COVID-19 news from our experts

Roberts: reduced natural immunity could mean flu more common

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THE WEATHER CHANNEL - Getting your flu vaccine can help improve your immunity to the flu significantly. But HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory, worries that since natural immunity from exposure is where the bulk of population immunity comes from, the US may be in for a particularly virulent flu season.  

The U.S. Is Relying On Other Countries' Data To Make Its Booster Shot Decisions

FIVETHIRTYEIGHT - Misinformation and news overload also contribute to the confusion, said EPI’s Lee Harrison. “For a lot of laypeople, it’s very difficult to know, ‘What source should I be using?’ And it’s even more difficult when you have all this misinformation trying to intentionally misguide people,” he said. State and local officials who undermine national policies — for example, by prohibiting vaccine mandates — don’t help, either.  

The road forward: All eyes now on Gainey to begin to address city's larger issues

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - During his campaign, Gainey often focused on task force reports, one of which says that their needs to be a shift in the police bureau. BCHS’s Richard Garland, a member of the task force, said the report showed officers needed more training – particularly in de-escalation techniques – and a better understanding of their communities. He said officers do need to walk the beats and their neighborhoods.  

Ganguli op-ed: Masking still makes sense for vaccinated individuals

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - In a recent Op-Ed from Mary Ganguli (EPI '87) says, "We all know there’s just too much information out there: some of it changing over time, some of it well-intended but misguided and some of it deliberate misinformation. It can be confusing and overwhelming. As a medical doctor and professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, I’d like to try to cut through that confusion."   

Now that your younger children can get a COVID-19 vaccine, here's how to be fully vaccinated by Christmas and Kwanzaa

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CNN - Many doctors, including Diego Chaves-Gnecco (MMPH ‘00), are encouraging their patients' parents to vaccinate as soon as possible in hopes of protecting children and those around them. Chaves-Gnecco, who is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, plans on bringing together his mother and his 7-year-old son this holiday season for the first time since the start of the pandemic -- after the latter gets vaccinated.  

Coronavirus questions, answered: Which booster is more effective, long lasting?

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WASHINGTON POST - Studies have not yet been done to determine how long Pfizer’s and Moderna’s boosters offer protection and whether one is more effective than the other. But EPI’s Lee Harrison does not expect to see significant differences between the brands by either measure. “I would feel extremely confident in the increased protection provided by a booster dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines,” he wrote in an email.  

This Flu Season is Different. Here's How to Prepare.

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NEW YORK TIMES - In a  study  published on a preprint server in August that has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh used mathematical modeling to predict how severe the upcoming flu season might be based on this increased susceptibility. They reported that if flu and flu vaccination levels are typical of prior years, 102,000 more Americans than average could be hospitalized with influenza — a 20 percent incr... 

To jab or not to jab? Vaccinations still hot topic in sports

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AP - “For athletes in particular, their livelihood is based on their ability to compete,” said EPI’s Wendy King (EPI '04), who took part in a research project on vaccine hesitancy earlier this year. “Even if they thought, ‘Oh, I’m pretty healthy and I wouldn’t get that bad of a case,’ it would still heavily impact their ability to go to work, to play in a game. It could affect their entire team — not just them — so they might feel like they’re l... 

Harrison is confident in both mRNA boosters

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WASHINGTON POST - Studies have not yet been done to determine how long Pfizer’s and Moderna’s boosters offer protection and whether one is more effective than the other. But EPI’s Lee Harrison told The Post that he does not expect to see significant differences between the brands by either measure. “I would feel extremely confident in the increased protection provided by a booster dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines,” he wrote in an email. ... 

Finegold: How to use precision medicine to personalize COVID-19 treatment according to the patient's genes

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THE CONVERSATION - HUGEN’s David Finegold and colleague “began a discussion about the promise and potential pitfalls of precision medicine before the arrival of COVID-19. If precision medicine is the future of medicine, then its application to pandemics generally, and COVID-19 in particular, may yet prove to be highly significant. But its role so far has been limited. Precision medicine must consider more than just genetics."  

