COVID-19 Roundup: Concerning Drop in Childhood Vaccinations; Higher Risk Tied to Vitamin D Deficiency; and is ‘Six Feet Apart’ Enough?

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May 15, 2020


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CDC Reports on Alarming Decrease in Childhood Vaccinations During COVID-19 Pandemic

Routine childhood vaccinations have decreased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a troubling report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alarmed by the CDC report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement urging parents to keep up with their children’s standard immunizations. The AAP urges all parents to contact their pediatrician to schedule a visit to catch up on vaccines or for a well-child check-up.

“As a pediatrician, this is incredibly worrisome,” said Sally Goza, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I remember treating children with these diseases as recently as the 1980s, and we do not want to return to a time when parents had to worry their infant could die of meningitis – especially when we have a vaccine to prevent it. The COVID-19 pandemic is giving all of us a real-time education in what this vulnerability feels like. Fortunately, we have vaccines to protect children and teens against 16 different diseases.”

The CDC reported a “notable decrease” in the number of vaccines ordered through a federal program that immunizes half of all U.S. children. Unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children are at risk of other infectious diseases besides coronavirus, the CDC cautioned.

The CDC recommends that children get 14 different vaccinations that provide protection against 19 different diseases Timing is vital for many of the vaccines to create ideal immunity. The recommended immunization schedule “protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they come into contact with potentially life-threatening diseases,” the CDC states.

“As social distancing restrictions begin to lift around the country and people begin to circulate, children and teens who are not vaccinated will be at higher risk for contracting a disease that could be prevented by a vaccine,” said the AAP’s Dr. Goza. “While we wait for scientists and doctors to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, let’s work together to protect our children in every way that we can, today.”


Vitamin D Deficiency Linked Higher Risk of Serious COVID-19 Illnesses, Studies Indicate

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that can help fortify your immune system and assist your body in absorbing calcium, a contribution that benefits bone health. Yet, many people don’t get enough vitamin D, which is produced in the skin in response to sunlight, particularly if they don’t spend much time outside.

Two new studies have found a possible association between vitamin D deficiency and higher COVID-19 risks. Not getting enough of the nutrient could put coronvirus patients at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications.

In a preliminary study which is pending peer review, a team led by Northwestern University researchers, examined data on COVID-19 cases in 10 countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Iran, Germany and the U.S. They compared this with data with average levels of vitamin D in the population of the respective countries before the pandemic.

The researchers found a connection between vitamin D deficiency and a coronavirus complication known as a “cytokine storm,” which hits when the immune system goes into overdrive in respond to the virus. In advanced COVID-19 cases, cytokines (small proteins released by cells to fight infections) can rapidly increase in number, creating inflammation as part of the immune system becoming hyper-activated. A “cytokine storm” is an overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds.

In a press release, researchers stressed that the findings do not suggest that that everyone should starting “hoarding supplements.” A simple blood test by your primary care physician can detect vitamin D deficiency.

“While I think it is important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don’t need to push vitamin D on everybody,” said Northwestern’s Vadim Backman, a postdoctoral research associate at Northwestern and the lead author of the study. “This needs further study, and I hope our work will stimulate interest in this area.”

Mr. Backman and his team decided to study vitamin D levels after noticing unexplained differences in COVID-19 mortality rates from country to country.

A separate study also found a link between higher levels of vitamin D and fewer severe or fatal COVID-19 cases. In the second study, published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers from the United Kingdom found that 20 European countries with higher average levels of vitamin D had fewer coronavirus cases and lower death rates from COVID-19.

Italy and Spain, for example, had higher death rates than other countries in the study — and both had lower average levels of vitamin D. Northern European countries, such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, reported higher average levels of vitamin D along with lower rates of coronavirus cases and deaths.


FAU Study Puts ‘Six Feet Apart’ Guidance in Doubt with Test on Droplets from Cough

Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people. That continues to be the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But a new study from Boca Raton’s Florida Atlantic University (FAU) suggests that six feet may not be enough.

A preliminary “flow visualization experiment” in FAU’s lab indicates that a cough, especially a forceful one, can spray droplets twice the recommended distance, say researchers at FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. The spread of COVID-19 is made possible by droplets you may inhale or rub into your face when scratching an itch, adjusting a face mask, or touching your eyes, mouth or nose. That’s primarly how you can become infected with COVID-19.

The study was led by professor Manhar Dhanak, chair of FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, and director of FAU’s SeaTech, and Siddhartha Verma, an assistant professor in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering.

Click here to see a video of FAU’s “flow visualization experiment.”

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