Single Dose of Pfizer COVID Vaccine Highly Effective in Previously Infected People


By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

A single dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine provides strong protection against the new coronavirus in people who’ve already been infected, two new British studies say.

The findings provide strong support to experts who say that people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies to the coronavirus require only one dose of the vaccine, The New York Times reported.

The two studies were published in The Lancet medical journal.

One study was led by researchers at University College London and Public Health England, who outlined the benefits of giving a single dose of the vaccine to people who’ve already been infected.

“This could potentially accelerate vaccine rollout,” which, in turn, could prevent dangerous new mutations, they noted.

In the first study, researchers followed 51 health workers. About half had previously been infected and received a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Those who hadn’t been infected received both doses, the Times reported.

In the workers who’d been infected, the single dose of the vaccine boosted their antibody levels more than 140-fold from their highest levels before being vaccinated. The single dose appeared to give them better protection than the two doses did in those who’d never been infected, the Times said.

The second study assessed the immune responses of 72 health workers who were vaccinated in late December. In the one-third who showed signs of having been infected, one dose of the Pfizer vaccine triggered “very strong” antibody responses and “very strong T-cell responses,” referring to another part of the immune system, the Times reported.

It’s not clear how long the vaccine-prompted immune response will last in previously infected people compared to those who haven’t been infected.

Some U.S. researchers are pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend only one vaccine dose for people who have recovered from COVID-19, theTimes reported.


Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Covid-19 vaccine: How an EUA can impact the timeline


Emergency use authorization is what its name suggests: a medical product that gets special authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used during an emergency. Sometimes it’s a product that has already been FDA-approved, but for another condition, and sometimes it’s a new product that hasn’t yet received the agency’s green light.

There is a lot of ongoing concern and debate about whether any vaccine candidate should be granted an EUA — or outright approval — without first completing Phase 3 clinical trials.

According to the FDA’s website, during public health emergencies, the agency can use Emergency Use Authorizations “to help make medical products available as quickly as possible by allowing unapproved medical products to reach patients in need when there are no adequate, FDA-approved and available alternatives.”

But that’s only if “the known and potential benefits of the product, when used to diagnose, prevent, or treat the identified disease or condition, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.”

So, in essence, what an EUA does is speed up the process of getting potentially helpful  medical products authorized for a specific use to the public during a health emergency, without the rigorous testing and subsequent scrutiny that’s usually required to get FDA approval — which traditionally takes years.

When the health emergency is over, “then any EUA(s) issued based on that declaration will no longer remain in effect,” according to the FDA. But the manufacturer can still submit documentation to the agency for regular approval.

The EUA hasn’t been around that long. The process was included within the Project  Bioshield Act passed by Congress in 2004, which enabled the federal government to prepare and stockpile new “medical countermeasures” during a declared public health emergency.

Past vaccine disasters show why rushing a coronavirus vaccine now would be 'colossally stupid'

And despite issuing many EUAs over the years, only one vaccine has ever received one – but it was in an unusual and controversial circumstance. In 1997, the Department of Defense began a mandatory anthrax vaccination program. Shortly thereafter, soldiers claimed the vaccine made them sick, so they sued and a judge put a hold on the program in 2003. The Department of Defense asked for an EUA that then overrode the court ruling in 2005, so it could continue vaccinating military personnel — this time on a voluntary basis.

EUAs during this pandemic

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA has granted EUAs many times to a wide range of medical products, such as ventilators; personal protective equipment, including masks; molecular and antigen tests to diagnose Covid-19, and serologic tests to look for antibodies; and even treatments, such as remdesivir  and convalescent plasma.

Hydroxychloroquine also doesn't help Covid-19 patients who aren't hospitalized, new study finds
An EUA can be revoked,as in the case of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. These drugs had already been approved to treat and prevent malaria, and showed promise against the novel coronavirus in laboratory studies. Small early trials in Covid-19 patients added to the optimism, and the medication was touted by President Trump. But larger studies found the medications to be ineffective in treating patients with Covid-19. Additionally, one of the side effects could also potentially be dangerous in people who had pre-existing heart conditions. After about two and a half months with EUA, the emergency authorization was revoked.

Many experts see granting an EUA to a vaccine against Covid-19 as problematic. For one, vaccines are given to healthy people by choice, unlike medications that are given to gravely ill patients who might die without them. So drugmakers have a higher bar, so to speak, to make sure there are no unexpected side effects that make healthy people sick — and the only way to find out is in large-scale trials, like those going on right now.

FDA won't 'cut corners' to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, commissioner says

The FDA has said it would hold a vaccine to a higher standard. Dr. Peter Marks, who heads FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said Thursday that requirements will be stricter than for an emergency use authorization for an experimental drug.

“For us, for a vaccine for which there is adequate manufacturing information, if we going to do an emergency use authorization, it is going to really be like an emergency use authorization plus,” Marks told a seminar hosted by Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy.

On Friday Marks and Hahn said in a joint blog post they’d be issuing more guidance “shortly” about how much higher the bar might be.

They noted it is up to the manufacturer to ask the FDA either for an EUA or full approval, known as a Biologics License Application. With so much at stake, we understand the importance of being as transparent as possible about the work we do, including how we will make decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines,” Marks and Hahn wrote.

Fauci warns against premature authorization of coronavirus vaccine

The FDA has already said it would want to see an efficacy of at least 50% — meaning any vaccine, to be considered, would need to reduce the risk of infection or of serious illness by at least 50% over a placebo.

