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Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults Don’t Plan on Getting COVID Boosters Soon — Poll

Reuters reported:

Around two-thirds of adults in the United States do not plan to get updated COVID-19 booster shots soon, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a health policy nonprofit organization.

Only a third of adults polled said they either already received the updated shots or plan to get the booster as soon as possible, the poll found.

The Pfizer/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc. (MRNA.O) shots, updated to target more recently circulating Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus as well as the original strain, were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last month.

Around 18% said they would wait and see whether they would get the new booster shot, while 10% said they would only get it if it was required. Around 12% of adults surveyed said they would definitely not get the shot, while 27% said they were not eligible because they were not fully vaccinated.

Pfizer CEO Pulls out of Testifying to EU Parliament COVID Panel

Politico reported:

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla has pulled out of an appointment to testify before the European Parliament’s special committee on COVID-19, at which he was expected to face tough questions on how secretive vaccine deals were struck.

The decision follows an audit report into the EU’s vaccine procurement strategy published earlier in the month that raised new questions about contact between Bourla and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that preceded a multibillion-euro vaccine contract.

The head of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant, the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, was scheduled to appear before the panel on Oct. 10. The committee is meeting with key officials involved in the EU’s vaccine procurement process to draw lessons on how to respond to future pandemics. Other pharmaceutical executives have addressed the committee, including the CEO of Moderna and senior officials from AstraZeneca and Sanofi.

Already in 2021, the New York Times reported on the seemingly-cozy relationship between Bourla and von der Leyen, with the two exchanging text messages in the run-up to the deal.

Contacted by POLITICO, a spokesperson for Pfizer said the company’s president of international development markets, Janine Small, would attend the committee hearing.

University of Washington Vaccinates Humans Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

The Daily Wire reported:

Two hundred genetically modified mosquitoes with an experimental malaria vaccine packed inside a Chinese food takeout-style box inoculated 26 participants in a University of Washington study last month.

As reported by The Counter Signal, each participant placed their arms in the box to receive three to five jabs over 30-day intervals during the clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes,” Dr. Sean Murphy, physician and scientist at the university, told NPR. Murphy, who also serves as the lead author on a Science Translational Medicine paper that details the vaccine trials, said the study would not be used to vaccinate millions of people. Instead, the team crafted the bloodsuckers because formulating a parasite delivered with a needle takes up too much time and money.

Carolina Reid, a volunteer, was one of the participants who came down with malaria. “My whole forearm swelled and blistered,” Carolina Reid, volunteer, told NPR. “My family was laughing, asking like, ‘why are you subjecting yourself to this?’” Reid, who joined the trial in 2018, pocketed a $4,100 payment for participating in the study.

New Nasal Spray Vaccines Might Reduce COVID Infections, but the Money Is Still Missing

The Boston Globe reported:

Even as Americans roll up their sleeves for updated fall boosters, new variants with the potential to evade immunity are spreading in parts of Europe and Asia, renewing calls among some experts for next-generation vaccines that can truly conquer the virus.

Dozens of academic labs and biotech firms, including Moderna, are working on nasal vaccines. A few countries, including India, recently approved them. Prominent researchers are calling for a coordinated effort to accelerate their development in the United States. And the White House is asking Congress for $8 billion to develop intranasal vaccines and other COVID shots that could protect us from future variants of the coronavirus.

Yet despite the bullish excitement for the needleless approach, the future of the vaccines is clouded by a flurry of questions; most crucially, how safe and effective they are in humans.

“None of these vaccines have been tested to prove that they can prevent transmission or infection,” said Karin Bok, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s not clear how we’re going to get that done, and at the very least, it is going to take a couple of years to get there.”

Pharma-Funded FDA Gets Drugs out Faster, but Some Work Only ‘Marginally’ and Most Are Pricey

Kaiser Health News reported:

Dr. Steven-Huy Han, a UCLA liver specialist, has prescribed Ocaliva to a handful of patients, although he’s not sure it helps. “I have no idea if the drug will make them better,” he said. “It could take 10, 20 or 30 years to know.”

Ocaliva came to market through an FDA review process created 30 years ago called accelerated approval, which allows pharmaceutical companies to license promising treatments without proving they are effective. It has become a common path to market — accounting for 14 of the 50 approvals of novel drugs in 2021 compared with four among 59 in 2018, for example.

The FDA’s accelerated approval is usually based on a “surrogate marker” of effectiveness — evidence of lower viral loads for HIV, for example, or shrinking tumors for cancer. Debate rages over the validity of some of these stand-ins, and some of the drugs.

