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Health Highlights: June 12, 2020

Last Updated: June 12, 2020.

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

U.S. Providing Too Little Assistance to Fight Pandemic: Aid Groups

The fact that "little to no U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached those on the front lines" of the coronavirus pandemic in struggling regions of the world has dozens of international aid groups "increasingly alarmed," they say in a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Despite "months of promising conversations with USAID field staff, few organizations have received an executed award for COVID-19 humanitarian assistance," according to the letter obtained by the Associated Press.

The delays are devastating and the opportunity for the U.S. to help reduce the worst impacts of the pandemic worldwide is being lost, says the letter signed by more than two dozen groups, including including Save the Children, Mercy Corps and World Vision.

The letter was dated June 4, the same day that some USAID officials were boasting about the U.S. government's "global leadership" during the pandemic, the AP reported.

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FDA Shouldn't Authorize Coronavirus Vaccines Unless They're Tested on at Least 30,000 People: Experts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration shouldn't authorize a COVID-19 vaccine until it's been tested on at least 30,000 people in clinical trials, vaccine experts say.

They're concerned that President Donald Trump will try to make a vaccine available before it's ready, and they want assurances from the FDA that this won't happen, CNN reported.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health has said there needs to be 30,000 participants in the Phase 3 clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We don't believe that we have enough power in the analysis, to be able to document the vaccine works unless you get to roughly that number," Collins told CNN.

Bioethicist Art Caplan, who's been a consultant to the U.S. government and the World Health Organization on vaccine development, said he'd like to see a similar statement from the FDA.

"I worry that a desperate White House could bring pressure on the FDA to approve something way before it's ready, just to be able to say, we promised you a vaccine and we got you one," Caplan told CNN.

In an opinion piece published Monday in The New York Times, Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Emanuel Ezekiel suggested that Trump might force the FDA to prematurely authorize a vaccine as an "October Surprise" to get votes.

"Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched," they said, CNN reported.

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Oral Polio Vaccines Might Protect Against New Coronavirus: Experts

Oral polio vaccines might provide temporary protection against the new coronavirus while scientists try to develop a vaccine to fight COVID-19 infection, experts say.

Evidence suggests that inoculations such as polio vaccines protect children against a number of infections, so it makes sense to test if polio vaccines can ward off the new coronavirus, Konstantin Chumakov, Dr. Robert Gallo, and colleagues wrote in Science magazine, CNN reported.

Chumakov is associate director for research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccine division, and Gallo, of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, co-discovered HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"We propose the use of OPV [oral poliovirus vaccine] to ameliorate or prevent COVID-19," they wrote. "Both poliovirus and coronavirus are positive-strand RNA viruses; therefore, it is likely that they may induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms."

They noted that oral polio vaccines are safe, cheap, easy to administer and widely available, with more than 1 billion doses made and used each year in more than 140 countries, CNN reported.

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PPE Supplies Sent by FEMA to Nursing Homes Often Defective

A Trump administration plan to boost nursing homes' supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) is falling short, critics say.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is leading the program to increase supplies to nursing homes that was announced in April by President Donald Trump, but nursing homes say they're receiving items such as gowns that have no holes for hands and paper-thin surgical masks, CNN reported.

"Too often, the only signs of FEMA's much-hyped promise of PPE shipments -- an allotment of gowns, gloves, masks and goggles based on staffing size of the provider -- are scattershot delivery with varying amounts of rag-tag supplies," according to a statement from Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of aging services.

"As FEMA's own deadline for shipment approaches, many nursing homes still don't know if and when they're going to receive anything," she said.

All personal protective equipment delivered by FEMA "meets FDA or AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation) certification," the agency said in a statement, but it acknowledged that it's hearing concerns.

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Fewer Hot Car Deaths for Kids Due to Pandemic: Experts

The COVID-19 pandemic is a major reason why the United States is on track this year to have the lowest number of children die in hot cars since such deaths started being recorded more than three decades ago, experts say.

Nationwide, there have been two child hot car deaths so far this year. The average number is about nine by June 10, according to Jan Null, founder of NoHeatStroke.org, a website that tracks hot car deaths across the country, Accuweather News reported.

The pandemic has kept people at home and off the roads, reducing the risk of hot car deaths.

"The impact of people staying at home and not being in as many situations where they might forget a child in a car has certainly had an impact," Null, an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Jose State University, told Accuweather News.

"We absolutely believe that COVID has had a major impact on the lower number of hot car deaths this year. Our big concern is that as families begin to go back to work, that the changes in routine could pose an increased risk for hot car deaths," said Amber Rollins, director of the nonprofit group Kids and Cars.

"Additionally, with children being home more often, we are concerned that there could be an increased risk for children becoming trapped inside hot cars and other home accidental injuries," Rollins told AccuWeather News.

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First Large Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine in U.S. Could Begin in July

A large clinical trial of the first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine could begin next month, according to Moderna Inc., which developed the vaccine with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The trial will assess whether the vaccine is effective and will include 30,000 volunteers who will receive either the vaccine or a dummy shot, the Associated Press reported.

That trial can't start until results of smaller, earlier-stage studies on safety and dosing are available, but Moderna said those studies are progressing well enough to start planning for the large trial.

About a dozen COVID-19 vaccines are in the early stages of testing worldwide, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health expects to assist several more of them into large, late-stage trials this summer, the AP reported.

If all goes well, "there will be potential to get answers" on which vaccines work by the end of the year, Dr. John Mascola, director of the NIH's vaccine research center, told a meeting of the National Academy of Medicine on Wednesday.

Hundreds of millions of doses of different vaccine candidates are being stockpiled by governments to use when/if scientists conclude that one is effective. The U.S. plans to have 300 million doses available by January, the AP reported.


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