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Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 26th Feb 2021

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China approves two more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use

China approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use Thursday, adding to its growing arsenal of shots. The National Medical Products Administration gave conditional approval to a vaccine from CanSino Biologics and a second one from state-owned Sinopharm. Both are already being used among select groups of people under an emergency use authorization. China now has four vaccines to immunize its population. CanSino said its one-shot vaccine candidate is 65.28% effective 28 days after the dose is given. It can be stored at 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius, “making it more accessible especially to the regions with underserved public health,” it said in a statement.
25th Feb 2021 - The Independent

COVID-19: One in seven people now have coronavirus antibodies as vaccine rollout continues

One person in seven has antibodies against COVID-19, with the vaccine starting to add to the population's immunity, according to new research. Blood tests on more than 154,000 people across England showed that between 26 January and 8 February,
25th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is 92% effective at preventing serious illness, Israeli study says

Ninety-two per cent of recipients of the Pfizer vaccine have been protected from developing severe symptoms of Covid-19, the most comprehensive study of the jab has found. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, was based on data from 1.2 million patients of Israel’s largest healthcare provider, half of whom had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It was conducted by doctors and researchers led by Professor Ran Balicer, of Israel’s Clalit Health Services, along with a team of senior researchers from Harvard University, and is the largest study of its kind.
25th Feb 2021 - The Times

California coronavirus variant is resistant to antibodies, but vaccines should still work

Early studies show the coronavirus variant that’s spreading widely across California is somewhat resistant to antibodies that fight off infection, but the vaccines still should offer plenty of protection, infectious disease experts say. Antibodies generated by the vaccines, or by previous coronavirus infection, were two to four times stronger against earlier versions of the virus compared to the new variant, scientists at UCSF found in laboratory studies. They released preliminary results this week.
25th Feb 2021 - San Francisco Chronicle

First universal coronavirus vaccine will start human trials this year

The coronavirus sweeping around the world isn’t the first to make the leap into humans and it won’t be the last. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 were developed in record time and are performing well. But now we urgently need a different kind of vaccine, say scientists: one that will protect us against other coronaviruses, even those we haven’t met yet.
25th Feb 2021 - New Scientist

How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants?

How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants? By tweaking their vaccines, a process that should be easier than coming up with the original shots. Viruses constantly mutate as they spread, and most changes aren't significant. First-generation COVID-19 vaccines appear to be working against today's variants, but makers already are taking steps to update their recipes if health authorities decide that's needed.
25th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Pfizer and BioNTech Studying Third Covid-19 Vaccine Dose to Fight New Strains

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have begun a study testing in people whether the companies’ Covid-19 shot can provide protection against emerging strains of the coronavirus. The companies said Thursday they have started the small study to see whether a third dose of their authorized Covid-19 vaccine would increase its effectiveness against new variants, such as the strain first identified in South Africa. The approach differs from that of Moderna Inc., which said Wednesday it had made a new vaccine targeting the strain found in South Africa and shipped doses to U.S. government researchers for human testing.
25th Feb 2021 - Wall Street Journal

GSK narrows focus on elderly in trial to treat pneumonia from COVID-19

GlaxoSmithKline will extend a trial testing an experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug on patients suffering from pneumonia related to COVID-19 to focus on the elderly as it seeks to firm up encouraging findings so far.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Moderna sees $18.4 billion in sales from COVID-19 vaccine in 2021

Moderna Inc said on Thursday it was expecting sales of $18.4 billion from its coronavirus vaccine this year, putting it on the path to post a profit for the first time since its formation in 2010. Moderna and Pfizer Inc are the only drugmakers whose vaccines have been cleared for emergency use against COVID-19 in the United States so far. Pfizer earlier this month forecast $15 billion in its share of sales from the COVID-19 vaccine it developed jointly with partner BioNTech.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

England minorities: Higher COVID-19 cases, fewer vaccinated

England’s ethnic minority communities have higher levels of COVID-19 infections and lower levels of vaccine acceptance than other groups, according to a new study that highlights how the pandemic is worsening health inequalities. The study found that 92% of people across England either have received or would accept a vaccine. But that figure dropped to 87.6% for Asians and 72.5% for Blacks, according to the study released Thursday by Imperial College London. Researchers also found that most people of all age groups produced disease-fighting antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
25th Feb 2021 - The Independent

AZ to divert COVID-19 vaccines from global supply chain to meet EU target -

AstraZeneca has said it will be able to meet a target to deliver 180 million COVID-19 vaccines to the EU in the second quarter, by topping up the supply from its global production network. The company released a statement saying it will meet the EU’s targets by using its global supply chain to make up for any shortfall in Europe, where it is struggling to get production up to speed. It released the statement following a Reuters report citing a European official, directly involved with talks over vaccine supply, stating less than half of the 180 million doses ordered will be delivered in the second quarter.
25th Feb 2021 - pharmaphorum

Experimental arthritis drug could prevent severe Covid-19 in over 70s, study finds

An experimental drug usually used to treat arthritis could help prevent severe coronavirus symptoms in those most at risk from the disease, a study has suggested. Otilimab was found to have a potential clinical benefit in treating the severe lung disease associated with Covid-19.
25th Feb 2021 - Wales Online

Moderna begins studying potential COVID-19 vaccine booster targeting variant first detected in South Africa

Drug manufacturer Moderna says it will begin testing a variant-specific version of its COVID-19 vaccine that would target the B1351 variant first detected in South Africa. The company has previously reported that its original two-dose vaccine — already approved for use in Canada — appears to provide protection against the B117 variant first detected in the U.K., as well as the B1351 variant, though its own research suggests it may be less effective against the latter. The company says it will study the B1351 variant-specific vaccine both as a potential booster to the original COVID-19 vaccine and as a standalone for people who have not yet received a vaccine at all.
25th Feb 2021 - CBC.ca

Why global Covid infections have plummeted

One explanation for the stubbornly high number of infections in Brazil is the role played by new variants, which can spread quickly across the population without a strict lockdown in place to contain them. Similarly in the UK, the B.1.1.7 variant spread rapidly before the current lockdown. Despite recent success in tackling the virus, scientists emphasised that all countries remained vulnerable to surges in new cases. “Any rapid relaxation of protective measures could produce spikes in infection rates,” said Ted Cohen, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Yale University. “There are large pools of susceptible individuals still at risk.”
25th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

China approves two COVID-19 vaccines from Sinopharm's affiliate, CanSino

China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year. Prior to formal approval for wider public use by the National Medical Products Administration, millions of doses of the two Sinopharm vaccines and Sinovac shot had been administered in China's vaccination program.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

China’s death rates didn’t rise overall at start of pandemic, study finds

In the first three months of 2020, mortality rates in Wuhan were 56 per cent higher than estimates based on average in previous years. But elsewhere they were lower than expected, which researchers said may be related to behavioural changes during lockdown
25th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

In boost for COVID-19 battle, Pfizer vaccine found 94% effective in real world

The first big real-world study of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing COVID-19, in a potentially landmark moment for countries desperate to end lockdowns and reopen economies. Up until now, most data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines has come under controlled conditions in clinical trials, leaving an element of uncertainty over how results would translate into the real world with its unpredictable variables. The research in Israel – two months into one of the world’s fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data – showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.
25th Feb 2021 - EURACTIV

Three-shot combo? Pfizer, BioNTech roll COVID-19 booster trial as real world data back first vaccine

As Pfizer and BioNTech start testing whether a third dose of their COVID-19 shot can help fend off new coronavirus variants, a massive real-world study has confirmed that its first, two-dose regimen is 94% effective. The third-dose study now underway will gauge the effects of that follow-up dose on circulating and new COVID-19 virus variants. At the same time, the companies are in talks with the FDA and EMA about studying a new booster specifically designed to tackle new variants. They're hoping to validate "future modified mRNA vaccines with a regulatory pathway similar to what is currently in place for flu vaccines,” according to a press release.
25th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Researchers find worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City

Two separate teams of researchers said this week they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast that carries mutations that help it evade the body's natural immune response -- as well as the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments. Genomics researchers have named the variant B.1.526. It appears in people affected in diverse neighborhoods of New York City, they said, and is "scattered in the Northeast." One of the mutations in this variant is the same concerning change found in the variant first seen in South Africa and known as B.1.351. It appears to evade, somewhat, the body's response to vaccines, as well. And it's becoming more common.
25th Feb 2021 - CNN

BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in a Nationwide Mass Vaccination Setting

All persons who were newly vaccinated during the period from December 20, 2020, to February 1, 2021, were matched to unvaccinated controls in a 1:1 ratio according to demographic and clinical characteristics. Study outcomes included documented infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), symptomatic Covid-19, Covid-19–related hospitalization, severe illness, and death. We estimated vaccine effectiveness for each outcome as one minus the risk ratio, using the Kaplan–Meier estimator.
24th Feb 2021 - nejm.org


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 25th Feb 2021

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COVID-19 variant spreading in New York City has mutation that may weaken effect of vaccines

B.1.526 variant first appeared in samples collected in New York City in November It now accounts for about 27 percent of viral sequences in databases used by scientists. Scientists have identified two versions of the B.1.526 variant, which are lumped together for now. One of the B.1.526 variants has the E484K mutation which scientists believe help the virus partially avoid the vaccine effects. The other has the S477N mutation which may optimize the binding process with human cells to possibly increase infection rates
25th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

FDA says Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot protects against COVID-19

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19, according to an analysis by U.S. regulators Wednesday that sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot to help tame the pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration’s scientists confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and about 85% effective against the most serious illness. The agency also said J&J’s shot — one that could help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two — is safe to use.
24th Feb 2021 - PBS

Covid-19 can survive on clothing for up to THREE DAYS - with polyester garments sustaining the virus the longest, scientists warn

Coronaviruses similar to Covid-19 can survive on clothing for up to three days, according to new research. Research carried out by De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester looked at how a coronavirus behaves on three fabrics commonly used in the healthcare industry. Polyester enables the virus to survive at infectious levels for up to 72 hours, whereas it dies within 24 hours on 100 per cent cotton.
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Sanofi and GSK start new study of COVID-19 vaccine

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have announced the initiation of a new Phase II study with 720 volunteers aged 18 and over to select the most appropriate antigen dosage for Phase III evaluation of their adjuvanted recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate. If results of the study are positive, the Phase III study will start this year in Q2, with the vaccine expected to be available later in the year in Q4. In parallel to the new Phase II study and recognising the global emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and their potential impact on vaccine efficacy, Sanofi has commenced development work against new variants which will be used to inform the next stages of the Sanofi/GSK development programme.
24th Feb 2021 - Pharmafield

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine ‘protects against Covid-19’

Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine protects against Covid, according to an analysis by US regulators. The vaccine is about 66 per cent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19, a report on Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed. It will now go forward to a panel of FDA experts who will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend the vaccine. The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days.
24th Feb 2021 - Evening Standard

Covid-19: First doses of vaccines in Scotland led to a substantial fall in hospital admissions

Rollout of the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines has led to a substantial fall in severe covid-19 cases requiring hospital admission in Scotland, suggest the results of the first study to report on the impact of the UK’s vaccination strategy.1 - The results, available as a preprint, showed that four weeks after the first doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines were administered the risk of hospitalisation from covid-19 fell by up to 85% (95% confidence interval 76 to 91) and 94% (95% CI 73 to 99), respectively.
24th Feb 2021 - The BMJ

China's bid to stop Wuhan COVID-19 spread cut deaths from other causes: study

The number of deaths in China - excluding the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan - fell slightly during the first three months of 2020, suggesting efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 reduced fatalities from other causes, a new study showed. Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysed official death registry data from Jan. 1 to March 31 last year for changes in overall and cause-specific deaths. The death rate in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was first identified, stood at 1,147 per 100,000 over the period, 56% higher than expected, they found in the study published on Wednesday by BMJ, the journal of the British Medical Association.
24th Feb 2021 - Yahoo News Singapore

Real-world trial of Pfizer COVID vaccine finds high 2-dose, good 1-dose protection

A large observational, real-world study from Israel estimates that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is 46% effective at preventing infection 14 to 20 days after the first dose and 92% 7 days after the second dose, backing the results of an earlier randomized, controlled trial, according to a study today in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). A single dose, however, was 74% effective against COVID-related hospitalization and 72% effective at preventing death.
24th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

US ready to distribute J&J COVID vaccine, White House says

Today leaders of the White House COVID-19 response team said they are ready to distribute Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine when and if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues an emergency use authorization (EUA)—which could come as early as this weekend. "We are doing the work so if the EUA is granted we will waste no time in getting life-saving vaccines into the arms of Americans," said Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 czar during today’s press conference on response efforts.
24th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Moderna sends COVID-19 booster shot for NIH testing as it hikes production targets past 2B doses

Moderna on Wednesday said it's now on track to produce 700 million vaccine doses this year, and it's still aiming for 1 billion at the high end. Last year, the company had said 500 million would be its minimum output this year, and it ratcheted up that minimum to 600 million in January. And for 2022, the biotech is planning for 1.4 billion doses—or perhaps even 2 billion, depending on the dose required for booster shots targeting new variants. The company has shipped a booster candidate to the National Institutes of Health for testing, according to Wednesday's statement; it's targeted specifically at the South Africa variant now worrying public health experts.
24th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Mission Possible: Pfizer and BioNTech star in their own vaccine discovery movie

The movie-length product placement is a behind-the-scenes look at Comirnaty, the now-authorized coronavirus shot Pfizer developed and produced in concert with its partner BioNTech. Pfizer provided the National Geographic's scientific storytellers “unprecedented access” to the vaccine's development, said Sally Susman, Pfizer executive VP and chief of corporate affairs, said. “This film is riveting and suspenseful,” Susman said in a media backgrounder from Disney Advertising Sales, the Disney group that oversees National Geographic’s CreativeWorks branded content studio, which created the film. “It is a testament to all of our employees and partners across the biopharmaceutical industry who have put in the long hours of tireless dedication and sacrifice, often working away from their families."
24th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Moderna ready to test version of Covid-19 vaccine aimed at worrisome variant

Moderna is pressing forward with a modified version of its Covid-19 vaccine meant to protect against an emerging strain of the virus, the company said Wednesday, planning to start a clinical trial as soon as regulators give the green light. Laboratory tests have suggested that Moderna’s authorized vaccine confers less protection against the variant, known as B.1.351, than it does against other strains. Pfizer has reported similar findings with its vaccine, and human trials conducted by Johnson & Johnson and Novavax suggest vaccines designed for the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 are less effective against B.1.351 as well. Moderna said it is seeking to test the novel vaccine on its own and as a combined shot with its current vaccine. It also plans to test whether giving a booster of the current vaccine on its own will give enhanced protection against new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19.
24th Feb 2021 - STAT News

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine performs as well in the real world as in clinical trials, new study concludes

Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine performed as well in the real world as it did in the clinical trial that led to its use, a large study conducted in Israel concluded. The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest to date assessing the effectiveness of the vaccine, comparing all illness, severe illness, and hospitalizations as well as deaths between 600,000 pairs of vaccinated and unvaccinated people. That a vaccine will perform as well in the real world as it does in the highly controlled setting of a clinical trial is not a given, noted senior author Ran Balicer, director of the Clalit Research Institute of Israel.
24th Feb 2021 - STAT News

FDA scientists endorse J&J’s Covid vaccine, as new data shed light on efficacy

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that the single-shot Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is effective and prevents hospitalizations from the disease. Johnson & Johnson also revealed new, encouraging data showing the vaccine may do a better-than-expected job at protecting patients against new variants of the virus that causes disease. At the same time, FDA experts said the company’s study, results of which were originally made public in a Jan. 29 press release, includes insufficient information to draw conclusions on efficacy in people older than 75.
24th Feb 2021 - STAT News

Moderna to begin clinical trials of a booster shot to protect against the South African variant

Moderna says it has shipped boosters shots of its COVID-19 vaccine, designed to protect against the South African variant, to the NIH for clinical trials. A study found Moderna's two-dose regimen had a six-fold decrease in antibody response against the variant that other common versions of the virus. Several studies suggest have suggested the variant, known as B.1.351, is more resistant to existing vaccines than other variants of the coronavirus. In the U.S., there are 46 confirmed cases of the variant across 14 states. It comes as Moderna announced it is raising its expected global vaccine production for 2021 from 600 million to 700 million
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Brits could get their Covid vaccine in a PILL in future, Oxford University says

Professor Sarah Gilbert said team were exploring new ways to deliver vaccine Also looking at whether it could be given via a nasal spray, like flu sometimes is It could help alleviate supply issues that have hindered rollouts internationally
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 24th Feb 2021

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Drug supply chain issues aren't going away, report says

The first chapter of the ninth edition of ASHP's pharmacy forecast, which was released earlier this month, is called, "The Certainty of Uncertainty for a Global Supply Chain." Written by Erin Fox, PharmD, and Aaron Kesselheim, MD, JD, MPH, the section reflects on responses to an ASHP survey from 272 experts in health-system pharmacy. Allocation guides, a push for domestic supply chains, manufacturing quality scrutiny, and more were all topics the panelists thought would be highly relevant for the next 5 years, and the authors agree. "With a global pandemic and continuing uncertainty regarding the stability and quality of the medication supply chain, health-system pharmacists must be prepared for significant disruptions to 'normal' healthcare delivery, including disruption of medication procurement," they write.
24th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Sanofi and GSK begin new study of their COVID-19 vaccine

The new Phase II study will involve 720 volunteers aged 18 years and over, and will include equal numbers of adults aged 18 to 59 years and those 60 years and above. The study will test three different antigen doses with a fixed dose of adjuvant in the total study population, at sites in the US, Honduras and Panama. Sanofi/GSK said in a statement that results of the Phase II trial will inform the Phase III protocol, adding that if data from the new trial is positive, a global late-stage trial could begin in the second quarter of 2021. Depending on the outcome of the potential Phase III trial, regulatory submissions for the vaccine could be expected in the second half of 2021, with the vaccine likely to then be available in Q4 2021 if approved.
23rd Feb 2021 - PharmaTimes

Sanofi to provide manufacturing support to Johnson & Johnson for their COVID-19 vaccine to help address global supply demands

Sanofi has entered into an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutical NV and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., two of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, under which Sanofi will support manufacturing of Janssen´s COVID-19 vaccine in order to address the COVID-19 pandemic and supply needs. Janssen has submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting Emergency Use Authorization for its single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate and an application for conditional marketing authorisation to the European Medicines Agency.
23rd Feb 2021 - PharmiWeb

Sanofi and GSK start trial of upgraded coronavirus vaccine after first version disappoints

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline on Monday announced the start of a Phase 2 study testing a new version of the experimental coronavirus vaccine the two partners have been developing. The 720-volunteer mid-stage study begins roughly two months after the partners disclosed weaker than expected results for their first vaccine candidate. Sanofi and GSK are evaluating a "refined antigen formulation" in the new trial, and could start Phase 3 testing in the second quarter if results are positive, they said in a statement. If all goes well, Sanofi and GSK hope to bring a vaccine to market by the fourth quarter of 2021. But that outcome would still represent a six-to-nine month delay from previous estimates, a significant setback for a program that was promised up to $2.1 billion in funding from the U.S. government. Multiple coronavirus vaccines are already available, and others could arrive later this year.
23rd Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

Covid-19 could become disease of the poor and persist in some areas of UK, expert warns

Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and member of the Government advisory group SPI-M, said that he was "concerned" that the virus might persist particular parts of the country. Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme whether Covid-19 could remain a "disease of the deprived", he said: "This is a real concern actually for me and I know a number of other scientists have raised this, that we may end up in a situation where we have the 'vaccine rich' and as it were, who are able to access the vaccine who have taken up the vaccine and are at much lower risk.
23rd Feb 2021 - Mirror Online

Fauci: Vaccinated people shouldn't dine indoors or go to the theater quite yet

Dr. Anthony Fauci cautions against indoor dining and theatergoing even for those fully vaccinated. The number of coronavirus cases in the US remains high. He said it'd be safer to gather indoors again as more people get vaccinated and COVID-19 cases drop.
23rd Feb 2021 - Business Insider

Covid-19: Vaccine success drives England's lockdown exit

Siren study - The Pfizer and BioNTech covid-19 vaccine is at least 70% effective against symptomatic and asymptomatic infection 21 days after the first dose and at least 85% seven days after the second dose, shows a UK study of healthcare workers. The Siren study previously investigated the effect of prior infection on protection against reinfection but has now been amended to investigate vaccine effectiveness. The first results following this update have looked at the eight weeks after the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose.
23rd Feb 2021 - The BMJ

Italy 'misled WHO on pandemic readiness' weeks before Covid outbreak

Italy allegedly misled the World Health Organization (WHO) on its readiness to face a pandemic less than three weeks before the country’s first locally transmitted coronavirus case was confirmed. Each year, countries bound by the International Health Regulations (IHR) – an international treaty to combat the global spread of disease – are required to file a self-assessment report to the WHO on the status of their preparedness for a health emergency.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Heads of COVID vaccine firms promise dose ramp-up

Today during a House Committee on Energy & Commerce hearing, chief executives from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Novovax addressed US lawmakers for the first time since July 2020 on the production of vaccines and when Americans could expect more doses. According to Richard Nettles, MD, vice president of US medical affairs for Johnson & Johnson's Janssen division, his company will be able to immediately ship vaccine doses upon a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization (EUA). An FDA advisory board meets on Feb 26 to consider granting an EUA to Johnson & Johnson.
23rd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Adults with Down syndrome 3 times more likely to die of COVID, study finds

Adults older than 40 with Down syndrome are about three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the rest of the population, pointing to the need to prioritize coronavirus vaccination to this group, a study published yesterday in the Lancet's EClinicalMedicine has found. A team led by Emory University researchers conducted the international online survey of the clinicians or caregivers of 1,046 patients with Down syndrome diagnosed as having COVID-19 from April to November 2020.
23rd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

COVAX vaccine begins shipping from India facility

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) South East Asia office said on Twitter today that the first batches rolled out from India's Serum Institute in Pune. The move comes a week after the WHO listed versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine made in India and South Korea for emergency use, which paves the way for the vaccine to be distributed by the COVAX program. The vaccines required two separate reviews and approvals, because they are made in two different facilities.
23rd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer, Moderna and J&J tout supercharged COVID-19 vaccine output, eyeing nearly 140 million new doses by March

Pfizer, which has been shipping 4 million to 5 million doses per week, plans to increase that to 13 million a week by mid-March, according to executive testimony planned for Tuesday morning's hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight arm. J&J, which reportedly had just 2 million doses in stock last week, should be able to ship 20 million by March 31—provided it wins FDA authorization as expected, Richard Nettles, M.D., vice president of U.S. medical affairs at Janssen’s infectious diseases and vaccines unit, said in his testimony. The shot is up for an FDA panel review later this week. And Moderna, which already doubled its monthly deliveries to the feds this year and has so far supplied 45 million doses of its mRNA vaccine, aims to double monthly deliveries again by April, president Stephen Hoge's testimony states.
23rd Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Pfizer eyes higher prices for COVID-19 vaccine after the pandemic wanes: exec, analyst

Amid the high-stakes fight against COVID-19, a company at the forefront of the vaccine effort is laying plans to hike prices after the crisis. A top Pfizer exec said the drugmaker aims to charge more after the "pandemic pricing environment," and an influential analyst says the company could be eying prices 3 to 4 times higher. On an earnings call earlier this month, CFO Frank D’Amelio said that “obviously,” the company is “going to get more on price” after the “pandemic pricing environment." He was speaking in response to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Jason Zemansky, who asked the management team about how profit margins for the program could change over time.
23rd Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

UK, US to achieve herd immunity in 2021, but not EU: Report

The United States and the United Kingdom are on course to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 given the speed of their mass vaccination programmes, but key European Union nations are not, according to a new report. The German database firm Statista studied the number of COVID-19 vaccines that were given on a daily basis, using recent data from local health authorities of each country.
23rd Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Not to be sniffed at: Agony of post-COVID-19 loss of smell

The doctor slid a miniature camera into the patient’s right nostril, making her whole nose glow red with its bright miniature light. “Tickles a bit, eh?” he asked as he rummaged around her nasal passages, the discomfort causing tears to well in her eyes and roll down her cheeks. The patient, Gabriella Forgione, wasn’t complaining. The 25-year-old pharmacy worker was happy to be prodded and poked at the hospital in Nice, in southern France, to advance her increasingly pressing quest to recover her sense of smell. Along with her sense of taste, it suddenly vanished when she fell ill with COVID-19 in November, and neither has returned.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

UK data: COVID-19 vaccines sharply cut hospitalizations

Two U.K. studies released Monday showed that COVID-19 vaccination programs are contributing to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, boosting hopes that the shots will work as well in the real world as they have in carefully controlled studies. Preliminary results from a study in Scotland found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced hospital admissions by up to 85% four weeks after the first dose, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot cut admissions by up to 94%. In England, preliminary data from a study of health care workers showed that the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of catching COVID-19 by 70% after one dose, a figure that rose to 85% after the second.
22nd Feb 2021 - The Associated Press


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 23rd Feb 2021

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‘Extremely promising’: 1st dose of COVID vaccine cuts illness

Data from two separate studies published in the UK, one in England and another in Scotland, have shown vaccines against COVID-19 are effective in cutting disease transmission and hospitalisations starting from the first dose. Analysis from Public Health England (PHE) published on Monday shows that the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70 percent after the first dose. That risk is reduced by 85 percent after a second dose.
23rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Novavax vaccine could be approved by JUNE - bringing another 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the US after drug company announced its final stage clinical trial in ...

