Health Highlights: June 5, 2020

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

NIH Head Fears Some Will Bypass a COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Francis Collins, who heads the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is worried that anti-vaxxers will disrupt efforts to convince Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, CNN reported Thursday.

“I’m a bit concerned to see there’s a fair amount of skepticism in the American public about whether or not they would take such a vaccine,” he told CNN. “We won’t get past COVID-19 unless we have a substantial majority of our public ultimately rendered immune.”

Some experts think the vaccine campaign, which President Donald Trump has dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” makes it sound like speed outweighs safety, CNN reported.

“I want to assure everybody who’s heard the [words] ‘warp speed’ and worried that that means we’re cutting corners on safety, that we absolutely will not do this,” Collins said. “No vaccine is going to be put forward unless it’s been checked out very thoroughly, both in terms of is it safe and does it protect you.”

A vaccine is expected early in 2021. Collins said he hopes “the American public will embrace this as an opportunity to protect themselves, and the rest of their community, in order to get us all back to some sort of normal state.”


Two Studies Dispelling Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 Retracted by Researchers

Two studies that tossed cold water on a malaria drug that has been touted by President Donald Trump as a potential COVID-19 treatment were both retracted by researchers on Thursday.

One report was published May 22 in The Lancet, while the other was published on May 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Both concluded that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were of no use in treating COVID-19 and might even cause heart harms.

More rigorous research, culled from the first large, controlled clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine and published June 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no prevention benefit from the drug. In that randomized study of more than 800 people, researchers found the drug didn’t prevent infection among people exposed to the virus, according to the The New York Times.

The Lancet paper prompted the World Health Organization to pause on using the drug in ongoing COVID-19 treatment trials recently, but the WHO went back to the using the drug in its trials this week, the Times reported.

Despite a lack of evidence for efficacy, Trump took the drug to try to prevent infection after possible exposure to two White House staffers who were infected. That decision was made even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of serious abnormal heart rhythms among COVID-19 patients.

The huge database used in both of the retracted studies came from Surgisphere, a company owned by Dr. Sapan Desai, one of the researchers, the Times said.

The other researchers tried to verify the data, but were stonewalled by Desai, the Times reported.

“We launched an independent third-party peer review of Surgisphere with the consent of Sapan Desai to evaluate the origination of the database elements, to confirm the completeness of the database, and to replicate the analyses presented in the paper,” the researchers said in their retraction.

“Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements,” the researchers added.


George Floyd Had Coronavirus, Autopsy Confirms

Although it had nothing to do with his brutal death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, George Floyd had been infected with the pandemic coronavirus, CNN reported Thursday.

He had a positive test in April and his autopsy last week also found the virus. But it’s doubtful that he was contagious, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

“Since … positivity for (COVID-19) can persist for weeks after the onset and resolution of clinical disease, the autopsy result most likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent … positivity from previous infection,” the medical examiner’s report said.

Floyd wasn’t brought down by the pandemic that has killed more U.S. blacks than whites or any other group, CNN says.

Blacks make up about 13% of Americans, but counties with a high number of blacks account for more than 50% of all coronavirus cases and nearly 60% of deaths, a study found.

Protests calling out police brutality have increased the risks of being infected as people gather closely, despite the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus, CNN noted.