This week’s roundup features dexamethasone (again), IT collaboration, telemedicine issues, and vaccine manufacturing.
What do toilet paper and dexamethasone have in common?
In addition to their (mainly) white appearance, toilet paper and dexamethasone have the unfortunate quality of being items in the ‘hoardable’ category. One of my initial thoughts after reading the RECOVERY trial results that I mentioned last week was “I hope people don’t start hoarding dexamethasone”. Of course they did. Just like with hydroxychloroquine, people started asking their doctors to prescribe it, or got hold of the drug without the mandatory prescription. Unlike toilet paper, though, this kind of hoarding has serious and harmful consequences.
Besides depriving patients who have a truly require access to the medicine, taking a corticosteroid in the early stage of an infection is counter-productive. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants, hindering the body’s ability to fight infection.
Let’s continue to do what we can as health communicators to raise awareness about the harmful effects of auto-medication.
It takes more than a village
It takes everyone—even competitors—to fight the pandemic. Collaboration has always been a key aspect of scientific research, and an article in Healthcare IT News shows that collaboration reached the healthcare technology sector.
The most visible aspect of the uptake of technology in healthcare was in the rise of telemedicine. This is a virtual way of connecting patients with their healthcare providers through video conference, using tools like Zoom or Skype. This system proved to be a valuable resource both for triage and to provide primary care to chronic patients, while minimising possible exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Secure virtual health for all
While the benefits of telemedicine may form the basis for its widespread adoption even after the pandemic there are some issues that need attention, namely privacy and disparities in access.
It’s easy to feel that you’re in a private virtual environment if you’re in a meeting that the public can’t access, but early headaches with Zoom showed us that there’s more to securing a meeting than what we can see. Hackers are definitely a problem, and when dealing with sensitive information such as health and medical data, no one wants to take a chance. A while ago I heard a podcast episode featuring the president (!) of a country that seems to be far ahead in the data technology and privacy game: Estonia. Their security systems seem to be very advanced, and they also involve the citizen: as far as I could understand, one is always in control of their data and can choose who has access to it, which I don’t think always happens in other countries. I need to rely on my memory to recall past medical issues, and once I had my doctor correct me about which ankle I had previously sprained (it was the left, not the right one!). She has that on her computer, but I can’t access that data. I suppose that has its benefits too, to ensure people don’t access data they can’t understand.
About the disparities in access, I found this article that explains why we must ensure that telehealth remains an option in a post-pandemic world, but not an obligation. It’s good to have virtual options to provide care for people in remote areas or that can’t go to in-person visits, but there must be a way for everyone to access care, or we risk further marginalisation of people who can’t afford the technology.
Symbiosis joins AstraZeneca’s army of manufacturers
Many people in the general public focus on the vaccine development process from the perspective of “is there is going to be a vaccine and when will it be ready?”, losing sight of the details about what it takes to effectively produce a vaccine at a global scale.
To guarantee manufacturing capacity for two billion vaccine doses, AstraZeneca partnered with three organizations: the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the beginning of June, and since then has done deals with several manufacturing companies to increase capacity.
The latest deal was with Symbiosis, a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) in Scotland. This agreement will “provide AstraZeneca fast-track access to sterile vaccine drug product manufacturing capacity for clinical trial supply”, according to the CMO’s press release.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate AZD1222 is currently in clinical trials at multiple sites in the UK, and we should have some data from those trials in late August/early September.
This sums up some of the latest news in COVIDland and beyond, I hope you find them useful.
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