Health Highlights: Aug. 5, 2020

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

Experimental Vaccine Shows Encouraging Results

Maryland-based Novavax said Tuesday that preliminary trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine were promising.

In one study, 56 people made high levels of antibodies against COVID-19 with no adverse side effects. In a second study, the vaccine protected monkeys from COVID-19 infection.

It’s not possible to compare the data from clinical trials of different vaccines, but John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine who was not involved in the studies, told The New York Times that these results were the most impressive he’d seen.

“This is the first one I’m looking at and saying, ‘Yeah, I’d take that,'” Moore said.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, told the Times that these were “encouraging preliminary results.” But she cautioned that it’s not possible to know if the vaccine is safe and effective until larger studies are done.

In its 33-year history, Novavax has never had a vaccine on the market, but it has received $1.6 billion in federal funding for vaccine development. If the vaccine is effective, the company said it can make 100 million doses by the beginning of 2021 — enough to inoculate 50 million people with the required two doses.

This vaccine is one of more than two dozen vaccines that are now being tested, the Times reported.


Company Recalls Tainted Onions

Thomson International Inc. is recalling red, yellow, white and sweet yellow onions that have been linked with an outbreak of salmonella.

The recall, announced Tuesday, is for onions shipped from May 1 until now.

The onions were sent to wholesalers, restaurants and retailers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

The onions were labeled Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions and Food Lion.

These onions should not be eaten, sold or served, the company said. If you cannot tell if an onion is from Thomson, you should throw it out and contaminated surfaces should be disinfected.

The current salmonella outbreak has caused nearly 400 illnesses and nearly 60 hospitalizations.

Consumers with questions may contact the company by calling Kim Earnshaw at 661-845-1111.


Trump Limits Free Nursing Home COVID-19 Tests

The plan to give every nursing home a fast COVID-19 testing machine has a catch, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The catch is that under the Trump administration plan, the government won’t give kits to check staff and residents more than a couple of times.

When the plan was announced last month it was hailed, but it may just be another empty promise made to nursing homes, critics charge. Although nursing homes house a small percent of the population, as many as 40% COVID-19 deaths, occur there, the AP said.

“I think the biggest fear is that the instruments may be delivered but it won’t do any good, if you don’t have the test kits,” George Linial, president of LeadingAge of Texas, a branch of a national group representing nonprofit nursing homes and other providers of elder care, told the AP.

Cost to test employees could run from $19,000 to nearly $38,000 a week.

Nursing homes could cover the cost using a $5 billion fund allocated to the facilities by the White House, the administration said.

The government will supply enough kits to test residents once and staff twice, Adm. Brett Giroir, the Health and Human Services department’s “testing czar,” told reporters.

Arrangements have been made with manufacturers so nursing homes can order tests, for less than they are spending now, Giroir said.

Actually providing at least one testing machine to each of the 15,400 nursing homes is still being worked out, but it’s a top priority, Giroir said.

“This is not wrapped up with a bow on it,” he told reporters on a recent call. “We (are) doing this as aggressively as possible.”

The administration hopes to deliver 2,400 fast-test machines and hundreds of thousands of test kits by mid-August, Giroir said.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that getting a machine to every nursing home could take 14 weeks, the AP noted.

“Part of the problem is resources and a lack of clarity about who pays for this in the future.” Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, told the AP.

“Doing one round of testing doesn’t really solve the problem in a pandemic that could last months or years,” she said.

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