HPM Department News

Pitt public health expert sees vaccine distribution issues continuing, but overall COVID-19 situation improving

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WTAE PITTSBURGH — HPM's Mark Roberts said this decentralized system where people are calling around to pharmacies and providers on their own is inefficient, but it may be too late to change it. Roberts was optimistic that as more doses become available to providers that the stress surrounding those over 65 will dissipate. "The fact is, it’s getting better. And as more and more, if we’re really going to be able to get 11, 12, 15 million vaccines ... 

Pitt study shows restaurant advertisements linked to weight gain

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INSIDE LIFE CHANGING MEDICINE - HPM's Marian Jarlenski and fellow researchers looked at the medical records of patients with various socio-economic statuses and compared them to how much money fast food and casual dining chains spent on marketing per capita in the county where each of the patients lived. Not only did fast food chains spend more money advertising in low-income areas, but as the amount spent on advertising in these communities inc... 

J&J vaccine effective in preventing severe disease; a mother's COVID-19 antibodies may protect newborns

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REUTERS -  Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine was 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe COVID-19 in a late-stage global trial with nearly 44,000 volunteers that includes regions with worrisome variants of the virus. "Right now, any protection and additional vaccine is great," said HPM's Walid Gellad . "The key is not only overall efficacy but specifically efficacy against severe disease, hospitalization, and death."  

Blame game begins over PA’s slow vaccine rollout

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THE EXPRESS — Republicans are faulting the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf for Pa’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout even as Wolf himself says insufficient supply is the real culprit, setting up a fresh political fight over who’s to blame for the frustrations of eligible residents trying to get inoculated. HPM's Mark Roberts, the PHDL director, said it is difficult to blame the state, given the federal government’s primacy in vaccine distribution. ... 

UK approves anti-inflammatory drugs to treat sickest Covid-19 patients after strong results in clinical trial

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WASHINGTON POST - Two rheumatoid arthritis drugs that suppress the immune system may help critically ill patients survive Covid-19, providing a benefit even on top of steroids. The results had an unusual path into the public domain—via Twitter—after DSMB monitoring found that the drugs were so effective that it would be unethical to continue giving placebo to critically ill patients according to investigator Derek Angus (BCHS ’92).  

How Democratic wins in Georgia affect the odds on 3 health care policy proposals.

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VOX  - Asked to prognosticate on the likelihood that Democrats will approve Mediate negotiations for prescription drugs, HPM's Walid Gellad puts the odds at 50/50. “I think now you don’t have all those stories about insulin and EpiPen, plus you have positive stories about vaccines and other drugs," Gellad said. "You don’t have as fertile an environment for more extreme drug measures.”  

Head of Allegheny County board of health says highly contagious U.K. variant is likely already in western Pa.

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WESA / WITF — It is likely the new strain of the coronavirus that was first identified in the U.K. is already circulating in Allegheny County, according to the chair of the county’s board of health. “The public health messages don’t change [because of the new strain] … We need to continue to hunker down, follow all the masking, physical distancing, and other mitigation efforts that we’re already doing,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, a Pitt infectious d... 

FDA resists pressure to tweak vaccine dosages to stretch supply

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CENTRE DAILY TIMES—The top U.S. drug regulator is resisting calls to tinker with how COVID-19 vaccines are administered. HPM's Walid Gellad,  who supports stretching out the time between shots, anticipates states ramping up over the next week or two to reach people beyond front-line health care workers. The Pa. health department will begin listing public vaccination sites as early as this week that will serve general public.  

Study finds 35 percent of counties have two or fewer facilities to administer Covid-19 vaccines

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NBC NEWS -  With 200 million vaccine doses due by the end of March, states, and counties have been left to sort out where to send vaccines first and how to get them there. A study found tremendous variation in how far people would need to drive for the vaccine, with 35 percent of counties having two or fewer facilities to administer Covid-19 vaccines. Those with long driving distances between sites and a low number of sites overall “are going to... 

Doctors say state's mitigation orders will stem hospitalizations

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PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES  - Doctors say the state’s new mitigation efforts will help blunt the accelerating Covid-19 cases. “We have to close those down until we get enough of the vaccine around and enough people who are immune to stop the transmission," said HPM's Mark Roberts, adding that there are ways to mitigate the impact on businesses. Pitt’s advanced simulation system, called FRED, shows stricter physical distancing regulations can esse... 

Improving access to maternal care

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POST-GAZETTE - HPM's Marian Jarlenski calls for Medicaid policies to shift from pregnancy-specific benefits and toward a comprehensive approach that enables management of chronic conditions before, between and after pregnancies; enhances the ability to access and use contraception to avoid or delay pregnancy; and allows for people to obtain abortion care when faced with an undesired or medically risky pregnancy.  

Pitt public health expert anticipates surge in COVID cases

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WTAE NEWS — Like ACHD, HPM's Mark Roberts anticipates a surge in cases after Thanksgiving. "I would say that we should start seeing something in the next couple of days," he said. "Right now, the only way we can stop the spread is if people behave in a way that decreases their likelihood of spreading the virus: That’s socially distancing, wearing the mask, washing your hands. All the things that Dr. Bogen is suggesting."  

COVID-19 deaths in PA more than triple what CDC expected a month ago

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ABC27 News — Why were CDC forecasts for the “fall resurgence” of COVID-19 off by so much? Possibly because the biggest variable of all isn’t molecular. “In essence, models that do this kind of prediction, you have to predict human behavior, which is hard,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, who also directs Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. And human behavior, Roberts said, has been unhelpful.  

Trump to FDA: Why is Europe beating us on vaccine?

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POLITICO — A president who preached "America First" is demanding to know why the U.S. could end up third in the global vaccine race. Meanwhile outside public health experts also urge haste as the pandemic worsens. "Every day that goes by is 2,000 people dead. I don't know another circumstance where waiting on drug approval has such an impact on mortality," said HPM's Walid Gellad . "Sometimes in a crisis, you might have to cut corners."  

Al-Ahmadi becomes first woman to serve in leadership position in Saudi government

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ALKALEEJ TODAY – Hanan Bint Abdul Rahim Al-Ahmadi (HPM ’95) was appointed assistant president of the Shoura Council in Saudi Arabia. This appointment elevated her to the third-highest position of the council and made her the first Saudi woman to serve in a leadership position in the Kingdom’s consultative body.  

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