Quarter of Europeans have had a Covid-19 jab

COVID-19

A quarter of the European Union’s population have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab, prompting EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to say the bloc is on track to have 70 percent of adults immunised by late July.

The milestone showed that Europe was now surging ahead in vaccinations following a lacklustre first-quarter rollout that was starved of doses because of a shortfall in deliveries by AstraZeneca.

As of mid-Tuesday, 25.1 percent of the EU’s population of 446 million had received at least one injection, according to an AFP tally collated from official health figures from each EU country.

“Vaccination is gaining speed across the EU: we have just passed 150 million vaccinations,” von der Leyen tweeted.

“A quarter of all Europeans have had their first dose. We’ll have enough doses for vaccinating 70% of EU adults in July.”

AFP’s collected data show 112 million people in Europe had received at least one jab, with more than 153.8 million doses administered. At least 41.9 million people were fully vaccinated, amounting to 9.4 percent of the population.

The heightened pace means the EU can expect to see 70 percent of its 365 million adults immunised by late July.

That target has been brought forward two months, largely because of sped-up deliveries of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, accounting for a large proportion of the jabs given in the 27 EU countries.

Poorer countries struggling

The EU has started legal action against AstraZeneca for falling far short of its promised delivery of doses.

It has thrown its weight behind the mRNA technology used by BioNTech/Pfizer, holding negotiations for an extra 1.8 billion doses of its second-generation vaccine to cope with variants, inoculate older children, and to export to non-EU countries in need.

While the EU is now bounding forward with its vaccination programme, it still trails wealthy countries the United States and Britain in administering injections. All three invested funds last year to ensure access to promising vaccines.

The US has 31.9 percent of its population completely vaccinated. In Britain, it is 22.8 percent.

Israel, which has led the world, has 58.5 percent of its relatively small population fully vaccinated.

Poorer countries, by contrast, are struggling to get their hands on doses for their own populations, although the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility is working to bring them deliveries—mostly of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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The Best Way To Have The Fittest Body Ever

You may not know it, but what goes into our stomach goes a long way in determining how we look. When you eat the right food with the right amount of nutrients, it puts the body in perfect condition and complements workout routines. On the other hand, working out but maintaining a wrong diet is like taking one step forward and two steps back. Eating a balanced diet and being physically active are two of the most important things you can do to become and remain healthy at any age.

A balanced diet means fueling your body up with the right amount of calories and nutrients. Plus, you need to have a life style that ensures:

[otw_shortcode_unordered_list items=”3″ style=”with-icon list-style-1″ item_1_name=”Reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and associated disabilities.” item_2_name=”Prevention of weight gain and/or promotion of weight loss.” item_3_name=”Improvement of overall well-being.”][/otw_shortcode_unordered_list]

Although your diet choices may depend on your fitness goals, eating well overall is essential to having a sound physical health, and without being too strict with yourself, you can make healthy food choices that will enhance your nutrition and physical fitness program. Here are some food choices to help enhance your physical fitness.

Coffee

We have a feeling we won’t need to make much effort to convince you on this one, lol. A lot of people consume coffee several times every day. Coffee can enhance physical endurance and stamina, making a long run or ride feel easier. The longer you work out, the better it is for your body.

Milk

With essential elements like water, muscle-healing protein, refueling sugar, and bone-healthy calcium in every glass, milk is great for the human frame as it contains carbohydrates to give you energy and protein to repair tissues. Milk is a MUST for those who love to work out. Consuming a glass of milk just before you go to bed can result in a peaceful night’s sleep.

 

 

Sweet Potatoes

You can have sweet potatoes in many forms: baked, fried, mashed, boiled and more. They also contain disease-fighting beta-carotene, iron, fiber, and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are a good addition to a carb-loading diet before a long race, as they keep muscle pulls and leg cramps away.

Tomatoes

As well as being loaded with vitamin C, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which can fight and eliminate cancer. Adding them to your weight-loss diet is a great idea since it cuts through fat like butter (ironic, LOL). The fruit has been linked with natural fat burning hormones in the body such as leptin, a type of protein that helps regulate metabolic rate and appetite.

