Get a Good Night's Sleep Before Your COVID Vaccine

Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before Your COVID Vaccine

  • January 20, 2021

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Want to get the most out of your COVID-19 vaccine? Make sure you get some good rest before you get your shot, sleep experts say.

That’s because adequate sleep is an important factor in a strong immune system.

“As COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, it is of utmost importance that patients continue to prioritize their sleep to maintain optimal health,” American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) president Dr. Kannan Ramar said in an academy news release. “Getting sufficient, high-quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your body’s immune system and optimizes your response to a vaccine.”

Several studies have found an association between sleep and vaccination response. For example, a 2020 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that flu vaccines appear to be more effective in people who get a sufficient amount of sleep during the two nights prior to receiving the shot. Other studies have reported similar findings about patients’ response to vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Dr. Khurshid Khurshid is director of the UMMHC/UMMS Center for Neuromodulation at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Westborough, Mass. He said, “The role of sleep in boosting innate and acquired immune response is significant. All people, particularly health workers, should be aware of the immunity-boosting effects of sleep. Studies have shown that normal sleep after vaccination strengthens the immune response against an invading antigen, and this immunity-boosting effect of sleep is clinically significant.”

So, Khurshid added in the news release, “A good night’s sleep before and after vaccination could be very advantageous.”

Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night, but the COVID-19 pandemic has harmed many Americans’ sleep, a recent AASM survey found.

One-third of respondents said their sleep quality has been affected, 30% have had changes in their ability to fall asleep, and 29% reported an impact on their nightly amount of sleep.

The AASM offered tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Establish a bedtime and morning routine. Use the bedroom only for sleeping, not watching TV or reading. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and a bit cool.
  • Restrict blue light exposure before bed by turning off your TV and other electronic devices 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Silence notifications and charge your devices away from your bed so you’re not tempted to look at social media or news alerts.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine and large meals before bedtime. If you’re hungry after dinner, limit yourself to small, sugar-free and easily digestible snacks to avoid disrupting sleep.


More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release

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The covid vaccine is good but the people must decide – Part 2

The covid vaccine is good but the people must decide – Part 2

  • January 18, 2021

Continuing from Part 1.

What about reports that these vaccines don’t prevent transmission? In general, some vaccines are more effective at reducing the severity of a disease than reducing its transmission. While it is unclear at present whether these vaccines reduce transmission, that should not concern a vulnerable person who will presumably receive at least some personal protection from the disease.

Each of these vaccines has its own safety profile. Data from CDC shows 21 cases of anaphylaxis out of 1,893,360 people who received first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The chance of allergic reactions from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is said to be about 8.5 times higher than comparable risk from the seasonal flu vaccine but these are all extremely small. Some of the vaccines cause short-term side-effects, including severe pain and swelling but once again, most of these effects are rare and the person generally recovers within 12 hours. Proper training of those who administer the vaccine is essential to monitor these side effects.

Third, those who have had covid don’t need to rush for the vaccine

Those who have had covid have developed natural immunity. Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle has confirmed on 5 December 2020 in the New York Times that: “We didn’t see anybody who didn’t develop some sort of an immune response…. I don’t think those people need to rush out and go get the vaccine in the same way that people who are highly susceptible really do”.

It must be emphasised that there is no harm, in principle, in taking a vaccine even if one has had covid and recovered. For instance, we take a flu shot to boost our immune system even though we might have already recovered from the flu. As Dr Pepper says: “There’s nothing deleterious about getting a boost to an immune response that you’ve had before. You could get an actually even better immune response by boosting whatever immunity you had from the first infection by a vaccine”. In this context it is currently unclear whether covid vaccines provide better immunity than our natural immune response.

Fourth, some age groups can benefit from the vaccine

Who are the “highly susceptible” that Dr Pepper refers to? We have long known the aged-based risk profile of this virus, as I discussed on 6 March 2020. But data are clearer now. On 30 December 2020 I wrote in The Australian that “Since 80 per cent of COVID deaths in Sweden have occurred among those over 75, people in this age group should continue to be sheltered and offered the vaccine. To mandate it for others would be yet another display of intellectual and spiritual cowardice”. (Of course, it should not be mandated for any category.) Since males are more vulnerable than females, males above 65 might consider taking the vaccine.

