France will soon allow people aged 16-42 who need to renew a prescription for glasses or contact lenses to do so without requiring a trip to an ophthalmologist. MPs voted in favour of the move, which is designed to reduce waiting times and, ultimately, afford a better service for patients, last Friday. Under the new rules, the scope of orthoptists’ work will increase and they will also be able to prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Supporters say it will make access to eyecare easier for the public and reduce waiting time but critics say it will reduce the quality of care. Up until now, anyone wishing to get a prescription for glasses in France needed to visit an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor and surgeon specialising in eye diseases and varied complaints. This is in contrast to countries such as the UK, where people can get a prescription for glasses and contact lenses by visiting a high street optician, instead of a doctor. In France, ophthalmologists are often based in hospitals. As a result, there can be delays getting appointments. In contrast, orthoptists are specialists in vision, eye movements, and how the eyes work together, and may not be based in a hospital. They are less likely to deal with urgent cases. *Image by Nicola Giordano from Pixabay
France is bringing forward the country’s annual flu vaccination campaign by four days to begin on October 22 for people who are most at risk. France’s government public health body, Direction générale de la santé (DGS), notified pharmacists and doctors’ surgeries of the new start date on Monday this week via an “urgent” message. “This year, in the midst of a situation where the Covid-19 and influenza viruses are both circulating, the risk of co-infection, of becoming seriously ill and dying,” is increased, it said. The DGS is therefore eager to “encourage a synergy between the two vaccination campaigns and to waste no time in vaccinating the most vulnerable people against flu and against Covid.” Care homes have already begun rolling out the flu vaccine, which pharmacists, doctors, nurses and midwives will be able to administer from Friday. In 2020, lockdown restrictions, social distancing and hygiene measures meant that there was no major flu outbreak, and so this year very few people have significant immunity against the virus. Healthcare professionals are therefore concerned that this winter could see a “more intense” flu epidemic than normal. Groups who are eligible for the flu vaccination include: Over-65s People who are immunosuppressed and their immediate entourage People who suffer from chronic health conditions Obese people Pregnant women
A French medtech start-up that is developing the world’s first-ever open-stent heart valve has secured €2.5m in funding following a seed financing round. Open Stent Solution (OSS) says the funding will support the development of its ribbon-shaped stented mitral valve for transcatheter replacement. OSS says its breakthrough device is the first-ever open-stent heart valve and the only device bearing the promise to implant large size mitral valves through small delivery systems, comparable in size to TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). The OSS valve components are attached to a ribbon-shaped open stent, which reduces the overall device’s size when loaded onto a delivery system, compared to conventional, radially expanding devices. Once implanted, the OSS heart valve gets locked, forming a circular shape, with stable radial anchoring force exactly like balloon expandable devices. Doctor Doron Carmi, senior cardiac surgeon, founder and CEO of Open Stent Solution, said: “We are grateful to our investors for their trust and for their support to our venture. The financing enables us to proceed to concept freeze for our unique minimally invasive solution. In few years from now, we aim to offer an effective transfemoral solution to millions of patients with failed mitral valves who cannot access treatment today.” *Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
Pain medicines produced from cannabis oil have the potential to significantly improve the lives of patients, a French study has found. According to the initial results from a trial that began in a French hospital back in March, using medical cannabis for pain relief is effective. Psychiatrist Dr Nicolas Authier, Chair of the Scientific Committee on Medical Cannabis, is in charge of the experiment being conducted at the University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Dr Authier picked 20 suitable patients for participation in the trial. One patient, Mounir, 47, who suffered a stroke aged 21 and consequently struggled with painkiller addiction in an attempt to manage his neuropathic pain, told France 3: “I'm not yet completely relieved of the pain. There is some still, but it is nothing like what I felt before.” The trial is part of a two-year nationwide experiment in France that is primarily designed to evaluate the best conditions of access to medical cannabis. Depending on the patient and their condition, medical cannabis can deliver mild to significant relief. However, some patients have experienced no improvement, while others experienced more undesirable effects than therapeutic ones. Dr Authier hopes that medical cannabis can be legalized for patients whose suffering is poorly relieved by conventional treatments. Image by Julia Teichmann from Pixabay
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the state will fund psychology appointments in the country starting next year. Speaking about the policy on Tuesday, President Macron acknowledged the psychological impact of government Covid restrictions, as well as past failures to make mental health a priority. President Macron announced several measures during a conference with professionals who work in the sector. As the coronavirus proliferated across France, “we didn't want to see the importance of mental health, and we got hit in the face with the fact that health is all-encompassing,” Macron said. “The consequences of the pandemic are just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health. He highlighted a spike in the number of children seeking psychological treatment, as well as a growing number of attempted suicides, notably among teenagers. According to President Macron, around 20% of French people suffer from depression, Under the new plans, free therapy sessions for children and young adults -- which were announced earlier this year -- will be extended to everyone with a doctor’s prescription. Psychiatric treatment is already largely reimbursed by the state. State healthcare systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries already fund therapy sessions. French health professionals say a national effort to improve access is long overdue, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has caused and aggravated psychological distress. *Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
