The Daily Dose: Bad news for AstraZeneca vaccine; Potential roles for robots in future pandemics.

As has long been suspected, the link between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clotting issues has been confirmed. Per Reuters, “Europe’s drug regulator on Wednesday found a possible link between AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who had received the shot and said it had taken into consideration all available evidence. ‘One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin,’ the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.” Regardless of the reasons, the finding represents a significant blow to the global effort to combat COVID-19.

A recent paper in PLOS One explores how recent wildfires have impacted surrounding communities and the role various recovery resources have played in responding to the short- and long-term health and social needs of survivors. “The two most frequently discussed social issues during interviews were housing and employment access. Mental and emotional well-being and access to health resources were identified as being the most challenging health concerns that survivors face post-disaster… Finally, participants spoke about the community-wide, downstream impacts of wildfires, noting that “survivors” are not only those whose health is immediately compromised by the disaster.” This is an important study considering the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires in the United States.

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“Fifteen percent of participating adolescents reported engaging in self-harm during the last year. The risk of self-harm was six times higher for the “bully-victims”, five times higher for the bullied, and three times higher for the bullies, compared to the “neither-bullied nor bullies”. The risk of self-harm in the face of being bullied was significantly greater for girls than boys. Depression, anxiety and parental conflict accounted for some of the association between being bullied and self-harm, and between bully-victims and self-harm. School behavioural problems accounted for some of the association between the bullies and self-harm and the bully-victims and self-harm.” It is important to note that the negative effects of bullying and self-harm was mitigated, to a degree, by parental support and school well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the global public health system in brutal fashion. Early on, frontline healthcare workers bore a particularly heavy burden due to their constant exposure to infected patients. As a result, the issue of robots playing a larger role in future pandemics has arisen. A paper in Science Robotics takes an in-depth look at the possibilities and challenges facing the implementation of robot-centered treatment practices in the future. The contents are too extensive to summarize here. That said, the authors conclude “It is valuable to assess how robotics could help establish a new norm after COVID-19, by considering not only the immediate fixes but also long-term solutions and radical changes to business, logistics, manufacturing and supply chain, transport, health care, collaborative research, and education. To address the challenges identified above, globally sustained efforts are required in order for robotics to be ready for the next outbreak… The robotics community needs to take the lead in defining clear robotic challenges for infectious diseases. Speed is important but so is due diligence and process. This includes dialog, collaboration, and involvement with researchers from other disciplines, most importantly, with not only the clinical community but also with those who are experts in ethics and law. Only through cross-disciplinary research and joint efforts will we be able to define the requirements to develop systems that are effective, safe, and rapidly deployed. Governments and funding bodies must be aligned and provide support and dedicated funding to ensure that robots will be ready for the next crisis.” It’s an important topic that seems destined to be implemented in some form or fasion in the future.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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