Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.
Pfizer Boss Refuses to Testify to EU Parliament COVID Panel — Again
Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has once again declined to testify before the European Parliament’s special COVID committee. That’s strike two. “Since the October COVID hearing, we have no further information to share with the Committee, so respectfully decline the invitation to again revisit these issues,” states the letter from Bourla dated December 2 and seen by POLITICO.
Bourla previously pulled out of an appointment to testify before the committee in October, at which he was expected to face tough questions on how secretive vaccine deals were struck. That decision followed an audit report into the EU’s vaccine procurement strategy that raised new questions about contact between the pharma CEO and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that preceded a multibillion-euro vaccine contract.
So, on October 28, the COVID committee extended a second invitation to the CEO.
“Our committee felt that during the previous hearing with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, where Pfizer was represented by Mrs. Janine Small, important questions regarding the advanced purchase agreements between the European Union and Pfizer, which fall under the responsibility of the CEO and of which only he has the authority to respond to them, remained unanswered,” COVID committee chair Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D group) said in a statement today.
But for Pfizer, it seems there’s just nothing new to say.
Pfizer Applies for FDA Authorization for Omicron-Retooled Vaccine Booster in Kids Under 5
Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) said on Monday they have submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization of their Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine booster for children aged 6 months through 4 years.
If authorized, children would receive the primary series consisting of two doses of the original Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine and one shot of the Omicron-adapted bivalent vaccine, the company said.
The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the original strain and the BA.4/BA.5 Omicron subvariants, is currently authorized as a booster dose for ages 5 years and older in the United States and the European Union (EU).
U.S. Sent Billions in COVID Aid to Hospitals That Didn’t Need It: Report
The U.S. government sent billions of dollars in COVID-19 aid to lucrative hospitals with no need for the funds, even as other hospitals failed to meet their needs.
The U.S. chose to distribute funds by using average revenue as a proxy for size and therefore need and did not rely on COVID-19 caseloads, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. As a result, many wealthy care centers received vast amounts of cash they didn’t need, while hospitals that were overrun received the same amount of cash but needed even more.
President Biden‘s Department of Homeland Security says roughly 90% of the funds were handed out under former President Donald Trump’s administration. The hospital mix-up is only one of many examples of misallocation of COVID-19 relief funds, and Biden’s administration cannot entirely escape blame.
Biden’s flagship American Rescue Plan also allocated billions in COVID-19 funds to state governments that were already rebounding with tax revenue, according to a September report. Instead of using the funds to support COVID-19 responses, the funds went toward new building projects, roads and even seawalls.
Suppressing Repurposed Drugs ‘Cost Millions of Lives’: Founder of COVID Treatment Fund
The executive director of the Vaccine Safety Research Foundation, Steve Kirsch, has been working to make early COVID drug treatments available to the public, despite being assailed by the medical establishment for speaking out about the dangers of the COVID vaccines.
During the pandemic, he founded the COVID-19 Treatment Fund to raise money to test repurposed drugs for use in treating COVID, while health agencies were dismissing their effectiveness and urging the public to get vaccinated as the only way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization.
“This has cost millions of lives,” and the problem was compounded by a hospital COVID treatment protocol “that was almost certain to kill you,” Kirsch said during a recent interview on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program. He said the COVID protocols hospitals have followed, although sanctioned by the federal health agencies, added to the death toll.
At the start of the pandemic, Kirsch donated a million dollars and raised five million to fund clinical trials and recruited a 14-person scientific advisory board all to test repurposed drugs for COVID treatment. “What we discovered was that many of these drugs were remarkably effective,” said Kirsch. One of the repurposed drugs, fluvoxamine, was successful in treating COVID and featured on 60 Minutes, but was not mentioned that it was highly effective in treating COVID.
Demand for Hospital-Grade Cribs on the Rise as Viral Illnesses Continue to Surge
As a trio of respiratory viruses spreads across the country and pediatric hospitalizations remain high, some hospitals are running into a new problem: a shortage of medical-grade cribs.
Pediatric hospital beds have been more full than usual for months. Last month, children’s health leaders called for a formal emergency declaration from the U.S. government to support hospitals and communities amid an “alarming surge of pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, along with the continuing children’s mental health emergency.”
Michigan’s largest health system, Corewell Health, ordered more than 50 additional cribs “to accommodate the surge in pediatric upper respiratory infections,” Tim Essenmacher of Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital and Corewell Health East’s Melanie Fisher told CNN in an email.
‘COVID-somnia’ May Be Easing as Americans Report Better Sleep
Finally, more than two years into the pandemic, Americans are sleeping better.
A new survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) found that 31% of people have had insomnia since the pandemic began. That was much lower — a 25% decrease — compared to the 2021 survey that found 56% of people were experiencing pandemic-linked insomnia.
Among those surveyed who were still having sleep disturbances, 61% were having trouble falling asleep. About 47% were experiencing worse quality sleep, 39% were sleeping less and 33% were having more disturbing dreams.
Omicron Strain Likely Developed in West Africa, Study Shows
Omicron, the current dominant coronavirus strain, likely originated in West Africa even though it was first identified in the south of the continent, according to a study led by South Africa’s Stellenbosch University and Charite -Universitatsmedizin Berlin.
The study, based on 13,097 samples of COVID-19 infections from 22 African countries, showed that the Omicron BA.1 lineage first emerged in the west of the continent where little testing and even less gene sequencing takes place. BA.1 was the first Omicron strain. It has since further mutated.
Immune System T-Cells Can Still Fight COVID Variants, But for How Long?
While people’s immune system T-cells can still target the spike proteins of the COVID coronavirus, their power to do so is waning over time, researchers report.
As the virus continues to mutate, T-cell recognition of newer variants may be lost, the researchers cautioned. That could lead to decreasing overall protection by the immune system.
Despite the fact that T-cells were still able to recognize parts of the spike protein, called epitopes, including those in the Omicron variant, recognition was worse in seven of 10 epitopes that were mutated in different variants, the study found. As part of the study, researchers tested CD4+ T-cells collected early in the pandemic from healthcare workers who were infected with COVID-19.
The findings were published Dec. 1 in Nature Immunology. The study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the research partner of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
Domestically Developed Nasal Spray COVID Vaccine Granted Emergency Use Authorization in Chinese Mainland
VectorFlu ONE, a nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine, has been granted emergency use authorization in the Chinese mainland, its developer announced on Monday. Analysis of interim primary data from its Phase III clinical trial showed that the vaccine provided good protection against Omicron variant strains BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5.
The vaccine has been co-developed by Hong Kong University, Xiamen University and Wantai Biopharmaceutical Company.
On Monday, Wantai announced that China’s National Medical Products Administration agreed to its emergency use in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Vaccine Administration Law.
A statement from the University of Hong Kong said that Wantai plans to produce 200 million doses of the nasal spray vaccine in the next six months.