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How Parents Feel About Their Kids in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Katelyn Evans, 16, has never met Randy Kerr—and there’s no reason she should have. It was 66 years ago that Kerr, then 6, became briefly famous, receiving the first injection of Jonas Salk’s experimental polio vaccine during the massive field trial of hundreds of thousands of children in the spring of 1954. History notes that the vaccine worked, and the children who stepped forward to receive either the actual shot or a placebo were heroically dubbed the Polio Pioneers.

Evans is a pioneer of the modern age, one of an eventual group of 600 children in the 16-to-17 year-old age group (along with 2,000 more between 12 and 15) to volunteer to be part of a Phase 3 trial to test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine made by the multinational pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The company had already enrolled 42,113 adult volunteers in its Phase 2 and 3 trials, but only recently did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) give approval to include children. And Evans, a high school junior in Cincinnati, was among the earliest, receiving her first of two injections on Oct. 14, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“She was the youngest one to receive the vaccine at that point in time,” says her mother, Laurie Evans, an elementary school teacher. In the spring, the family saw a news report that Pfizer was looking for volunteers and Evans and both of her children signed up. “Katelyn was the only one who got the call,” Laurie says. “I know from the response we’ve gotten that there are some people out there who don’t think this is the smartest thing for us to have done. But I’m more afraid of COVID than the vaccine.”

With good reason. The 8.8 million Americans who have contracted the disease include about 800,000 children, with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reporting a 13% increase in total pediatric cases in just the first two weeks of October. Children with COVID-19 may typically fare better than adults who catch the virus, but they can still become severely ill: some 3.6% of total U.S. COVID-19 patients who have had to be hospitalized have been children, according to the AAP. That reality makes volunteering for the Pfizer field trial more than an act of public-service heroism; it is also a potential act of preventive medicine.

Certainly, that’s the way Sharat Chandra saw things. Sharat was already part of the Pfizer adult trial and when word first went around that children would soon be included too, he and his wife discussed the possibility of enrolling their 12-year-old son Abhinav, and then posed the question to him.

“I raised it to my son and we felt that it might be a good thing for him because if he got the vaccine, it could protect him from getting the virus himself,” Sharat says. “Because he was attending school in person, we felt that it would be good to minimize his risk for infection, if we can.”

Abhinav Chandra participating in Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Abhinav Chandra participating in Pfizer’s

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health

South Korea’s conscripted doctors feel like ‘human shields’ in virus battle

By Ju-min Park

OKCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) – As the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping through South Korea late in February, doctor Nam Ha-jong received an order to report overnight to Daegu, a city that was to become the epicentre of infections.

With little formal training in treating virus victims and just two hours of instruction in the use of personal protective gear, the 30-year-old was sent to track down likely patients.

As fear of the new disease gripped the country, Nam went door to door from dawn to dusk each day, wearing full protective gear to perform the testing of members of an obscure religious group at the centre of the outbreak.

“We were exhausted, scared, and felt like being thrown in as a shield to fight against an enemy that no one knew about,” said Nam, who spent three weeks working in Daegu, a city of about 2.4 million southeast of the capital, Seoul.

A nurse and driver helped him run tests at the homes of suspected victims. Many in the religious group wanted to keep secret even the fact of having been tested, so Nam had to shoo away curious neighbours.

Nam was one of 1,900 young men conscripted from medical school to serve a term of 36 months as a public health doctor instead of regular military service.

That is compulsory in South Korea, which is technically still at war with the North, since the neighbours ended the Korean War with only a truce, instead of a peace treaty.

After eight months on the frontlines of the virus battle, the young doctors are credited with pulling off the strategy to target hotspots with rapid, mass testing and contact tracing.

As in the military, they were given no choice, often feeling their efforts went unrecognised, even as South Korea eventually flattened the curve of infections and won global praise for its response.

“Now I feel some people are taking us for granted,” Nam, who now works at a test centre in Okcheon county, a two-hour drive south of Seoul, said in an interview.

Refusing to serve would have brought punishment in the form of a service extension of five times the length of the hotspot deployment, which typically lasts several weeks.

Experts say the doctors’ efforts were responsible for more than 2.5 million tests among a population of 50 million, as well as a programme of stringent contact tracing.