Novavax has now enrolled 30,000 people in the US and Mexico to its shot trial Its CEO told Reuters last month it could deliver doses to the US by June if all goes well in its trials. The vaccine was shown to be 89.3% effective and works nearly as well against the UK variant in tests in Britain. But the shot is about 50% less effective against the South African variant. US has a contract for 100 million doses of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine. It would likely be the fourth shot authorized in the US, assuming Johnson & Johnson's vaccine gets greenlit by the FDA this week
22nd Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine cuts chance of hospitalisation for elderly by 75% after one jab, research finds

One dose of the Pfizer vaccine slashes the chances of being admitted to hospital with Covid by at least 75 per cent among over-80s, real-world data from Public Health England (PHE) has found.Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said this was at the “lower end of the estimate” and the drop in hospital admissions and deaths was thought to be even more profound. Another study found that the Pfizer/BioNTech jab also offered a high degree of protection for younger age groups.
22nd Feb 2021 - i on MSN.com

COVID-19: Vaccine rollout linked to 85% and 94% drop in coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland, study shows

The COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK could reduce a person's risk of being admitted to hospital by as much as 94% four weeks after the first dose, new data suggests. Experts examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a vaccine.
22nd Feb 2021 - Sky News

Why this week's FDA meeting on J&J's coronavirus vaccine will be important

This Friday, a group of vaccine and infectious disease experts will assemble virtually to discuss whether the Food and Drug Administration should clear Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. The meeting, convened by the FDA, is likely one of the last steps in the agency's review of J&J's shot. The regulator held similar meetings to review study results from Pfizer and Moderna and, each time, authorized the companies' vaccines the very next day. The advisers are expected to support emergency use of J&J's vaccine, as they did for Pfizer's and Moderna's. But Friday's meeting will be important viewing nonetheless, as the experts are likely to debate emerging issues like protection against new virus variants. The meeting will be broadcast through an FDA conference system as well as on Youtube. BioPharma Dive will be covering live.
22nd Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

Sanofi and GSK start test of upgraded coronavirus vaccine after first version disappoints

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline on Monday announced the start of a Phase 2 study testing a new version of the experimental coronavirus vaccine the two partners have been developing. The 720-volunteer mid-stage study begins roughly two months after the partners disclosed weaker than expected results for their first vaccine candidate. Sanofi and GSK are evaluating a "refined antigen formulation" in the new trial, and could start Phase 3 testing in the second quarter if results are positive, they said in a statement. If all goes well, Sanofi and GSK hope to bring a vaccine to market by the fourth quarter of 2021. But that outcome would still represent a six-to-nine month delay from previous estimates, a significant setback for a program that was promised up to $2.1 billion in funding from the U.S. government. Multiple coronavirus vaccines are already available, and others could arrive later this year.
22nd Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

U.K. Data Trove Shows Vaccine Program Cuts Covid-19 Hospitalizations, Deaths

A single shot of the vaccine produced by Pfizer led to a 57% reduction in cases of Covid-19 in people of age 80 and over, rising to 88% after a second dose, according to preliminary data from the U.K.
22nd Feb 2021 - Wall Street Journal

Clinical trials offer new hope for Covid-19 treatment

Clinical trials are taking place at the Great Western Hospital with the aim of finding more effective ways to treat patients with coronavirus. Operating department practitioner Helen Langton explains how her team approaches patients and families to get their consent.
22nd Feb 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19 survivors may only need one vaccine dose, study finds

Researchers looked at blood samples of 10 people previously infected with coronavirus who received one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine COVID-19 survivors had boosted levels of immune system cells and a 1,000-fold increase in levels of neutralizing antibodies. The levels were enough to neutralize both the original strain of the virus and the South African variant that is more highly contagious. Dr Anthony Fauci said the data is 'impressive' and that - if it holds up - health officials may consider letting survivors get one dose
22nd Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Blood thinners may protect against COVID-19 complications

A new study has found that administering heparin-based blood thinners to patients with COVID-19 in the first 24 hours of hospital admission reduced the risk of death. The researchers observed a 27% reduced risk of 30-day mortality among patients who received blood thinners. Severe bleeding that required a blood transfusion occurred in 4.6% of patients and was not significantly linked with early intervention to prevent coagulation.
22nd Feb 2021 - Medical News Today

This UK lockdown must be the last. Here's how we can achieve that

As the UK has yo-yoed in and out of multiple lockdowns, restrictions have harmed people’s livelihoods, businesses, mental and physical health, and their quality of life. In the first and second lockdowns, these restrictions proved insufficient to permanently drive down the prevalence of Covid-19. This time, we have been promised that all adults will have received their first vaccine dose by July – but its level of effectiveness, coupled with the potential emergence of new strains of the virus, means the vaccine rollout will not be a complete solution to the pandemic.
22nd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Delaying 2nd AstraZeneca COVID shot may boost efficacy

A single dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine offered 76% protection against COVID-19 for 3 months, at which time administering the second dose resulted in up to 47% greater protection than giving it at 6 weeks, according to a study published late last week in the Lancet. The pooled post-hoc exploratory analysis of four randomized, controlled trials led by researchers from Oxford University involved 17,178 adults in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa from Apr 23 to Dec 6, 2020. The study also examined the effect of one versus two doses of the vaccine in reducing community spread of COVID-19 and the protection conferred by a low dose followed by a standard dose versus two standard doses.
22nd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

AstraZeneca's Indian COVID-19 vaccine partner told to prioritize local supplies: CEO

Low- and middle-income countries banking on doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India may have to wait a bit longer, the Indian shot maker’s CEO said over the weekend. The same goes for Europe, where officials have reportedly considered importing supplies from the world's largest vaccine maker by doses. Serum Institute has been told to prioritize supplies for India first as the country hustles to vaccinate 300 million people, or a fifth of its population, by August. The move could signal delays for other countries waiting on orders of AstraZeneca’s adenovirus shot, which Serum Institute is cranking out on license under the name Covishield.
22nd Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

After Pfizer deal, Sanofi offers a hand to Johnson & Johnson for COVID-19 vaccine production

Sanofi hasn't abandoned its COVID-19 vaccine hopes despite a setback in the high-stakes race, but as it moves two different shots forward, it's also pitching in to make doses for its usual rivals. The drugmaker on Monday inked a manufacturing tie-up with Johnson & Johnson to help produce that company’s vaccine in Europe. The deal follows a separate agreement for Sanofi to turn out 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Europe this year. When J&J's one-dose-and-done vaccine scores an authorization, Sanofi will give the company access to its plant in Marcy l’Etoile, France. Workers there will formulate the J&J vaccine and fill vials, and the site will turn out around 12 million doses per month, Sanofi said. The deal “demonstrates Sanofi’s ongoing commitment to the collective effort to ending this crisis as quickly as possible,” CEO Paul Hudson said in a statement.
22nd Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

US: South African COVID strain found in New York state resident

The first case of a fast-spreading coronavirus variant from South Africa has been discovered in a resident of the US state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Cuomo said on Sunday the case, a person from Nassau County, was detected at the Opentrons Labworks Inc’s Pandemic Response Lab. The mutated strain of the coronavirus, which was first detected in South Africa, was first discovered in the US last month.
22nd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Feb 2021

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Pfizer vaccine ‘highly effective’ in reducing coronavirus transmission, study suggests

New data from Israel suggests vaccine is 89.4 per cent effective at preventing infections, whether symptomatic or not
21st Feb 2021 - The Independent

Continent’s medics boycott Oxford jab as Europe talks down efficacy

Europe’s faltering immunisation programme has been hit by a boycott of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by medical staff concerned about its side effects and doubtful of its efficacy against new variants of Covid-19. Health workers in France and elsewhere in the EU are declining the Anglo-Swedish vaccine, increasingly portrayed in European media as a cheap and inferior alternative to the mRNA jabs made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
22nd Feb 2021 - The Times

Pfizer-BioNTech Shot Stops Covid Spread, Israeli Study Shows

The Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients in Israel becoming infected, providing the first real-world indication that the immunization will curb transmission of the coronavirus. The vaccine, which was rolled out in a national immunization program that began Dec. 20, was 89.4% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infections, according to a copy of a draft publication that was posted on Twitter and confirmed by a person familiar with the work. The companies and Israel’s Health Ministry worked together on the preliminary observational analysis, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.
22nd Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

The ticket to a return of clubs, gigs and football matches? Five-minute coronavirus test made in the UK is touted as 'game-changer' in unlocking live events

Yorkshire firm Avacta have developed a new super-fast lateral flow Covid test Understood to be in last test stage at Government top-secret Porton Down lab The test's developers say it is more accurate and faster than the US devices It is hoped that 5-minute rapid testing will be used on admission to large events
21st Feb 2021 - The Times

Sage expert calls for children to get Covid jab as schools set to reopen

Pressure is mounting on the government to prove it is safe for children to return to the classroom before it reopens schools, as one of the UK government’s scientific advisers warned that the plan could lead to a resurgence of coronavirus. In a last-minute plea before Boris Johnson announces on Monday details of plans to reopen schools in England on 8 March, unions, experts and some opposition MPs, have demanded the publication of scientific evidence informing the government’s decision.
21st Feb 2021 - The Guardian

The inside story of how the Oxford vaccine was made and the team behind it

How an email to a scientist in her pyjamas began an astonishing story — the creation of a groundbreaking vaccine in less than 12 months. Over the past year Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, has been tackling a daunting a mission: to develop a life-saving vaccine against Covid-19. It involved “logistics, teamwork and resilience”, he says. Approval of the vaccine for use in the UK, which was granted on December 30, was in some ways the summit denied him on Everest in 1994 when hw was part of the group that just fell short.
21st Feb 2021 - The Times

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines have reduced effectiveness against South African variant, studies show

President Biden hesitated in giving a specific timeline for when every American will be able to get a vaccine and when the country will be able to return to normalcy. During a visit to the Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Friday, the president said he wanted to be “straight” with the American people and explained that issues such as weather events, emerging virus mutations and manufacturing delays could pose significant challenges to the vaccination process.
20th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

Pfizer and BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine Effective After 1 Dose, Can Last 2 Weeks in Standard Freezer, Separate Research Shows

On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they have submitted new data about their BNT162b2 vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration. With this submission, the two companies hope that the FDA will update the emergency use authorization (EUA) it has granted the vaccine. The new data indicates that Pfizer and BioNTech's BNT162b2 can be kept for as long as two weeks at temperatures common to pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators, as opposed to the constant ultra-low temperature storage it initially seemed to necessitate.
20th Feb 2021 - The Motley Fool

Russia approves 3rd coronavirus vaccine before late-stage trials begin, PM says

Russia on Saturday approved a third coronavirus vaccine for domestic use, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on state TV, though large-scale clinical trials of the shot, labeled CoviVac and produced by the Chumakov Centre, have yet to begin. Russia has already approved two COVID-19 vaccines, including the Sputnik V shot, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, following a similar approach of granting approval before seeing any late-stage trial results.
20th Feb 2021 - Global News

How Google search data can predict COVID-19 outbreaks

New research finds that online searches can accurately predict regional increases and decreases in COVID-19 cases. Certain types of searches reveal the activities in which people plan to engage. The search volume for outside-the-home vs. stay-at-home activities forecasts the number of COVID-19 diagnoses 10–14 days later.
20th Feb 2021 - Medical News Today

Association between mental illness and COVID-19 in South Korea

In their nationwide cohort study, Seung Won Lee and colleagues suggest that patients with a severe mental illness had a slightly higher risk for severe clinical outcomes of COVID-19.1 Although the authors classified region of residence into urban and rural categories to adjust for potential confounding, the high number of COVID-19 cases in Daegu (the fourth most populous city in South Korea) indicates that bias could remain due to uncontrolled confounding as a result of regional differences.
20th Feb 2021 - The Lancet

Italian doctors remember night that ushered in Europe's first COVID-19 lockdown

A year ago, Laura Ricevuti and Annalisa Malara, both doctors at Codogno hospital in Italy, had a hunch that something was different about a patient in the intensive care ward. Their decision to take matters into their own hands wound up triggering a national emergency - they had identified the first case of COVID-19 in the area that would become Europe’s first lockdown zone. A previously healthy 38-year-old man, now known as Mattia, his first name, or “patient one”, had gone to the hospital with a high fever, cough and shortness of breath on Feb. 18, 2020. He refused to be admitted so was given antibiotics and went home.
20th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Elon Musk Got 4,000 SpaceX Workers to Join a Covid-19 Study. Here’s What He Learned.

To monitor the prevalence of the virus among SpaceX workers nationwide, Mr. Musk and the rocket company’s top medical executive worked with doctors and academic researchers to build an antibody-testing program. More than 4,000 SpaceX workers volunteered for monthly blood tests. This week the group published its findings, which suggest that a certain threshold of antibodies might provide people lasting protection against the virus. Mr. Musk is listed as a co-author of the peer-reviewed study, which appears in the journal Nature Communications. “People can have antibodies, but it doesn’t mean they are going to be immune” to Covid-19, said Galit Alter, a co-author of the study who is a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. Individuals who experienced fewer, milder Covid-19 symptoms generated fewer antibodies and were therefore less likely to meet the threshold for longer-term immunity, the study found.
20th Feb 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Mental anguish in COVID-19 survivors, young US adults

A research letter by Italian investigators published yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry details a study of 381 patients in Rome who had sought emergency care for COVID-19 and were given a psychiatric assessment 1 to 4 months after recovery, from Apr 21 to Oct 15, 2020. One-hundred-fifteen of 381 patients (30.2%) were diagnosed as having PTSD, while 17.3% had depression, 7.0% had generalized anxiety disorder, 0.7% were hypomanic, and 0.2% were psychotic. Women made up 55.7% of the PTSD diagnoses, and patients with PTSD reported higher rates of a history of psychiatric disorders (34.8%) and delirium or agitation when ill (16.5%) and the persistence of more than three coronavirus-related symptoms after recovery from infection (62.6%).
19th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

To get ahead of variants, Covid-19 drug makers use evolutionary biology as a guide

Before becoming a Covid-19 drug, each candidate was just a tiny fragment of someone’s immune system, part of a swarm of Y-shaped proteins unleashed to try to keep the coronavirus from invading more cells. If the person recovered, these antibodies might end up in a blood sample in a lab. Some proved more effective than others. Yet even as researchers pinpointed the best of the bunch as possible medications, they knew their power could wane: What worked against the coronavirus as it was last year could falter as the pathogen evolved.
19th Feb 2021 - Stat News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Feb 2021

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Zambia study casts doubt on the assumption that COVID-19 skipped Africa

A new study concluding out of Lusaka, Zambia last summer has found that as many as 19% (almost 1 in 5) of recently-deceased people tested positive for COVID-19. A new Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, challenges the common belief that Africa somehow "dodged" the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings indicate that low numbers of reported infections and deaths across Africa may simply be from lack of testing, with the coronavirus taking a terrible but invisible toll on the continent. Published in The BMJ, the study found that at least 15% and as many as 19% of recently-deceased people arriving at Lusaka's main morgue over the summer had the coronavirus, peaking at 31% in July. Despite most having had COVID symptoms, few were tested before death.
19th Feb 2021 - News-Medical.net

Japan finds more than 90 cases of new COVID-19 virus strain: media

Japanese health authorities have found more than 90 cases of a new strain of the COVID-19 virus, the Mainichi newspaper reported on Friday. The variant is believed to have come from overseas but is different from strains that originated in Britain and South Africa, according to the report which cited Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Japan has reported 151 cases of variants from Britain, South Africa and Brazil, according to the health ministry. The nation has had more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 with 7,194 fatalities.
19th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer to test COVID-19 vaccine engineered for South African variant

A top Pfizer Inc scientist said on Thursday the company is in intensive discussions with regulators to test a booster shot version of its coronavirus vaccine specifically targeted for a highly contagious variant that is spreading widely in South Africa and elsewhere. A laboratory study released on Wednesday suggested that the South African virus variant may reduce protective antibodies elicited by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, but it is not clear how much that reduces the shot's effectiveness against this version of the pathogen. Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer's top viral vaccine scientists and a co-author of the study, said in an interview he believes the current vaccine is highly likely to still protect against the concerning variant first discovered in South Africa. "A level of neutralizing antibodies that may be on the order of between a third and a half the level of neutralizing antibodies you see against the original virus does not mean you have only a third to half of the protection level, you may well have full protection," he said.
18th Feb 2021 - The Jerusalem Post

Pfizer says South African coronavirus variant could reduce efficacy of vaccine by two-thirds

The South African coronavirus variant may reduce protection from the Pfizer vaccine by two-thirds, according to a new laboratory study from Pfizer and BioNTech. Though it is not clear if the shot is effective against the mutation, the study did find the vaccine is still able to neutralise the virus – and there isn’t real-world evidence from human trials yet that the vaccine is ineffective against the variant. But the companies are still making investments and talking to regulators about developing an updated version of their mRNA vaccine or a booster shot, if needed.
18th Feb 2021 - Metro

Zambia study casts doubt on the assumption that COVID-19 skipped Africa

A new study concluding out of Lusaka, Zambia last summer has found that as many as 19% (almost 1 in 5) of recently-deceased people tested positive for COVID-19. A new Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, challenges the common belief that Africa somehow "dodged" the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings indicate that low numbers of reported infections and deaths across Africa may simply be from lack of testing, with the coronavirus taking a terrible but invisible toll on the continent. Published in The BMJ, the study found that at least 15% and as many as 19% of recently-deceased people arriving at Lusaka's main morgue over the summer had the coronavirus, peaking at 31% in July. Despite most having had COVID symptoms, few were tested before death.
18th Feb 2021 - The New York Times

Covid: Johnson & Johnson's vaccine may actually be TWO doses

Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine was hailed as a way to increase supply and more quickly vaccinate the U.S. population But on Thursday, Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor on COVID-19 response, said the company is testing the effectiveness of its shot with a booster It's unclear whether this will delay the vaccine being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization Worldwide, J&J's was 66% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness, including 72% effective in the U.S., but just 57% effective in South Africa
18th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine may be less likely to protect against South African variant

The Pfizer vaccine may be less likely to protect against infection from the South African variant than other strains, a laboratory study has found, although experts believe that it should still stop severe illness. Blood taken from people who received the vaccine produced two thirds fewer neutralising antibodies against a virus with the key South African mutations compared with the previous variant.
18th Feb 2021 - The Times

These Doctors Want to Pick Their Covid-19 Vaccine, Fearing Reactions, Lower Efficacy

Health-worker unions in Europe say thousands of their members refuse to take one of the three Covid-19 vaccines available in the region because of concerns over efficacy and reports of side effects, the latest setback for the continent’s slow vaccine rollout. Organizations representing health professionals across Europe said this week that doctors and nurses shouldn’t be forced to take the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC because it was shown to offer less robust protection against Covid-19 than the other two currently authorized in the European Union. They also expressed concern over reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine appeared to cause stronger reactions in recipients.
18th Feb 2021 - Wall Street Journal

Covid: Ethnicity vaccine gaps in over-70s

Black and mixed heritage people in their 70s are being vaccinated against Covid-19 at much lower rates than white people, GP records suggest. And fewer Bangladeshi and Pakistani people had been jabbed by 11 February. This follows data from earlier in the vaccination programme showing similar gaps among the over-80s. A discrepancy was not seen in the over-70s at that point, but this is most likely because very few were being vaccinated at that stage. The findings come from a study called OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The team has access to completely anonymised medical records covering 40% of GP practices in England.
18th Feb 2021 - BBC News

More than half of South Africans infected by Covid-19, says insurer

More than half the population of South Africa may have been infected by Covid-19, the head of the country’s largest health insurer has said. The nation of 58 million people has been hit by a huge second wave of infections after a new and more contagious variant raced through the population. South Africa has recorded nearly half of the Covid-19 deaths and a third of cases in Africa, although rates of testing are limited in many countries.
18th Feb 2021 - The Times

Delayed Second Dose versus Standard Regimen for Covid-19 Vaccination

Case Vignette - You chair the Governor’s task force on rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. Given concerns about the limited availability of the two-dose mRNA vaccine, you have been asked to weigh in on the debate regarding the most effective use of the currently available doses. Should people who have already received a first dose of vaccine have their second dose delayed by a number of months until there is a greater supply, so that more people can receive a first dose? Or should those who have gotten the first dose receive the second dose according to the standard schedule, 3 to 4 weeks after the first dose, as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? You must consider the benefits and risks of the two approaches, on both individual and population levels, and decide what to recommend to the task force.
18th Feb 2021 - nejm.org

How have COVID-19 pandemic school closures impacted the health of children globally?

As the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to challenge public health, most recently by the emergence of new variants of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), schools in many regions of the world continue to be largely closed. It has been estimated that from March to May 2020, this affected up to 1.5 billion children and young people (CYP). A new study by researchers in the US and the UK explores the damage caused by school closures to educational progress, health, and well-being in CYP globally. Surprisingly, the damage appears to be far less than was originally thought. The team has released their findings on the medRxiv* preprint server.
18th Feb 2021 - News-Medical.Net

Associations between feelings/behaviors during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and depression/anxiety after lockdown in a sample of Chinese children and adolescents.

Children and adolescents may be more susceptible to mental disorders due to COVID-19 pandemic than adults. This study aimed to identify correlated factors for depression/anxiety among children and adolescents after COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. An online survey by cluster sampling was conducted after lockdown in 5175 Chinese children and adolescents with informed consents from their parents. The 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire and the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scales with 10-point cutoff were used to measure depression and anxiety, separately. Stepwise logistic regression was conducted. Stata 15.1 Version was used.
18th Feb 2021 - Physician's Weekly

English lockdown reducing COVID-19 infections but prevalence still high, study finds

England’s third national COVID-19 lockdown is helping to reduce infections, a study found on Thursday, but the prevalence of cases remains high as Prime Minister Boris Johnson eyes a cautious route to re-opening the economy. Johnson is due to set out a roadmap out of the lockdown, which began on January 5, on Monday, and has said that it will be a cautious and prudent approach. The study, known as REACT-1 and led by researchers at Imperial College London, found that national prevalence was two thirds lower between Feb 4 and 13 than it had been in the previous survey that covered Jan 6-22.
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Thai-developed COVID vaccine to proceed to human trials

Thailand’s second domestically developed vaccine will soon undergo human trials, officials say, adding that the plan was to produce up to five million doses by the end of the year. The vaccine, developed by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, had been successful in trials on mice and monkeys and is due to be tested on humans in late April or early May, Kiat Ruxrungtham of the Chula Vaccine Research Center said on Thursday. “By year-end, we should have a production capacity of one to five million doses annually,” Kiat told a news conference, adding this could later rise to about 20 million doses per year. The announcement comes amid criticism that Thailand’s vaccine strategy has been slow and overly reliant on AstraZeneca shots being produced by local manufacturer Siam Bioscience, which owned by the country’s king. The Thai-developed “ChulaCov19” vaccines are initially being produced in California, but will be produced locally in later stages by Thai company Bionet Asia, Kiat said.
18th Feb 2021 - AlJazeera

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines may be less effective against B1351 variant

Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa, although the latter vaccine could offer good protection against the B117 variant first seen in the United Kingdom, according to two letters published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the letter on the Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b2 coronavirus vaccine, a team led by scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston made three recombinant viruses with different mutations using a SARS-CoV-2 isolate from January 2020. Using 20 serum samples collected from 15 participants in a 2020 trial of the vaccine 2 to 4 weeks after their second dose, they tested the samples' ability to neutralize the 2020 strain and all variants, including B1351 and B117.
18th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Vitamin D not effective in moderate to severe COVID, study finds

Less than a week after JAMA Network Open published a small study showing zinc and vitamin C were not associated with improved mild COVID-19 infections, a 240-person JAMA study also found that a single dose of vitamin D did not have any significant effect on moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The study, published yesterday by Igor Murai, PhD, a Sao Paul rheumatologist, and colleagues, reported that hospital stay was a median 7.0 days for both those in the intervention and the placebo group, and while there were differences up to 8.4 percentage points across in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and mechanical ventilation needs, they were all statistically not significant.
18th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

UK COVID-19 swab study highlights lockdown impact

The latest results from an ongoing study from Imperial College London to track COVID-19 patterns in Britain show that infections have fallen by more than two-thirds since January, likely due to lockdowns. In other global developments, the World Health Organization announced a new battle plan against COVID-19. The research team based at Imperial College London, part of the REACT program, has been using home-based swab tests to tracking virus spread, and their latest results from a preprint study include 85,000 people who were tested between Feb 4 and Feb 13. Infections fell across the country, with steeper drops in London and the South East, and more modest declines in Yorkshire and Humber. Prevalence dipped across all ages at a similar level, suggesting that the pattern is due to the lockdown, rather than vaccination. However, they warned that infections are still high, at about 1 in 200 people, with the highest levels seen in young people ages 5 to 12 and those ages 18 to 24 years old.
18th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Novavax, coronavirus shot data in hand, strikes an eye-popping supply deal with global vaccine consortium

COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax has at times flown under the radar as some of the world's leading drugmakers dominated headlines and raced toward rollouts. But an eye-popping new supply deal with international players is sure to turn heads. Novavax on Thursday unveiled a memorandum of understanding with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to provide 1.1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate to COVAX, a global effort to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. The Serum Institute of India will help produce doses under a prior deal between that company and Gavi. The deal will support work by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization to distribute doses in every country worldwide.
18th Feb 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Bring on the boosters: Studies show Pfizer, Moderna COVID vaccines are less potent against aggressive variant

In early January, researchers from the University of Texas and Pfizer published a preprint study suggesting that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could protect against a mutation discovered in the U.K. and South Africa. Two weeks later, though, news emerged that Pfizer and its partner BioNTech were working on booster shots to protect against new variants. Now there’s more evidence that Pfizer’s vaccine—as well as the other authorized mRNA vaccine from Moderna—will need to be updated to fend off aggressive new variants of COVID-19. The data are raising concerns among some analysts of "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19, even in vaccinated people, and the potential for more lockdowns this summer. In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday, Pfizer and the University of Texas said a lab study showed the vaccine was about two-thirds less potent against the South African variant of COVID-19 than it was against the original virus.
18th Feb 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Pfizer study another worry for South Africa's vaccine rollout

Scientists will meet on Thursday to advise South Africa’s government on its next steps after a study suggested the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce protective antibodies from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by two-thirds. The laboratory study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is another worry for the country hardest-hit by the pandemic on the African continent after it placed AstraZeneca vaccinations on hold earlier this month. Although its implications on the real-world efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine are not yet clear, the study comes after clinical trial data on the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Novavax vaccines showed reduced efficacy against the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant, first identified late last year.
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters

How covid-19 testing is developing and its future

An HSJ and Siemens Healthineers roundtable discussed how the covid-19 testing regime has developed to date, how it will need to evolve further to consistently reach the right person with the right test at the right time, and what its likely legacy will be for the diagnostics sphere as a whole. The words “testing” and “game changer” have frequently been seen together in the months since the pandemic began. Boris Johnson initially applied the phrase to antibody testing and then in September to rapid mass testing of asymptomatic individuals, which he suggested could offer a route to renewed social gatherings even pre-widespread vaccination. But away from such high profile proclamations, how has covid-19 testing actually developed? And how could and should it develop in the longer term?
17th Feb 2021 - Health Service Journal


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 18th Feb 2021

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Pfizer says South African variant could significantly reduce vaccine protection

A laboratory study suggests that the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE vaccine by two-thirds, and it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation, the companies said on Wednesday.
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Senate panel endorses bill seeking P500M indemnification fund for COVID-19 vaccine side effects

The Senate Finance Committee has endorsed for plenary approval a measure that would ensure availability of national funds to compensate Filipinos in case they die or experience serious side effects after receiving COVID-19 shots. Senator Sonny Angara, who serves as the chair of the panel, sponsored Bill No. 2057 or the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 on Tuesday. It consolidated the bills related to COVID-19 vaccines filed by other lawmakers. Under the bill, ₱500 million will be provided for the COVID-19 National Indemnity Fund. The money will be sourced from the contingent fund of the national budget. State insurance agency PhilHealth was tasked to oversee its administration. A special task group composed of medical and vaccine experts will conduct post-vaccination monitoring of patients.
17th Feb 2021 - CNN Philippines

Study Investigates COVID-19 in Pregnant Patients with Rheumatologic Disease

A new study has found that among patients with rheumatologic disease, pregnancy is not associated with increased self-reported COVID-19, but is associated with a shorter duration of COVID-19 symptoms and a higher prevalence of loss of smell or taste. The study, by researchers from Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), in New York City, appears online first in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
17th Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Experts say India's Covid-19 'human barricade' to keep cases under control

With falling rates of Covid-19 infection in India and surveys suggesting nearly 300 million people may already have antibodies, some experts believe the worst of the disease has passed, despite a recent uptick in two hard-hit states. "There is a human barricade for the virus," said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, who with a team of researchers, has been modeling the trajectory of the outbreak in India. "By the end of March, we should see a very slow, steady decline (in cases)," she added. Cases that were rising by nearly 100,000 a day in September are now growing at just 10,000 a day. And India's official number of total infections, which was projected to surpass that of the United States in late 2020, now stands at 11 million, well behind the US tally of about 28 million.
17th Feb 2021 - Hindustan Times

