Online doctor Babylon weighs listing at $4 billion value


Babylon, the medical startup that helps diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments online, is exploring options to go public as business booms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.K.-based health-care group has been approached by several special purpose acquisition companies about going public via a SPAC merger, the people said. Babylon is also weighing a traditional initial public offering in the U.S, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

A listing could value the company at more than $4 billion, according to the people.

No final decisions have been made, and details of the potential transaction could change, the people said. A representative for Babylon declined to comment.

Babylon was founded in 2013. Its app lets users schedule a video chat with a doctor, check symptoms or book time with specialists, such as therapists. The U.K.’s National Health Service lets patients choose Babylon’s “GP at Hand” mobile consultation service as their official primary care provider.

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Lonely adolescents are susceptible to internet addiction: Increasing numbers at risk in the coronavirus situation

teen internet

Loneliness is a risk factor associated with adolescents being drawn into compulsive internet use. The risk of compulsive use has grown in the coronavirus pandemic: loneliness has become increasingly prevalent among adolescents, who spend longer and longer periods of time online.

A study investigating detrimental internet use by adolescents involved a total of 1,750 Finnish study subjects, who were studied at three points in time: at 16, 17 and 18 years of age. The results have been published in the Child Development journal.

Adolescents’ net use is a two-edged sword: while the consequences of moderate use are positive, the effects of compulsive use can be detrimental. Compulsive use denotes, among other things, gaming addiction or the constant monitoring of likes on social media and comparisons to others.

“In the coronavirus period, loneliness has increased markedly among adolescents. They look for a sense of belonging from the internet. Lonely adolescents head to the internet and are at risk of becoming addicted. Internet addiction can further aggravate their malaise, such as depression,” says Professor of Education and study lead Katariina Salmela-Aro from the University of Helsinki.

Highest risk for 16-year-old boys

The risk of being drawn into problematic internet use was at its highest among 16-year-old adolescents, with the phenomenon being more common among boys.

For some, the problem persists into adulthood, but for others it eases up as they grow older. The reduction of problematic internet use is often associated with adolescent development where their self-regulation and control improve, their brains adapt and assignments related to education direct their attention.

“It’s comforting to know that problematic internet use is adaptive and often changes in late adolescence and during the transition to adulthood. Consequently, attention should be paid to the matter both in school and at home. Addressing loneliness too serves as a significant channel for preventing excessive internet use,” Salmela-Aro notes.

It was found in the study that the household climate and parenting also matter: the children of distant parents have a higher risk of drifting into detrimental internet use. If parents are not very interested in the lives of their adolescents, the latter may have difficulty drawing the lines for their actions.

Problematic net use and depression form a cycle

In the study participants, compulsive internet use had a link to depression. Depression predicted problematic internet use, while problematic use further increased depressive symptoms.

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Air travelers to Canada to isolate at hotels starting Feb 22

Air travelers to Canada to isolate at hotels starting Feb 22

Air travelers to Canada will quarantine in a hotel starting on Feb. 22 as they await the result of a coronavirus test, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Trudeau previously announced stricter restrictions would be imposed on air travelers in response to new, likely more contagious variants and said hotel stays would be at the travelers’ own expense.

Officials were expected to release more details later about the measures, which could especially affect Canadian “snowbirds” who winter abroad and return home in the spring.

Trudeau said it could take up to three days for test results to be available. Travelers would then isolate at home or elsewhere if the test is negative. Canada already requires those entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and bans nonessential travel to the country.

Trudeau said he spoke to the chief executive of vaccine-maker Pfizer and said he confirmed Canada will get 4 million doses from that company before the end of March, as well as 10.8 million doses in April, May and June—more than previously announced.

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Immune response to insulin could identify, help treat those at risk for type 1 diabetes


Researchers from the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found that immune responses to insulin could help identify individuals most at risk for developing Type 1 diabetes.

The study, out recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, measured immune responses from individuals genetically predisposed to developing Type 1 diabetes (T1D) to naturally occurring insulin and hybrid insulin peptides. Since not all genetically predisposed individuals develop T1D, researchers sought to examine T-cell immune responses from the peripheral blood that could occur before the onset of clinical diabetes.

“We want to know why people develop T1D, and this research has helped provide a lot more information and data as to what it looks like when genetically at-risk individuals are headed towards clinical diagnosis,” says Aaron Michels, MD, the study’s lead researcher, Associate Professor of Medicine at CU Anschutz and researcher at the Barbara Davis Center. “Ideally, you want to treat a disease when it’s active, so this is a need in our field to understand when people have an immune response directed against insulin producing cells.”

