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  • Children will be banned from school if they don't have vaccinations, hints health minister

    Health secretary Matt Hancock says there is a 'very strong argument' for making it compulsory for school kids to be up to date with vaccines

    Children could be banned from attending school if they are not up to date with their vaccines, the health secretary has hinted.

    Matt Hancock was speaking at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event in Manchester when he said he has sought legal advice regarding falling vaccination rates, and said social media companies have 'a lot to answer for' for spreading anti-vaccine news online.

     

    Mr Hancock says he has become concerned about the potential spread of serious illness in school and believes the public would back a plan to make vaccinations compulsory for children who attend school.

    Mr Hancock said: "We need a massive drive to get these vaccination rates back up.

    "I said before that we should be open minded, and frankly, what I'd say is that when we - the state - provide services to people, then it's a two-way street, you have got to take your responsibilities too.

     

    "So I think there is a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children when they go to school because otherwise they are putting other children at risk.

     

    "Now, you have got to make sure the system would work, because some children can't be vaccinated and some may hold very strong religious convictions that you would want to take into account.

    "But, frankly, the proportion of people in either of those two categories is tiny compared to the 7% or 8% now who don't get vaccinated

    "And then I'd want to make it very easy when the children do arrive at school not vaccinated simply to get vaccinated and make it the norm."

    The NHS has described falling measles vaccination rates as a ' public health timebomb '. Figures show half a million children were not vaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017. The highly infectious virus can lead to disability and even death.

    Children are offered two MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) shots to prevent them from being infected by the virus.

    Between 2010 and 2017, 527,000 UK children did not get their scheduled vaccination.

    Mr Hancock added: "I think there is a very strong argument for moving to compulsory vaccination. And I think that the public would back us.

    "I have received advice inside Government this week on how we might go about it and I'm looking very seriously at that.

    "I am very worried about falling rates of vaccinations, especially measles. For measles the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem.

     

    "And it's unbelievable, I think, that Britain has lost its measles-free status, and it should be a real wake-up call.

    "The worst thing is that if you don't vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you are putting at risk is not only your own child, but it's also the child who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons - maybe they have got cancer so their immune system is too weak, and they are losing what's called 'the herd immunity' that you get from when over 95% of people are vaccinated."

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  • Jeff Bezos Could Become World's First Trillionaire

    1000 Billion is a Trillion

    While the coronavirus pandemic has racked the global economy with uncertainty, it has actually made Jeff Bezos - the richest person on the planet - even richer.

    Indeed, the Amazon founder is on track to to be the world's first trillionaire by 2026, according to Comparisun.

    The business software comparison site used data collected from the last five years of the Forbes Rich List to calculate the yearly wealth growth rate of the world's richest billionaires.

    Applying this annual growth rate over the coming years, the study concluded that Bezos - who is estimated to be worth over $140bn (£112bn) - could become the world's first trillionaire in 2026, at which point he will be 62.

    The research also forecasts that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could become the youngest trillionaire in the world 10 years later in 2036, when he will be 51 years old.

    Amazon - and therefore Bezos - is doing particularly well at the moment, with the demand for online shopping at an all-time high due to the fact that physical shopping isn't really a thing at the moment.

    This in turn has seen the company's share prices increase, which is handy when you have an 11.2 percent stake in the company. On top of this, Bezos managed to sell off a whopping $3.4bn (£2.79bn) worth at exactly the right moment in March before their value initially tanked amid Covid-19 uncertainty.

     

    The 56-year-old has contributed a portion of his burgeoning wealth to help those in need during the pandemic though. Last month, he donated $100 million (£80m) to US food banks - which are struggling to feed a growing number of Americans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

    He made the sizeable donation to Chicago-based non-profit organisation Feeding America, which runs 200 food banks across the country. The charity's CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot said it was the largest donation in the organisation's history and would enable it 'to provide more food to millions of our neighbours facing hardship during this crisis'.

    Explaining why he made the donation in a post on Instagram, Bezos said: "Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately Covid-19 is amplifying that stress significantly.

    "Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food. But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down. To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up.⁣

    "Today, I want to support those on the front lines at our nation's food banks and those who are relying on them for food with a $100 million gift to @FeedingAmerica. Feeding America will quickly distribute the funds to their national network of food banks and food pantries, getting food to those countless families who need it.⁣

    "Feeding America is the largest non-profit focused on food security. Millions of Americans are turning to food banks during this time. If you want to help, the link to Feeding America is in my bio. They'd be excited and grateful for donations of any size."

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  • Wuhan doctors wake from fighting virus to find skin has changed colour

    Two Chinese doctors who fell critically ill with coronavirus found their skin had changed colour after surviving the deadly illness.