‘India’s COVID-19 infections grossly underestimated’

India’s southern state of Karnataka alone may have had 31.5 million cases of COVID-19 or nearly 95 times greater than have been reported, says a new study that puts a question mark on the 10 million plus cases reported for the whole country so far. Published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study is based on data collected from a representative sample of households in 20 districts of Karnataka, home to 70 million of India’s 1.3 billion people. As of Monday, 15 February, according to Worldometers, India had recorded 10,916,589 cases of COVID-19, second only to the US with 28,261,470 cases. Brazil came in third with 9,834,513 cases.
17th Feb 2021 - SciDev

Lockdown may have boosted well-being for some

A study of people who care for children finds that COVID-19 lockdowns have provided some unexpected benefits. Survey respondents report four areas of personal growth that have been given an opportunity to flourish when busy lives were interrupted. People reported positive changes in their family relationships, spiritual well-being, and more. The study suggests ways we may emerge from the pandemic strengthened by the experience.
17th Feb 2021 - Medical News Today

Covid-19: World's first human trials given green light in UK

Healthy, young volunteers will be infected with coronavirus to test vaccines and treatments in the world's first Covid-19 "human challenge" study, which will take place in the UK. The study, which has received ethics approval, will start in the next few weeks and recruit 90 people aged 18-30. They will be exposed to the virus in a safe and controlled environment while medics monitor their health. The UK has given doses of a Covid vaccine to more than 15 million people. Human challenge studies have played a vital role in pushing the development of treatments for a number of diseases, including malaria, typhoid, cholera and flu.
17th Feb 2021 - BBC News

‘NHS workers will need help to manage the trauma of the pandemic’

There’s no doubt some occupational groups have had a particularly tough time, especially NHS workers. Many NHS staff have dealt with inordinate numbers of critically ill patients. Some have been trying to provide care in a far from ideal situation, knowing that doing so will lead to poor outcomes for their patients. This is having an impact on their mental health. My recent study of staff working in critical care during the pandemic showed they report more than twice the rate of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found in military veterans who’ve recently experienced combat. While the situations may be different, there might be some lessons we can learn from studied of PTSD in military veterans to help NHS workers cope during the pandemic.
17th Feb 2021 - Nursing Notes

Contact tracing alone has little impact on curbing Covid spread, report finds

Contact tracing alone has a marginal impact on Covid transmission, curbing the spread of the disease by just 2% to 5%, official estimates show. The figures come after Dido Harding, who heads the government’s £22bn test-and-trace programme in England, suggested it was set to substantially reduce the spread of coronavirus this spring. Newly published data behind that assertion shows the vast majority of the impact of test and trace is down to people self-isolating. An army of contact tracers has been hired to track down close contacts of those who test positive for Covid, and ask them to self-isolate. The contact tracers also remind people of the need to quarantine after a positive test.
17th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Pregnancy tied to estimated 70% higher COVID-19 rate

Pregnant women in Washington state were infected with COVID-19 at a 70% higher rate than others of similar ages, with nonwhite women shouldering a disproportionate burden, according to a study published yesterday in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Noting that population-based estimates of coronavirus infections in pregnancy are unreliable due to incomplete recording of pregnancy status or inclusion of only hospitalized patients, a team led by researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle analyzed data from 240 pregnant COVID-19 patients at 35 healthcare systems, capturing 61% of the state's annual births, from Mar 1 to Jun 30, 2020.
17th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

FDA could reject AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine on efficacy and manufacturing shortfalls: analyst

It was bad enough when a study released last week concluded that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was largely ineffective against the aggressive B.1.351 variant that recently emerged in South Africa. Now, analysts are wondering whether inconsistent manufacturing of the vaccine for the clinical trials may have muddied the results—concerns that could give the FDA pause when considering the vaccine for emergency use. That was the conclusion of a note SVB Leerink analysts sent to clients Wednesday, in which they laid out both the bear and bull cases for FDA authorization of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine. The bottom line? The bear case is worrisome, they said. One major concern SVB Leerink cited is that AstraZeneca is manufacturing its vaccine on a “distributed” basis, meaning it’s not centralized, but spread over multiple sites and contract partners. The material used to make the vaccine for the South Africa trial came from a company in India, and it’s not clear where it was manufactured or whether the results from that trial truly reflect the properties of the vaccine that’s being developed for the U.S.
17th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Pfizer, Moderna pledge more mRNA vaccine doses to Europe after AZ supply concerns

After a coronavirus vaccine supply feud between top officials in Europe and COVID-19 vaccine player AstraZeneca, officials there are doubling down on their purchase of an alternative technology. This week, the bloc finalized the purchase of 350 million additional mRNA vaccine doses. Pfizer and BioNTech struck a deal with the European Commission to supply 200 million more doses of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, Corminaty, to the European Union, with the option to sell an additional 100 million doses at a later date. The move comes after a factory upgrade in Belgium prompted the companies to temporarily reduce shipments with an eye on delivering "significantly more" doses in the second quarter. The sale comes on top of 300 million Comirnaty doses the partners sold to the EU in November, bringing the bloc's total order up to 500 million shots. The new 200-million-dose tranche will be rolled out in 2021, with some 75 million doses pegged for delivery in the second quarter.
17th Feb 2021 - Scientific Viewpoint

In lab experiment, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine less potent against coronavirus variant

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine loses some potency against the coronavirus variant that first appeared in South Africa, researchers reported Wednesday, based on lab experiments. What the findings mean for how well the vaccine will protect real people from the variant, called B.1.351, is hard to tell. But clinical data from three other vaccines — those from AstraZeneca, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson — have already shown the shots are not as powerful at blocking symptomatic Covid-19 cases caused by B.1.351 as by other forms of the virus. In the new study, which was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Pfizer, BioNTech, and the University of Texas Medical Branch examined how well blood taken from people who had received the companies’ shot fought off a virus engineered to have the key mutations found in B.1.351. They reported that there was about a two-thirds drop in neutralization power against the variant compared to other forms of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
17th Feb 2021 - STAT News

The myth of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Covid vaccines: Why false perceptions overlook facts, and could breed resentment

Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s health emergencies director, had a conversation recently with his mother, the kind that lots of public health people are having these days, much to their dismay. Ryan’s mother was concerned about one of the Covid-19 vaccines in use in Ireland, where she lives. The one made by AstraZeneca. Clinical trials had shown the vaccine offered protection against the disease, but less than the vaccine made by Moderna or the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech. Ryan’s mother was worried the vaccine might not be good enough.
17th Feb 2021 - STAT News

Lab studies suggest Pfizer, Moderna vaccines can protect against coronavirus variant

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday suggests that Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine can protect people against concerning new coronavirus variants, including one first seen in South Africa called B.1.351. For the study, researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch genetically engineered versions of the virus to carry some of the mutations found in B.1.351. They tested them against blood samples taken from 15 people who had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as part of a clinical trial. While the blood serum samples produced less neutralizing antibody activity, it was still enough to neutralize the virus, they wrote in a letter to the journal. This is in line with other studies. And it's well within what is seen with other viruses, one of the researchers said.
17th Feb 2021 - CNN

South Africa launches vaccine roll-out with Johnson & Johnson jab

South Africa has kicked off its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 by injecting healthcare workers with the shot developed by Johnson & Johnson as part of an observational study. The first healthcare worker was inoculated at 1pm (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town, following the arrival of 80,000 vaccine doses at Johannesburg’s international airport the night before. President Cyril Ramaphosa, along with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla, were also among the first to be vaccinated. “This day marks a milestone for South Africa. Finally, the vaccines are here, and they are being administered,” Ramaphosa told reporters as he sought to allay any fears among South Africans sceptical about an inoculation drive that has been hit by delays and the spread of misinformation. “I’d like to invite South Africans to take this up so that we can all be safe and we can all be healthy.”
17th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Exclusive: Two variants have merged into heavily mutated coronavirus

Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic. The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies. The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes.
16th Feb 2021 - New Scientist


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 17th Feb 2021

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Call for nurses to join Covid-19 vaccine side effects study

Nurses and other health professionals from the UK are being encouraged to take part in a safety study of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in order to tackle possible side effects. They are also being asked to urge patients to sign up to the study,
16th Feb 2021 - Nursing Times

Bristol children as young as six can take part in Oxford University coronavirus vaccine trial

Bristol has been selected as one of four locations to take part in a world-first coronavirus vaccine trial for children. The University of Oxford study will recruit up to 300 child volunteers nationally, aged between six and 17 years old, to investigate if the current Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in protecting children. As well as the Oxford site, three partner sites in London, Southampton and at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children will run the trial. It launched today (Monday, February 15) and the first vaccinations are expected to commence later this month. Recruitment for Bristol's is open to all BS postcodes via the trial website, which states that participants from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are "particularly welcome" to take part. The length of the study is one year and participants will be asked to attend five visits, with anyone under the age of 16 requiring parental consent.
16th Feb 2021 - Bristol Live

My Teens Are Coronavirus Vaccine Guinea Pigs

The day after my teenagers got their first shots in the Moderna Covid vaccine trial, I found my 13-year-old daughter, Zoe, sprawled out in bed during a distance-learning art class. Under a pile of blankets, she said she had chills. My heart skipped a beat. Any other time I would have worried about her missing school or Nordic ski practice, but this time I was elated when her temperature peaked at 100.5 degrees. A fever meant she was probably reacting to a real mRNA vaccine, and not a placebo. Maybe she’d won the vaccine lottery! When Pfizer and Moderna were granted emergency authorization to license their vaccines in December, the shots were approved for people as young as 16 and 18, respectively. But in order to end the pandemic, many experts said that younger children will need to be vaccinated.
16th Feb 2021 - The New York Times

North Korean hackers attempted to steal Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

South Korea's National Intelligence Service claim North Korea tried stealing data The NIS claim hackers targeted vaccine manufacturer Pfizer to steal information North Korea has continuously claimed it has not had a single Covid-19 case Last month it was reported North Korea was starting to develop its own vaccine
16th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid vaccine impact revealed in over-80s blood tests

England's vaccination programme is starting to pay off, with the over-80s age group now the most likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies, Office for National Statistics testing suggests. Blood tests reveal more over-80s than any other age group in England are showing signs of some immunity against Covid infection. This comes as Covid deaths have fallen. But overall, deaths are still 40% above the five-year average.
16th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Why the three biggest vaccine makers failed on Covid-19

As pharmaceutical companies raced to develop Covid-19 vaccines, crossing the finishing line in record time, the world’s three biggest vaccine makers were also-rans. GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Sanofi are now left playing catch-up, after upstarts including Moderna and BioNTech demonstrated their mastery of new technologies that will shape the industry for years to come. New Jersey-based Merck recently dropped its vaccine development programme completely, while Paris-based Sanofi and the UK’s GSK are having to redo an early-stage trial of the jab they are jointly developing, after a dosing mistake.
16th Feb 2021 - The Financial Times

Covid-19 could cause potentially dangerous 'nodules' on patients' EYEBALLS due to inflammation triggered by the virus, scientists warn

From a dry cough to a high fever, coronavirus is known to be linked to a range of unpleasant symptoms. Now, a new study has revealed another potential side effect - nodules on the eyeballs. Researchers have warned that coronavirus infection may trigger inflammation of the eyeballs and lead to the formation of mysterious nodules at the back of the organ. Experts do not yet know what causes these nodules or the impact they have on a patient's long-term health. However, a study of 129 French patients who had severe Covid-19 and underwent MRI scans revealed nine of them (seven per cent) suffered abnormalities.
16th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

GPs could offer common asthma drug as early Covid-19 intervention

A common asthma drug, Budesonide, which could be given by GP surgeries as an early community intervention, has been found to reduce Covid-19 symptoms. In a small trial at the University of Oxford, the steroid inhaler was given seven days after the onset of Covid-19 symptoms and appeared to significantly reduce the need for critical care. The researchers also reported persistent symptoms, seen after 28 days, were reduced with the asthma drug. The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, involved 146 people who had tested positive for Covid-19, half of whom were given 800 mg of Budesonide twice a day and the other half received the usual care.
16th Feb 2021 - Pulse Today

SA asks Serum Institute to take back 1 million vaccine doses — report

SA has asked the Serum Institute of India to take back the one million Covid-19 vaccine doses the company had sent in early February, The Economic Times reported on Tuesday, a week after the country said it will put on hold use of AstraZeneca's shot in its vaccination programme. Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca's shot, has emerged as a key vaccine supplier. One million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine landed in SA last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks. The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
16th Feb 2021 - TimesLIVE

Novavax signs deal with SK Bioscience for 40 mln vaccine doses for S. Korea

U.S. drug developer Novavax Inc said on Monday it has signed a license agreement with South Korea manufacturer SK Bioscience to produce 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for South Korea. “Concurrently, SK Bioscience has finalized an advance purchase agreement with the Korean government to supply 40 million doses of NVX-CoV2373 to the Republic of Korea beginning in 2021,” Novavax said in a statement https://bit.ly/37eMKB2.
16th Feb 2021 - Financial Post

WHO authorizes AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine for emergency use

The World Health Organization has granted an emergency authorization to AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, a move that should allow the U.N. agency’s partners to ship millions of doses to countries as part of a U.N.-backed program to tame the pandemic. In a statement Monday, the WHO said it was clearing the AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India and South Korea’s AstraZeneca-SKBio. The WHO’s green light for the AstraZeneca vaccine is only the second one the U.N. health agency has issued after authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in December. Monday’s announcement should trigger the delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to countries that have signed up for the U.N.-backed COVAX effort, which aims to deliver vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people.
16th Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Another new coronavirus variant seen in the UK

Scientists have identified another new variant of coronavirus in the UK with some potentially troubling mutations. B.1.525 appears similar to the South African variant which prompted door-to-door tests in areas where it has been found. Researchers from Edinburgh University have found 38 cases so far - 2 in Wales and 36 in England - in samples dating back to December. It has been seen in other countries, including Denmark, Nigeria and the US. UK experts are studying it to understand what risk it poses. It is too soon to say if it should be added to the UK's list of "variants of concern" and whether mass testing for it should happen. So, for now, it is a "variant under investigation".
16th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Brazil says Amazon COVID-19 variant three times more contagious

A coronavirus variant identified in the Brazilian Amazon may be three times more contagious but early analysis suggests vaccines are still effective against it, the country’s health minister said on Thursday, without providing evidence for the claims. Under pressure as the variant hammers the jungle city of Manaus with a devastating second wave of infections, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello sought to reassure legislators that the surge of recent months was unexpected but coming under control.
12th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

COVID-19: Scientists identify new coronavirus variant with potentially concerning mutations

Scientists have identified another new coronavirus variant in the UK which has potentially concerning mutations. B.1.525, the new variant, contains a genetic change called E484K which is also found in the Brazilian and South African variants. Public Health England (PHE) has said there is no evidence that the mutations in the new variant make the virus more transmissible or cause severe disease. Laboratory studies have shown that viruses with the E484K mutation can escape human defences, making them more efficient at evading natural and vaccine-triggered immunity
16th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Fauci wins $1 million Israeli prize for 'defending science'

The Dan David Foundation, which is based at Tel Aviv University, said on Monday that Fauci has won the prize for “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis,” the Seattle Times reported. “As the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled, [Fauci] leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic’s spread,” the foundation’s awards committee said.
16th Feb 2021 - The Hill

Initial sky-high UK in-hospital COVID death rate fell sharply

The in-hospital death rate among adult COVID-19 patients in England early in the pandemic was 31% but declined significantly over time, with older age, male sex, low socioeconomic status, Asian or mixed ethnicity, and underlying conditions signaling poor outcomes, according to a retrospective, observational study published yesterday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. A team led by a researcher from University College London used the National Health Service Hospital Episode Statistics administrative dataset to estimate in-hospital deaths and contributing factors among 91,541 COVID-19 patients at 500 hospitals from Mar 1 to May 31, 2020.
16th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

U.K. inspects AstraZeneca vaccine partner's India manufacturing, setting stage for supply boost

AstraZeneca set up a globetrotting supply network for its COVID-19 vaccine to deliver doses around the world, but it hasn't tapped regional producers to ease delivery shortfalls elsewhere. But that could change—and soon. British regulators are inspecting one of the drugmaker's biggest production partners, Serum Institute of India, which signed on to manufacture AstraZeneca's shot for its home country and other global markets. Sources close to the matter told Reuters about the manufacturing audit. A green light from the U.K.'s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) could clear the way for AstraZeneca to import the India-made shots to the U.K. and EU, which has struggled to beef up vaccine supplies after AZ said it would cut first-quarter deliveries last month.
16th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 16th Feb 2021

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Next coronavirus vaccines may be drops, pills or printed on demand

The race to develop vaccines against covid-19 got off to a flyer, but with dangerous new virus variants, stark inequalities in access to vaccines and few vaccination options for children, the world still needs all hands on deck. Last week, a virtual meeting run by the New York Academy of Sciences called The Quest for a COVID-19 Vaccine showcased the most promising new candidates. So far, all approved covid-19 vaccines have been injectable. Another option is a nose drop, says Robert Coleman, CEO of biotech company Codagenix, in Farmingdale, New York.
15th Feb 2021 - New Scientist

Countries already using Pfizer coronavirus vaccine include UK, US, Canada and Singapore

As Australia takes delivery of its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines, at least 44 countries have already begun inoculating their citizens using the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, World Health Organization data shows. Dozens of other countries have also begun mass inoculations, but they have started early without WHO approval. The Pfizer shot is the only vaccine with WHO emergency approval so far. The countries using the vaccine are mostly located in Europe, with Canada, the United States, Chile, Singapore and some Middle Eastern countries also securing doses.
15th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Pan-European consortium seeks big pharma partner for COVID-19 shot

A pan-European consortium developing a COVID-19 vaccine is in talks with big pharma to support the late-stage development of its shot and ramp up manufacturing, the head of German biotech firm Leukocare told Reuters. Leukocare is working with Italy’s ReiThera and Belgium’s Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used. Chief Executive Michael Scholl said the companies were talking to potential big pharma partners about whether they could provide additional manufacturing capacity, as well as help to advance their candidate through Phase III clinical trials.
15th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Wearing a face mask can reduce your risk of severe Covid-19: Humidity inside coverings limits the spread of the virus to the lungs leading to milder infection, study shows

NIH researchers assessed humidity of a space before and after wearing a mask. Masks increase humidity by between 38 and 90 per cent compared to maskless. This leads to hydrated air being inhaled by the person wearing the mask. This helps the respiratory tract to clear out the virus in the mucus and prevent it reaching the lungs
15th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

COVID-19 shots might be tweaked if variants get worse

The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations — and regulators are looking to flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update. “It’s not really something you can sort of flip a switch, do overnight,” cautioned Richard Webby, who directs a World Health Organization flu center from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.
15th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Covid-19: Vaccine as good in 'real world' as in trial in Israel

More data from Israel's vaccination programme is suggesting the Pfizer jab prevents 94% of symptomatic infections. This indicates the vaccine is performing just as well in a larger population as it did in the clinical trials. It is proving highly effective at preventing illness and severe disease among all age groups, according to public health doctor Prof Hagai Levine. "High vaccination coverage of the most susceptible groups" was key, he said. Israel's largest health fund Clalit looked at positive tests in 600,000 vaccinated people and the same number of unvaccinated people, matched by age and health status. It found 94% fewer infections among the vaccinated group. This was based on test results in people's medical records, usually taken if they had symptoms or were a close contact of someone who had tested positive. And the vaccine prevented almost all cases of serious illness. This pattern was the same in all age groups - including the over-70s, who may have been under-represented in clinical trials.
15th Feb 2021 - BBC News

The search for new Covid drugs — and a researcher’s reason for optimism

David Fajgenbaum is a physician and scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is best known for his personal battle against Castleman Disease, which nearly killed him before he discovered a treatment that saved his life. Now, however, Fajgenbaum’s research lab at Penn is now working to catalog and analyze drugs that might prove effective against Covid-19. He recently joined STAT’s podcast, “The Readout LOUD,” to discuss that work and more. Excerpts of the conversation are below, lightly edited for clarity.
15th Feb 2021 - Stat News

WHO approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world. “We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, told a news briefing. “We continue to call for COVID19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries,” he said. A WHO statement said it had approved the vaccine as produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India.
15th Feb 2021 - Reuters

How effective is a single vaccine dose against Covid-19?

The cases are already beginning to emerge. When 85-year-old Colin Horseman was admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary in late December, it was for a suspected kidney infection. But not long afterwards he caught Covid-19 – at the time, roughly one in four people in hospital with the virus had acquired it there. He developed severe symptoms and was eventually put on a ventilator. A few days later, he died. At first glance, Horseman's situation may seem fairly typical, though no less tragic for it. After all, at least 84,767 people have now succumbed to the disease in the UK alone at the time of writing. But, as his son recently explained in a local newspaper, less than three weeks earlier he had been among the first people in the world to receive the initial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine – the Pfizer-BioNTech version. He was due to receive the second dose two days prior to his death.
15th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Is it safe for pregnant women to have a COVID-19 vaccine?

Last week, my sister who is an NHS dentist, told me she was going to get her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While we spoke on the phone, she said she was a little apprehensive about getting it. When I asked her why she said two of the dental nurses at her surgery were not getting theirs as they both saw messages on WhatsApp that said the vaccine would make them infertile. I told my sister it was complete nonsense and that there was no evidence to suggest this was true; she subsequently went to get vaccinated, but the nurses did not. Sadly, I am hearing from many young people who are hesitant to take the COVID vaccine due to misinformation they have come across around fertility – so let me address this issue head-on.
15th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

COVID-19: Oxford vaccine creator calls for donations to help people in poorer countries receive a jab

The co-creator of the Oxford vaccine has called on people to give money to support coronavirus vaccination in poorer countries. Professor Sarah Gilbert is backing a new campaign launching today, which asks people in the UK to give money to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 relief fund when they receive the date for their coronavirus vaccination. "We produced and developed the Oxford vaccine as a vaccine for the world," Professor Gilbert said about the campaign, which is called Arm in Arm. "We are happy to support a new initiative to get COVID vaccines to as many people as possible."
14th Feb 2021 - Sky News

WHO green-lights AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for urgent use

The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine made in two different countries is listed for emergency use, clearing the final hurdle for doses to be distributed by the COVAX program. In other developments, WHO officials said multiple factors are probably responsible for a drop in global cases, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in its latest risk assessment that countries are seeing an increase in the number and proportion of SARS-CoV-2 variants.
14th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Coronavirus China: WHO scientist says virus was 'widespread' in December

Peter Embarek, lead WHO researcher in Wuhan, has revealed virus was circulating 'widely' in December 2019. He also revealed 13 variants were found among early cases, suggesting disease was in humans for some time. Embarek stopped short of saying disease was circulating before December, but called for further research Comes less than a week after Embarek told a press conference in China that there is no evidence the virus was circulating 'in Wuhan or elsewhere' before December
14th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 15th Feb 2021

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Lifelong immunity hope for Covid-19 vaccine

Trials of coronavirus vaccines for children as young as five are set to begin within days, laying the groundwork for a childhood immunisation programme that could protect people from Covid-19 for most of their lives. AstraZeneca started recruiting British children for a paediatric trial, with the first vaccines to be given by the end of the month. Pfizer is close to beginning a similar global trial. If successful they could pave the way for a vaccine programme on the model of measles or polio, in which a series of jabs early in life provide immunity lasting decades. A booster programme might be needed for the elderly. Professor Sarah Gilbert, chief investigator on the Oxford team behind the AstraZeneca vaccine, believes such a programme could reduce the consequence of Covid infection for most healthy adults to those of a cold
14th Feb 2021 - The Times

China hits back after US expresses 'deep concerns' over WHO Covid-19 report

China has fired back at the US over allegations from the White House that Beijing withheld some information about the coronavirus outbreak from World Health Organization investigators. The White House on Saturday called on China to make data from the earliest days of the Covid-19 outbreak available, saying it had “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the WHO’s Covid-19 report were communicated. China responded with a statement from its Washington embassy on Sunday, saying the US had already gravely damaged international cooperation on Covid-19 and was now “pointing fingers at other countries who have been faithfully supporting the WHO and at the WHO itself”.
14th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Covid-19 may not have started in China, says WHO expert

The virus which causes Covid-19 may not have emerged in China, a World Health Organisation (WHO) scientist has suggested. Professor John Watson, who was part of the WHO team that travelled to China to investigate the origins of the pandemic, said the virus’s leap from animals to humans may have occurred outside the country’s borders. He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that the pandemic most likely started with an infection in an “animal reservoir” which was then passed on to humans through an “intermediate host”. Asked if he was sure the virus emerged in China, Prof Watson, who previously served as England’s deputy chief medical officer until 2017, said “no”.
14th Feb 2021 - Wales Online

COVID-19: Vaccines giving 67% protection after three weeks, large-scale research shows

One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine gives 67% protection after three weeks, a leading epidemiologist has said. Professor Tim Spector of King's College London, who runs the ZOE COVID-19 surveillance app, said data collected from 50,000 users vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab showed one dose gave 46% protection after two weeks, rising to 67% after three to six weeks. The app uses information submitted by more than four million users across the world to predict and track coronavirus infections across the UK and other countries
14th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Double masking can block 92% of infectious particles, CDC says

Double masking can significantly improve protection, new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Researchers found that layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask, such as a disposable blue surgical mask, can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage. "These experimental data reinforce CDC's prior guidance that everyone 2 years of age or older should wear a mask when in public and around others in the home not living with you," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told a White House briefing.
14th Feb 2021 - CNN

UK’s ‘Professor Lockdown’ hopeful there will be no further lockdowns

Britain's "Professor Lockdown" says the U.K. is on track to start loosening restrictions next month — and that he's optimistic there will be no need for further lockdowns in the year ahead. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said the spread of the so-called U.K.-variant "has set us back a lot" but that he is hopeful following weeks of tough restrictions that primary schools at least will be able to reopen in early March. "We're in a better place than I might have anticipated a month ago," he told POLITICO's Westminster Insider podcast. "The lockdown has really driven down cases quite fast. They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment or so, and that means in a month's time — the prime minister's talked about potentially reopening schools, we might have some bandwidth to do that, at least primary schools. And if we continue to see then a continued decline without large outbreaks, then perhaps starting to relax other aspects of society the following month."
14th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation

In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the novel coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All of them have evolved a mutation in the same genetic letter. “There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport and a co-author of the new study. It’s unclear whether it makes the variants more contagious. But because the mutation appears in a gene that influences how the virus enters human cells, the scientists are highly suspicious. “I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit,” Dr. Kamil said.
14th Feb 2021 - The New York Times

COVID-19: Previously-infected people only need one vaccine shot, say French experts

France's top health authority has recommended that people who've had coronavirus only get one vaccine dose. Those who have recovered from the virus have built an immune response similar to that brought on by a vaccine, said the High Authority of Health (HAS). It said a single shot would "play the role of reminding" the person's body how to fight the infection. The vaccines approved by the European Union - made by Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca - all stipulate two doses with a gap inbetween to achieve maximum protection.
13th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Coronavirus: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial to begin in February for children