Researchers collected blood samples from genetically at-risk adolescents every 6 months for two years. Inflammatory T-cell responses to hybrid insulin peptides correlated with worsening blood glucose measurements and progression to T1D development. The results indicate an important advancement in identifying the risk of T1D early as well as the potential for intervention.

“There are now therapies used in research studies that have delayed the onset of clinical type 1 diabetes,” says Michels. “Patients with these specific immune responses, may benefit from immune intervention to delay T1D onset and possibly prevent it for years.”

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At Colorado’s Rural Edges, Vaccines Help Assisted Living Homes Crack Open the Doors

Bingo is back in the dining room. In-person visits have returned, too, though with masks and plexiglass. The Haven Assisted Living Facility’s residents are even planning a field trip for a private movie screening once they’ve all gotten their second round of covid-19 vaccines.

Such changes are small but meaningful to residents in the Hayden, Colorado, long-term care home, and they’re due mostly to the arrival of the vaccine.

While the vaccine rollout has hit snags across the U.S., including in many large urban areas, some rural counties — with their smaller populations and well-connected communities — have gotten creative about getting the doses out quickly to long-term care facilities. They are circumventing bogged-down Walgreens and CVS, the pharmacy chains contracted for the campaign, and instead are inoculating their older residents with the counties’ shares of doses.

It’s clear why the counties are trying their own path. Federal data provided by the state of Colorado shows that, as of Jan. 21, dozens of long-term care facilities in Colorado were enrolled to receive vaccines from Walgreens or CVS but still did not have any vaccination dates scheduled. Among assisted living facilities in particular, rural locations tended to have later start dates than non-rural ones. By mid-January, over 90 facilities had opted out of the program that has been beset by cumbersome paperwork and corporate policies.

When Roberta Smith, who directs the Routt County Public Health Department, learned in December that The Haven and another facility in the county hadn’t gotten any dates from Walgreens for their shots, she diverted about 100 doses from the county’s allotment. The vaccines would likely have gone to health care workers, she said, but she couldn’t let the most vulnerable in the county wait.

Fourteen of the 19 people who died of covid in the county, after all, had been residents of those two long-term care facilities.

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The county received a shipment of Moderna vaccines the following week to continue with its health care workers, Smith said.

The health department ensured that all able and willing residents of the county’s two long-term care facilities received their first doses before 2021 began. Smith suspects such reprioritization and fast deployment — despite the department’s reliance on spreadsheets and sticky notes to schedule visits — is easier in small communities.

“There is a sense of community in our smaller, rural counties that we’re all kind of looking out for each other. And when you tell someone, ‘Hey, we need to vaccinate these folks first,’ they’re quick to say, ‘Oh, yeah,’” Smith said.

Hayden, a town of about 2,000 in northwestern Colorado, is the kind of place where, within hours of Haven staffers posting online that they were looking for a grill, workers from the hardware store delivered one at no charge. It’s the kind of town where locals have come throughout the pandemic to serenade Haven residents with guitar, flute and violin performances outside the windows. When the virus hit The Haven, eventually killing two of its 15 residents, locals paraded past the facility in their cars, taped with balloons and signs that said “We love you” and “Get well soon.”

After all the heartache, isolation and waiting, newly vaccinated resident Rosa Lawton, 70, is ready to bust out of The Haven. She said she expected to get her second vaccine dose Jan. 28.

“I hope to be able to go shopping at Walmart and City Market and go to the bank, the library, the senior center. … I won’t stop,” she said, laughing. “Right now, we’re restricted to the building.”

Even after getting everyone vaccinated, though, assisted living locations won’t be able to fling open the doors quite yet. State and federal officials need to give the OK, said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities in the state. Still, the combination of vaccines, repeated negative covid tests and a lower level of virus spread in the community is allowing some facilities the peace of mind to crack the doors open just a bit in the meantime.

Until recently, Lawton and others at The Haven were playing bingo perched in their doorways, with a staff member moving down the hallway calling out numbers. Lawton said she could see about four others from her door, but not her friends Sally, Ruth or Louise. Now, they’re back in the dining room, with one person to a table and playing with sanitized chips.

“We can see each other and we’re closer together and we can hear the caller better,” said Lawton. “It’s just more of a group experience.”

