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Health Highlights: Sept. 17, 2020

Last Updated: September 17, 2020.

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

Moderna May Know by November Whether Coroanvirus Vaccine is Effective

Moderna says it should know by sometime in November whether its coronavirus vaccine is effective, its CEO said Thursday.

Stephane Bancel also told CNBC that the company -- the first drug firm to conduct human clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. -- could have enough late-stage trial data by October to evaluate its efficacy, but said that's unlikely, CBS News reported.

Along with Moderna's vaccine, there are six others in final Phase 3 testing that involves large-scale human tests.

"If the infection rate in the country were to slow down in the next weeks, (the vaccine) could potentially be pushed out in a worst-case scenario in December," Bancel told CNBC, CBS News reported.

On Wednesday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told Congress a vaccine wouldn't be widely available until the second or third quarter of next year.

Redfield also said a mask could be even more effective protection than a vaccine for people who don't have an immunity response from the vaccine, CBS News reported.

A "face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine," Redfield said. "... If I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will."


Trump-Appointed HHS Spokesman Taking Leave of Absence

Trump-appointed Health and Human Services Department spokesman Michael Caputo is taking a leave of absence after allegations that he tried to interfere with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on the coronavirus pandemic because he felt they harmed Trump.

Caputo also posted a video on his Facebook page in which he compared government scientists to a "resistance" against Trump, and warned that shooting would break out if Trump won the election and Joe Biden didn't concede, the Associated Press reported.

HHS said in a statement that Caputo -- who was appointed the department's top spokesman in April despite having no experience in health care -- has decided to take 60 days "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."

HHS also said that Paul Alexander -- brought in by Caputo as a policy advisor -- is leaving the department, the AP reported.


Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution Would Begin Within 24 Hours After Approval: U.S. Officials

Distribution of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States would begin within 24 hours of its approval or emergency use authorization, and the plan is that no American will have to "pay a single dime" out of their own pocket for the vaccine, federal officials said Thursday.

The officials with Operation Warp Speed -- the multiagency effort to get a coronavirus vaccine to Americans -- also said it's not clear when a vaccine might be available, even though President Donald Trump keeps claiming that one could be ready before the election on Nov. 3, The New York Times reported.

"We're dealing in a world of great uncertainty. We don't know the timing of when we'll have a vaccine, we don't know the quantities, we don't know the efficacy of those vaccines," said Paul Mango, the deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"This is a really quite extraordinary, logistically complex undertaking, and a lot of uncertainties right now. I think the message we want you to leave with is, we are prepared for all of those uncertainties," Mango told the Times.


Vaccine Campaign Would Take Six to Nine Months to Curb Coronavirus Pandemic: CDC Director

When a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus becomes available, it's likely to take six to nine months for enough Americans to get vaccinated to have a significant impact on the pandemic, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.

Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services, Redfield said he expected a vaccine to become available in November or December, the Washington Post reported.

The first people to be vaccinated would be those with health conditions that make them most vulnerable to severe illness or death if they're infected, Redfield said.

For the vaccine to become "fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we are probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021," Redfield testified

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