France extended its mandate to carry Covid-19 health passes to certain categories of workers as of yesterday. The move marks a new stage in the French government’s strategy to encourage members of the public to have Covid-19 vaccines. Under the new rules, staff who work face to face with the public – for example, at cafés, cinemas or on public transport – are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus in the last 72 hours. Some 1.8 million workers across the country will be encompassed by the measures. Members of the public are already required to carry health passes in order to access eateries and cultural or leisure venues. While polls suggest a majority of the public supports Covid-19 health passes, their introduction has led to protests throughout the summer, with tens of thousands of protesters staging rallies across the country on consecutive weekends. The government insists the pass is necessary to encourage vaccination uptake and avoid a fourth national lockdown, with the unvaccinated accounting for most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital. [Related reading: France’s COVID health passes to be made available to foreign tourists] *Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay
New Covid-19 treatments should be widely available in France before the end of the year, the head of the country's Scientific Council has predicted. According to a report in Le Parisien newspaper, Jean-François Delfraissy, an immunologist and president of the Conseil scientifique, which advises the government on medical matters, said monoclonal and polyclonal antibody treatments would be made more widely available in the coming months. Monoclonal antibody treatments are made using Covid-19 survivors’ own antibodies and are designed to fight infection just as the natural immune system would. Former US President Donald Trump received monoclonal antibody drugs when he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020. At the beginning of August, French health authorities authorised the use of monoclonal antibody treatments for immuno-compromised patients who cannot be vaccinated against the virus because of their conditions. The treatments are set to be rolled out for use as required by doctors among the wider population before the end of the year. A number of pharmaceutical companies are in the process of applying for medical authorisation. They would be “effective for high-risk patients, and should reduce the number of hospitalisations”, Le Parisien reported, but would only be available under medical supervision. The drugs are intended for use in patients who are already severely ill with Covid. They do not prevent people developing the illness in the first place. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay
For stroke patients, receiving treatment as soon as possible is vital. The shorter time between the stroke and treatment, the less chance there is of serious damage to the patient’s brain. That’s why fast diagnosis of a stroke is so important for the patient’s overall prognosis. But vascular neurologists, the clinicians most called upon to check stroke patients, are often in short supply and high demand. As a result, they cannot always see every suspected stroke patient as quickly as perhaps liked. The answer has been to utilise telemedicine and this is something neurologists have been doing for more than three decades. By taking advantage of audio-visual platforms, neurologists can assess suspected stroke patients quickly. If the patient is displaying signs of a stroke, they can be given life-saving treatment, consisting of administering tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-dissolving drug first developed for treating heart attacks, which was then fine-tuned for strokes in the early 1990s. The success of tPA, however, lies in administering it as quickly as possible, to counter the effect of blood loss to the brain. A 2016 study highlights the impact of telehealth for stroke patients. According to Kaiser Permanente’s study, involving more than 2,500 patients treated for stroke symptoms between 2013 and 2015 in its 14-hospital network in southern California, a 75% increase was witnessed in the timely use of tPA after a telehealth consult. Patients receiving a telehealth consult were given a diagnostic imaging test 12 minutes sooner than those who didn’t, and tPA was administered 11 minutes sooner. Overall, the door-to-needle time was reduced to less than an hour. *Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Since Monday, anyone wanting to visit a restaurant, bar or other attraction/venue in France has to use a QR code-based digital health pass. The passes are designed to prove a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours. Now, vaccinated travelers to France from outside the European Union have a way to obtain the digital health passes and visit popular tourist sites, including iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, travel across the country by train, or enjoy a coffee and croissant at a Paris cafe. US travelers already in France or planning to arrive by Sunday can apply for a French health pass by submitting a copy of their CDC vaccine card, valid passport, and airline tickets to French officials via email. Visitors from the US, Canada and the rest of the world have bespoke email addresses. Visitors to France will need to have been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccines. The French government is currently accepting applications from travelers who are 18 and older, and are already in Europe or plan to arrive by August 15. Right now, it is unclear how the process may change for visitors planning trips further ahead. *Image by Phil Riley from Pixabay
