Today’s TIP News in Review: The Supremes say no to Biden vaccine-or-test mandate; hemp may help stop COVID; N95 masks up to 75X more effective than others; a fourth of Texans say they have a family member or close friend who died from COVID; and TIP Scientific Advisory Council members Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi may have developed a COVID game-changing vaccine.
Hello, and welcome to TIP News in Review for the week of Jan. 10, 2022. TIP News in Review is a podcast production of The Immunization Partnership. My name is John David Powell.
In today’s TIP News in Review: The US Supreme Court said no to the Biden vaccine-or-test mandate; hemp may help stop COVID; N95 masks are up to 75 times more effective than others; a fourth of Texans say they have a family member or close friend who died from COVID; and TIP Scientific Advisory Council members Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi may have developed a COVID game-changing vaccine.
But first, we hope you'll join us for our 13th Annual Community Immunity Luncheon on
April 6, 2022. We use this special event to inform community leaders on the importance of immunization issues, to raise funds to support our programs, and to honor individuals who have advanced immunizations and increased immunization rates.
Dr. Jason V. Terk with Cook Children’s Physician Network in Keller, Texas, will receive the Ralph D. Feigin, MD Award for Excellence, and H-E-B will receive the John R. Boettiger, Jr. Award for Community Partnership. We also will honor Venus Ginés with our first Community Immunization Champion Award. She is the CEO and Founder of Dia de la Mujer Latina.
You can make your reservation and get more information at immunizeusa.org/getinvolved.
One more thing before we get started. Regular listeners to this podcast will notice that we changed TIP News from a daily news podcast to an expanded TIP News in Review to highlight the top immunization and COVID news of the week. We hope you’ll enjoy it. Send us your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Now, let’s take a look back at the immunization news of the past week.
The US Supreme Court Thursday did an Amy Winehouse on the Biden administration sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements for large private companies when it said No, No, No. But the conservative-majority court allowed a vaccine mandate to stand for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments. That mandate from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, required employees at businesses with 100 or more folks on the payroll to get vaccinated or submit a negative COVID test weekly to enter the workplace. The mandate also required unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors at work.
The court wrote in an unsigned opinion that “Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly, adding that “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”
In their dissent, liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan wrote that the majority usurped the power of Congress, the president, and OSHA without legal basis.
“In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. Adding that “As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the Court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”
Tell us what you think at email@example.com.
Meantime, three Houston hospitals joined several hospitals and health systems this week in requiring COVID boosters for their employees. Houston Methodist will require managers to get boosted by Jan. 31. All others by March 1. Texas Children's Hospital added a March 1 deadline for boosters for all employees as part of its required COVID vaccination policy. And Baylor College of Medicine set April Fool’s Day as the probable deadline for all faculty and staff to receive a booster.
Well, just when we thought the COVID pandemic could not get any weirder or stranger, we get word that scientists affiliated with Oregon State University believe weed can prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID. Well, not weed weed, but compounds in cannabis.
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The report titled “Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants” came out this week in the Journal of Natural Products. Scientists in the study are from Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center in the College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, in collaboration with scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University. They found two cannabinoid acids commonly found in hemp varietals of cannabis can bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. That’s the virus that causes COVID. By binding to the spike protein, the compounds can prevent the virus from entering cells and causing infection. This may offer new ways to prevent and treat COVID. For those who know about such things, those are cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, also known as CBDA. The researchers say they are abundant in hemp and many hemp extracts. And, they are not controlled substances like THC, the stuff that gets folks high when they smoke pot. So, no, smoking it may not provide the same protection. Besides, wearing a mask may make it hard to inhale.
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You don’t need to be the Lone Ranger to appreciate that the need to wear masks when out and about has taken on greater importance as cases of the Omicron variant surge in Texas and across the country.
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Yeah, but not just any mask provides the best protection against COVID. A study from the Max Planck Institute published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows fitted particle-filtering masks, like the N95 mask, are up to 75 times more effective at preventing the spread of COVID than plain old surgical masks. Just about any mask is better than no mask, but if you really want to protect yourself and everyone around you, get yourself an N95 mask. And wear that sucker.
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Laredo, Texas’s United Independent School District does not require masks, falling in lock-step with the state’s anti-mandater-in-chief, Gov. Greg Abbott. That risky move may have contributed mightily to around 9,000 students and 400 staff with confirmed COVID-related absences when classes resumed after the Christmas break.
