Health News Roundup: Reaching herd immunity in a viral pandemic; Argentina joins Chinese coronavirus vaccine trial and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

U.S. CDC reports 173,490 deaths from coronavirus

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday said the number of deaths due to the new coronavirus had risen by 1,074 to 173,490 and reported 5,551,793 cases, an increase of 44,864 cases from its previous count. The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4 pm ET on Aug. 20 versus its previous report a day earlier.

COVID-19 era highlights U.S. ‘black hole’ compensation fund for pandemic vaccine injuries

A U.S. government program that compensates people who say they have been harmed by an emergency vaccine has paid out on fewer than 10% of claims, raising questions whether the process should be used to address any potential side effects from a coronavirus shot, according to some lawyers who have filed such claims. The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), run by an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has been designated to handle any issues with a COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna says more than 40% of participants enrolled for a COVID-19 vaccine trial

Drug developer Moderna Inc on Friday said it has so far enrolled 13,194 participants in the ongoing late-stage 30,000-volunteer U.S. trial testing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. In a tweet, the company also said that 18% of the participants currently enrolled are Black, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, groups among the hardest hit by the coronavirus virus pandemic.

India coronavirus cases jump by the record as tally nears 3 million

India reported a record daily jump of coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total near 3 million and piling pressure on authorities to curb huge gatherings as a major religious festival began. The 69,878 new infections – the fourth straight day above 60,000 – take India’s total cases to 2.98 million, behind only the United States and Brazil. COVID-19 deaths increased by 945 to 55,794, data from the federal health ministry showed.

WHO chief hopes coronavirus pandemic will last less than two years

The World Health Organization hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be shorter than the 1918 Spanish flu and last less than two years, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday if the world unites and succeeds in finding a vaccine. The WHO has always been cautious about giving estimates on how quickly the pandemic can be dealt with while there is no proven vaccine.

Argentina joins Chinese coronavirus vaccine trial, the maker says

Argentina joined Peru, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates in approving Phase 3 clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company said late Friday. As China forges ahead in the global race to develop a vaccine to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and as cases within China dwindle, CNBG needs research participants from other countries for testing.

Novartis immuno-oncology drug candidate fails skin cancer trial

Swiss drugmaker Novartis said on Saturday that its investigational spartalizumab immuno-oncology drug mixed with the approved medicines Tafinlar and Mekinist failed in a late-stage trial for a type of advanced skin cancer. The drug did not improve progression-free survival in previously untreated patients with BRAF V600 mutation-positive cutaneous melanoma, compared to Tafinlar + Mekinist alone, Novartis said.

Israel’s coronavirus chief urges Ukraine to ban Jewish pilgrimage

The head of Israel’s coronavirus task force has asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to ban an annual pilgrimage in which Hasidic Jews visit the central Ukrainian town of Uman over concerns the site may become a virus hotspot. Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend on Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810. This year, Jewish New Year celebrations run from Sept. 18-20.

Explainer: Reaching herd immunity in a viral pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought “herd immunity” to the public consciousness, kindling hope the phenomenon can help slow or even end the outbreak. Herd immunity refers to a large portion of a community developing a degree of immunity to a virus, thereby reducing person-to-person spread. As a result, the whole community gains protection, not just those who are immune.

Exclusive: Nearly a fifth of enrollees in Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine studies are Black or Latino

Nearly a fifth of 11,000 people enrolled so far in a 30,000-volunteer U.S. trial testing a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech are Black or Latino, groups among the hardest hit by the coronavirus virus pandemic, a top Pfizer executive said. “Between Latinx and Black or African American populations, we’re running at about 19 percent or so,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told Reuters in an interview.



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