ARWADY DISMISSES FEAR OF RISK FROM COVID VACCINES: Dr. Allison Arwady defended the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines with a nearly hourlong data dump of statistics and studies about the vaccinated and unvaccinated Tuesday.
The commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health said during her weekly Ask Dr. Arwady segment, which streams on Twitter and Facebook, that she has received questions about the safety of vaccines following news of a potential safety “signal” from one vaccine safety monitoring system.
Arwady said that the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has detected a safety signal that indicates there may be a pattern or unusually high number of adverse events related to cardiac health among COVID-19 vaccine adverse event reports.
However, the VAERS data “doesn’t show cause and effect” and is just one monitoring system among many, Arwady said. In terms of higher-than-usual cardiac events among all those who have been vaccinated, none of the other safety monitoring systems, like the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink or the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment, nor numerous studies of vaccination data have found this kind of risk for the general vaccinated population, she said.
Arwady cautioned that while health care providers are required to report any adverse events among the vaccinated—even a car crash death—anyone else may contact the system and report an adverse event. And they have. Arwady said there have been reports about events involving celebrity deaths, aliens and other “events that frankly have not happened.”
She cautioned against translating one signal from one system into evidence of a problem, calling VAERS “a messy system” designed that way specifically to gather any evidence that might be out there.
Instead of concentrating on as-yet unproven risks, she said, people seeking the truth should look at data that shows deaths increase with the appearance of the COVID virus and new variants, not when vaccines are introduced.
Arwady pointed to a New England Journal of Medicine study showing the difference in incidences of several adverse events among those infected with COVID and those who had received the mRNA vaccines.
For example, the study found 166 of every 100,000 people infected with the virus developed heart arrhythmia. But the only notable adverse effect among the vaccinated was swollen lymph nodes, which is to be expected, and is not serious, when the immune system is boosted by a vaccine, she said.
HOSPITALS ON TOP OF HEALTHGRADES LIST: Fourteen Illinois hospitals ranked among the country’s best facilities on a new list from Healthgrades, a Denver-based consumer marketplace for finding physicians and care.
The list, published Tuesday, puts Ascension Alexian Brothers and Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana among the nation’s top 1%, with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge ranked among the top 2%.
The annual list groups hospitals into the top 50 (1%), 100 (2%) and 250 (5%) nationwide. The rankings are based on Healthgrades’ analysis of performance and outcome clinical data among nearly 4,500 U.S. hospitals across more than 31 of the most common procedures and conditions, like heart attack, stroke, hip replacements and pacemaker surgeries. See the full Illinois list here.
Both Ascension Alexian Brothers and Carle Foundation Hospitals were ranked among the top 50 in the two previous years. Lutheran General Hospital was ranked among the top 100 hospitals in 2022 and 2021 as well.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Chicago Medical Center joined the list this year and were both ranked among the top 250 hospitals. They were accompanied by Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, OSF Saint Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, Evanston Hospital, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, Northwestern Medicine Mchenry Hospital, Silver Cross Hospitals in New Lenox, Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, and Javon Bea Hospital – Rockton in Rockford.
Rush University Medical Center is missing from this year’s ranking. The health center did not immediately respond to a request for comment. READ MORE.
COVID-TEST SPINOUT PROVIDES $3.5 MILLION TO DISCOVERY PARTNERS INSTITUTE: The University of Illinois is using $3.5 million from its COVID-testing spinout, Shield T3, to fund tech-education efforts at the Discovery Partners Institute.
Shield T3, the company that’s commercializing the saliva-based test developed by the university’s researchers, will seed an endowment that it hopes to grow to $50 million with additional donations.
The money will fund tech-training efforts of DPI, U of I’s research and education operation in the South Loop.
U of I declined to reveal the financials of Shield T3, which commercialized its saliva-based test for COVID. The company has performed nearly 5 million tests for customers such as Toyota, which would generate more than $100 million, based on previously disclosed prices. READ MORE.
