COVID-19, Vaccines and Liver Disease Plus AAP Declares Mental Health Emergency

OK Fix et al. Hepatology 2021; 74: 1049-1064. Open Access. American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Expert Panel Consensus Statement: Vaccines to Prevent Coronavirus Disease 2019 Infection in Patients With Liver Disease

“Remarkably safe and highly effective mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are now available for widespread use and should be given to all adult patients with CLD and LT recipients. The online companion document located at https://www.aasld.org/about-aasld/covid-19-resources will be updated as additional data become available regarding the safety and efficacy of other COVID-19 vaccines in development.”

A Saviano et al. Hepatology 2021; 74: 1088-1100. Open Access (Review) Liver Disease and Coronavirus Disease 2019: From Pathogenesis to Clinical Care

  • “The presence of liver injury is a surrogate marker for more severe disease and higher mortality in patients with COVID-19. An elevated AST level is the most robust predictor of poor outcome.”
  • “Liver injury and mortality in COVID-19 are likely multifactorial, driven by a sustained and excessive systemic release of proinflammatory and prothrombotic cytokines following SARS-CoV-2 infection, iatrogenic injury caused by DILI, hemodynamic changes associated with mechanical ventilation or vasopressor use, and worsening of underlying liver injury in those with CLD.”
  • “Risk of de novo liver injury appears limited in patients without CLD, and only rare cases of COVID-19–related ACLF [acute-on-chronic liver failure] were observed.”

Related blog post: Aspen Webinar 2021 Part 1: COVID-19 and the Liver (William Balistreri)

“COVID-19–related liver injury and mortality in patients who were hospitalized with and without chronic liver disease (CLD). Patients without CLD usually present with AST elevation, which correlates with ICU admission and mortality. Among patients with CLD, NAFLD has the highest risk of severe illness, ICU admission, and need for mechanical ventilation. Patients with cirrhosis are at risk for decompensation, and patients who are decompensated have a high risk of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) and mortality.”Abbreviations: CTP, Child-Turcotte-Pugh; ICU, intensive care unit.

Link to AAP News: AAP, AACAP, CHA declare national emergency in children’s mental health (Thanks to Ben Gold for passing this along)

  • “We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said AACAP President Gabrielle A. Carlson, M.D. “We cannot sit idly by. This is a national emergency, and the time for swift and deliberate action is now.”
  • These organizations make several recommendations to policy makers including more access for mental health services. (I worry that we do not have sufficient numbers of qualified mental health practitioners to meet the challenge.)

COVID-19: Over 120,000 Children Have Lost a Parent or Caregiver

NY Times: Over 120,000 American Children Have Lost a Parent or Caregiver to Covid-19, Study Says (between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021)

“According to the study in Pediatrics, one of every 168 American Indian/Alaska Native children, one of every 310 Black children, one of every 412 Hispanic children, and one of every 612 Asian children have lost a caregiver, compared to one in 753 white children.”

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Public Health Laws Weakened After COVID-19

MM Mello, WE Parmet. NEJM 2021; 385: 1153-5. Open Access: Public Health Law after Covid-19 This commentary describes changes in public health law as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key points:

  • “More than 1000 suits challenged orders shuttering businesses, banning indoor worship services, restricting travel, and mandating mask wearing.”
  • “In 1905 in Jacobson v Massachusetts, the Supreme Court upheld a vaccination mandate…Judicial review, the Court found is limited to …’arbitrary and oppressive in particular cases”
  • “Most courts..have …granted considerable deference to health officials…Courts have been more receptive, however, to challenges relating to religious liberty and the scope of executive authority.”
  • “The court in an unsigned opinion ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority [with an eviction ban] under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA)…Congress…must pass legislation to impose one or to clarify that the CDC may impose one.”
  • “The decisions with regard to free exercise of religion suggest that health orders will face strict scrutiny if they regulate religious practices more strictly than any secular activity that courts deem similar.”

My take: This article makes clear that “while emergencies can lead to abuses of authority, …in their [Courts] zeal to protect religious liberty and constrain executive action, courts may be leaving officials with fewer tools to fight Covid-19 and the next pandemic.”

Related blog post: Supreme Court Justices “Play a Deadly Game”

Related article from NY Times (10/4/21): The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails by Donald Ayers

Mr. Ayer was a U.S. attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

An excerpt:

[The Supreme Court’s] recent history suggests that it lacks a majority of justices with sufficient concern about the basic continuity and integrity of the law or the ability of government to functionit seems ready to cast aside certain constitutional rights, the court today regularly gives sweeping new interpretations to other rights and invokes them to radically narrow certain government powers that were until quite recently uncontroversial, including, for example, powers related to public safety or our democratic process...

