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Health Highlights: Oct. 29, 2020

By HealthDay Staff HealthDay Reporter

U.S. Government to Cover COVID-19 Vaccine, Treatments

Insurance rules that will grant every American free access to COVID-19 vaccines when they are approved were issued by the government on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

The rules, from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also increase what Medicare pays hospitals for COVID-19 treatments.

The changes come as coronavirus infections are rising across the country in a third wave that could eclipse the number of cases seen earlier this year, according to the AP.

There is already legislation making the vaccines free, but the new rules were necessary to bring that legislation in line with existing insurance policies.

"CMS is acting now to remove bureaucratic barriers while ensuring that states, providers and

health plans have the information and direction they need to ensure broad vaccine access and coverage for all Americans," CMS head Seema Verma said in a statement. The regulations take effect immediately, the AP said.

Sewage Shows America Awash With COVID-19

Samples taken from sewage water across the country show that the coronavirus is widespread, CNN reported Wednesday.

Rosa Inchausti and her colleagues have been testing wastewater in Tempe, Ariz., since 2018 looking for traces of opioids. But now they're looking for COVID-19.

And things are not looking good in Tempe, Boston, Reno, Nev., or in many other cities. Things could also get a whole lot worse.

"It's a leading indicator," Inchausti told CNN. "The proof is in the poop."

Mariana Matus, co-founder and CEO of Biobot Analytics, which analyzes sewage for many customers, told CNN that sewage testing can show the virus is circulating even before people start getting sick.

"People start shedding virus pretty quickly after they are infected and before they start showing symptoms," Matus said.

In Boston, there was a spike in viral samples in April and May, lessening through the summer.

Now the virus is showing up again, at levels near to what was seen at the height of the pandemic, CNN reported.

"We are seeing an upturn in the wastewater data, which I think broadly matches what we are seeing across the country," Matus said. "It's been interesting seeing this almost second wave."

"I think that it is pretty good evidence that we need to pay attention. Communities need to pay attention," Matus told CNN.

Pfizer to Seek Emergency Authorization for COVID-19 Vaccine

In November, Pfizer plans to ask the U. S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine after safety milestones are achieved, CBS News reported Tuesday.

Pfizer said its final trial vaccine trial has enrolled almost all of the planned 44,000 participants worldwide. Nearly 36,000 had gotten the second shot of the vaccine as of Monday.

The trial includes people as young as 12 and those with chronic, stable HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, CBS News reported.

Pfizer expects to know soon if the vaccine is effective or not -- Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had said they expect to know if the vaccine works by the end of October.

The company has contracts with the United States, the European Union and about 10 countries to deliver hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine next year, assuming it's approved, CBS News reported.

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