Close-up of COVID-19 vaccine vial and syringe held by gloved hands of healcare worker

COVID-19 Updates: ANA and Other Healthcare Organizations Call for Mandatory Vaccines, Young Children to Get Vaccinated Later Than Expected?

Close-up of COVID-19 vaccine vial and syringe held by gloved hands of healcare worker

At least 194 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, July 26, 2021, including at least 4.16 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 34.4 million positive COVID-19 cases and approximately 610,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 3.89 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 342 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

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American Nurses Association and other national healthcare organizations call for mandatory vaccines

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is among nearly 60 healthcare organizations and societies, including the American Medical Association (AMA), that are now calling for healthcare professionals to be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It is critical that all people in the healthcare workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues,” said Susan R. Bailey, MD, immediate AMA past president, in a prepared statement. “With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly four billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. Increased vaccinations among healthcare personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the healthcare workforce and those we are striving to serve.”

In a joint statement released July 26, AMA officials and others said that due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, their healthcare organizations and societies advocate that all healthcare and long-term care employers require their workers to receive a vaccine. This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all healthcare workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being, the statement reads.

Because of highly contagious variants, including the Delta variant, and significant numbers of unvaccinated people, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again rising throughout the U.S.

As a movement towards full approval of the currently available vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, all healthcare workers should get vaccinated for their own health and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities, and patients, officials say, citing that many healthcare and long-term care organizations require vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis.

The group also acknowledged that some workers cannot be vaccinated because of identified medical reasons and should be exempted from a mandate. Employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis, officials say.

Existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates have proven effective, according to the joint statement.

Young children to get vaccinated later than expected?

Federal regulators are requesting that school-aged children become more of a focus of ongoing clinical trials by vaccine companies to test coronavirus vaccines before the companies seek authorization, and therefore postpone the expected availability of shots for those ages 5-11 years old.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the request is intended to assess whether a rare inflammation of the heart muscle that has been seen in young adults shortly after vaccination is more common in younger people. The changes to ongoing pediatric trials run by Moderna, Pfizer, BioNTech could delay the availability of the vaccines to this age group beyond early fall.

A federal official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that authorization of a vaccine for children as young as 5 years old might come by late October or early November, according to the Post report. It is anticipated that more children will be easily enrolled because many parents are eager to get their children vaccinated.

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U.S. vaccine hesitancy among world’s highest

The United States is currently posting a rate of vaccine hesitancy or refusal that is the highest of any nation throughout the world, except for Russia.

According to a report by The New York Times, one in five new infections nationwide is said to be found in Florida. The Delta variant now accounts for about 83% of infections in the United States. The number of infections has increased in the U.S. to an average of 51,000 cases per day as of July 26, more than four times the rate that had been recorded in late June.

About 30% of all U.S. adults have not received a vaccine dose, and vaccine administration is down to approximately 537,000 doses per day, according to the report.

Penn State finds synthetic virus could fight COVID-19

Researchers at Penn State University have reportedly designed a proof-of-concept therapeutic that could essentially use the coronavirus against itself.

According to a university press release, a research team has designed a synthetic defective virus that is innocuous but interferes with the real virus’s growth, potentially causing the extinction of both the disease-causing virus and the synthetic virus.

“In our experiments, we show that the wild-type, or disease-causing, virus actually enables the replication and spread of our synthetic virus, thereby effectively promoting its own decline,” said Marco Archetti, associate professor of biology at Penn State. “A version of this synthetic construct could be used as a self-promoting antiviral therapy for COVID-19. Defective interfering (DI) viruses, which are common in nature, contain large deletions in their genomes that often affect their ability to replicate their genetic material and package it into virions. However, DI genomes can perform these functions if the cell they’ve infected also harbors genetic material from a wild-type virus. In this case, a DI genome can hijack a wild-type genome’s replication and packaging machinery.”

These defective genomes are like parasites of the wild-type virus, said Archetti, explaining that when a DI genome utilizes a wild-type genome’s machinery, it also can impair the wild-type genome growth.

Archetti also said that, given the shorter length of their genomes as a result of the deletions, DI genomes can replicate faster than wild-type genomes in co-infected cells and quickly outcompete the wild type.

In the new study, Archetti and his colleagues found that their synthetic DI genome can replicate three times faster than the wild-type genome, resulting in a reduction of the wild-type viral load by half in 24 hours. To conduct their study, researchers engineered short synthetic DI genomes from parts of the wild-type genome and introduced them into African green monkey cells that were already infected with the wild-type virus. They then quantified the relative amounts of the DI and wild genomes in the cells over time points, which gave an indication of the amount of interference of the DI genome with the wild-type genome.

The team found that within 24 hours of infection, the DI genome reduced the amount of virus by approximately half compared to the amount of wild-type virus in control experiments. They also found that the DI genome increases in quantity 3.3 times as fast than the wild-type virus.

Archetti also said that while the 50% reduction in virus load that was observed over 24 hours is not enough for therapeutic purposes, presumably, as the DI genomes increase in frequency in the cell, the decline in the amount of wild-type virus would lead to the demise of both the virus and the DI genome, as the DI genome cannot persist once it has driven the wild-type virus to extinction.

Further experiments are needed to verify the potential of virus DIs as an antiviral treatment.

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