Health Highlights: May 18, 2020

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

WHO’s Response to Coronavirus Pandemic Should Be Evaluated: Member Nations

An independent evaluation of the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is needed to “to review experience gained and lessons learned,” says a resolution backed by more than half of the WHO’s member nations.

The evaluation should be launched “at the earliest appropriate moment” and should examine “the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic,” along with other issues, according to the resolution, the Associated Press reported.

The resolution will be discussed virtually this week by the WHO’s decision-making body.

WHO called the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency on Jan. 30 but said transmission was limited. It declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11 after large outbreaks had occurred in a number of countries and there had been thousands of deaths worldwide, the AP reported.


Coronavirus Tests Available to Anyone in LA

Demand for coronavirus tests surged in Los Angeles after it was announced that anyone with or without COVID-19 symptoms could get tested as often as they want.

After Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent announcement, people rushed to use a website to book a test, the Associated Press reported.

But even with that increased demand, the city has such a large supply of tests that thousands still go unused each week, according to figures from the mayor’s office.

Los Angeles County is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in California, which is using expanded testing as the cornerstone of its plan to loosen its stay-at-home order, the AP reported.


Large-Scale Testing of Some Coronavirus Vaccines Could Start in July: NIH Director

A number of coronavirus vaccines under development “look pretty promising” and one or two could be ready for large-scale testing by July, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health says.

“Your big challenge now is to go big and everybody is about ready for that. And we want to be sure that happens in a coordinated way,” Francis Collins told the Associated Press.

The NIH is working with some the world’s largest drug makers to develop a master plan for vaccine makers to follow.

Even though no vaccine has been developed, the Trump administration says it’s aiming to have 300 million doses available to distribute to Americans by January, the AP reported.

That’s a “very bold plan … a stretch goal if there ever was one,” Collins said.

But if “we can get this vaccine out there even a day sooner than otherwise we might have, that’s going to matter to somebody,” he told the AP.

Collins emphasized that “no corners are going to be cut” on safety as researchers rush to create a vaccine.

About a dozen potential vaccines worldwide are in the initial stages of, or set to begin, testing in people. These small safety studies are designed to detect problems and whether a vaccine boosts the immune system, the AP reported.


Abbott Rapid Coronavirus Test Could Miss Infections: FDA

A rapid coronavirus test being used across the United States could miss could miss infections, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

Some scientific studies have suggested that the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test may return false negative results, and the FDA has received 15 reports about the device that suggest it failed to diagnose coronavirus infections, the agency said.

“We are still evaluating the information about inaccurate results and are in direct communications with Abbott about this important issue. We will continue to study the data available and are working with the company to create additional mechanisms for studying the test,” Dr. Tim Stenzel, director, Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in an FDA news release.

A study released this week by NYU Langone Health researchers concluded that the Abbott ID Now test could miss coronavirus infections up to 48% of the time. The study has not been peer-reviewed.

The test is designed to be used in doctor’s offices and clinics, and is being used in drive-through testing sites nationwide and also at the White House to test staff.

In a statement, Abbott said its reported rate of missed infections with the test was 0.02% and that the NYU Langone findings were “not consistent with other studies of the test,” The New York Times reported.