Residents can now gather in the common areas, wearing masks, to play the piano and do target practice with foam dart guns. And the excursion to a movie theater next month will be the first field trip in nearly a year. (Lawton is rooting for watching “The Sound of Music.”)

“It just feels overall lighter,” said Adrienne Idsal, director of The Haven, hours before receiving her second vaccine dose.

Fraser Engerman, a spokesperson with Walgreens, confirmed that some counties moved ahead with vaccinations before the company received its allocation, and said the company is on track to complete vaccinations at all Colorado long-term care facilities that they were responsible for by the end of January. Monica Prinzing, a CVS Health spokesperson, said that her company has completed first doses for all 119 skilled-nursing facilities in Colorado and more than half the assisted living sites it partnered with, adding that their team is working closely with facilities to “remain on track to meet our program commitments.”

Along the state’s eastern edge, where Colorado meets Kansas, a pair of counties is already done vaccinating long-term care residents, according to Meagan Hillman, the public health director for Prowers and Kiowa counties.

In December, Hillman and her colleagues started to wonder just how Walgreens was going to get the shots to their four local long-term care facilities.

“Out here, I’m two-plus hours from the closest Walgreens, and I don’t even know where a CVS is,” she said. “It’s such a huge operation and we just were worried, you know. Oftentimes the little guy gets left out or left for last.”

Hillman said she and her colleagues managed to secure Pfizer vaccines from a local hospital.

“We have been so beat down in public health that I actually went and did the vaccination clinic,” said Hillman, who is also a physician assistant. “We just needed that — a good, heart-swelling thing to do.”

She said it indeed helped boost her spirits to give the shots herself. “Finally, I feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train,” she said.

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Outlandish new gadgets are unveiled at the world's biggest tech show

The face mask that stops you mumbling, the patch that scans for Covid and the loo that gives you a health MOT: Outlandish new gadgets are unveiled at the world’s biggest tech show

  • Health technology was key component at this year’s CES technology trade show
  • Event unveiled gadgets designed to help us protect, monitor and manage health
  • From space-age face masks to virus-killing robots, Covid-19 was a major theme
  • Could such high tech healthcare at home become commonplace in near future? 

It seems like a lifetime ago. Just days after the 2019 General Election, health secretary Matt Hancock appeared on national TV setting out his vision for a ‘digital NHS’.

He promised the newly elected Government would ‘double down on the tech agenda and bring the NHS into the 21st Century’.

His plan, which included greater funding for cutting-edge technology, was ambitious.

But no one could have predicted quite how prescient it was, too.

A little over a month after that announcement, the first Covid case reached our shores – and our healthcare system underwent a radical overhaul, almost overnight. And it will, most agree, never be the same again.

While front-line doctors learned to tackle the deadly disease, with the country in lockdown GPs had to work out how to treat patients without being in the same room.

Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of appointments were face-to-face – now, most are carried out via video consultation or by phone.

This new strategy hasn’t won over all patients but a survey carried out by the British Medical Association in June found that 88 per cent of GPs wanted to continue using remote consultations after the Covid-19 crisis is solved.

In 2020 the UK saw £1.3 billion invested into its digital health tech. So it’s not surprising that at this year’s CES technology trade show, health tech was a key component.

The event, which took place online, unveiled a number of major gadgets designed to help us protect, monitor and manage our own health, without needing a doctor at all. From the space-age face masks that amplify the voice, to virus-killing robots, Covid was, of course, a major theme. 

Others are simply bizarre – for instance, a ‘smart’ toilet that can carry out urine and stool analysis. But as healthcare at home gets ever more high tech, could such innovations become commonplace in the near future?

The Mail on Sunday compiled the most exciting gadgets from this year’s show… so you can decide for yourself.

Covid mask that gives you that Darth Vader look

The surgical N95 respirator face mask is made of transparent plastic – making it easier for people to lip read, it’s reusable, and it even lights up in the dark


The Project Hazel is a surgical N95 respirator face mask – the type approved for medical-grade PPE – which also amplifies the voice. It’s made of transparent plastic – making it easier for people to lip read, it’s reusable, and it even lights up in the dark.

The mask comes with a charging case that sterilises the device using UV light. Oh, and you’ll look like something from Star Wars while wearing it, if that’s any bonus.