A complication has recently emerged. On 16 January 2021, it was reported that “Norwegian Medicines Agency links 13 deaths to vaccine side effects. Those who died were frail and old”. Steinar Madsen at the Norwegian Medicines Agency said that: “If you are very frail, you should probably not be vaccinated.” This throws the spanner in the works for the main group of people who would benefit. They might need to wait to better assess the situation.

Those below 75 (or 65 for males) who have not had the disease should probably consider the vaccine at this stage only if they have significant co-morbidities. I am 61 without any co-morbidities but probably have a low level of cross-reactivity. I might therefore benefit from the vaccine but I intend to monitor the vaccine side effects for a few more months.

As for my father in India who is almost 89 years old, he has two choices: he can either roll the dice and take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available even though he is otherwise healthy and likely to beat the virus if he gets it, or he can continue to isolate and wait a few more months to watch the data.

Fifth, these vaccines must not be mandated

Except in the case of an extremely lethal virus like smallpox which can be physically eradicated from planet Earth with concerted effort (and has been so eradicated), all other vaccines must always be voluntary. People must know why they need the vaccine and must be given all relevant information to make a decision.

If any government mandates covid vaccines they would be in breach of a number of international laws. For example, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states that “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information”. A vaccine is a therapeutic medical intervention and requires consent.

Clause 58 of the Siracusa Principles prevents governments from medical or scientific experimentation without free consent. These vaccines are currently experimental, not having received full approval. Therefore, any mandate for a covid vaccine will be unlawful on this ground as well.

The Nuremberg Code requires that human experiments should be based on previous animal experimentation. In this case animal tests have not been conducted for most vaccines.

Sixth, people have the right to sue vaccine companies

Unlike in many other countries, vaccine manufacturers are not exempt in India from liability for any harms their vaccines might cause. Our party wants this to continue and will strongly oppose any change to this policy.

While the covid vaccine is likely to prove to be a boon, Swarna Bharat Party will oppose any attempts to mandate it, including for those who visit India such as tourists and business travellers.

We also want the Modi Government to provide full details to the people including the weaknesses of current vaccine studies and the honest disclosure of side-effects. The people can then decide for themselves.




Views expressed above are the author’s own.


Covid vaccines and immunity: does past infection help? | Coronavirus

  • January 14, 2021

The first phase of the NHS vaccination programme aims to protect millions of the UK’s most vulnerable people against coronavirus. Meanwhile, research from Public Health England suggests that a previous Covid infection might protect as much as a vaccine, at least for five months. So what difference does it make to have such immunity?

Can I still catch the virus if I have had the vaccine or been previously infected?

You can still catch the virus if you’ve had the vaccine or a previous coronavirus infection. Clinical trials for the Covid vaccines approved so far show that they can substantially reduce the risk of becoming ill with the virus, but some people may still get infected and even be able to spread the disease. The same is true for a previous infection.

A Public Health England study of healthcare workers found that Covid infection led to about 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months. That still means almost two out of every 10 people could become reinfected within five months of their first skirmish with the disease. Some who became reinfected had high enough viral loads to pass the disease on. More encouragingly, less than a third of those who were reinfected had symptoms the second time around, compared with 78% the first time.

Deborah Dunn-Walters, professor of immunology at the University of Surrey and chair of the taskforce on immunology and Covid-19, run by the British Society for Immunology, said: “Your immune system could work at 100% and protect you from disease and the virus, or it could work less well and protect you from the disease, but not stop you getting and transmitting the virus on. Or it could work even less well, where you still get ill, but not as bad as you would have done.”

Should I still have the vaccine if I’ve had Covid?

Yes. The immune system’s response to coronavirus infection varies from person to person. Age, genetic makeup and the amount of virus you were exposed to all play a role. The variability makes it hard to predict how well a particular person will be protected after infection. A benefit of the vaccines is that they have gone through trials to assess how well standard doses prevent disease, so there is far more certainty over the protection that they confer and the impact they will have on public health.

