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Health Highlights: Feb. 16, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

Pfizer Vaccine Cuts COVID-19 Symptoms by 90% in Real-World Study

In a 'real-world' study, COVID-19 symptoms are reduced by more than 90% in people who receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Israeli researchers analyzed data on 1.2 million people, about half of whom received the vaccine, CNN reported.

Among those who received the vaccine, the rate of infected people who felt ill was 94% lower and the rate of serious illness was 92% lower, according to the findings from the Clalit Research Institute.

The research hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, CNN reported.

Pfizer's own trial found that the vaccine provided 95% protection against symptomatic COVID-19.

The affirmation in the new study is "really important," according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.

"You want to make sure that the study results that we initially were seeing in tens of thousands of people is reflected when, when the population is in the millions," Wen said.

Dr. Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research Institute, said this is an important aspect of the Israeli study.

"It's highly significant telling us that vaccination, in the real world at scale, achieves remarkable reduction of severe Covid, hospitalizations, and fatalities, fully validating the randomized trial on mRNA vaccines," Topol said.

AstraZeneca Coronavirus Vaccine Approved by WHO

The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has received emergency authorization use from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Monday's approval for vaccines from the Serum Institute of India and South Korea's AstraZeneca-SKBio could lead to hundreds of millions of doses being delivered to countries participating in the U.N.-supported COVAX program, which seeks to provide vaccines to the world's most vulnerable people, the Associated Press reported.

"Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk," said Dr. Mariângela Simão, the WHO's Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which has already been approved in more than 50 countries, forms the bulk of COVAX's stockpile and concerns were recently raised after an early study suggested it might not prevent mild and moderate disease caused by a more contagious variant first seen South Africa. Last week, South Africa scaled back its planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, opting instead to use an unlicensed shot from Johnson & Johnson for its health care workers.

This is only the second such approval from the WHO, which gave the Pfizer vaccine the green light in December.

Fauci Given $1 Million Award for 'Defending Science'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has been awarded a $1 million prize for "defending science" and advocating for vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The prize from the Dan David Foundation in Israel was announced Monday, the Associated Press reported.

Fauci, who has been NIAID director since 1984 and is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, was praised for "courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis," according to a statement from the private foundation.

It also noted that Fauci, 80, deserved recognition for a lifetime of leadership on HIV research and AIDS relief, the AP reported.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled, [Fauci] leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic's spread," the foundation's awards committee said, praising Fauci for "speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment."

Fauci, 80, has served seven presidents and has been the director of NIAID since 1984, the AP reported.

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