Impatience — among drug companies, investors, patients and politicians — created the user fee agreements and accelerated-approval pathway, and that impatience, for profits and cures, fuels both programs.

Around 3.2 Million Americans Received Updated COVID Boosters Last Week — CDC

Reuters reported:

Around 3.2 million people in the United States received updated COVID-19 booster shots over the past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

The CDC said a total of 7.6 million Americans had received the shot as of Sept. 28, the first four weeks the booster has been available. This is up from 4.4. million people who received the shot as of Sept. 21.

The 7.6 million figure represents only 3.5% of the 215.5 million people in the United States aged 12 or older who are eligible to receive the shots because they have completed their primary vaccination series.

Unlike Flu, COVID Attacks DNA in the Heart: New Research

Brisbane Times reported:

Direct research on the hearts of COVID-19 patients who have died from the disease has revealed they sustained DNA damage in a way completely unlike how influenza affects the body.

The finding gives researchers clues about exactly how severe COVID-19 is affecting the body, and also a potential way to detect who will be seriously affected by the disease in the future.

The work was an international collaboration led by researchers from Australia, with Dr. Arutha Kulasinghe from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute and Ning Liu from Victoria’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research co-lead authors.

Kulasinghe said the research is only a preliminary step because the sample size was so small — the hearts of just seven COVID-19 patients from Brazil were studied for the paper, along with hearts from people who had died from influenza and a control group.

House Passes Bill Addressing Mental Health Concerns Among Students, Families, Educators

The Hill reported:

The House passed a bill on Thursday that seeks to address mental health concerns among students, families and educators aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers say had a “severe impact” on those three groups.

The bill titled the Mental Health Matters Act passed in a largely party-line 220-205 vote. One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), joined all Democrats present in supporting it.

The legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would provide grants to establish a pipeline for school-based mental health service professionals. Additionally, it would grow the number of mental health experts at elementary and secondary schools that are based in high-need locations.

England Sees Surge in COVID Hospital Admissions in Latest Week

Politico reported:

Hospital admissions for patients with COVID-19 jumped 48% over the last week in England, as experts warn that the first winter wave is starting to impact the health service.

“It is clear now that we are seeing an increase which could signal the start of the anticipated winter wave of COVID-19,” said Mary Ramsay, director of public health programs at the U.K. Health Security Agency. “Cases have started to climb and hospitalizations are increasing in the oldest age groups.”

Much of the surge is driven by coronavirus acquired in the hospital, the figures show. The proportion of beds occupied for COVID, as opposed to with COVID, stands at 39% in England, a rise of 46% over the week. In some areas, more than half of people in hospital with COVID are being treated primarily for their coronavirus infection.

Germany Warns of Rise in COVID Cases Going Into Fall

Associated Press reported:

Germany’s health minister warned Friday that the country is seeing a steady rise in COVID-19 cases as it goes into the fall, and urged older people to get a second booster shot tweaked to protect against new variants.

Other European countries such as France, Denmark and the Netherlands are also recording an increase in cases, Karl Lauterbach told reporters in Berlin.

“We are clearly at the start of a winter wave,” he said. German officials recorded 96,367 new cases in the past 24 hours, about twice as many as a week ago.

A Chinese mRNA COVID Vaccine Is Approved for the First Time — in Indonesia

Reuters reported:

Indonesia said it has granted emergency use approval to an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Chinese company, becoming the first country, ahead of even China, to do so.

Indonesia’s food and drugs agency (BPOM) greenlighted the use of Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd’s (300142.SZ) mRNA vaccine, which has been in development for more than two years and targets the original strain of the coronavirus.

The approval comes as somewhat of a surprise as Walvax, which has been conducting large late-stage trials of the vaccine in several countries including Indonesia, Mexico and China, has yet to publish efficacy readings that would show how well it can reduce the risk of COVID cases and deaths.

CDC Warns of Severe Illnesses From Monkeypox as Ohio Reports Death of a Monkeypox Patient

CNN Health reported:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new warning to healthcare providers Thursday about severe illnesses in people with monkeypox.

The alert comes as Ohio reported that an individual with monkeypox has died — the third known death of a patient with monkeypox in the United States.

Ohio listed the death in an update to its online monkeypox outbreak dashboard Thursday. The Ohio Department of Health on Friday said an adult male with monkeypox had died, and the individual had “other health conditions.” The CDC told CNN it is aware of the death.

Deaths from monkeypox are extremely rare, and babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk. Among more than 67,000 cases reported globally in the current outbreak, there have been 27 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.