Another point is that many people who believe they caught Covid last year have no proof of it. Is it safe to be vaccinated after having Covid? “There is no harm in giving the vaccine to a person who has had the disease – it will act as a booster,” said Dunn-Walters.

Should people who have had Covid be last to get the vaccine?

No. This would complicate an already highly complex vaccination programme. Healthcare workers are at high risk of infection and many have already caught the disease. The vaccines will boost their natural immunity, making them less likely to become reinfected. Others at the front of the queue are older people. Their immune systems tend to be weaker, so even if they have recovered from Covid-19 they remain vulnerable and the vaccines will bolster their resistance to reinfection.

The uncertainties about who is well protected or not after an infection makes it hard to justify sending any group to the back of the queue, regardless of age and health. “For the time being, everyone should be offered the vaccine, whether or not they have previously had the disease,” said Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology at Edinburgh University.

Can I see my grandchildren after having the vaccine?

As vaccines are administered, public health authorities will get a clearer picture of how well they protect older people. Riley recommends waiting for about a month after the second dose to ensure that the immune response is as strong and long-lasting as possible.

There is still some uncertainty about how well the vaccines will protect against some of the new variants of coronavirus, but scientists hope to have a better idea by the time the lockdown is lifted. “We very much hope, and expect, that it will be safe for people to see, and to hug and kiss, their grandchildren in the very near future. But we need to proceed cautiously,” Riley said. Dunn-Walters warned that grandparents could potentially still spread the virus after being vaccinated.

When do we get back to a more normal life?

Riley says she believes the route back to normality is to ensure, first, that everyone at risk of developing severe Covid-19 is vaccinated, and then that those at risk of developing symptomatic disease and long Covid are vaccinated.

“It is very likely that we can achieve this for the UK population by the summer for the first group – those over 50 years of age, and those under 50 with underlying health conditions – and by the end of the year for the second group, all other adults over the age of 18.”

The first sign that the strategy is working will be a fall in hospital admissions and deaths, and if the vaccines prevent transmission as well as illness, then a fall in new infections as the vaccines are given to less vulnerable adults.

“This should allow life in the UK to return to something close to normal. However, if new virus variants emerge that are able to escape the vaccine, this could delay things. This will be evident if we start to see people becoming sick with variant viruses despite having been vaccinated,” Riley said.

Johnson & Johnson's One-Dose COVID Vaccine Promising in Early Trial - Consumer Health News

Johnson & Johnson’s One-Dose COVID Vaccine Promising in Early Trial – Consumer Health News

  • January 13, 2021

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 — A single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has shown very strong results in early clinical trials, potentially providing a significant boost to U.S. vaccination efforts.

The vaccine produced an immune response of all 805 clinical trial participants within two months of inoculation, according to results published Jan. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The data “are encouraging in that they show robust generation of neutralizing antibody after a single dose in a younger population and in a population older than 65 years old, and because these responses persisted for at least 71 days,” said Dr. Andrew Badley, director of the Mayo Clinic’s HIV Immunology Laboratory in Rochester, Minn.

Efforts to distribute the two currently approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have run into logjams, partially because the vaccines require extreme refrigeration and people have to receive two doses to achieve immunity.

“It certainly would be very helpful, having one dose instead of two,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of the department of medicine and a hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y. “A lot of the logistical problems is getting that second dose, plus it takes a dose away from someone else. If you only have to give one dose, that would be great.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also would be hardier than either of the already approved vaccines because it relies on DNA technology rather than messenger RNA to prompt an immune system response.

The new vaccine is made up of a deactivated cold virus into which scientists cut-and-paste a genetic version of the “spike” protein used by the coronavirus to infect cells. The immune system recognizes the incomplete and harmless coronavirus protein as an invader and mounts a response, learning how to ward off any future infections from the actual coronavirus.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on mRNA technology that works in much the same way, but delivers the genetic coding in an oily bubble that requires freezing temperatures and delicate handling.

