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Health Highlights: July 31, 2020

Last Updated: July 31, 2020.

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

Plenty of COVID-19 Vaccine Coming, Fauci Says

When a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, there should be plenty of it available, Dr. Anthony Fauci told a House panel Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Fauci was cautiously optimistic a vaccine would be available by next year.

"I believe, ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, that Americans will be able to get it," Fauci said.

"I don't think we will have everybody getting it immediately," Fauci said. "Ultimately, within a reasonable time, the plans allow for any American who needs the vaccine to get it."

White House and health authorities have a plan called Operation Warp Speed to make 300 million doses of a vaccine as fast as possible, the AP noted.

According to Fauci, 250,000 Americans have signed up to take part in vaccine trials. Not all who volunteer, however, are eligible to participate.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir also spoke before the panel.

To combat the surging pandemic, Fauci is calling on all Americans to practice social distancing and wearing masks, the AP reported.

Surging cases in the South and the West this summer have made it difficult for Americans to quickly return to normal.

Also, the availability of testing remains a problem and vaccines have just started to be tested in large numbers of people, the AP noted.

Fauci said he is concerned that the United States has not followed the example of Asian and European countries also hit by the coronavirus.

The United States stopped the initial spread, but it never cut the level of new cases as low as other nations.

Trying to reopen the economy in the Sunbelt over the past several weeks has resulted in 60,000 to 70,000 new cases, increasing emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths, the AP said.

Nearly 5 million Americans have been infected and more than 150,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University experts.

Cases across the South may be peaking, but increases in the Midwest are becoming a concern, Fauci told the AP.

"They've really got to jump all over that because if they don't then you might see the surge we saw in some of the Southern states," he said.

Giroir, the testing czar agrees and told reporters Thursday: "I think it's very important to make sure that we all spread the public health message that we can control all the outbreaks occurring right now."

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U.S. Puts Up Another $2.1 Billion For Potential Vaccine

The U.S. is buying up another potential COVID-19 vaccine, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Drug makers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur will supply 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine to the U.S. as in hopes the vaccine will prevent COVID-19.

The U.S. will pay drug companies $2.1 billion "for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine," the companies said in a statement. Most of the money will go to Sanofi, the AP said.

The U.S. also has an option to buy 500 million more doses as part of its Operation Warp Speed program.

"The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "Today's investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people."

The British government is buying 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine, the AP reported.

"The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone," Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president of Sanofi Pasteur, told the AP.

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More Ball Games Postponed After Coronavirus Hits Phillies Staff

Two staff members of the Philadelphia Phillies have tested positive for the coronavirus, causing Major League Baseball to postpone this weekend's games with the Toronto Blue Jays, CBS News reported Thursday.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Philadelphia Phillies' three-game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays, scheduled for Saturday, August 1st and Sunday, August 2nd at Citizens Bank Park, has been postponed," the league said in a statement.

The Phillies said that one of their coaching staff and a clubhouse staffer tested positive for COVID-19. "All activity at Citizens Bank Park has been canceled today and until further notice," the team said.

This latest postponement comes on the heels of an outbreak of the virus among the Miami Marlins. Over a dozen players and staff on the team tested positive for the virus after playing the Phillies last week, CBS reported.

MLB also postponed all Marlins games through Sunday and also postponed the Phillies-Yankees series scheduled for this week.

Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that team owners haven't thought about canceling or suspending the season.

"We expected we were going to have positives at some point in time," he said. "I remain optimistic that the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play."

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Former Presidential Candidate Herman Cain Dead From Coronavirus

Herman Cain, a former Republican presidential candidate, has died from coronavirus, CBS News reported Thursday. Cain, a right-wing media celeb, was 74.

On June 29, Cain was hospitalized with COVID-19. He knew "that this was going to be a rough fight" because he had survived cancer and was vulnerable because of his age and health, Dan Calabrese, the editor of Cain's website, posted Thursday morning, CBS reported.

Cain ran for president in 2011 but suspended his campaign after being accused of sexual harassment during his time as CEO of the National Restaurant Association. He denied the charges, CBS reported.

Cain had been president of Burger King before he became chairman and CEO of Godfather's Pizza.

Cain attended President Trump's rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. He was photographed not wearing a face mask, but he did not come in contact with the president, CBS noted.

