Researchers are calling for clinical studies on vitamin B6, so we turned to the health experts.
By this point, several published research papers and clinical trials have shown that vitamins D and C, as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium, may reduce the severity of symptoms in COVID-19 patients. Now, one researcher is calling on scientists to explore another helpful vitamin that may have been overlooked.
In an opinion article published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, Thanutchaporn Kumrungsee, an assistant professor at Hiroshima University in Japan, proposed that vitamin B6 could play a pivotal role in fighting the novel coronavirus.
“There is growing evidence that vitamin B6 exerts a protective effect against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and diabetes by suppressing inflammation, inflammasomes, oxidative stress, and carbonyl stress,” the article reads. “Additionally, vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with lower immune function and higher susceptibility to viral infection.”
However, some health experts remain suspicious—and for good reason. Ali Webster, PhD, RD, and director of research and nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, says it’s still too soon to determine whether or not the vitamin could help lower your risk of experiencing adverse COVID-19 symptoms.
“There are plausible biological mechanisms for it doing so, and low levels of B6 in the body are associated with a weakened immune system,” she says. “But often, the promise of a positive impact is there but the outcome of well-designed studies is disappointing.”
Webster explains that the research on taking vitamin B6 in supplement form to reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, and even cognitive decline is a bit inconclusive, as well.
“More research is needed in each of these areas in addition to the work to determine its effect on COVID-19 severity,” she adds.
Brittany Busse, MD, associate medical director at WorkCare, agrees that more research is needed. However, Busse notes that vitamin B6 is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which could help you in both preventing and combating adverse COVID-19 symptoms.
“There are a lot of vitamins that can help decrease inflammation, potentially,” she says. “And B6 is one of them.”
Busse also adds that the severity of COVID-19 is based largely on how much inflammation your body creates in response to the virus. Thus, it’s key to keep inflammation levels low by eating a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes; engaging in regular, moderate exercise; getting plenty of sleep; and managing stress.
Johnson & Johnson says it can make enough doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to inoculate almost a billion people against the virus.
That would be a massive shot in the arm to the effort to end the pandemic—as long as the vaccine works. Its efficacy should become clear in just a few days.
We know that the vaccines now available across the world will protect their recipients from getting sick with Covid-19. But while each vaccine authorized for public use can prevent well over 50% of cases (in Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna‘s case, more than 90%), what we don’t know is whether they’ll also curb transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
That question is answerable, though—and understanding vaccines’ effect on transmission will help determine when things can go back to whatever our new normal looks like.
The reason we don’t know if the vaccine can prevent transmission is twofold. One reason is practical. The first order of business for vaccines is preventing exposed individuals from getting sick, so that’s what the clinical trials for Covid-19 shots were designed to determine. We simply don’t have public health data to answer the question of transmission yet.
Three COVID-19 vaccines – from Pfizer/ BioNtech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca – look set to be the most common ones for Europeans.
While they all have the same goal, there are substantial differences between jabs from their composition and reported effectiveness, to their price and ease of conservation and distribution.
For COVID-19 researchers, the new year brings a strong sense of déjà vu. As in early 2020, the world is anxiously watching a virus spread in one country and trying to parse the risk for everyone else. This time it is not a completely new threat, but a rapidly spreading variant of SARS-CoV-2. In southeastern England, where the B.1.1.7 variant first caught scientists’ attention last month, it has quickly replaced other variants, and it may be the harbinger of a new, particularly perilous phase of the pandemic.
“One concern is that B.1.1.7 will now become the dominant global variant with its higher transmission and it will drive another very, very bad wave,” says Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease expert who heads the Wellcome Trust. Whereas the pandemic’s trajectory in 2020 was fairly predictable, “I think we’re going into an unpredictable phase now,” as a result the virus’ evolution, Farrar says.
The concern has led some countries to speed up vaccine authorizations or discuss dosing regimens that may protect more people rapidly. But as the new variant surfaces in multiple countries, many scientists are calling for governments to strengthen existing control measures as well. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tough new restrictions on 4 January, including closing schools and asking people not to leave their homes unless strictly necessary. But other countries have hesitated. “I do feel like we are in another situation right now where a lot of Europe is kind of sitting and looking,” says virologist Emma Hodcroft of the University of Basel. “I really hope that this time we can recognize that this is our early alarm bell, and this is our chance to get ahead of this variant.”
