Health Highlights: May 15, 2020
Large-Scale Testing of Some Coronavirus Vaccines Could Start in July: NIH Director Abbott Rapid Coronavirus Test Could Miss Infections: FDA China Goes a Month Without a COVID-19 Death U.S. Lacks Plan to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccine: Whistleblower Coronavirus Medicines, Vaccines May Not be Far Away: European Official
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Large-Scale Testing of Some Coronavirus Vaccines Could Start in July: NIH Director
A number of coronavirus vaccines under development "look pretty promising" and one or two could be ready for large-scale testing by July, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health says.
"Your big challenge now is to go big and everybody is about ready for that. And we want to be sure that happens in a coordinated way," Francis Collins told the Associated Press.
The NIH is working with some the world's largest drug makers to develop a master plan for vaccine makers to follow.
Even though no vaccine has been developed, the Trump administration says it's aiming to have 300 million doses available to distribute to Americans by January, the AP reported.
That's a "very bold plan ... a stretch goal if there ever was one," Collins said.
But if "we can get this vaccine out there even a day sooner than otherwise we might have, that's going to matter to somebody," he told the AP.
Collins emphasized that "no corners are going to be cut" on safety as researchers rush to create a vaccine.
About a dozen potential vaccines worldwide are in the initial stages of, or set to begin, testing in people. These small safety studies are designed to detect problems and whether a vaccine boosts the immune system, the AP reported.
Abbott Rapid Coronavirus Test Could Miss Infections: FDA
A rapid coronavirus test being used across the United States could miss could miss infections, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.
Some scientific studies have suggested that the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test may return false negative results, and the FDA has received 15 reports about the device that suggest it failed to diagnose coronavirus infections, the agency said.
"We are still evaluating the information about inaccurate results and are in direct communications with Abbott about this important issue. We will continue to study the data available and are working with the company to create additional mechanisms for studying the test," Dr. Tim Stenzel, director, Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an FDA news release.
A study released this week by NYU Langone Health researchers concluded that the Abbott ID Now test could miss coronavirus infections up to 48% of the time. The study has not been peer-reviewed.
The test is designed to be used in doctor's offices and clinics, and is being used in drive-through testing sites nationwide and also at the White House to test staff.
In a statement, Abbott said its reported rate of missed infections with the test was 0.02% and that the NYU Langone findings were "not consistent with other studies of the test," The New York Times reported.
China Goes a Month Without a COVID-19 Death
China's last reported COVID-19 death was a month ago, on April 14, and the country announced just four new cases of the virus Friday.
All of those new cases were local cross-infections in the northeastern province of Jilin, according to the National Health Commission, the Associated Press reported.
Currently, only 91 people in China are being treated for COVID-19, while 623 others are under isolation and being monitored as suspected cases or because they tested positive but didn't have symptoms.
Since the new coronavirus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan, China has announced 4,633 deaths among 82,933 cases, the AP reported.
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.