     

    Dr Yi Fan and Dr Hu Weifeng, both 42, were infected with Covid-19 while treating patients at the Wuhan Central Hospital in January. Doctors treating them said they both needed to be put on life support but as a result of treatment to bring them back from the brink of death their skin turned dark. The skin colour change is being put down to a hormonal imbalance that took place as the doctors’ livers were damaged by the virus, Chinese state media reports. Dr Yi and Dr Hu both worked with whistle-blower Li Wenliang, who was punished for sounding the alarm of the virus and then died of the disease on February 7.

    The two medics were both diagnosed on January 18 and first taken to the Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital and then transferred twice, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Dr Yi, a cardiologist, beat Covid-19 after doctors hooked him to a life-support machine called ECMO for 39 days.

    ECMO is a drastic life-support procedure which replaces the function of the heart and lungs by pumping oxygen into the blood outside the body. Urologist Dr Hu’s condition was worse and he has been bed-bound for 99 days, his own doctor said. Dr Li Shusheng – who is treating both health workers – said the two doctors’ skin turned dark due to a type of medicine they were given during the early stages of their treatment. He added that one of the drug’s side effects is the darkening of skin colour.

    Although he did not identify the drug, Dr Li said both doctors’ skin colour is expected to return to normal once their livers start functioning properly. Dr Yi spoke to CCTV from his hospital bed, where he said he had largely recovered from the infection. He said he could move in bed normally but was still struggling to walk independently. He told a reporter: ‘When I first gained conscious, especially after I got to know about my condition, I felt scared. I had nightmares often.’ Dr Hu underwent ECMO therapy from February 7 to March 22 but was unable to speak until April 11. He remains in intensive care. Both doctors are being given mental health support as a result of their traumatic experiences, Dr Li said.

     

     

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  • Richest Man in the World Jeff Bezos Now $24 Billion Richer Amid Pandemic

    Richest Man in the World Jeff Bezos Now $24 Billion Richer Amid Pandemic

    Our society cannot sustain itself when so few have so much, while so many have so little

    Amplifying fresh critiques of wealthy inequality that have mounted throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the world's richest man—has added nearly $24 billion to his already massive fortune in 2020 as virus-related lockdowns across the globe have forced people to stay inside and fueled increased e-commerce demand.

    Explaining the source of a nearly 5% jump in Bezos' net worth Tuesday, Forbes reported that Amazon stock surged 5.3%, "hitting a new record close of $2,283 per share. The stock is now up over 20% so far this year, outpacing the benchmark index (the S&P 500 is down over 12%)."

    Bezos was worth $138 billion as of Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is Amazon's CEO and president, and owns an 11.2% stake in the e-commerce giant, which has come under fire for how it has treated workers during the outbreak.

    While Bezos tops the index, Fortune noted that the 18th spot now belongs to his ex-wife MacKenzie, "who was left with a 4% stake in Amazon as part of the couple's recent divorce settlement. Her net worth has climbed $8.2 billion to $45.3 billion."

    The index updates followed a Forbes report from Saturday about how "market gains led to a combined $51.3 billion boost for 10 of the world's billionaires since the market closed a week ago, on April 2." Bezos gained $6.8 billion in that time, an increase second to only that of Amancio Ortega of the Spanish fast-fashion retailer Inditex.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime labor rights advocate and foe of millionaires and billionaires, tweeted the Forbes report Wednesday and highlighted how the wealth increases of Bezos and other billionaires contrast with the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of the ongoing public health crisis.

    As Common Dreams reported last week, U.S. unemployment claims during the pandemic have soared to 16.8 million, which one economist noted "is a mind-boggling 2,500% increase over the pre-virus period."

    That contrast between U.S. billionaires and the nation's newly unemployed was also pointed out on Twitter Wednesday by Public Citizen, which cited the Forbes report.

    While millions of people across the United States have lost their incomes due to COVID-19, Amazon has filled 100,000 new jobs since March and plans to add 75,000 more "to help meet customer demand and assist existing employees fulfilling orders for essential products," according to a blog post on the company's website. The retailer has "increased pay for hourly employees by $2/hour in the U.S., C$2/hour in Canada, and €2/hour in many E.U. countries."

    Amazon has "made over 150 process updates to help protect employees—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to piloting new efforts like using disinfectant fog in our New York fulfillment center," the blog post said. The company is also building a lab to test its front-line workers for COVID-19 and has "distributed personal protective gear, such as masks for our employees, and implemented temperature checks across our operations worldwide."

    However, workers at Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods Market—the grocery chain acquired by Amazon in 2017—have expressed fear and frustration about working conditions, and accused the company of not doing enough to protect employees. Just this week, Amazon also elicited condemnation for firing three workers who publicly criticized the company's pandemic response and treatment of employees.

    "Instead of firing employees who want justice," Sanders tweeted Tuesday, "maybe Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world—can focus on providing his workers with paid sick leave, a safe workplace, and a livable planet."

    The safety of Amazon facilities in the midst of a pandemic has raised particular alarm. According to Business Insider:

    More than 74 U.S. warehouses alone have now reported cases of the virus, and concerns from workers about safety and sanitation have ballooned, leading to employee walkouts and protests.

    On Tuesday, Business Insider broke the news that Amazon had seen its first warehouse worker death, an operations manager who worked at the company's Hawthorne, California warehouse. The man died on March 31.

    Some Amazon employees told Business Insider that they feel they have to choose between paying their bills and risking the health of themselves and vulnerable family members.

    "I was grateful at first for the unlimited [unpaid time off] and $2 increase, but as things got worse and the virus was spreading more and more, it didn't matter. I don't want to be there, but I need the income," said one worker who cares for an elderly relative. "The stress of bringing it home to him makes me physically ill."

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  • U.S. injected black men with Syphilis without them knowing - Tuskegee experiment

     

    The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the African American Male is the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history, as noted by Arthur L. Caplan (1992). Begun in 1932 by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), the study was purportedly designed to determine the natural course of untreated latent syphilis in some 400 African American men in Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. The research subjects, all of whom had syphilis when they were enrolled in the study-contrary to the “urban myth” that holds “black men in Alabama were injected with the virus that causes syphilis” (Walker, 1992)-were matched against 200 uninfected subjects who served as a control group.

    The subjects were recruited with misleading promises of “special free treatment,” which were actually spinal taps done without anesthesia to study the neurological effects of syphilis, and they were enrolled without their informed consent.

    The subjects received heavy metals therapy, standard treatment in 1932, but were denied antibiotic therapy when it became clear in the 1940s that penicillin was a safe and effective treatment for the disease. When penicillin became widely available by the early 1950s as the preferred treatment for syphilis, this therapy was again withheld. On several occasions, the USPHS actually sought to prevent treatment.

    The first published report of the study appeared in 1936, with subsequent papers issued every four to six years until the early 1970s. In l969, a committee at the federally operated Center for Disease Control decided the study should continue. Only in 1972, when accounts of the study first appeared in the national press, did the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) halt the experiment.

    At that time, 74 of the test subjects were still alive; at least 28, but perhaps more than 100, had died directly from advanced syphilis. An investigatory panel appointed by HEW in August 1972 found the study “ethically unjustified” and argued that penicillin should have been provided to the men. As a result, the National Research Act, passed in 1974, mandated that all federally funded proposed research with human subjects be approved by an institutional review board (IRB). By 1992, final payments of approximately $40,000 were made to survivors under an agreement settling the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of the Tuskegee Study subjects. President Clinton publicly apologized on behalf of the federal government to the handful of study survivors in April 1997.

    Several major ethical issues involving human research subjects need to be studied further. The first major ethical issue to be considered is informed consent, which refers to telling potential research participants about all aspects of the research that might reasonably influence their decision to participate. A major unresolved concern is exactly how far researchers’ obligations extend to research subjects. Another concern has to do with the possibility that a person might feel pressured to agree or might not understand precisely what he or she is agreeing to. The investigators took advantage of a deprived socioeconomic situation in which the participants had experienced low levels of care. The contacts were with doctors and nurses who were seen as authority figures.

    The USPHS practiced deception in recruiting subjects for the study. It was never explained to the subjects that the survey was designed to detect syphilis. The term “bad blood,” which was a local colloquialism for everything from anemia to leukemia, was used by the doctors and never defined for the subjects. Subjects were never told they had syphilis, the course of the disease, or treatment. The treatment presented consisted of spinal taps, which were described as “spinal shots” (Heintzelman, 1995).

    The second major ethical issue is the withholding of treatment for research purposes. This is the gravest charge against the study. Patient welfare was consistently overlooked, although there have been multiple attempts to justify why penicillin treatment was withheld. Some physicians felt that repair of existing damage would be minimal, and others felt that the damage that could result from reactions to the penicillin therapy, including fever, angina, and ruptured blood vessels, would outweigh its benefits. At the time of the Tuskegee Study, no data was available on the efficiency of penicillin treatment in late syphilis, and short- and long-term toxic effects of drugs had not been well documented. In short, when the study was evaluated periodically, researchers judged that the benefits of nontreatment outweighed the benefits of treatment. Moreover, the subjects were never given a choice about continuing in the study once penicillin had become available; in fact, they were prevented from getting treatment.

     

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