Bananas

Bananas are the perfect fitness food that is compact, unfussy, easy to chew, and packed with nutrients like potassium and mood-boosting serotonin. Bananas are slightly higher in energy than other fruits, but the calories come mainly from carbohydrates, which makes them brilliant for refueling before, during, or after a workout. They’re also packed with potassium, which may help with muscle cramps during exercise.

Cocoa

Cocoa is especially nutritious, being rich in magnesium, antioxidants, and amino acids. To get the full benefit, you need to get as close to the whole bean as possible. Cocoa nibs or powder are best – sprinkle on yogurt and fruits. The good thing is that the most common form in which cocoa is consumed is chocolate, so even when you indulge yourself in that chocolaty treat, there’s a healthy side to it.

Water

Water is the primary element every living being needs to survive and humans are no different. It is also the primary liquid you’ll need to achieve peak physical fitness. There are many health benefits of drinking water. One of the best is to help your skin purify its impurities. You can not have a clean and healthy skin if you don’t drink ample amount of water. Water cleanses the body and eliminates the toxins. Drinking at least 2 liters per day gives the skin a bright, noticeable change in less than a week. It rids your skin of dryness and wrinkles.

Salmon

Salmon is a good source of omega-3, a fatty acid that’s believed to keep your heart healthy. Salmon has proteins for the perfect post-exercise meal. Proteins rebuild and repair muscles, so it’s the nutrient to fill up on after a workout. Protein-packed salmon is a great choice, as well as eggs and lean meats.

You are what you eat, and your physical fitness and health depend largely on what goes into your body. That’s why you need to have a proper diet and know what to eat in order to get the body of your dreams.

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Here’s What It Really Means If You Have A Leo Moon Sign

Almost everyone knows their sun sign, but did you know there’s a lot more to it? It’s true, now everyone needs to know their big three: Sun, Moon, and Rising. Your sun sign is basically your basic identity, your moon sign is about your emotional needs, and your rising is basically how others perceive you (via Shape). There’s a lot more to one’s birth chart, but let’s focus on moon signs for now.

Many people don’t feel connected to their sun sign, they say it doesn’t fit them fully. And that’s pretty normal! That’s where moon signs come in. According to Allure, your moon sign is based on the position of the moon at the exact time of your birth. Your moon sign is basically your internal self, and what you feel on the inside. So it’s time to start digging through those attic boxes for your birth certificate and get researching!

Moon Leos have extremely creative spirits

Like the sun sign, Leos are always working to get the best of the best. They crave the spotlight, money, or anything that drives them to keep going. However, the moon sign works a little bit differently. Once you get in the spotlight, you’re a bit hesitant and your fear of criticism takes over. Leos are innately very talented, creative spirits, and they take immense pride in everything they do. According to Astro-Seek, since Leos are so creative, they can be quite sensitive as well. They are very much all-or-nothing and can perceive everything as either praise or an insult.

Moon Leos want to share their gifts with the world, but they have to work with their fear of criticism and possibly being eclipsed (via Allure). Luckily, since they’re so generous and warm, they’ll have lots of friends to help them work through it (via LiveAbout).

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COVID-19 public health messages have been all over the place—but researchers can do better

covid

Persuading people to get a COVID-19 vaccine remains a challenge even as more than a 120 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose.

Public health officials have struggled to find persuasive and accessible approaches throughout the pandemic, from explaining where COVID-19 originated to how the virus spreads among individuals, along with steps to prevent its transmission, its inequitable impacts on people’s lives, and now relevant risks and benefits information about vaccines.

COVID-19 is not just a medical issue. It is also a social justice, economic and political issue. That makes it hard to figure out how best to share information about it, especially since messages come from a range of communicators—including elected officials, journalists, scientists, physicians and community leaders—and are delivered to diverse audiences.

And the science itself has been uncertain and evolving. New information can change what’s known almost daily, making clear, accurate communication a “moving target.”

As researchers focused on the science of science communication, we can suggest several communication strategies, based on a July 2020 report from the National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine, that encourage protective behaviors related to COVID-19.

Clear and open, even about uncertainty

Decades of research in risk communication show that people’s perception of their own risk is key to motivating them to take preventive measures. For that to work, public health messages must be clear, consistent and transparent.