A trial to test how well the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine works in children is set to begin. Around 300 volunteers will take part in the trial, which will start at the end of February. The scientists want to see how well the vaccine works in children aged between six and 17 years old. Currently there are no plans to vaccinate children in the UK, but so far more than 14 million people have received one of the approved vaccines for coronavirus.
13th Feb 2021 - BBC News

AstraZeneca teams with IDT Biologika to speed coronavirus vaccine output in EU

AstraZeneca is teaming up with German CDMO IDT Biologika to quickly speed output of finished COVID-19 vaccine doses. And their pact doesn't stop with this pandemic. To address Europe's "immediate vaccination needs during the pandemic," the companies agreed to work together to speed output of finished AZ doses by the second quarter of this year, AstraZeneca said Wednesday. Their newly expanded deal has a broader goal as well—helping secure "Europe’s future vaccine supply independence" through combined investments in new capacity at IDT Biologika's Dessau, Germany, manufacturing site.
13th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

After failing to deliver, AstraZeneca rethinks EU coronavirus vaccine supply chain

AstraZeneca is scrambling to find more manufacturers to produce its coronavirus vaccine in Europe after the drugmaker’s bet on a limited number of sites fell short. By the end of January, only one continental plant — located in Seneffe in Belgium — was authorized to manufacture the drug substance for the vaccine coveted by governments across Europe, alongside two sites in the U.K. and U.S. After announcing the company would be unable to deliver nearly two-thirds of the 100 million doses it promised the EU by the end of March, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot initially pointed the finger at the Belgian plant, now owned by U.S. company Thermo Fisher Scientific.
13th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

White House cites ‘deep concerns’ about WHO COVID-19 report, demands early data from China

The White House on Saturday called on China to make available data from the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak, saying it has “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report were communicated. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that it is imperative that the report be independent and free from “alteration by the Chinese government”, echoing concerns raised by the administration of former President Donald Trump, who also moved to quit the WHO over the issue.
13th Feb 2021 - The Globe and Mail

Covid-19 pandemic: China 'refused to give data' to WHO team

China refused to hand over key data to the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of Covid-19, one of its members has said. Microbiologist Dominic Dwyer told Reuters, the Wall St Journal and the New York Times the team requested raw patient data from early cases, what he called "standard practice". He said they only received a summary. China has not responded to the allegation but has previously insisted it was transparent with the WHO. The US has urged China to make available data from the earliest stages of the outbreak, saying it has "deep concerns" about the WHO report.
13th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Zinc, vitamin C show no effect for COVID-19 in small study

Consuming high doses of zinc and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was not associated with improvement in COVID-19 infections, according to a small study published today in JAMA Network Open. In a 214-person, open-label experiment with COVID outpatients in Ohio and Florida, those who received one or both supplements had similar symptom-reduction periods as those who received standard of care. Over the years, scientific studies have not conclusively shown that either supplement can help overcome illnesses such as the common cold. Since the pandemic began, however, both supplements have seen an increased market owing to people's belief that they can give the immune system a boost. The New York Times reported zinc sales of $134 million, and USA Today found that vitamin C sales reached $209 million during the first half of 2020, up 76% compared with 2019.
13th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Oxford University to test COVID-19 vaccine response among children for first time

The University of Oxford has launched a study to assess the safety and immune response of the COVID-19 vaccine it has developed with AstraZeneca Plc in children for the first time, it said on Saturday. The new mid-stage trial will determine whether the vaccine is effective on people between the ages of 6 and 17, according to an emailed statement from the university. Around 300 volunteers will be enrolled and first inoculations are expected this month, Oxford said. The two-dose Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been hailed as a ‘vaccine for the world’ because it is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals.
13th Feb 2021 - Reuters

All hypotheses on Covid-19 origins still being investigated, says WHO boss

The World Health Organization says it has not ruled out any theory on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, despite one top official earlier this week appearing to dismiss the idea it had escaped from a laboratory. Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said a summary report from the organization’s team sent to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the virus should be published next week, with a full report coming soon after. But he confirmed that while the scientists made progress in understanding the circumstances around the outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, more work was needed on all of the potential routes the virus may have taken into the human population.
13th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Statins 'cut risk of Covid death': Study finds cholesterol drugs taken by eight million Britons reduce chance of dying to virus by 43% in hospital patients

Statins tackle 'bad' blood cholesterol and they are used by eight million Britons A study has now found giving statins to Covid patients can reduce death risk The study was a review of 12 other studies into the effectiveness of statins in cutting mortality from coronavirus
13th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Virus variant first detected in the U.K. has been deadlier, study confirms

Scientists had already determined that the variant of the novel coronavirus first detected in the fall in the United Kingdom — known as B.1.1.7. because of its molecular makeup — was probably 30 to 70 percent more transmissible than the typical version of the virus causing covid-19. They also knew, based on preliminary data, that the variant appeared to be relatively more deadly for the growing number of people catching it. U.K. scientists now say the variant is probably 30 to 70 percent more deadly, based on a follow-up study by the government released Friday that assessed a larger sample size of covid-19 patients and also found a higher rate of hospitalization.
13th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

England's current lockdown could be the last, says Neil Ferguson

The scientist whose data modelling led to the first UK lockdown has expressed hope that the current lockdown could be the last. Prof Neil Ferguson, who advises the government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (Nervtag), said the nation was “in a better place than I might have anticipated a month ago”. He told Politico’s Westminster Insider podcast: “The lockdown has really driven down cases quite fast. They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment or so, and that means in a month’s time – the prime minister’s talked about potentially reopening schools – we might have some bandwidth to do that, at least primary schools. “And if we continue to see then a continued decline without large outbreaks, then perhaps starting to relax other aspects of society the following month.”
12th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

New COVID variant with 5 mutations identified in California

A new SARS-CoV-2 variant, CAL.20C, has been detected in southern California amid a surge in local infections and is spreading through and beyond the United States, according to a research letter published in JAMA. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (CSMC) in Los Angeles analyzed COVID-19 strains before and after the surge in cases in southern California in October 2020. Before October, most coronavirus strains there originated from the 20C clade (group of viruses evolved from the same ancestor), which emerged in New York via Europe in the early stages of the pandemic. "SARS-CoV-2 will be with the global population for some time and has clearly shown its tendency toward rapid antigenic variation, providing a 'wake-up call' that a sustained effort to develop a pan-SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is warranted," the authors said.
12th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 12th Feb 2021

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Manitoba agrees to purchase 2M doses of Providence Therapeutics coronavirus vaccine

The Manitoba government has committed to buy two million doses of a made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine currently under clinical trial. Premier Brian Pallister announced the purchase of the Providence Therapeutics COVID-19 vaccine at a Thursday morning press conference. “With today’s announcement we’re taking a big step … to creating a secure, stable supply of Canadian-made COVID vaccines,” Pallister said. A human trial for the prospective vaccine was started in Toronto in late January. In a release Jan. 26 Providence said the vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B, is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, and is the first fully-made in Canada vaccine to reach the human clinical trial stage.
11th Feb 2021 - Global News

Bolivia signs deal with China´s Sinopharm for coronavirus vaccine

Bolivia said on Thursday it had inked an agreement with China´s Sinopharm locking in an initial supply of half a million doses of the company´s vaccine against coronavirus by the end of February. Bolivian President Luis Arce said China’s President Xi Jinping had agreed to sell Bolivia 400,000 doses and had donated another 100,000 doses to the South American nation, among the poorest in the region. Bolivia has been rocked by political and social upheaval since contested elections in 2019 saw longtime president Evo Morales leave office. It has lagged behind wealthier regional neighbors in securing bilateral vaccine supply deals. The Andean nation has since signed agreements with Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine and India’s Serum Institute for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot. It has also signed a deal with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative.
11th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Does the coronavirus vaccine work on Bristol's variant? This is what Public Health England says

Public Health England has shared a reassuring statement about Bristol's coronavirus variant in relation to vaccines. Several experts have raised doubts about the mutation present in this particular 'variant of concern', as experiments suggest it might make antibodies less effective in attacking the infection. Speaking to ITV last night (Wednesday, February 10), a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said the variant "may be able to re-infect people who’ve been previously infected or who’ve been previously vaccinated". However, Public Health England (PHE) remains optimistic about the efficacy of current vaccines - at least in the primary aim of preventing serious illness and death.Speaking to ITV last night (Wednesday, February 10), a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said the variant "may be able to re-infect people who’ve been previously infected or who’ve been previously vaccinated". However, Public Health England (PHE) remains optimistic about the efficacy of current vaccines - at least in the primary aim of preventing serious illness and death.
11th Feb 2021 - Bristol Live

AstraZeneca Plans to Double Covid-19 Vaccine Output

AstraZeneca PLC said it was fixing problems with the manufacturing of its Covid-19 vaccine and expects to roughly double monthly production to 200 million doses by April, as it seeks to move past a rocky start to the shot’s rollout. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker reported strong full-year earnings and forecast increased 2021 earnings growth. The forecast doesn’t factor in sales of the pandemic vaccine it developed alongside the University of Oxford.
11th Feb 2021 - Wall Street Journal

CDC: people who have received two Covid-19 vaccine doses can skip quarantine

People who have received the full course of Covid-19 vaccines can skip the standard 14-day quarantine after exposure to someone with the infection as long as they remain asymptomatic, US public health officials advised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Wednesday the vaccines have been shown to prevent symptomatic Covid-19, thought to play a greater role in the transmission of the virus than asymptomatic disease. “Individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission (among vaccinated individuals),” the CDC said.
11th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Roche arthritis drug reduces COVID-19 deaths in trial in hospitalised patients

Roche's arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, also shortening the time to recovery and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation, results of a large trial showed on Thursday.
11th Feb 2021 - Nasdaq

When will kids be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?

Students as young as first grade might be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by September, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted in an interview published by ProPublica on Thursday. Fauci cited clinical trials now underway in the U.S. from vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna to test the safety and efficacy of the doses in children. He had said previously that the Food and Drug Administration might allow for vaccinations in American children "by the time we get to the late spring and early summer." So far, except for a handful of errors, the nationwide vaccine rollout has not included children.
11th Feb 2021 - CBS News

Pfizer says it expects data on COVID-19 vaccines for children in 'early part of 2021'

Pfizer says it has completed enrollment of its clinical trial of 12-to-15 year olds and believes it will have data in 'the early part of 2021.' Moderna is still recruiting children for its trial if 12-to-18 year olds and says it expects to have preliminary data 'around mid-year 2021.' Neither company has yet started pediatric trials testing their coronavirus vaccines in those aged 11 and younger Dr Anthony Fauci says he believes children as young as first graders may be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines by the school year start in September. But pediatricians believe studies are moving too slowly and that not immunizing children threatens herd immunity and increases the risk of variants spreading
11th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Government ordered to investigate link between PPE shortages and NHS COVID-19 deaths

A report by the House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) highlighted concerns among frontline staff that guidance did not specify a high enough level of PPE to properly protect them against infection, while some supplies were substandard or insect-infected. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff were more likely to report experiencing PPE shortages or feeling pressured to work without adequate protection - over twice as many BAME doctors reported experiencing PPE shortages compared with white colleagues. The BMA has urged the government to learn from ‘these terrible shortcomings’ and listen to the experiences of frontline workers during the first wave of the pandemic to ensure that healthcare workers are properly protected in the future.
11th Feb 2021 - GP online

COVID-19 linked with new set of symptoms, according to study of over a million people

Chills, loss of appetite, headache and muscle aches could be a sign of COVID-19 infection, according to new findings. Based on swab tests and questionnaires taken from June up until last month as part of Imperial College London's REACT study of over one million people, those with the above symptoms were more likely to test positive for the virus. This is in addition to the "classic" symptoms of COVID-19 already included in NHS guidance, which are: - Fever - New persistent cough - Loss of sense of smell and/or taste
11th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Bristol Covid-19 variant: Experts monitor new mutation

A new coronavirus variant found in Bristol may be able to infect people who have already had Covid-19 or who have been vaccinated. But experts said jabs will still protect against people becoming seriously ill with the disease. The Bristol variant contains the E484K mutation also found in the South African and Brazilian variants. Health officials in the city say getting as many people vaccinated as possible is key. The Bristol variant has been defined by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) as the Kent variant with the E484K mutation. Laboratory studies have shown that viruses with that mutation are able to escape human defences, making them more efficient at evading natural and vaccine-triggered immunity.
11th Feb 2021 - BBC News

'More than 40% of people suffer trauma following Covid-19′

Many people suffer trauma with symptoms such as flashbacks after catching Covid-19, even if they did not require clinical assistance or hospitalisation, a study has found. The Imperial College London and University of Southampton study, published on Tuesday, looked at 13,049 people with experience of coronavirus.
11th Feb 2021 - Pulse Today

COVID-19: AstraZeneca on course to roll out jab for new variants by autumn

AstraZeneca has said it is on course to roll out a coronavirus vaccine that is effective against new variants by the autumn. The company, which has produced a COVID-19 vaccine alongside University of Oxford, said clinical trials for the next generation of jab would commence in the spring.
11th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Is It Safe to Delay a Second COVID Vaccine Dose?

Vaccine shortages and distribution delays are hampering efforts to curb the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. So some scientists have suggested postponing the second shots of two-dose vaccines to make more available for people to get their first doses. The original recommended interval was 21 days between doses for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna shots, the two currently authorized in the U.S. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance to say that people can wait up to 42 days between doses, though the agency still advises individuals to stick to the initial schedule. And developers of the University of Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine—which is authorized for use in the U.K.—suggest even longer stretches are possible, saying their shot performs better when its doses are spaced 12 weeks apart.
11th Feb 2021 - Scientific American

AstraZeneca working to adapt Covid-19 vaccine to new strains

AstraZeneca said Thursday it's working with the University of Oxford to adapt its COVID-19 vaccine to protect against new strains of the virus as public health officials raise concerns about mutations that may make the virus more resistant to existing vaccines. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker worked with Oxford to develop one of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for widespread use. AstraZeneca said it hopes to cut the time needed to produce large amounts of any new vaccine to between six and nine months.
11th Feb 2021 - Business Standard

C.D.C. Urges Better Masking for Increased Virus Protection

Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday. New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.
11th Feb 2021 - The New York Times

Long Covid: The illness wreaking havoc behind the pandemic

Coronavirus has been dominating the headlines for a year – but behind the grim death statistics and hospital admissions, a related illness has been quietly wreaking havoc on the lives of thousands of Scots. Long Covid, or post-covid syndrome, has been described by some as the “pandemic behind the pandemic”. Research is in its infancy and there is no clear treatment or cure. The post-viral condition affects people who fell ill with coronavirus, but did not make a full recovery within three months.
11th Feb 2021 - STV News

Kent Covid variant mutation must be taken seriously, warns UK scientist

The Kent variant of the coronavirus with a key mutation that enables the South African variant to escape some of the vaccines used against it must be taken very seriously in the UK, according to a leading microbiologist. Prof Ravi Gupta of the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, who is a member of the government’s scientific advisory body Nervtag, warned that the mutated variant, at the moment causing just 21 known cases, should be treated with as much concern as the South African variant. The Kent variant B117, which spreads twice as fast as the original coronavirus, is now dominant in the UK and is present in many countries around the world. But Public Health England has identified 21 cases of B117 that also have the E484K mutation: 14 in the Bristol region, four in Greater Manchester and three elsewhere. E484K is the change to the spike protein in South Africa that scientists believe is chiefly responsible for vaccines triggering a lower antibody response to infection.
11th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

CDC alters COVID-19 quarantine guidance for vaccine recipients

If you have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and are exposed to someone with the virus, you no longer have to quarantine for 14 days as long as you remain free of symptoms, according to new recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because the vaccines prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infections, and symptomatic people are thought to be more contagious, the CDC said the risk of unnecessary quarantine outweighs the potential unknown risk of transmission among vaccinated people.
11th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Tocilizumab cuts death rate in severe COVID-19, study finds

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients given the anti-inflammatory monoclonal antibody tocilizumab were less likely to die or require invasive mechanical ventilation, according to preliminary results of the UK RECOVERY trial posted today on the medRxiv preprint server. Led by University of Oxford researchers, the ongoing Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial involved assigning 4,116 severely ill coronavirus patients to receive either intravenous tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis drug, or usual care. Most (82%) of the participants also received a systemic corticosteroid such as dexamethasone.
11th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Merck canned its own COVID-19 vaccines. Now, it's in talks to manufacture other companies' shots

After Merck & Co. got off to a late start in the COVID-19 vaccine race and made an early exit, the drug giant is in talks to aid the global vaccine manufacturing effort. The drugmaker is “actively involved” in discussions with governments, health agencies and other pharmaceutical companies to “identify the areas of pandemic response where we can play a role, including potential support for production of authorized vaccines," a spokesman said via email. News of the talks comes about two weeks after Merck abandoned both its coronavirus vaccine candidates—one it acquired through its Themis buyout and the other it was studying in partnership with IAVI. Merck said the two shots had produced immune responses weaker than those prompted by natural infections as well as by other COVID-19 vaccines.
11th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 11th Feb 2021

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Single dose of Pfizer vaccine shows signs of success in UK

Official data from the UK’s vaccination campaign show that a single dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab offers good protection against Covid-19, boosting the government’s approach of extending the gap between doses. Although not enough evidence is available to draw definitive conclusions about the impact of the vaccination campaign on deaths and hospitalisations, several people with access to government data said indications showed it was reducing cases in the groups prioritised to receive the jab.
11th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

A lone infection may have changed the course of the pandemic

In each warm body it infects, the virus behind Covid-19 has the potential to change. It can become more deadly, more transmissible or more resistant to the vaccines on which we are all pinning so much hope. Mercifully, the biology of Sars-CoV-2 means that such changes happen slowly and almost always fail to catch on. But mutations, like pandemics, are a numbers game. Every new person infected provides another opportunity for the virus to adopt a new form. So far, Sars-CoV-2 has infected at least 106 million people worldwide and taken on many thousands of mutations. Most of those changes are slow and inconsequential – evolutionary dead ends that nobody will ever realise existed. But, in some people, the virus hits the jackpot.
11th Feb 2021 - Wired.co.uk

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could reduce Covid-19 viral load - what it means

New data gathered by researchers in Israel suggests that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine is reducing the viral load of the virus. Israel has already vaccinated around one in three residents, after beginning its vaccine deployment program on 20 December. According to a paper which was published on Monday (8 Feb), positive test results of patients aged 60 and over had up to 60 per cent smaller viral loads on the swab, compared to the 40 to 59 age group. The paper explains that this is because, by this point, at least 14 days have passed since more than 75 per cent of the over-60s age group received their first dose, in comparison to the 25 per cent of 40 to 60 year olds.
10th Feb 2021 - The Scotsman on MSN.com

Teva Is in Discussions to Help Make Covid-19 Vaccines, CEO Says

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is in talks with Covid-19 vaccine makers about helping to produce and distribute shots as demand rises for immunizations. The generic drug giant is offering to dedicate its manufacturing capacity in the U.S., Europe and beyond to aid with mass-immunization efforts geared at combating the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz said Wednesday. “We have a large, worldwide network of manufacturing capabilities,” from creating underlying drug substances to putting solutions into sterile vials, known as the fill-finish process, he said in an interview. “There are a limited number of facilities that can do this kind of manufacturing, and it takes time to build them.”
10th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg on MSN.com

Coronaviruses linked to Covid-19 circulating in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia, study finds

Coronaviruses similar to that which causes Covid-19 may be circulating in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia, a study has found. In a breakthrough that provides clues for those investigating the origin of the pandemic, scientists said high levels of neutralising antibodies against coronaviruses were present in the animals in Thailand. A team from Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School found SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – neutralising antibodies in Rhinolophus bats in a Thai cave and in a pangolin at a wildlife checkpoint in the south of the country. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, indicate more coronaviruses are likely to be discovered across Southeast Asia, which has a large and diverse bat population, the researchers said. Such viruses have now been found across a wide expanse measuring 4,800 km, from Japan and China to Thailand.
10th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Study Links Four New Symptoms To Covid-19 Infection, Including Headaches And Loss Of Appetite

In a study of more than 1 million people in England between June 2020 and January 2021, researchers identified chills, loss of appetite, headaches and muscle aches as additional symptoms linked with having Covid-19. Some symptoms vary by age, with headaches most reported in children and teens (between 5-17 years old), who are less likely to report “classic” Covid-19 symptoms, and adults over 55 reporting appetite loss.
10th Feb 2021 - Forbes

CDC study finds two masks are better than one vs. COVID-19

US government researchers have found wearing two masks was better than one when preventing the spread of Covid-19, according to a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. In a lab experiment, two artificial heads were placed six feet from each other and studied on how many coronavirus-sized particles were expelled and inhalled while wearing a variety of face coverings. Researchers found that wearing one mask, either cloth or surgical, prevented 40 per cent of incoming droplets from being breathed in. When adding a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, 80 per cent of incoming droplets were stopped.
10th Feb 2021 - The Independent

AstraZeneca to build new Covid-19 vaccine facility in Germany

AstraZeneca has unveiled plans to build a new Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility in partnership with IDT Biologika at the German firm’s Dessau site, in a move aiming to speed up production and defuse a row with the EU over vaccine supply.
10th Feb 2021 - The Guardian on MSN.com

Covid-19: Sports equipment presents 'low risk'

The risk of coronavirus transmission from sharing sports equipment is "lower than once thought", a study suggests. Researchers, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, applied live virus particles to nine types of sports equipment and a control material. They concluded it "seems unlikely" that sports balls and accessories are a major cause for transmission. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last June that cricket balls are a "natural vector" of coronavirus. The Strike study found the virus was least transferrable on absorbent materials like cricket gloves and tennis balls, compared with non-porous equipment like racing saddles and rugby balls.
10th Feb 2021 - BBC News

David Oliver: Mistruths and misunderstandings about covid-19 death numbers

I want to set the record straight about some serious misinformation surrounding covid-19 death certification and mortality statistics. I will paraphrase some of the claims that I have heard repeatedly in the media: “People are not dying from, but with, covid-19.” “Deaths classified as from covid-19 result from largely false positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results,” “deaths are mostly from other causes and underlying conditions,” “death numbers are grossly inflated,” “there is no excess mortality compared with other years or months,” and this is “no different from a normal flu season.” Let’s see, shall we? According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the total number of deaths with covid-19 recorded on the death certificate in England and Wales has now passed 100 000. The government’s daily press releases, however, report “deaths within 28 days of a positive test result”—a definition repeated faithfully by broadcast and print journalists and on social media. This approach probably under-recognises the real number of deaths from covid-19 by around 20%.
10th Feb 2021 - The BMJ

In Spain, patients with serious conditions left out of AstraZeneca early vaccination

The Covid vaccine made by AstraZeneca will for now only be administered to essential workers in Spain, including teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the armed forces – but not supermarket workers. Although the treatment has been approved by European authorities for anyone over the age of 18, the Spanish government is taking a conservative approach: first it ruled out people over 80 years of age, then it further reduced the target group to those under 55. And on Tuesday, a committee of experts advising the National Healthcare System established that individuals under 55 with certain pre-existing medical conditions will also be left out, at least during the initial phase.
10th Feb 2021 - EL PAÍS in English

Japan suffers rise in female suicides during Covid-19 pandemic

A much-anticipated inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic wrapped up its mission in China on Tuesday with no breakthrough discovery, as investigators ruled out a theory that Covid-19 came from a lab while failing to identify which animal may have passed it to humans. It remains unclear which species first transmitted Covid-19 to humans, said Liang Wannian, who headed up the Chinese contingent of an inquiry carried out jointly with World Health Organization experts. The WHO mission -- which China repeatedly delayed -- was dogged by fears of a whitewash, with the US demanding a "robust" probe into the origins of the pandemic in late 2019, and China firing back with a warning not to "politicise" the investigation. During the closely monitored mission, which included a visit to an exhibition celebrating China's recovery, reporters were largely kept at arm's length from the experts.
10th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

Covid origins still a mystery as WHO-China probe ends

A much-anticipated inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic wrapped up its mission in China on Tuesday with no breakthrough discovery, as investigators ruled out a theory that Covid-19 came from a lab while failing to identify which animal may have passed it to humans.
10th Feb 2021 - IBTimes UK

Vaccine vs variant: Promising data in Israel's race to defeat pandemic

Israel’s swift vaccination rollout has made it the largest real-world study of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine. Results are trickling in, and they are promising. More than half of eligible Israelis - about 3.5 million people - have now been fully or partially vaccinated. Older and at-risk groups, the first to be inoculated, are seeing a dramatic drop in illnesses. Among the first fully-vaccinated group there was a 53% reduction in new cases, a 39% decline in hospitalizations and a 31% drop in severe illnesses from mid-January until Feb. 6, said Eran Segal, data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters UK

Ohio underreported as many as 4,000 COVID-19 deaths

Ohio will add as many as 4,000 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths to the state's tally during the next week after the Ohio Department of Health discovered reporting errors dating back to October. Most of these deaths occurred in November and December, the agency said in a news release, already the deadliest two months of the pandemic with 1,574 and 2,859 deaths, respectively. The correction will result in a few days of higher-than-average death totals, the agency warned. The actual date of death will be reflected on the state's coronavirus dashboard.
10th Feb 2021 - Cincinnati Enquirer on MSN.com

WHO recommends use of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults

The World Health Organization has recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use worldwide by all adults, including the elderly, in a boost for the jab after a series of setbacks. The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (Sage) said the vaccine could be used by all people over the age of 18 in all countries, including places such as South Africa where the circulation of new variants had raised some concerns over its efficacy. Some countries, such as France and Sweden, have restricted use of the shot to younger adults, citing a lack of sufficient trial data for the elderly, but WHO officials stressed on Wednesday that not all nations had a choice of which vaccine to use.
10th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

AstraZeneca agrees German manufacturing deal to fill vaccine gap

AstraZeneca has enlisted German drug manufacturer IDT Biologika to help boost production of its Covid-19 vaccine and tackle supply shortages in Europe. Relations between the EU and AstraZeneca deteriorated after the pharma group announced last month that it would fall far short on its promise to deliver the bloc at least 100m doses of the vaccine, developed with Oxford university, in the first quarter. AstraZeneca has since revised its first-quarter delivery forecast up from 31m to 40m doses, and announced that it would expand manufacturing capacity in Europe.
10th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

Did we underestimate Russia’s vaccine?