The new vaccine remains stable for a time in the refrigerator. “Longer-term, this can be stored in just a regular freezer like you have in your kitchen, at that temperature,” Dr. Thaddeus Stappenbeck, chair of the Department of Inflammation and Immunity at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, said of the experimental vaccine. “But it’s actually fine for several days, for extended periods of time, refrigerated.”

The latest results from phase 1-2a trials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine involved 805 participants in two groups, one featuring folks aged 18 to 55 and the other 65 and older.

More than 90% of participants mounted an immune response within a month, and all had levels of neutralizing antibodies by day 57.

A second dose of the vaccine more than doubled the amounts of neutralizing antibodies, the results showed.

It will be results from phase 3 clinical trials involving 45,000 participants that determine whether a single dose or two doses actually create lasting immune protection against COVID-19.

“It’s very possible that the single dose will work, but it’s not uncommon for vaccinations to require a booster,” Stappenbeck said. “If this is slightly better with a booster, it would be worth getting the second shot.”

Early results from the phase 3 trials are expected by the end of January, Johnson & Johnson has said.

“It will be essential to confirm these findings in phase 3 clinical trials, where efficacy of the vaccine against the virus can be determined,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

Stappenbeck expects if the phase 3 results “are as strong as the data they saw with the mRNA vaccines, then the goal would be to wrap it up quickly and apply for emergency use authorization. It could happen by the end of January. That’s what I’ve heard.”

The phase 1-2a results also showed a similar safety profile to the existing vaccines, researchers reported. Fever was the most frequent adverse response, as well as fatigue, headache and body aches.

“The safety looks great. It’s very much in line with what’s been seen with the mRNA vaccine,” Stappenbeck said.

Johnson & Johnson briefly paused its vaccine trial in October after a volunteer developed an unexplained neurological illness. A safety investigation determined that the illness was not related to the vaccine.

A similar COVID vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University that relies on coronavirus DNA delivered through an inactivated cold virus also suffered delays based on safety concerns. Britain and India have authorized the vaccine for use, according to The New York Times.

Although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would provide a needed third option, it’s not yet clear how quickly the company will be able to get doses into arms.

The pharmaceutical giant pledged in its $1 billion contract with the U.S. federal government to have 12 million doses of its vaccine ready by the end of February and ramp up to a total 100 million doses by the end of June, the Times reported Wednesday.

However, federal officials have been told the company is as far as two months behind its original production schedule, the Times added. It’s not expected to catch up until the end of April, by when it was to have delivered more than 60 million doses.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about viral vector COVID-19 vaccines.

SOURCES: Andrew Badley, MD, director, Mayo Clinic’s HIV Immunology Laboratory, Rochester, Minn.; Aaron Glatt, MD, chair, department of medicine, and hospital epidemiologist, Mount Sinai South Nassau, Oceanside, N.Y.; Thaddeus Stappenbeck, MD, PhD, chair, Department of Inflammation and Immunity, Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, Ohio; Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore; New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 13, 2021; New York Times

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N.J. COVID vaccine: Should I get a coronavirus vaccine if I’ve already had the virus?

  • January 12, 2021

Here’s a question on the minds of many people as the coronavirus continues to spread and vaccines become more available: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve had the virus?

Health experts say yes. Regardless of previous infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people should plan on getting vaccinated when it’s their turn.

“It’s a pretty straightforward question,” said Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja. “Yes, you need to get vaccinated.”

After someone recovers, their immune system should keep them from getting sick again right away.

“Your immune system is able to identify the virus, and protect itself,” said Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University.

Scientists still don’t know exactly how long this immunity lasts or how strong it is, though recent research suggests the protection could last for several months.

It’s impossible to know how long a person might be immune, said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine. “There’s no way to calculate that.”

Vaccines, by contrast, are designed to bring about a more consistent and optimal immune response. And they should boost whatever preexisting immunity a person might have from an infection, experts say.

“Since we’re in this pandemic, and don’t have a handle on it, the safer approach is to vaccinate,” Kulkarni said. “You don’t lose anything and you stand to benefit.”

