Americas

America’s Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine.

But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity.

Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different.

“Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.”

More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability

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The Color of COVID: Will Vaccine Trials Reflect America’s Diversity?

When U.S. scientists launch the first large-scale clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines this summer, Antonio Cisneros wants to make sure people like him are included.

Cisneros, who is 34 and Hispanic, is part of the first wave of an expected 1.5 million volunteers willing to get the shots to help determine whether leading vaccine candidates can thwart the virus that sparked a deadly pandemic.

“If I am asked to participate, I will,” said Cisneros, a Los Angeles cinematographer who has signed up for two large vaccine trial registries. “It seems part of our duty.”

It will take more than duty, however, to ensure that clinical trials to establish vaccine safety and effectiveness actually include representative numbers of African Americans, Latinos and other racial minorities, as well as older people and those with underlying medical conditions, such as kidney disease.

Black and Latino people have been three times as likely as

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Economic Blow Of The Coronavirus Hits America’s Already Stressed Farmers

Richard Oswald, still mourning the loss of his family’s homestead to flooding along the Missouri River, is planting corn and soybeans into ground that last year was feet deep underwater.

It’s probably good, he said, to not have too much time to think.

“Diversion therapy is the best treatment for farmers right now,” said the 70-year-old from Atchison County, Missouri. “Being busy helps.”

In an industry rocked over the past year by record rates of bankruptcies, suicides and mental health crises spurred by weather extremes, trade wars and faltering economics, COVID-19 has fostered even more uncertainty for the future of America’s farms. Already the pandemic has decimated agricultural markets.

For the men and women struggling to operate farms and associated businesses across the country, concerns are rising that the existing mental health crisis in farm country is about to get worse.

“If you look back over the last 20 or

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‘Baby, I Can’t Breathe’: America’s First ER Doctor To Die In Heat Of COVID-19 Battle

At about 5 a.m. on March 19, a New York City ER physician named Frank Gabrin texted a friend about his concerns over the lack of medical supplies at hospitals.

“It’s busy ― everyone wants a COVID test that I do not have to give them,” he wrote in the message to Eddy Soffer. “So they are angry and disappointed.”

Worse, though, was the limited availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) — the masks and gloves that help keep health care workers from getting sick and spreading the virus to others. Gabrin said he had no choice but to don the same mask for several shifts, against Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

“Don’t have any PPE that has not been used,” he wrote. “No N95 masks ― my own goggles — my own face shield,” he added, referring to the N95 respirators considered among the best lines of defense.

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