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Health Highlights: Sept. 4, 2020


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

Russia COVID-19 Vaccine Produces Immune Response

A new Russian COVID-19 vaccine generated antibodies in dozens of study participants, according to research published Friday in The Lancet journal, CNN reports.

Although the vaccine often had side effects such as fever, these side effects were mostly mild, scientists report.

Russia was widely criticized when it approved the vaccine for use before phase 3 trials were completed. In small, earlier studies, the vaccine produced antibodies in all 76 participants.

As reported by CNN, the new study found levels of immune system antibodies generated by the vaccine were similar to those people have after recovering from COVID-19.

Brendan Wren, a professor of microbial pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told CNN that, "the data on the Russian vaccine studies reported in The Lancet are encouraging," but larger phase 3 trials are still needed to confirm the vaccine's safety and effectiveness. He was not involved in the study.

In the study, 50% of the participants developed fevers and 42% developed headaches after getting the shot. Also, about 28% experienced weakness and 24% had joint pain. But these symptoms were short-lived, researchers said.

The Russian research team, from the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, were approved on Aug. 26 to conduct a phase 3 trial, which is expected to include 40,000 volunteers.

High-risk groups are already receiving the vaccine, according to Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which is financing Russian vaccine research, CNN reported.

The Gamaleya team is using the same approach as vaccine development teams at the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca, CNN said. The vaccine is given in two doses, each using a different adenovirus.

Adenoviruses include viruses that cause the common cold. Scientists are using these viruses in COVID-19 vaccines because they have components that mimic the protein "spike" found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus. That should help the immune systems of vaccine recipients generate a good response against SARS-CoV-2.

"Using two different [adeno]viruses gives a theoretical advantage," Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told CNN.

Russia has said it plans to begin mass vaccination in October, and the country's frontline medical staff and teachers will be the first to get shots.

But polls suggest that about half of Russian citizens remain skeptical about the vaccine. Two months ago, 90% were skeptical, CNN reported.

Russia isn't the only country speeding development of a vaccine -- China approved an experimental vaccine in June. Beginning in in July and August, China started giving the vaccine to people working in "high-risk" jobs, such as frontline medical professionals and border inspectors, CNN reported.

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COVID-19 Halts, Complicates Hollywood Productions

The coronavirus has curbed moviemaking just as productions have been restarted, the Washington Post reported Friday.

"The Batman" had just begun reshooting in London when star Robert Pattinson reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, stopping production.

Some other productions are restarting, but with big changes. Parts of production are being done in COVID-safe "pods," and sets have "zones" that control who can be in certain areas. Also, COVID-19 monitors are used to check the health of the cast and crew, the Post reported. Some productions have moved to other states or overseas, where virus cases are low and regulations have eased.

Crews, casts and even hotel workers are tested often and not allowed to interact with other people.

"Jurassic World: Dominion," has been shooting outside London since July and James Cameron's "Avatar" sequels are filming in New Zealand, as is Amazon's "Lord of the Rings" series. The fourth installment of "The Matrix" is shooting in Berlin, the Post reported.

The virus has made crowd scenes impossible and love scenes tricky, filming on location tough and multiple takes too costly. Delays have cost studios billions of dollars, the Post said.

One of Hollywood's biggest stars, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, told fans this week that he and his family had the virus. He urged fans to wear masks and stay cautious, even among close friends. Johnson and his family have recovered after they got the virus from friends at a dinner in his home, the Post reported.

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COVID-19 Could Claim 400,000 U.S. Lives By Jan.1, Experts Say

COVID-19 could kill as many as 410,000 Americans by Jan. 1, the latest model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts, CNN reported Friday.

That's 224,000 more deaths over the next four months. The model also suggests that if everyone wore face masks, 122,000 of those lives could be saved.

If all restrictions are lifted, however, the death toll could reach more than 620,000. Deaths could reach 3,000 a day by December if the public becomes less vigilant, the experts said.

The model's predictions come a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted 211,000 deaths by Sept. 26, CNN reported.

As colleges and schools reopen, young people are being warned to be careful as COVID-19 infections are soaring among younger populations.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told CNN that about 30% of the new cases in the state are among the young.

"While young, healthy people are likely to have mild symptoms and quick recoveries ... they may unknowingly carry COVID-19 to someone older or with underlying conditions, who are unable to fight off the virus. This is why it is so important for young people to take precautions and understand the responsibility," Parson said.

Colleges in at least 40 states have seen outbreaks, CNN reported.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that colleges should open only under certain conditions.

"They've got to have the capability of doing the testing to begin with, they've got to have the capability of doing surveillance testing as you get into the school year, and they have to have a plan of how they handle the inevitability of some students who are going to wind up getting affected," Fauci said.

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Science Not Yet Advanced Enough for Genetic Editing of Embryos: Expert Panel

Genetic editing of embryos should not be attempted yet because the science isn't advanced enough to ensure safety, an international panel of experts says.

Their paper was released nearly two years after a Chinese scientist claimed he'd helped create the world's first gene-edited babies, which was widely condemned as unethical, the Associated Press reported.

If a country permits genetic editing of embryos, it should restrict it to cases where people have no or very poor options for having a child without a serious genetic disease, said the panel that was formed by the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom's Royal Society.

The panel didn't take a position on whether genetic editing of embryos is ethical. A report on that issue is expected later this year from a panel formed by the World Health Organization, the AP reported.

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