If you’ve been infected in the last three months, the CDC says it’s OK to delay vaccination if you want to let others go first while supplies are limited.

“All things being equal you would want the person with no protection to go first,” Adalja said.

In New Jersey, more than 214,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered as of Monday, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. The state plans to provide daily updates on the vaccination process under a new tab on the coronavirus dashboard.

The 214,000 number includes 199,293 first doses and 14,984 second doses.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting with a subscription.

Moderna Says Its Covid-19 Vaccine Provides One Year’s Immunity

Moderna Says Its Covid-19 Vaccine Provides One Year’s Immunity

  • January 12, 2021


Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should provide immunity from disease for at least one year after vaccination, the company announced at a conference Monday, Reuters reports, adding that the company is “on track” to deliver at least 600 million doses of the vaccine in 2021. 

Key Facts

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference Monday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said immunity from the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, one of just two approved for emergency use in the U.S., should last for at least a year.

While clinical trials showed the vaccine to be highly effective at preventing disease, they do not show precisely how long this immunity will last and it is possible that a new coronavirus vaccine will be required on a regular basis to boost the immune system after this year long period has passed.

New variants of the virus can also learn to evade the protection offered by vaccines, and Moderna said it is well placed to respond to new variants of coronavirus, such as highly infectious variants currently spreading through South Africa and the U.K., owing to the adaptable mRNA technology used to develop the vaccine.

Bancel’s comments echo earlier statements from manufacturers at Pfizer and BioNTech, who point out the relative ease with which the vaccine’s core components can be edited to adapt to new variants. 

In addition to discussing the duration of the Moderna vaccine’s immunity, Bancel said the company is “very comfortable” with its track record at producing vaccines, adding that it is on track to deliver between 600 million and 1 billion doses by the end of the year. 

The company, which has never brought a product to market before, predicted  $11.7 billion in vaccine-related sales this year based on advance purchase agreements signed with governments.

Key Background

How long a particular vaccine can protect against disease is not well understood. Some vaccines can provide protection for months or years and others a lifetime. Data from the extensive clinical trials conducted on the Covid-19 vaccines does not tell us how long any immunity lasts. This will become clearer over time and is something manufacturers and regulators will monitor carefully. They will also monitor for changes to the virus, and it is common for manufacturers to return to the development stage if mutations occur. Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are all using a new type of technology for vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), though there are some differences. Unlike many other vaccines which rely on weakened or dead viruses that must be grown in vast quantities, this molecule can simply be tweaked as needed and put back into the vaccine. “mRNA is fantastic because you can just swap a new strain and run with it,” Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, previously told Forbes.

Further Reading

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Appears To Work Against New Covid Variants, Study Finds, As U.S. Records Deadliest Day (Forbes)

Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine immunity to stay at least a year (Reuters)

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Test Vaccines Against New Covid-19 Variant Spreading Across U.K. (Forbes)

What You Need To Know About Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine (Forbes)

A New Variant Of Covid-19 Has Emerged In England – Here Is What It Could Mean For The Pandemic And Vaccines (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

The immune system and COVID: It’s still confusing

The immune system and COVID: It’s still confusing

  • January 9, 2021
A man in a red shirt seated in a chair, donating blood.
Enlarge / SOUTH TANGERANG, INDONESIA – JANUARY 7, 2021: A patient recovered from COVID-19 donate plasma at Indonesia Red Cross Transfusion Center in South Tangerang.

It’s clear that the immune system can mount a robust response to SARS-CoV-2, as the vaccine trials have made clear. Beyond that, though, there are a lot of question marks. People exposed to the virus don’t always produce much in the way of antibodies to it, and there have been a number of cases of reinfection. We’re not sure how long immunity lasts or whether it correlates with antibody levels or something else–there hasn’t even been great evidence that antibodies are helpful.

To give some sense of the challenge of sorting all of this out, we’re going to look at three recently published papers that get at the interplay between the immune system and COVID-19. One finally provides some evidence that antibodies might be protective, another indicates that tamping down the inflammatory response might help, while the third suggests that immunosuppressives don’t affect disease outcomes at all.

