Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
Those Injured by COVID Vaccine Still Waiting for Government Compensation
Steve Wenger says he began struggling to walk in May 2021, seven days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. He eventually became paralyzed from the waist down and had to go to the hospital. His arms became so weak he couldn’t pick up a glass of water. In clinical notes, his doctor at Mayo Clinic referred to an autoimmune disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP) saying it was “triggered by COVID vaccination.”
It’s almost impossible to sue a vaccine company for a COVID vaccine injury, due to liability protections under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, or PREP Act. Congress deemed these protections necessary years ago in order to “ensure that potentially life-saving countermeasures will be efficiently developed, deployed, and administered,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
Instead of filing a lawsuit, people injured by a COVID vaccine can seek government compensation through the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, or CICP. Wenger says he filed his claim in October 2021. A year and a half later, he’s still waiting to hear back about whether he’s eligible.
Wenger isn’t alone in the waiting process. His claim is one of more than 8,000 others alleging injury or death from the COVID-19 vaccine. Zero such claims have been compensated as of March 1. Twenty-one have been determined eligible for compensation, but not paid. Three hundred have been denied as of March 29.
Report: Spring COVID Booster to Be Authorized for High-Risk People in U.S.
The U.S. government will soon authorize another round of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to certain high-risk populations, namely people 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems, according to a Washington Post report that cited anonymous officials familiar with the plan.
The spring booster plan for high-risk individuals in the U.S. would resemble booster offerings already in place in Canada and the United Kingdom, and it would put the country largely in agreement with updated recommendations released last week by the World Health Organization.
The agency’s advisory group on immunizations determined that, as of now, healthy adults and children do not need additional boosters in the near term, but certain high-risk groups should be offered boosters every six to 12 months.
‘Everyone Is Kind of Tired and Has Given Up’ on COVID. But This New Variant Is ‘One to Watch,’ the WHO Says
The World Health Organization has its eye on a new COVID variant thought to be driving a new surge of cases in India — at a time when reported cases are down in much of the rest of the world.
XBB.1.16, dubbed “Arcturus” by variant trackers, is very similar to U.S. dominant “Kraken” XBB.1.5 — the most transmissible COVID variant yet, Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead for the WHO, said earlier this week at a news conference.
But additional mutations in the virus’s spike protein, which attaches to and infects human cells, have the potential to make the variant more infectious and even cause more severe disease. For this reason, and due to rising cases in the East, XBB.1.16 is considered “one to watch,” Van Kerkhove says.
Only time will tell when it comes to what if any, differences in severity XB.1.16 will display. Mutations that seem concerning, in theory, aren’t always concerning in real life because of the highly complex nature of population immunity.
Arbutus Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Pfizer/BioNTech Over COVID Shots
Arbutus Biopharma (ABUS.O) on Tuesday sued U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech SE in a New Jersey district court, claiming their mRNA COVID-19 vaccines infringe five of Arbutus’ patents.
Arbutus, along with its licensee Genevant Sciences, is seeking damages, including reasonable royalties, over the use of lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology in Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to carry and deliver genetic material into the body.
South African Court Urged to Revoke Authorization of Pfizer’s COVID Vaccine
The High Court of South Africa should set aside the authorization because trial data did not show the vaccine was effective against severe disease or death, which have become the promoted purposes of the vaccine since it performs so poorly against infection as newer variants have emerged, the new filing says.
Six-month data from Pfizer’s trial, for instance, showed that there were 20 deaths among the vaccinated arm and just 14 among the unvaccinated, the Freedom Alliance of South Africa noted in the filing.
The group is asking for a judicial review of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s decision to authorize the vaccine as a primary series and, later, as a booster.
Pandemic Pounds Push 10,000 U.S. Army Soldiers Into Obesity
After gaining 30 pounds during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Murillo is finally getting back into fighting shape.
Murillo wasn’t the only service member dealing with extra weight. New research found that obesity in the U.S. military surged during the pandemic.
In the Army alone, nearly 10,000 active duty soldiers developed obesity between February 2019 and June 2021, pushing the rate to nearly a quarter of the troops studied. Increases were seen in the U.S. Navy and the Marines, too.
Long COVID Exercise Trials Proposed by NIH Raise Alarm
Patients and patient advocates are calling on the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to reconsider its decision to include exercise trials in its RECOVER initiative, which aims to study and find treatments for long COVID.
They argue that a large proportion of people with long COVID have reported experiencing post-exertional malaise (PEM) — a worsening of symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty regulating body temperature and cognitive dysfunction, after even light exercise — and worry that putting certain RECOVER participants through exercise trials could cause them harm. In a petition and multiple letters, the advocates request that the NIH and affiliated physicians explain their rationale for this testing and share the trial protocols.
Up to 23 million people in the United States have developed long COVID, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The condition has affected their lives and livelihood: an analysis of people with long COVID who filed workers’ compensation claims in New York State between January 1, 2020, and March 31, 2022, found that 18% of them had still not returned to work more than a year after being infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Advocates want to see the RECOVER exercise protocols because they are concerned that trial participants will not be adequately informed about the potential risks; that participants will not be properly screened for PEM; and that researchers will not sufficiently monitor people for harm in the hours after the exercise regimen or after the trial concludes.
15 Million Americans Could Lose Medicaid Coverage as Pandemic-Era Policy Ends
Some 15 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage over the next few months as pandemic-related emergency provisions come to an end — though residents in five states will feel its impact earlier than others.
During the pandemic, the yearly reapplication process for Medicaid was paused and states stopped checking if people were still eligible for its coverage. But starting April 1, people in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota could see their loss of healthcare coverage as Medicaid begins to verify eligibility and will begin to disenroll patients.
Fourteen more states will cut off coverage for people who are no longer eligible in May, and another 20 (plus the District of Columbia) will do so in June, affecting the more than 90 million Americans who are currently enrolled in Medicaid.
People With Smell Disorders May Get Relief With an Experimental Treatment
It’s called a stellate ganglion block. In the procedure, a doctor uses a temporary, local anesthetic — like what a dentist would give before filling a cavity — and injects it into a specific bundle of nerves called the stellate ganglion on both sides of a person’s neck. The nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls automatic bodily functions, such as blood pressure, digestion and heart rate.
The area is not known to have any impact on how a person perceives odors, however, leaving some experts skeptical of the approach. Other doctors say they have seen real improvements in patients who either can’t smell anything or find previously delicious food and drinks now taste repulsive.
A survey last year found that about 15% of people with COVID-related olfactory loss still had trouble smelling correctly six months later.
A New Approach to a COVID Nasal Vaccine Shows Early Promise
In experiments in hamsters, two doses of the vaccine — which is made with a live but weakened form of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — blocked the virus from copying itself in the animals’ upper airways, achieving “sterilizing immunity” and preventing illness, a long-sought goal of the pandemic.
Although this vaccine has several more hurdles to clear before it gets to a doctor’s office or drug store, other nasal vaccines are in use or are nearing the finish line in clinical trials.
China and India both rolled out vaccines given through the nasal tissues last fall, though it’s not clear how well they may be working. Studies on the effectiveness of these vaccines have yet to be published, leaving much of the world to wonder whether this approach to protection really works in people.
COVID Booster Vaccine to Be Offered to Millions in England
Care home residents will be the first to receive the spring COVID-19 booster vaccine from Monday, with millions more people invited to book an appointment from Wednesday.
About 5 million people will be eligible for a booster until the end of June, including those aged 75 and over and anyone aged five and over who is immunosuppressed. Everyone will be able to book a jab online from April 5, with the first appointments available from April 17.