Cain is survived by a wife, Gloria, his children Melanie and Vincent, and grandchildren, according to CBS.

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First U.S. Dog With COVID-19 Has Died

Buddy, a 7-year-old German shepherd, that was the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus in the United States, has died after being sick for three months, CNN reported Thursday.

Whether the dog died from the coronavirus or lymphoma isn't clear. Buddy got sick in April but it wasn't until May that a vet confirmed the animal was infected.

In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed this was the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus in the country, CNN noted.

Buddy's health continued to worsen. By July 11, the dog's owner told National Geographic, that the dog was throwing up clotted blood.

According to the USDA, less than 25 dogs and cats have been infected with coronavirus in this country.

But because there is no mandatory testing for animals in homes with people diagnosed with COVID-19, it's not known how many pets may be infected, CNN said.

"The second dog to test positive in the U.S., in Georgia, and the sixth dog, in South Carolina, have both died, for example, and their deaths were attributed to other conditions," National Geographic reported.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance for caring for a pet with COVID-19, but there's no reliable data on how the virus affects pets, CNN reported.

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One-shot J&J COVID Vaccine Works in Monkeys

An experiential vaccine to protect against COVID-19 developed by Johnson & Johnson appears effective in monkeys, the New York Times reported Thursday.

This is the second vaccine that had promising results in monkeys reported this week, but whether they work in humans is the real test.

A human test is now underway in Europe and the United States. More than 30 human trials have been started testing coronavirus vaccines, but not until these trials are over in several months will we know if they work in people.

"This week has been good -- now we have two vaccines that work in monkeys," Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University who was not involved in the studies, told the Times. "It's nice to be upbeat for a change."

These new results can't be used to speed trials in humans. "We just can't take shortcuts," she said.

The two vaccines work very differently.

The one by Moderna delivers messenger RNA into cells which causes an immune response to the virus. RNA vaccines have not yet been approved for use in people, the Times noted.

Moderna began Phase 3 trials on Monday, as did Pfizer.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine activates the immune response by altering the virus.

A single shot of the vaccine was able to protect five out of six monkeys and the sixth had only low levels of the virus, the Times reports.

"The fact that we could protect with a single shot in animal models was quite a positive surprise to us," Dr. Paul Stoffels, the chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, told the Times.

"It's exciting to see the number of platforms that are showing promise for a vaccine," Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a virologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis who was not involved in any of the trials, told the paper.

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Alzheimer's Brain Scans May Not Be Worth the Price

A study has failed to show that brain scans to check for Alzheimer's disease save health care costs for Medicare, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The finding is from a $100 million study involving more than 25,000 Medicare patients.

Those who support Medicare coverage for the scans hope to show that they are beneficial even if they don't save money.

Diagnosing the disease can help families plan for the future even though there is no effective treatment or cure for Alzheimer's, researcher Dr. Gil Rabinovici of the University of California, San Francisco, told the AP.

A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told the AP that the agency looks at all data on risks and benefits. A formal request would have to be filed for the agency to reconsider its 2013 decision to not cover the scans except for research and in special circumstances.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, which can only be diagnosed after death.

PET brain can detect signs when patients are alive, but they cost $4,000 to $5,000 and insurers won't cover them because it's not known if they benefit patients.

For the study, nearly 12,700 people with dementia or mild cognitive impairment, were given scans and compared with Medicare patients not given scans.

Results from the first 4,000 participants suggested the scans diagnosed Alzheimer's and altered counseling or care in up to 60% of cases.

The study looked at whether the scans save money by decreasing hospitalizations and emergency room visits. The theory was that if a scan identifies that someone has Alzheimer's, caregivers can help prevent problems like patients not taking their medications.

But the goal of lowering hospitalizations by 10% in the year after the scan wasn't met. Rates of hospitalizations were 24% among patients scanned and 25% among those who weren't.

Among those scanned, however, fewer hospitalizations occurred for those with Alzheimer's, the AP reports.

Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer's Association's chief science officer, told the AP that these findings suggest that caregivers "weren't panicking" when symptoms of Alzheimer's appeared and didn't rush to the hospital.

The results of the study were scheduled to be presented July 30 at the online Alzheimer's Association International Conference.


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