COVID-19 Update: New Data on Vaccines, Dexamethasone Results

Victoria Giardina

July 20, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape's editors around the globe think you need to know about today:

New Data on Vaccines

Results from early-stage trials of two more experimental SARS-CoV-2 vaccines showed they both evoked immune responses and appeared safe enough to continue testing. In the University of Oxford's phase 1/2 trial, its vaccine candidate provoked a T-cell response peaking 14 days after vaccination and an antibody response within 28 days.

"The difficulty that we have, and that all vaccine developers have in trying to make a vaccine against this particular virus, is that we don't know how strong that immune response needs to be," said Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher of the vaccine development program and professor of vaccinology at Oxford.

Another vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics and China's military research unit, was shown to be safe while inducing immune responses in most trial participants, Reuters reported

Dexamethasone Results

The peer-reviewed, published results of the RECOVERY trial of low-dose dexamethasone for COVID-19 confirmed preliminary findings that it could save the lives of up to one third of hospitalized patients with severe respiratory complications, Medscape News UK reported

The full results of the trial detailed lower 28-day mortality from dexamethasone treatment among those receiving either invasive mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen, but no effect for patients who did not require respiratory support. 

"The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients," said Peter Horby, MD, PhD, a chief investigator of the trial.

Tracker App Suggests Different Symptom Clusters

Scientists from King's College London who analyzed data from a symptom-tracking app described six different clusters of COVID-19 symptoms, Reuters reported. Their study, posted as a preprint, correlates the symptom clusters with severity of infection and with the likelihood of a patient needing supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation if he or she is hospitalized. 

The scientists suggest that their findings could help doctors predict which patients are most at risk and likely to need hospital care in future waves of the pandemic. 

FDA-Approved Sample Pooling

Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration issued its first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 diagnostic test to be used with pooled samples, the agency announced in a news release. The EUA allows a Quest PCR test to run on pooled samples from up to four individuals' swab specimens, rather than testing each sample individually.

"This EUA for sample pooling is an important step forward in getting more COVID-19 tests to more Americans more quickly while preserving testing supplies," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in the press release. "Sample pooling becomes especially important as infection rates decline and we begin testing larger portions of the population."

Medicaid Federal Aid Deadline Reset

Pediatricians and other healthcare professionals who see patients enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance (CHIP) program now have an extended deadline of August 3 to apply for federal aid to alleviate COVID-19–induced economic hardship. 

Stillbirth Incidence Increases

The incidence of stillbirth has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a comparative study of pregnancy outcomes at St. George's University Hospital in London. 

"The increase in stillbirths may have resulted from indirect effects such as reluctance to attend hospital when needed (e.g., with reduced fetal movements), fear of contracting infection or not wanting to add to the National Health Service burden," the study authors write.

In Memoriam

As frontline healthcare workers care for patients with COVID-19, they commit themselves to difficult, draining work and also put themselves at risk for infection. More than 1700 throughout the world have died. 

Medscape has published a memorial list to commemorate them. We will continue updating this list as, sadly, needed. Please help us ensure this list is complete by submitting names with an age, profession or specialty, and location through this form

If you would like to share any other experiences, stories, or concerns related to the pandemic, please join the conversation here.

Victoria Giardina is Medscape's editorial intern. She has previously written for The Dr. Oz Show and is currently a national lifestyle writer for Her Campus . She can be reached at vgiardina@webmd.net or on Twitter @VickyRGiardina .

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