As of now, the state has a whole bunch of schools closing because of the COVID waltz across Texas. A nearly 900-percent increase in COVID cases this month has forced the closure of all Northwest Independent School District campuses in Fort Worth beginning today through Tuesday, January 18. Not enough staff, thanks to COVID. Also, the district will have no remote learning because this is a full closure. The Texas Tribune reports at least 25 East Texas school districts have shut down for several days. Meantime, the Texas Education Agency says it doesn’t know how many school districts have closed, but it’s working on it.
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Harris County, Texas, County Judge Lina Hidalgo declared the Level 1: Red COVID threat level Monday. Red alert means unvaccinated residents should stay home unless going out for groceries or medicine. Vaccinated residents should wear masks indoors and wherever other humans hang out, and they should avoid close contact with folks not fully vaccinate.
The new Episcopal Health Foundation statewide survey shows about one out of four Texans say they have a family member or close friend who died from COVID-related complications. The survey also found more than half of Texans, that’s 54 percent, say they or someone they know have been seriously ill or hospitalized with COVID.
The survey also found 56 percent of parents with children between the ages of 12 to 17 support schools requiring vaccination of all eligible students and staff. And, the survey confirmed what we already know, that political beliefs drive vaccine hesitancy and refusal in Texas. Researchers found 76 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Independents were more likely to support vaccine mandates, compared to 21 percent of Republicans.
Episcopal Health Foundation conducted the survey in November 2021.
In other news, two members of TIP’s Scientific Advisory Council may have developed a COVID vaccine game-changer. Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi received approval at the end of 2021 for their vaccine, CORBEVAX.
The vaccine received emergency use authorization from regulators in India where the Indian vaccine manufacturer Biological E Ltd is making it. The company is producing 100 million doses per month and has already sold 300 million doses to the Indian government. Hotez and Bottazzi made the vaccine formula available to everyone. This means vaccine makers in Senegal, South Africa, and Latin America can produce it, and do it cheaper.
Dr. Hotez is Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. He and Dr. Bottazzi are Co-Directors of Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. She also is Associate Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor.
A heartfelt congratulations and thank you to these leaders in the fight to end the pandemic.
Dr. Suma Manjunath is a pediatrician and Managing Physician of the Travel Medicine Clinics at Kelsey Seybold Clinic in Houston, and she’s a member of The Immunization Partnership Health Equity Council for Immunizations. Several Texas papers this month carried her op-ed regarding the need for pediatricians to develop trust with their parents regarding vaccine hesitancy, not only in our communities of color, but also in all our communities. She points out that the COVID virus does not respect culture, language, politics, or religion. It is up to healthcare providers and public health workers to discover the most effective ways to remove these community hesitancies, particularly among parents concerned with the safety of their kids. She says this requires a partnership between pediatrician and parent, one that begins with open and honest discussions about concerns, anxieties, and what is in the best interest for the health and well-being of the children who rely on us to do what is right for them.
Elsewhere, women vaccinated against COVID transfer the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies to their breastfed infants. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say this may give the babies passive immunity against the coronavirus. Their study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Oxford say common vaccines could help reduce the health burden of the COVID pandemic. Their peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used decades of evidence suggesting the generalized immune-boosting properties of many vaccines can cross-protect people against multiple bugs that cause disease. The researchers used data from earlier studies on measles, influenza, tuberculosis, and other immunizations. They said their study shows the potential power of all vaccines and reinforces the need for everyone to keep their vaccination history up to date, particularly during a pandemic.
If you are a parent and you think you are a target for anti-vaxx misinformation, well, you’re not paranoid. Researchers at George Washington University found anti-vaxx misinformation campaigns do indeed target parents the most, and may prey on their fear and hesitation regarding the health of their kids. That study published in the journal, IEEE Access.
So, who are the main culprits? The researchers say anti-vaxx groups along with alternative health groups. Both groups post conspiracy theories and false information in large, mainstream parenting forums. They also spread misinformation about climate change, fluoride, and 5G.
That’s our TIP News in Review for today, Jan. 14, 2022.
TIP News in Review is a podcast production of The Immunization Partnership. We invite you to subscribe to our podcasts, Vaxx Voice, which deals with vaccines in general, and Vaxx to the Future, where we feature information specifically related to COVID-19 and its vaccines. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also find more information on our webpage, immunizeusa.org. For all of us at The Immunization Partnership, I’m John David Powell. Thanks for listening.