The mask fits snuggly to the face, with soft silicone seals. An in-built microphone on the inside transmits the voice to a speaker outside, making it clear and easier to understand what’s being said, even behind the layers of plastic. We weren’t able to try it out, so can’t vouch for whether it makes you sound like Darth Vader as well as look like him.


Razer plans to continue developing Project Hazel before it goes on the market.

Video-game eye test that spots sight loss

The device carries out ten diagnostic tests for common eye conditions, from colour blindness to glaucoma – high pressure inside the eyeball that causes a gradual loss of vision


The Vror Eye Dr uses the same technology found in virtual-reality computer game headsets – so users see a computer-generated image through the lenses, rather than what is actually in front of them. But this is no game: the device carries out ten diagnostic tests for common eye conditions, from colour blindness to glaucoma – high pressure inside the eyeball that causes a gradual loss of vision.


Once strapped to the head, users see a computer-generated 3D landscape through the goggles. This stimulates the entire visual field, so is said to give a better indication of how the eye functions in day-to-day life than a normal eye test, which uses static images on a screen. An in-built computer takes measurements of the eye’s reaction to the stimuli in the landscape, and this is beamed back to the medical professional assisting the test.


There is currently no release date for the Vror Eye Dr but the company has plans to offer it for use at eye clinics in the US and further afield.

The loo that gives diet tips

The Wellness Toilet is linked to an app that warns you if your diet is unbalanced and makes suggestions on how to improve it – by eating more fibre, for example


The Wellness Toilet by Japanese firm Toto analyses the user’s ‘key outputs’ to provide recommendations on ways to improve their health. It’s linked to an app that warns you if your diet is unbalanced and makes suggestions on how to improve it – by eating more fibre, for example. Sensors in the seat also record the user’s pulse and blood pressure.


Toto says the loo uses biosensors to analyse waste. People with poor gut health are well known to be at increased risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even depression – and a Korean study published last week found they may also be more likely to suffer from severe Covid symptoms.


Bill Strang, US chief of Toto, says the launch of the toilet, which is still in prototype stage, is ‘a year or two down the road’.

Backpack and keyboard that sanitise themselves

The lamp uses UV-C light to kill germs. It switches itself on for five minutes every hour – but not if it detects a hand under it, as UV-C can be harmful to human skin


Attach the UV-C LED Disinfection Light to a keyboard and it will kill germs on its surface, while the 2Office Antimicrobial Backpack’s fabric has an antimicrobial finish.


The lamp uses UV-C light to kill germs. It switches itself on for five minutes every hour – but not if it detects a hand under it, as UV-C can be harmful to human skin. The backpack neutralises pathogens.


The UV-C LED Disinfection Light will cost £220. The 2Office Antimicrobial Backpack will cost £88.

App detects blood pressure from a selfie

As our heart beats, blood pulses through these veins, causing minute colour changes in our skin. These are detectable, even by a smartphone camera


The Anura app measures blood pressure by taking a 30-second video of the user’s face. Doctors say the app could help people avoid unnecessary visits to the GP.


The blood that flows through the veins in our face sits close to surface of the skin. As our heart beats, blood pulses through these veins, causing minute colour changes in our skin. These are detectable, even by a smartphone camera. The Anura is able to analyse these changes to give an accurate reading of our blood pressure.


Anura is available now to download for iPhone and android for free.

Two pairs of glasses… in one

Turning the dial allows the two lenses to slide over each other – the same technology used to power the zoom on smartphone cameras


Constantly switching between reading and driving glasses? This stylish pair promises to be the only set you’ll ever need, housing two prescriptions in one.

These so-called ‘tunable glasses’ make switching between prescriptions ‘seamless’, says San Francisco start-up Voy.

It’s even possible to adjust one lens at a time, if prescriptions differs between the eyes.


The secret lies with a dial that sits on the top of the frame. Turning the dial allows the two lenses to slide over each other – the same technology used to power the zoom on smartphone cameras.

The Voy glasses can change from a -5 prescription to a 2+ in a matter of seconds.


The Voy glasses are currently available online for £58.55.

The patch that scans for Covid

 The size of a 10p piece, the BioButton sticks to the skin and by monitoring temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate, can give an early warning if the wearer has Covid

Technology that can monitor the body’s vitals just through skin contact are nothing new – there’s similar gadgetry inside many wrist-worn fitness trackers, for instance


The size of a 10p piece, the BioButton sticks to the skin and by monitoring temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate, can give an early warning if the wearer has Covid. Covid testing of course is now widely available but BioButton makers BiointelliSense point out that even PCR tests – recognised as the most accurate – can miss more than 30 per cent of early-stage infections.


