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Fear and Anger have spread in wake of the latest Chinese Vaccine Scandal. It appears that almost $90 million of improperly stored and potentially fatal vaccines have been distributed across 2/3rds of the massive country over the last five years. This is the latest in a series of public health scandals that are sure to undermine confidence in the ruling Chinese Communist Party and its ability to protect public health.

In March Chinese State Media reported that a hospital pharmacist and her daughter had been arrested on suspicion of selling the tainted vaccines. Neither of the individuals at the center of the scandal were authorized to sell vaccines. They also released a list of 107 suspects who they believed had supplied the pair. The pharmacist, Pang Hongwei, was convicted for a similar offense back in 2009 and yet received a suspended sentence and was able to recommence her “business”.

The primary cause of China’s vaccine debacle appears to be  the poor regulation of low tier vaccines. In China vaccines are split into two categories; High tier vaccines are mandatory under law and free of charge, low tier vaccines are optional and must be paid for by the patient. The majority of vaccines involved in this scandal are of the low tier category and were being sold at reduced prices. Pang Hongwei, bought cheap vaccines close to their expiry dates and sold them in 23 provinces and cities. This poor oversight allowed Ms. Pang’s business to grow in the shadows, with many local government clinics seeking to increase their profits by turning to cheap, illegal suppliers.

Chinese vaccine scandal undermines public faith in immunization program

Credit: BBC

It seems unlikely that the vaccines themselves will have caused any direct fatalities although they are likely to have been ineffective. The real cost of this scandal will be measured in the loss of faith in China’s immunization program. The Anti-Vaccination movements in the west have already demonstrated that even blatant disinformation can severely undermine public confidence and lead to the resurgence of supposedly dead diseases as children remain vaccinated

Thanks to this most recent vaccine Scandal the Chinese people have a very real reason to be wary of the governments immunization program. There have always been concerns about fake products in China and social media has revealed the depth of anxiety people feel. This is not the first vaccine scare that China has faced. In 2013 there were unfounded reports of deaths caused by a hepatitis B vaccine. This led to a 30% drop in vaccinations for that vaccine and a 15% drop in the take up of the mandatory vaccines.

The most alarming part of this whole sorry affair is the fact that the Chinese government knew for almost a year that the tainted vaccines were on the market before informing the public. If we are being very generous then this was a misguided attempt to prevent mistrust in the immunization program from spreading. More likely, the governments’ dislike of public criticism led it to withhold information in a cynical attempt to maintain the image of control.

Whatever their motivation, the authorities haphazard response to the vaccine scandal will further undermine trust in the Chinese health care system.

You'll find me wandering around the Science sections mostly, excitedly waving my arms around while jumping up and down about the latest science and tech news. I am also occasionally found in the gaming section, trying to convince everyone else that linux is the future of the computer gaming.

Medicine and Health

Long-Term COVID Risk Factors Found in Data from Almost 5,000 People

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More information about who may be most likely to get a long-lasting illness has been found by looking at data from 4,700 people who have recovered from COVID-19. Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes the painful symptoms of long COVID—there are hundreds of possible causes—but this new study gives them a better idea of who may be affected.

If you get infected with SARS-CoV-2, you will have a long-term condition called Long COVID for at least three months. The symptoms may get worse over time or come on and off in waves. Some people will get better after a while, but for others, whose symptoms started in the early days of the pandemic in 2020 and haven’t gone away yet, they are still sick.

A lot of work has been done by scientists to figure out what causes long-term COVID and to find treatments that might help, not just for these patients but also for people with other post-viral syndromes. There are still a lot of things we don’t know, though. One of the biggest questions is who may be most likely to get long-term COVID. Someone at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center may have led a new study that could help.

“Our study clearly establishes that COVID posed a substantial personal and societal burden,” said Professor Elizabeth C. Oelsner, who wrote the study and was the lead author. “By figuring out who was most likely to have had a long recovery, we have a better idea of who should be involved in ongoing research into how to lessen or stop the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The 4,700 people who took part in the study agreed to be a part of the Collaborative Cohort of Cohorts for COVID-19 Research, or C4R. C4R is made up of more than 50,000 people from all over the US who are doing long-term research to help us learn as much as we can about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people who took part were asked to say how long it took them to get better after getting COVID. The average time to get better from an infection between 2020 and 2023 was 20 days, and more than one in five adults had symptoms for at least three months.

The biggest groups of those were found to be women and people who already had heart disease. American Indian and Alaska Native people who took part also had more severe first infections and took longer to recover.

Being vaccinated against the virus and having an infection with an omicron lineage variant, which is usually linked to milder disease, were both linked to a faster recovery. She said, “Our study shows how important it is that COVID vaccinations have been, not only in lowering the severity of an infection but also in lowering the risk of long-term COVID.”

Other health problems that are usually linked to worse outcomes from COVID, like diabetes and chronic lung disease, were linked to longer recovery times. However, this was no longer a statistically significant finding when sex, heart disease, vaccination status, and variant exposure were taken into account.

The study also found an interesting lack of a significant link with mental health disorders. Studies have shown that a lot of people with long COVID have problems with their mental health, but Oelsner said, “We did not find that depressive symptoms before SARS-CoV-2 infection were a major risk factor for long COVID.”

The main thing to remember is that getting vaccinated is still the best way to avoid getting COVID in the first place, so make sure you don’t have a worse experience with it. The current circulating variants are mostly offshoots of Omicron. This may also be a reason to be hopeful, since these variants were linked to shorter recovery times.

New vaccines are being made to match the newest strains, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts out detailed information on when people of different ages and risk levels should think about getting their next booster. Different countries have different vaccine availability, but the health authority in your area should be able to tell you if you can get a shot.

The study can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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Medicine and Health

Which is better for us: fresh or frozen vegetables?

