made a mockery of the [advisory] committee’s consultative process,’ Knopman told the committee in an email obtained by the Washington Post.

‘While I realize that the committee is advisory, the approval of aducanumab appears [to] have been foreordained.’

Meanwhile, Perlmutter told STAT News that he quit ‘due to this ruling by the FDA without further discussion with our advisory committee.’

Biogen, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that developed the drug, underwent two clinical trials in 2016. 

Both were stopped early as they showed the drug would fail to reach its goal.

They later took the results of one of the two trials, and found updated data that the drug had slowed the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s patients by up to 22 percent.

Many in the scientific community criticized Biogen’s claims, saying it was a post-hoc cherry-picking of data to force a conclusion.

Knopman authored a study last year, analyzing the results of Biogen’s second clinical trial, disagreeing with the claims that they showed the drug was effective.

‘We identified alternative accounts for the apparent drug benefits in post hoc subgroups that are unrelated to dose effects,’ he wrote.

‘Biomarker data were consistent with target engagement, but no evidence was presented to correlate biomarker changes to cognitive benefits.

‘Aducanumab’s efficacy as a treatment for the cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease cannot be proven by clinical trials with divergent outcomes.

‘Based on our review of data presented publicly in December 2019, we do not agree with Biogen’s claim for efficacy of [aducanumab].’  

Dr Knopman has been one of aducanumab, saying that Biogen’s trials of the drug do not show that the drug is effective in combatting Alzheimer’s

Knopman served as a site investigator for the drug, and had to recuse himself from the November advisory meeting. 

While the FDA is not required the follow advice from the advisory boards, since they are made up of third parties, it is rare that members of an advisory board are more conservative on a drug than the regulatory agency.

‘I recognize that the role is advisory and yet I felt that the advisory committee in this situation was not well-treated,’ Knopman told The Post.

 ‘And I think that I just don’t choose to put myself into that position in the future for the FDA.’ 

The drug’s approval was based on its ability to reduce amyloid beta, a plaque many believes contributes to the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s, in the brain. 

Dr Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the agency was aware of the controversy in approving the drug in a statement Monday.

‘We are well-aware of the attention surrounding this approval,’ she wrote.

‘We understand that Aduhelm has garnered the attention of the press, the Alzheimer’s patient community, our elected officials, and other interested stakeholders.’

‘With a treatment for a serious, life-threatening disease in the balance, it makes sense that so many people were following the outcome of this review.’

While some scientists and researchers oppose the drug, many in the Alzheimer’s community support its approval, as the first new treatment for the disease in 20 years could create a foothold for future research. 

Aduhelm will start shipping out in two weeks to over 900 infusion centers across the country that are currently equipped to implement it. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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