Not long ago, talk of the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine provoked mockery. “There’s no way in hell the U.S. tries this on monkeys, let alone people,” a Trump administration official told CNN in August, referring to initial reports about Russia’s development of the Sputnik V drug — which bypassed traditional steps in testing before its release. Even at home, where a history of political opacity and bureaucratic incompetence has left a lingering distrust of authority, many ordinary Russians shied away from getting the jab once it was made available to the public in December.
10th Feb 2021 - Washington Post

Feds focus on mask upgrades, COVID-19 vaccine sites

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the fit of face masks—both cloth and surgical—can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission, by as much as 96.5% if both infected and uninfected people wear them properly. "What we know now is everyone needs to be wearing a mask when they are in public or inside with people from outside their households," said Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC during a press briefing today.
10th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

WHO advisors recommend AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use

The World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine advisory group today recommended the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for emergency use, a key development that clears the way for lower- and middle-income countries to receive their first deliveries from the COVAX program. In other global developments, the WHO said in a weekly update that overall cases and deaths show more signs of decline, a promising development, though cases are rising in some nations and more countries are reporting the detection of variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
10th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

COVID deaths 3 times higher in nursing homes with more non-white residents

Residents of US nursing homes with more than 40% non-white residents died of COVID-19 at 3.3 times the rate of those of those with higher proportions of white residents, a study today in JAMA Network Open shows. Using the Nursing Home COVID-19 Public File from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, University of Chicago researchers found that nursing homes with the lowest shares of white residents reported a mean of 5.6 deaths, compared with 1.7 in those with the highest proportions, as of Sep 13, 2020.
10th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

BioNTech gets rolling with mRNA production at former Novartis site in Marburg

BioNTech, under pressure with its COVID-19 vaccine partner Pfizer to manufacture as many doses as possible this year, has started production at a former Novartis site it acquired in Germany. The drugmaker has started making messenger RNA at the site, kicking off the manufacturing process for its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech expects to produce up to 250 million doses of its vaccine there in the first half of 2021, and up to 750 million doses annually when the site is fully online. The first vaccines produced there will be ready in early April, BioNTech said.
10th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Eli Lilly scores FDA nod for COVID-19 antibody cocktail, aims to make 1M doses by midyear

Two weeks after Eli Lilly unveiled data showing its COVID-19 antibody cocktail of bamlanivimab and etesevimab slashed the risk of death and hospitalization for high-risk patients, the cocktail has won its emergency FDA authorization. Tuesday, the FDA authorized the combo for patients who have mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 but are at high risk of progressing to severe disease. The company and its manufacturing partner Amgen aim to produce up to 1 million doses of the cocktail by the middle of the year. In the trial of more than 1,000 high-risk patients with newly diagnosed COVID-19, just 11 patients who received the bamlanivimab-etesevimab combo were hospitalized and none died. That compared with 36 hospitalizations and 10 deaths among placebo patients, which translates into a 70% reduction in the risk of a COVID-19 hospitalization or death.
10th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Could a Single Vaccine Work Against All Coronaviruses?

The invention of Covid-19 vaccines will be remembered as a milestone in the history of medicine, creating in a matter of months what had before taken up to a decade. But Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, the director of Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., isn’t satisfied. “That’s not fast enough,” he said. More than 2.3 million people around the world have died, and many countries will not have full access to the vaccines for another year or two: “Fast — truly fast — is having it there on day one.”
9th Feb 2021 - The New York Times


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 10th Feb 2021

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Are two masks better than one?

When it comes to protecting yourself against new coronavirus variants, two masks may be better than one. A number of politicians, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Mitt Romney, have been spotted doubling up on face masks, and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has recommended that everyday Americans do the same. As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters gathered a group of health experts to answer questions about the coronavirus, including what they consider the “right” way to wear face coverings.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Eli Lilly's antibody combination receives FDA emergency use authorization for COVID-19

Eli Lilly’s combination antibody therapy to fight COVID-19 has been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Lilly said on Tuesday. Lilly’s combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, helped cut the risk of hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients by 70%, data from a late-stage trial showed in January. Lilly said the therapy will be available immediately.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19 vaccines will turn virus into ‘the sniffles’, says Oxford professor

Inoculation could turn coronavirus into “the sniffles” even if it cannot stop variants causing illness, according to a vaccine expert. Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, which conducts studies of new and improved vaccines, told MPs that he believed vaccines would have a “huge impact on transmission” of the variants that had been identified in the Britain.
9th Feb 2021 - The Times

China's CanSino single-dose COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by Beijing's top military bio-warfare expert 'shows 65.7 per cent efficacy'

A single-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese firm CanSino Biologics and a team led by Beijing's top military bio-warfare expert is reported to show 65.7 per cent efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases. The drug also demonstrated a 90.98 per cent success rate in stopping severe disease in an interim analysis of global trials, according to Pakistan's health minister who posted the figures on Monday. Chen Wei, a Major General of China's People's Liberation Army, headed a team of scientists from the Chinese military to work on the inoculation with CanSino Biologics (CanSinoBIO), a biotechnology company based in Tianjin and listed on Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
9th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

Firm producing Novavax coronavirus vaccine outlines 'strong pipeline' of potential Covid partners

A firm chosen to manufacture millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines says it has a “strong pipeline” of companies that want to work with it in the battle against the pandemic. Teesside firm Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has recently been contracted to manufacture 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine at its Billingham site. Now it has released accounts for the year ending March 31 2020 which show that operating profit rose £900,000 to £23m even as revenues fell by 9% to £114.2m. The year saw the company invest in its facilities while it added almost 80 new employees to its headcount. In the accounts, the company said: “This result has been driven by a sustained demand for batch manufacture across the small scale, large scale and mammalian sectors and analytical services which continues to grow from strength to strength. “As the company continues to grow it has seen an increase in operational fixed costs to support this growth, however, the company continues to benefit from research and development expenditure credit which has offset this increase.”
9th Feb 2021 - Business Live

India says J&J interested in making COVID-19 vaccine in country

Johnson & Johnson is interested in manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine in India, a government official told a news conference on Tuesday. India also currently has no concern over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is being used in the country’s massive inoculation campaign, Vinod Kumar Paul said.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Common asthma medicine cuts need for COVID-19 hospitalization - Oxford study

A commonly used asthma treatment appears to reduce the need for hospitalizations as well as recovery time for COVID-19 patients if given within seven days of symptoms appearing, researchers at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday. The findings were made following a mid-stage study of the steroid budesonide, sold as Pulmicort by AstraZeneca Plc and also used for treating smoker's lung. The 28-day study of 146 patients suggested that inhaled budesonide reduced the risk of urgent care or hospitalization by 90% when compared with usual care, Oxford University said. Researchers said the trial was inspired by the fact that patients with chronic respiratory disease, who are often prescribed inhaled steroids, were significantly under-represented among hospitalized COVID-19 patients during early days of the pandemic.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

‘Covid-19 is wrecking people’s mental health’

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic is destroying our ability to connect with friends and family, disrupting our routines and consequently damaging our mental health, a professor of psychology has said. “If you had designed a disease that was specifically figured out to wreck our mental health, Covid would be it,” Prof Laurie Santos told BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur. Humans hate uncertainty, but the pandemic is seeing constantly changing lockdowns and a continued flux about when things will improve, all of which is bad for our mental health, she explained.
9th Feb 2021 - BBC News

WHO investigation into Covid-19 origins offers no quick answers

The press conference given by the World Health Organization’s investigative team in Wuhan is unlikely to silence the most conspiratorial of the conspiracy theorists who took their lead from the fever dreams of the former Trump administration. Indeed, the first and very partial findings in what was always going to be a long and drawn-out process have not told us much we did not already know about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Except, that is, to confirm what has long been a broadly held scientific consensus: that the virus did not escape from a Wuhan laboratory as suggested by Donald Trump’s allies and their cheerleaders.
9th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

New research to study whether Covid-19 causes strokes

A new research study will investigate reports that Covid-19 is causing life-threatening strokes. The study is being funded by the Stroke Association following what they described as "worrying" reports Covid-19 may increase the risk of having a stroke, using health data from patients across the UK. Data analysts will compare stroke in patients who have tested positive for the virus with those without it, along with characteristics including age, sex, ethnicity and geography to confirm who is most at risk. Research director at the Stroke Association Dr Rubina Ahmed said they're worried Covid-19 may lead to more strokes. In Northern Ireland, there are around 4,000 strokes every year. There are currently 39,000 stroke survivors.
9th Feb 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

Covid-19: How the UK’s gene-sequencing labs could track every single case and help stop new variants

In the debate about how quickly to reopen the UK after the current lockdown, there are broadly two camps: those – including many Conservative backbenchers – who want the restrictions removed at pace in order to restart the economy, and those who lean towards a “zero Covid” strategy which would aim at the complete elimination of coronavirus from Britain. Much will depend on the progress of the vaccination roll-out, and the extent to which vaccines are shown to cut both serious illness and the transmission of the virus. And border controls – including those being set out by Matt Hancock on Tuesday – will continue to be part of the UK’s defences against Covid-19 for the rest of this year at least.
9th Feb 2021 - iNews

COVID-19: 'Extremely unlikely' coronavirus came from Wuhan lab as evidence points to 'intermediary species'

It is "extremely unlikely" the novel coronavirus came from a laboratory incident in China, according to a joint mission investigating the origins of the pandemic. Investigators believe the most likely cause of the initial outbreak was the virus jumping from an "intermediary host species" to humans. It means future investigations will not focus on a laboratory incident as a potential cause of the outbreak. An international team of World Health Organisation (WHO) scientists, working with experts in China, has been researching how the COVID-19 pandemic began.
9th Feb 2021 - Sky News

COVID-19: NHS Test and Trace app has prevented 600,000 cases, study suggests

As many as 600,000 coronavirus cases have been prevented as a result of the NHS COVID-19 app, new research suggests. Scientists at The Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University found that for every 1% increase in app users, the number of infections falls by up to 2.3%. The analysis, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is based on data gathered in between the app launching in September and the end of last year. "The impact of the app could be increased by more people using it," said Professor Christophe Fraser at the University of Oxford.
9th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Britain could be trapped in lockdown cycles for 'several YEARS', top SAGE scientist warns

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said UK could be stuck in 'control and release for long time.' Threw support behind longer lockdown to stop more variants from spawning. Several other SAGE scientists came out in favour of extending current curbs
9th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Study to examine psychological impact of lockdown

A new study looking at the psychological impact of Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns is under way at Dundalk IT. The study is being led by University College London and is being carried out in 23 countries, including Ireland, the UK, Australia, USA, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Turkey and Norway. Researchers say there is no research on how lockdown during a pandemic, involving restrictions to freedom of movement, is perceived by the general population.
9th Feb 2021 - RTE Online

Vaccines Aren't the Only Thing We Need to Safely Reopen

The recent surge of positive COVID-19 vaccine developments has sent waves of relief throughout a pandemic-weary world. However, no matter how effective these vaccines are, they will not be enough to end this global pandemic—and for many of the world’s most vulnerable communities, they won’t arrive fast enough. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were developed in record time. However, these announcements highlight significant challenges: delivering two-dose vaccines with stringent cold-chain requirements to almost eight billion people, many of whom reside in communities with underfunded and strained health systems, is no small feat. Even if we address the logistical challenges, the reality is that it takes time and funding to deliver vaccines, treatments and tests that reach everyone in need. It is a sobering reminder that when lifesaving antiretrovirals were introduced for HIV-positive people, it took seven years before the medicine reached the poorest communities. And during that time, millions of people died, and millions more were infected, and the HIV pandemic continued to grow.
9th Feb 2021 - Scientific American

WHO team: Coronavirus unlikely to have leaked from Chinese lab

The coronavirus is unlikely to have leaked from a Chinese lab and is more likely to have jumped to humans from an animal, a World Health Organization team has concluded, an expert said Tuesday as the group wrapped up a visit to explore the origins of the virus. The Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China has collected extensive virus samples, leading to allegations that it may have caused the original outbreak by leaking the virus into the surrounding community. China has strongly rejected that possibility and has promoted other theories for the virus’s origins. The WHO team that visited Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in December 2019, is considering several theories for how the disease first ended up in humans, leading to a pandemic that has now killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide.
9th Feb 2021 - POLITICO

Top scientists including US Covid expert Anthony Fauci call for double-masking to slash the spread of coronavirus but experts say claim it works better than one is not 'grounded in science'

Dr Anthony Fauci said it was 'common sense' to wear two masks at the same time But other experts have cautioned there is no 'strong evidence' for this Face masks stop Covid-19 from spreading by blocking infected droplets
9th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

China probe says SARS-CoV-2 jump from go-between host most likely

Representatives from China and an international joint mission team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) today in Wuhan detailed the results of a 2-week probe into the zoonotic source of the outbreaks, which didn't reveal a definitive source but did shed new light on the events. At the nearly 3-hour briefing, officials laid out four main theories, some of them less likely possibilities. The 10-person joint mission team has been in China since Jan 14 and followed investigation terms that a WHO advance team fleshed out with the country over the summer.
9th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reducing viral load, data from Israel suggests

Data from researchers in Israel, which has inoculated swathes of its population, suggests the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is reducing viral load, a key signal that the intervention could diminish the spread of Covid-19. Evidence that the coronavirus vaccines being deployed globally are dramatically effective in reducing severe disease and death in symptomatic Covid-19 is abundant. But a big question remains unanswered: can they thwart transmission, in other words stop people from passing on the virus? Preventing the spread of infection is key to reducing the risk of more variants emerging and to achieving herd immunity, scientists say. People with higher viral load tend to be more infectious and are more likely to suffer from severe disease.
9th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

It’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7

When President Trump referred to the “Chinese virus,” the media were quick to point out problems with this terminology, lambasting it as xenophobic and racist. But as new variants appear, some media outlets are doing the same thing: talk of the “British,” “Brazilian,” and “South African” Covid-19 variants abounds. Even scientific journals are using this terminology. But labeling viral variants by their geographic origin is incorrect. Just as the “China virus” should be called SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus, so too should new variants be described by their proper nomenclature: B.1.1.7, not “U.K. variant” and P.1, not the “Brazilian variant.”
9th Feb 2021 - Stat News

A Q&A with WHO’s emergencies chief on Covid-19, why he’s hopeful, and when normalcy might return

This time last year, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, was strenuously urging the world to try to contain the new virus that was spreading in and from China. The world, he said, had the necessary tools: contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine. “There’s enough evidence to suggest that this virus can still be contained,” he told STAT in an interview for a story published Feb. 1, 2020. The world didn’t move swiftly enough to put SARS-CoV-2 “back in the box,” to borrow an expression sometimes used by scientists to describe viral containment. More than 100 million people around the globe have been infected with Covid-19, and more than 2.3 million people have died.
9th Feb 2021 - Stat News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 9th Feb 2021

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China's CanSino Coronavirus Vaccine Shows 65.7% Efficacy

CanSino Biologics Inc.’s experimental coronavirus shot has an efficacy rate of 65.7% at preventing symptomatic cases based on an analysis from late-stage trials, making it the latest vaccine candidate to show some protection against Covid-19. The shot co-developed by the Chinese military and the Tianjin-based biotech company proved effective against symptomatic Covid-19, based on a multi-country analysis first posted on Twitter by Faisal Sultan, Pakistan’s health adviser, on Monday. CanSino later forwarded Sultan’s announcement in a statement. The final stage trail included 30,000 participants and was also 90.98% effective in preventing severe disease, Sultan said. A vaccine needs to afford at least a 50% protection rate to be considered effective, as mandated by the world’s leading drug regulators and the World Health Organization.
8th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

China approves Sinovac's coronavirus vaccine -

China’s national regulator has approved Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use by the general public. This is the second vaccine approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA). Both of the vaccines, along with another experimental vaccine from Sinopharm, have been used in China’s vaccination programme. More than 31 million doses have been administered, mainly targeting groups at higher infection risks, while a fourth experimental vaccine from CanSino Biologics has been given to military personnel. Brazilian clinical trial results published last month showed the vaccine, dubbed Coronavac, is just over 50% effective.
8th Feb 2021 - pharmaphorum

More medical breakthroughs on the way thanks to BioNTech coronavirus vaccine

Saving the world was, for Dr Katalin Kariko, always a sideline. After a busy year producing the world’s first, and currently most effective, coronavirus vaccine, she is keen to return to the day job. “We have very important projects, and many of them were pushed aside due to the pandemic,” she says. Patients, she adds, are waiting. Those projects — from personalised cancer medicine to curing allergies — have arguably become more important due to what she has done in the past 12 months. Because, today, a lot more people think they will actually work. In January 2020, Kariko was one of the team at BioNTech, a German pharmaceutical company. They had a technology that they thought could make a fast and simple vaccine.
8th Feb 2021 - The Times

Covid: Scientists developing vaccine boosters to tackle variants

Scientists are developing booster jabs to tackle Covid-19 variants, a health minister says, amid concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine's efficacy against the South Africa strain. The vaccine provides good protection against the dominant 'Kent' variant in the UK. But a small study suggests it offers "minimal protection" against mild disease from the South Africa variant. Some 147 cases of this variant have been found in the UK. Health minister Edward Argar said the government was anticipating that an annual jab could be required to combat variants of coronavirus. He also said there was "no evidence" the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective at preventing severe illness from the South African variant, which scientists have warned could become more widespread in the UK.
8th Feb 2021 - BBC News

New variants raise worry about COVID-19 virus reinfections

Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time, new research suggests. How long immunity lasts from natural infection is one of the big questions in the pandemic. Scientists still think reinfections are fairly rare and usually less serious than initial ones, but recent developments around the world have raised concerns. In South Africa, a vaccine study found new infections with a variant in 2% of people who previously had an earlier version of the virus.
8th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Astra Zeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines are effective and saving lives says NI Chief Medical Officer

Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer has given his full backing to Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine programme and said: “They are protecting people from Covid-19 - and saving lives.” Dr Michael McBride was responding to differing reports on the effectiveness of the vaccines, in particular AstraZeneca’s. But he urged people to be confident in the vaccines being rolled out in Northern Ireland right now and urged everyone eligible for the shot, to have it. Dr McBride said: “The AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are protecting people from Covid-19 - and saving lives.
8th Feb 2021 - Belfast Live

Web searches could help detect Covid-19 outbreaks early, study says

Using symptom-related searches through Google could allow experts to predict a peak in cases on average 17 days in advance, a group from University College London (UCL) said. Analysing internet search activity is already used to track and understand the seasonal flu. Using data on Covid-19 web searches in a similar way alongside more established approaches could improve public health surveillance methods. “Adding to previous research that has showcased the utility of online search activity in modelling infectious diseases such as influenza, this study provides a new set of tools that can be used to track Covid-19,” said lead author Dr Vasileios Lampos.
8th Feb 2021 - Aberdeen Evening Express

Cambridge firms underpin game-changing lateral flow test for Covid-19

Two Cambridge-based biotechnology companies have been instrumental in the development of a game-changing platform for lateral flow (LF) tests that could be vital in the fight against Covid-19. Large-scale Covid-19 antibody screenings with high specificity and sensitivity, such as the LF test, could provide public health authorities with reliable data to monitor the impact of regional and national lockdown restrictions and provide evidence of antibody generation after vaccine immunisations. The platform is underpinned by Activotec, a laboratory equipment supplier based in Comberton, while Excivion is developing novel vaccines from St John’s Innovation Centre.
8th Feb 2021 - Cambridge Independent

Vaccines Alone Are Not Enough to Beat COVID

The world’s attention is rightly focused on news of COVID-19 vaccine updates, from eligibility to supply. But we will make a critical error if we ignore the need for treatments as well as vaccines. Vaccines may not reach everyone for many years. Vaccines will not protect everyone. And as infection surges threaten to overwhelm hospitals and nursing homes, immediate remedies are needed. So, it is vitally important we continue to research treatments to limit and cure COVID-19. Consider the flu, which is targeted annually with widely available and effective vaccines. But since no vaccine is perfect, there remains a significant need for flu therapies such as Tamiflu and Relenza because these drugs prevent hospitalizations and save lives. We need Tamiflu-like and Relenza-like drugs for COVID-19.
8th Feb 2021 - Scientific American

COVID-19: Shape-shifting coronavirus is knocking the confidence of scientists

Another half a million or so people will today bare their shoulder and have a vaccine against COVID-19. It's a triumph of science and logistics. But will it end the pandemic? Just a few weeks ago the answer would have been an unqualified "yes". But the evolving virus has knocked the confidence of many scientists.
8th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Scientists to US: Act now to leash virulent COVID variant

The B117 SARS-CoV-2 variant, identified in 33 states thus far, will dominate other strains in the coming weeks, triggering major COVID-19 surges such as those seen in Portugal and the United Kingdom—unless the United States immediately scales up surveillance and mitigation efforts, according to a study published yesterday on the preprint server medRxiv. A team led by scientists from the Scripps Research Institute sequenced SARS-CoV-2 genomes from 10 states using US COVID-19 testing facilities to track the emergence and spread of B117, the more transmissible and lethal variant that was first discovered in the United Kingdom in September and likely introduced to the United States during holiday travel.
8th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

South Africa pauses AstraZeneca vaccine rollout amid variant COVID questions

South Africa recently received 1 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine and was poised to start vaccinating healthcare workers, but yesterday, health officials announced a pause for the rollout to investigate early findings that it offered little protection against mild-to-moderate disease caused by the B1351 variant strain that's dominant in the country. New questions about the vaccine come as World Health Organization (WHO) advisers this week consider it for emergency use listing, which if approved, would pave the way for lower income countries to receive their first doses though the COVAX program. The first shipments through COVAX depend on 350 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
8th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer to nearly halve COVID-19 vaccine production timeline, sterile injectables VP says

With an upsized production goal of 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech aren’t resting on their laurels now that their shot, Comirnaty, has emergency nods in the U.S., Europe and beyond. As the companies continue to build out capacity, manufacturing efficiency is getting its own boost, Pfizer revealed. The time it takes the company to produce a COVID-19 vaccine batch could soon be cut from 110 days to an average of just 60, Chaz Calitri, vice president of sterile injectables, told USA Today. “We call this ‘Project Light Speed,’ and it’s called that for a reason,” he said. “Just in the last month, we’ve doubled output.” One element teed up for acceleration is DNA production—the first step in Pfizer’s vaccine manufacturing process, Calitri explained. Making that DNA originally took 16 days, but the process will soon take just nine or 10 days, he said.
8th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

India's Cadila saddled with more COVID-19 vaccine orders than it can fill

Demand outpacing COVID-19 vaccine supplies has already been a problem for players with authorized products, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca. But an Indian drugmaker known for its generics is reporting similar issues over a shot still kicking around the clinic. Cadila Healthcare, also known as Zydus Cadila, has more orders for its plasmid DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, than it can make—and so far, it's still on the hunt for partners to hit a production target of 200 million doses, Indian outlet Moneycontrol reports. "We have always believed that this (DNA) platform offers the most safe and efficacious way of handling such a large pandemic and we are very happy to see the strong response we are getting from different countries," Sharvil Patel, managing director of Cadila Healthcare, said, according to Moneycontrol.
8th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Covid-19: The E484K mutation and the risks it poses

What do we know about the E484K mutation? The E484K mutation is not a new variant in itself, it’s a mutation which occurs in different variants and has already been found in the South African (B.1.351) and Brazilian (B.1.1.28) variants. The mutation is in the spike protein and appears to have an impact on the body’s immune response and, possibly, vaccine efficacy. On 1 February, Public Health England (PHE) announced that the Covid-19 Genomics (COG-UK) consortium had identified this same E484K mutation in 11 samples carrying the UK variant B.1.1.7 (sometimes called the Kent variant), after analysing 214 159 sequences. Where has it been identified in the UK? PHE confirmed to The BMJ that they have now identified 11 cases of the UK B1.1.7 variant carrying the E484K mutation around the Bristol area and 40 cases of the original SARS-C0V-2 virus carrying the same E484K mutation in the Liverpool area. Public health officials are carrying out enhanced contact tracing, additional laboratory analysis, and testing in these areas. Is this mutation something to worry about? E484K is called an escape mutation because it helps the virus slip past the body’s immune defences. Ravindra Gupta at the University of Cambridge and colleagues have confirmed that the new B.1.1.7 plus E484K variant substantially increases the amount of serum antibody needed to prevent infection of cells.2 We already know that the B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible so a combination of a faster spreading virus that is also better at evading immunity is worrying—if it isn’t stopped it would outcompete the older B.1.1.7 variant.
5th Feb 2021 - BMJ

AstraZeneca, Oxford race to update COVID-19 vaccine as study flags weak action against variant

It didn’t take long before a morale boost for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was overshadowed by disappointment over its waned protection against a newly emerged coronavirus variant. A new study has found AZ’s COVID-19 shot offered “minimal protection” against mild to moderate disease caused by the B.1.351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa, the University of Oxford, the original developer of the vaccine, said Sunday. The finding has prompted the pair to update their vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, to target variants of the coronavirus with mutations similar to B.1.351. In the meantime, South African authorities have halted rollout of the vaccine as they try to figure out the best way forward.
8th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

‘What other variants might be out there?’ An expert on viral evolution on what’s happening with coronavirus mutations

Variants” is the latest term to leap from the infectious disease lexicon to the general public as a result of the coronavirus, as the effects of mutations on transmission and vaccines have emerged as top global concerns. But researchers like Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Bern, have been looking out for genetic changes to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. The virus, like any virus, has picked up mutations as it spread, but it’s only been in the past few months that it has been altered in ways that could dramatically shift the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic.
8th Feb 2021 - Stat News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 8th Feb 2021

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Oxford vaccine offers ‘limited’ protection against South Africa variant, study finds

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have said their vaccine has been found to provide only limited protection against mild and moderate disease caused by the South African variant of Covid-19 in early data from a small trial. However, Oxford vaccine researchers say a version ofthe jab that works against news variants should be available by the autumn. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, was conducted by South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University. It analysed the E484K mutation in more than 2,000 people, with most of the participants considered young and healthy.
8th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Pfizer expects to cut COVID-19 vaccine production time by close to 50% as production ramps up, efficiencies increase

Pfizer expects to nearly cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to an average of 60 as it makes the process more efficient and production is built out, the company told USA TODAY. As the nation revs up its vaccination programs, the increase could help relieve bottlenecks caused by vaccine shortages. "We call this 'Project Light Speed,' and it's called that for a reason," said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer's vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Just in the last month we've doubled output."
7th Feb 2021 - USA TODAY on MSN.com

Vaccine strategy needs rethink after resistant variants emerge, say scientists

Leading vaccine scientists are calling for a rethink of the goals of vaccination programmes, saying that herd immunity through vaccination is unlikely to be possible because of the emergence of variants like that in South Africa. The comments came as the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca acknowledged that their vaccine will not protect people against mild to moderate Covid illness caused by the South African variant. The Oxford vaccine is the mainstay of the UK’s immunisation programme and vitally important around the world because of its low cost and ease of use. The findings came from a study involving more than 2,000 people in South Africa. They followed results from two vaccines, from Novavax and Janssen, which were trialled there in recent months and were found to have much reduced protection against the variant – at about 60%. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have also said the variant affects the efficacy of their vaccines, although on the basis of lab studies only.
7th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Coronavirus Vaccine Nasal Spray Offers Hope To Needle Phobics

While most of the nation pins its hope on the coronavirus vaccine as a route out of the pandemic, Michelle Turner has mixed emotions. As a science teacher in a secondary school, Turner knows she has a rational brain. But put her in the same room as someone holding a needle and she admits all logic goes out the window as she has a total meltdown. “The moment a needle comes anywhere near me, I just flip my lid and start screaming, flinching, swearing and kicking out. It is like an out-of-body experience,” she tells HuffPost UK. Her needle phobia has only got worse with time. ”When I was pregnant with my daughter, it got to the point where the midwife said it was completely unethical to try and take blood from someone who got so distressed,” says Turner, 35, who lives in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
6th Feb 2021 - HuffPost UK

China Approves Second Coronavirus Vaccine for Public Use

Sinovac Biotech Ltd. received regulatory approval from Chinese authorities for its coronavirus vaccine to be used by the general public in the country’s second such authorization. The conditional approval was announced by the National Medical Products Administration on Saturday. Sinovac earlier said the protective efficacy of its vaccine, CoronaVac, met World Health Organization and China regulatory standards 14 days after the completion of two shots. With the approval, the vaccine can be administered to the general population following one developed by state-owned China National Biotec Group Co. which got permission in December. The Chinese regulator had endorsed CoronaVac for emergency use in July.
6th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

Could the climate crisis have played a role in the emergence of Covid-19?

