Today’s TIP News in Review: At-home COVID tests are in the mail; rapid tests for kids are highly accurate; and the human papillomavirus vaccine may reduce the risk of several cancers besides cervical.
Hello, and welcome to TIP News in Review for the week of Jan. 17, 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: At-home COVID tests are in the mail; rapid tests for kids are highly accurate; and the human papillomavirus vaccine may reduce the risk of several cancers besides cervical.
Well, let’s start with news from the first day of the work week, and that would be . . .
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests vaccination offers long-lasting protection from the worst outcomes of COVID. However, while declining immunity might be responsible for breakthrough infections, vaccines maintain protection from hospitalization and severe disease nine months after the first jab. The researchers said the primary take away is this: unvaccinated people should get vaccinated right away, and vaccinated folks should get their boosters. That study was a collaboration between the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
And that brings us to . . .
The flu may have flown away during the first year of the COVID pandemic, but it flew back, big time, this year. This as COVID continues to be the main strain for many US hospitals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the death of three children from flu this season. The first two in December were the first pediatric deaths in more than a year. Flu hospitalizations also rising. Up to 33,000 from Oct. 1 to Jan. 8. The CDC also estimates up to 2,900 flu-related deaths in the US since Oct. 1.
At least 20 percent of Americans have been infected with COVID-19. That’s from Johns Hopkins University. Data also show the total number of us who had COVID could be much higher because they don’t show symptoms.
Well, there’s a test for that. While PCR tests are the "gold standard" in detecting the virus, a new study says rapid tests are highly accurate when it comes to children and teens. That study by researchers from several universities, published in MedRxiv (med-archive), shows rapid tests given to adolescents at school or at home have a similar accuracy to PCR tests. The researchers found the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test made by Abbot Labs had a test sensitivity rate of 92.7 percent. What does that mean? We’re glad you asked. It means it identified the same cases the PCR test identified. The study has not been peer-reviewed, but it suggests that you can use those rapid tests and be pretty confident about the results.
So, you say you got jabbed, then felt bad? Well, Bunkie, that may be the result of the “nocebo” effect. Yep, there apparently is such a thing. A study in the journal JAMA Network Open foundmore than two-thirds of the common side-effects experienced after a jab come from a negative version of the placebo effect, not the vaccine.
Now we’re hearing out of South Africa that Pfizer boosters don’t block Omicron. That finding published in the Lancet. Good news to this is that all the cases studied were mild or moderate, providing support for the booster’s ability to fend off some of the ill effects.
Next up . . .
Wednesday was the official launch of the White House rollout of free COVID tests. Get something to write with because here’s what you can do to get yours. You can go to covidtests.gov, that]s covidtests, plural, dot gov.
Researchers at Britain’s Oxford University found that those folks with mild COVID who do not suffer any other traditional "long COVID" symptoms, can still have deteriorated attention and memory six to nine months after infection. For those keeping track of these things at home, long COVID, or post-COVID, is a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems more than four weeks after getting COVID. The CDC says even if you don’t have symptoms, you can experience the effects of long COVID. And what are those? Well, cognitive issues affecting concentration, forgetfulness, and fatigue. The upside to this is that the researchers found that demonstrated episodic memory largely returned to normal after six months, and attention span in nine months.
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OK. Let’s walk over to the old teletype and see this week’s TIP Tip.
It says here that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. We’re pretty sure just about every woman by now knows the importance of regular exams to look for the signs of cervical cancer. Please share this advice to anyone who may not know. Also here is some other advice to share, and that is to take advantage of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine. And why is this important to share this month? Well, that’s because the vaccine dramatically reduces incidents of cervical cancer among young women. But, that’s not all. We can link HPV to other cancers, such as anal, penile, vaginal, vulval, and oropharyngeal. The HPV vaccine in girls has a profound impact on cervical cancer rates, and researchers and health professionals expect the HPV vaccine for girls and boys will also cause a shift in the relative rates of those other cancers. So, all you parents or caregivers of teen girls, and boys, please visit with your healthcare provider and ask all the questions you want so that you will be comfortable with your decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.
And that brings us to
Two new studies show how COVID threatens the health of pregnant women and their newborns. Researchers with the University of Edinburgh and Public Health Scotland looked at national data for Scotland in 88,000 pregnancies between December 2020 and October 2021. In their study published in Nature Medicine, they found that unvaccinated expectant moms who got COVID were much more likely to have a stillborn infant or one that dies in the first 28 days. The study also found that pregnant women infected with COVID died and needed hospitalization at a much higher rate than vaccinated women who got pregnant.
In the US, researchers at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle found women who got COVID during pregnancy in five Western states were more likely to have premature births, low birth weights, and stillbirths, even with mild COVID cases. None of the women were vaccinated when infected. The study also pointed out continuing inequities in healthcare. Most of the positive cases were among young, non-white women on Medicaid and with high body mass index.
And that brings us to . . .
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No mistaking that voice, which now is silent. TMZ reports today that the singer known as Meat Loaf died Thursday after becoming seriously ill with COVID. He was 74. TMZ says its sources say Meat Loaf recently railed at folks in Australia about vaccine mandates. No word if he was vaccinated.
Last week we told you that researchers found two cannabinoid acids in hemp varietals of cannabis can bind with the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to prevent the virus from entering cells and causing COVID. CBGA and CBDA have them. Another study with human patients taking prescribed CBD found what researchers call a significant negative relationship between taking CBD and catching COVID. That peer-reviewed study published in the journal Science Advances. The researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Louisville surveyed 1,212 US patients and found that those taking oral doses of 100 milligrams per milliliter returned positive COVID tests at much lower rates than control groups with similar medical backgrounds who did not take CBD. The researchers caution that, one, it’s not the same as going out and smoking pot and, two, CBD is not a replacement for jabs and masks.
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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.
That’s our TIP News in Review for today, Jan. 21, 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.