France eyeing Australia’s vaccine supply amid EU shortage

3 minute read

And asthma alone may not be an independent risk factor for COVID-19 mortality.

Welcome to The Medical Republic’s COVID Catch-Up.

It’s the day’s COVID-19 news in one convenient post. Email with any tips, comments or feedback.

8 March

Another European Union nation is side-eyeing COVID-19 vaccines destined for Australia amid a row with manufacturers over shortages.
After Italy blocked the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to Australia, Nine newspapers report that France is now threatening similar action under the EU’s export control measure designed to ensure vaccine supply to EU nations.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt has reportedly taken the issue to World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has also expressed concern at the EU’s efforts to control vaccine exports.

TMR’s Holly Payne reports: Health Minister Greg Hunt caused some confusion over COVID-19 rebates at a press conference on Sunday.
Minister Hunt, in response to a question about whether GPs would have to shoulder some of the costs of COVID-19 vaccines, compared the COVID-19 vaccine rebate to that of the flu vaccine.
“We have tripled the payments that we provide for the flu, so in fact there’s a very large payment that the Commonwealth are making,” he said.
To clarify, the full rebate for COVID-19 vaccination – assuming you are a MM1 doctor seeing patients inside business hours for both vaccines – is $65.00.
A patient consult for a flu vaccine, meanwhile, would be billed under MBS item 3 with a bulk bill incentive under item 10990, adding up to $24.25 in total.
While $24.35 is just over a third of $65, the figures don’t quite add up, given the flu vaccine is only a single dose and all COVID-19 vaccines require two immunisations.

The mortality rate from COVID-19 may be higher in individuals with asthma, but a study suggests asthma alone is not a risk factor for mortality.
A paper published in the European Respiratory Journal reported the results of a nationwide cohort study involving 7590 COVID-19 patients in South Korean, 218 of whom had underlying asthma.
The overall mortality rate among those with asthma was 7.8%, compared to 2.8% in those without asthma. However asthma alone was no longer significantly associated with mortality after researchers adjusted for individuals’ age, sex and underlying conditions.
Similarly, after adjusting for these confounders, there was no association between various asthma medications or asthma severity, and risk of death.

Face masks can be safely worn during exercise in healthy adults without any substantial effect on performance, a study has found.
Writing in the European Respiratory Journal, researchers reported on a study involving 12 volunteers who were put through three cardiopulmonary exercise tests – once without a mask, once with a surgical mask and once with an N95 respirator masks.
The study did find a reduction in FEV1 and FVC1 with mask-wearing, and subjects showed more intense physical activity levels while wearing masks, but there were no differences in oxygen saturation levels and no adverse events.
(And shout-out to the authors for their snappy study title: ‘”You can leave your mask on”: effects on cardiopulmonary parameters of different airway protection masks at rest and during maximal exercise’)

Here are the latest confirmed COVID-19 infection numbers from around Australia to 9pm Sunday:
National – 29,037 with 909 deaths
ACT – 122 (2)
NSW – 5209 (2)
NT – 105 (0)
QLD – 1351 (1)
SA – 618 (0)
TAS – 234 (0)
VIC – 20,481 (0)
WA – 917 (1)

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