In a string of tweets by Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and the dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, earlier this month, he noted that “EUAs involve substandard or lesser reviews. How can you justify a substandard or lesser review for something that would be injected in tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Additionally, Hotez pointed out that the mRNA technology being used in two of the vaccines that are the furthest along in Phase 3 trials — the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — is “a new technology that has never before been licensed. We have no history or experience on such vaccines. Even more reason for a full/comprehensive review.”

Hotez also brings up the point that in this highly politicized climate, there is a lack of confidence and trust in the government and federal agencies. “We’ve seen how in 2020 the White House has abused the EUA mechanism – remember the EUA for hydroxychloroquine that was revoked? Neither does the White House or Dept. HHS,” he tweeted.

Political subtext

There is also the worry that the President is looking to make a vaccine available for political reasons during the run-up to the November election.

Trump puts pressure on FDA for coronavirus silver bullet ahead of Election Day

President Trump has said several times he thinks a vaccine could be available by Election Day. Without a doubt, the pace of medical innovation has moved faster than ever before, and human vaccine trials began just 67 days after the virus was first identified. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently told public health officials to prepare to distribute a potential vaccine as early as end of October. And FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said he’d consider an EUA before Phase 3 trials are complete.

Still, several government health officials have told CNN the idea that a vaccine could be available to the general public by November 3 is unlikely. “There is a big concern about the sort of political expediency and when this [October] date was being picked … and just picking this date, before the election, sort of stokes those fears that the government isn’t being duly diligent to make sure that any vaccine really is not just efficacious, but has few side effects,” said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and former director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness at the CDC.

“So, we’re all optimistic that there are currently three vaccines in Phase 3 trials — that maybe one of these vaccines is so excellent that you don’t need to vaccinate 30,000 people to find that it’s going to work. However, the concern is that if you don’t do a full set of these so-called Phase 3 trials, that you will miss rare side effects,” he said on CNN earlier this month.

When a vaccine — or other medical product — is given to enough people, rare side effects can turn up. In 1976, the government  launched a  hastily produced  vaccine about seven months after the Ford administration was led to believe a pandemic caused by a new strain of flu was imminent.

Experts predicted a coronavirus pandemic years ago. Now it's playing out before our eyes

The pandemic never materialized, but 40 million people got vaccinated under a compulsory program. That vaccine was later linked to a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can develop after an infection or, rarely, after vaccination with a live vaccine. The link was never proved, but the program was stopped.

Also, in order to demonstrate efficacy of the vaccine, dozens of people in the placebo group would need to become infected, while very few — if any — infections would be seen in the vaccinated group of trial participants. It may take weeks, if not months, to see that difference between the two populations.

Lack of trust

The lack of public trust and vaccine hesitancy are real. A CNN poll in August showed 40% of Americans do not want to get a vaccine when it becomes available — even if it is cheap and easy to get. Such a low uptake of the vaccine could hurt the country’s ability to get the virus under control and return to normalcy.

If history is any indication, skepticism — if not outright mistrust — about an unapproved vaccine is nothing new. In a study published in 2009, months after the US declared a public health emergency due to the H1N1 influenza and the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, researchers explored the public’s willingness to use a drug or a vaccine with an EUA (not full FDA approval) by surveying a representative sample of more than 1,500 US adults. 

They found more than 77% of respondents would be moderately, very or extremely worried if offered an unapproved vaccine; 63% said they would not take it.

But there were also some other key factors that would convince respondents that a vaccine authorized under an EUA was safe to use. If the vaccine were administered by a public health professional, 55% of respondents say they would take it. If it came with a fact sheet, just over 57% of those surveyed said they would get it. And if it were administered by their own health care provider, that number shot up to 68%. Transparency is key in gaining trust.

There's a legitimate way to end coronavirus vaccine trials early, Fauci says

Those in charge of the country’s health agencies — Alex Azar at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the FDA’s Dr. Stephen Hahn and the CDC’s Dr. Robert Redfield — have all tried to reassure Americans that politics will not play a role in when a vaccine becomes available.

Fauci has said he believes a vaccine will likely come closer to the end of the year, and that he wouldn’t be comfortable with making a vaccine widely available unless the scientific evidence backed it up. “I’m not a regulator. I mean, I just do the science. I’d report the science in an accurate way, and certainly if I saw interference, I would be very disturbed and call it out,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Acosta on “The Situation Room.”

As for an emergency use authorization, “I would not be comfortable with a vaccine unless it was shown in a clinical trial clearly to be safe and effective,” Fauci said during an interview on NBC’s “Today.” 

Dr. Luciana Borio, the former acting chief scientist at the FDA, agrees that a vaccine must be shown to be safe and effective first and foremost.

But if a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective in adequate and well-controlled clinical trials, it should not be withheld until all the stringent licensure requirements for FDA approval are met, because some of the requirements cannot be generated quickly.

“Safe & effective vaccines can save lives and help contain the pandemic,” Borio tweeted. “The EUA is the most appropriate regulatory mechanism for distributing vaccines that have been shown to be safe & effective in phase 3 RCTs (randomized controlled trials) but have not yet met all of the FDA’s standards for licensure.” 

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s Covid-19 vaccine program, said that “it would be unethical” to not move quickly to put out a Covid-19 vaccine if it is proven to work.

“If we know a vaccine is 70% or 80% or 90% effective, it would be unethical to hold it back,” Slaoui said during a CNN interview on Friday.

