3 weeks ago

UAB Hospital to take part in clinical trial of leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate

UAB Hospital plans to begin conducting next month a 500-person clinical trial of one of the world’s most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Doctors Paul Goepfert and Nathan Erdmann, both of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, detailed the plans to members of the media via video teleconference on Thursday morning.

UAB’s trial will test the vaccine candidate AZD1222 that was originally developed by scientists at Oxford University in England. Those researchers have partnered with the medical company Astra-Zeneca for further development and clinical trials.

The 500 patients tested at UAB will be among about 33,000 in a trial being carried out across the United States. Two people will receive the vaccine for every person who gets the placebo.

“If we get a vaccine and people take the vaccine and it works, we can go back to life before this pandemic hit us,” said Goepfert.

The doctors said they plan to administer the vaccine to a wide range of people including the elderly and those with high blood pressure.

AZD1222 is given via injection. One dose will be given, and then participants in the study come back one month later for a second dose.

The 33,000-person clinical trial in which UAB is taking part is a Phase 3 study; the last phase before widespread dispersal among the public.

“We are somewhat benefitted by the fact that we at UAB have been doing clinical vaccine trials since the 1990s, so we have all the infrastructure in place,” Goepfert commented, who added the vaccine trial is the “largest in years” at UAB.

Goepfert assured the public that the study does not include purposefully infecting anyone with the coronavirus. He said that they would target people who work in factories, nursing homes and other locations with high rates of transmission for inclusion in the study.

Results from the trial will not be available until December at the earliest, but the U.S. government is going ahead and manufacturing millions of doses to be ready for distribution should the vaccine candidate prove effective.

“The health system has responded as aggressively as possible … the scale of the outbreak is such that it puts huge pressure on the system overall. There is lots of progress being made,” said Erdmann.

An interim study of 1,000 people was published in the medical journal the Lancet on Monday.

Medical news website STATNews summarized the results, saying AZD1222 created the desired immune response in patients and is now moving “rapidly into larger-scale studies.”

The study did cause side effects “including fever, headaches, muscle aches, and injection site reactions, in about 60% of patients,” however, all of the side effects “were deemed mild or moderate, and all resolved themselves over the course of the study.”

Goepfert talked positively on Monday about the findings in the Lancet study.

He said the results led him to conclude that UAB will use two doses of the vaccine in their trial because that generated the desired amount of antibodies.

“We are very optimistic [the vaccine candidate] is going to work because it is giving us the immune responses that we think are needed,” he advised.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

9 mins ago

Report: Birmingham golf tournament Regions Tradition canceled for 2020

A report from WBRC in Birmingham on Friday says that the yearly golf tournament Regions Tradition has canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organizers say it will be back in early May of 2021.

WBRC says they were told by a “source close to the tournament” about the decision to cancel the 2020 version.

The tournament had previously been rescheduled from its normal late spring/early summer slot until September due to COVID-19 concerns.

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Regions Tradition is a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, a series of competitions held each year for golfers over age 50.

According to Alabama NewsCenter, the annual Regions Tradition tournament has an economic impact on the Birmingham area between $20 million and $25 million every year.

The Tradition was first held in 1989 and is one of the five major golf tournaments on the Senior Circuit.

Regions took over as the event’s sponsor in 2010 and relocated the tournament to the Birmingham area beginning in 2011.

Steve Stricker won the tournament in 2019, a title he will now keep for two years.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

30 mins ago

Jefferson County health officials say coronavirus pandemic precautions will continue into 2021

Two impactful figures in Jefferson County’s healthcare system advised on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting precautions such as mask-wearing will remain a major factor in public life at least through the end of 2020.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson and CEO of the UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance Will Ferniany briefed reporters on coronavirus information during a Friday morning videoconference.

“This pandemic is not going away by the end of December,” warned Ferniany.

Wilson said it was “very likely” that he would push to keep a mask order in place across Jefferson County “through the flu season” which would indicate the ordinance would stay in place at least through the spring of 2021.

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“We have pretty good evidence that our face-covering orders, and our help from the public wearing face coverings, has made a difference,” remarked Wilson.

“We still have a ways to go but we’re starting to bend the curve downward,” Wilson told reporters.

