Apr 26, 2020 - Health

WHO warns against coronavirus "immunity passports"

A testing lab wear in Leonardtown, Maryland. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The World Health Organization said in a scientific brief there's "no evidence” that people who recover from the novel coronavirus and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

Why it matters: Several countries, including the U.S., are weighing allowing people who have recovered from COVID-19 to carry "immunity passports" or "risk-free certificates," enabling them to travel or return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection. "The use of such certificates may ... increase the risks of continued transmission," the WHO said in the brief.

What they're saying: "At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate,'" the WHO said.

  • The agency said it's continuing to review the evidence on antibody responses to the virus, which has infected almost 2.9 million people and killed over 200,000 worldwide — with more than 938,000 cases and over 53,700 deaths reported in the U.S., per Johns Hopkins.

The big picture: Chile has announced plans to issue "immunity passports." The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have been looking into the move. Anthony Fauci told CNN this month that U.S. officials were discussing the subject. "I think it might actually have some merit," the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director added.

  • Onfido, a San Francisco-based identity verification company, is working with at least one European government to develop phone-based immunity passports for people who've recovered from COVID-19 and tested positive for antibodies, per Axios' Dan Primack.
  • The firm "has not yet spoken with U.S. officials, but CEO Husayn Kassai tells Axios that there have been indirect discussions at both the federal and state levels via partners," Primack notes.

Go deeper: How coronavirus antibody tests will help 

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Updated 7 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Florida reported on Wednesday its largest number of new novel coronavirus cases in a single day since April 17. 1,317 people tested positive to take the state total to 58,764, per the state's health department. Despite the rise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said bars and clubs could reopen on Friday.

By the numbers: More than 107,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and over 1.8 million people have tested positive, per data from Johns Hopkins. More than 479,000 Americans have recovered and over 18 million tests have been conducted.

Coronavirus hospitalizations keep falling

Data: COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute; Note: Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Tennessee and Puerto Rico have not reported hospitalizations consistently. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to decline, particularly in New York and other northeastern states that were among the hardest hit by the virus.

Yes, but: Some states are still recording stagnant or rising amounts of hospitalizations.

16 hours ago - Health

Hydroxychloroquine failed to prevent coronavirus infections

Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Hydroxychloroquine, a drug that treats malaria and lupus, did not prevent people from getting COVID-19 if they were exposed to the virus, according to data from a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The bottom line: There has been widespread confusion about hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness — President Trump and other conservatives touted the pill with little sound evidence, while other flawed studies suggested it was harmful. But this trial authoritatively says the drug "didn't work" as a preventive medication for this coronavirus, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease doctor told the Washington Post.