9 vaccine makers sign safety pledge in race for Covid-19 vaccine

On Tuesday, nine biopharmaceutical companies, including those who are furthest along in their vaccine testing programs, signed an unusual pledge to uphold “high ethical standards,” suggesting they won’t seek premature government approval for Covid-19 vaccines.

They pledged to “Only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA.”

In fact, later that same day, AstraZeneca, one of the signatories of the pledge, said it had paused its trials globally because of an unexplained illness in one volunteer in the UK. The drugmaker called the halt “a routine action.”

AstraZeneca pauses coronavirus vaccine trial after unexplained illness in volunteer

“In large trials, illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully. We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline,” AstraZeneca said in a statement sent to CNN.

According to the FDA’s guidance, any vaccine — whether under emergency authorization or approved — needs to either prevent disease or at least decrease severity by at least 50%.

Despite all the intrigue, it may be worthwhile to circle back to the original criteria for an EUA — in particular, the stipulation that it only be granted when ”there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.”

While most people understandably don’t want to hear it, there is a reasonable alternative, which has worked well  in many places around the world, and that is abiding by basic public health measures: wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, practicing good hand hygiene and staying away from large, especially indoor crowds — especially indoors.

Following those rules will significantly reduce the likelihood of people getting sick, and slow the transmission of the virus. It will also buy us more time to make sure we get the evidence supporting the vaccine totally nailed down.

CNN’s Jen Christensen, Shelby Lin Erdman, and Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.



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Best toys for kids that they will love for their birthday



Great birthday gifts for kids. (Markus Spiske via Unsplash/)

Shopping for toys for kids can be the ultimate exercise in trial and error. Young children are cute and cuddly, but they aren’t as predictable as older kids and adults who have settled into lifelong preferences. Just when you think you have them all figured out in the gift-giving department, they’ll throw you unexpected curveballs. Since children change so much from year to year, that can make buying birthday gifts for kids a particular challenge.

Babies are easier because they can’t give you any real feedback on first-birthday presents. Once they grow into toddlers, though, you’ve really got to up your gift-giving game. Ultimately, the best birthday gift ideas will differ from kid to kid, but while you’re deciding which way to go, there are several tips that should help you with the process. Most importantly, think safety first. A kid’s birthday gift should be age-appropriate and not pose any threat to their well-being.

Fun always goes over well, but gifts with educational value will be even more beneficial in the long run. And since kids can be fickle and grow out of what they love today by tomorrow, it’s never a good idea to spend too much money on one gift. If you keep it within reason price-wise, in the unfortunate event that your choice doesn’t go over so well, you’ll have a little more to spend to get them something else. Now that we’ve gotten the preliminary considerations out of the way, let’s go shopping for toys for kids.