Scientists have identified a “possible role” for the climate crisis in the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 was first recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan. However, it is not yet clear exactly how the virus emerged. Researchers suspect that the virus initially “spilled over” from bats to humans through an unknown intermediary animal, possibly a pangolin. A study published today finds that changing climate conditions could be linked to a greater diversity of bat species in Yunnan, a province of southwestern China, and its surrounding regions. Early research suggests that the virus causing Covid-19, which is called SARS-CoV-2, could have arisen in this area.
6th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Scientists helping to 'second guess' future mutations of Covid-19 to create new vaccines

Scientists are helping to “second guess” future mutations of coronavirus in order to create new potential vaccines, the chairman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce has said. Asked whether it was possible to produce a vaccine that was comprehensive at tackling new mutations, Clive Dix told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Yes, absolutely. “The UK is properly at the forefront of surveying all of these variants. “We have actually sequenced nearly 50% of all the virus that has been sequenced in this pandemic at the Sanger centre in Cambridge.
6th Feb 2021 - Wales Online

What's the risk of dying from a fast-spreading COVID-19 variant?

The news is sobering, but complicated. Scientists have released the data behind a British government warning last week that the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 increases the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with previous variants. But some scientists caution that the latest study — like the government warning — is preliminary and still does not indicate whether the variant is more deadly or is just spreading faster and so reaching greater numbers of vulnerable people. The latest findings are concerning, but to draw conclusions, “more work needs to be done”, says Muge Cevik, a public-health researcher at the University of St Andrews, who is based in Edinburgh, UK.
6th Feb 2021 - Nature

China approves Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for general public use

Sinovac Biotech said on Saturday that its unit’s COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use by the general public by China’s medical products regulator. It marks the second vaccine approved for public use in China, after one developed by a Beijing institute affiliated with state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) was approved in December. Both vaccines, as well as a third candidate from Sinopharm, have already been used in China’s vaccination program which has administered over 31 million doses, mainly targeting groups at higher infection risk. A fourth candidate from CanSino Biologics is being used among military personnel.
6th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Vaccines against new variants should be ready by October

Vaccines specifically designed to tackle new variants of coronavirus should be ready to be rolled out by October, according to the team behind the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab. Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, said work on designing a new jab could be a quick process. Studies have shown that variants of COVID-19 that have the E484K mutation could reduce the efficacy of vaccines, but they are still expected to provide good protection against illness and severe disease. The mutation is present in the variant first identified in South Africa, with more than 100 cases of that variant detected in the UK so far. E484K has also been found in Bristol in the variant first recorded in Kent, and in Liverpool in a new variant on the original strain of coronavirus that first came to the UK.
6th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: Avoid 'setting dates' for lifting lockdown, scientist warns

The UK government should avoid "setting dates" for when to lift lockdown and instead react to changing circumstances, a scientist has warned. Prof Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said leaders should not be "driven by a calendar". Meanwhile, the government has said all over-50s should be vaccinated by May. And a senior Conservative MP has told the BBC that Downing Street should be "looking to open up" society. Sir Graham Brady, who leads the 1922 Committee of Conservative Party backbenchers, cited the falling infection level and success of the vaccine rollout, telling the BBC the situation was "optimistic".
5th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Putin's Once-Scorned Vaccine Is Now a Favorite in Pandemic Fight

President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era. Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as U.S. and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.
5th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

COVID-19: a heavy toll on health-care workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged and, in many cases, exceeded the capacity of hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) worldwide. Health-care workers have continued to provide care for patients despite exhaustion, personal risk of infection, fear of transmission to family members, illness or death of friends and colleagues, and the loss of many patients. Sadly, health-care workers have also faced many additional—often avoidable—sources of stress and anxiety, and long shifts combined with unprecedented population restrictions, including personal isolation, have affected individuals' ability to cope.
5th Feb 2021 - The Lancet

Moderna sets sights on $200M vaccine factory in Seoul: report

With supply contracts for 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Japan and 40 million in South Korea, Moderna has already made a push into the Asian market. Now, it's laying out plans for a factory all its own in the region. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based drugmaker is in talks with the South Korean government to invest $200 million into a vaccine production plant in the country, Park Young-sun, a former government minister involved in the plans, told the Asia Business Daily, Reuters reports. Moderna is eager to push into the region, she added.
5th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

No need 'to start at square one': FDA plans to lay out a speedy path for COVID-19 vaccines, drugs against variants

New coronavirus variants have prompted COVID-19 vaccine makers to start developing updates to their existing offerings. To speed their journey to a pandemic-fatigued public, the FDA says it’s developing expedited review rules for the follow-up shots. The FDA’s working on guidance for the types of data needed to support changes to COVID-19 vaccines. The new rules would provide for “streamlined clinical programs” that can demonstrate an immune response to new variants and “can be executed quickly,” FDA’s acting commissioner, Janet Woodcock, said in a statement Thursday. The draft plan could come in two to three weeks, Politico reported, citing four people familiar with the agency’s internal discussions.
5th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Talking Europe - 'Promising' signs for Covid-19 vaccines' efficiency against mutant strains: EMA head

As the EU's 27 member states scramble to contain the spread of new "mutant" strains of the Covid-19 virus, the head of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, tells FRANCE 24 that there are "promising" results from early studies into how well existing vaccines work against the new variants. The so-called "UK variant", otherwise known as strain B.1.1.7, transmits more easily from person to person and there are predictions that it will become the dominant strain within weeks. EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke says that ongoing preliminary studies look "promising" – and that the EMA has asked vaccine producers to plan studies to prove their results "conclusively". Meanwhile, a growing list of European states are casting doubt on the efficacy, in people aged over 65, of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – one of the three authorised vaccines in the EU.
5th Feb 2021 - FRANCE 24

Pfizer withdraws COVID-19 vaccine emergency use bid in India | TheHill

Pfizer has removed its bid for emergency approval of its coronavirus vaccine in India, citing additional information needed by the country’s drug regulator, the pharmaceutical company confirmed to The Hill. The decision, first reported by Reuters on Friday, came after a Wednesday meeting with India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization. “Based on the deliberations at the meeting and our understanding of additional information that the regulator may need, the company has decided to withdraw its application at this time,” Pfizer said in a statement shared with The Hill. The company added that it “will continue to engage with the authority and resubmit its approval request with additional information as it becomes available in the near future.”
5th Feb 2021 - The Hill

Sinovac says COVID-19 vaccine effective in preventing hospitalization, death

China’s Sinovac Biotech on Friday said late-stage trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine from Brazil and Turkey showed it prevented hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients, but had a much lower efficacy rate in blocking infections. The 12,396-person trial found the CoronaVac vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 sufferers from being hospitalized or dying and 83.7% effective in avoiding cases that required any medical treatment, but only 50.65% effective at keeping people from getting infected, according to a statement. The trials evaluated the efficacy of the two-shot vaccine candidate 14 days after inoculation of participants, including healthcare workers who treat COVID-19 patients.
5th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus: Irish government 'right' on over 70s vaccine plan

The Irish government has made the "right decision" by not using the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on people aged over 70, an immunologist has said. Prof Kingston Mills from Trinity College Dublin said data was "limited" on its efficacy in the older population. The Irish government said over 70s will receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. However, it has warned the rollout for this age group "may well be slower". On Thursday, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar told the Dáil (Irish parliament) the same number of vaccines will be administered, with a faster rollout for healthcare workers and some other groups who will receive AstraZeneca doses.
5th Feb 2021 - BBC News

UK coronavirus variant found in 74% of Slovak cases; country to open some schools

The UK coronavirus variant, more infectious than the previously dominant strain, has taken over as the main cause of new COVID-19 cases in Slovakia, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Friday. The central European country of 5.5 million has struggled to bring down daily cases despite lockdown measures and widespread testing, which is required for people to go out including to work. Hospitals have been strained, with 3,560 coronavirus patients on Thursday. Matovic told a news conference the government had checked all positive samples of PCR laboratory tests taken in the country on Wednesday and results showed 74% were the UK variant, a touch above the 71% in partial findings he had reported earlier on Friday.
5th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Johnson & Johnson asks FDA to authorize its Covid-19 vaccine

Johnson & Johnson officially asked the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine Thursday, taking forward the possibility of a third coronavirus vaccine for the US market. "Today's submission for Emergency Use Authorization of our investigational single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is a pivotal step toward reducing the burden of disease for people globally and putting an end to the pandemic," Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.
5th Feb 2021 - CNN

COVID-19: Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has 'similar effect' against Kent variant, researchers find

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains effective against the coronavirus variant first detected in Kent and the South East, researchers have found. The researchers who developed the jab say it has a similar efficacy against the variant compared to the original COVID-19 strain it was tested against. Professor Andrew Pollard, a chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said the new data suggests "the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7".
5th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Pregnant women ‘should be included in Covid-19 vaccine trials’

Pregnant women should be included in coronavirus vaccine trials, experts have urged, as those in priority groups wrestle with whether or not to have the jab. Doctors are considering emerging evidence that pregnant women may face greater risks from Covid-19, although they are not at present a priority group. Professor Lucy Chappell, spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said that it was not asking for this status to change but that it would discuss any risk with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation
5th Feb 2021 - The Times

Covid restrictions need to remain until 2022 due to mutant strains, experts claim

The ongoing spread of mutated coronavirus strains mean restrictions can't be lifted until 2022 despite the vaccine roll out, experts have warned. Researchers at Warwick University used simulations to model what could happen if Britain is unshackled in the coming months, before presenting their findings to SAGE. The paper, published on Friday, said despite nearly 11 million people across the UK having so far been inoculated, the unprecedented roll-out is "insufficient" to allow for a return to normal before the end of the year. The scientists warn such a move could be catastrophic and leading to thousands more hospitalisations and deaths.
5th Feb 2021 - Mirror Online

India’s coronavirus puzzle: Why case numbers are plummeting

Back in November, Ajeet Jain felt like he was living a nightmare. The large public hospital where he works in India's capital was full of covid-19 patients, hundreds of them so ill they required intensive care. About 10 people were dying every day. Three months later, the situation is unrecognizable. The number of coronavirus patients at the hospital can be counted on one hand. Out of 200 ventilators, only two are in use. Hospitals treating covid-19 patients around the country report similar experiences. “It’s a big, big relief,” Jain said. The apparent retreat of the coronavirus in India, the world’s second-most populous nation, is a mystery that is crucial to the future course of the pandemic.
4th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

Could mixing COVID vaccines boost immune response?

Researchers in the United Kingdom have launched a study that will mix and match two COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to ease the daunting logistics of immunizing millions of people — and potentially boost immune responses in the process. Most coronavirus vaccines are given as two injections: an initial ‘prime’ dose followed by a ‘boost’ to stimulate the immune system’s memory cells and amplify the immune response. The clinical trial will test participants’ immune responses to receiving one shot of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Oxford and drug firm AstraZeneca — which uses a harmless virus to carry a key coronavirus gene into cells — and one shot of the vaccine produced by drug company Pfizer, which uses RNA instructions to trigger an immune response. The trial, which is run by investigators at the University of Oxford, aims to begin enrolment on 4 February.
4th Feb 2021 - Nature.com


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 5th Feb 2021

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COVID-19: Mix and match coronavirus vaccine trial results to be available by summer

Covid trial in UK examines mixing different vaccinesBBC NewsWho should get which coronavirus vaccine?The Indian ExpressMore than 10 million people receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in UKGOV.UKCoronavirus vaccine calculator shows when you'll get first and second doseBirmingham LiveView Full coverage on Google News
4th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19 patients are most infectious one day BEFORE symptoms appear, study reveals

Covid-19 patients are at their most infectious one day before they develop symptoms, a mathematical study reveals. Researchers used a computer model to process data on viral load — the amount of coronavirus a person is infected with — and how it decreases throughout infection. Previous studies have found viral load aligns with infectivity and also increases the likelihood of death, meaning an infected person with a high amount of the virus in their system is more infectious and also at greater risk of dying from Covid-19.
4th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

Covid-19: International travel 'biggest impact' on deaths

International travel had the biggest impact on Covid death rates for countries hit in the pandemic's first wave, a study has found. Researchers in Aberdeen focused on the world's worst affected 37 countries. They examined factors including border arrivals, population density, the percentage of people living in urban areas, age, and health issues. The team said early restrictions on international travel could have made a difference in the spread. The study looked at counties including America, the UK, Spain, France, Italy and Brazil, and focused on the early stages of the pandemic. They found an increase of one million international arrivals was associated with a 3.4% rise in the mean daily increase in Covid-19 deaths.
4th Feb 2021 - BBC News

COVID's mental-health toll: how scientists are tracking a surge in depression

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, new fast-spreading variants have caused a surge in infections in many countries, and renewed lockdowns. The devastation of the pandemic — millions of deaths, economic strife and unprecedented curbs on social interaction — has already had a marked effect on people’s mental health. Researchers worldwide are investigating the causes and impacts of this stress, and some fear that the deterioration in mental health could linger long after the pandemic has subsided. Ultimately, scientists hope that they can use the mountains of data being collected in studies about mental health to link the impact of particular control measures to changes in people’s well-being, and to inform the management of future pandemics.
4th Feb 2021 - Nature.com

WHO team in Wuhan says discussions open, meetings frank

World Health Organization investigators looking for clues into the origin of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan say the Chinese side has provided a high level of cooperation but caution against expecting immediate results from the visit
4th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Danish scientists see tough times ahead as they watch more contagious COVID-19 virus surge

On its face, the curve of COVID-19 infections in Denmark looks reassuring enough. A nationwide lockdown has led numbers to plummet from more than 3000 daily cases in mid-December 2020 to just a few hundred now. But don’t be fooled. “Sure, the numbers look nice,” says Camilla Holten Møller of the Statens Serum Institute, who heads a group of experts modeling the epidemic. “But if we look at our models, this is the calm before the storm.” That’s because the graph really reflects two epidemics: one, shrinking fast, that’s caused by older variants of SARS-CoV-2, and a smaller, slowly growing outbreak of B.1.1.7, the variant first recognized in England and now driving a big third wave of the pandemic there. If B.1.1.7 keeps spreading at the same pace in Denmark, it will become the dominant variant later this month and cause the overall number of cases to rise again, despite the lockdown, Holten Møller says. “It is a complete game changer.”
4th Feb 2021 - Science Magazine

Covid: South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants among 4,000 worldwide, vaccines minster says

There are 4,000 coronavirus mutations worldwide, a senior minister has said, but the UK is now capable of sequencing and manufacturing new vaccines designed to tackle new strains. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK is "in a really strong position" to deal with new variants due to having "around 50% of the world's genome sequencing capability" which means variants can be identified "rapidly". Despite claiming the UK's "ability to sequence and then manufacture [new vaccines] at scale" is in a "good place", there are serious concerns about South African and Brazilian variants having an impact on the immunisation programme. A door-to-door testing blitz of 80,000 homes in eight postcode areas of England is underway to contain all cases of the South African variant of Covid-19 after 105 cases were identified.
4th Feb 2021 - ITV News

Oxford Covid vaccine team is working on a ‘second generation’ jab - here’s how long it could take

Researchers who worked on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are already working on a so-called “second generation” Covid jab, designed to be effective against mutated strains of the virus. While the existing vaccine is thought to be effective against the ‘Kent’ strain which emerged in the South East of England, there are concerns about other strains which are starting to appear all over the world. New Covid variants have been identified in South Africa and Brazil recently, prompting worries that existing vaccines may not be entirely effective against these.
4th Feb 2021 - The Scotsman

Cambodia approves emergency use of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Cambodia has officially approved the emergency use of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in the Southeast Asian country, according to a Ministry of Health statement on Thursday. "The Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Cambodia authorized the emergency use of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine that has been developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd of the People's Republic of China," Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in the statement. Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said on Thursday that the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine donated by China will arrive in Cambodia on Sunday, Feb. 7. "When the vaccine arrives at the Phnom Penh International Airport, I will go to receive it by myself," he wrote on his official Facebook page.
4th Feb 2021 - China Internet Information Center

Singapore approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Singapore on Wednesday approved the use of a second COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years and above. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is the second to be approved after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently being used. The Expert Committee has independently reviewed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy data for different population segments in Singapore, and has been briefed by The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on its full range of considerations in granting interim authorisation, and is satisfied with its safety and efficacy. “In assessing the suitability of vaccine candidates for specific population groups, the Expert Committee took into consideration the safety, efficacy and tolerability of the vaccine and data adequacy of clinical trials. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated a high vaccine efficacy of 94%, and its safety profile is consistent with the standards set for other registered vaccines used in the immunisation against other diseases,” a release on the Ministry of Health website stated.
4th Feb 2021 - Connected To India

Mexico approves emergency use of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and orders more than 7 million doses

Mexico authorized the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on Tuesday. The approval of the coronavirus vaccine comes a week after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reached an agreement with President Vladimir Putin. During Tuesday's announcement, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Mexico will receive 7.4 million vaccine doses between February and April. The government also started the second phase of its vaccination process for people over the age of 60. The coronavirus pandemic has slammed Mexico with 159,333 confirmed deaths - the third-most in the world - and 1,874,092 cases
4th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

New Zealand gives provisional approval to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in New Zealand, where the government will begin vaccinating frontline healthcare and border workers in the coming months. Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, said the approval was a positive step in the country’s fight against Covid-19, of which there have been fewer than 2,000 cases nationally. In New Zealand the approval of medicines and vaccines falls under Medsafe, which also provides independent advice to the government. Although the assessment of the Pfizer vaccine was fast-tracked in New Zealand, it was not given the pace of an “emergency” medicine as the virus has been largely under control.
4th Feb 2021 - The Guardian on MSN.com

Nicaragua approves Russian COVID-19 vaccine

Nicaragua’s government said Wednesday that it had approved Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. “Nicaragua is advancing in its negotiations with Russia to supply” the vaccine, said the government outlet El 19 Digital. It was the first vaccine approved in Nicaragua, which still awaits its first doses. The government had said in January that it had initiated efforts to acquire vaccines from various laboratories around the world and hoped to vaccinate 3.7 million people in an initial stage.
4th Feb 2021 - The Independent

AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in Ireland by Minister for Health

Ireland has received a major boost in the vaccine rollout plan, as the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the country. COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is given as two injections into the arm, the second between 4 to 12 weeks after the first. The Government's target of vaccinating 700,000 people by the end of March was contingent on the arrival of 600,000 AstraZeneca doses. However, 300,000 vaccines will be delivered instead as a result of a delay.
4th Feb 2021 - Buzz.ie

Novavax Sees U.K. Vaccine Approval First; in Talks With FDA

A new Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax Inc. is likely to get its first approval in the U.K., and the company is discussing with U.S. regulators whether trial data from other countries could be part of the shot’s review, Chief Executive Officer Stan Erck said. The company announced late Thursday that the vaccine was effective in big trials in the U.K. and South Africa, though its protective power appeared to be reduced in South Africa, where a worrisome mutation is prevalent. Novavax is still recruiting patients for a trial in the U.S. and Mexico, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could consider authorizing the vaccine based on the results from abroad, Erck said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “We are hoping we can take that data package to the FDA and have them evaluate our vaccine based on the U.K. data while we are running a phase 3 trial in the U.S.,” Erck said. “We are talking to them. We don’t have a definitive answer yet.”
4th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

COVID-19: Fourth vaccine could be approved in weeks as trial shows it is effective against UK variant

A fourth COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for use in the UK within weeks after late-stage trials suggested it was 89% effective in preventing coronavirus. The prime minister has said the Novavax jab is now going to be assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). If approved, the vaccine would start to be rolled out in the second half of 2021. The UK has already ordered 60 million doses, which are going to be manufactured in Stockton-on-Tees.
4th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Sinovac Applies for Conditional Approval of Covid-19 Vaccine in China

China's medicine regulator is reviewing a second domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine for conditional approval. The CoronaVac inoculation developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd has been given to tens of thousands of people in China under an emergency use programme launched in July targeting specific groups with high infection risks.
4th Feb 2021 - Caixin Global

EU drugs watchdog partners with regulators on COVID-19 vaccines, drugs

Europe’s drugs regulator said on Thursday it had started sharing COVID-19 vaccine and treatment expertise with its counterparts in several countries, aiming to speed up regulatory processes around the world. The pilot aims to speed up development and assessment of COVID-19 medicines and make them available to the public faster, the European Medicines Agency said, adding that the collaboration comes "at a time when vaccine hesitancy has increased." It said that the collaboration, which began in December, will promote overall transparency and may increase public trust in the vaccines and therapeutics as regulatory decisions are open to peer-review.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

UK launches world-first COVID-19 study evaluating a mixed-vaccine regimen

A world-first study has launched in the UK with the aim of examining the safety and efficacy of mixing different vaccines for COVID-19 as part of a two-dose regimen. Patients involved in the 13-month clinical study will receive different COVID-19 vaccines for one of their two doses. The study, which has received £7m in UK government funding, will be the first in the world to evaluate whether different vaccines can be used safely and effectively for two-dose regimes. In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said that the study participants could either receive AstraZeneca (AZ)/Oxford University's vaccine for their first dose and Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine for the second, or vice versa.
4th Feb 2021 - PMLiVE

UK to test mixed COVID-19 vaccine dosing strategy

In the latest global COVID-19 developments, the United Kingdom today announced the launch of the first study to explore giving different COVID-19 vaccines in a two-dose regimen, and a new study added more evidence that the B117 variant is deadlier than the standard version of the virus. The trial of a mixed-vaccine strategy comes as governments look for ways to protect as many people as possible as quickly as possible with vaccines, amid short supply and the threat of more contagious and lethal coronavirus variants.
4th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

UK to test mixed COVID-19 vaccine dosing strategy

In the latest global COVID-19 developments, the United Kingdom today announced the launch of the first study to explore giving different COVID-19 vaccines in a two-dose regimen, and a new study added more evidence that the B117 variant is deadlier than the standard version of the virus. The trial of a mixed-vaccine strategy comes as governments look for ways to protect as many people as possible as quickly as possible with vaccines, amid short supply and the threat of more contagious and lethal coronavirus variants.
4th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Could combining Pfizer's and AZ's COVID-19 vaccines fill supply gaps? U.K. researchers aim to find out

Given that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca each require one dose, followed a few weeks later by a booster shot, could the two products be used interchangeably? That’s the question researchers from the Oxford Vaccine Group have set out to answer with a new clinical trial designed to address a mounting problem: The demand for COVID vaccination in many locales around the world is far outstripping the supply. Oxford’s 13-month study will recruit more than 800 volunteers in England, who will receive one of four different combinations of the vaccines. Half the participants will get two doses of the same vaccine, while the others will receive one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, followed by a booster of the other company’s product.
4th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Johnson & Johnson submits application for Covid-19 vaccine to FDA

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson said Thursday it has applied to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for its one-dose Covid-19 vaccine, setting in motion a process that is all but sure to see a third such vaccine authorized. If given the green light by the agency, J&J’s vaccine will likely start being used in late February or early March, though initial supplies are expected to be extremely limited. The FDA has already authorized a vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, as well as one developed by Moderna. Both of those vaccines require two doses.
4th Feb 2021 - Stat News

Johnson & Johnson asks US to approve single-dose COVID jab

Johnson & Johnson said on Thursday it has asked United States health regulators to authorise its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The drugmaker’s application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows its January 29 report in which it said the vaccine had a 66 percent rate of preventing infections in its large global trial. J&J’s single-shot vaccine could help boost supply and simplify the US immunisation campaign, amid concerns of fresh surges due to the more contagious UK coronavirus variant and the potential of lower vaccine efficacy against the variant that first emerged in South Africa. Unlike the two currently authorised vaccines from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, J&J’s does not require a second shot or need to be shipped frozen. After the company’s application, regulators will need time to analyse the data and an advisory committee will need to meet. The company’s chief scientific officer said last month J&J was on track to roll out the vaccine in March.
4th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

'Insufficient data': Switzerland declines to approve AstraZeneca vaccine

Switzerland will not approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying there is insufficient data to do so. This may have implications for the country's vaccination plan. The Swiss regulatory authority said Wednesday that data submitted by AstraZeneca were not sufficient for it to authorise use of the Anglo-Swedish firm's Covid vaccine, saying "new studies" were needed. The decision is not final, with the Swiss government instead saying more data on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine is needed to make an accurate approval assessment. "The data currently available do not point to a positive decision regarding benefits and risks," Swissmedic said in a statement
3rd Feb 2021 - The Local Switzerland

Novavax submits coronavirus vaccine to Health Canada for approval

Canada’s hopes of speeding up COVID-19 vaccinations brightened slightly over the weekend as regulators began work to approve a new inoculation, even as the federal government sought to head off any restrictions on vaccine shipments from Europe. Pharmaceutical company Novavax quietly submitted its COVID-19 vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval on Friday, less than two weeks after Ottawa finalized a deal with the Maryland-based company for 52 million doses of the shot. Because of the emergency nature of the pandemic Health Canada is accepting applications for vaccines before the final trial data is ready, allowing the review team to start poring over the documents on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until everything is finished.
1st Feb 2021 - Global News

Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine given full approval by EU regulator

The European Medicines Agency has authorised the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for use in all adult age groups after days of doubt. A month after it received approval in the UK, the EU’s regulator declared the vaccine safe for general use across the 27 member states. The shot is the third Covid-19 vaccine given the green light by the EMA, after ones made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both were authorised for all adults. There had been concerns that a lack of data about the effects of the vaccine on older people could put authorisation for those aged over 65 in doubt.
29th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Regulatory approval of COVID-19 vaccine for restricted use in clinical trial mode

Covaxin is India's first indigenous vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), developed through a collaboration between Bharat Biotech and the National Institute of Virology, which is a branch of the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Indian official authority for medical research. The development team isolated a strain of SARS-CoV-2 from patients with asymptomatic infection and developed a vaccine on a Vero cell-line manufacturing platform to deliver the inactivated coronavirus strain. On Jan 3, 2021, the vaccine was granted approval “for restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode”,1 which raised several concerns across the scientific society.2
25th Jan 2021 - The Lancet


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 4th Feb 2021

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Britain trial to test combining Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in two-shot regimen

Britain on Thursday launched a trial to assess the immune responses generated if doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc are combined in a two-shot schedule. The British researchers behind the trial said data on vaccinating people with the two different types of coronavirus vaccines could help understanding of whether shots can be rolled out with greater flexibility around the world. Initial data on immune responses is expected to be generated around June. The trial will examine the immune responses of an initial dose of Pfizer vaccine followed by a booster of AstraZeneca’s, as well as vice versa, with intervals of 4 and 12 weeks.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Promising results from FIRST COVID-19 pill vaccine tested in humans

Vaxart, Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing oral vaccines administered by tablet, today announced preliminary data from its Phase 1 study of VXA-CoV2-1 showing that its oral COVID-19 tablet vaccine candidate was generally well-tolerated, and immunogenic as measured by multiple markers of immune response to SARS-CoV-2 antigens. “Our Phase I results highlight the importance of our differentiated vaccine design, as they suggest VXA-CoV2-1 could have broad activity against existing and future coronavirus strains. These results are timely, as we are seeing the emergence of new variants less responsive to first generation vaccines, thus making potential cross-reactivity another important advantage of next-generation vaccines,” said Andrei Floroiu, Vaxart’s Chief Executive Officer.
3rd Feb 2021 - Outbreak News Today

France to start producing coronavirus vaccines at four labs amid pressure to speed up innoculations

France will soon begin production coronavirus vaccines from four laboratories, the president has said, as the country faces pressure to speed up inoculations. Emmanuel Macron said all French people who are willing to be vaccinated against the virus will be offered a jab by the end of the summer.
3rd Feb 2021 - The Independent on MSN.com

Glaxo and Curevac to develop vaccines to tackle Covid-19 variants

Glaxosmithkline and a German biotechnology company are to develop a new generation of Covid-19 jab to tackle multiple emerging variants in one vaccine as part of a €150 million collaboration. The FTSE 100 pharmaceuticals group, which is based in west London, will also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of Curevac’s existing “first-generation” vaccine candidate, which is in trials, through its facilities in Belgium this year.
3rd Feb 2021 - The Times

What do we know about China's Covid-19 vaccines?

