News Scan for Mar 01, 2021

Vaccine coverage and severe COVID
;
Statins and COVID-19
;
MERS in Saudi Arabia
;

High vaccine uptake in Israel tied to fewer severe COVID cases in elderly

Israel's national COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which saw 84% of people 70 and older fully vaccinated by Feb 9 , was associated with less need for mechanical ventilation in the elderly. The finding could show that COVID-19 vaccine rollouts help prevent severe cases at the national level, according to a study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The ratio of Israeli residents 70 and above who needed mechanical ventilation compared with those less than 50 declined 67% from Quarter 4 of 2020 to February 2021. The researchers noted the decline began about 1 week after the vaccination program began Dec 20, 2020, rose briefly at the beginning of January before the country's third stay-at-home order (Jan 8-Feb 7), and then resumed its decrease after Jan 10, the day administration of the second vaccine dose began.

Israel's vaccination program began by targeting those 60 and above, healthcare workers, and those with chronic conditions that could worsen COVID-19 infection or severity. Currently, only the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized in the country.

By Feb 9, about 3.6 million people had received the first vaccine dose, and 61.6% of those had received the second. Two-dose vaccine coverage was 84.3% among those 70 and older and 9.9% among those less than 50.

"The findings from this study provide preliminary but important evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 at the national level in Israel," the researchers write. "Receipt of COVID-19 vaccines by eligible persons can help limit spread of disease and potentially reduce the occurrence of severe disease."
Feb 26 MMWR
study

 

Preceding statin use associated with lower in-hospital COVID mortality

Patients who used statins prior to COVID-19 hospitalization were almost 50% less likely to experience 30-day in-hospital mortality compared with those that didn't, according to a retrospective study published late last week in Nature Communications.

Statins are drugs meant to reduce blood fat for conditions such as high cholesterol, and, as such, they have anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting properties.

The researchers matched 648 patients who used statins and were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 648 who did not but were also hospitalized for COVID-19 during the first 18 weeks of the pandemic in Manhattan at New York-Presbyterian Hospital sites. Almost 15% (14.8%) of statin users died in-hospital within 30 days of admission, compared with 26.5% of those who did not, resulting in a 0.47 odds ratio (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.36 to 0.62). Overall, 17.2% of statin users died while hospitalized, compared with 31.0%.

The need for invasive mechanical ventilations, days on a ventilator, or length of hospital stay were not statistically significantly different between the groups. Those who took statins, however, had on average lower levels of C-reactive protein upon admission (100.0 milligrams per liter vs 120.7), which can indicate less inflammation.

Out of all 2,626 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the hospital system, 36.2% used statins prior to admission. Statin users were more likely to be older (median age 70 vs 62), have Medicare or Medicaid versus a commercial insurer (63.0% vs 53.6%), and have comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and chronic kidney disease (ranging from 5.4 to 30.7 percentage points in difference).

"If their beneficial effect bears out in randomized clinical trials, statins could potentially prove to be a low-cost and effective therapeutic strategy for COVID-19," said co-lead author Mahesh Madhavan, MD, in a Columbia University Irving Medical Center press release.
Feb 26 Nat Commun study
Feb 26 Columbia University press release

 

Officials confirm new MERS case in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported another new MERS-CoV case in a man from the nation's capital, Riyadh. Last month, the ministry recorded four cases across the country.

The MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case involves a 77-year-old man who had contact with camels, a known exposure to the virus. He has since recovered from his infection.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a snapshot of MERS activity that, since 2012 through 2020, 2,566 cases have been reported in humans, at least 882 of them fatal (34.4%).
Saudi MOH epi week 7 report

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