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr Clair Vandersteen might have treated around 10 patients a year for anosmia, the inability to smell. But fast-forward to today and Dr Vandersteen has seen demand for his services increase significantly. Now, the majority of his patients are those recovering from COVID-19, up to 15 a week, in fact, at the doctor’s clinic in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice. Loss of smell is a symptom in eight out of 10 COVID-19 cases and can the effects can sometimes linger for months after the patient has recovered from the disease. “We have seen a very large increase in patients since this time a year ago,” Dr Vandersteen said. The ENT specialist says studies show that 20% of people who lost their sense of smell still had not regained it and it’s younger individuals that appear to be worst affected. “The patients we see suffering from a loss of smell are relatively young. It is predominantly a problem that affects people in their 30s and 40s.” While for some people it might seem little more than an inconvenience, Dr Vandersteen warns the condition can make patients anxious and depressed. “The loss of smell can lead to psychological problems – 30% of people who have lost their sense of smell due to Covid are suffering from some kind of psychological damage. We love eating, especially here in France, so when chocolate tastes like cigarettes, for example, it can lead to people feeling unhappy or anxious. “If you can’t enjoy the smell of your newborn baby, or the smell of your home, it can be unsettling. It can also be dangerous – if you can’t smell gas or smoke, for example.” Dr Vandersteen’s team has come up with a three-pronged approach to help. First, patients see Dr Vandersteen, who determines their level of smell loss. Then, they are seen by Auriane Gros, a doctor of neuroscience and a speech pathologist, who helps re-educate the brain to recover the perception of smells. The final step is therapy with child psychiatrist Louise-Emilie Dumas, who runs group workshops around odours. “The team has had positive results,” Dr Vandersteen says. *Image courtesy of Dr Clair Vandersteen
The UK NHS’ COVID app alerts people who have it installed to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus disease. But a surge in the number of notifications being received has led to a significant proportion of Brits simply switching the app off. According to a YouGov poll, one in five (20%) Brits have switched off the contract tracing function of the NHS COVID app, as the country experiences a so-called “pingdemic” of alerts. While anyone who is pinged by the app is not obliged by law to self-isolate, the UK government is strongly advising people to follow the advice to help curb COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 restrictions were recently lifted in England and since July 19, there are now no limits on how many people can meet or attend events; nightclubs have reopened; and table service is no longer necessary in pubs and restaurants. However, many other governments are looking at the UK as something of a guinea pig, having taken the decision to ease COVID restrictions despite surging numbers of delta variant cases. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate, so it remains to be seen if that is enough to prevent the delta variant from causing significant problems. *Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay
Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, is something many people have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is something that has really come into its own, helping patients connect with their clinicians at a time when just leaving the house presented a challenge. Now, another form of virtual healthcare, teledentistry, is emerging as another potential disruptor in the healthcare space. Predicted to witness spectacular growth of 16.6% from 2020-2027 to reach US$ 920.83million in 2027 from US$ 242.51million in 2019, the European teledentistry market looks set to achieve spectacular results. But it’s not just in Europe where teledentistry is taking off. According to a report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law formally ending a ban on teledentistry in the state. The new law comes months after a lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and after bipartisan calls for reform were made. Under the new law, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners will not be allowed to ban teledentistry, bringing it in line with other telemedicine practices. Abbott previously signed a bill into law expanding and making some telemedicine services permanent. “This is great news for Texas citizens who will continue to have access to quality dental care from the comfort of their homes,” Joshua Polk, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, said. The foundation represented teledentistry providers who challenged the Texas Board of Dental Examiners’ ban. “There is a crisis in dental care access in Texas, and this legislation will go a long way in addressing that crisis,” he added. “It will also allow our clients to continue operations in the state.” *Image by Rafael Juárez from Pixabay
On Tuesday, France lowered the age of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to 12, opening the door for millions of French children to receive a boost to their resilience to the coronavirus pandemic. Perceval Gete, a 12-year-old French boy from the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine, was one of the youngest people in Europe to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports. To accommodate his young age, the nurse administering the jab had to use a special child-size needle. “I wanted it to be done as soon as possible,” his mother, Melanie Gete, said at the vaccination center in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine after Perceval had the jab. Prior to the rule change, people in France had to be at least 18 years old, or 16 if they had underlying conditions, to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Now, providing they have parental consent, children as young as 12 can be vaccinated. In wealthy countries worldwide, governments have been expanding their vaccination programs to include younger people, who, it is worth noting, are less likely than older individuals to get seriously ill from COVID-19. However, France’s limit of 12 years is one of the lowest of any major European Union state. Nurse Aurelie Job, who administered the vaccine to Perceval Gete on Tuesday, used a needle that is around half the length of the standard size used for adults. “Children have smaller arms so we need smaller needles to vaccinate children,” she said. “It prevents us from touching the bone while vaccinating children, and it’s less upsetting for them.”
