Health Highlights: Sept. 3, 2020
Science Not Yet Advanced Enough for Genetic Editing of Embryos: Expert Panel CDC Refutes Social Media Rumors That COVID Death Data Is Inaccurate Another Trump Appointee Booted From FDA In-Person Social Visits to Resume at U.S. Prisons in October First COVID-19 Death Linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Americans Now More Likely to Get COVID-19 Vaccine: Poll Trump Denies Claim He Suffered Mini-Strokes
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Science Not Yet Advanced Enough for Genetic Editing of Embryos: Expert Panel
Genetic editing of embryos should not be attempted yet because the science isn't advanced enough to ensure safety, an international panel of experts says.
Their paper was released nearly two years after a Chinese scientist claimed he'd helped create the world's first gene-edited babies, which was widely condemned as unethical, the Associated Press reported.
If a country permits genetic editing of embryos, it should restrict it to cases where people have no or very poor options for having a child without a serious genetic disease, said the panel that was formed by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom's Royal Society.
The panel didn't take a position on whether genetic editing of embryos is ethical. A report on that issue is expected later this year from a panel formed by the World Health Organization, the AP reported.
CDC Refutes Social Media Rumors That COVID Death Data Is Inaccurate
Rumors suggesting that COVID-19 deaths in the United States are much lower than reported are due to people misinterpreting standard death certificate language, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official says.
Social media conspiracy theories claiming that only a small percentage of people reported to have died from COVID-19 actually died from the disease have cited death certificates that list other underlying causes, CNN reported.
But that doesn't mean the patients did not die from COVID-19, said Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC.
"In 94% of deaths with COVID-19, other conditions are listed in addition to COVID-19. These causes may include chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension," Anderson explained in a statement, CNN reported. "In 6% of the death certificates that list COVID-19, only one cause or condition is listed," he noted.
"The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person's death. In 92% of all deaths that mention COVID-19, COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death."
As of Aug. 22, CDC data show that 161,392 death certificates listed COVID-19 as a cause of death. As of Sept. 2, there had been more than 185,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, which uses independent data, CNN reported.
Other top U.S. health officials have said that CDC COVID-19 death data are accurate.
Another Trump Appointee Booted From FDA
For the second time in days, a Trump appointee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been sent packing.
John Wagner, who was appointed earlier this summer, no longer heads the agency's office of external affairs, an FDA spokesperson told the Associated Press.
Wagner's departure comes after the FDA's fumbling of an announcement about an experimental therapy for COVID-19 that harmed the agency's credibility with the public, according to experts.
Wagner's position will be filled on an acting basis by longtime FDA career official Heidi Rebello, who will oversee all FDA public communications.
A few days ago, conservative communications specialist Emily Miller was removed as the head of the agency's press office, after just 11 days in that position. The Trump appointee helped coordinate the FDA's announcement about granting emergency authorization for the use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, the AP reported.
In-Person Visits to Resume at U.S. Prisons in October
In-person visits for inmates are scheduled to resume on Oct. 3, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Wednesday.
Visits were suspended in March to help control the spread of the new coronavirus within the federal prison system's 121 facilities that house 127,000 inmates, CBS News reported.
When in-person visits resume, inmates and visitors will be required to wear masks, visitors will be screened and have their temperatures taken, and high-touch surfaces such as tables and chairs will be disinfected after each visit, according to an internal memo cited by the Associated Press.
To date, 12,610 federal inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and results are pending for more than 2,000 tests. Two bureau staff members and 118 inmates have died of COVID-19, CBS News reported.
First COVID-19 Death Linked to Motorcycle Rally Reported in Minnesota
The first COVID-19 death linked to the massive Sturgis motorcycle rally last month in South Dakota has been reported by Minnesota health officials.
Hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists attended the rally despite being urged not to do so in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minnesota patient had been in a hospital intensive care unit, a state health department official told CBS News. The official also said that at least 50 coronavirus cases in the state have been linked to the Sturgis rally.
More than 250 coronavirus cases across the United States have been linked to the rally, according to CBS News.
Americans Now More Likely to Get COVID-19 Vaccine: Poll
Just over 54% of Americans now say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine in the first 12 months after it's introduced, a significant increase from 42% in July, a new WebMD poll finds.
However, only 27% of the 1,000 readers who participated in the survey said they'd get a vaccine within the first three months after it becomes available, which is just slightly higher than 26% who said so in the July poll.
In the new survey, 12.5% of respondents said they wouldn't get a vaccine at all, and 21.4% said they're unsure.
For any COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it has to prevent or reduce the severity of infection in at least 50% of people who receive it.
But only 8.8% of survey participants said they consider that 50% standard effective, with 65.2% saying a vaccine should be 75% to 99% effective to be approved by the FDA, WebMD reported.
Only 25.6% of respondents said they would get a vaccine that was 50% effective, 35.5% said they wouldn't get the vaccine, 25.6% said maybe and 13.3% said they weren't sure.
"We already know that people are worried about getting a COVID vaccine, and understanding how well the vaccine works could be another hurdle for patients," said Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer of WebMD. "Public health officials face a tough challenge explaining to consumers what this vaccine can and can't do."
There are more than 170 potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed wordwide, with 142 in preclinical evaluations and 31 in clinical trial, according to WebMD.
Trump Denies Claim He Suffered Mini-Strokes
U.S. President Donald Trump and his doctor are denying a claim that he was treated at Walter Reed Medical Center last fall for mini-strokes.
The president visited the hospital unexpectedly in November, a visit the White House has said was to get a head start on his annual physical.
There haven't been any actual media reports that Trump had suffered a stroke, mini-stroke or heart-related health problem, CBS News noted.
But on Monday, former Clinton administration White House press secretary Joe Lockhart tweeted: "Did @realDonaldTrump have a stroke which he is hiding from the American public?"
Lockhart didn't claim to have any evidence, but said in another tweet on Tuesday: "We are starting to get to the bottom of the ridiculous explanation from the White House that @realDonaldTrump took an unannounced trip to the hospital to do half of his annual physical. It turns out the VP was put on standby to temporarily take over Presidential duties."
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the claim was false. "Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate - FAKE NEWS," he tweeted.
And Sean Conley, the president's physician, issued a statement later in the day at Trump's request, CBS News reported.
"President Donald J. Trump has asked that I, Dr. Sean Conley, physician to the President, address the recent public comments regarding his health," he said in the statement. "I can confirm that President Trump has not experienced nor been evaluated for a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), transient ischemic attack (mini stroke), or any acute cardiovascular emergencies, as have been incorrectly reported in the media."