One way to ensure that, especially for issues that have high uncertainty, like the pandemic, is for science and health messages to include context that connects the news to people’s concerns and prior experiences. What does risk or uncertainty about how the virus is transferred mean for the audience? How can they act on that information in their own lives? The “so what” of the message has to feel relevant. One approach, for example, is to emphasize how adoption of preventive behaviors—such as mask-wearing and hand-washing—leads to local businesses reopening and faster economic recovery.

Ensuring consistency in messaging, even for a rapidly changing issue, also means considering context—the bigger-picture processes shaping the issue. In other words, where do both the information and the uncertainty come from? What do scientists, policymakers and health care workers know or not know at this point? Then, most crucially, what are people doing to address that uncertainty and what can audiences still do to act in the face of it?

Tap into a crowd mentality

At various points during the pandemic, public health officials needed to persuade people to change aspects of their daily lives. To do this effectively, it helps to remember that people change their behavior and beliefs to better match what they perceive other people are doing—especially those they most identify with. It’s human nature to want to go along with social norms.

Health messages should avoid putting a spotlight on “bad” behaviors, since that can actually exacerbate the problem. Disproportionate attention paid to vaccine hesitancy or people refusing to wear masks, for example, gives the impression that these behaviors are more common than they actually are. Rather, attention to “good” behaviors, such as small business successfully implementing social distancing practices, can be more effective.

But even well-intended efforts to promote social norms, such as vaccination selfies, may provoke significant backlash, including jealousy, anger and feelings of injustice.

One way to avoid unintended backlash is to consider, before sharing, who is likely to see this message beyond the intended audiences. Are those who might see the message able to act on this information? If people can’t sign up for their own vaccination yet, a photo of a happy newly vaccinated person may make them feel angry and trigger negative feelings about systemic unfairness and resentment toward those who do have access.

Balancing the good news with the bad

The fear of a threat can motivate action. But a fear-based message often leads to people feeling helpless unless it’s paired with clear actions they can take to mitigate the threat.

Alternatively, hope is a powerful motivator, much more so and more consistently than fear or anger in many cases. Fortunately, for science communication in particular, surveys find that the majority of Americans remain hopeful about the promise of science to improve people’s lives.

Communicating hope can happen implicitly, through highlighting what does work and the benefits of actions. For example, clients following mask-wearing policies permitted many small businesses like hair salons to remain safely open.

What tends to be more common, especially in news coverage, is an emphasis on the negative—both in the current situation and in hypothetical futures and risks that could come if people don’t change course. You can see this focus in the coverage of gatherings that violate health regulations, like crowded beaches during spring break.

The weight of constant bad news reduces how equipped individuals feel to deal with a problem or avoid a risk. And this negative tendency can paint an unrealistic picture of an issue that has both wins and losses to report.

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U.S. COVID Response Could Have Avoided Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths – Research

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States squandered both money and lives in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it could have avoided nearly 400,000 deaths with a more effective health strategy and trimmed federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars while still supporting those who needed it.

That is the conclusion of a group of research papers released at a Brookings Institution conference this week, offering an early and broad start to what will likely be an intense effort in coming years to assess the response to the worst pandemic in a century.

U.S. COVID-19 fatalities could have stayed under 300,000, versus a death toll of 540,000 and rising, if by last May the country had adopted widespread mask, social distancing, and testing protocols while awaiting a vaccine, estimated Andrew Atkeson, economics professor at University of California, Los Angeles.

He likened the state-by-state, patchwork response to a car’s cruise control. As the virus worsened people hunkered down, but when the situation improved restrictions were dropped and people were less careful, with the result that “the equilibrium level of daily deaths … remains in a relatively narrow band” until the vaccine arrived.

Atkeson projected a final fatality level of around 670,000 as vaccines spread and the crisis subsides. The outcome, had no vaccine been developed, would have been a far-worse 1.27 million, Atkeson estimated.

The economic response, while mammoth, also could have been better tailored, argued University of California, Berkeley economics professor Christine Romer. She joins former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and several others from the last two Democratic administrations in criticizing the spending authorized since last spring, including the Biden team’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

While she said the federal government’s more than $5 trillion in pandemic-related spending won’t likely trigger a fiscal crisis, she worries that higher-priority investments will be deferred because of allocations to initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program.

