In the news / Respiratory

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If you got the Pfizer vaccine, will you really need to get a third shot within a year? The CEO of Pfizer said that’s likely the case, however, a local expert says not so fast. Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, BIO5 member and expert immunologist with the UArizona College of Medicine says that Pfizer and Moderna each released data showing no drop-off in efficacy. The wildcard then becomes whether or not there’s a new variant that appears, that more substantially evades the immune response than the ones that we know about right now.
 
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According to the Centers For Disease Control, common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Dr. Elizabeth Connick, UArizona Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and BIO5 member, weighs in on factors such as genetics, age, and sex as contributing factors behind a person’s response to receiving a vaccine. Dr. Connick explains the double-edged sword that women have more robust antibody responses than men, are more likely to have reactions to the vaccine, but are also less likely to get hospitalized and succumb to COVID than men.
 
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At the most recent UArizona COVID-19 status briefing President Robert C. Robbins urged students to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by April 16 to reach full vaccination before summer travel. Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor of immunobiology in the College of Medicine – Tucson and BIO5 member, joined President Robbins to explain the basics of COVID-19 antibodies and the testing program. Dr. Bhattacharya said the study will help scientists determine how long immunity – either from infection or vaccination – can last, how many antibodies are required to protect from the virus, how age affects the immune response to infection or vaccination, and whether symptoms after infection or vaccination correlate with antibody levels.
 
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Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines provide good protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. But how long does that last? Will you need a booster shot? Researchers including Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, BIO5 member and associate professor of immunobiology at the University of Arizona explains that the vaccines will likely provide at least some degree of protection for a long time because there are so many layers of immunity. The first shots of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide reasonable protection. Then the second shot bumps up the level of antibodies and T cells produced by the body, he says.
 
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BEAMS is the latest in a series of UArizona-led respiratory studies – anchored by the Tucson Children’s Respiratory Study, ongoing since 1980 – that have yielded revelations and remedies on asthma, the hygiene hypothesis and respiratory disease progression from infancy to adulthood.
 
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As COVID-19 vaccines roll out nationwide, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers at the College of Medicine – Tucson and BIO5 Institute are connecting with “vaccine hesitant” individuals, encouraging them to reexamine their doubts. Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy says misunderstandings surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines demonstrate the importance of widespread health literacy, and health literacy goes hand in hand with trust in science. Dr. Michael D L Johnson says scientists must strive for accessibility, and acknowledges the biggest challenge is getting the right information to people who are expressing reluctance.
 
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The University of Arizona's COVID-19 vaccination site reached a milestone over the weekend, surpassing 100,000 doses administered. The site has now administered a total of 102,734 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, President Robert C. Robbins announced during the virtual weekly briefing on the university's COVID-19 status. The announcement came on the same day the university is transitioning to Stage 3 of its instructional plan, allowing courses of up to 100 students to meet in person.
 
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A new study dates emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19 to as early as October 2019. Simulations also suggest that in most cases, zoonotic viruses die out naturally before causing a pandemic.
 
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UArizona sleep researchers are working to tackle insomnia, sleep apnea and pandemic-induced "coronasomnia."
 
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With a $3.3M dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francesca Polverino will investigate unique B cell responses in patients with emphysema, a subtype of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
 
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To better understand the complexities of the immune response to the novel coronavirus and evaluate the viral immunity of essential workers in the state, scientists at the University of Arizona created the AZ HEROES research study. The team led by Dr. Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research in the UArizona College of Public Health and BIO5 member, recently expanded efforts to look at how well COVID-19 vaccines are working to provide lasting immunity for high-risk populations.
 
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A $1.5 million Health Sciences grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will support research to examine how being a firefighter affects women’s stress levels, as well as their risk of cancer and reproductive health issues. The study to understand the occupational risks of these firefighters will include work from UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health faculty and BIO5 members, Drs. Jeff Burgess and Leslie Farland.
 
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Receiving the vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 comes with a deep sense of relief. The U.S. has administered nearly 58 million doses since the COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020. The vaccine was developed in record time, less than a year from identification of the virus, making the vaccine a marvel of clinical and basic science. It is our best defense to end a pandemic that has claimed nearly half a million lives in the U.S. As thousands of vaccines are given each day, we have taken an important step toward the goal of ending the pandemic. Researchers discuss the steps remaining to attain this goal.
 
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Though trained at rival institutions, Drs. Julie Ledford and Michael Johnson formed a friendship over a mutual love of science and their daughters that has led to an RO1 grant and recent publication.
 
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In early March 2020, the messages coming out at the time about the new COVID-19 disease were confusing. Public health officials decided not to recommend the use of masks to ensure that medical workers received sufficient PPE, which was in short supply. Dr. Purnima Madhivanan, University of Arizona epidemiologist and BIO5 member says that we are still paying for that decision. Dr. Madhivanan goes on to describe how things have changed and the lessons we’ve learned in navigating the pandemic.
 
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During the weekly virtual briefing on the university's COVID-19 status, it was announced that University of Arizona will become a high-capacity state vaccination site, and appointments are required and can be made through the Arizona Department of Health Services website by those eligible in Priority Phase 1B. As more people become eligible for vaccination and variants continue to spread, more questions arise. Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor in the Department of Immunobiology and member of the university's BIO5 Institute, provided some insight on common questions related to the vaccine.
 
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During the weekly virtual briefing on the university's COVID-19 status, Dr. Robert C. Robbins noted that the state of Arizona no longer leads the nation in virus cases. UArizona immunobiologist and BIO5 member Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, joined President Robbins to discuss the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 vaccines on new variants of the virus. Dr. Bhattacharya discussed four variants – one first identified in the United Kingdom, one in South Africa, one in Brazil and the other in California.
 
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Doctors have been warning people that first COVID-19 immunization can have a kick to it. And now, people are starting to report that second dose can cause more side-effects than the first dose. It's not an unexpected finding. Moderna and Pfizer both said in their submissions to the US Food and Drug Administration that there was a noticeable difference in the reactions to the doses when they were testing their vaccines in volunteers. Researchers like UArizona Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department head and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Worbey, discuss how the body's immune response contributes to the reactions seen in some of the population.