During WWII, Getting the Flu Vaccine was Patriotic

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US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT – IDM’s Peter Salk struggles to make sense of COVID denialism. “It’s not mind-blowing — it’s mind-bending and heartbreaking to see this,” he says. “How many people are dying, and how many are suffering loss in their families, because of not being tuned in to the reality of what’s taking place?” When Salk’s father encountered people who had misgivings about his polio vaccine, he patiently reasoned with them.  

Kids Should Get the Flu Shot This Season

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MEDSCAPE - Children in particular could be at high risk this year because of a lack of herd immunity, which usually comes from a combination of vaccinations and people who were exposed to related strains of the virus, says PHDL’s Mark Roberts. In a normal year, around 180-200 children die from the flu. But last year, only one death was recorded. "Very few kids got influenza last year, so young kids have almost no natural immunity."  

Gellad on report that booster shot showed high efficacy in large study

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REUTERS - HPM’s Walid Gellad, a Pitt Medicine professor with a secondary appointment at Pitt Public Health, said there seems to be a benefit of having the third dose to prevent symptomatic COVID-19, but questioned if the booster was helping younger people as well as older people. "I'm just still very curious if this is primarily in people who are much, much older." Gellad said.  

Hoffman and Sidani: reducing vaccine hesitancy starts on social media

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WPXI - BCHS's Jamie Sidani and Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19, '22) published new guidance for pediatricians outlining how to effectively talk to kids and parents about the COVID-19 vaccine that includes monitoring the messages being spread on social media. This guidance is broken down by ABC – be Active on social media, Build trustworthiness, and Capitalize on the strengths of adolescents to help spread accurate information.  

Harrison: Get COVID-19 booster shot as soon as you're eligible

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WPXI - With the options for COVID-19 booster shots expanding, it's estimated tens of millions of people will be eligible to roll up their sleeves once again. "So that's great news," said EPI's Lee Harrison. "I do think the infections and the number of breakthroughs that we're seeing with the delta variant argue in favor of if you are eligible to go ahead and get your booster."   

Pitt researchers find convalescent plasma "futile' in treating critically ill COVID-19 patients

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - “We speculate that it could be a combination of too few high-quality antibodies in the plasma and these patients being too far along in their illness with a runaway inflammatory immune response for those antibodies to turn the tide,” said co-senior author Derek Angus (BCHS '92), the chief innovation officer at UPMC and chair of Pitt’s Department of Critical Care Medicine and secondary faculty in HPM.   

Hospitals brace for an onslaught this winter, from flu as well as COVID

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NPR - The much-feared "twindemic" of flu and COVID didn't hit last winter. But some experts fear that last year's remarkably mild flu season has now set the stage for a big rebound in the coming months, because fewer people have built up immunity. "It could be really bad, and it could be really bad at a time when there's still quite a bit of COVID-19 filling up our hospitals," says HPM and PHDL’s Mark Roberts.  

Does 1918 Pandemic Offer Clues on Emerging from COVID-19?

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U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT - Dean Emeritus Donald Burke is an expert at using computer modeling and simulation to guide public health decision-making. He said it's important to consider the death rate and not simply the death total. "Even though the death totals are similar [for COVID-19 and the 1918 flu], the death rates — that is the rate per 100,000 people, or per-unit population — are lower now from covid than it was for influenza by about t... 

The Most Important Vaccine I'll Get This Fall

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THE ATLANTIC - HPM's Mary Krauland said flu viruses, already a familiar threat to our immune system, spread less easily than SARS-CoV-2, which made them easier to stamp out with masks, physical distancing, school closures and international travel bans, even when adherence was spotty. Cases around the globe plummeted. But "no one expected flu to go away forever," she said.   

Latinos Surpass Non-Latinos in COVID-19 Vaccination in Pennsylvania, But The Numbers Come with Caveats

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WESA-FM - Reaching 50 percent of Latinos was made possible by intentional directed community efforts, according to Diego Chaves-Gnecco (MMPH '00). "We take people on a walk-in basis. We're vaccinating adults without health insurance, without appointments, and in their same language, in Spanish," he said. "We are also not requiring any type of documentation."   

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Research coordination

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is coordinating research from Pitt and UPMC to plan and efficiently implement studies related to COVID-19 by managing resources, expertise, tools, and lab capabilities. Visit the COVID-19 research page for details.