Those forgivable small business loans were “an interesting and noble experiment,” but were also “problematic on many levels,” including an apparent cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for each job saved, she said.

“Spending on programs such as unemployment compensation and public heath was exactly what was called for,” she wrote, but other aspects, particularly the generous one-time payments to families, were “largely ineffective and wasteful.”

“If something like the $1 trillion spent on stimulus payments that did little to help those most affected by the pandemic ends up precluding spending $1 trillion on infrastructure or climate change in the next few years, the United States will have made a very bad bargain indeed,” Romer wrote.

Biden administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, argue the full package was needed to be sure all workers and families are kept economically intact until the job market recovers.

In a separate paper, Minneapolis Federal Reserve researchers Krista Ruffini and Abigail Wozniak concluded the federal programs largely did what they intended by supporting income and spending, with the impact seen in how consumption changed in response to the approval and lapse of different government payments.

But they also found room for improvement.

Evidence of the PPP’s effectiveness in job retention, for example, was “mixed,” they found, and increases in food assistance didn’t account for things like higher grocery prices.

“Food insecurity remained elevated throughout 2020,” they noted.

The aim now, they said, should be on determining what worked in order to make the response to any similar crisis more effective.

“The 2020 social insurance system response had many successes,” they said. “Given the scope and scale of the pandemic response, it is critical we continue to evaluate these efforts to understand the full extent of their reach, which populations were helped, who was left out.”

SOURCE: https://brook.gs/31iIjSA BPEA Spring 2021 Conference, March 25, 2021.

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Children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death

Children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death

A new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University reveals that children with cerebral palsy in rural Uganda have 25 times higher risk of premature death. The main causes of death were malaria and anemia. The study is to this date the largest study conducted on cerebral palsy in Africa and was published in PLoS One.

The children with severe malnutrition and severe motor impairments were the most likely to die. The study reveals that interventions to prevent malaria infections such as the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, coupled with caregiver training and support, including best feeding practices and simple measures to prevent other infections, could potentially reduce mortality in children with Cerebral palsy in this region.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a developmental disorder and the most common cause of childhood physical disability globally. CP is severalfold more prevalent in low-income and middle-income countries like Uganda compared to e.g., Europe, as demonstrated in the findings of an earlier study conducted in 2015.

However, the researchers noted a lower prevalence in the older age group (8-17 years) than younger age group (2-7 years). To get a better understanding this follow-up study was carried out at the Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site in Eastern Uganda. Earlier in 2015, the researchers screened 31,756 children and identified 97 who were diagnosed as having CP. The children with CP were followed up in 2019 and compared with an age-matched sample of the Demographic Surveillance Site general non-CP population.

“We found that the death rate was 25 times higher in children with CP, compared to the general non-CP population sample. In the CP group, females, and older children (10-18 years) had the highest relative risks of death in relation to the non-CP general population. Furthermore, in children with CP, there was an almost seven times risk of death in those with severe motor impairments compared to those with milder ones.”, says Dr. Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige of Makerere University.

The causes of death in the children with CP, were from common conditions like anemia, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea with a background of malnutrition. In fact, the children with severe malnutrition had a more than three times higher risk of death than those without severe malnutrition. This means that children with CP, and likely other developmental disabilities, have been left out of the powerful interventions that have reduced child mortality from the above-mentioned conditions in the recent decades.

“These results show that Universal Health Coverage is just a slogan, and health care and schooling are not reaching these children,” says Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige.

“We have in our previous studies shown that children with cerebral palsy in Uganda lack access to health care and schooling, and in this study we can see the results of this neglect on these children. Most families have not received support on how to care for their disabled children, and they do not have the money to seek professional care on their own. There is an urgent need for interventions to support their access to health care and education,” says Carin Andrews researcher at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet.

Targeted interventions to reduce mortality in the CP child population are needed, such as the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria infections, provision of easy to use, locally available nutritious foods coupled with caregiver information and support. There is a need to reinforce and review the existing laws and policies for all children’s right to health care and schooling, which should include children with disabilities.

