What We're Reading: Top Vaccine Candidates Available; Hydroxychloroquine Exhibits No Benefit; Death Toll Rises

May 12, 2020

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said there are 7 or 8 top vaccine candidates for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); hydroxychloroquine alone, or paired with azithromycin, showed no benefit for hospitalized patients with severe cases of COVID-19; the reported death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 80,000 yesterday, with a CDC report suggesting that thousands of unreported New York City deaths may be linked to the virus.

Top Vaccine Candidates Detailed by WHO

Yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a United Nations Economic and Social Council video briefing that there are 7 or 8 top candidates for a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, according to The Associated Press. Although initial thinking 2 months ago was that it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine, Ghebreyesus detailed the ongoing accelerated effort to move up that timeline, assisted by the $8 billion given by leaders from 40 countries, organizations, and banks for research, treatment, and testing. However, he says the $8 billion will not suffice, and additional funds are needed to speed up vaccine development and production.

Hydroxychloroquine Exhibits No Benefit for COVID-19

According to research published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there was no observed advantage for patients in New York with COVID-19 who took hydroxychloroquine alone or with azithromycin. Reported by POLITICO, these results echo findings from previous trials that suggested hydroxychloroquine causes serious heart problems, which are further intensified when the drug is given in conjunction with azithromycin. Lead researcher David Holtgrave stressed that the study solely analyzed hospitalized patients who were already severely ill and that other research is still being conducted on mildly ill patients for whether hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent the virus.

Death Toll From COVID-19 Exceeds Season Flu

Based on a Reuters tally, the US COVID-19 death toll surpassed 80,000 on Monday amid steps taken by states to ease lockdown measures. Overall, total US infections have exceeded 1.3 million, with the death toll now higher than any fatalities from the seasonal flu since 1967 and more than the first 8 years of the AIDS epidemic (1981-1988). These findings add to information released yesterday by the CDC that the COVID-19 death toll in New York City is likely much higher than reported. Reported by The Wall Street Journal, 24,172 more people died than usual between March 11 and May 2, indicating that these deaths may be linked to COVID-19 or caused by circumstances related to the pandemic.