The remarks made by Wilson and Ferniany are similar to what Mobile County epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree told Yellowhammer News in recent days.

Ferniany said that UAB is making a significant investment in rapid testing that should be ready for action by the end of the year, the availability of which should make dealing with the virus more manageable.

Wilson highlighted a standard he felt more people should understand.

The county health officer said that any person exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, even if they go out and get a test showing they do not have the virus.

“Fourteen days is the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus where you could still develop symptoms,” Wilson said to explain the policy.

Ferniany said UAB Hospital is currently treating around 90 patients, down from a peak of 130. He relayed that 40 of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

RELATED: Alabama coronavirus update: Hospitalizations begin to decrease, new cases falling

The executive also said that the toughest aspect of caring for COVID-19 cases currently is the shortage of nurses. He said the hospitals he oversees are down “several hundred nurses” with the partial explanation that traveling nursing companies are luring workers away with higher wages.

Wilson reported additional good news for Jefferson County. He said that the area is not experiencing a higher rate of black citizens dying from COVID-19 than white citizens.

“So far we’re not seeing a racial disparity in terms of deaths in Jefferson County,” he relayed.

“Forty-one percent of our deaths in Jefferson County with COVID-19 are African American. The African American population is 43%,” Wilson stated.

Yellowhammer News asked Wilson what kind of benchmarks he would need to be passed to trigger a loosening of coronavirus precautions and whether that would be dependent on a vaccine.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for quite a long time,” Wilson responded.

“The bottom line will be the amount of disease activity we have in the community, and the trajectory of that,” he continued.

With respect to the vaccine, Wilson replied, “It is really hard to predict what is going to happen with the vaccine: How effective is it going to be, how widespread we’re going to be able to vaccinate people and how soon. There are way too many unknowns for us to say much about that.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

5 hours ago

Rep. Aderholt: GOP control of House not out of reach, Senate should remain Republican

Before the onset of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were optimistic about the possibility of recapturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate.

However, the mood of the body politic has changed with the arrival of COVID-19 and has made the future a bit murky. Still maintaining a level of optimism is U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who thinks Republicans could make gains this election but is unsure if they can make enough gains to assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Aderholt offered his view of those prospects on both sides of the U.S. Capitol as they stand now.

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“Republicans always want to be optimistic,” Aderholt said. “We’ve got about 18 seats that we’re down right now. And the question is, can we pick up that and plus a seat or two to get the majority. To say it is a sure thing — it’s not. It’s going to be a tough election year, especially in the congressional districts where the Biden folks are going to be getting out, or the anti-Trump. I don’t think they’re so supportive of Biden, but they’re just anti-Trump.”

“I think we can pick up seats,” he continued. “I think it is entirely possible because of Donald Trump. He is going to be at the top of the ticket, and he is going to really help some members that really get the vote out to help them. The question is nobody knows will there be how many we can pick up. I won’t be surprised if we do pick up some seats. The question is, will we pick up 18 to 20, enough to take the majority. And that’s something we won’t know until closer on.”

Aderholt did not think Democrats could regain the U.S. Senate and added that he saw the seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) flipping to a Republican seat, which makes those prospects more difficult for Democrats.

“I’m still optimistic the Senate can stay Republican,” Aderholt added. “I know there are three or four seats that are still toss-ups, so to speak that are Republican-held now. Obviously, I think we’re going to win the Doug Jones seat. That will be a pick-up for us. I don’t think the ones that are questionable, Republicans that are having a hard time right now, I don’t think we’ll lose all of them. We might lose one or two. But I think at the end of the day, we’re still going to stay over 50.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

5 hours ago

7 Things: Biden calls for impossible nationwide mask mandate, Alabama unemployment continues to trend down, good coronavirus news in the Yellowhammer State and more …

7. Black Sons of Confederate Veterans member wants monuments kept

  • Daniel Sims is a black man and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and during a now viral interview with a local news station, he advocated for keeping Confederate flags on display and leaving monuments up. In the interview, he displayed multiple depictions of the flag.
  • Sims said he is adopted and he has adopted his family’s heritage, saying that he “went to an all-white school, grew up in an all-white neighborhood. My grandfather was white, and he was the main one who fought in this war here. And he’s taught me everything I know.” He added that if he’s “got anything to do with it, ain’t no monument going to come down.”