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Researchers develop a model that predicts whether COVID-19 restrictions have any effect

Researchers develop a model that predicts whether COVID-19 restrictions have any effect

What happens when municipalities in the Copenhagen area experience a COVID-19 flare-up? Would closing the schools have any effect, or would a better choice be directing the parents to work from home? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities worldwide have several times implemented steps to keep the pandemic in check.

Now, researchers from the Department of Computer Science at Aalborg University have come forward with a new agent-based model that can be used as a tool for making even better, informed choices regarding which restrictions to implement.

The background of using agent-based modeling to analyze, predict and control the rapid spreading of COVID-19 is described in the paper Fluid Model-Checking in UPPAAL for COVID-19 published in the distinguished conference proceedings series Lecture Notes in Computer Science.

167 fewer new cases a day

In the new model, the researchers simulate interactions between specific agents or in other words, individuals. Based on data from Statistics Denmark, the Danish Building and Housing Register (BBR), the Central Business Register and the State Serum Institute of Denmark, the researchers have used the agent-based technic to construct a model of Northern Jutland, with more than 500,000 individuals.

The region was placed under lockdown in November due to the fear of spreading the cluster-5 variant of the coronavirus, circulating primarily in farmed minks.

In the model, each individual is assigned a state of health, which is combined with general data on addresses, places of employment, family sizes and commuting patterns to calculate realistic simulations of the mobility patterns of all Northern Jutland inhabitants.

Project head, Professor Kim Guldstrand Larsen, explains that the researchers have simulated the case numbers in the region over the course of 100 days based on two different scenarios: One scenario in which no lockdown was implemented, and the actual scenario where schools and municipal boundaries, etc. were closed:

“The model enables us to simulate real chains of infection. In our assessment, over a period of two months the lockdown resulted in around 10,000 fewer cases in Northern Jutland,” says Kim Guldstrand Larsen.

In the context of the model predicting that the region would have experienced around 70,000 cases in that period if no lockdown had been implemented, this equals a percentual reduction of 14 percent in the total number of cases over the period of two months. This equals 167 fewer new cases a day.

“We can draw up accurate scenarios for how the disease will spread under different conditions. If we turn back time a few months, we would also have been able to predict the probability of the cluster-5 variant spreading across the regional boundary,” says Kim Guldstrand Larsen.

Weather forecast for COVID-19 spread

The model of Northern Jutland is based on open data—in other words, the researchers have no access to sensitive personal data. If they had precise data on, for instance, where people live and where they work, they would be able to predict very accurately whether each person would be infected in the near future.

“The authorities have access to the actual numbers and will be able to use the model for making very accurate simulations of the real-world situation. With the current data, the model should be seen as a tool for a more nuanced predictive contagion tracing—a kind of weather forecast for the spread of COVID-19. We have used Northern Jutland as our point of departure, but the model can be used anywhere with a certain amount of data,” says Kim Guldstrand Larsen.

Computing power required

To develop the model, the researchers have used the software tool UPPAAL, which they themselves have developed over the last 20 years. The tool has been used to analyze several real-world complex systems, including heating and traffic control systems, where the behavior of the overall system is given by the complex interaction of its components. In the new setting, the components of the model are people interacting through contagion.

“Prior to this, we have worked with systems of 2,000 components, so of course, it was quite a leap to the 500,000 components we are working with now. This requires a whole lot of computing power, and as far as I know, we are part of a limited group of researchers currently capable of making this kind of simulation,” says Kim Guldstrand Larsen, pointing to the work of American colleagues who have recently published an equivalent study in Nature.

The Danish authorities have shown great interest in the Danish researchers’ work, and Kim Guldstrand Larsen has high expectations of the model being used by the State Serum Institute of Denmark.

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People eventually adopt healthy behaviors – but it can take time we don’t have during a pandemic

Why do we do things that are bad for us—or not do things that are good for us—even in light of overwhelming evidence?

As someone with a long career in pharmacy, I have witnessed some pretty dramatic shifts in public health behavior. But I won’t sugarcoat it. It generally takes years—or even decades—of dragging people, kicking and screaming, to finally achieve new and improved societal norms.