  • Best outdoor toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004K0Q8LG?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=bda7961035b06fe71fcec8575ba4a459&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Lifetime Geometric Dome Climber Play Center</a>
  • Best ride on toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BL27DRR?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=06e22707dc1c8304b5706d8d9eb73880&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>Kidzone DIY Race Electric Ride On Bumper Car </a>
  • Best water toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/HONEY-JOY-Inflatable-Basketball-Including/dp/B083JSTS9Y?crid=3212UTQRHI609&dchild=1&keywords=waterslide+for+kids+backyard&qid=1613682230&sprefix=water+slide+for+kid%2Caps%2C226&sr=8-18&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=84637a591f91fe361dc7e65bd4c70c91&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>HONEY JOY Inflatable Water Slide</a>
  • Best educational toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008RU8GC4?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=ef81f40563581b6409d660e8317a29f0&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>ThinkFun Zingo Sight Words</a>
  • Best STEM toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IUAAK2A?&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=7fed5e3c596559f6b85bd7d45e9a8fa4&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game</a>
  • Best robot toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Control-Programmable-Birthday-Interactive-Robotics/dp/B07C147N9F?crid=UAMQFVMA1CI&dchild=1&keywords=robot+toy&qid=1613716477&sprefix=robot+toy%2Caps%2C209&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&smid=A1FPC72QTFLMID&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExN1VHNTRNMUQwRzBLJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMzUzNjM2MVpSWkRRTFZFRU5GOCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjkwOTg1OURFODVCUEZVSEZYJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ%3D%3D&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=f4ff11fe69b428952e2fccd7574911a8&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>SGILE RC Robot Toy</a>
  • Best building toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/LEGO-Building-Awesome-Display-Featuring/dp/B08NFC2GSR?crid=1KV2QZ9LHG041&dchild=1&keywords=lego+123+sesame+street&qid=1614120056&sprefix=lego+123%2Caps%2C154&sr=8-1&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=957a4feece2adede6fc8afc36ab32836&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>LEGO Ideas 123 Sesame Street 21324 Building Kit</a>
  • Best sensory toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/BunMo-Sensory-Autistic-Children-Fidgets/dp/B088SZ9SPH?ascsubtag=amzn1.osa.99d6ed3b-2c0d-4650-aac5-ed4bd360a187.ATVPDKIKX0DER.en_US&crid=157A97YV22D91&cv_ct_cx=sensory+toys&cv_ct_id=amzn1.osa.99d6ed3b-2c0d-4650-aac5-ed4bd360a187.ATVPDKIKX0DER.en_US&cv_ct_pg=search&cv_ct_we=asin&cv_ct_wn=osp-single-source-earns-comm&dchild=1&keywords=sensory+toys&pd_rd_i=B088SZ9SPH&pd_rd_r=63b68d2b-4c92-4355-90b1-704a422faf7e&pd_rd_w=iK6fe&pd_rd_wg=ks6o2&pf_rd_p=f4a3aafa-93d3-4be9-a7f4-4d5c2eff701a&pf_rd_r=W5YXQ4JXFG53NHBRGTR3&qid=1613718822&sprefix=sensory+toy%2Caps%2C183&sr=1-1-64f3a41a-73ca-403a-923c-8152c45485fe&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=d27ad07ab6b13fa7dd5c7c19c61d87ee&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>BunMo XL Pop Tubes Sensory Toys for Autistic Children</a>
  • Best wooden toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/WOOD-CITY-Toddler-Montessori-Toddlers/dp/B087FTYHST?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B087FTYHST&pd_rd_r=74334fd3-2e1f-4791-8f8c-c76ae89ce1d1&pd_rd_w=QQD50&pd_rd_wg=g7Rlm&pf_rd_p=16b28406-aa34-451d-8a2e-b3930ada000c&pf_rd_r=T2TVQH18QD4NVSTD2W22&psc=1&refRID=T2TVQH18QD4NVSTD2W22&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=429fc26265cdbe1ba0378eed014ef067&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>WOOD CITY Wooden Car Ramp Racer</a>
  • Best science toys for kids: <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/NATIONAL-GEOGRAPHIC-Dual-Student-Microscope/dp/B01ICAU41E?ascsubtag=amzn1.osa.41f57a29-ed25-437b-ae5a-a113c219bec2.ATVPDKIKX0DER.en_US&crid=2PV36I7SJX9BW&cv_ct_cx=science+toys&cv_ct_id=amzn1.osa.41f57a29-ed25-437b-ae5a-a113c219bec2.ATVPDKIKX0DER.en_US&cv_ct_pg=search&cv_ct_we=asin&cv_ct_wn=osp-single-source-earns-comm&dchild=1&keywords=science+toys&pd_rd_i=B01ICAU41E&pd_rd_r=4a58afbf-d5d4-4bcd-8444-bfd24210e7c9&pd_rd_w=mGrdK&pd_rd_wg=KQMR2&pf_rd_p=f4a3aafa-93d3-4be9-a7f4-4d5c2eff701a&pf_rd_r=5CPQ0W8QGYBEA11YQA1Z&qid=1613719467&s=toys-and-games&sprefix=science+toys%2Ctoys-and-games%2C173&sr=1-1-64f3a41a-73ca-403a-923c-8152c45485fe&linkCode=ll1&tag=popularscience-best-toys-for-kids-birthday-pcr-20&linkId=e37f0aa25eaf1bc9a24db7b38488b360&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl” target=_blank>NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Dual LED Student Microscope</a>

How to pick out fun toys for kids

Have no idea what to get the child in your life? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Birthday gifts and toys for kids are just a click away. For better or for worse, the opportunities are fairly endless, so let’s narrow them down.

Best outdoor toys for kids: Lifetime Geometric Dome Climber Play Center

This comes in three different heights to accommodate kids from 3 to 10—and it can hold up to 600 pounds of weight.

This comes in three different heights to accommodate kids from 3 to 10—and it can hold up to 600 pounds of weight. (Amazon/)

The best outdoor toys for kids? Every childhood deserves a great set of monkey bars, and with a good set-up in the backyard, there’s no need to make special trips to the playground. This free-standing climbing structure doesn’t require a cement base, and it reaches a height of up to five feet, six inches, depending on which size you get. There are no dangerous lead-based materials involved, and it’s stain- and UV-resistant to retain its original color. The monkey bars come in six different color combinations, so you can get one to match the favorite colors of the kids who will be playing on it.

Best ride on toys for kids: Kidzone DIY Race Electric Ride On Bumper Car

This battery-powered item requires no assembly, comes in 10 colors, and reaches a maximum speed of .75 miles per hour.

This battery-powered item requires no assembly, comes in 10 colors, and reaches a maximum speed of .75 miles per hour. (Amazon /)

Ride-on toys are good for kids because they promote physical activity and independence and help build their confidence. They assist in the development of motor skills and mind-body connections that will come in handy when they’re old enough to ride a bike. Even if they won’t be getting behind the wheel of a car for many years, these toys help children develop skills that will become increasingly important. This ride-on electric car is safe for children from 18 months old and can spin a full 360 degrees with the use of a joystick or remote control. A protective border keeps drivers safe when the vehicle bumps into walls and furniture. Just be sure to strap in the little one with the safety belt

Best water toys for kids: HONEY JOY Inflatable Water Slide

The set-up includes a carrying bag for storage and portability and four patches to cover up accidental tears.

The set-up includes a carrying bag for storage and portability and four patches to cover up accidental tears. (Amazon/)

Who doesn’t love fun in the sun with water? This inflatable bouncy house brings it on, with integrated water sports, a pair of slides, a climbing wall, and a basketball rim. An inflatable basketball, by the way, is included. This is perfect on days when parents can’t make it to the beach or to the local waterpark. All they have to do is set this up in the backyard, and let the fun and games begin. It’s durable, stable, and big enough to hold up to three children ages 3 to 10 with lots of space to play. It is a bit of an investment, but it can provide hours of active entertainment at a playdate for three. Just add water.