Technology that can monitor the body’s vitals just through skin contact are nothing new – there’s similar gadgetry inside many wrist-worn fitness trackers, for instance. But this is linked to an app that uses an algorithm that can detect changes that signal Covid before symptoms are even noticed. The idea is that it would be given by doctors to those most at risk from Covid.


It’s already been approved for medical use in America and is currently being tested in hospitals. BioButton costs around £65, and can be worn for 90 days. There’s no release date for the UK yet.

Exterminate! Robot can target coronavirus 

First, the user programmes the cleaning route via a smartphone app. The robot then navigates itself using in-built motion and audio sensors


Robot vacuum cleaners are nothing new – but this machine is said to destroy microscopic traces of bacteria and viruses – including Covid – using high-energy beams of light. The Unipin Ultraviolet Disinfection Robot can also disinfect at high speeds – taking just over two hours to clean an average-sized nursing home.


First, the user programmes the cleaning route via a smartphone app. The robot then navigates itself using in-built motion and audio sensors. It uses ultraviolet light to destroy living organisms – studies have shown this type of UV light can alter the structure of virus particles and stop them from reproducing.

Motion sensors stop the device emitting UV light within five metres of a person, as the rays can harm human skin. It also contains a filter to clean the air, ridding surfaces of Covid-19 particles and droplets in the air.


There’s currently no release date, but the manufacturers say it will be priced at roughly £5,500.

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US COVID-19 deaths hit another one-day high at over 4,300

US COVID-19 deaths hit another one-day high at over 4,300

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. hit another one-day high at over 4,300 with the country’s attention focused largely on the fallout from the deadly uprising at the Capitol.

The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million.

With the country simultaneously facing a political crisis and on edge over threats of more violence from far-right extremists, the U.S. recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins’ count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states.

The daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past 2 1/2 months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being rolled out. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average.

More than 9.3 million Americans have received their first shot of the vaccine, or less than 3% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is well short of the hundreds of millions who experts say will need to be inoculated to vanquish the outbreak.

The effort is ramping up around the country. Large-scale, drive-thru vaccination sites have opened at stadiums and other places, enabling people to get their shots through their car windows.

Also, an increasing number of states have begun offering vaccinations to the next group in line—senior citizens—with the minimum age varying from place to place at 65, 70 or 75. Up to now, health care workers and nursing home residents have been given priority in most places.

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Take That! Candace Cameron Bure, More Celeb Moms Back at Parenting Police

The claws will come out if you mess with a mama. Case in point: Khloe Kardashian ripped into a Twitter user who called her daughter True “not cute at all.”

A disgusted Kardashian fired back, “What type of disgusting human being are you? It’s pathetic that you are this miserable in your life.”

Of course, the Revenge Body host isn’t the only famous parent who has gone off on mom-shamers. Kourteney Kardashian, Kristin Cavallari, Cardi B, Chrissy Teigen and Jana Kramer have all defended themselves against the parent police on social media. 

Teigen explained to in 2017: “You can call me whatever you want. You can call me ugly, you can say my forehead is big, you can say my dress is hideous but once you start talking about my food and my child that’s when I get really crazy.” (The model has been criticized for everything from flying in her third trimester to using plastic bath toys.)

The cookbook author, who is mom of Luna and Miles, noted, “I think people should remember that everyone is just doing their best.”

Click through the photos below to read the best celebrity mom clap backs.

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Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots.

It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Dr. Stephen Noble, a 42-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, who is postponing getting vaccinated. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.”

Alarmed by the phenomenon, some administrators have dangled everything from free breakfasts at Waffle House to a raffle for a car to get employees to roll up their sleeves. Some states have threatened to let other people cut ahead of health care workers in the line for shots.

“It’s far too low. It’s alarmingly low,” said Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, which runs about 100 long-term care homes in the South, where fewer than 3 in 10 workers offered the vaccine so far have accepted it.

Many medical facilities from Florida to Washington state have boasted of near-universal acceptance of the shots, and workers have proudly plastered pictures of themselves on social media receiving the vaccine. Elsewhere, though, the drive has stumbled.

While the federal government has released no data on how many people offered the vaccines have taken them, glimpses of resistance have emerged around the country.

