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Child diseases on rise as COVID-19 slows routine vaccinations -U.N.

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A South Sudanese refugee child is vaccinated with the Nguenyyiel refugee in the Gambella region, Ethiopia, October 24, 2017. REUTERS / Tiksa Negeri / File Photo

  • 22.7 million children missed routine vaccinations in 2020 – UN –
  • Measles can be a deadly disease for unvaccinated children
  • “Big, disturbing” measles outbreaks in Afghanistan, Africa
  • WHO fears a “perfect storm” as nations lift pandemic restrictions

Geneva, July 15 (Reuters) – Nearly 23 million children missed routine vaccinations last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest number in more than a decade fueling outbreaks of measles, polio and other preventable diseases, said UN authorities on Thursday.

Measles, one of the most contagious diseases in the world, can be fatal for children under five, especially in African and Asian countries with weak health systems, according to the World Health Organization. Polio can cripple a child for life.

The gap in global immunization coverage has sparked a “perfect storm” leaving more children vulnerable to infectious pathogens, just as many countries are easing COVID-19 restrictions, the WHO and the UN Children’s Fund said in an annual report.

Ten countries, led by India and Nigeria, account for the majority of the 22.7 million unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated children for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (DTP) in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019 and most since 2009 said to be a key indicator of vaccination rates in children.

“Large and disturbing” measles outbreaks have been recorded in hotspots such as Afghanistan, Mali, Somalia and Yemen, the report added.

About 22.3 million children missed their first dose of measles vaccine last year – although there was likely significant overlap with those without DTP coverage – for the lowest coverage against the killer disease since 2010, it said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant regression in childhood vaccination and has put us back more than a decade,” said Kate O’Brien, WHO director for immunization, at a news conference.

There has been an “alarming increase” in “zero-dose” children – those who are not vaccinated – which rose from 13.6 million to 17.1 million in the past year, said Ephrem Lemango, UNICEF chief for Immunization. Many live in war-torn countries or slums, he said.

Sixty-six countries have postponed at least one vaccination campaign for preventable diseases, although some, including Mexico, have started catch-up programs, the report said.

“A perfect storm may be ahead in 2021, and we don’t want to come to that perfect storm to ring the alarm bell. We’re ringing now,” said O’Brien.

WHO has urged countries not to prematurely lift public health and social distancing measures once they begin to recover from the pandemic, she said.

“But when that happens – and how it happens – we will transmit more and more pathogens that are otherwise vaccine-preventable pathogens.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Pfizer says vaccine’s power wanes over time. Are you still protected?

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The effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine waned over six months, but experts say the data still does not indicate an immediate need for booster vaccines.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, found that the vaccine was 97 percent effective at preventing serious Covid illnesses for at least six months – but effectiveness against any symptomatic illness fell from 96 Percent to 84 percent over the same period, every two months by about 6 percent.

Full coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic

“I was generally encouraged by the results of the paper,” said lead study author Dr. Stephen Thomas, a coordinating investigator for the Pfizer vaccine study and director of the SUNY Upstate Institute for Global Health & Translational Science in New York.

He said the expectation is always that the protection of the vaccine would wear off. The big question, he said, was whether protection would wane to the extent that the disease was affecting so-called public health; namely, hospitalizations and deaths. So far this does not seem to be the case.

“Although we saw protection wear off after six months, protection from the serious consequences that really put the disease’s public health burden in place,” said Thomas.

Overall, the study found that within six months, the vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing symptoms of Covid, which ranged from mild to severe symptoms. Pfizer announced these specific results in a press release in April.

Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine researcher at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, said he was “pleasantly surprised” that it was as effective as it was in preventing symptoms.

“These data are all very encouraging and exactly what you would expect,” he said.

“You will never be so well protected from an asymptomatic infection or a mildly symptomatic infection, and that’s fine,” he said. “They just want to keep people out of the hospital and keep them from dying. That is the goal.”

The new study examined follow-up data collected as of March 13 from more than 44,000 people who participated in Pfizer’s Phase 3 clinical trial last year. People received either two doses of the vaccine or two doses of placebo three weeks apart. Since the study only looked at data through mid-March, it remains unclear how the shots against the Delta variant, which became the most common strain of the virus in the United States in early July, remains unclear.

The results come as experts continue to consider whether or not booster injections are needed. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has long said that a refresher would be needed in the coming months, although federal health officials say there is still no evidence to warrant this.

In a conference call Wednesday morning, Pfizer said a third dose increases antibody levels specific for the Delta variant by five-fold in people ages 18 to 55 and eleven-fold in people ages 65 to 85 have. Although these results suggest better protection against the variant, whether this leads to better protection against disease remains to be explored.

Offit stressed that it was too early to definitively say that booster vaccinations are needed as the vaccine remains very effective in preventing serious illness and hospital admissions.

“If the number of people who are fully vaccinated and still being hospitalized or killed increases to 5, 10, or 20 percent, you can think about a booster, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

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Dr. Bob Wachter, chairman of the medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed with Offit that the new data does not suggest that it is not yet time to rush and get a booster shot.