Best educational toys for kids: ThinkFun Zingo Sight Words

This match-up’s mix of pictures and letters can also help children improve their spelling skills.

This match-up’s mix of pictures and letters can also help children improve their spelling skills. (Amazon/)

There’s no reason why children can’t have fun and learn at the same time. That’s where these educational toys for kids come into play. The best birthday gifts for kids are the ones that will provide hours of entertainment while also offering them mental and intellectual stimulation. This Bingo-style game can be played by up to six pre-kindergarten to second-grade kids, and it can help kids recognize essential words. A winner of ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids Award, it’s perfect for future word nerds.

Best STEM toys for kids: ThinkFun Gravity Maze Marble Run Brain Game

This comes with a game grid, nine towers, and a target piece, and the levels of its challenges range from beginner to expert.

This comes with a game grid, nine towers, and a target piece, and the levels of its challenges range from beginner to expert. (Amazon/)

STEM toys help train the geniuses of tomorrow by sharpening their cognitive reasoning and problem-solving skills. This kids’ toy includes 60 different games that will help young users develop crucial reasoning abilities. The goal is to set up the towers so that the marble falls from the top all the way down to a target tower below. It may sound simple enough, but it helps kids develop spatial reasoning and planning skills.

Best robot toy for kids: SGILE RC Robot Toy

This can keep going for 60 minutes after two hours of charging using the USB cable.

This can keep going for 60 minutes after two hours of charging using the USB cable. (Amazon/)

An imaginary friend can help a child get through tough times, and a real-life robot toy can be an equally beneficial diversion, offering fun and games as well as a learning experience. This robot toy for kids can perform up to 50 motions by tapping on the remote control, including walking, dancing, and even singing. Wheels underfoot help it move along on smooth surfaces, and it’s able to move forward, backward, left and right, with a built-in sensor helping it to avoid walls, furniture, and other physical obstacles. It doesn’t take an adult to figure it out. A child can use one button on the remote control to enter a variety of movements and let the robot do the rest. Kids love remote controls, and mastering the use of this one is a skill that will definitely come in handy later on.

Best building toys for kids: LEGO Ideas 123 Sesame Street 21324 Building Kit

There are more than 1,300 parts, but don’t worry. Step-by-step instructions are included to assist the little one.

There are more than 1,300 parts, but don’t worry. Step-by-step instructions are included to assist the little one. (Amazon/)

Here’s to future architects. Even if the little one doesn’t grow up to design skyscrapers, building toys for kids can provide the building blocks to excellent spatial skills. They’ll probably watch Sesame Street on TV, and This LEGO set for kids will allow them to recreate the fictional neighborhood on their own. All the favorite characters are included, as well as Elmo’s bedroom and Bert and Ernie’s apartment. At 9.4 inches high, 14 inches wide, and 8 inches deep, it’s large enough to impress young builders but compact enough to not overwhelm them. LEGO is always a great brand for kids’ toys.

Best sensory toy for kids: BunMo XL Pop Tubes Sensory Toys for Autistic Children

This comes in three different sizes: four-, eight- and 12-packs.

This comes in three different sizes: four-, eight- and 12-packs. (Amazon/)

Sensory toys are great for children with autism because they can help them relax, calm down, and focus when they’re faced with a triggering situation. The fun, colorful tubes relieve anxiety through tactile stimulation, and the four-tube option comes in XL configurations that can be connected together to form one or two larger ones that make excellent hula hoops. You can also get an eight-pack of mini tubes that kids can connect and wear as a bracelet or wrap around their fingers.

Best wooden toys for kids: WOOD CITY Wooden Car Ramp Racer

Minimal assembly required. Simply put together the parking lot and start driving.

Minimal assembly required. Simply put together the parking lot and start driving. (Amazon /)

Miniature cars can keep young kids occupied for hours. Throw in a ramp race track, and it becomes more than just fun and games. These wooden toys for kids enhances hand-eye coordination in toddlers, and as they come to understand how the parts connect and work together, it will improve their thinking skills. The seven cars start at the top and flip at the end of each ramp onto the next until they reach the ramp at the bottom. The brightly colored cars provide visual stimulation, and the car parts are firmly attached together so there is no risk of a wheel falling off and ending up in a toddler’s mouth.

Best science toys for kids: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Dual LED Student Microscope

Kids can pull it out of the box and immediately get started on examining earthworm specimens, brine shrimp, and daisy leaves—all of which are included.

Kids can pull it out of the box and immediately get started on examining earthworm specimens, brine shrimp, and daisy leaves—all of which are included. (Amazon/)

Kids love toys that let them mimic adult activities. Every future scientist needs a good starter microscope, and this is a great science toy for kids to start with. It comes with more than 50 accessories, including 10 curated pre-prepared slides of biological specimens so kids can work up to creating their own using the included blank slides and covers, tweezers, eye-droppers, and Petri dish. The two sets of glass lenses offer 20 and 50 times magnification for viewing that’s up close and personal, as well as upper and lower LED lights.

The bottom line on the best toys for kids

Looking for the perfect toys for kids can be a challenge, but it need not be an insurmountable one. You should be able to find some birthday gift ideas among this list of kids’ toys. Just think safety first, and remember: When it comes to birthday gifs for kids, fun plus educational is an unbeatable combination.

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What Goes into Each Bottle of Northern Chill?


When most people think of electrolytes, it usually involves brightly-colored and artificially-flavored sports drinks that supposedly aid us in the gym. Problem is, a lot of those are overflowing with more added sugars and empty calories than electrolytes.