In Illinois, a big divide has opened at state-run veterans homes between residents and staff. The discrepancy was worst at the veterans home in Manteno, where 90% of residents were vaccinated but only 18% of the staff members.

In rural Ashland, Alabama, about 90 of some 200 workers at Clay County Hospital have yet to agree to get vaccinated, even with the place so overrun with COVID-19 patients that oxygen is running low and beds have been added to the intensive care unit, divided by plastic sheeting.

The pushback comes amid the most lethal phase in the outbreak yet, with the death toll at more than 350,000, and it could hinder the government’s effort to vaccinate somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population to achieve “herd immunity.”

Administrators and public health officials have expressed hope that more health workers will opt to be vaccinated as they see their colleagues take the shots without problems.

Oregon doctor Noble said he will wait until April or May to get the shots. He said it is vital for public health authorities not to overstate what they know about the vaccines. That is particularly important, he said, for Black people like him who are distrustful of government medical guidance because of past failures and abuses, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Medical journals have published extensive data on the vaccines, and the Food and Drug Administration has made its analysis public. But misinformation about the shots has spread wildly online, including falsehoods that they cause fertility problems.

Stormy Tatom, 30, a hospital ICU nurse in Beaumont, Texas, said she decided against getting vaccinated for now “because of the unknown long-term side effects.”

“I would say at least half of my coworkers feel the same way,” Tatom said.

There have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the vaccines, and scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands and vetted by independent experts.

States have begun turning up the pressure. South Carolina’s governor gave health care workers until Jan. 15 to get a shot or “move to the back of the line.” Georgia’s top health official has allowed some vaccines to be diverted to other front-line workers, including firefighters and police, out of frustration with the slow uptake.

“There’s vaccine available but it’s literally sitting in freezers,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “That’s unacceptable. We have lives to save.”

Nursing homes were among the institutions given priority for the shots because the virus has cut a terrible swath through them. Long-term care residents and staff account for about 38% of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.

In West Virginia, only about 55% of nursing home workers agreed to the shots when they were first offered last month, according to Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association.

“It’s a race against social media,” Wright said of battling falsehoods about the vaccines.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said only 40% of the state’s nursing home workers have gotten shots. North Carolina’s top public health official estimated more than half were refusing the vaccine there.

SavaSeniorCare has offered cash to the 169 long-term care homes in its 20-state network to pay for gift cards, socially distanced parties or other incentives. But so far, data from about a third of its homes shows that 55% of workers have refused the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, which have been contracted by a majority of U.S. nursing homes to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, have not released specifics on the acceptance rate. CVS said that residents have agreed to be immunized at an “encouragingly high” rate but that “initial uptake among staff is low,” partly because of efforts to stagger when employees receive their shots.

Some facilities have vaccinated workers in stages so that the staff is not sidelined all at once if they suffer minor side effects, which can include fever and aches.

The hesitation isn’t surprising, given the mixed message from political leaders and misinformation online, said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the science of vaccines.

He noted that health care workers represent a broad range of jobs and backgrounds and said they are not necessarily more informed than the general public.

“They don’t know what to believe either,” Chen said. But he said he expects the hesitancy to subside as more people are vaccinated and public health officials get their message across.

Some places have already seen turnarounds, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Hypertension at Middle Age Associated With Cognitive Decline

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2020 — Hypertension at younger or older middle ages is associated with cognitive decline in different abilities, according to a study published online Dec. 14 in Hypertension.

Sara Teles de Menezes, Ph.D., from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study involving 7,063 participants in the ELSA-Brasil cohort (mean age, 58.9 years at baseline in 2008 to 2010) who attended visit 2 in 2012 to 2014. At both visits, cognitive performance was measured and assessed using standardized scores of memory, verbal fluency, trail B tests, and the global cognitive score.

The researchers found that hypertension and prehypertension at baseline correlated with a reduction in the global cognitive score; hypertension correlated with a decline on the memory test; and prehypertension correlated with a decrease on the fluency test. Lower global cognitive and memory scores were seen with hypertension diagnosed at 55 years or older, while lower memory test scores were seen for hypertension diagnosed at younger than 55 years. There was no correlation observed for duration of hypertension diagnoses with any marker of cognitive function decline. There was an inverse correlation seen for blood pressure control at baseline with decline in both global cognitive and memory test scores among treated individuals.

“Our results highlight the importance of diagnosing and controlling hypertension in patients of any age to prevent or slow down cognitive decline,” a coauthor said in a statement. “Our results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline.”

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