Antibodies good

Antibodies are a relatively easy way to track an immune response, and they’ve been used for that throughout the pandemic. But early studies found the number of antibodies produced in response to an infection varied dramatically between patients. There have also been clinical trials testing whether using antibodies obtained from those formerly infected could help treat those suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, with the FDA eventually granting this a controversial Emergency Use Authorization. President Trump also received an experimental treatment of mass produced SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies.

The odd thing about this is that we’re not certain that antibodies are actually protective. Further trials of antibody treatments for those infected have produced ambiguous results, with no clear benefit from receiving an antibody boost. And while immunity levels seem to correlate with antibody levels in some studies, we can’t be certain that the two aren’t both linked to some other aspect of immune function—perhaps antibody levels are simply a reflection of T cell activity, to give one example.

A new paper from researchers in Argentina is small, but it hints that antibodies can help those with COVID-19—but only if a treatment is administered early enough. The research design is solid: a randomized, blinded trial in which some people were given a transfusion of saline solution, while others had antibodies from those infected previously mixed in with their saline. Critically, all transfusions took place within a couple of days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The only limitation of the trial is that it took place while case numbers were dropping in Argentina, so it was cut short once they had trouble recruiting patients.

Of the 160 patients, all over 65 years of age, that were enrolled, 25 of the 80 in the control group ended up with severe respiratory symptoms. In those who received the antibody-containing plasma, only 13 experienced these symptoms. Eliminating the six individuals who had to drop out of the study improved the numbers further. Finally, those who received plasma with the highest levels of antibodies in it tended to have an even better prognosis, although the number of patients here is even smaller still.

Those who received the plasma also tended to have fewer severe outcomes, such as admission to the ICU and need for ventilation. However, the numbers of each individual issue were all small, so none of these measures reached statistical significance.

The researchers note that, in a few other studies, those who received plasma treatments early tended to do better, but the overall population treated at different stages of the infection showed no effect. If this turns out to be right—and this study is small enough that it really needs to be replicated—then it would present the first clear evidence that antibodies are helpful. That could be critical not only for the treatment of those who get infected, but in tracking immunity and monitoring risk in populations with various levels of vaccination.

Inflammation bad

The other lesson of the antibody study is that defining your treatment population carefully—newly symptomatic elderly, in this case—may be critical for identifying a clear effect, even though it can make it harder to find enough patients to do a thorough study. That lesson may also apply to a draft manuscript that describes a study of whether we can limit the effects of COVID-19 by tamping down on the inflammatory immune response. Studies of the genetics of COVID-19 patients had indicated that variations in some immune signaling molecules were associated with disease severity. But studies of drugs that blocked the effects of an inflammatory signaling molecule called interleukin-6 had shown no effect. The researchers suspected that this was because they accepted a wide range of patients.

So, to narrow things down, they started treatments with the interleukin-6 blockers as patients were admitted to the ICU. The trial enrolled about 800 people, about half of whom served as controls. The remainder received one of two different inflammatory blockers. Among those who didn’t receive a drug, the mortality rate was about 36 percent. For those who were treated, however, mortality was 27 percent.

That may not be an enormous difference, but if it holds up, it could make a significant difference in survival at the population level. And the UK’s National Health Service has already alerted its doctors of the results as it starts a re-evaluation of these drugs.

Is the immune system overrated?

All of this would seemingly place the immune system at the center of COVID-19 outcomes, which shouldn’t be in the least bit surprising. But another study published this week raises questions about even that. Here, researchers tracked the outcomes of over 2,000 COVID-19 cases that came through the Johns Hopkins medical system back in March. Of those, over 100 were taking drugs that left them immunocompromised. And when the outcomes of the patients were analyzed, there wasn’t a noticeable difference between those who were immunocompromised and the rest of the population. The researchers measured mortality, length of stay, and need for ventilation, but none of them were significantly different.

It’s important to emphasize that “immunosuppressed” does not mean “incapable of mounting any immune response.” But the response is generally quite limited.

