Health Highlights: Dec. 17, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled by the HealthDay staff:


Family Behind Oxycontin Don't Apologize or Admit Wrongdoing in U.S. Opioid Crisis

While expressing regrets about the United States' opioid crisis, two members of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, which makes the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, didn't apologize or admit wrongdoing when they appeared before a congressional committee on Thursday.

"I want to express my family's deep sadness about the opioid crisis," David Sackler told the U.S. House Oversight Committee, the Associated Press reported.

"I know the loss of any family member or loved one is terribly painful and nothing is more tragic than the loss of a child," Kathe Sackler told the committee. "As a mother, my heart breaks for the parents who have lost their children. I am so terribly sorry for your pain."

They appeared via video due to coronavirus restrictions, but only after they were threatened with subpoenas, the AP reported.

In contrast to the Sackler family, Purdue CEO Craig Landau said the company accepts "full responsibility."

Three weeks ago, the company pleaded guilty to three criminal charges and agreed to pay more than $8 billion in penalties and forfeitures as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the AP reported.

Under the deal, the Sackler family would have to pay $225 million, but no family member would be criminally prosecuted. However, the settlement leaves open that possibility.


Pence to Get COVID-19 Vaccine Publicly on Friday

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, will be vaccinated against COVID-19 publicly on Friday, his office said Wednesday.

Pence will be the highest profile person so far to publicly receive the vaccine. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams will also be vaccinated publicly, according to the vice president's office, CBS News reported.

President Donald Trump hasn't yet committed to getting vaccinated on television.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be vaccinated as soon as next week, members of his transition team told CBS News. And former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all said they will be vaccinated live on camera.


Alaska Healthcare Worker First in U.S. to Have Allergic Reaction to Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

An Alaska healthcare worker is the first person in the United States reported to suffer an allergic reaction to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Doctors said the worker at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau felt flushed within 10 minutes of receiving the vaccine on Tuesday, and later had symptoms such as shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate, CNN reported.

Health officials have said they anticipate some allergic reactions and are ready to treat them.

"We expected that a side effect like this could occur after reports of anaphylaxis were made in England after people there received the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine," said Alaska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, CNN reported. "All sites that are approved to provide vaccinations in Alaska must have medications on hand to deal with an allergic reaction and that was the case in Juneau."


France's President Has Coronavirus

President Emmanuel Macron of France has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday.

"This diagnosis was established after a RT-PCR test that was carried out as soon as the first symptoms appeared," according to a statement from the president's office. It didn't describe the symptoms or when they first appeared, The New York Times reported.

Macron, 42, will work in isolation for the next seven days, according to the statement. The country's prime minister, Jean Castex, will also work from isolation because of his recent proximity with Macron, officials said.

A number of other world leaders have been infected with the new coronavirus, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, The Times reported.


Twitter to Remove Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccinations

Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations will be removed from Twitter starting next week, the company said Wednesday.

That includes false claims that the virus isn't real and that immunizations are used to harm or control people, the Associated Press reported.

People who send tweets that violate the new rules will have to delete them before they can tweet again. Until the offending tweet is removed, Twitter will hide it from view.

The new policy was announced as the United States starts to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in the largest immunization program in its history.

Facebook and YouTube have also said they'll remove misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, the AP reported.

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