WALGREENS LIFTS RESTRICTION ON ONLINE ORDERS OF CHILDREN’S FEVER REDUCER: Deerfield-base Walgreens Boots Alliance said in a statement Monday that it has removed the online-only purchase limits it had instituted for pediatric fever-reducing products that it put in place in December.
The retail pharmacy giant said it worked “diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand nationwide.”
Both Walgreens and CVS Health limited purchases of children’s pain-relief medicines like those containing acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which were in short supply amid high rates of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.
“To ensure equitable access for all our customers, there is currently a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products at all CVS Pharmacy locations and cvs.com,” CVS said in and emailed statement Tuesday. “We’re committed to meeting our customers’ needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items.”
TELL HEALTH LAUNCHES VERIFIED-PROVIDER APP: Chicago-based Tell Health said in a statement it has launched a new social media app, Tell, where only verified health providers can post medical information and engage with the general public.
The app, available for free in the App Store and Google Play, is unlike other social media platforms because it verifies the credentials of all health experts before they can post content. General users can join, comment, engage, and share posts from verified providers, but cannot post content as a verified health care provider, the statement said.
“A few years ago, we witnessed a dramatic increase in medical misinformation online, and we saw an opportunity to improve people’s access to reliable health information,” founders Nikola Nestorov, a communications engineer, and Dr. Alan Gaffney, a practicing intensivist and anesthesiologist, said in a joint statement.
“The medical community has been in need of a social media space where real, verified, practicing health care professionals can discuss the important health issues of the day with patients and each other, while avoiding the confusion and harms of misinformation,” Dr. Christopher Worsham, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and member of the Tell Medical Advisory Board.
SMARTPHONES AS REMOTE DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS: The prospect of phones being repurposed as diagnostic tools that provide data remotely to a medical professional for the convenience and comfort of the patient is a work in progress, but companies and researchers are eager to find medical applications for smartphone technology, Kaiser Health News reports.
Dr. Andrew Gostine, CEO of Glenview-based sensor network company Artisight, points out that “it’s very hard to put devices into the patient home or in the hospital, but everybody is just walking around with a cellphone that has a network connection.”
Some smartphone-based products have sought FDA clearance as medical devices. Other products are designated as exempt from this regulatory process, placed in the same clinical classification as a Band-Aid. But how the agency handles AI and machine learning-based medical devices is still being adjusted to reflect software’s adaptive nature.
ONE QUARTER OF HOSPITAL PATIENTS EXPERIENCE ADVERSE EVENT DURING STAY: Almost a quarter of hospital patients in the U.S. experience an adverse event such as medication-related harm, a pressure injury or infection during their care, according to a new study. The study of 11 Massachusetts is in line with a May report that found one in four Medicare patients, nationally, experience patient harm during short-term, acute-care hospital stays. Both studies show little progress since a groundbreaking 1991 report, the Harvard Medical Practice Study, raised the alarm nationwide on the topic of patient safety, Crain’s sister publication Modern Healthcare reports.
“It’s a serious, high rate of harm,” said Dr. Peter Pronovost, chief quality and clinical transformation officer at University Hospitals in Cleveland, who was not involved in the research. “What’s troubling is that we don’t seem to have a great trend, despite a couple of decades of working on this stuff.”
The current study found that adverse drug events accounted for 39% of all events; surgical or other procedural events comprised 30.4%; patient-care events, including falls and pressure ulcers, accounted for 15%; and health care-associated infections were 11.9%. The study was funded by a grant from the Controlled Risk Insurance Company of Vermont and the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
John F. Tressa has been named chief nursing executive at NorthShore — Edward-Elmhurst Health.
In the new role, Tressa will work closely with the system’s chief nursing officers and other leaders to drive nursing excellence across the entire system, a system statement said.
Tressa joined NorthShore University HealthSystem in 2018 as system vice president of cardiovascular clinical operations and in 2020 was promoted to chief nursing officer for NorthShore.
Prior to joining NorthShore in 2018, Tressa was system senior vice president for heart/vascular and trauma at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston.