AstraZeneca says its vaccine produces immune response in older adults

AstraZeneca said Monday that its potential coronavirus vaccine provokes an immune response in older adults, which it touted as a positive development as clinical trials proceed.

The immune response in older adults was similar to that in younger people, the company said, and adverse responses to the vaccine, known as reactogenicity, was lower in older people.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson said. “The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of [the vaccine].”

AstraZeneca, partnered with Oxford University, is developing one of the leading potential coronavirus vaccines, which is now in the third phase of clinical trials, along with other potential vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

AstraZeneca faced a setback in early September when its vaccine trial was halted to review potential safety concerns from a participant developing neurological symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration allowed the trial to resume on Friday.

“The restart of clinical trials across the world is great news as it allows us to continue our efforts to develop this vaccine to help defeat this terrible pandemic,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement Friday. “We should be reassured by the care taken by independent regulators to protect the public and ensure the vaccine is safe before it is approved for use.”

The complete picture of the potential vaccine’s safety and efficacy will not be known until the full data from the phase three trial is published.

Reacting to Monday’s announcement about the immune response, Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, tweeted: “AZ says the vaccine is immunogenic in older individuals. This has been shown for other COVID-19 vaccines too. Good, but no breakthrough.”

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Fading Sense of Smell Could Signal Higher Death Risk in Older Adults | Health News

By Cara Roberts Murez
HealthDay Reporter


MONDAY, Oct. 26, 2020 (HealthDay News) — If you’re a senior who can’t smell onions, smoke, chocolate or natural gas, it’s time to see your doctor.

Seniors who lose their sense of smell — which doctors call olfactory dysfunction — have higher odds of dying from all causes within five years, new research shows. Scientists had previously found a link between olfactory dysfunction and impaired thinking and memory.

“We suspected there would be an association with olfactory dysfunction and mortality as well, considering that this is an early marker for a lot of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and dementia,” said study author Dr. Janet Choi, a resident in otolaryngology at the University of Southern California.

Her team reviewed nationwide survey and death data from about 3,500 people age 40 and over. The surveys included self-reported loss of smell as well an objective smell test.

Over the five-year study, researchers found no increased risk of death based on self-reported loss of smell.

But the risk of death rose 18% for every 1-point decrease in scores on a “pocket smell test.” On the test, participants were asked to identify eight scents: onion, soap, leather, smoke, grape, strawberry, chocolate and natural gas. They needed to identify at least six to be considered having a normal sense of smell.

The mortality link was significant for adults 65 and older, but not among those between 40 and 64, researchers reported.

Sense of smell is mostly controlled by a nerve from the brain called the olfactory nerve. Olfactory dysfunction leads to more than 200,000 doctor visits a year, according to the study.

A diminished or lost sense of smell can lead to malnutrition, because people may lose their appetite or enjoyment of food, according to the researchers. It’s also linked to depression and a poorer quality of life.

The findings were published Oct. 22 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

“We do know that, speaking to patients, they do lose their ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like smelling flowers or enjoying a nice meal out with family or friends,” said Dr. Aria Jafari, an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Those things can severely impact their quality of life and that can result in depression and associated conditions that could result in a medical condition or death,” said Jafari, who wasn’t part of the study.

Loss of smell may also prevent someone from noticing the smell from a gas leak or a fire, which can be life-threatening. It can also be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. New loss of smell and taste can be a symptom of COVID-19.

Jafari said he screens patients for loss of smell and advises patients with olfactory dysfunction that they could be at a higher risk of injury.

Treatment varies depending on the reasons for the loss of smell, Jafari said. In some cases, treating chronic sinus issues could fix the

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Fitness: Exercise is a golden opportunity for older adults

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Another unexpected finding is that peak oxygen uptake, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, showed no age-related decline over the course of the study. This is good news for older exercisers, as a decline in peak oxygen uptake is typical in this age group and is associated with an increased risk of premature death and coronary heart disease.

The bottom line is that there are a number of options for older adults who want to reap all the health benefits physical activity has to offer. It’s also clear that for active older adults, judging the effectiveness of a workout by its length or intensity isn’t a good practice.

“The central implication is that either shorter-duration vigorous physical activity or longer-duration moderate physical activity or a combination of the two, that amount to the same amount of work each week, will have the same favourable health outcomes, with vigorous physical activity being the time-efficient alternative,” stated the researchers.

So go ahead and pick the workout of your choice — or better yet, mix it up between all three routines featured in this study. For older adults, not only does exercise have the potential to mitigate several of the negative health conditions associated with aging, it can truly make the latter decades of life golden.

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Older males recovering from COVID-19 may have best plasma to treat it

A new study has found higher numbers of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in older males who required hospitalization for COVID-19.

Scientists have found that being hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as being male and of older age, increases the chances of a person having high plasma levels of antibodies that can protect against the disease.

This plasma, which is a component of blood, may help treat the disease in others.

The research, which features in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is the first step toward confirming whether blood plasma therapy is effective in treating COVID-19.

As scientists continue to search for an effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, treatments that can reduce the risk of death are crucial for lowering the mortality rate associated with the disease.

However, to date, research has shown few treatments to be effective.

Furthermore, a major study by the World Health Organization (WHO) — currently available as a preprint — found that remdesivir, the most promising treatment for COVID-19, appears to make no significant difference to the mortality rate.

One possible treatment that may be effective is antibody therapy through convalescent plasma infusion.

Antibody therapies work by infusing a person who has an infection with the plasma of a person who has overcome that infection. The plasma of the person who has recovered may contain antibodies that their body created in response to the initial infection.

Research has suggested that this may be effective in treating people with COVID-19, and observational studies have, so far, produced promising results. However, further research is necessary to confirm these initial findings.

For this research to proceed, however, scientists need a greater knowledge of the makeup of the blood plasma that the process uses so that they can develop a standardized approach to the treatment.

To contribute to this goal, the scientists behind the present article conducted a study to determine what effect age, sex, and the severity of the disease had on the size and overall quality of a person’s antibody response to SARS-CoV-2.

This is important as the antibody response that COVID-19 induces can vary significantly. The scientists behind the present study suggest that this may be because antibodies are typically linked to disease severity, and COVID-19 symptoms can range from undetectable to life threatening.

Determining what factors lead to blood plasma containing antibodies of good quantity and quality may make it easier to standardize and optimize the treatment.

The study involved 126 adults who had recovered from a COVID-19 infection. The researchers took blood from the participants, as well as information regarding their age, sex, and whether they required hospitalization for the disease.

The scientists analyzed the plasma’s ability to neutralize the cells of SARS-CoV-2 in cell cultures. They also used commercially available tests to determine the level of antibodies.

They found that a strong antibody response was associated with hospitalization for

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Exercise boosts physical, mental well-being of older cancer survivors

Active older adults — cancer survivors included — are in better physical and mental health than their sedentary peers, a new study finds.

More regular moderate to vigorous physical activity and less sedentary time improve the mental and physical health of older cancer survivors and older people without a cancer diagnosis, say researchers from the American Cancer Society.

“The findings reinforce the importance of moving more and sitting less for both physical and mental health, no matter your age or history of cancer,” study co-author Dr. Erika Rees-Punia said.

“This is especially relevant now as so many of us, particularly cancer survivors, may be staying home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, and may be feeling a little isolated or down,” Rees-Punia added in a cancer society news release.

For the study, the research team analyzed aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, sitting time and mental and physical health of nearly 78,000 people who took part in the society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

The researchers found clinically meaningful differences in mental and physical health between the most and least active, and the least and most sedentary.

They say the findings support the importance of regular exercise and less sitting time as a way to improve quality of life for older men and women.

The American Cancer Society physical activity guidelines recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity a week. They also advise limiting sedentary behaviors like screen time.

“A simple walk or other physical activity that you enjoy may be good for your mind and body,” Rees-Punia said.

The report was published this week in the journal Cancer.

More information

For more on exercise and health, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Opioid use increases risk of death in older adults after outpatient surgery, study says

Oct. 21 (UPI) — Older adults who used opioid pain medications before minor surgery were up to 68% more likely to die within 90 days of the procedure compared with those who never used the drugs, an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Surgery found.

Even among people older than 65 who had low levels of opioid use as long as eight months before surgery, about 55 people per 10,000 in the general population died within 90 days of having a procedure, the data showed.

Older adults who had not used opioid pain drugs prior to surgery died at a rate of just over 40 per 10,000 in the general population within 90 days of having a minor procedure, the researchers said.

“People who have preoperative exposure to opioids have a higher risk of mortality after outpatient surgery,” study co-author Dr. Katherine Santosa told UPI.

“Although our analysis cannot discern the underlying causes for this, our findings highlight the need to screen for opioid-related risk prior to surgery,” said Santosa, a surgeon at Michigan Medicine.

Opioids were the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States in the first half of 2019, according to data released recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much of the country has been in the grips of an “epidemic” of illegal opioid use and overdose deaths over the past 40 years, causing more than 1 million deaths, based on agency estimates.

At least some of this increase in use has been attributed to over-prescription for pain treatment, the CDC has said.

For this study, Santosa and her colleagues reviewed data on more than 99,000 Medicare beneficiaries — age 65 and older — who had outpatient surgical procedures between 2009 and 2015.

Outpatient procedures do not entail an overnight hospital stay, and patients are admitted, have surgery and are discharged the same day.

Patients included in the analysis had procedures ranging from varicose vein removal and hemorrhoid removal to trans-urethral prostate surgery, thyroid removal, carpal tunnel release, umbilical hernia repair and inguinal hernia repair, the researchers said.