“It just goes to show that someone who was injected seven or eight months ago is at a slightly higher risk [for a breakthrough infection] than we thought, and it’s a perfectly good justification for self-vaccinated people to wear masks indoors again, “Wachter said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision on Tuesday to put vaccinated people on wearing masks Recommended indoors in areas with high concentrations of community spread.

However, the dominance of the delta variant, combined with the vaccine’s declining effectiveness over time, suggests that boosters will be needed at some point, he said.

“I don’t think it’s a reason to panic and I don’t think it’s a reason to run out and find a booster today because the overall protection against super sickness and dying remains extremely high,” said Wachter. “But I think it’s part of the puzzle that tells us all that boosters will be in our future.”

Thomas, the study’s author, said more research is needed.

“I believe [the study] says it is possible that if the protective effect of the vaccine continues to wear off over time, we may need booster doses, ”said Thomas. “But that’s still an unanswered question for me.”

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How to stop eye twitching, and why it happens

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Usually the eye twitching is mild and goes away on its own after a few seconds or a few minutes. It is usually not a sign of an underlying disease. However, there are a few things people can try to stop it.

Mild eyelid twitching or eyelid myokymia is common. It has associations with stress, fatigue, and caffeine consumption. Reducing the factors that contribute to eyelid twitching can help reduce the frequency of its occurrence.

This article takes a closer look at eye twitching, what causes it and how to stop it.

A slight twitch occurs when the orbicularis oculi muscle, responsible for closing the eyelids, contracts spontaneously, causing small and uncontrollable twitching movements. The medical term for this condition is eyelid myokymia.

Eyelid myokymia can affect the upper or lower eyelid, but most commonly it affects the lower eyelid. Usually the twitches are light and brief and go away on their own after a few seconds or minutes. In some cases, they can last for hours. Less often they can become chronic.

Learn more about eyelid twitching here.

Other less common types of eyelid twitching include:

Essential blepharospasm

Essential blepharospasm causes the eyelids to close spontaneously. This may be like a blink or a wink, but the eyelids may close for a longer period of time in some cases. Blepharospasm can last a few seconds to a few hours, and some people may not be able to see during this time.

Doctors believe a problem with the nerves around the eyes is causing essential blepharospasm, but aren’t sure why it develops. Sometimes another condition such as Parkinson’s disease can be the cause.

Hemifacial spasm

Hemifacial spasm is a rare condition that causes the muscles on one side of the face to contract. Sometimes this starts near the eye and causes eyelid cramps before other areas of the face are affected.

Hemifacial spasm can occur alone, because something is pressing on the nerves that control the muscles of the face, or as a result of another condition.

Eyelid myokymia often goes away on its own. However, if a person wants to stop or reduce this symptom, they can try the following:

  1. With a warm compress: People can use a warm compress and apply it over the eyelid area. This can help relax the muscles around the eye and stop the cramps.
  2. Reduce stress: Eyelid myokymia is linked to stress, so it may help reduce the exposure to stress. People can do this by delegating tasks to others, taking time each day to relax, trying stress relieving hobbies, and practicing stress management techniques like breathing exercises or mindfulness.
  3. Avoid caffeine: Tea, coffee, some sodas, and chocolate can all contain caffeine, which can trigger or worsen eyelid twitching. Try to gradually reduce or eliminate caffeine intake.
  4. Getting enough sleep: Taking a nap can help resolve the eyelid twitching. It’s also good to get enough sleep each day by setting a regular schedule for falling asleep and waking up. If a person is having trouble falling asleep, a doctor, sleep specialist, or other health care provider can provide advice.
  5. Fight dry eyes: Dry, irritated, or gritty eyes can make your eyelids twitch. People can use moisturizing eye drops to relieve dryness.

More severe or persistent eyelid cramps, such as blepharospasm and hemifacial spasms, may require medical treatment.

Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes eyelid myokymia. It is a common condition that can occur in healthy people for no apparent reason. It seems to be related to lifestyle factors such as:

The side effects of some medications, including topiramate, flunarizine, and clozapine, can also cause eyelid twitching. However, this is unusual.

A 2017 study from Taiwan on chronic eyelid twitching found that around half of the participants had differences in nerve function. This could be due to a nerve conduction defect that explains why some people develop persistent twitching.

Chronic eye twitching also seems to be more common in women, although experts don’t know why.

The authors of the study suspect that this could be due to the fact that women, especially in China, are exposed to higher levels of stress than men due to social or cultural pressure. Overall, however, more research is needed.

Doctors don’t know what causes blepharospasm, but it can sometimes be related to underlying conditions, such as:

The underlying conditions that can cause hemifacial spasm are similar and include:

  • traumatic injury
  • Brain lesions
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Mastoid or ear infections
  • Tumors
  • other structural abnormalities in the posterior region of the cranial cavity

Many of the known triggers for mild eye twitching are lifestyle related, so changing their daily routine may help people avoid this symptom. This can mean:

  • go to sleep earlier
  • Sleep and wake up at similar times each day, including weekends
  • Practice sleep hygiene
  • Switch to decaffeinated drinks
  • Reducing activities or habits that cause stress, such as B. Revision
  • Seek support from a therapist for anxiety or high levels of stress
  • Avoiding tobacco smoking or alcohol consumption

If eye twitching is common, it can be helpful to record when it occurs and note any other contributing factors. This can help someone see a pattern.

