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December 23, 2021 (San Diego's East County) -- Our Health and Science Highlights provide cutting edge news that could impact your health and our future.



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FDA authorizes first antiviral pill for COVID-19 (NPR) 

In a highly anticipated decision, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 at home. The pill, called Paxlovid, is made by Pfizer. It's taken twice a day for five days in combination with a second medicine called ritonavir, a generic antiviral.

Omicron is now the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., making up 73% of new infections : Coronavirus Updates  (NPR)

The omicron variant is now considered the most dominant version of the coronavirus — making up 73% of new COVID-19 infections last week in the U.S., according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.The new estimates capture cases for the week that ended on Dec. 18.  The new estimates underscore just how rapidly it has spread across the U.S. As of a week prior, Dec. 11, it was detected in only 12.6% of positive COVID-19 cases that were sampled.

Fauci warns some at-home tests may not detect Omicron variant as Covid cases spike across US (UK Independent)

Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that some at-home Covid tests may not detect the new Omicron variant of the virus.

Vaccine protection vs. omicron infection may drop to 30% but does cut severe disease (NPR)

The new coronavirus variant, called omicron, was first identified in South Africa only about a month ago and is already spreading quickly in Europe and North America. It has an exceptionally high number of mutations, and those mutations appear to make it more transmissible than the delta variant. Now scientists in South Africa have just released the first data looking at how well the vaccines will work against the omicron variant. And the news is mixed. 

Federal appeals court reinstates Biden COVID-19 vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers (USA Today)

A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a Biden administration rule requiring large companies to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or implement testing, though the ruling is unlikely to be the final word on the matter.

COVID can lead to lasting harm to the brain, scientists find (NPR) 

13% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had developed a new neurological disorder soon after being infected. A follow-up study found that six months later, about half of the patients in that group who survived were still experiencing cognitive problems.

A tantalizing clue to why omicron is spreading so quickly (NPR)

Omicron is spreading lightning fast. In the U.S., the percentage of cases caused by this new coronavirus variant jumped seven times in just a week, from 0.4% of the total cases sequenced to 2.9%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates…In a household, the risk of spreading the omicron variant to another member is three times higher than it is with the delta variant, U.K. health officials estimated Friday.  

Study shows dramatic decline in effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines (Los Angeles Times)

By the end of September, Moderna’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, measured as 89% effective in March, was only 58% effective. The effectiveness of shots made by Pfizer and BioNTech, which also employed two doses, fell from 87% to 45% in the same period. And most strikingly, the protective power of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine plunged from 86% to just 13% over those six months.

Supreme Court upholds New York's vaccine mandate for health care workers  (NPR)

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to New York state's vaccine mandate for health care workers — a mandate that provides no exceptions for religious objectors. The vote was 6-3.

Judge Overturns Purdue Pharma’s Opioids Settlement (NY Times)

The ruling said the company’s owners, members of the Sackler family, could not receive protection from civil lawsuits in return for a $4.5 billion contribution.

F.D.A. Will Permanently Allow Abortion Pills by Mail (New York Times)

The decision will broaden access to medication abortion, an increasingly common method, but many conservative states are already mobilizing against it.

Dogs get cancer, too. This San Diego biotech is trying to catch canine tumors earlier (San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego biotech PetDx announced Thursday that it has raised $62 million to deploy a test that can spot early signs of cancer in dogs from a blood sample. The company’s test, which detects 30 cancer types from a tablespoon’s worth of blood, is already available at certain Petco hospitals and 20 veterinary clinics across Southern California. But this is just the beginning of a larger rollout…


France orders Clearview AI to delete the selfie data it gathered (DIY Photography)

Clearview AI came under fire for scraping billions of selfies off the Internet to sell facial recognition services to law enforcement. France’s privacy watchdog said that the company has breached Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and France has now ordered Clearview AI to delete its database.

ICO issues £17 million fine to facial recognition firm Clearview AI - and orders cessation of processing personal data (Lexology)

Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is advancing rapidly, and increasingly becoming more intertwined with our personal lives. However, advances in AI also have the potential to be used in a manner that could be considered problematic and intrusive. On 29 November the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”), the UK’s data protection regulator, issued a provisional £17 million fine to Clearview AI Inc and ordered the company to stop processing the personal data of people in the UK following “alleged serious breaches of the UK’s data protection laws”.




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