Among outpatient surgery patients included in the study, 0.48% died within 90 days of having their procedure, the data showed.

However, those with “high” levels of opioid use — for 10 months or more and within one month — before surgery were 68% more likely to die within 90 days of their procedure, the researchers said.

In addition, those with low or medium use before surgery were 30% more likely to die, the data showed.
“Many Americans currently use opioids prior to surgery for a variety of conditions,” Santosa said.

“In this context, it is important to understand the potential impact of opioids on recovery, and create care pathways to decrease the risk of adverse effects [while undergoing surgery],” she said.

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Healthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say

Concerns over healthcare and retirement security will be top of mind for voters over 50 years old in the upcoming election, lawmakers said Tuesday.

“Every fiber of my being believes retirement security is the biggest issue over the next decade, maybe even longer,” Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by the Walton Family Foundation – Why Pelosi set a 48-hour deadline for a coronavirus relief deal The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Goldman Sachs – Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Trump combative, Biden earnest during distanced TV duel MORE (R-Ariz.) said during AARP’s “America’s Most Reliable Voter” event, hosted by The Hill. “It’s more than just the retiree and their benefits, it’s also the cost of Medicare — being the primary driver of future debt — and how do we provide better healthcare and change the cost curve?”

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by the Walton Family Foundation – Why Pelosi set a 48-hour deadline for a coronavirus relief deal The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Goldman Sachs – Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (D-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate special committee on aging, explained that voters over the age of 50 always play a key role in elections, but in this particular presidential race, they “may be the vote that decides the election.” He pointed out that older voters were some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and that the virus has “amplified and greatly enhanced those concerns” regarding their health and financial future.

“We know that people across the board were losing health insurance before the pandemic [and] that number has gone a lot higher,” he said. “That affects people in this age category, as well, and there’s also some longer-term retirement financial security issues at play.”

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Lobbying world GOP super PAC announces million ad buy in Michigan Senate race MORE (D-Mich.) further emphasized how “very real” the threat of lack of accessibility to comprehensive healthcare can be to older voters. 

“Healthcare generally is very critical, but when we talk about whether or not we are going to have a real federal plan that gets our arms around the COVID crisis that has rapid testing, that gets a vaccine safely as soon as possible — I think for older people there’s a greater sense of urgency,” she said at Tuesday’s event.

Stabenow, a ranking member on the Senate finance subcommittee on health care, expressed disappointment regarding Republican attempts to reduce access to healthcare via Affordable Care Act repeal and Medicare restraint, which could take away benefits like coverage of pre-existing conditions.

“I don’t know why it’s a partisan divide, healthcare. To me, healthcare is personal, not political,”

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Biden Pitches to Older Americans, and Trump Attacks His Fitness

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Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. turned his attention on Tuesday to older Americans, making a case in South Florida that seniors were paying the price for the president’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior — is senior Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden said in a speech at a community center in Pembroke Pines, a city in the vote-rich Democratic stronghold of Broward County.

Older people are a crucial voting bloc in Florida, a haven for retirees, and they were an important part of President Trump’s winning coalition in 2016 across the nation’s battleground states. But waning support from seniors now poses a serious threat to the president’s re-election bid, and Mr. Biden’s pitch to them on Tuesday was his latest attempt to maximize his standing with those voters.

Mr. Biden, who wore a mask during his speech, offered an unsparing critique of Mr. Trump’s management of the nation’s monthslong public health crisis, assailing the president over his response to the virus as well as his own behavior.

“I prayed for his recovery when he got Covid, and I had hoped at least he’d come out of it somewhat chastened,” Mr. Biden said. “But what has he done? He’s just doubled down on the misinformation he did before, and making it worse.”

He went on to say that Mr. Trump’s “reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis is unconscionable.”

“The longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he seems to get,” Mr. Biden said. “Thank God we only have three weeks left to go.”

And he alluded to the Rose Garden ceremony held at the White House last month for Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Some of those in attendance, including Mr. Trump and the first lady, later tested positive for the virus.

“While he throws super-spreader parties at the White House where Republicans hug each other without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids in the last seven months?” Mr. Biden said.

He told the crowd that two of his grandchildren lived near his Delaware home, adding that he bribed them during socially-distanced visits with Häagen-Dazs bars. “I can’t hug them,” he said. “I can’t embrace them. And I’m luckier than most, because they’re nearby.”

Mr. Trump also invoked older Americans on Tuesday, declaring at an evening rally near Johnstown, Pa., that “Biden’s agenda would be a catastrophe for seniors” and asserting that Mr. Biden “cares more about illegal aliens than he cares about your senior citizens.”

The president later undercut his own outreach to seniors by tweeting a meme that mocked his rival’s age, with Mr. Biden’s head superimposed on a picture of people at a nursing home.

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