However, if the eye twitching is bothersome and doesn’t seem to be related to daily habits, a doctor may be able to offer other treatments to contain or prevent it.

This could include botox injections, which temporarily paralyze the affected muscles to prevent the twitching.

In rare cases, doctors may recommend an eyelid angle myectomy to correct blepharospasm or hemifacial spasm. This procedure removes the muscles that are causing the cramps. Identifying any underlying medical conditions that are causing the convulsions will allow a doctor to manage or control this symptom.

Most of the time, eye twitching is mild and goes away on its own. However, people should see an ophthalmologist if they experience:

  • Twitching that has lasted for more than a few weeks
  • severe twitching that affects vision
  • spontaneous closing of the eyelids
  • Twitching in other parts of the face
  • often dry eyes
  • other new symptoms that could indicate an underlying condition

Many people experience slight, temporary twitches in their eyes. It is usually not a sign of serious health and often does not require treatment.

People may find that twitching occurs less often if they can reduce stress, anxiety, trouble sleeping, or caffeine consumption.

The more bothersome forms of eye twitching include essential blepharospasm and hemifacial spasm. These can affect a person’s eyesight and make activities such as working or driving difficult to perform.

If a person has severe eye twitching, it is important to speak to a doctor.

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The fashion industry’s ‘plus-size’ label shames women to fit an unhealthy standard

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This first-person article is the experience of Laura Sang, a doctor in Montreal. For more information on CBC’s first-person stories, please visit the FAQ. Content Warning: This article covers eating disorders and Suicidal ideation.

Over a year after the pandemic, I finally had enough courage to venture out and buy new clothes. I know that most of us have experienced “COVID 15” to some extent, and I was no exception.

No amount of regular exercise has been able to counteract the stress, long working hours and the occasional lack of access to healthy food despite the curfew of several months in Quebec. I couldn’t deny that I had gained a few pounds and most of my pants were uncomfortably tight. It was time to upgrade.

I went to my local thrift store and found that my pants size had changed. Once again. When browsing the shelves of last year’s “out of season” pants, the same waist / hip size was marked as extra large instead of large on branded pants. When I tried on piece by piece, nothing worked until I tried on the pants in the “plus size” range.

For the first time in my life, I was forced to shop in a separate area, even though I was only 10 pounds above the upper limit of a healthy body mass index for my height. I was now referred to as a “plus-size” woman and could no longer shop in many of the trendy mainstream stores because their items were not in my size.

I was shocked, angry, and instantly embarrassed.

Thinking back on my pediatric rotations over the past several years, I have spoken to dozens of adolescent girls and boys with eating disorders. They cried in front of me and said they were too fat, their thighs too big, and they were “not doing well enough to lose weight.”

Despite the fact that their ribs were protruding, their blood pressure was unstable, and menstrual / pubescent development was stopped, many of these teenagers struggled with suicidal thoughts because they couldn’t meet their “standards” for thinness.

Eating disorder rates among adolescents were already high and have increased significantly during the pandemic. Unfortunately, unless hospitalization is required, the wait times to get help are daunting. While not all of them have, many teenagers have been able to tell me about one cause of their eating disorders: from the inability to fit into an outfit to a comment from a gym teacher like “You’re great too” for pull-ups make.”

Stop making zero the standard

As a doctor, I cannot deny that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for a number of diseases. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and good habits are essential to feeling good and living a happy and healthy life. However, we need to stop misunderstanding what a healthy body looks like and stop shaming people for not conforming to that unattainable and unhealthy standard of size zero.

This is especially true for women. I remember asking a member of staff about a particular dress in my size ten years ago, only to say, “Sorry, we don’t have this in your size.” I have friends who are having trouble finding clothes to fit because sizes don’t go below XS. By only making these beautiful dresses available to people of a certain size, companies are subtly telling us that anyone outside of this range is less valuable and doesn’t deserve to feel beautiful.

Stop making size zero the standard for health and beauty because it isn’t. All women are beautiful, whether they wear XXS or 15X and beyond. All women can be physically active (to their own limits, watch out for injuries). All women and people deserve to be comfortable and beautiful in the clothes they wear. That means offering the same clothing to women of all sizes and not shaming anyone for the number on their clothing label.

At some point I found a few items of clothing in the “plus size” section that were comfortable and fit me well. As soon as I got home, I cut off the labels and threw them in the trash. My body suffered like no other from the effects of health care work during a global pandemic, and I don’t need pants to feel bad about it.

The views expressed here are merely my own, based on anecdotal experience. Please contact your local emergency hotline or health department if you are struggling with suicidal ideation or eating disorders.

CBC Quebec welcomes your first-person essay pitches. Please send an email to povquebec@cbc.ca for details.

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