Perhaps most unexpected and disturbing were decisions elevating rights of religious assembly over local public-safety rules related to Covid-19 that limited the ability to gather. Yet throughout our history, in matters of public health, the powers of local government have usually been at their apex. That did not matter here — nor did the fact that Chief Justice Roberts was among the dissenters.

“In America: Remember”

About 10 days ago, I was in Washington D.C. The image below is from my trip.

NPR: More Than 600,000 White Flags On The National Mall Honor Lives Lost To COVID (9/17/21)

An excerpt:

For more than two weeks starting this week, more than 600,000 white flags will fill the National Mall — symbolizing the lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States.

Each of the flags, displayed across the 20 acres of grass, will hold a written personalized message from loved ones honoring their memory.

The art installation, titled In America: Remember, was created by Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, the Washington, D.C

COVID Update: Atlanta Stats, Nationwide Immunization -We’re #45 (for at least 1 dose), Vaccination with Superior Immune Protection in IBD Patients

  • Source: CHOA COVID-19 Webpage The graph below depicts the number of patients hospitalized at CHOA (Egleston and Scottish Rite) during 2021, currently 8.7% of admissions are due to COVID-19.
  • Here’s a link showing the U.S Vaccination Rate Compared to Other Countries (from Eric Topol): U.S. Fallen to #45 in World with Percentage of Population with 1 or More Doses of Vaccine
  • J Dailey et al. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, izab207https://doi.org/10.1093/ibd/izab207 Open Access: Antibody Responses to SARS-CoV-2 After Infection or Vaccination in Children and Young Adults With Inflammatory Bowel Disease This article showed that there was a “lower and less durable SARS-CoV-2 S-RBD IgG response to natural infection in IBD patients receiving biologics [which] puts them at risk of reinfection. The robust response to immunization is likely protective.” Also, “hospitalized pediatric patients with PCR documented SARS-CoV-2 infection, S-RBD IgG antibody levels were significantly lower in the IBD cohort and by 6 months post infection most patients lacked neutralizing antibody.” This study provides a strong rationale for vaccination, especially in our IBD patients. (Thanks to Stan Cohen for this reference)

AGA Update: Pre-endoscopy COVID Testing Is Not Needed

Here’s a link: AGA says stay the course, despite the Delta variant

An excerpt:

“AGA suggests against re-instituting routine pre-procedure testing prior to elective endoscopy. The downsides (delays in patient care, burden, inaccurate results) outweigh potential benefits. Infection and transmission of SARS-CoV2 from asymptomatic individuals is rare especially among vaccinated health care workers using personal protective equipment (PPE), even with the emergence of the Delta variant.”

“If PPE is available, AGA recommends using N95 masks” for both upper endoscopy and colonoscopy”

COVID Booster Advice for IBD from Dr. David Rubin (@IBDMD)

On Friday, our office started fielding questions regarding COVID-19 booster shots in our IBD population. Currently, I agree with the advice for patients as detailed by Dr. Rubin in the screenshots that follow. Key points:

  • Studies have shown that IBD patients are not at increased risk of COVID-19 infections compared to the general population. 
  • Except for those on high-dose prednisone, it appears that our patient population with IBD does mount an adequate response to vaccination.  That is, they are not considered severely immunocompromised. 
  • In short, it is reasonable, but not a clear recommendation, to give a booster mRNA vaccine dose to patients who are receiving anti-TNF agents and those receiving immunomodulators; this is a patient choice.

Also, from CDC 8/13/21:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

“What is Biden Waiting For?” & COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness for Delta Variant

A good read by Don McNeil Jr: What is Biden Waiting For?

He argues that the federal government needs to do a lot more, including the use of vaccine mandates to control this pandemic.

Some excerpts:

  • Why is this administration so hesitant about saving American lives? And the American economy?….
  • The key to saving lives is vaccine. The key to reopening offices and factories is vaccine. The key to reopening schools is vaccine. The key to keeping bars and restaurants open in cold weather is vaccine. The key to travel and shopping is vaccine. Vaccine in everybody….
  • mRNA vaccines start waning after six months. Israel is already offering booster shots to everyone over 60. We must do the same….We are too fearful of very rare side effects…
  • Why in the world do we not yet have federal vaccine passports? In a land of block-chain currencies, QR code menus, encrypted texts and microchip credit cards, those little CDC-logo flashcards are just pathetic…
  • It’s also time to drop “religious exemptions.” No major religion — not one, from Confucianism to Catholicism — opposes vaccination…
  • We need to treat deliberate disinformation for what it is: a betrayal of the American public.

My take: With the emergence of the Delta variant, it will take a much higher level of vaccination/natural immunity (>95%) to control this pandemic. Vaccination is a much safer strategy than natural immunity (after infections).

Also, NEJM Quick take: Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines (1:29 min). Pfizer-(BNT162b2) vaccine had 88% effectiveness against Delta variant in England after 2 doses compared to 94% for alpha variant..