This plodding time course seems to be an innate human defect that existed long before the current-day pandemic mask and social distancing conundrums. Historically, people aren’t fond of being told what to do.

Notable victories

Attitudes toward smoking have undergone dramatic changes over the past 50 years. Although there has been a gradual decline in smoking, from 42% of the American population in 1965 to the low teens today, there still are a lot of smokers in the U.S. – and premature deaths due to smoking. Even health care workers fall prey to this unhealthy and highly addictive habit.

There was a strongly held view that smoking was a personal decision that do-gooders and the government should keep their noses out of—until the issue was framed differently by studies showing harm caused by secondhand smoke. You are welcome to do what you want to yourself, but it becomes a horse of a different color when it affects others.

Today, public smoking restrictions have become commonplace. But this change in societal behavior didn’t happen overnight or without painful discourse. The journey from the initial 1964 surgeon general’s report on smoking and health to the 2006 surgeon general’s report on secondhand smoke to today was a fractious one.

Another about-face has been the adoption of seat belts. Seat belts save lives. And most people now use them as a result of the nagging warning alarm, the marketing of automobile safety, the law and the data.

This change in behavior, however, followed a rocky road over many years. In my earlier days, I can remember more than one occasion when I hopped into a friend’s car, put on my seat belt and was then chastised for having so little faith in my friend’s driving ability.

Seat belts were required to be installed in new cars starting in 1964 and New York enacted the first seat belt use law in 1984. In the U.S., seat belt use rose from 14% in 1983 to 90% in 2016.

Continuing challenges

In the medical arena, much effort has been expended in promoting healthy behaviors—diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, adherence to prescribed drugs and immunizations. Frankly, the success has been mixed.

Studies have suggested many possible variables associated with not following accepted medical advice: age, gender, race, education, literacy, income, insurance copays, level of physician and pharmacist care—and plain old stubbornness. But there is no single, easily addressable cause of nonadherence to healthy behaviors.

For example, properly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins literally add years to patients’ lives by reducing heart attacks and strokes. Even in people with insurance coverage and minimal side effects, 50% of patients discontinue statin therapy within one year of receiving their first prescription.

Vaccines and immunization offer another window into the puzzle of human behavior. Life expectancy in the U.S. rose from 40 years in 1860 to 70 years in 1960. These gains resulted largely from decreased infant and child mortality due to infectious diseases. A better understanding of infectious diseases along with scientific advances, vaccines and antibacterial drugs were the primary factors for this profound increase in life expectancy.

Common sense alone makes the value of vaccines abundantly clear; how many people do you know who are suffering from polio or smallpox? Yet some intelligent, thoughtful friends, family and neighbors are convinced vaccines are not helpful and are even harmful. Some believe wearing a mask is nothing more than a “feel good” placebo. I believe these contrarian beliefs make better press and are therefore more frequently reported than mainstream ones, but clearly there is reason for concern.

The current crisis

Historically, changes in societal behavior that benefit public health occur in fits and starts—and never fast enough for the individuals who fall victim before society comes around.

The urgency imposed by the coronavirus has actually resulted in comparatively swift behavioral changes (masks, hand-washing, distancing) in the U.S. – as scientists learned how the coronavirus is spread, how dangerous it can be and which groups are more susceptible. But these behavioral changes were not as complete or as fast as they should—or could—have been when judged by far better outcomes in other countries.

I am discouraged by the battle between the scientific method and political ideology when it comes to public health. Ideology never seems to change and is therefore more comforting to some—while science evolves as new findings debunk old ideas or confirm new ones. It is clear to all who want to listen: controlling the virus and maintaining the economy is not an either/or choice—they are interdependent.

At the same time, I am buoyed that the tide seems to be turning. As a better understanding of treating COVID-19 has emerged and with more than one highly effective vaccine on the horizon, the “idiot scientists” are gaining ground, both in the lab and at the bedside. Even the most prominent ideologues run to the hospital to get the best treatments science can offer when the effect of their maskless behavior rears up to bite them.

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This Is How Many People Really Have Blue Eyes

As it turns out, your eye color may have landed you in one of the most exclusive groups in the world. Though blue is the second-most-common color in humans, only eight to 10 percent of the population can boast about their baby blues. As you might have guessed, brown eyes take the top spot. 