Last year, makeshift terraces sprang up on many cafes across Paris, allowing COVID-wary patrons to be served outdoors. Now, city hall has announced these ‘Covid terraces’ will become a permanent fixture in the French capital this summer. In response to the impact of the pandemic on beleaguered restaurant and café owners who were no longer allowed to serve indoors, the city of Paris turned over thousands of parking spaces to enable establishments to continue serving drinks and food outdoors. Many establishment owners invested in high-quality structures in the spaces, which are still usable today. Terraces will have to remain without closed walls and plants and other greenery will be encouraged. "Roofs, tarps, reception tents, wooden pallets and advertising will be prohibited," the deputy mayor in charge of commerce, Olivia Polski, told AFP. There will also be a requirement for them to shut down by 10:00pm, so that local residents won’t be disturbed by any noise. The city will hold an annual contest for the most attractive designs, a move clearly aimed at encouraging aesthetically pleasing structures. Outdoor seating can also be extended on adjacent squares and sidewalks, and also in front of neighbouring businesses, providing they give approval. No heating or music systems will be allowed, and Polski said the city would step up deployments of specially developed "Meduse" microphones for pinpointing the sources of noise pollution across the city. Outdoor drinking and dining resumed across France last month as France emerged from its third wave of coronavirus cases, a huge relief for restaurants and bars closed since last October. On Wednesday, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to start serving indoors and the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 11:00 pm, which is expected to further swell the summer sidewalk crowds. *Image: Lucas BARIOULET AFP/File
France has granted citizenship to more than 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers as a reward to them for their services to the country throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 children, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for "showing their attachment to the nation". Back in September, Schiappa instructed citizenship authorities to speed up the applications of essential workers who had "actively contributed" in the fight against Covid-19. She ordered that they be allowed to apply for citizenship after just two years in France. Normally, under French Nationality Law, a person can apply for French citizenship by naturalization after five years' habitual and continuous residence in the country. Among the more than 2,000 individuals granted citizenship are health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies. Schiappa's office said that over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, adding that all requests were being given "the greatest consideration". In 2020, 61,371 people were granted French citizenship, a decline of 20% compared with 2019. [Related reading: Covid -19 lockdown lifting in France: bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19] *Image courtesy of mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
France has become the first European country to begin testing a digital Covid-19 travel certificate as part of a Europe-wide scheme which Brussels hopes will allow more freedom of travel within the bloc by the summer. The testing will be conducted through France’s TousAntiCovid app, part of the country’s contact tracing programme, which has been upgraded to allow it to store negative Covid-19 test results on travellers’ mobile phones. The app is being trialled on flights to Corsica and overseas départements from this week. According to a French official, at first, the certificates will only be used for travel, but they “could eventually be adopted for public events such as concerts, festivals and trade fairs,” although not for bars and restaurants. The app has so far been downloaded by nearly 15 million French citizens. The French trial will form one part of a “reinforced, consolidated and standardised” Europe-wide system, the minister for digital transition, Cédric O, said. Talks are already underway with several countries and airlines to ensure early recognition. The European commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said last week he expected the EU’s “digital green certificate” to be operational by 21st June. The certificate is an urgent priority for southern European member states whose economies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay
French President Emanuel Macron has revealed that France could allow vaccinated touriusts, including Americans and Britons, to enter the country in May. Macron said France is in its last stage of finalising the progressive lifting of travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers and people who have tested negative for COVID-19. Restrictions will reportedly be lifted for European Union and third-country citizens, according to SchengenVisaInfo.com. The president said that French ministers are finalising the details for safe restriction-free travel and developing a testing and vaccination certificate to facilitate travel among EU countries. “We will progressively lift the restrictions of the beginning of May, which means that we will organise in the summertime with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens. So we are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say,” Macron said. With the establishment of a so-called “vaccine passport”, Macron pointed out that the country would be able to control the virus and maximise the vaccination rates, which would allow restrictions to be lifted progressively. Macron also revealed that he had spoken with the White House about potential plans for lifting some travel restrictions between France and the US, though talks were still in their early stages. *Image courtesy of Phil Riley from Pixabay
Telehealth services have really come into their own during the coronavirus pandemic, offering a way for patients and clinicians to have consultations without the need for a face-to-face meeting. Now, a group of inventors at the University of Cincinnati (UC) want to take telehealth consultations to another level by facilitating them to be performed via drone. The technology aims to fill the gap in telehealth delivery among those who do not own or have access to the devices, such as smartphones, computers and internet connectivity, that are required for telehealth consultations. Inventors Victoria Wangia-Anderson, Manish Kumar, Seung-Yeon Lee and Debi Sampsel from three colleges at UC collaborated to develop a semi-autonomous prototype that can be dispatched right to people’s homes. The drones are capable of carrying certain medical equipment and supplies, but remain agile enough to navigate the tight spaces found in homes. A variety of health assessments can be conducted using the telehealth drones, including taking temperatures and measuring oxygen levels. The drone kits also include patient-friendly devices, and the clinician will be able to instruct patients on how to use them. Patients who require assistance can also seek help from family or other caregivers during the drone sessions. Speaking about the telehealth drones, Debi Sampsel, director of telehealth at UC’s College of Nursing, said: “We can perform all kinds of functions: chronic disease management, post-operative care monitoring, health coaching and consultations,” she said. “And in the health care arena, there is no age limit. Telehealth services are useful from birth to death.” Find out more via the University of Cincinnati website. *Image courtesy of Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand for the University of Cincinnati
Musicians in Montauban, a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France, performed a public concert last weekend for the first time in months. But don’t worry, no Covid-19 restrictions were broken because the musicians performed from open windows in the centre of the town. The Fenêtres musicales (Musical windows) event took place on Sunday, March 21. Musicians across the town opened windows in central buildings, and played their instruments for passing members of the public. Hugo Schmitt, saxophonist at the Orchestre de la Cité at Ingres, told FranceInfo: “After a year without any concerts, it’s a real relief. To be able to play in the centre of Montauban, in beautiful apartments next to open windows, especially during this period, which has been hard for us as artists, it’s really a gift.” Around 20 musicians played via open windows for the event, with the “concert” lasting around 90 minutes. A small crowd also gathered to listen to three singers and a pianist lay a rendition of Mozart’s Nocturnes. One of the singers, Eugenie Berrocq, said: “Because we can’t go to theatres, and we can’t do this in a more conventional or traditional way, we have to reinvent ourselves. There are many artists who have done this, and I think it’s a very good idea to do it in this way.” One Montauban resident said: “We’ve been without culture for a year now, it’s starting to get a bit long. So this kind of initiative is great.” Another said: “It’s nice, it does you good to watch people playing. We’ve missed it a bit.” *Image courtesy of FranceInfo
Germany, France, Italy and Spain have joined the list of countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The countries took the decision after reports have arisen of dangerous blood clots in some recipients. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca and European regulators have said there is no evidence the vaccine is to blame. The AstraZeneca shot is one of three vaccines currently in use in Europe. Nevertheless, the blood clot concerns and subsequent cessation of its use represents another setback for the EU’s vaccination drive – which has already been slow off the mark compared to similar campaigns in the United Kingdom and the United States. The EU’s drug regulatory agency has called a meeting for this week to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine and decide how to proceed. All this comes as much of Europe tightens restrictions on schools and businesses as Covid-19 cases surge. In Germany, the decision to halt the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine was taken following advice from the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute. It called for further investigation after blood clots were found in the brains of seven people who had been vaccinated. In response to the situation, Astrazeneca published a press release offering ‘reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence’.
