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1st Blood Test to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Hits Market & 2 Vaccines Expected Before Christmas

This week in Clipboard Health’s Nursing News round-up … 

First Blood Test for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease Hits Markets

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A new blood test that can help to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease has hit the market. The test is meant for patients 60 years old and older who are having beginning signs of dementia and are already being tested to determine whether or not they might have Alzheimer’s. 

The test is not on sale to the general public and can only be ordered by a doctor, and since it’s not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it’s not covered by insurance or Medicare. Eligible patients may be able to get a discount on the $1,250 price tag based on their annual income.

Moderna Files for Emergency Use Authorization from FDA for Vaccine

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Moderna announced its intent to file for emergency use authorization in the United States and European Union for its coronavirus vaccine on Monday. The final results from the vaccine’s Phase III trials showed the vaccine was 94.1% effective and worked consistently for patients, regardless of their demographic. Final results also showed the vaccine was 100% effective in preventing severe COVID-19.

Two Vaccines Expected Before Christmas in the United States

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United States Health Secretary Alex Azar estimated that Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines will be approved and begin distribution before Christmas. The Food and Drug Administration committee that grants approval will meet on Dec. 10 to debate approval based on Pfizer’s results with Moderna’s approval meeting following a week later.

Once a vaccine is approved, it will begin shipping within days for state governors to determine how to distribute it. Many states already have vaccine distribution plans available for the public.

The United States plans to release 6.4 million vaccine doses for initial distribution and has already briefed states and jurisdictions on how many each can expect. By the end of the year, officials hope to have distributed 40 million doses.

AstraZeneca Vaccine Trials Face Ups and Downs After Announcement

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Last week, AstraZeneca made headlines when it became the third vaccine developer to announce that early results from its trials showed its vaccine was 90% effective. Since then, scientists have raised doubts on the efficacy of the vaccine, as the small sub-group of participants that had the 90% effectiveness mistakenly received a half dose of the vaccine before getting a full dose.

However, many countries have decided to press forward with purchasing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford. AstraZeneca’s CEO said it will likely run another global trial to test the vaccine’s efficacy at the lower dosage. 

Most participants in AstraZeneca’s vaccine trials received the full dose twice. In that main group, the vaccine was 62% effective. The United States requires that a vaccine be at least 50% effective while the European Union does not have a minimum effective rate. 

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is of particular interest to many countries, as it is easier to transport and store than Pfizer’s and much cheaper than either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges over OxyContin

Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, pleaded guilty to three felony charges concerning its misconduct and key role in influencing the United States opioid crisis

In an effort to increase and maintain the number of opioid prescriptions in the country, the company defrauded United States officials and illegally paid kickbacks to doctors and organizations to incentivize them to write prescriptions for opioids.

Bird Flu Hits Multiple Countries in Asia and Europe

Multiple countries have reported outbreaks of bird flu over the past week. Japan reported that it detected bird flu in a third prefecture, which makes this the worst outbreak in the country in four years. 

Europe has also been heavily hit and has culled tens of millions of birds. France, the Netherlands, German, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden have reported bird flu cases previously. Croatia, Slovenia, and Poland have reported their own cases for the first time last week. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Israel also reported severe outbreaks.

The primary strain responsible for the outbreaks is H5N8, a strain that was responsible for major outbreaks in Europe during 2016 and 2017. The risk for bird-to-human transmission is considered low, but the European Food Safety Agency urged caution, as one particular strain also found in the current outbreaks, H5N1, can spread to humans.

COVID-19 Pandemic Negatively Impacts Malaria Initiatives

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The World Health Organization reported on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the funding and distribution of malaria treatments in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO estimates that even a minor disruption will result in tens of thousands of additional and otherwise preventable deaths. 

Scotland Becomes First Country to Supply Menstrual Products for Free

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Last week, Scotland’s parliament unanimously passed a measure to make tampons and sanitary pads for periods free for anyone who needs them. This makes Scotland the first country to make period products available for free, meaning they are now accessible and more easily available for people in poverty.

In the United States, menstrual products are not covered by food stamps, and 35 states charge a “Pink Tax” or “Tampon Tax” on these types of products.

United States Coronavirus Cases and Deaths Continue to Increase

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The United States is reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day for a current running total of 13 million people who have been infected. The current estimated death toll from COVID-19 in the country is currently sitting at 265,166 deaths with last week alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

This week, the highest-risk states in the United States are the following:

  • North Dakota with a rate of 112 cases per 100k residents
  • South Dakota with a rate of 110 cases per 100k residents
  • Minnesota with a rate of 108 cases per 100k residents
  • Wyoming with a rate of 107 cases per 100k residents
  • Nebraska with a rate of 92 cases per 100k residents.

Of the 55 United States states and territories (including Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands), 49 places are the highest risk for COVID-19 transmission. 

Medical Studies Round-Up

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Here’s a brief round-up of recent medical studies and their findings for you to stay up to date with the ever-evolving field of medical research.

  • Singapore conducts studies on the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies after a woman who had COVID-19 in March gave birth earlier this month to a baby who had antibodies for the coronavirus but didn’t have the infection.
  • A study published last week reported that people with O and Rh- blood types were at slightly lower risks for getting COVID-19. 
  • A United States study recently published results showing that as of September 2020, fewer than 10% of the population sampled had detectable COVID-19 antibodies
  • Researchers in the Netherlands prepare for a “human challenge” trial in which volunteers are intentionally infected with COVID-19 in order to test the effectiveness of vaccines. The first trials are expected to begin in January in London. 
  • An Argentina-based clinical study found that convalescent plasma had little effect on treating COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia. 
  • A study of 83,000 women found that those women with asthma who were also taking birth control pills for at least three years had fewer asthma attacks.
  • In a small-scale study, research found that approximately one-third of adult women with fractures to their ulna are victims of domestic violence, indicating ulnar fractures may be a screening method for abuse. Such fractures happen when someone puts up their arms to protect themselves from being hit. The women not suspected or confirmed to be injured from domestic violence received fractures from motor vehicle accidents or other accidents, like crashing while skiing. 

Race for the Vaccine: Coronavirus Vaccine Updates

Here are the most recent updates from the past week on COVID-19 vaccine development. 

Covid-19 vaccine status tracker stages

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American Airlines has begun trial runs of its vaccine transport flights to prepare for safely transporting the new vaccines once they are approved. United Airlines has already begun transporting Pfizer vaccines on charter flights. 

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The United Kingdom prepares to begin its vaccine distribution program in the next few days after securing several million doses from Moderna. 

Covid-19 vaccine tracker - phase 3

Russia began mass Phase III trials for its second vaccine on Monday, specifically targeting volunteers over the age of 18. 

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BioNTech and partner company Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical expects to launch a Phase II clinical trial of its vaccine in China in order to seek approval in the country. BioNTech is also partnered with Pfizer for the vaccine, which is expected to get emergency use approval in the United States by early December.