6. No, Trump didn’t say don’t fund the post office

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  • While interviewing on Fox News, President Donald Trump discussed the issue of mail-in voting and the United States Postal Service, and Trump said that in the coronavirus relief package, Democrats have detailed that the USPS needs $25 billion. The president added, “[T]hey need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
  • Trump went on to say that “if we don’t make a deal that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.” Now, people are saying this is voter suppression and calling for Trump to be impeached again.

5. Peace agreement in the Middle East

  • Progress in creating a peaceful Middle East took a step forward yesterday when the United States helped broker a peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel as part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to stabilize a region of the world that has required a large amount of American military interventions in the past.
  • Obviously, not everyone is happy. American Democrats (except for Biden who thinks he did it) and the media view this as a problem while Iran and Turkey have called this peace deal “dagger” in the backs of Palestinians and the region’s Muslim populations. The Trump administration intimated that this was only the first step in this process and other deals could be announced soon.

4. Mazda Toyota is upping its Huntsville investment

  • The current Mazda Toyota Manufacturing investment is currently at $2.311 billion in North Alabama after the company announced that they’d be increasing their investment by $830 million during an event in Huntsville that was held virtually.
  • To detail what the investment will cover, Governor Kay Ivey made an announcement saying that it will “incorporate new cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to its production lines and provide enhanced training to its workforce of up to 4,000 employees.”

3. Good coronavirus news is good

  • For three straight days, the state of Alabama saw new case numbers below 1,000 for the first time since June. This is great news, but it doesn’t end there. The average of new coronavirus cases (1,156) is down 18% in a week from 1,415 on August 6.
  • Hospitalization across the state saw an average of 108 coronavirus patients per day last week, but the average was between 160 and 200 since July 17 and the first time the rate has declined week to week since all of this started. There is some grim news, too, as Alabama saw one of its highest mortality weeks so far with 24 people dying on average each day.

2. Unemployment claims are down

  • New data released by the Alabama Labor Department shows that 9,468 people filed for unemployment last week, which is the second-lowest week we’ve had in unemployment since March 14.
  • Jefferson County had the most claims at 1,142, Madison County had 573, Mobile County had 1,025 and Montgomery County had 459. This continues the downward trend for nearly a month now.

1. Biden is advocating for a national mask mandate

  • Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden has come out in favor of a national mask mandate to fight the coronavirus, despite 34 states already having a mandate, and President Donald Trump is now accusing Biden of trying “to politicize a pandemic.”
  • During a press briefing, Trump addressed the idea of a national mask mandate, and emphasized, “Biden has been wrong about the virus, ignoring the scientific evidence and putting left-wing politics before facts.” He added that a national mask approach by Biden is “regressive, unscientific and bad for our country.”

6 hours ago

AG Marshall on prisons: ‘My hope is that both sides recognize that litigation is not in the best interest’ of DOJ, State of Alabama

Now that some three weeks have passed since the Department of Justice released a report highlighting deficiencies throughout the Alabama Department of Corrections’ prison system, it remains unclear what the objective was of the U.S. Attorneys that authored the document.

The timing suggests that the report could be a tool to motivate the decisionmakers in state government to act on alleged civil rights violations within the system. However, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall says the report’s purpose is still unclear.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Marshall said the letter could be a step in the process to proceed with litigation but argued that litigation would not be “in the best interest” of either the federal or state governments.

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“[T]his was a report — again, nothing that we don’t need to make sure we stand up and make sure that we correct — but of older news that was already in the public domain,” he said. “And so why it is the Department of Justice chose to do that at this point, I can’t particularly tell you. Although I will say just simply as a matter of federal law, the issuance of that report becomes a trigger for them after a certain period of time for them to be able to initiate litigation. So, that singularly could be the basis for it.”

“My hope is that both sides recognize that litigation is not in the best interest of either party,” Marshall continued. “But the problem with that consent decree, I think as you well know, is that high turnover, control by assigning it to third parties that are not connected to Alabama, that have direct ability to impact the general fund, and the amount of money that goes to the prisons in the general fund, and for which there is zero accountability to the people of Alabama, the decisions that make, and I’m just simply not going to do that.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.