Health News Roundup: WHO urges countries to donate COVID-19 vaccines; Philippines to reimpose stricter COVID-19 curbs in capital and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

AstraZeneca vaccine safe to use while potential rare effects probed: WHO

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is still recommended for use while studies continue to examine any potential link to “very rare” side effects including blood clots, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday. “The position stands that the benefits outweigh the risks,” Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general, told a news conference. “It’s being investigated, a potential link to a very rare side-event…which would happen (to) one in a million, is still being investigated by WHO and also by the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory agencies.”

U.S. FDA approves Bristol-Myers Squibb’s multiple myeloma therapy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and bluebird bio Inc’s multiple myeloma therapy, ide-cel, acquired as part of its $74 billion buyouts of Celgene, the drugmakers said in a joint statement late on Friday. Ide-cel is a CAR-T therapy that involves taking immune cells from a patient, engineering them to attack tumor cells, and infusing them back into the patient.

Philippines to reimpose stricter COVID-19 curbs in capital

Manila and nearby provinces will return to stricter quarantine measures from Monday, a senior official said on Saturday, as the Philippines battles to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that has strained hospitals. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the measures, which will be in place until April 4, will ban non-essential movement, mass gatherings, dining in restaurants. They represent a further tightening of curbs imposed on March 22.

WHO urges countries to donate COVID-19 vaccines as supplies tighten

The World Health Organization urged countries on Friday to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate the most vulnerable in 20 poorer nations after India, a key supplier to the agency’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program, said it was prioritizing local needs. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the COVAX program, run with the GAVI vaccine alliance, needed 10 million doses immediately to inoculate healthcare workers and older people as a stop-gap measure.

Hong Kong expects findings of inquiry into BioNTech vaccine packaging defects next week: SCMP

Hong Kong expects the preliminary findings of an investigation into packaging defects of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Germany’s BioNTech SE as soon as next week, the South China Morning Post reported on Saturday, citing Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip (https://bit.ly/3w3c1ZN). Nip said he had personally requested senior management of China’s Fosun Pharma to ship a new batch of the vaccines to Hong Kong if there were safety concerns with the existing ones, the SCMP reported.

Novartis closes U.S. gene therapy site as Zolgensma sales fell from Q3 to Q4

Novartis is laying off 400 people and closing a U.S. gene therapy location that it bought only two years ago to make its $2.1 million per patient treatment Zolgensma as sales momentum for the most expensive one-time treatment stalled last year. Novartis is closing the Longmont, Colo., plant after buying it from AstraZeneca in 2019, U.S. media including the Denver Business Journal reported. Sales of Zolgensma, a one-time treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, were $254 million in the fourth quarter from about $291 million in the third quarter, company data show.

Special Report: How a coronavirus variant tore through an English island and onto the world stage

Warm weather brings tourists to the Isle of Sheppey, a flat, marshy island near the mouth of the River Thames. Each summer, they fill Sheppey’s many caravan parks or flock to villages with seaside attractions geared toward old-school British tourists: pubs and penny arcades, mini-golf, and fish and chips. Another kind of visitor stays all year round. Clustered in fields and marshes in eastern Sheppey are three prisons holding about 2,500 men. Giant wind turbines stand like sentries outside the lichen-clad walls of HMP Elmley, the largest of the three, where a 52-year-old prison officer named Paul Tottman worked.

Bhutan begins biggest vaccination drive against COVID-19

Thousands of Bhutanese traveled to schools and public buildings for vaccination on Saturday as the Himalayan kingdom launched its biggest inoculation drive against COVID-19 with the AstraZeneca shots provided by neighboring India. Ninda Dema, a 30-year-old woman born in the year of the Monkey as per the Buddhist astrology, became the country’s first to receive the shot at a school-turned vaccination center in the capital Thimphu, an event that was televised live.

Serum Institute delays expected launch of Novavax vaccine in India

The launch in India of a new COVID-19 vaccine developed jointly by the Serum Institute of India and U.S.-based biotech firm Novavax is likely to be delayed to September, the Indian company’s boss said on Saturday. Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of Serum, said in January that the vaccine, named Corovax, was expected to be launched by June.

More under-30 Americans report anxiety, depression during pandemic – CDC

More young adults in the United States reported feeling anxious or depressed during the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and fewer people reported getting the help they needed, according to a U.S. government study released on Friday. The percentage of adults under age 30 with recent symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder rose significantly about five months after the U.S. imposed COVID-19 related lockdowns, and reported rising deaths from the fast-spreading virus.

(With inputs from agencies.)



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