The doctors are “indispensable”, said Park Yoon-hyung, a specialist in preventive medicine at Soonchunhyang University.

However, he added, “The general public don’t usually appreciate their work, because they think of their service as something obvious.”

As many as 1,000 of the doctors rotated through Daegu in March to fight an outbreak that racked up the largest number of infections outside China.

That deployment paved the way for a four-fold increase in daily virus tests, said Sejin Choi of the Korean Association of Public Health Doctors.

UNHERALDED

In normal times, the routine of a public health doctor can

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fitness

Fitness wise, I feel great: Pulisic offers positive update

London [UK], October 22 (ANI): Chelsea star Christian Pulisic has offered a positive update on his fitness, saying that he feels great as he seeks to rediscover his long lost form.

The 22-year-old has struggled to find his mojo back and untimely injuries have also pegged him back.

Pulisic had witnessed a hamstring problem and it saw him miss the 2020 FA Cup final against Arsenal.

“Fitness-wise I feel great. I’m getting back to where I was, I feel strong, I feel like I can play 90 minutes, and I’m happy,” Pulisic told Chelsea TV.

Chelsea played out a 0-0 draw against Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday and Pulisic termed this particular game as “tough”.

“It was definitely a tough game. It was one of those where there were not a lot of chances in the game, a really hard-fought match, we did a lot of good defending, and I think we can walk away proud with a point,” Pulisic said.

“They’re a strong team. They put us to the test, they moved the ball really well and we definitely defended a lot. It’s everyone’s job to be behind the ball at times,” he added.

Chelsea will next take on Manchester United in the Premier League 2020-21 season on Saturday, October 24.

The Blues are currently at the eighth position in the points table with eight points from five matches. (ANI)

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health

Will Canceling Thanksgiving Cause A Mental Health Crisis? People May Feel Isolated, Lonely, Defeated

KEY POINTS

  • U.S. coronavirus infections are increasing by tens of thousands a day and the death toll is nearing 220,000
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans should “bite the bullet” and cancel this year’s gatherings
  • Mental health experts warn being deprived of Thanksgiving gatherings could increase feelings of loneliness and isolation

Last Thanksgiving people worried about how to prevent political blow-ups around the dinner table and whether the surly uncle would behave. In 2020, they’re worrying about whether to put on a Thanksgiving dinner at all with coronavirus cases increasing across the country.

Thanksgiving is Americans’ second favorite holiday behind Christmas. Unlike Christmas and Easter, there are no religious overtones. Unlike Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, it’s not associated with politics.

But this year, fears of infecting loved ones has would-be hosts worrying about what to do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the more people who are invited, the greater the risk of spreading the disease that has killed about 220,000 Americans since March – especially if those gatherings are held indoors. Infections have been rising by the tens of thousands a day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says people should just cancel the annual celebration.

“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” he said in a CBS interview.

Taking that step, however, likely will be hard on a lot of people, psychologist Souzan Swift of Heal telemedicine practice told International Business Times.

“Family and friends look forward to coming together to celebrate so now that we are unable to do so, it’s going to leave a lot of people feeling more isolated and lonely,” Swift said. “It’s not just about the holiday but about coming together, socializing, connecting with our loved ones, and overall self-care. Having to cancel our plans and/or traditions takes a lot of that away and we are left feeling lonely and disconnected from the world we knew.”

Addiction Treatment Services at Phoenix Behavioral Health recommends hosting virtual events if in-person gatherings are off the table.

“Those who may have a mental health disorder will be able to maintain the connections they crave while also lowering their risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Olivia Feldman, project manager at Addiction Treatment Services, citing the increased danger of turning to drugs or alcohol to assuage the isolation and loneliness.

Swift said canceling Thanksgiving, and potentially other winter holidays, may leave people feeling discouraged and defeated. Adjusting to a “new normal” is tough, she said.

“Unfortunately, the merriment we crave — eating, drinking and singing together in a cozy room — are among the highest-risk scenarios for transmitting COVID-19,” M. Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told MarketWatch.

In his CBS interview, Fauci noted his children had canceled his family gathering “because of their concern for me and my age … even

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