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Health Highlights: May 14, 2020

U.S. Lacks Plan to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine: Whistleblower Coronavirus Medicines, Vaccines May Not be Far Away: European Official Coronavirus Test Used By White House May Miss Nearly Half of Infections: Study Wisconsin's Extension of Stay-at-Home Order Overturned U.S. Project Would Produce Hundreds of Millions of Prefilled Syringes if Coronavirus Vaccine Developed

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Lacks Plan to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine: Whistleblower

If a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, the Trump administration doesn't have a plan to make and fairly distribute it, a government whistleblower told a congressional panel Thursday.

"We don't have (a vaccine plan) yet, and it is a significant concern," vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright warned, the Associated Press reported.

When he was asked if lawmakers should be worried, Bright said, "absolutely."

Bright led a biodefense agency in the Department of Health and Human Services but says he was ousted from the job after urging the Trump administration to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, and a federal watchdog has found reasonable grounds to support that allegation, the AP reported.

The U.S. requires a plan to create a supply chain to make tens of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine and distribute it fairly, Bright told the panel.

He said he doesn't have much confidence in the distribution system due to experience with antiviral drug found to benefit COVID-19 patients. Hospital pharmacies have had difficulty obtaining limited supplies of the drug, the AP reported.

The White House has said it has a plan to quickly produce, distribute and administer a coronavirus vaccine if one becomes available.


Coronavirus Medicines, Vaccines May Not be Far Away: European Official

Drugs to treat COVID-19 could be approved in the next few months, and a vaccine might be available by early 2021, in a "best-case scenario," according to a European Medicines Agency official.

Approval of medicines to treat COVID-19 might be possible "before the summer," Dr. Marco Cavaleri, head of the agency's vaccines department, told a media briefing on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Recent early findings about the antiviral drug remdesivir suggest it could help speed patients' recovery from COVID-19, but longer-term research is needed to confirm any benefit.

Cavaleri also said that if some of the vaccines currently being tested prove to be effective, they could be licensed as early as the beginning of next year, but added that there are often delays in vaccine development, the AP reported.


Coronavirus Test Used By White House May Miss Nearly Half of Infections: Study

A rapid coronavirus test that's used to test White House staff could miss infections up to nearly half the time, a new study suggests.

NYU Langone Health researchers evaluated the accuracy of the Abbott ID Now test, which was given emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late March, The New York Times reported.

They found that the test -- which uses a small machine and provides results in five to 13 minutes -- may miss coronavirus infections up to 48% of the time. The study has not been peer-reviewed.

There was no immediate response from a White House spokesperson when asked for a comment, the Times reported.

The test is designed to be in doctor's offices and clinics, and is being used in drive-through testing sites nationwide, newspaper reported.

"ID Now is an important tool that delivers information where it's needed most," Abbott said in a statement.

The company said its reported rate of missed infections was 0.02% and that the latest findings were "not consistent with other studies of the test," the Times reported.


Wisconsin's Extension of Stay-at-Home Order Overturned

Wisconsin's extension of a stay-at-home order has been overturned by the state's supreme court.

In its 4-3 decision, the court ruled that the order is "unlawful" and "unenforceable," and that the administration of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers overstepped its authority in mid-April when it extended the order to May 26, CNN reported.

The lawsuit against the order was filed last month by the Republican-led state legislature.

In their opinion, the justices wrote that the governor's power to declare emergencies was not being challenged, "but in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely," the Washington Post reported.

In a statement, Evers condemned the court's decision, saying Wisconsin "was in a pretty good place," but the decision will "throw our state into chaos."


U.S. Project Would Produce Hundreds of Millions of Prefilled Syringes if Coronavirus Vaccine Developed

A deal for hundreds of millions of syringes that could be used to quickly administer a possible vaccine against the new coronavirus has been reached between the U.S. government and a private company.

The $138 million partnership is with ApiJect Systems America, which makes inexpensive prefilled plastic syringes designed to be used in developing countries, NBC News reported.

The aim of the Project Jumpstart initiative is to produce 100 million prefilled syringes by the end of 2020 and more than 500 million in 2021 if a vaccine against the new coronavirus becomes available, government officials said.

The project will "help significantly decrease the United States' dependence on offshore supply chains and its reliance on older technologies with much longer production lead times," said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, NBC News reported.

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