What to make of all of this? The good news is that, if the antibody results hold up, they indicate that antibodies can provide us not only with a therapy for those at high risk of severe infection, but an easy way of tracking who might be protected in the future. Those results aren’t really confused by the results with immunocompromised individuals, since antibodies aren’t typically produced during an initial infection unless it drags on for a while (they take a few weeks to start appearing at measurable levels).

Beyond that, however, things get very complicated. The immune system has multiple aspects (T cell based immunity, dendritic cells, innate immunity, etc.), and we don’t really know how many of these were fully suppressed in the immunocompromised individuals. In addition, if inflammation does turn out to be harmful in some cases, it’s possible that some forms of immunosuppression could actually be helpful.

But the big picture that these papers really drive home is that both the immune system and its interactions with this virus are extremely complex. If a study doesn’t have enough people to focus on specific patient populations, or provide treatments at specific points during the infection, then there’s a chance that important effects will be averaged out. One problem is that, at this point, we’ve got many smaller, less focused studies already published, leading to an incomplete and confused picture. Finally, there’s undoubtedly a lot of patient-to-patient variability that confuses things further.

All of that explains why there’s so many confusing and seemingly contradictory publications out there. It reinforces the need to treat any single result as conclusive. Over time, we will build up a clearer picture of the course of a SARS-CoV-2 infection and the immune system’s response to it. Given the time that will take, however, the focus will undoubtedly be on rushing to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Red Cross Calls for Blood Plasma for COVID Patients

Red Cross Calls for Blood Plasma for COVID Patients

  • January 6, 2021

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The American Red Cross is urging COVID-19 survivors to donate blood plasma for hospital patients who need it to recover.

As an incentive to help boost the national convalescent plasma shortage, the Red Cross has teamed up with the National Football League and is offering donors a chance to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

The Red Cross is especially asking those who have recovered from COVID-19 to give blood because more donors are needed to help hospital patients.

Those who donate between Jan. 1 and 20 will be automatically entered to win the “Big Game at Home” package for viewing at home, with a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card.

People can schedule an appointment to give blood by visiting, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“While winter is historically a challenging time to collect blood due to the holidays and inclement weather, this year, COVID-19 has added a new challenge,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the American Red Cross, said in a news release.

“Last month, the Red Cross distributed the greatest number of convalescent plasma products than any other month during the pandemic. With hospital distributions for this product increasing about 250% since October, it is vital that those who have recovered from COVID-19 donate blood or plasma so that we can continue to treat those critically ill with the virus,” Young added.

COVID-19 survivors have a unique ability to make a difference in the lives of COVID-19 patients, according to the Red Cross. People who have recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that could give a patient’s immune system the boost it needs to beat the virus.

More information

For more on donating blood, head to the American Red Cross.

SOURCE: American Red Cross, news release, Jan. 5, 2021

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Alcohol changes the make-up of the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut which play an important role in preventing the invasion of bacteria and viruses (file image)

Anyone receiving Covid vaccine should AVOID drinking alcohol, experts warn

  • January 3, 2021

Anyone receiving Covid vaccine should AVOID drinking alcohol because it can reduce the body’s immune response to the jab, experts warn

  • Alcohol changes make-up of the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut  
  • Emergency medicine specialist Dr Ronx Ikharia conducted alcohol experiment
  • Professor Cruickshank has urged people to avoid alcohol around the time of jab 

People who have received the Covid-19 vaccine should avoid drinking alcohol because it can reduce the body’s immune response to the jab, experts have warned. 

Alcohol changes the make-up of the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut which play an important role in preventing the invasion of bacteria and viruses. 

This leads to the damage of immune cells in the blood, known as white blood cells, including lymphocytes, which send out antibodies to attack viruses. 

Alcohol changes the make-up of the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut which play an important role in preventing the invasion of bacteria and viruses (file image)

Alcohol changes the make-up of the trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut which play an important role in preventing the invasion of bacteria and viruses (file image) 

Emergency medicine specialist Dr Ronx Ikharia conducted an experiment where they took blood samples before and after drinking three glasses of Prosecco. 