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People are changing how they shop at the grocery store to save money because the cost of living is going up. This is especially true when it comes to vegetables. As a general rule, frozen vegetables are less expensive than fresh ones. However, some people think that fresh vegetables are naturally “better” for you. Which is it?

In a clean corner
Fresh vegetables that are crunchy and taste great are great, but they might not have as many nutrients as you think.

They start to lose their nutrients as soon as they are picked. That’s because they are taken away from their source of nutrients when they are picked. So that they can stay alive, the cells in vegetables breathe faster, which can cause nutrients to be lost. It’s also possible for this to happen when vegetables are stored or processed and are exposed to oxygen.

But this is the big nutritional catch with fresh vegetables: how healthy they are depends on how soon you eat them after picking them. Since the prices of vegetables at stores are going through the roof, some people are growing their own or getting them from community gardens. It usually takes a little longer for fresh vegetables from the store to get to our tables.

To get the most out of fresh vegetables, they should be eaten within a few days, if possible. CNN Health spoke with Gene Lester, a plant physiologist and national program leader for the US Department of Agriculture. “After it’s four, five, or seven days old, it’s a whole different story.”

In the cold corner
It became popular to freeze fresh vegetables because they go bad faster when left out in the open air. This way, you can use them up faster and avoid having a fridge full of spoiled green beans. Besides that, because they are frozen so soon after being picked, frozen vegetables are usually thought to have more nutrients.

Still, there is some evidence that frozen vegetables may have less vitamin C than fresh vegetables. Vitamin C is important for many bodily functions and, you know, keeps you from getting scurvy. For that reason, frozen vegetables are blanched, which means they are quickly scalded in steam or boiling water and then quickly cooled.

Blanching food is thought to help keep the flavor and stop that weird gray color that can happen with frozen food. This is done by turning off enzymes in the vegetables, which freezing alone couldn’t do. But heat can also break down vitamin C, so some of it might be lost in vegetables that are going to be frozen.

Vitamin C loss doesn’t seem to be that clear-cut, though. If it’s frozen, there may not be any more loss.

A study from 2015 that looked at how well eight different fruits and vegetables kept their vitamins found that spinach, carrots, peas, and broccoli that were stored fresh or frozen did not differ significantly in terms of vitamin C. It was discovered that frozen corn and green beans had higher levels of vitamin C than fresh ones. The authors said this was because fresh vegetables break down faster.

The whole picture
The study mentioned above also discovered that, on average, frozen vegetables had the same amount of vitamins as fresh ones, and sometimes even more. Any food is “better” than none at all, and any vegetable is better than none at all in the big picture.

Vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they are good for you in many ways, like helping your immune system and giving you more energy.

If you can’t decide between fresh and frozen, choose the option that works best for you, whether it’s financially, practically, or just in terms of taste.

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Medicine and Health

As a possible world first, Finland will give bird flu vaccines to groups that are most likely to get sick

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Inland is poised to become the first nation globally to administer prophylactic avian influenza vaccines to select individuals. According to reports, the European Union (EU) has obtained the initial deliveries of the vaccine, which will be sent to the EU. This is to ensure that individuals who are most vulnerable to the virus can receive some level of protection.

According to Reuters, the European Union (EU) is set to enter into a contract with CSL Seqirus, a vaccine maker, to obtain 665,000 doses of a preventive avian influenza vaccine. This contract will be on behalf of 15 nations within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). Similar initiatives are already in progress in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. However, considering that the European Union’s agreement is scheduled to be finalized on June 11, 2024, it appears highly probable that Finland will be the first country to commence its immunization campaign.

The Zoonotic Influenza Vaccine Seqirus, approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in October 2023, was specifically designed to combat a strain of avian influenza classified as H5N8.

This is distinct from the avian influenza that has recently received attention as a result of outbreaks on dairy farms in a number of US states, specifically due to the H5N1 virus. The vaccine does focus on the hemagglutinin surface protein of the virus, specifically the “H” part that is shared by both H5N8 and H5N1, so it is expected to offer some protection against H5N1.

Currently, there have been three instances where agricultural workers in the US have become infected with the virus due to contact with cows that were carrying the infection. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted between individuals. Although the overall risk is typically deemed to be minimal, those who have vocations that include close interaction with animals will serve as early indicators if this virus begins to transmit more frequently to people.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise those who are in close proximity to dairy cows or raw milk to maintain proper hand hygiene and utilize personal protection equipment such as gloves, respirators, and safety goggles. It is anticipated that a vaccination, even targeting a slightly variant strain of avian flu, will provide an additional level of defense.

As of now, no nations in the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) have reported any instances of H5N1 infection in humans. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated in its weekly report for June 1–7 that the likelihood of zoonotic influenza spreading to the general public in EU/EEA nations is deemed to be minimal.

In 2023, Finland saw many occurrences of extremely contagious H5N1 infections. These outbreaks affected both wild birds and mammals on numerous fur farms around the country, leading to the need for extensive culling.

Farmed animals, such as mink, are prone to the avian flu. However, the occurrence of outbreaks on fur farms and the current situation with dairy cows in the US are particularly worrying to epidemiologists. This is because it raises the possibility of continuous transmission between mammals, which in turn increases the likelihood of a virus crossing over to humans.

According to Hanna Nohynek, the head of the Infectious Diseases Control and Vaccines Unit at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, “the situation appeared highly concerning last year,” according to Euractiv. “Although this year has been relatively peaceful, we are aware that the virus is still present based on the situation in the United States. Therefore, our aim is to safeguard individuals who are involved in handling animals that could potentially be impacted.”

According to STAT News, Finnish officials intend to promptly distribute vaccination doses to chicken farmers, fur farm workers, veterinarians, and virus researchers once the vaccines arrive in the country.

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