France is working on a digital health pass to allow people to resume leisure activities and travel, a French Government spokesperson said on Wednesday. Speaking after a recent cabinet meeting, Gabriel Attal told reporters that the digital health passes would allow people to resume certain leisure activities in France, such as going to museums, restaurants, sports centres and travelling overseas, in the coming months. The idea is also being considered at a European level to facilitate travel between different countries in Europe and possibly beyond. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said introducing vaccine passports would be unfair because they would discriminate against certain groups, such as the young, in particular, who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet. However, Macron said he is in favor of a “health pass” that would also include whether a person has antibodies from getting COVID-19 or the results of a negative test, and could be used to get access to restaurants or other venues. [Related reading: France eyes easing of COVID-19 restrictions from next month]
People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems will be allowed to be given the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after the French Government reversed its policy. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by European Union regulators, the French Government said it should only be given to eligible people under 65 because data from trials in older age groups was limited. The AstraZeneca vaccine will now be offered to people up to the age of 74. However, the shot has been hit by a slow rollout and a lack of trust. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday: "Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74." The announcement has the potential to affect more than two million people. British health authorities released new data on Monday that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80%. The vaccine is widely used in the UK but has missed delivery targets in the EU. People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Veran said. Meanwhile, Germany still hasn’t cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s. This has led to fewer people stepping up for the shot and several doses being wasted. Image courtesy of Marco Verch on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
A single dose of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine reduces a person’s risk of infection by 72%, a new study has revealed. According to Public Health England (PHE), the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine "provides high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease.” PHE's Siren Study, which involved healthcare workers aged under 65, found that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 72% after three weeks. Two doses of the vaccine reduced the risk of infection by 85%. This high level of protection also includes the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first identified in the UK in December. For the study, health workers were tested for Covid-19 infection every two weeks using PCR tests and twice a week with lateral flow tests. As Dr. Susan Hopkins, strategic response director at PHE, explained, "there was a lot of asymptomatic testing.” "Overall we are seeing a really strong effect to reducing any infection: asymptomatic and symptomatic," Hopkins said during a press conference held by the UK's Science Media Centre on Monday. Promising early data has also shown that people who are vaccinated and subsequently catch Covid-19 are far less likely to die of, or be hospitalized with, the virus. For example, people over the age of 80 who were infected after being vaccinated were 41% less likely to be hospitalized with the virus and 57% less likely to die of it.
A baby has been born in France following a uterus transplant for the first time, the hospital treating the mother and baby announced on Wednesday. While such births are not unprecedented, they are extremely rare, happening after a woman whose own uterus is damaged or missing has had a cutting-edge procedure to have a healthy one transplanted. The baby, a girl weighing 1.845kg, was born last Friday, according to the team at the Foch Hospital outside Paris. "Mother and baby are doing well," said Dr Jean-Marc Ayoubi, head of gynaecology, obstetrics and reproductive medicine at the hospital. The 36-year-old mother, who reports are naming only as ‘Deborah’, was born without a uterus because of a rare condition known as Rokitansky Syndrome, which affects about one in 4,500 women. Deborah received a uterus transplant in March 2019 from her own mother, then aged 57. The transplant was performed by the same team at the Foch Hospital that delivered the new baby. The first ever birth after a uterus transplant was in Sweden in 2014 and there have been other such births in the United States and Brazil to date. However, they remain rare. Nevertheless, this new birth, as well as those before it, will give hope to women who suffer similar reproductive problems that they maybe have alternatives to adoption or surrogacy.
The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday gave two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine the green light to be used for emergency use, listing them on its Emergency Use Listing (EUL), paving the way for them to be rolled out globally through COVAX. The vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India. WHO’s EUL assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines. “Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. ‘But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things – a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.” Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was listed for emergency use by WHO on 31 December 2020.