In announcing the U.K. restrictions, Johnson said the new variant is between 50% and 70% more transmissible. But researchers have been careful to point out uncertainties. Cases have soared in the United Kingdom over the past month, but the rise occurred while different parts of the country had different levels of restrictions and amid changes in people’s behavior and regional infection rates in the run-up to Christmas—“a complex scenario” that makes it hard to pinpoint the effect of the new variant, says evolutionary biologist Oliver Pybus of the University of Oxford.
Yet evidence has rapidly increased that B.1.1.7’s many mutations, including eight in the crucial spike protein, do enhance spread. “We’re relying on multiple streams of imperfect evidence, but pretty much all that evidence is pointing in the same direction now,” says Adam Kucharski, a modeler at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. For instance, an analysis by Public Health England showed about 15% of the contacts of people infected with B.1.1.7 in England went on to test positive themselves, compared with 10% of contacts of those infected with other variants.
With two Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use and politicians, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities rolling up their sleeves, it’s a natural question: What about me and my loved ones?A lot of factors play into the answer, and it depends on each person’s health, what they do for a living and where they live.States will handle immunization campaigns differently, experts say. Some campaigns may be smoother than others, but if there is one piece of advice to keep in mind, it’s this: Keep taking measures to protect yourself and your family until you’re inoculated.That means continuing to wear masks, socially distance, avoid large gatherings and regularly wash your hands.
“People just need to be patient,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “They need to be vigilant and protect themselves from the virus.”As for when Americans can get back to in-person socializing, “I would leave that to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci,” she said, referring to the nation’s top infectious disease expert and President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming chief medical adviser.You have more questions; here are more answers:
Who is getting vaccinated first?
As has been widely reported, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are first in line, followed by adults ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers such as first responders.
The next phase will be adults between 65 and 75, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions and “other essential workers,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.The CDC accepted the ACIP recommended allocation phases Tuesday. To be clear, the CDC guidelines are only that. States wield a good deal of authority in how the vaccines are handled, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he will issue an executive order to ensure senior citizens (65 and older) are the first members of the general public to be vaccinated.
Who is an essential worker?
The ACIP defines frontline essential workers as anyone employed in “sectors essential to the functioning of society (who) are at substantially higher risk of exposure” to the coronavirus. Besides first responders, that includes those working in education and child care, food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections, the US Postal Service, public transit and grocery stores. There are roughly 30 million people in this category.Jockeying for the vaccineOther essential workers, according to ACIP, are people working in transportation, logistics, food service, construction, housing, finance, information technology, communications, energy, sanitation, media, law, public health and the water/wastewater industries. The category encompasses about 57 million Americans.
When will the general public get the vaccine?
This is a moving target that will be dictated by numerous variables. Dr. Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for surgeon general, said he believes it may take until late spring to finish vaccinating high-risk populations, if all goes according to plan. That means mid-summer may be a “realistic” timeline for the general public to begin vaccinations, he told NBC.
“If everything goes well, we may see a circumstance where, by late spring, people who are in lower risk categories can get this vaccine,” he said, “but that would really require everything to go exactly on schedule. I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer, early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population.”A recent ACIP chart indicated the general public may start getting the vaccine in about 20 weeks — putting the target in May — which is “kind of in line with what I was thinking, too,” Hannan said.Because states will handle rollouts differently, Hannan says it’s a good idea for people to monitor state health department websites for specifics. Some states are setting up “public-facing dashboards,” she said, and the New Mexico Department of Health on Wednesday announced a website that will allow residents to register for notifications on when they qualify to receive the vaccine.
As coronavirus vaccines are distributed across the United States, some questions and misleading information have emerged. Here is information to combat five common concerns.
Only the vulnerable need to get the vaccine. Many people, unfortunately including elected officials, have said publicly that they will not get vaccinated. For example, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) announced last week that he would refuse the vaccine, saying that he is healthy and that the vaccine is only for those at risk — which he defined as health-care workers and the elderly.
There’s a lot of misinformation to unpack here. As has been well reported, younger individuals and those across many occupations are among the more than 320,000 Americans who have succumbed to covid-19. Even setting aside those facts, Buck’s statement reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how vaccines work. Vaccines protect more than the individual who is inoculated; the goal is to have enough of the population vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity,” which is also, accurately, called “community immunity.” The more people who are immune means fewer people the virus can infect — lowering the infection rate and the risk for us all.
