Health Highlights, April 16, 2021
Senators Urge Biden to Waive Rules that Restrict COVID-19 Vaccine Production
The United States should support efforts to temporarily waive intellectual property rules so that nations struggling to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19 can get more vaccines, 10 senators urged in a letter to President Joe Biden.
They wrote that the White House should "prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits" and that a waiver could open the door for generic or other manufacturers to make more vaccines, the Associated Press reported.
India and South Africa have appealed to the World Health Organization for such a waiver, which is supported by more than 100 nations.
"Simply put, we must make vaccines, testing, and treatments accessible everywhere if we are going to crush the virus anywhere," the lawmakers say in the letter, the AP reported.
Drug companies and other opponents claim such a waiver would set dangerous precedent in allowing scientists worldwide to copy American and European companies' research.
The Biden administration has said it's studying the matter and didn't respond to the AP's request for comment on the senators' letter.
Europe Surpasses 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths
The COVID-19 death toll in Europe has surpassed 1 million, and it's seeing about 1.6 million new cases each week, a top World Health Organization official said Thursday.
Dr. Hans Kluge's comments were meant to emphasize the need for Europe to maintain social distancing and speed up vaccinations as variants of the new coronavirus push new infections to record levels in some nations, the Associated Press reported.
Kluge, who spoke to reporters during a visit to Greece, did note there are "early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries" in the European region and pointed to "declining incidence" among the oldest people.
Nearly 3 million deaths worldwide have been linked to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States, Brazil and Mexico are the nations with the highest number of deaths, with more than 1.1 million collectively, the AP reported.
In Britain, new COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped dramatically since January, due to an aggressive vaccination program and a prolonged national lockdown that is only being reversed in stages.
Addressing recent concerns about clotting issues with some vaccines, Kluge also said the risk of people suffering blood clots is far higher for people with COVID-19 than for people who receive AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, the AP reported.
"Let there be no doubt about it, the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in reducing COVID-19 hospitalization and preventing deaths," he said, adding that WHO continues to recommend its use for all eligible adults.
Pence Receives Pacemaker
Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had a pacemaker implanted on Wednesday and "is expected to fully recover and return to normal activity in the coming days," his office said.
It said that Pence was previously diagnosed with asymptomatic left bundle branch block, and over the past two weeks experienced symptoms such as a slowed heart rate, the Associated Press reported.
Pence, 61, had the procedure at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Va.
In a statement, he said he was "grateful for the swift professionalism and care of the outstanding doctors, nurses and staff" at the medical center and his physicians in Indiana, the AP reported.