Europe's oldest living person has survived COVID-19 after testing positive just weeks before her 117th birthday. Sister André, a French nun who was born in 1904, tested positive in the retirement home where she lives in Toulon, southern France, on January 16, according to the home’s communications director, David Tavella. André, who was born Lucille Randon, showed no symptoms from the virus and didn’t even know she was infected until she received her positive test. Despite no visitors being allowed because of strict COVID protocols, André is preparing to celebrate her 117th birthday today, Thursday 11th February. She will reportedly receive video messages from her family and the local mayor, as well as taking part in a video Mass, Tavella said. André's birthday meal will feature her favorites: foie gras, baked Alaska and a glass of red wine, Tavella added. Remarkably, André has lived through two world wars, as well as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that infected around 500 million people. While Andre is the oldest living person in France today, she’s not the oldest in the world. That crown is held by Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who was born in 1903, according to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). * Image credit Gérard Julien/AFP/Getty Images
Despite more than 40 countries recently closing their borders to travellers from the UK, cases of the new variant Covid-19 virus have been confirmed in several European countries, including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All of the confirmed cases were linked to people who had arrived from the UK. The revelations take the total number of new countries impacted by the new variant to 15, with South Korea the latest nation to announce a confirmed case. According to Reuters, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCPA) found traces of the United Kingdom (UK) variant in three individuals from London who entered South Korea on December 22. Meanwhile, both Canada and Japan have also announced that they have found traces of the new Covid-19 strain in their countries. What is most alarming about Canada’s announcement is that the individual in which the new variant was discovered has no known travel history and exposure or high-risk contact. Scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged all regions of England to be placed under tier 4 restrictions, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues cannot operate. With evidence emerging that the new variant appears to be particularly infectious among children, teaching unions have urged for schools to remain closed. Speaking about the new variant, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “If this new variant is behind the increase in this age group, then that is a big worry.”
Telehealth solutions have come into their own during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, adoption of telehealth services has increased by more than 2,000% since last year. With both physicians and patients alike reaping benefits from telehealth solutions, it’s inevitable that some ambulatory care and services will never return to being face-to-face. However, as solutions mature and become more readily adopted, healthcare providers need to realize that a one-size-fits-all approach to telehealth will not afford the best outcomes for patients. Before implementing any telehealth services at all, healthcare providers need to understand: - Who their consumers are? - Where do these consumers live? - What Internet access do they have? - And what is their level of technological literacy? These four considerations are key in helping healthcare providers develop telehealth solutions that are both intuitive and meet their patients’ varying needs. Failure to address these four considerations could lead to telehealth solutions simply not being utilized. Here at France Surgery, we pride ourselves on the transformational telehealth services we provide. It’s our goal to provide our patients with access to SMART healthcare wherever they are and whenever they need it. We understand that what works for one patient won’t necessarily work for another, which is why we never look to take a one-size-fits-all approach.
A Singaporean woman who was infected with Covid-19 while pregnant has given birth to a baby which has antibodies against the disease. The mother, Celine Ng-Chan, became mildly ill after contracting Covid-19 and spent two-and-a-half weeks in hospital as a result. Ng-Chan gave birth last month and her baby was found not to have Covid-19. However, the fact it had antibodies offers new clues as to whether the disease can be passed from mother to child in utero. Speaking to the Straits Times newspaper, Ng-Chan said: “My doctor suspects I have transferred my COVID-19 antibodies to him during my pregnancy.” Ng-Chan and her baby’s experience has prompted doctors in Singapore’s public hospitals to investigate further the impact of Covid-19 on unborn babies. This will add to research already being conducted internationally on whether the infection can be transferred during pregnancy, how babies develop antibodies in the womb and whether they offer an effective shield against the virus. One of the hospitals involved in the studies is KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Tan Hak Koon, chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology division at KK, said: "It is still unknown whether the presence of these antibodies in a newborn baby confers a degree of protection against Covid-19 infection, much less the duration of protection."
It is estimated that a child is born every 3 minutes with a cleft lip, cleft palate or both worldwide — about one in 500-750 births. Usually, with surgery, a child born with a cleft can have a new, beautiful smile and live a normal life. However, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has meant that affected babies are having even greater difficulty in getting their much-needed cleft treatment. Fortunately, cleft charities are continuing their work by taking advantage of telehealth solutions. One such charity is Smile Train, whose Philippine arm has continued providing ongoing comprehensive cleft care including nutrition, speech therapy and psychological support to patients, despite temporarily postponing surgeries. “This year was a different year because of the Covid pandemic. The last three or four months we saw a drop in the number of cases in many hospital nationwide. Some stopped doing operations. But Smile Train is not just about surgery. What we strive to do is to be able to provide cleft comprehensive care to those who need it whether be it counseling, guidance in terms of how do you breastfeed baby with a cleft or after surgery, what does the child still need, among others,” said Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Country Director of Smile Train Philippines, during a virtual media conference. Flaviano said the charity is also providing psychosocial support to older patients via telehealth, to help boost their self-confidence. Since parents of cleft babies aren’t able to visit clinics resulting to unanswered questions, Smile Train is trying to support them through virtual consultations with their partner surgeons or doctors, or through Facebook Live discussions.