Dr Ikharia, the presenter of BBC documentary, The Truth About… Boosting Your Immune System which airs on Wednesday, found that three glasses were enough to bring down the levels of lymphocyte cells in their blood by as much as 50 per cent. 

Immunologist Professor Sheena Cruickshank, at the University of Manchester, said the reduction in lymphocytes could lower the effectiveness of the body’s immune response. 

Therefore Professor Cruickshank has urged people to avoid alcohol around the time of their Covid-19 vaccination. 

Emergency medicine specialist Dr Ronx Ikharia (pictured) conducted an experiment where they took blood samples before and after drinking three glasses of Prosecco

Emergency medicine specialist Dr Ronx Ikharia (pictured) conducted an experiment where they took blood samples before and after drinking three glasses of Prosecco

Professor Cruickshank said: ‘You need to have your immune system working tip-top to have a good response to the vaccine, so if you’re drinking the night before, or shortly afterwards, that’s not going to help.’ 

In adults, lymphocytes make up roughly 20 to 40 percent of the total number of white blood cell and are concentrated in central lymphoid organs and tissues, such as the spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes, where initial immune response is likely to occur. 

Lymphocytes are of ‘fundamental importance’ in the immune system because they determine immune response to infectious microorganisms and other foreign substances, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a team of scientists in Wuhan, China. 

Immunologist Professor Sheena Cruickshank, at the University of Manchester, has urged people to avoid alcohol around the time of their Covid-19 vaccination

Immunologist Professor Sheena Cruickshank, at the University of Manchester, has urged people to avoid alcohol around the time of their Covid-19 vaccination

Vitamin D cuts Covid severity, no impact on mortality: IIPH-Gandhinagar meta-analysis | Ahmedabad News

Vitamin D cuts Covid severity, no impact on mortality: IIPH-Gandhinagar meta-analysis | Ahmedabad News

  • January 3, 2021

AHMEDABAD: In times of Covid-19 pandemic, sunny’s the way to boost immunity. Vitamin D, which is an integral part of Covid-19 treatment, can contribute to cutting severity of the virus, revealed a meta-analysis of international studies carried out by a team of researchers from IIPH-Gandhinagar (IIPH-G).
The study, however, pointed out that the vitamin doesn’t impact mortality of positive patients.
The study titled ‘Vitamin D supplementation, Covid-19 & Disease severity: A meta-analysis’ is accepted for publication by QJM, a journal of medicine by Oxford University Press. The authors include Komal Shah, assistant professor, Deepak Saxena, professor, and Dileep Mavalankar, director, of IIPH-G.
“The systematic review included three studies from Spain, Brazil and India – two randomized controlled trials, and one retrospective case control study. In all, 532 hospitalized positive patients were included. Dosage and duration of Vitamin D supplements varied,” said Dr Shah. “It was observed that there was a statistically significant difference between patients requiring ICU admissions and those who did not need it. But it was not so in mortality.”
Prof Mavalankar said that earlier studies have indicated highly deficient levels of Vitamin D in Indian population, despite the country being abundant in the primary source – sunlight.
No known side effects
Prof Mavalankar said that earlier studies have indicated highly deficient levels of Vitamin D in Indian population, despite the country being abundant in the primary source – sunlight. “Rationale behind the study was to assess other impacts on the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 infection apart from vaccination. The best part is, there are no known side effects of the supplementation,” he said.
City-based experts agreed with the overall findings, pointing at the vitamin’s protective and curative roles. Dr Manoj Vithalani, a city-based internal medicine expert, said that the vitamin works as an immuno-modulator.
“It improves the immune system of the patient. It has been observed that those with vitamin levels of 40-50 nanograms/ milliliter (ng/ml) have less Covid-19 severity. However, more studies in Indian context are required to understand the impact,” he said, adding that the general level they have observed in the local population is 10-30 ng/ml.
Experts said that the vitamin is important for regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body along with the immune system. Earlier studies have also pointed at the positive impact of the vitamin in respiratory tract infection. Intake of fortified food – ranging from milk to oil – in daily diet can help in achieving better immunity.

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