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FDA’s Annual COVID Booster Shot Proposal Sparks Questions, Concerns

U.S. News & World Report reported:

The Food and Drug Administration wants to shift to a simplified COVID-19 booster plan, but responses to the idea are proving that the issue is a complicated one.

In documents published this week, the FDA proposed a booster shot strategy similar to the flu vaccine schedule, with an updated shot matched to circulating strains offered annually in the fall for most Americans. Its committee of outside vaccine experts is set to discuss the topic during a meeting on Thursday.

But some experts are asking whether available data support such a plan.“The big question is: How often do we need repeat vaccination? And I don’t think we have a definitive answer,” Joachim Hombach of the World Health Organization said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Carlos del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine said he understands the desire to have a policy in place but added that the virus continues to throw curveballs and complicate plans. “My plea is that we continue doing research, we follow the science and we make decisions based on science and not what is most convenient to most,” del Rio said.

These Republicans Will Serve on Panels to Probe COVID, ‘Weaponization’ of Government

The Hill reported:

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has released the names of the Republicans who will serve on a pair of subcommittees as part of the GOP’s promise to launch investigations into the Biden administration.

McCarthy in a tweet Tuesday announced the GOP membership of two select subcommittees on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McCarthy said in a letter to his Republican colleagues that the subcommittee will expose the “weaponization of government against our citizenry, writ large.”

The subcommittee will be led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was a close supporter of McCarthy during his Speaker bid and who serves as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. McCarthy said earlier this month that Jordan would chair the subcommittee. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) will serve as the chairman of the COVID-19 committee.

Elevated Rate of Facial Paralysis Identified After Pfizer COVID Booster in Elderly: FDA

The Epoch Times reported:

An elevated rate of Bell’s palsy was identified among elderly people after vaccination with a Pfizer booster shot, U.S. regulators said in a new study.

The “small but statistically significant elevation” in Bell’s palsy was detected after vaccination with Pfizer’s old booster, which is no longer available in the United States, researchers with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a preprint study.

The elevated rate resulted in an adjusted incidence rate ratio of 1.13 and remained consistent when researchers adjusted for different factors, such as prior COVID-19 infection.

Bill Gates Says No Country ‘Gets an A’ for Its COVID Pandemic Response — Including the U.S.

CNBC reported:

Bill Gates says some of the world’s governments have handled the spread of COVID-19 better than others, but the billionaire won’t give any country a perfect mark. “I wouldn’t say any country got it totally right,” Gates said in a recent interview at the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Sydney, Australia, adding: “Nobody … gets an ‘A’ on this one.”

The Microsoft co-founder and healthcare philanthropist has both praised and criticized multiple world governments’ responses to the pandemic since the coronavirus’s initial spread in late 2019.

As early as March 2020, Gates argued that the U.S. “did not act fast enough” to take extreme quarantining measures, like shutting down businesses and issuing stay-at-home orders. He also said the country’s rollout of effective and accessible COVID tests was too slow.

Gates, who published a book last year called “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” said he expects federal governments across the world to make those responses much easier before the next global viral outbreak. Poor COVID responses inspired government spending on future pandemic preparedness in multiple countries, he observed.

Latino Teens Are Deputized as Health Educators to Sway the Unvaccinated

Kaiser Health News reported:

Community health groups in California and across the country are training teens, many of them Hispanic or Latino, and deputizing them to serve as health educators at school, on social media, and in communities where COVID vaccine fears persist.

According to a 2021 survey commissioned by Voto Latino and conducted by Change Research, 51% of unvaccinated Latinos said they didn’t trust the safety of the vaccines. The number jumped to 67% for those whose primary language at home is Spanish. The most common reasons for declining the shot included not trusting that the vaccine will be effective and not trusting the vaccine manufacturers.

And vaccine hesitancy is not prevalent only among the unvaccinated. Although nearly 88% of Hispanics and Latinos have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, few report staying up to date on their shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimated fewer than 13% of Hispanics and Latinos have received a bivalent booster, an updated shot that public health officials recommend to protect against newer variants of the virus.

J&J Expects Inflation, China COVID Hit to Carry Into 2023

Reuters reported:

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) on Tuesday said it sees the impact of high inflation carrying into 2023 and expects China’s major COVID-19 outbreak to dent sales at its medical devices unit in the first half of the year.

Inflation has hurt demand for consumer health products and driven up costs for the healthcare conglomerate.

J&J forecast 2023 sales of $96.9 billion to $97.9 billion, putting the midpoint of the range below Wall Street estimates, while fourth-quarter profit came in ahead of expectations due to cost management and strong demand for some prescription medicines despite lower-than-expected medical device sales.

CDC Informs Staff of Reorganization After Pandemic Criticisms

The Hill reported:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed its staff on Tuesday of several changes the agency will be making to its internal structure, with some offices merging their responsibilities and new offices being created.

This agency reorganization comes months after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said her agency “did not reliably meet expectations” during the COVID-19 pandemic and would be undergoing an overhaul as a result.

Throughout the pandemic, the CDC was criticized for issuing guidance that was confusing at times as well as for being too slow to share scientific data. These criticisms were later bolstered by a review conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Several new offices will also be created, including the Office of Health Equity and the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance and Technology. Regarding the latter, the CDC staffer said it was part of the agency’s aim to “build the data infrastructure necessary to connect all levels of public health with the critical data needed for action.”

CDC Figuring Out ‘Logistical and Legal’ Aspects of Testing Airplane Wastewater for Coronavirus Variants, Source Says

CNN Health reported:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ironing out the “logistical and legal” aspects of testing wastewater from airplanes for coronavirus variants as it continues to explore such an infectious disease monitoring program.

The agency is still “figuring out how to operationalize this program,” a person close to CDC discussions said, adding that there are “logistical and legal” hurdles that need to be sorted out before the program “would be operational.”

Monitoring sewage for traces of coronavirus variants is a “validated” scientific process — no longer in its pilot phase — and airplanes are a logical next step, said Matt McKnight, general manager at Boston-based synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks. Its Concentric by Ginkgo biosecurity and public health unit has been chosen to partner in the CDC’s traveler-based genomic surveillance program to detect COVID-19 and flu variants among international travelers.

Long COVID Is Keeping People Out of Work for Months, Study Finds

CBC News reported:

Although COVID-19 infections have declined from a year ago, the elusive condition known as long COVID is having a pronounced effect on U.S. workers. New research shows that many employees report being too sick to return to work or require ongoing medical treatment.

Nearly a third of workers’ compensation claimants in the state have long COVID, with more men than women suffering from the condition, according to a report from the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF), the largest workers’ compensation insurer in New York State.

Of New York residents who have filed for workers’ comp because of long COVID, roughly 70% said they experienced symptoms that kept them out of work for at least six months or needed continued medical care.

People with long COVID often suffer a range of physical and neurological symptoms, including muscle pain and difficulty concentrating, that can persist for months and even years after the start of a COVID-19 infection. The symptoms may vary in severity and are in some cases physically and mentally debilitating.