Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
New COVID model predicts over 1 million deaths in China through 2023
China’s abrupt lifting of stringent COVID-19 restrictions could result in an explosion of cases and over a million deaths through 2023, according to new projections from the U.S.-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). According to the group’s projections, cases in China would peak around April 1, when deaths would reach 322,000. About a third of China’s population will have been infected by then, IHME Director Christopher Murray said.
U.S. FDA approves Ferring Pharma’s first gene therapy for bladder cancer
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Swiss drugmaker Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ first gene therapy for treating adult patients with a type of bladder cancer. The therapy, Adstiladrin, is for patients with an aggressive form of the disease whose current options include having their bladder removed. The treatment, to be administered once every three months into the patient’s bladder, triggers the body to make a protein to fight off cancer.
Streets deserted in China’s cities as new COVID surge looms
Streets in major Chinese cities were eerily quiet on Sunday as people stayed home to protect themselves from a surge in COVID-19 cases that has hit urban centres from north to south. China is in the first of an expected three waves of COVID cases this winter, according to the country’s chief epidemiologist, Wu Zunyou. Further waves will come as people follow the tradition of returning en masse to their home areas for the Lunar New Year holiday next month, he said.
Uganda president lifts all Ebola-related movement restrictions
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni lifted all Ebola-related movement restrictions on Saturday, saying the East African country had made progress in curbing the deadly disease.
Museveni rescinded restrictions on the disease’s epicentre in the district of Mubende, which logged 66 cases and 29 deaths, and in the Kassanda region with 49 cases and 21 deaths.
We’ve run out of cholera vaccines, WHO official says as disease surges
The global stockpile of cholera vaccines the World Health Organization helps manage is “currently empty or extremely low”, a WHO official said on Friday amid a resurgence of the disease around the world. The U.N. health agency says global fatality rates are rising and there are around 30 countries around the world that have reported cholera outbreaks this year, about a third higher than in a typical year.
U.S. FDA advisers to weigh on updating initial COVID vaccine doses
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday it planned to hold a meeting of outside experts next month to discuss whether initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines need to be updated to combat circulating variants. While updated booster doses from Pfizer and Moderna are already approved for adults as well as children as young as five years, the FDA said it was important to weigh in on the composition of both initial and booster doses as new variants spread.
U.S. FDA flags shortage of Eli Lilly’s new diabetes drug Mounjaro
The U.S. health regulator has added Eli Lilly and Co’s Mounjaro to its list of drugs facing shortages, highlighting the company’s struggles to meet booming demand for the newly approved diabetes injection. Trulicity, another diabetes treatment in the company’s stable and its biggest-selling drug, was also added to the Food and Drug Administration’s shortage list on Thursday.
Pfizer defeats race-bias lawsuit over minority fellowship program
A federal judge on Friday tossed a lawsuit by a group of medical professionals alleging a fellowship program established by Pfizer Inc to improve diversity within its higher ranks discriminates against white and Asian-American applicants. Do No Harm, a group opposed to what it calls “radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideologies” in healthcare, alleged the drugmaker’s Breakthrough Fellowship Program was discriminatory because only Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans could apply.
In COVID-hit Beijing, funeral homes and crematoriums are busy
Hearses bearing the dead lined the driveway to a designated COVID-19 crematorium in the Chinese capital on Saturday while workers at the city’s dozen funeral homes were busier than normal, days after China reversed tight pandemic restrictions. In recent days in Beijing the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has hit services from catering to parcel deliveries. Funeral homes and crematoriums across the city of 22 million are also struggling to keep up with demand as more workers and drivers testing positive for coronavirus call in sick.
Opposition to U.S. school vaccine mandates rose during pandemic -survey
Opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates that became increasingly political during the pandemic appears to have spilled over to inoculations long required for school children in the United States, with many more adults now against them, according to a new survey. Nearly three in 10 adults (28%) said parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey. That was up from 16% in a 2019 Pew Research Center poll conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, KFF researchers said.
(With inputs from agencies.)