Northern Chill Alkaline Mineral Spring Water is naturally made with minerals and electrolytes, which helps give you an added performance boost during every workout—without any added sugar.

But what are electrolytes, and why are they so important? Electrolytes serve different functions in the body, including helping maintain nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and fluid balance running smoothly.

And while there are other lesser-known ways to consume your electrolytes, including yogurt, pickles, and even a pretzel, the best way to get your daily fill of electrolytes is in alkaline water.

Northern Chill, sourced from a glacier created aquifer in Polar, WI, is a naturally-alkaline mineral spring water that undergoes zero processing, meaning the natural levels of minerals and electrolytes are preserved in each bottle, giving you the best performance boost for your buck.

What does that mean? With no calories or added  sugar, you can get all the minerals and electrolytes you need for that heavy-duty squat session, 10-mile run or 10 rounds in the ring from a bottle of Northern Chill.

Here is a list of some of the minerals and electrolyte that can help you reach top performance, all of which can be found in a bottle of Northern Chill.

Bicarbonate: This mineral helps regulate the pH level in the body, helps your digestive system function properly, and protects against acid reflux and heartburn. For athletes, bicarbonate has been shown to help reduce muscle fatigue, helping you squeeze out a few more reps, or miles, each workout.

Calcium: As well as being a key mineral for overall teeth and bone health, calcium has been shown to help circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. It’s an extremely vital mineral for athletes, particularly female athletes, as heavy training can cause a drop in hormone levels.

Magnesium: Along with helping regulate muscle and nerve functions as well as blood pressure, magnesium also is essential in helping produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s main source of energy. Magnesium also helps with calcium absorption.

Sodium: Since athletes lose this mineral through sweating, sodium is arguably the body’s most important mineral. It also helps balance the water levels in and around your cells and maintain blood pressure levels. Cramping up during a workout? Chances are you’re in need of sodium replenishment as sodium is known to help reduce muscle cramping.

Chloride: This electrolyte is essential for helping maintain hydration among athletes. It complements both sodium and potassium in helping balance acids in the body as well as moving fluids in and out of cells.

Potassium: The third-most-prevalent mineral in the human body, potassium helps kidney and heart function including the prevention of kidney stones. It also helps regulate nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and helps maintain blood pressure.

Courtesy of Northern Chill

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Is Coronavirus Reinfection Possible? – The Atlantic


These evasion tactics seem to play a role in enabling coronaviruses that cause common colds to infiltrate the human population on a regular basis, says Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist and virologist at the University of Washington. In December, Bloom’s team posted a preprint study detailing the intricate arms race between human and microbe: Antibodies that could successfully squelch one version of a common-cold coronavirus stick around in people for years, but struggle to extinguish its genetically rejiggered descendants.

“It makes perfect sense—it’s what viruses do,” Oliver Fregoso, a virologist at UCLA, says. “Viruses are going to evolve in a way that [allows] them to continue infecting. Otherwise, they go extinct.”


No part of reinfection is cut-and-dried. Every infection, foreign or familiar, to some extent, reflects the push and pull between immunity and viral evolution—both of which can make a once-familiar foe appear foreign. Unfortunately, “it’s hard to parse out how much is due to you, as the patient, versus the characteristics of the virus,” Bloom says. The majority of people infected by the coronavirus don’t get the chance to measure their immune response, or genetically sequence the virus infecting them, which would be a surefire way to tell whether the pathogen has morphed into something new.

But the more we understand about how these dynamics work, the better equipped we’ll be to tinker with them—and give our own bodies the edge. “We have to be able to explain when things don’t go right,” Ogbunu said. Scientists might be able to more effectively tailor treatments, some perhaps more suited to people with weaker immune systems, others hyper-focused on foiling certain variants of the virus. The same intel could inform the production and distribution of vaccines, which could be reformulated to get ahead of new variants. Understanding the root of most coronavirus reinfections is about prioritizing what’s in our pandemic playbook: shoring up our defense, or hitting the virus hard with the best offense we’ve got.

Sarah Cobey, an immunologist at the University of Chicago, says the past year hasn’t shaken her faith in the human immune system. Some rare individuals have gotten very ill the second time they’ve been infected, a few even sicker than the first. But failed or aberrant immunity to the coronavirus is unlikely to be the norm. Most of the reinfections we document going forward will probably involve the virus adopting a new and foreign guise, Cobey says, rather than “something really weird happening with immune memory.”

In many ways, the virus-shift version of repeat infections is the easier one. It’s expected and trackable, with testing and genomic surveillance; it’s haltable, with measures that keep the virus from spreading and lingering in hosts. Encouragingly, none of the variants yet seems capable of completely eluding a typical immune response to the OG coronavirus or an OG-based vaccine—which is also very good news. It’s a hint that, by and large, our immune systems are working as they should. The shots we’ve developed to protect us from the coronavirus will still dial down our risks of getting seriously sick with COVID-19; vaccine makers will update their recipes to account for the variants. People who are hit naturally with one variant, then another, will probably experience gentler symptoms the second time, if they feel ill at all. (Frequent, symptomatic reinfections with the same variant, by contrast, would forecast a less rosy future.)

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Ghana Receives First COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery from COVAX


(ACCRA, Ghana) — Ghana received the world’s first delivery of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative on Wednesday—the long-awaited start for a program that has thus far fallen short of hopes that it would ensure shots were given quickly to the world’s most vulnerable people.