Another reason that everyone eligible should get the vaccine is to protect those who cannot get it. With studies on children and the virus just getting started, it’s likely that young kids and babies won’t be able to receive the vaccine until fall 2021. Immunosuppressed people may need to rely on the immunity of others to help them stay healthy. In this sense, not getting a vaccine is like not wearing a mask: Your decision affects not just you but everyone around you, too.
There’s no point in getting the vaccine if we still have to wear masks. Vaccinated people should keep wearing masks and follow social distancing guidelines. In fact, we will all need to wear masks for some time. Although the vaccine is more than 94 percent effective at reducing symptomatic illness, it isn’t yet known whether it reduces the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus and being an asymptomatic carrier — a person who can unknowingly infect others.
As vaccination brings us all closer to herd immunity, there will be a point when enough of the population is protected that we can do away with masks. That could happen by the end of 2021. In the meantime, vaccination is a crucial tool. It doesn’t replace other tools but is a powerful measure that can help save lives and help the economy recover.
The U.S. has administered 1.12 million vaccine doses, according to Bloomberg’s count
The first Covid-19 shots have been given to more than 2.7 million people in six countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. It’s the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in history and one of the largest logistical challenges ever undertaken.
Vaccinations in the U.S. began Dec. 14 with health-care workers, and so far 1.12 million doses have been administered, according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg. Those numbers are accelerating as a second vaccine by Moderna Inc. is distributed.
The U.S. is allocating 5.1 million doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine and 6 million doses of Moderna’s shot for distribution through this week. Both vaccines require two doses taken several weeks apart. The second doses are being held in reserve until they’re ready to be administered.
Ellume USA’s rapid at-home test was developed through the NIH RADx Initiative.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization (EUA) today for an innovative COVID-19 viral antigen test developed with support from the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative. Ellume USA LLC, Valencia, California, designed the test for use at home without a prescription. This is the first EUA awarded for an at-home COVID test that can be purchased over the counter. Ellume developed the test with a $30 million contract and technical support from the RADx Tech program, managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of NIH.
The test is performed using a mid-turbinate nasal swab designed for comfortable self-sampling. The sample is inserted into a single-use cartridge that returns results in 15 minutes. The at-home test analyzer connects to the user’s smartphone through Bluetooth and pairs with a downloadable app that provides step-by-step instructions and displays results.
Users can share real-time results from the test, selling for approximately $30, with healthcare professionals, employers, and schools for efficient COVID-19 tracking. Ellume plans to scale-up manufacturing to deliver millions of home tests per month in 2021.
A new online calculator for estimating individual and community-level risk of dying from COVID-19 has been developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers who developed the calculator expect it to be useful to public health authorities for assessing mortality risks in different communities, and for prioritizing certain groups for vaccination as COVID-19 vaccines become available.
The algorithm underlying the calculator uses information from existing large studies to estimate risk of COVID-19 mortality for individuals based on age, gender, sociodemographic factors and a variety of different health conditions. The risk estimates apply to individuals in the general population who are currently uninfected, and captures factors associated with both risk of future infection and complications after infection.
“Our calculator represents a more quantitative approach and should complement other proposed qualitative guidelines, such as those by the National Academy of Sciences and Medicine, for determining individual and community risks and allocating vaccines,” says study senior author Nilanjan Chatterjee, PhD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School.
The new risk calculator is presented in a paper that appears in the journal Nature Medicine.
The researchers also collaborated with PolicyMap, Inc. to develop interactive maps for viewing numbers and the proportion of individuals at various levels of risks across U.S. cities, counties and states. These maps will allow local policymakers to plan for vaccination, shielding high-risk individuals, and other targeted intervention efforts.
COVID-19, the pandemic infectious disease that has swept the world over the past ten months, afflicting nearly 70 million people and killing more than 1.5 million worldwide, can affect different people in starkly different ways. Children and young adults may suffer very mild disease or no symptoms at all, whereas the elderly have infection mortality rates of at least several percent. There are also clear ethnic and racial differences—Black and Latinx patients in the U.S., for example, have died of COVID-19 infections at much higher rates than white patients—as well as differences linked to preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes.
“Although we have long known about factors associated with greater mortality, there has been limited effort to incorporate these factors into prevention strategies and forecasting models,” Chatterjee says.
He and his team developed their risk model using several COVID-19-related datasets, including from a large U.K.-based study and state-level death rates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and then validated the model for predicting community-level mortality rates using recent deaths across U.S. cities and counties.