What We're Reading: AstraZeneca Vaccine Data Questioned; Rising COVID-19 Cases; Wildfire Smoke Harmful to Children

March 23, 2021
AJMC Staff

An independent committee expresses concern on US efficacy data for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine; cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in over half of states; wildfire smoke is associated with a significant spike in pediatric respiratory care visits.

Data on AstraZeneca Vaccine Efficacy Questioned by US Health Body

As reported by Reuters, the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), an independent committee overseeing the US trial on the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, has expressed concern that the company may have released outdated information on the trial that would create an incomplete view of the efficacy data. In data unveiled yesterday, AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 79% effective in preventing the virus, with no safety concerns reported. This came after controversy surrounding the vaccine’s unproven links to blood clots in Europe that caused several countries to suspend use.

Rising COVID-19 Cases Reported in Over Half of States

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the US 7-day average of daily new cases of COVID-19 are up by at least 5% in 27 states, with a 1% increase nationwide reported after months of rapidly declining case numbers. Reported by CNBC, cases include those of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, B117, that some health officials speculate may be the cause of significant case increases in states such as Michigan that reported a 50% increase compared with last week. As vaccination rates rise to about 2.5 million shots per day, testing for COVID-19 has dropped dramatically, suggesting that data may not reflect the true number of cases across the country.

Wildfire Smoke Harmful to Kids’ Respiratory Health

A study published today in Pediatrics found that respiratory care visits among children were associated most prominently with wildfire smoke than other sources of airborne fine particles, even when wildfires were less severe. Reported by STAT, a 10-unit increase of PM2.5, airborne particles less than 2.5 mcm wide from wildfire smoke was linked with a 30% spike in admissions compared with 3.7% from nonsmoke sources. Reasons for pediatric respiratory care visits included asthma, difficulty breathing, respiratory distress, wheezing, and cough.