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Health Highlights: July 15, 2020

Last Updated: July 15, 2020.

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

Coronavirus Vaccine Initiative May Favor Rich Countries

A global coronavirus vaccine initiative has been formed with the objective of ensuring fair distribution of vaccines worldwide, but it may benefit rich countries more than poor nations.

The vaccines alliance Gavi said Wednesday that 75 wealthy nations have said they'd join the initiative, along with 90 low-income countries that hope to receive donated vaccines, the Associated Press reported.

When it sought donor nations last month, Gavi told them that if it develops an effective COVID-19 vaccine, all member nations will receive enough to cover 20% of their populations, including rich countries that may have their own stockpiles of other vaccines.

Gavi said countries would be encouraged, but not required, to give up any doses they might not need.

That may mean that rich countries could stockpile coronavirus vaccines, while fewer doses would be available for low-income countries, the AP reported.


Childhood Vaccinations Decline During Coronavirus Pandemic

There's been a decrease in childhood vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations says.

A May survey of 82 countries suggests that there's less than a 20% chance that a child born today will have all recommended vaccines by the age of 5, the AP reported.

More than 30 measles campaigns around the world have been, or are at risk of being, halted, which is likely to worsen outbreaks of the highly contagious disease.

"The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the AP reported.


Blood Type Doesn't Affect Coronavirus Risk

Preliminary evidence challenges earlier research that blood type may be a risk factor for getting infected with the new coronavirus and for becoming seriously ill.

Two studies that looked at thousands of COVID-19 patients did not find that Type A blood increases the odds that people will be infected with COVID-19, The New York Times reported.

There was some evidence that people with Type O blood may have a slightly lower risk of infection, but the effect is so small that people with that blood type shouldn't think they're protected, said Nicholas Tatonetti, a data scientist at Columbia University in New York City.

He and a colleague analyzed the medical records of 7,770 people who tested positive for the coronavirus and found that people with Type A blood had a somewhat lower risk of being placed on ventilators, while people with Type AB were at a higher risk, the Times reported.

However, there were so few patients with Type AB in the study that the findings may be unreliable, according to the researchers, whose findings are under review for publication in a scientific journal.

The other study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and found that people with Type O blood were slightly less likely to get COVID-19, but that blood type didn't affect the chances of being placed on a ventilator or of dying, the Times reported.


Walmart Shoppers Will Have to Wear Masks

Shoppers at the roughly 5,400 Walmart and Sam's Club locations in the United States will have to wear masks as of July 20, the company said Wednesday.

"Health ambassadors" will be posted at store entrances to check whether customers are wearing masks, according to the nation's largest retailer, CBS News reported.

"According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19 and because the virus can be spread by people who don't have symptoms and don't know they are infected, it's critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance," Walmart U.S. Chief Operating Officer Dacona Smith said in a company blog.

Other U.S. retailers such as Starbucks and Costco have mandated masks in their stores but Walmart is the largest so far to introduce such a rule, CBS News reported.


CDC Will No Longer Receive Hospitals' COVID-19 Data

U.S. hospitals have been told by the Trump administration to send all COVID-19 information to a central database in Washington, D.C., instead of to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The order means that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will now collect daily reports about COVID-19 patients in each hospital, the number of available beds and ventilators, The New York Times reported.

White House officials say the change will streamline data gathering and improve distribution of supplies, but health experts are concerned that the data will be politicized or kept from the public.

"Historically, CDC has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak," Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times.

"How will the data be protected?" she asked. "Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the CDC in understanding the data?"

"Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust," Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama, told the Times. "It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like CDC to do its basic job."

Two CDC officials told the Times that the Trump administration order came as a shock to the agency. They didn't want to be identified because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter.

The CDC's system is inadequate and it will be linked with the HHS system, according to HHS spokesman Michael Caputo, who added that the CDC would continue to make data public, the Times reported.


Baby May Have Been Infected With Coronavirus During Pregnancy: Study

The new coronavirus appears to have been transmitted through a pregnant woman's placenta to her fetus, a new case study says.

The 23-year-old mother had COVID-19 and her baby tested positive for the new coronavirus after being born in a Paris hospital.

The baby developed symptoms of inflammation in his brain, according to Dr. Daniele De Luca, chief of the division of pediatrics and neonatal critical care at Paris-Saclay University Hospitals, The New York Times reported.

The baby, born in March, recovered without treatment and is "very much improved, almost clinically normal," De Luca said.

The study was published July 14 in the journal Nature Communications.

While there have been some cases of newborns with coronavirus, there hasn't been strong evidence that transmission of the virus can occur during pregnancy, the Times reported.

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