Blue eyes are the most common in Europe, and specifically in Scandinavia. And while they are undoubtedly pretty rare, their green-eyed counterparts are even rarer, accounting for only two percent of the population. Those with hazel and amber eyes account for approximately five percent of the population. Less than one percent of the population have gray eyes (per World Atlas).

Over the years, the percentage of humans with blue eyes has decreased considerably, so those sporting baby blues should count themselves lucky — especially when they find out more about the happy genetic accident that occurred to create the unique eye color.

Blue eyes are the result of a genetic mutation

Approximately 10,000 years ago, someone living in Europe was the first person to experience the mutation that causes blue eyes (per World Atlas). Essentially, the mutation resulted in a switch that turned off the genetic mechanism that causes people to have brown eyes. This particular individual is the ancestor of all those with blue eyes today.

A person’s eye color is determined by several genes that control the melanin production in an iris. Since these genes are passed on by your parents, it’s more likely than not that you’ll share their eye color (per Healthline).

Though blue eyes account for nearly 90 percent of the population in many Scandinavian countries, the number of people with blue eyes in the United States has been decreasing over the past century or so, per a study published in the Annals of Human Biology. Between 1905 and 1951, researchers at Loyola University Chicago found that the number of blue-eyed Caucasian babies in the United States dropped an astonishing 25 percent.

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Patients on ACE inhibitors, ARBs, don’t have higher COVID-19 risk

While the COVID-19 pandemic left the world searching for answers during the earliest stages of the pandemic, one immediate healthcare concern regarded the use of certain antihypertensives—and whether they posed increased risks to patients with hypertension.

A new study by global collaborators within the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) community found that there was no increased risk of COVID-19 diagnosis, hospitalization, or subsequent complications for users of either angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) among an international cohort of more than 1.1 million patients using antihypertensives.

The study was published today in The Lancet Digital Health.

This real-world evidence, generated through open-science approaches, support recent regulatory and clinical recommendations that patients should not discontinue ACE inhibitor or ARB therapy due to concerns of increased COVID-19 risk.

“People with hypertension have worse COVID-19 outcomes, and there remains speculation that some anti-hypertensive medications may be detrimental,” says corresponding author Marc A. Suchard, a professor at UCLA and research team leader. “The clear answer is that ACE inhibitors and ARBs pose no increased risk as compared to other treatments.”

While other studies have generated similar findings recently, this study is the most comprehensive to date of COVID-19 susceptibility risks for antihypertensive users. OHDSI researchers examined electronic health records from a trio of data sources from the United States and Spain (Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Information System for Research in Primary Care) to conduct a systematic cohort study of ACE, ARB, calcium channel blocker (CCB) and thiazide diuretic (THZ) users.

The findings also showed no clinical reason to switch from an ARB to an ACE inhibitor to minimize COVID-19 risk.

“Based on our results, if there is a risk difference, it’s marginal and would be very challenging to further refine outside such a large-scale international study,” Suchard said.

Powered by open-source tools, state-of-the-art analytical methods and global collaboration within the OHDSI community, these findings provide robust and reproducible real-world evidence. The study design was specifically cited by the European Medicines Agency in the latest version of The European Network of Centres for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacovigilance (ENCePP) Guide on Methodological Standards in Pharmacoepidemiology following its release on a preprint server:

Morales et al. supported the reproducibility of their study by publishing the study protocol in the EU PAS Register ahead of time, providing a start-to-finish executable code, facilitating the sharing and exploration of the complete result set with an interactive web application and asking clinicians and epidemiologists to perform a blinded evaluation of propensity score diagnostics for the treatment comparisons.

“By comparing people exposed to ACE inhibitor and ARBs against people taking other antihypertensives, either alone or in combination, using two methods across three database the study generated 1280 comparisons to assess the safety of these drugs, producing highly consistent results,” says lead author Daniel Morales, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Dundee.

The International COVID-ACE Receptor Inhibition Utilization and Safety (ICARIUS) protocol, code, and results are all available for further exploration at https://github.com/ohdsi-studies/COVID19Icarius.

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