The arrival of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the West African country marks the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. It is a linchpin of efforts to bring the pandemic to an end and has been hailed as the first time the world has delivered a highly sought-after vaccine to poor countries during an ongoing outbreak.

“Today marks the historic moment for which we have been planning and working so hard. With the first shipment of doses, we can make good on the promise of the COVAX facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the race for life-saving vaccines,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, which delivered the vaccines.

But the initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. Although it aims to deliver 2 billion shots this year, it currently has legally binding agreements only for several hundred million shots.

It already missed its own goal of beginning vaccinations in poor countries at the same time immunizations were rolled out in rich ones, some of which have now administered millions of shots. That delay led numerous poorer countries to rush to sign their own deals, potentially undermining COVAX’s efforts to get shots to the neediest people worldwide.

And some countries can’t afford to go it alone.

Ghana is among 92 countries that will receive vaccines for free through the initiative, which is led by the WHO; Gavi, a vaccine group; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay.

Ghana, a nation of 30 million people that has recorded 81,245 cases and 584 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, plans to begin vaccinations on March 2. Neighboring Ivory Coast will be the next to receive vaccines, and also will roll them out starting next week.

The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arriving at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, on Feb. 24, 2021.

Francis Kokoroko—UNICEF/AP

Even as it celebrated receiving the first doses, Ghana noted the long road ahead.

“The government of Ghana remains resolute at ensuring the welfare of all Ghanaians and is making frantic efforts to acquire adequate vaccines to cover the entire population through bilateral and multilateral agencies,” Ghana’s acting minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said in a statement.

That freneticism has been echoed across the continent of 1.3 billion people, as deliveries have fallen behind schedule and African nations have scrambled to secure vaccines from various sources. Only about seven of 54 have begun vaccination campaigns.

Some activists have also expressed serious concern about the COVAX initiative’s goal of only giving enough shots to cover about 20% to 30% of the population in countries that receive donated doses. They have warned that even if the program is successful in distributing those vaccines, those countries will remain vulnerable to continued coronavirus outbreaks since most experts guess that at least 70% of people will need protection from the virus to reach herd immunity.

And experts have noted that even if richer countries reach some level of herd immunity, everyone will remain vulnerable as long as there are pockets of COVID-19 anywhere in the world.

“We will not end the pandemic anywhere unless we end it everywhere,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Today is a major first step towards realizing our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it’s just the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do with governments and manufacturers to ensure that vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.”

The vaccines delivered Wednesday are the first of some about 7 million doses being produced by the Serum Institute in India for some 20 countries, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Over the coming weeks, COVAX must deliver vaccines to all participating economies to ensure that those most at risk are protected, wherever they live,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “We need governments and businesses now to recommit their support for COVAX and help us defeat this virus as quickly as possible.”

___

Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Maria Cheng in Toronto and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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For Some Teens, It’s Been a Year of Anxiety and Trips to the E.R.


In a recent report, a research team led by the C.D.C. found that less than half of the emergency departments in U.S. hospitals had clear policies in place to handle children with behavior problems. Getting to the bottom of any complex behavior issue can takes days of patient observation, at minimum, psychiatrists say. And many emergency departments do not have the on-hand specialists, dedicated space or off-site resources to help do the job well.

For Jean, diagnosing her son has been complicated. He has since developed irritable bowel syndrome. “He has been losing weight, and started smoking pot due to the boredom,” Jean said. “This is all due to the anxiety.”

Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has an emergency department that is a decent size for a pediatric hospital, with capacity for 62 children or adolescents. But well before the arrival of the coronavirus, the department was straining to handle increasing numbers of patients with behavior problems.

“This was huge problem pre-pandemic,” said Dr. David Axelson, chief of psychiatry and behavioral health at the hospital. “We were seeing a rise in emergency department visits for mental health problems in kids, specifically for suicidal thinking and self-harm. Our emergency department was overwhelmed with it, having to board kids on the medical unit while waiting for psych beds.”

Last March, to address the crowding, Nationwide Children’s opened a new pavilion, a nine-story facility with 54 dedicated beds for observation and for longer-term stays for those with mental challenges. It has taken the pressure off the hospital’s regular emergency department and greatly improved care, Dr. Axelson said.

Over this pandemic year, with the number of admissions for mental health problems up by some 15 percent over previous years, it is hard to imagine what it would have been like without the additional, devoted behavioral clinic, Dr. Axelson said.

Other hospitals from out of state often call, hoping to place a patient in crisis, but there is simply not enough space. “We have to say no,” Dr. Axelson said.

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I’m the Australian doctor who went to China for the WHO. This is what we found


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Does your health monitor have device bias?



In recent years, there’s been a veritable explosion in the number and type of health monitoring devices available in smartphones and fitness apps.

Your smartphone is likely tracking the number of steps you take, how far and fast you walk, and how many flights of stairs you climb each day. Some phones log sleep, heart rate, how much energy you’re burning, and even “gait health” (how often are both feet on the ground? how even are your steps?). And, of course, nonphone wearables and fitness gadgets are available, such as devices to measure your heart rhythm, blood pressure, or oxygen levels. The accuracy of these devices varies — and, in some instances, your skin tone may make a difference.

Generally, how accurate are health monitors?

I know from my experience with hospital monitoring devices that they aren’t always accurate. False alarms from EKG monitors often send medical staff scurrying into patient rooms, only to find the patient feeling fine and surprised about the commotion. A particularly common false alarm is a dangerous and unstable heart rhythm on a continuous heart monitor, which can be due to the motion from a patient brushing their teeth.