Moderna Inc. says its experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in protecting people from Covid-19. The claims are based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial. Moderna is the second US company to announce a Covid-19 vaccine this week, following in the footsteps of Pfizer, whose own vaccine boasts a 90% efficacy rate. The Moderna announcement means that there could be at least two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States in December.As many as 60 million doses could be available by the end of 2020. Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines are both built using new technology known as messenger RNA or mRNA. Both represent powerful new ways to combat the ongoing pandemic, which has to date infected 54 million people and killed 1.3 million. Both vaccines also come at a time when Covid-19 cases appear to be surging – especially in the US where new cases of the virus are now totaling more than one hundred thousand per day. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute. This is particularly good news for countries like India with hot climates that would struggle to keep Pfizer’s vaccine at the required -70°C. Speaking about the firm's vaccine, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said: “Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we'll be ready to ship through Warp Speed almost in hours. So it could start being distributed instantly.”
The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has been monumental. But for physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners, it’s been particularly difficult. In addition to carrying out their already demanding day jobs, these individuals have had the added stress of coping with social distancing and a surge in patient numbers. It is, therefore, no wonder that a significant proportion of NHS staff in England are concerned about burnout. While it’s not often considered when talking about the benefits of telehealth, such solutions can actually help reduce the risk of physician burnout. Here’s how: - Telehealth helps improve physician work-life balance - Telehealth makes for more optimized schedules - Telehealth reduces the need to commute - Telehealth can help improve physician-patient relationships - Telehealth helps address healthcare coverage gaps, meaning physicians don’t after to overstretch themselves - Telehealth solutions allow physicians more time to look after themselves Healthcare provider burnout is a serious issue. If the very people whose jobs it is to look after us fall ill themselves, how will it bode for the rest of us? You can find out more about the telehealth services provided by us here at France Surgery by contacting us today.
Telehealth is probably not the first thing you think of when talking about ways of assessing possible stroke patients in an emergency. But Norther Ireland has just approved exactly such a system, highlighting the traction that telehealth solutions are garnering today. The solution, provided by Health Services Limited (HSL), enables clinicians and patients to have video consultations, with the ultimate goal being to make a diagnosis. Patients still need to visit an A&E department, but when they do the emergency clinicians who receive them can use the telehealth solution to get expert treatment advice remotely from stroke consultants. The solution can be used on tablets, smartphones and laptops, making it different to other virtual stroke assessment tools in the market that rely on external systems to function, the company claims. It has everything built-in that a stroke consultant needs to make an initial diagnosis of the stroke patient. The app also has the functionality to save the patient’s results in their electronic care record. [Related reading: The benefits of electronic health records] Perhaps the biggest benefit of the telehealth solution is that it enables stroke consultants to assess a patient’s condition as soon as possible and relay timely, potentially life-saving advice to their emergency room counterparts. The stroke assessment telehealth solution is already in place in hospitals across Northern Ireland the United Kingdom.
The United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released new data that shows usage of telehealth services has jumped significantly over the past year. According to the figures, more than 34.5 million services were delivered via telehealth in Medicare and in the Children's Health Insurance Program from March through June. This represents an increase of a whopping 2,532% in services delivered via telehealth compared to March through June 2019. Furthermore, the agency also notes that there is always a "claims lag" between the time a service occurs and when the claim is reflected in its database. Taking this into account, the actual number of services delivered via telehealth is likely to be higher than reported. The CMS data reflects the relaxation of federal regulations around virtual care at the start of the pandemic, which caused usage of telehealth services to skyrocket. Speaking about the figures, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement: "This revolutionary method of improving access to care is transforming healthcare delivery in America." [Related reading: Telehealth in the ER affords better outcomes for both patients and healthcare providers – research]
The US is entering its annual cold and flu season, but this year there’s the added danger of Covid-19 to contend with. Healthcare providers often struggle to meet the needs of their patients at this time of year, mainly because of increased footfall at their facilities. Add to this the strict social distancing guidelines that are in place across the world and the difficulty of the situation becomes clear. The good news is that more and more care providers are turning to telehealth solutions to help alleviate the flu season rush, as well as adhere to social distancing rules. With telehealth, doctors and physicians can carry out consultations with patients without either having to travel. When diagnosing a patient with the flu, physicians look for the two most common symptoms: a cough and fever. At the height of the flu season, almost every patient presenting with these symptoms will have the flu, which often means an in-person consultation is not necessary in the first instance. Care providers can quickly assess a patient’s symptoms via a virtual consultation and arrange to have a prescription sent to them, saving time and money. While every patient’s case is unique, the ability of telehealth to enable physicians to carry out initial consultations for individuals with flu-like symptoms remotely means the facility’s resources are not impacted. This frees up vital appointment slots for those who need them most and reduces wait times, all the while eliminating the chances of someone contracting Covid-19 or spreading flu while out of their house. If you’d like to find out more about the telehealth services provided by France Surgery, please get in touch.
