COVID-19 news from our experts

Hoffman says look to influencers to fight vaccine misinformation

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CODA - Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19, ‘22) said public health institutions should be thinking more about how to harness local influencers. She pointed to a June 2021 study by researchers with the Public Good Projects, a U.S.-based public health nonprofit, analyzing the success of a micro-influencer campaign promoting the flu shot flor Black and Latino U.S. residents during influenza seasons.   

Harrison co-authors Conversation piece - Massive numbers of new COVID-19 infections, not vaccines, are the main driver of new coronavirus variants

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THE CONVERSATION – The rise of coronavirus variants globally has highlighted the huge influence evolutionary biology has on daily life. But how mutations, random chance, and natural selection produce variants is a complicated process. What EPI and IDM’s Lee Harrison and a Pitt Medicine colleague have learned over the past 18 months of following how the coronavirus has acquired different mutations around the world.  

Odds of death for COVID-19 patients 'falling 5 percent every month,' Angus and other UPMC doctors say

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PENN LIVE - "We have found [monoclonal antibody treatments] to be remarkably safe and remarkably effective," said HPM faculty Derek Angus (BCHS '92) who is also the Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair of Critical Care Medicine at Pitt Medicine. UPMC is also involved in a global trial, known as REMAP, which uses a relatively new method of clinical trials to test new treatments. Angus said that the REMAP trial "helped settle the debate that hydroxychlo... 

Roberts: Flu and COVID-19 'twindemic' is possible this winter

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - Using two separate models, HPM’s Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory found that without an increase in flu vaccination rates this coming winter, the U.S. could be at risk of a "twindemic" with both seasonal flu and COVID-19 cases at high levels. That possibility is due to the "rather dramatic decrease in influenza last (2020-20) season that occurred because of the COVID-19 mitigation strategi... 

Harrison on possible J&J Booster

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KDKA-TV  - "I would not expect anything worrisome with a booster dose but we need to see what the data shows," said Pitt Medicine and EPI's Lee Harrison.   

U.S. Energy Firms Launching Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

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REUTERS - Energy and construction workers have some of the lowest vaccine uptake rates, according to an online survey led by EPI's Wendy King. Some 45% of extraction and construction workers said they were hesitant to get the vaccine, versus just 7.3% in the computer and mathematical professions, the May survey showed.   

A group of moms on Facebook built an island of good-faith vaccine debate in a sea of misinformation

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THE WASHINGTON POST - People concerned about vaccine safety may be easier to convince than those who don't trust the government or medical authorities, said EPI's Wendy King (EPI '04). Earlier this year, King surveyed more than 5 million U.S. adults about their attitudes toward coronavirus vaccines. Many who said they may not or won't get vaccinated said they feared side effects – a sign they may be influenced by misinformation.  

Nace on 'interesting ride' of COVID information dissemination

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KDKA RADIO - On the topic of the recently-released information on boosters for mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, David Nace (EPI '95), chief medical officer for UPMC Senior Communities pointed out that this wasn't a shock. "There's been a lot of data from these vaccines, but also from our prior experience with other vaccines, like the flu vaccine. We know that there tends to be a drop off, not with all but some tend to have a decline in the response o... 

Harrison talks about when boosters might be available to the general public

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PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW - "What they're aiming for is starting September 20, eight months after the second dose. I'm hoping the rollout will go smoothly starting on that date. The process is authorization by FDA for a booster dose, and then ACIP makes the recommendation about the booster dose." said EPI's Lee Harrison.   

PA is trying county fairs, text messages, and door-knocking to raise the vaccination rate. Success is slowly coming.

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PHILADEPHIA INQUIERER - "The issues left are vaccine hesitancy, or they don't feel there's a strong enough need to jump through the hoops they would need to to get the vaccine," said EPI's Wendy King. Her research includes a nationwide survey of more than five million respondents and suggests that while vaccine hesitancy as a whole is decreasing, there's still a consistent group of people who say they will "definitely not" get a vaccine.   

'Wisdom and Fear' Lead 90% of U.S. Seniors to COVID Vaccines

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KAISER HEALTH NEWS - HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab, cautioned that the success of the vaccination push among seniors doesn't mean others in this age group can grow complacent and think they are protected via herd immunity.   

People who already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, scientists like Hartman urge

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC - For instance, says IDM's Amy Hartman, studies have shown that some recovered patients can mount effective defenses against COVID-19, but antibody levels dropped rapidly in others who were infected. Scientists are still gathering data and racing to answer this key question and others, such as how long immunity lasts from vaccines or from natural infection.  

Garland Examines Rise in Young People's Involvement in Local Violence on Hayes-Freeland show (video)

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KDKA - BCHS' Richard Garland spoke with KDKA's Lynne Hayes-Freeland about the factors that are contributing to a rise in violence among youth in Pittsburgh.  

Gary-Webb is Co-Author on Equitable Data Analysis: Lessons from a COVID-19 Research Collaborative

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THE RAND BLOG - The health inequities exposed by COVID-19 underscored the importance of collecting race-stratified data to inform local policymakers and revealed major pitfalls for public health researchers relying on open-source data. These and other contributing factors led to RAND, the Black Equity Coalition, and Surgo Ventures to collaborate on a tool to report on COVID-19 vulnerability and disparities using publicly-available data in Allegh... 

Roberts talks to NBC News amid booster debate

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NBC NEWS - HPM's Mark Roberts said immunity protection is much more complicated than just the level of antibodies. "It looks like protection from the vaccine wanes, but we don't know exactly how fast, and if protection wanes it may still protect people from getting sick and dying," he said.  

Will COVID-19 face mask mandates return? Depends on where you live. King says vaccine safety messaging is key.

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - Getting people vaccinated is still the best course of action against COVID-19. "Messaging on safey is key" to reaching the most resistant to vaccines, said EPI's Wendy King, author of a study on vaccine hesitancy. "Leaving it up to the invididual is no public health approach at all."  

Jarlenski advises undergraduate project look at COVID's effect on pregnancy and parenting by race

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“We’re creating a study that’s looking at how COVID has played out differently for mothers based on race. This includes people who have had children in the past three years and just generally how their pre- or post-natal care has been affected,” said Smyer, a pre-med neuroscience student going into her sophomore year..."Basically, we want to have a study that is sustainable and that is reflected on in the future."   

Pitt 'Strongly Advising' University Community to Fully Vaccinate

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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - The University will incentivize, offer and promote vaccines with the goal of having everyone on Pitt campuses fully vaccinated, barring those with medical or religious exemptions, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a statement Friday.   

COVID Cases Still Low in Allegheny County, While Opioid Overdoses Continue to Plague Residents

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WESA-FM - "[That's] a big loophole there in terms of potentially not having people covered who are sick," said board chair IDM and EPI's Lee Harrison.   

Mellors: COVID-19 Immune Response Could be Long Lasting, but Variants Present Risks

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL - Studies show that variants including Delta can partially evade immune response from infection and vaccination. "Give the virus time and opportunity, we don't know what will arise," said IDM's John Mellors chief of infectious diseases at UPMC.   

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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.