High-stakes devices with monitoring capability, such as defibrillators and pacemakers, are extensively tested by their makers and vetted by the FDA, so their accuracy and reliability are generally quite good.

But what about home health monitoring devices intended for consumer use that are not extensively tested by the FDA? Ever count your steps for a few minutes just to see if your phone’s tally agrees? Or climb a couple of flights of stairs to see if you are getting full credit for not taking the elevator?

The accuracy of consumer devices depends in part on what is being monitored. For example, one study assessed the accuracy of heart rate monitors and energy expenditure calculators in phones and health apps. Accuracy was quite high for heart rate (often in the range of 95%), but much less accurate for energy expenditure. Accuracy can also vary depending on who is being monitored.

Device bias: What it is and why it occurs

While no health gadget is perfect, some users get more reliable results than others. For example, if you’re wearing nail polish, a pulse oximeter — a device that clips onto the fingertip to measure blood oxygen through the skin — may not work well, because the polish interferes with proper function of the light sensor. In that situation, there’s a simple solution: remove the polish.

But in other cases, the solution isn’t simple. Increasingly, we’re recognizing that certain medical devices are less accurate depending on a person’s skin color, a phenomenon called device bias.

  • Pulse oximeters. Although generally considered highly accurate and commonly relied upon in healthcare settings, their accuracy tends to be lower in people of color. That’s because the device relies on shining light through the skin to detect the color of blood, which varies by oxygen level. The amount of pigment in the skin may alter the way light behaves as it travels to blood vessels, leading to inaccurate results. The FDA has released an alert about this and other limitations of pulse oximeter use.
  • Bilirubin measurement in newborns. Bilirubin is a breakdown product of red blood cells. Newborns are screened for high levels because this can cause permanent brain damage. When detected, phototherapy (light treatments) can help the baby get rid of the excess bilirubin, preventing brain damage. The screening involves examining a newborn’s skin and eyes for jaundice (a yellowing due to elevated bilirubin) and a light meter test to detect high bilirubin levels. But the accuracy of this test is lower in Black newborns. This is particularly important because jaundice is more difficult to detect in infants with darker skin, and dangerously high bilirubin levels are more common in this population.
  • Heart rate monitors in smartphones. According to at least one study, smartphone apps may also be less accurate in people of color. Again, this is because the more skin pigment present, the more trouble light sensors have detecting pulsations in blood flow that reflect heartbeats.

Why device bias matters

Sometimes an error in measurement has no immediate health consequences. A 5% to 10% error rate when measuring heart rate may be of little consequence. (In fact, one could ask why anyone needs a device to monitor heart rate when you could just count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4!)

But pulse oximeter readings are used to help decide whether a person needs to be hospitalized, who requires admission to the intensive care unit, and who requires additional testing. If the oxygen level is consistently overestimated in people of color, they may be more likely to be undertreated compared with others whose readings are more accurate. And that may worsen previously existing healthcare disparities.

These examples add to the growing list of bias imbedded within healthcare, and other instances where failing to include diverse individuals has serious consequences. When you use a health device, it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s been tested on people like you. It’s also reasonable to expect people who develop medical and consumer health devices to widen the demographics of test subjects, to make sure results are reliable for all users before putting them on the market.

Sometimes a change in technology, such as using a different type of light sensor, can make health-related devices work more accurately for a wider range of people.

Or there may be no easy fix, and user characteristics will need to be incorporated into proper interpretation of the results. For example, a device could offer the user a choice of skin tones to match skin color. Then based on extensive data from prior testing of people with different skin colors, the device could adjust results appropriately.

The bottom line

The push to monitor our bodies, our health, and our life experiences continues to gain momentum. So we need to test and validate health-related devices to be sure they work for diverse individuals before declaring them fit for the general public. Even then, device bias won’t disappear: bodies vary, and technology has its limits. The key is to know it exists, fix what can be fixed, and interpret the results accordingly.

Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling

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A Third of COVID Survivors Have Long-Haul Symptoms


Nearly 31% of patients said they had a worse health-related quality of life now, compared to before getting COVID-19, the researchers reported.

It’s not yet clear why COVID-19 causes these lasting effects.

Many viruses are capable of creating what’s known as “post-viral syndrome,” which experts describe as health problems that persist long after the infection has cleared the body. These are the result of inflammation or other damage that occurs as the immune system fights off an infection.

But there’s evidence that at least some COVID-19 long-haul symptoms might be directly attributable to the coronavirus itself, Gut said.

“Because it has a direct effect on the nerves of our nose, we think that likely there is an effect on brain structure. We know that definitively there are changes in our lungs that occur from it,” Gut said of COVID-19. “It has far-reaching implications we’re just now beginning to understand since we’re just starting to categorize the syndrome.”

The findings were published online Feb. 19 in JAMA Network Open.


More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more on coronavirus long haulers.


SOURCES: Jennifer Logue, BS, research scientist, division of allergy and infectious diseases, department of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Kristin Englund, MD, infectious disease specialist, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; David Hirschwerk, MD, attending infectious disease doctor, Northwell Health, Manhasset, N.Y.; Thomas Gut, DO, associate chair, medicine, and director, ambulatory care services, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; Ravindra Ganesh, MBBS, MD, internist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; JAMA Network Open, Feb. 19, 2021, online



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