Health Highlights: May 19, 2020

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

Large Decline Seen in U.S. Childhood Vaccination Rates During Pandemic

There’s been a significant decline in U.S. childhood vaccination rates during the coronavirus pandemic, and that has experts worried.

Children have fallen behind on vaccinations for diseases such as measles and whooping cough because fear of contracting the coronavirus has kept many parents from taking their children to doctors for well-child visits, The New York Times reported.

May vaccination rates for children aged 5 months and younger in Michigan fell to 49.7%, compared to about two-thirds in May 2016, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

The falling childhood vaccination rates in Michigan are concerning and quite likely mirror trends nationwide, study co-author Angela Shen, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Times.

Those falling rates could endanger the herd immunity that’s been built up against diseases such as measles, she warned.

A community vaccination rate from 93% to 95% is needed to prevent a widespread outbreak of measles, according to public health officials.

“You are prone to potentially seeing measles outbreaks as communities and jurisdictions in Michigan — and arguably in other parts of the country — open up,” Shen, a retired captain in the U.S. Public Health Service, told the Times.

“This is a big week for opening up, and public health wants you to come in and get your shots,” she added.


Use ‘Extreme Caution’ in Reopening Nursing Homes: CMS

State governors should use “extreme caution” in deciding when to allow visits to nursing homes to resume, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday.

It doesn’t offer firm dates for doing so, but outlines a number of factors that local and state health officials should weigh, including adequate staffing levels and the ability to regularly test all residents and employees, the Associated Press reported.

The agency advises that opening nursing homes to visitors shouldn’t occur before all residents and staff have tested negative for the new coronavirus for at least 28 days.

It’s been more than two months since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ordered nursing homes to ban visitors.

“We’re urging governors to proceed with extreme caution because these are the most vulnerable citizens. We know that nursing homes have struggled,” CMS head Seema Verma told the AP.

There have been more than 33,000 deaths due to coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. nursing homes, which is more than one-third of all coronavirus deaths nationwide, according to the AP.


Pro Sports Should Plan to Resume Play: NY Governor

Professional sports teams should start planning to resume play without fans, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

“New York state will help those major sport franchises to do just that,” Cuomo said, CBS News reported. “Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen we’re a ready, willing and able partner.”

Even if there are no fans at games, they could be televised, Cuomo said.

He made the comments as the state continued to have declines in coronavirus-related hospitalizations, intubations and deaths, CBS News reported.

Major League Baseball is already making plans to start play.


Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Appears Safe, Triggers Immune Response

An experimental vaccine against the new coronavirus appears to be safe and to trigger an immune response, according to results of the first human clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

The findings from the early-stage trial that started in March included eight healthy people who each received two doses of the vaccine, The New York Times reported.

The volunteers made antibodies that were able to stop the coronavirus from replicating, and the levels of the antibodies were similar to those in people who’ve recovered after contracting the virus, according to vaccine maker Moderna.

The company said the next phase of the testing will involve 600 people and is scheduled to begin soon, but U.S. officials have cautioned that it could take a year to 18 months to produce a vaccine that would be widely available, The Times reported.