Cleveland Clinic has unveiled its top 10 medical innovations for 2021, and both telemedicine initiatives and app-connected health trackers feature. In fact, four medtech developments made the Cleveland Clinic list this year, underlining the importance of technology in healthcare. All of them were chosen in the belief they will be widely adopted in the coming year and have a significant clinical impact. Announced in conjunction with its annual Medical Innovation Summit, which is now in its 18th year, Cleveland Clinic’s top 10 innovations for this year were selected by a committee of subject matter experts at the academic medical center. This year, smartphone app-connected pacemakers were named the top medtech innovation because of their ability to better connect patients with their cardiac treatment, affording greater insights into the health data they produce. Bubble CPAP, a non-invasive ventilation strategy for premature babies, is the next medtech innovation on the Cleveland list. Bubble CPAP minimizes physical trauma and stimulates lung growth when administered over a prolonged period. Third on the list of medtech innovations is telemedicine, specifically increased access to these pivotal services through the removal of barriers. The fourth and final medtech innovation on the list is vacuum-induced uterine tamponade, a minimally invasive way for clinicians to stop postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after having a baby), which affects around one to five percent of women who give birth. The vacuum-induced device uses negative pressure created inside the uterus to collapse the bleeding cavity causing the muscle to close off the vessels. It’s a low-tech solution that could be taken advantage of in developing countries with low resource availability. [Related reading: What is telehealth?]
The American Society of Anesthesiologists has heard at its annual Anesthesiology 2020 meeting that telehealth technology has been affording positive experiences for patients. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, patients who saw a pain medicine specialist via telehealth saved time and money and were highly satisfied with their experience, according to a study presented at the virtual event. Conducted from August 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, the study highlights how many chronic pain patients are confident they will receive good care via telehealth, while at the same time benefiting from avoiding lengthy commutes and less time spent in traffic. The results bolster the case for provider adoption of telehealth technology, which has already seen a significant rise in usage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and patients being cautious about traveling to healthcare facilities for appointments for fear of contracting the virus. [Related reading: Older patients use telehealth almost as much as younger ones, report finds] While patients who are being evaluated for new conditions will likely be better served by an initial face-to-face consultation, follow-ups can occur efficiently once the relationship with the provider has been established. Indeed, the anesthesiologists at the conference predict up to 50% of visits could be conducted remotely.
We’ve written before about how telehealth has come into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has driven the adoption of telehealth services, and it’s not just younger patients that have been taking advantage, according to a new report. Contrary to popular belief, older patients have also been embracing telehealth services, as shown in a recent report by Strata Decision Technology. Based on data collected from 43 health systems, as well as telehealth visit data from the American Medical Association and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the report shows that while telehealth visit utilization was highest for the 30–39 age cohort (27.95%), individuals in their 70s (22.52%), 80s (20.29%), and even 90s (19.04%) have been utilizing telehealth offerings. Jeffrey Gelblum, MD, a practicing neurologist at First Choice Neurology in Aventura, Florida, says telehealth is enabling older patients to access healthcare services they may otherwise have missed out on. “Historically, we had to deal with older folks who may not be able to drive and older folks who would have difficulty finding a parking space. If the weather was bad, some older folks did not want to go to a doctor appointment. Driving for older folks is problematic in terms of compliance. But now with telehealth, that situation has been resolved,” he says. Telehealth also allows older patients to see their physicians more often than if they were having to attend face-to-face appointments.
The switch to telehealth that many doctors and patients have had to make as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been largely positive, new research shows. Furthermore, the majority say some of the changes will be permanent going forward. According to the survey of 500 executives in the healthcare industry, conducted by marketing agency Boston Digital, 57% of respondents said telehealth had increased the quality of patient care. In fact, more than half of those surveyed said their organisation had created new portals or micro-sites in response to the pandemic. Only 8% of respondents said telehealth initiatives were not important to their organisation. Most survey respondents said more than 40% of the changes they had made in the face of the coronavirus pandemic would likely remain permanent. However, the findings of the survey, while positive on the whole, do highlight some challenges that the telehealth industry must overcome. The most prominent challenge, the survey found, was patients’ ability to use new technologies. Speaking to Healthcare IT News, Peter Prodromou, president at Boston Digital, said: “To overcome barriers, including a patient’s ability to understand new programs and associated technology, healthcare providers must implement a seamless user experience and a robust digital marketing strategy that effectively communicates to their diverse patient community.”
In a previous blog — What is telehealth?— we introduced you to telehealth and explained how it has revolutionized healthcare across the world, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while telehealth has proven itself as a very worthy asset for enabling rural communities and those who cannot easily travel to access healthcare, what about when a patient is in a more critical condition and requires intensive care? Well, believe it or not, there are actually telehealth-ICU solutions out there for this very purpose. In a nutshell, a tele-ICU enables remote clinicians to interact with bedside staff to consult on a patient’s care. One centralized care team can manage a large number of ICU locations across many different locations to exchange health information in real time. Using a host of technologies, including A/V conferencing and real-time data streams of patient information from multiple sensors and interfaces, a clinician working from a care center hundreds of miles away can effectively and rapidly care for a patient no matter what time of day or night it is. As highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that minimizes infection risk and the need for PPE, while still allowing clinicians to care for patients is extremely advantageous. While a tele-ICU is a supplement, not a replacement, to the on-site care team, when remote and bedside teams are able to collaborate seamlessly, the partnership elevates bot care and outcomes.