China has been developing vaccines since the start of the pandemic. What do we know?
3rd Feb 2021 - BBC News

Can you still transmit Covid-19 after vaccination?

It was 17 June 2009. An 11-year-old boy returned to the US from the UK – and inadvertently brought something with him. Later that week, while attending a religious education programme in Sullivan County, New York, he developed a mysterious swelling of his salivary glands. He had mumps, a respiratory infection spread by contact with droplets in the air. Meanwhile, the religious course continued. The 400 children in attendance spent hours each day engaging in prolonged face-to-face contact – specifically, a kind of Orthodox Jewish education involving facing a study partner, a chavrusa, across a narrow table, while analysing and debating text from the Talmud. By the time the programme ended, 22 others had been infected, along with three adults.
3rd Feb 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: Work starts on coronavirus vaccine that will target variants

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline and German biotech firm CureVac have struck a €150m (£130m) deal to develop next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that target several variants of the virus in one product. The companies said in a joint statement that they were targeting a launch of the vaccine in 2022. It comes as public health experts around the world raise concerns about whether mutations in the virus may make existing vaccines less effective.
3rd Feb 2021 - Sky News

More Than 20% of Londoners Have Covid-19 Antibodies, ONS Study Shows

More than one in five people in London would have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in January, according to a new study that highlights how widespread the disease has become in the U.K. capital. The capital city, which was particularly hard hit during the winter wave of the virus, has the highest rate of positive tests in the whole of England. Nationwide, one in seven likely have the anitbodies, which suggest a person had the infection in the past, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.
3rd Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

New Zealand provisionally approves use of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

New Zealand's medicine regulator Medsafe has provisionally approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are expected to arrive in New Zealand by the end of March, the Government said, adding that people at highest risk would be vaccinated before the broader community from the second half of the year. "The provisional approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a positive step in New Zealand's fight against COVID-19," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
3rd Feb 2021 - ABC News

New Zealand regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

New Zealand on Wednesday warned against “vaccine nationalism” that could delay the rollout of international shipments after its medicines regulator provisionally approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she still expected supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech product to arrive in the country by end-March, but expressed concern at any attempt to limit exports. “The world just can’t afford for that to happen. We won’t be safe until we have widespread rollout across the globe,” she told a news conference. “So it’s in everybody’s interest that we see vaccine programmes continuing to roll out in other countries.”
3rd Feb 2021 - Reuters India

GSK and CureVac sign £132m deal to develop multi-variant Covid vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline and Germany’s CureVac have reached a €150m (£132m) agreement to develop a next generation of Covid-19 vaccines targeting new emerging variants in the pandemic. The two companies said they planned to work jointly to develop a shot next year that could address “multiple emerging variants in one vaccine”. GSK, the UK’s second biggest pharmaceutical firm and the world’s biggest vaccine maker, will also support the manufacture of up to 100m doses of CureVac’s first-generation Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, this year.
3rd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Coronavirus antibodies last for at least six months after infection, study finds

Coronavirus antibodies last for at least six months after infection for the majority of people who have had the virus, according to a new study. It found 99% of participants who had tested positive for previous infection retained coronavirus antibodies for three months after being infected, while 88% did so for the full six months of the study. The research from UK Biobank also found that 8.8% of the UK population had been infected by December 2020, rising as high as 12.4% in London and as low as 5.5% in Scotland.
3rd Feb 2021 - Sky News

Adults 20 to 49 may have driven 72% of US COVID-19 surges

Adults 20 to 49 years old may have kindled 72.2% of US COVID-19 resurgences starting in late summer 2020, with those 35 to 49 especially contributing, a study published yesterday in Science suggests. A team led by researchers from Imperial College London analyzed age-specific cell phone mobility data of more than 10 million Americans and linked them to age-specific COVID-19 death data starting on Mar 15, 2020. Data from 42 US states, Washington, DC, and New York City showed that the number of visits to places such as supermarkets and restaurants began to rebound across all age-groups in August after a significant initial reduction due to public health interventions such as lockdowns in the spring. COVID-19 infections and deaths followed a similar pattern in both the United States and Europe. The authors called for targeting interventions such as transmission-reducing vaccines to people 20 to 49 years as a strategy to reduce the likelihood of future COVID-19 surges and related deaths in areas not yet affected by highly transmissible new coronavirus variants.
3rd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

New AstraZeneca COVID vaccine data ease worries over 2nd-dose delay

New data from clinical trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine suggest it provides strong protection after the first of two doses and could slow the spread of the virus, according to a new preprint study. The development comes amid a flurry of other vaccine developments today and as health officials look more toward spacing out the two-dose vaccines as a way to protect more people, especially as the threat of more transmissible variants and ones that can escape immunity darken the horizon.
3rd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

GSK inks deal to produce CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine—and develop a next-gen version, too

After a recent trial setback, GlaxoSmithKline and partner Sanofi’s COVID-19 vaccine program looks to be a more distant contender in the first wave of immunizations. But as one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, the British pharma doesn’t want to miss out on this pandemic opportunity. GSK will help CureVac manufacture up to 100 million doses of the German biotech’s first-generation mRNA COVID vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, in 2021, the two companies said Wednesday. In the meantime, the two companies will also work on a next-gen vaccine to tackle emerging variants. “The key is to make sure that we follow and get ahead of the future of this virus,” GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said. The mRNA technology’s ability to be quickly modified and manufactured makes it a good platform for this purpose, she added.
3rd Feb 2021 - Fierce Pharma

With a seductive number, AstraZeneca study fueled hopes that eclipsed its data

A new paper released this week suggested that a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University not only protected clinical trial participants from developing disease, but also may significantly reduce transmission of the virus that causes the disease. In the recent burst of data on Covid-19 vaccines, that suggestion stood out. The question of whether Covid-19 vaccines reduce transmission has been a critical and unanswered one, creating uncertainty over whether people who have been vaccinated will still be able to be infected by and transmit onward SARS-Cov-2 to those who have not yet been vaccinated. Media reports seized on a reference in the paper from Oxford researchers that a single dose of the vaccine cut positive test results by 67%, pointing to it as the first evidence that a vaccine could prevent transmission of the virus. But the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, does not prove or even claim that — although it hints at the possibility.
3rd Feb 2021 - STAT News

Pfizer Vaccine Is Just as Effective Against COVID U.K. Strain, Israeli Data Shows

The coronavirus vaccines administered in Israel are effective at curbing infection rates, the incidence of serious COVID-19 cases and at protecting against the British variant of the coronavirus, according to new studies conducted by an Israeli health maintenance organization based on real-world data and reported here for the first time. The first study, conducted by Leumit Health Services on the basis of patient data collected since Israel's vaccination campaign began in December, provides invaluable insight into the effectiveness of the vaccine in the real world, as opposed to efficacy rates measured in the course of controlled experiments in laboratories. According to the second study, the Pfizer vaccine is similarly effective at affording protection against the U.K. variant
3rd Feb 2021 - Haaretz

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine cuts COVID transmission: Study

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by up to two-thirds, a study has suggested, marking the first time a jab has been shown to have such an effect. The Oxford University study published on Tuesday, which is awaiting peer review, found that those who had been vaccinated with a single dose of the vaccine were 67 percent less likely to test positive with a PCR test. The paper suggested the vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, may have a “substantial effect on transmission of the virus” as a result and also prevent severe disease. Health secretary Matt Hancock said the study, which also suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot is highly protective after a single dose, showed “vaccines are the way out of this pandemic”. “This news about the Oxford vaccine is absolutely superb,” Hancock tweeted. “This vaccine works & works well.”
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Coronavirus: WHO team visits research lab in Wuhan, China

World Health Organization investigators on Wednesday visited a research centre in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus, with one member saying they’d intended to meet key staff and press them on critical issues. The WHO team’s visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology was a highlight of their mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and how it spread.
2nd Feb 2021 - Global News

A single shot of Pfizer's Covid vaccine might NOT be enough to protect over-80s from South African variant, Cambridge study finds

Lab tests suggested single shot did not stimulate big enough immune response UK Government delayed giving second dose for 12 weeks as part of jab strategy South African variant already spotted in 105 Brits and fears it's more widespread Mass testing started today to find cases with crucial South African mutation.
2nd Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

German Pharma Company Bayer to Produce New COVID Vaccine

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer announced Monday it will help a smaller German biomedical company, CureVac, produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the latest drug maker to offer up manufacturing capacity as supplies fall behind demand worldwide. At a virtual news conference hosted in Berlin Monday by Health Minister Jens Spahn, Bayer’s pharmaceutical chief, Stefan Oelrich, said the company expects to produce 160 million doses of CureVac's experimental vaccine, which is currently in late-stage testing, in 2022. Bayer and CureVac reached an agreement last month to work together on a vaccine. Oelrich said Bayer has experience and capacity to expand CureVac's production capacity.
1st Feb 2021 - Voice of America


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 3rd Feb 2021

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Hundreds queue in rain as Covid doorstep tests for 'worrying' South Africa strain start

Hundreds of people have queued for coronavirus tests in the rain in areas of England where officials fear the South African variant is spreading. The Government has ordered urgent testing in eight postcode areas where the mutation has been detected. Even people with no symptoms are being urged to get tested. Around 80,000 residents in parts of London, Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire, West Midlands, and Merseyside are caught up in the 'surge' testing blitz. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the door-to-door testing plan in a Downing Street press conference on Monday night. Officials are in a bid to track down "every single case" of the mutant South African strain to prevent it spreading further.
3rd Feb 2021 - Mirror Online

COVID: Poland decides against giving elderly AstraZeneca vaccine

Amid mounting questions over the efficacy of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine on people over 65, Poland has said it will only use the shot on people aged 18-60, the Polish prime minister’s top aide said, following a recommendation from the country’s medical council. “Yesterday evening, the medical council submitted recommendations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, on the basis of which it was decided that it will be used in Poland for people between the ages of 18 and 60,” Michal Dworczyk, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s top aide who is in charge of Poland’s vaccination programme, told a news conference. Also on Tuesday, Sweden’s health agency said it would not recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65. Poland’s decision follows recommendations by medical experts in Germany and Austria that the vaccine should be given only to people aged between 18 and 64. Spain’s health ministry, meanwhile, will decide this week whether or not to give AstraZeneca’s vaccine to elderly people. For its part, AstraZeneca has dismissed concerns over efficacy but acknowledges that the company has less data than other drugmakers on the elderly because it started vaccinating older people later.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Recovered COVID patients likely protected for at least six months, study finds

Almost all people previously infected with COVID-19 have high levels of antibodies for at least six months that are likely to protect them from reinfection with the disease, results of a major UK study showed on Wednesday. Scientists said the study, which measured levels of previous COVID-19 infection in populations across Britain, as well as how long antibodies persisted in those infected, should provide some reassurance that swift cases of reinfection will be rare. “The vast majority of people retain detectable antibodies for at least six months after infection with the coronavirus,” said Naomi Allen, a professor and chief scientist at the UK Biobank, where the study was carried out.
3rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer expects $15bn sales of Covid-19 vaccine

Drugs giant Pfizer has said it expects $15bn (£11bn) of sales this year of the coronavirus vaccine it developed with German firm BioNTech. The vaccine was one of the first to be authorised for use by countries including the UK and the US. The vaccine sales represent a quarter of its expected revenue for this year. Many countries around the world have been scrambling to vaccinate their populations in a bid to save lives and aid economic recovery.
2nd Feb 2021 - BBC on MSN.com

Single dose of Pfizer-Biontech vaccine may not protect elderly from Covid-19 infection

A significant proportion of people over 80 may have only a “poor” immune response after a single dose of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, researchers have said.Three weeks later, one jab did not always
2nd Feb 2021 - The Times

UK finds more coronavirus cases with 'concerning' mutations

Public Health England is investigating cases of coronavirus with 'worrying' new genetic changes that have been found in some regions of the UK. Tests show they have a mutation, called E484K, that is already seen in the South Africa variant. Although this change may reduce vaccine effectiveness, the current ones in use should still work, say experts. There have been 11 cases in Bristol and a cluster of 32 cases in Liverpool. Urgent testing for the South Africa variant is already starting in parts of England and could be rolled out to other areas seeing different variants with the same E484K mutation. Scientists working with Public Health England found a small number of cases of the UK 'Kent' variant with the E484K mutation - it was seen in 11 out of 214,159 samples that they tested, and predominantly from the South West of England.
2nd Feb 2021 - BBC News

Coronavirus vaccines ‘can be created in weeks’ to fight new strains

Vaccines to combat new strains of coronavirus could be created for laboratory testing in just three weeks, according to a top scientist. Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research at Imperial College London, said scientists are working on vaccines which could counter new variants like the one that emerged in South Africa. After being redesigned for lab testing, it could take two to three months to get the vaccines to the manufacturing stage, he added. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programmer Prof Shattock said: “Vaccine researchers around the world to looking at these new variants and making new vaccine candidates against them so we can study in the laboratory. “And that’s quite a fast process – we can go from seeing these changes to making a new vaccine in the laboratory in a period of about three weeks.
2nd Feb 2021 - Wales Online

COVID-19 survivors may only need one vaccine dose because they already have high levels of antibodies, study suggests

People previously infected with coronavirus may only need one dose of the vaccine, a new study suggests. Researchers found that participants who had contracted COVID-19 in the past and received one shot had antibody levels similar to - and even higher than - those who had never been infected and were given two doses. Additionally, virus survivors were more likely to report side effects after being immunized such as pain at the injection site, fever and fatigue. The team, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, says giving previously infected individuals only one dose would 'spare them from unnecessary pain and free up many urgently needed vaccine doses.'
2nd Feb 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

COVID-19: Why are Asian and Black patients at greater risk?

Even after accounting for other known risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, a study found that Black and Asian patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more likely to need mechanical ventilation and more likely to die than white patients.
2nd Feb 2021 - Medical News Today

Scots who have already had Covid -19 'could still catch South African variant'

Scots could catch the South African variant of coronavirus, even if they've already had Covid-19, one professor claims. Linda Bauld is professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh. She said that with the risk of infection, more focus should be put on self-isolating. She told BBC Breakfast: "That is something that is causing concern around the world
2nd Feb 2021 - Daily Record

COVID-19 Vaccine: Will It Protect Against New Variants And Do You Need A 2nd Dose?

As the virus that causes COVID-19 continues its global attack, it has done what scientists predicted it would do — it has given rise to new, slightly different strains. How significant some of those strains will be to the pandemic is now under intense study. Meanwhile, demand for the currently available vaccines is outstripping the early supply, and some scientists have sparked controversy by suggesting holding off on booster shots until more people have had their initial shots. That's something the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not endorse — but the agency has extended the timing on the second dose a bit. What does this all mean for you? Let's start with the question of second doses.
2nd Feb 2021 - NPR

COVID-19: Mutation of Kent variant detected in samples could help virus evade immune system

Delaying the second dose of the Pfizer jab – the current government strategy - may leave some elderly patients at risk of infection by the South African variant, new research suggests. Lab tests by scientists at Cambridge University showed that one dose of the vaccine may not stimulate the immune system to produce enough antibodies to kill the virus. Only after a second dose would antibody levels be protective, according to preliminary data in the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. Meanwhile, the South African variant has a mutation called E484K that helps it evade the immune system.
2nd Feb 2021 - Sky News

Russia's COVID-19 Vaccine Reported To Be 92% Effective : Coronavirus Updates

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective in protecting people from developing COVID-19 symptoms, according to a study published in The Lancet on Tuesday. The study follows a Phase 3 trial in Moscow hospitals and clinics that included nearly 22,000 participants age 18 and older. The vaccine, known as Gam-COVID-Vac, "was well tolerated in a large cohort," the researchers said. It was administered in two doses, 21 days apart. The study was financed by government entities such as the Moscow City Health Department and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The findings stand to add legitimacy to the Sputnik vaccine, which met with skepticism last August when the Russian government touted its move to formally register the world's first vaccine, despite not having completed clinical trials. The Phase 3 clinical trials in the Lancet study did not begin until Sept. 7.
2nd Feb 2021 - NPR

WHO Covid investigators praise 'excellent facilities' at Wuhan's animal disease centre as the health body defends its probe amid concerns China is still covering up crucial data

The team of experts arrived at an animal disease centre in Wuhan amid a high security presence. WHO expert Peter Daszak praised 'excellent facilities, very informative meeting.' China has been accused of covering up the virus ahead of WHO investigation
2nd Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Moderna Could Boost Vaccine Supply by Adding Doses to Vials

U.S. regulators could decide within a few weeks whether to allow Moderna, the developer of one of the two federally authorized Covid-19 vaccines, to increase the number of doses in its vials — which could accelerate the nation’s vaccination rate. Moderna is hoping to raise the number of doses in its vials to as many as 15 from the current 10 doses. The proposal reflects the fact that the company has been ramping up production of its vaccine to the point where the final manufacturing stage, when it is bottled, capped and labeled, has emerged as a roadblock to expanding its distribution. If the change does go through, it could be hugely welcome news in the campaign to curb a pandemic that has killed more than 440,000 people in the United States alone. In a statement late Monday, Ray Jordan, a Moderna spokesman, said the constraint on dosage per vial was limiting Moderna’s output.
2nd Feb 2021 - The New York Times

WHO team visits animal disease center in Wuhan, China

Further details of the visit were not announced in what has been a tightly controlled trip, with the media only able to glimpse the team coming and going from its hotel and site visits. The team members wore full protective gear during Tuesday’s visit. It’s not clear if they wore similar full-body suits at the research institutes, hospitals and markets they visited on previous days. Outside their hotel and en route to and from visits, the experts have worn masks and professional or business casual attire. Intense negotiations preceded the WHO visit to Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in late 2019. China has maintained strict controls on access to information about the virus, possibly to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese government had provided significant support and assistance to the WHO team, responding to criticism that China has not revealed much about what the researchers are being allowed to do.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

UK virus variant has developed concerning new mutation in small number of cases

The UK variant of the coronavirus has developed a new, concerning mutation in a small number of cases, which scientists said makes it similar to the South African and Brazilian variants and could reduce the efficacy of vaccines. The emergence of the mutation to the variant first discovered in Britain highlights how complicated exiting COVID-19 lockdown will be even once vaccines are rolled out. Public Health England said there had been 11 reports of the UK variant which feature the E484K mutation, mostly in south-west England. The E484K mutation, which occurs on the spike protein of the virus, is the same change as has been seen in the South African and Brazilian variants that have caused international concern.
2nd Feb 2021 - Reuters

New variant COVID findings fuel more worries about vaccine resistance

Scientists in the United Kingdom yesterday reported that a small number of B117 variants have developed the E484K mutation thought to help SARS-CoV-2 partly evade immunity, and today another UK group said their lab experiments suggest the mutation added to B117 may dampen the impact of vaccination after one dose. In its weekly update on pandemic activity, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the three variants of concern have been reported in more countries, with 80 now reporting the B117 variant.
2nd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Russia's COVID vaccine 92% effective, even in those over 60

An interim analysis of data from a phase 3 clinical trial of Russia's two-dose Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) coronavirus vaccine involving nearly 20,000 adult volunteers suggests an efficacy of 91.6% against symptomatic infection. In the randomized, controlled, double-blind study, published today in The Lancet, researchers from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in Moscow randomly assigned 19,866 participants at 25 hospitals and clinics in a 3:1 ratio to receive either the adenovirus-based vaccine or a placebo from Sep 7 to Nov 24, 2020. A 0.5-milliliter (mL) dose was given, followed by a second dose 21 days later.
2nd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Amid supply snafu, new data show AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot is more effective with doses 12 weeks apart

While supply constraints have hung over the rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, last week, CEO Pascal Soriot offered one way officials could make the most of available doses. And now AZ has more data to support the idea. Soriot pointed out that the label allows the second dose to be administered between 4 and 12 weeks after the first. Officials could use all available doses to vaccinate as many people as possible now, he suggested, without reserving booster doses. Before 12 weeks passed, more supply would arrive to cover the boosters and start a new round of vaccinations. In fact, waiting could be even better. New data show the vaccine was 54.9% effective in trial participants who received their second standard dose within 6 weeks of the first. For those who got a second standard dose 12 weeks or more after the first, efficacy was a much higher 82.4%.
2nd Feb 2021 - Fierce Pharma

The Second COVID-19 Shot Is a Rude Reawakening for Immune Cells

At about 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, I woke to find my husband shivering beside me. For hours, he had been tossing in bed, exhausted but unable to sleep, nursing chills, a fever, and an agonizingly sore left arm. His teeth chattered. His forehead was freckled with sweat. And as I lay next to him, cinching blanket after blanket around his arms, I felt an immense sense of relief. All this misery was a sign that the immune cells in his body had been riled up by the second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and were well on their way to guarding him from future disease. Side effects are a natural part of the vaccination process, as my colleague Sarah Zhang has written. Not everyone will experience them. But the two COVID-19 vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, already have reputations for raising the hackles of the immune system: In both companies’ clinical trials, at least a third of the volunteers ended up with symptoms such as headaches and fatigue; fevers like my husband’s were less common.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Atlantic

Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson

In an ideal world, a pandemic vaccine could be delivered in a single shot, so supplies could be stretched to cover a lot of people. It would trigger no side effect more significant than a sore arm. And it would be easy to ship and store. Soon, it seems, this ideal of a Covid-19 vaccine will be within reach. Last Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced that a one-dose vaccine being developed by its vaccines division, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, had been shown to be 66% protective against moderate to severe Covid infection in a multicountry study. But, importantly, it was 85% effective in protecting against severe disease. And there were no hospitalizations or deaths among people in the vaccine arm of a large clinical trial.
2nd Feb 2021 - STAT News

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine 91.6% effective: Lancet study

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6 percent effective against symptomatic Covid-19, according to results published Tuesday that independent experts said allayed transparency concerns over the jab, which Moscow is already rolling out. Sputnik V -- named after the Soviet-era satellite -- was approved in Russia months before results from its final-stage clinical trials were published, leading to scepticism among experts. But the new analysis of data from 20,000 Phase 3 trial participants, published in the medical journal The Lancet, suggests that the two-dose vaccination offers more than 90 percent efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19.
2nd Feb 2021 - Yahoo News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 2nd Feb 2021

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Bayer agrees to help CureVac produce coronavirus vaccine

German drug conglomerate Bayer will help CureVac manufacture tens of millions more doses of the biotech's experimental coronavirus vaccine beginning as soon as the end of this year, company executives said in a Monday briefing with the German health minister. Bayer and CureVac are already co-developing the vaccine, with the large pharma providing support for clinical testing and regulatory discussions in other countries. Now, after discussions with the German government, Bayer has also agreed to make 160 million doses of CureVac's shot in 2022 CureVac recently began a Phase 2/3 study testing whether its vaccine prevents COVID-19. The company aims to enroll into the trial some 36,000 volunteers in Europe and South America. Early results could be available by the end of March, CureVac's CFO Pierre Kemula recently told BioPharma Dive.
1st Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

Potential side effects of coronavirus vaccine listed by NHS Scotland

NHS Scotland has listed a number of side effects Scots may experience after receiving the coronavirus jab. More than half a million Scots have received their first dose of the vaccine, according to the latest Scottish Government data. Officials are hoping to vaccinate around 400,000 Scots per week by the end of this month. The most vulnerable people in Scotland will be vaccinated during the first wave of the vaccination programme. Those included in the groups listed have been advised of the side effects they may have once they get the jab. Side effects experienced are usually mild and are much less serious than contacting Covid-19 itself. Any conditions that arise following the vaccine should “go away within a few days”, according to NHS Scotland.
1st Feb 2021 - Daily Record

The Coronavirus Vaccine Presents a Dilemma for Pregnant Women

Amanda, a nurse in Sacramento, and her husband have been trying to have a baby for more than two years. For the majority of that time, they’ve been attempting in-vitro fertilization. Last March, the pandemic shuttered most fertility clinics across the U.S., including hers, but treatment resumed in May, and, by December, Amanda, who is forty-one, was ready to transfer one of three frozen embryos into her uterus in the hopes of finally getting pregnant. In the weeks leading up to the transfer, Amanda and her husband followed the news of promising vaccine-trial results and debated whether they should postpone the procedure so that she could get vaccinated. The large hospital system where Amanda works received an influx of covid-19 cases in the weeks around Thanksgiving. At one point, she estimated, more than a hundred of its three hundred and fifty beds were taken up by coronavirus patients.
1st Feb 2021 - The New Yorker

Computer model makes strides in search for COVID-19 treatments

A new deep-learning model that can predict how human genes and medicines will interact has identified at least 10 compounds that may hold promise as treatments for COVID-19. All but two of the drugs are still considered investigational and are being tested for effectiveness against hepatitis C, fungal disease, cancer and heart disease. The list also includes the approved drugs cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant that prevents transplant organ rejection, and anidulafungin, an antifungal agent. The discovery was made by computer scientists, meaning much more work needs to be done before any of these medications would be confirmed as safe and effective treatments for people infected with SARS-CoV-2. But by using artificial intelligence to arrive at these options, the scientists have saved pharmaceutical and clinical researchers the time and money it would take to search for potential COVID-19 drugs on a piecemeal basis.
1st Feb 2021 - EurekAlert!

Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, report urges

Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, a report has recommended. Care home workers should be tested every day and those moving between homes should be tested before entry to every home, a report by the Stormont Health Committee has also urged. The report was published on Monday following a committee inquiry into coronavirus in care homes across Northern Ireland. It heard that about 40% of those who died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland last year were care home residents, according to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures. As of October 2020 there were 16,110 registered care home beds across 434 independent homes and 48 that are publicly owned and operated.
1st Feb 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

Fauci: Covid Vaccines Are Less Effective Against New Strains — But Still Worth Taking

Even though new strains of the coronavirus have dented some vaccines’ effectiveness, existing vaccines can still prevent serious illness and slow the virus’ spread, White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday, responding to fears that the coronavirus will become more contagious and less susceptible to vaccines as it mutates. “Even when you have a variant circulating in which you may not have a 95% efficacy to prevent infection, it is very important that you might very very positively prevent serious illness and serious disease,” Fauci said. “You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available, as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country.”
1st Feb 2021 - Forbes

Routine vaccinations in India disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic

In less than three months from its detection, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic. COVID-19’s causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is highly infective. To date, over 103 million cases have been reported, with over 2.23 million deaths. At various points in the pandemic’s trajectory, the rapid spread of COVID-19 across many parts of the world have forced numerous nations into a string of lockdowns. In India, lockdown measures have resulted in major disruptions to essential health services, including routine immunization drives for children. Such interruptions during previous epidemics have led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, amplifying morbidity and mortality.
1st Feb 2021 - News-Medical.Net

Experts tout delaying 2nd COVID vaccine dose as US deaths mount

Following record COVID-19 deaths in January, several US experts extolled the benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible with one dose of COVID vaccine before ensuring people receive the recommended second dose. Some public health experts are urging the federal government via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to immediately review data from Pfizer and Moderna, which are approved for use as two doses given 3 to 4 weeks apart, and consider giving as many first doses to people 65 and older as quickly as possible, and not withhold vaccines for planned second doses.
1st Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Two more studies trace COVID burden to racial, social inequality

Race and low socioeconomic status once again factor high on the list of vulnerabilities to COVID-19 infection and death in two US studies published late last week, one finding county-level inequalities and one linking ethnicity and community exposure to infections among healthcare workers (HCWs). In the first study, published in JAMA Network Open, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor researchers used the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to analyze the sociodemographic factors of 4,289,283 coronavirus-related infections and 147,074 deaths in 3,137 US counties from late March to Jul 29, 2020.
1st Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Despite drop in global COVID-19 cases, WHO says keep guard up

Global COVID-19 cases declined last week for the third week in a row, but cases are rising in some countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, urging nations to keep their guard up, especially with the threat of variant viruses. At a briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the drop in cases is encouraging, because it shows that the virus can be controlled, even with new variants circulating that are thought to be more transmissible.
1st Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Vaccine manufacturing greenhorn Bayer to make 160M doses of CureVac's COVID-19 shot

In its nearly 160-year history, Bayer has never produced vaccines for humans. But the COVID-19 pandemic is changing that. As part of a recently penned collaboration, Bayer will help manufacture German compatriot CureVac’s mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine, CVnCOV, in addition to aiding in R&D, regulatory affairs, supply chain management and potential marketing operations, Stefan Oelrich, Bayer’s pharma chief, said in a press briefing Monday. To that end, Bayer plans to make 160 million doses of the CureVac shot in 2022, with the first commercial product expected to be made available at the end of this year. The vaccine entered phase 3 testing in December. The work will be done at Bayer’s Wuppertal site in Germany, Oelrich said. The company recently inked a deal to sell a plant at the site to Chinese CDMO WuXi Biologics for €150 million, with COVID-19 vaccine production also featured as part of WuXi’s plan for use of the facility.
1st Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Lilly drives more access to COVID-19 antibodies with new infusion centers

Eli Lilly's COVID-19 monoclonal antibody isn't getting as much use as it could, thanks to logistical hurdles. So the drugmaker is taking matters into its own hands. The pharma, in partnership with local health systems, is setting up dedicated local infusion centers across its home state of Indiana, with centers already up and running in the central, northern and southern parts of the state. So far, the infusion centers have delivered antibody therapy to more than 1,700 high-risk Hoosiers with COVID-19, Lilly reported. Lilly’s antibody treatment bamlanivimab, along with Regeneron’s combination imdevimab and casirivimab, both have FDA emergency use authorization to treat high-risk patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 who aren’t hospitalized. But that’s also part of the problem. Infusions must be prescribed and administered in a hospital or clinic setting, but patients already admitted to the hospital with more severe cases of COVID-19 aren’t eligible.
1st Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Americans scramble for appointments for second COVID-19 vaccine dose

As more Americans ready for their second COVID-19 vaccine shot, some patients are falling through the cracks of an increasingly complex web of providers and appointment systems. While many people are getting their required second doses, the process is taking a toll on some of the most vulnerable - older adults who in many cases rely on family members or friends to navigate complex sign-up systems and inconvenient locations. Available vaccines need to be given as two separate doses weeks apart, and confusion is further taxing an already challenged health care system. Houston’s health department on Friday told those seeking a second dose to be patient, saying the volume of calls was creating long wait times at its call center.
1st Feb 2021 - Reuters

Herd Immunity in Sight for India’s Capital?

The latest antibody testing data conducted in Delhi, India suggests that the nation's capital may be very close to attaining herd immunity against COVID-19. The Delhi government has been regularly conducting antibody tests since August 2020 to assess the spread of the virus in the capital region. In the fifth and the largest survey so far, more than 28,000 samples were tested across 11 districts in Delhi between Jan. 11 and Jan. 22. Preliminary results show that more than 60% of residents in one district in Delhi had antibodies against the coronavirus. The antibody rate in other districts more than 50%. If these findings hold true, it would imply that half of the city's 20 million people has been exposed to the virus and recovered.
1st Feb 2021 - WebMD

Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths

Social distancing may remain in place until the end of the year - while coronavirus vaccines would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were totally relaxed, scientists warned today. Modelling passed to Downing Street warns that the UK could see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. A paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed a 'high uptake' was also vital to get the country back to normal without risking a third wave of Covid cases.
31st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths

Social distancing may remain in place until the end of the year - while coronavirus vaccines would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were totally relaxed, scientists warned today. Modelling passed to Downing Street warns that the UK could see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. A paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed a 'high uptake' was also vital to get the country back to normal without risking a third wave of Covid cases.
31st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 1st Feb 2021

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Philippines to Receive 5.6 Million Vaccine Doses This Quarter

The Philippine government said at least 5.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca Plc are expected to arrive in the country within the first quarter. The country will receive a total of 9.4 million doses from the two pharmaceutical makers by the second quarter, it said in an emailed statement Sunday, citing a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative.
1st Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

Novavax submits COVID-19 vaccine for approval as Ottawa seeks EU reassurances on export rules

Canada’s hopes of speeding up COVID-19 vaccinations brightened slightly over the weekend as regulators began work to approve a new inoculation, even as the federal government sought to head off any restrictions on vaccine shipments from Europe. Novavax quietly submitted its COVID-19 vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval on Friday, less than two weeks after Ottawa finalized a deal with the Maryland-based company for 52 million doses of the shot. Because of the emergency nature of the pandemic Health Canada is accepting applications for vaccines before the final trial data is ready, allowing the review team to start pouring over the documents on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until everything is finished.
31st Jan 2021 - The Globe and Mail

Covid vaccines already having an effect on UK outbreak, research suggests

The UK’s mass vaccination rollout already appears to be having an easing effect on the Covid crisis, according to data. Research due to be published in days is set to provide evidence that Britons are receiving some protection from the virus. Though it is not yet clear if vaccines block transmission of the virus from one person to another, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said early data “indicate a vaccine effect from the first dose in both younger adults and in older adults over 80”.
31st Jan 2021 - The Independent

WHO team visits Wuhan market where first COVID infections detected

A World Health Organization-led team of experts investigating the origins of COVID-19 visited Huanan market on Sunday, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood centre in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the new coronavirus was initially detected. Since being released from a two-week quarantine on Thursday, the team has visited hospitals and markets, as well as an exhibition commemorating Wuhan’s battle with the virus, which included a 76-day lockdown of the city of 11 million. “Very important site visits today - a wholesale market first & Huanan Seafood Market just now. Very informative & critical for our joint teams to understand the epidemiology of COVID as it started to spread at the end of 2019,” team member Peter Daszak said on Twitter.
31st Jan 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus in Ireland: Astrazeneca vaccine decision on over-65s within days

The Irish medicine regulator will decide in the coming days if the Astrazeneca vaccine can be used on over-65s, the health minister said, after it emerged that Ireland would receive 300,000 fewer doses than expected. The vaccine was approved for use in Europe yesterday for everyone over the age of 18, despite concerns from the German regulator that it could not be authorised for over-65s due to a lack of data.
30th Jan 2021 - The Times

As variants threaten Covid-19 progress, US weighs trial results of Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate

As Covid-19 variants are increasingly found in the United States, experts say Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate would help in the pandemic fight, despite trial reports showing apparently lower efficacy rates than two vaccines already authorized in the US. Johnson & Johnson's single-shot coronavirus vaccine was shown to be 66% effective in preventing moderate and severe disease in a global Phase 3 trial and 85% effective against severe disease, the company announced Friday. It was 72% effective against moderate and severe disease in the US, the company said.
30th Jan 2021 - CNN

How effective are coronavirus vaccines at stopping transmission?

People who have been vaccinated against covid-19 can still catch and transmit the virus, but are significantly less likely to do so than unvaccinated people, the latest data suggests. The question of whether vaccines halt transmission is one of the biggest and most important unknowns of the pandemic. If they do, vaccine-induced herd immunity may be possible.
30th Jan 2021 - New Scientist

Covid-19 Patients With Schizophrenia Might Be At A Higher Risk Of Death

A schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis could be at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and might also face 2.7 times higher risk for mortality within 45 days of testing positive, according to the results of a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
30th Jan 2021 - Forbes

Covid-19: Novavax vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials

A new coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be 89% effective in large-scale UK trials. The Novavax jab is the first to show in trials that it is effective against the new virus variant found in the UK, the BBC's medical editor Fergus Walsh said. The UK has secured 60 million doses of the jab, which will be made in Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England. Meanwhile, a single-dose vaccine developed by Janssen is 66% effective, trial results have shown. Janssen, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson, is also investigating whether giving two doses will give either stronger or longer-lasting protection.
30th Jan 2021 - BBC News

WHO team, on tightly controlled China mission, visits hospital

The World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of COVID-19 during a mission that has been tightly controlled by its Chinese hosts visited a hospital on Saturday in the central city of Wuhan that treated early coronavirus patients. On its second day after two weeks in quarantine, the team went to Jinyintan Hospital, where doctors had collected samples from patients suffering from an unidentified pneumonia in late 2019. “Important opportunity to talk directly w/ medics who were on the ground at that critical time fighting COVID!”, team member Peter Daszak said on Twitter. Team members leaving the hospital did not speak to journalists, who have been kept at a distance since the group left its quarantine hotel on Thursday.
30th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Vietnam approves AstraZeneca vaccine after new virus outbreak

Vietnam’s health ministry approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for domestic inoculation, the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved in the country, the government said on Saturday as it battles its biggest outbreak yet. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had said Vietnam must try to obtain the vaccine in the first quarter to ensure people’s health. Vietnam has kept its tally to a low 1,739 infections and 35 deaths.
30th Jan 2021 - Reuters

CDC reports 'community spread' of South African variant; Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine found to be safe. Latest COVID-19 updates.

Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine protects against COVID-19, and while it is not as effective as other vaccines already authorized in the U.S., it appears to be extremely effective against severe disease. Johnson & Johnson said Friday that data from its late-stage trial in the U.S. and seven other countries showed the vaccine had an overall 66% effectiveness in preventing moderate to severe illness. The two-shot vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are more than 94% effective, but J&J's global research chief, Dr. Mathai Mammen, said, "Gambling on one dose was certainly worthwhile."
30th Jan 2021 - USA TODAY

Covid mutations could prolong the pandemic another year, health officials warn

Dr Fauci warned the pandemic could get 'worse' if variants end up being resistant to newly developed vaccines. Two people in South Carolina are the first US cases of the South African variant. Neither has a known history of travel or a link to the other, the state health department said Thursday. South Africa's 501Y.V2 variant is thought to be about 50% more infectious. But it has mutations to the spike protein that Dr Fauci warned may make vaccines less effective against it. Pfizer and Moderna both found this week their shots are 'protective' against the variant but the protection may wane faster
29th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Novavax will submit results to UK regulator 'within two weeks', clinical trial chief says

Trial results showed it was 89.3 per cent effective against coronavirus and the Kent variant of the virus. And 60 per cent effective against South African strain which has sparked concern among many scientists. Professor Paul Heath, who led trials, said today they may be able to conclude their trial within two weeks. He added results against the South African strain were 'really good' and may be replicated by other jabs
29th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

J&J vaccine shown to prevent 85% of COVID-19 hospital cases, deaths

Results from an international phase 3 trial of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine show it is overall 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19. The vaccine was 85% effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine has been a long-hoped for game-changer in the global fight against the pandemic because it requires only one dose, can be manufactured in billions of doses, and requires only standard refrigeration. "A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings, enhancing access, distribution and compliance. Eighty-five percent efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 disease and prevention of COVID-19-related medical interventions will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of COVID-19," said Paul Stoffels, MD, chief scientific officer for Johnson & Johnson, in a company news release.
29th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

COVID-19 antibodies transmit from moms to babies during pregnancy

SARS-CoV-2 antibodies transferred across the placenta in 87% of pregnant women who had COVID-19 at some point, suggesting that newborns of seropositive mothers may have some protection against the novel coronavirus at birth, according to a study today in JAMA Pediatrics. However, a second, unpublished study suggests that the maternal-infant antibody transfer is lower than expected.
29th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

EU regulators give nod to AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for emergency use in European Union (EU) countries, which came with more details about efficacy, which is about 60%, with the vaccine showing good impact against severe disease. The approval shed more light on findings from phase 3 clinical trials in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa and comes amid a row between EU officials and the company over supply contracts, which followed an announcement from the company that its supply would be less than expected.
29th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Novartis pitches in to help produce Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Only a day after Novartis said it was looking at offering its manufacturing network to the global COVID-19 fight, the company is joining forces with Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce mRNA vaccines. It's the latest example of an unlikely Big Pharma partnership spurred by the urgent need to defeat the pandemic. Novartis inked an initial agreement with BioNTech to allow the mRNA biotech use of Novartis' facility in Stein, Switzerland. The production will start in the second quarter, and the partners expect dose deliveries to begin in the third quarter. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot is one of only a few that have been approved in countries around the world, and in the early stages of the rollout, demand has greatly outstripped supply. Pfizer and BioNTech have been working to scale up their manufacturing network to deliver 2 billion doses this year, but the effort led to a temporary supply disruption in Europe earlier this month.
29th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody picks up $871M in Q4—and carries blockbuster hopes for 2021

Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody stole the show during the fourth quarter, and the company says there's more to come as the U.S. government just placed another big order—and Lilly itself projects blockbuster coronavirus revenues in 2021. Lilly's first COVID-19 antibody, bamlanivimab, generated $871 million in fourth-quarter revenues, driving the drugmaker to a 22% revenue increase for the period. Excluding the COVID-19 antibody, Lilly’s revenues grew 7%. The company isn't alone in seeing a big sales bump from pandemic drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. Last year, Gilead's antiviral remdesivir provided a sizable revenue contribution in the third quarter. Meanwhile, vaccine rollouts are underway that analysts project will deliver billions of dollars—or potentially tens of billions—in sales for leading players in the coming years. Moderna's CEO has said his company could leap into the ranks of the world's largest vaccine players by sales this year.
29th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Up the line to death: covid-19 has revealed a mortal betrayal of the world’s healthcare workers

The covid-19 pandemic is taking a harsh toll on healthcare workers. In the Mirror newspaper on 20 January 2021: “52,000 NHS staff are off sick with covid.” [1] Over 850 UK healthcare workers are thought to have died of covid between March and December 2020; at least 3000 have died in the US. [2-3] Worldwide, the death toll and the impact on the physical and mental health of healthcare workers are staggering. The long term costs are yet to be counted. But, a number of countries, mainly in Asia, have been able to manage covid outbreaks without sustaining any healthcare worker infections at all. [4-6] The means to do so are now widely recognised. They are costly and inconvenient to implement and require an acceptance of the predominance of aerosol transmission of this virus and its application in a rigorous, safety-conscious infection control system. [7] But it can be done.
29th Jan 2021 - BMJ Blog

Why America is ‘flying blind’ to the coronavirus mutations racing across the globe

The United States is doing so little of the genetic sequencing needed to detect new variants of the coronavirus — like the ones first identified in Great Britain and South Africa — that such mutations are probably proliferating quickly, undetected, experts said. The lack of widespread genetic sequencing means the window is closing to find and slow the spread of variants such as the one first spotted in Britain, which appears to be much more transmissible, and those initially detected in Brazil and South Africa. All have been discovered in small numbers in the United States.
29th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

Study finds that Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro carried out an ‘institutional strategy to spread the coronavirus’

The grimmest timeline in the history of public health in Brazil emerges from an investigation of directives issued by the government of President Jair Messias Bolsonaro relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a common effort undertaken since March 2020, the Center for Research and Studies in Public Health Law (CEPEDISA) of the Public Health College (FSP) of the University of São Paulo (USP) and Conectas Direitos Humanos, one of the most respected justice organizations of Latin America, have collected and scrutinized federal and state regulations relating to the novel coronavirus, producing a brief titled Rights in the Pandemic – Mapping and Analysis of the Legal Rules in Response to Covid-19 in Brazil. On January 21, they put out a special edition making a strong statement: “Our research has revealed the existence of an institutional strategy to spread the virus, promoted by the Brazilian government under the leadership of the President of the Republic.”
29th Jan 2021 - EL PAÍS in English

Novavax says Covid-19 vaccine is 89% effective in UK trial, but less so in South Africa

A new Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax was found to be 89.3% effective in a clinical trial conducted in the UK and appears to offer protection against some variants of the coronavirus, the American biotech firm has announced. The vaccine is the first to show it is effective against new variants during trials, with high levels of protection seen in the variant that first emerged in the UK and some protection against one first reported in South Africa. Novavax said Thursday that its vaccine -- which is administered in two doses -- was 95.6% effective against the original coronavirus strain, and 85.6% effective against the variant first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, based on results from its Phase 3 trial conducted in the UK. This gave an average efficacy of 89.3%.
29th Jan 2021 - CNN

Plitidepsin has potent preclinical efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 by targeting the host protein eEF1A

SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins interact with the eukaryotic translation machinery and inhibitors of translation have potent antiviral effects. Here we report that the drug plitidepsin (aplidin), which has limited clinical approval, possesses antiviral activity (IC90 = 0.88 nM) 27.5-fold more potent than remdesivir against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro, with limited toxicity in cell culture. Through the use of a drug resistant mutant, we show that the antiviral activity of plitidepsin against SARS-CoV-2 is mediated through inhibition of the known target eEF1A. We demonstrate the in vivo efficacy of plitidepsin treatment in two mouse models of SARS-CoV-2 infection with a reduction of viral replication in the lungs by two orders of magnitude using prophylactic treatment. Our results indicate that plitidepsin is a promising therapeutic candidate for COVID-19.
25th Jan 2021 - Science Magazine


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 29th Jan 2021

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The coronavirus is mutating. Will our vaccines keep up?

Making vaccines is hard. Making vaccines that keep up with mutations is even harder. The race is now on to keep up with the mutating coronavirus. Mutations occur when the genetic code of an organism is not copied accurately during cell replication. This is true in humans and viruses, but viruses make orders of magnitude more copying mistakes than humans do. These mutations are random, and the vast majority have no impact on or damage the virus. For example, influenza mutates so rapidly that approximately 99 percent of virus particles produced by an infected cell are defective — so defective that they cannot infect another cell and replicate. Unfortunately, the part of the influenza virus most easily recognized by our immune systems — which the influenza vaccine mimics to stimulate an immune response — can mutate without destroying the virus’s ability to infect. Vaccine makers are constantly playing catch-up.
28th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

Covid Ireland: Leo Varadkar says firm close to creating vaccine PILL

MSD Pharmaceutical are in 'advanced stages' of producing Covid-19 tablet. Deputy PM Leo Varadkar told his party of the development on Wednesday night. The company had previously discontinued two experimental vaccines. The US drug giant has extensive operations in Ireland across six sites
28th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

New Covid-19 test proves effective in detecting virus in asymptomatic patients

A new Covid-19 test has been shown to be effective in detecting the virus in people without symptoms, the Government has said. The tests use swab samples in the same way as a traditional PCR test - but were also found to be effective in saliva samples. Pilots found tests in patients with symptoms were 100% effective, while swab and saliva samples were more than 99% effective for asymptomatic patients. The tests were also able to pick up other winter viruses such as flu. Results from a large-scale analysis of LamPORE tests on asymptomatic patients revealed an overall sensitivity of 99.57% and specificity of 99.4%, meaning the test is highly effective for testing people without symptoms in the community. The tests use swab samples in the same way as a traditional PCR test - but were also found to be effective in saliva samples. Pilots found tests in patients with symptoms were 100% effective, while swab and saliva samples were more than 99% effective for asymptomatic patients. The tests were also able to pick up other winter viruses such as flu.
28th Jan 2021 - The Mirror

New saliva Covid-19 test ‘highly effective in detecting asymptomatic cases’

A new test for Covid that can detect the virus in saliva is highly effective in picking up asymptomatic cases, ministers announced on Thursday. They revealed that a large-scale technical and clinical evaluation of the LamPORE Covid-19 test had confirmed its high sensitivity and specificity. Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “With one in three people not displaying symptoms of Covid-19, broadening asymptomatic testing is critical to protect those at highest risk. “Oxford Nanopore’s LamPORE test is another example of British innovation leading the way, and is an incredibly useful addition to our Covid-19 testing toolkit - delivering accurate results to people with and without symptoms.”
28th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard on MSN.com

COVID-19: AstraZeneca boss says UK could have vaccinated 30 million people by March

AstraZeneca's chief executive has said the UK's target of vaccinating the top four priority groups against COVID-19 by mid-February will be possible. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot said: "By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people. "The prime minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they're already at 6.5 million. So they will get there."
28th Jan 2021 - Sky News

The Covid-19 Vaccine-Development Multiverse

We are writing in response to the editorial by Heaton (Nov. 12 issue)1 on Covid-19 vaccines. Currently, Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanic or Latino persons are disproportionately affected by Covid-19,2 and testing to detect SARS-CoV-2 is lagging in low-income and minority neighborhoods.3 New approaches will be needed to safely and equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines. Drive-through SARS-CoV-2 testing sites in Los Angeles County are widely used by persons from racial and ethnic groups that are representative of that county (Table 1). A pilot influenza vaccination program was conducted at one SARS-CoV-2 drive-through testing site in an underserved neighborhood. Vaccines were refrigerated before administration, and trained health care professionals administered them. During the period from October 6 through November 5, 2020, vaccinations were offered on 9 days, and 661 persons were vaccinated (Table 1). The highest daily number of vaccinations was 148. SARS-CoV-2 testing was completed by 599 of the 661 persons who were vaccinated (90.6%).
28th Jan 2021 - nejm.org

How Covid-19 mutations are changing the pandemic

Early in its existence, Covid-19 gained an ability that would prove decisive in its relationship with human beings. The virus picked up a seemingly small change in its genetic code. It was likely an unfortunate accident – a fragment of genetic information from another virus got muddled up with that of the coronavirus while they were both infecting a bat. Included within this tiny piece of genome, however, were the instructions that altered a key part of the virus – its spike protein. This important protein studs the outside of the coronavirus and is the part that attaches to the outside of cells, helping the rest of the virus to sneak inside where it can replicate. This change to Covid-19's spike protein meant it could hijack an enzyme found in the human body called furin. This enzyme acts like a pair of molecular scissors, normally cutting open hormones and growth factors to activate them. But when furin snips part of the Covid-19 spike protein, which is normally folded in a series of loops on the outside of the virus, it opens like a hinge.
28th Jan 2021 - BBC News

UK to study how much vaccines cut Covid transmission

The UK government has commissioned a study to investigate the effects of Covid-19 vaccination on transmission of the virus, which will play a big role in Boris Johnson’s decision on when to ease England’s lockdown. Coronavirus vaccines have been found to have a high degree of efficacy in providing immunity from the disease, but their impact on transmission of the disease is less clear. Downing Street officials said cutting transmission was a “critical factor” in easing the current restrictions. The study, which is being overseen by Public Health England, is focused on frontline healthcare workers who were given jabs early in the vaccination programme. Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, is closely involved with the research, which is expected to conclude in late February. Prof Van-Tam confirmed at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that the research was under way and it would be a question of “to what extent”, not if, vaccines cut transmission rates.
28th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

England lockdown starts to suppress Covid-19, study suggests

There are tentative signs that the lockdown in England is beginning to curb coronavirus transmission, according to a closely watched study, although stubbornly high infection rates will continue to strain the overstretched healthcare system. The React-1 study, led by Imperial College London, concluded that prevalence of the virus had started to flatten last week, with initial indications of a small decline. Researchers estimated that the reproduction number R, which measures the average number of people one individual infects, was between 0.92 and 1.04, with a central estimate of 0.98 — suggesting that the rate of infection is close to stable or falling slightly.
28th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Belgium in 72nd place for handling of Covid-19, New Zealand top

Belgium scored in 72nd place in a world ranking of 98 countries for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a league table drawn up by Lowy Institute in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the New Zealand government of prime minister Jacinda Ardern took top spot with a score of 94.4 from a possible 100. New Zealand was given credit for getting the pandemic under control, thanks to a closure of its borders, lockdown measures and a ‘swift and vigorous’ contact tracing. The criteria used to determine a country’s performance were: Reported cases and deaths, both aggregate and per capita; Tests per capita, and lower per capita positives; Rolling averages of cases, cases per million, deaths, deaths per million, positivity rate for tests, test per capita.
28th Jan 2021 - The Brussels Times

Study ranks New Zealand Covid-19 response best, Brazil worst, US in bottom five

Brazil's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been ranked the world's worst, while New Zealand topped the class, according to research published by a leading Australian think tank on Thursday. Sydney's Lowy Institute assessed almost 100 countries on six criteria, including confirmed cases, Covid-19 deaths and testing metrics. "Collectively, these indicators point to how well or poorly countries have managed the pandemic," according to the report by the independent body. Aside from New Zealand – which has largely kept the virus at bay with border closures and "go early, go hard" lockdowns and testing regimes – Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Cyprus, Rwanda, Iceland, Australia, Latvia and Sri Lanka made the top 10 for their responses. In bottom place was Brazil, closely followed by Mexico, Colombia, Iran and the United States.
28th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24 English

English COVID-19 infections starting to fall, but prevalence still high, study finds

The number of COVID-19 infections in England is starting to fall, possibly reflecting the impact of a new lockdown, but cases are not coming down quickly enough and prevalence remains very high, a large study showed on Thursday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday indicated that the COVID-19 lockdown in England would last until at least March 8, dashing any lingering hopes that schools would be able to fully reopen in February. The Imperial College London study found that the numbers infected with coronavirus are at their highest since the study began last May.
28th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus: Novavax vaccine 89% effective in preventing Covid, preliminary analysis finds

The US company Novavax has said its coronavirus vaccine is 89.3 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 and nearly as effective in protecting against the faster-spreading variant first discovered in Kent, according to a preliminary analysis. Data from the UK’s Phase 3 trial for the jab showed the new variant was detected in more than half of the Covid-19 cases recorded, with the vaccine candidate shown to be 95.6 per cent effective against the original strain and 85.6 per cent effective against the variant. The study involved more than 15,000 participants aged 18 to 84, with 27 per cent aged over 65.
28th Jan 2021 - The Independent

South African COVID variant detected in South Carolina

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed the first US cases of B1.351, a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa, in South Carolina. In other US news, CDC experts discuss a rare COVID-related syndrome in children, a Johns Hopkins expert highlights hospital oxygen shortages, and Novavax reports good results for its vaccine. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the variant was detected in two people with no known travel history and no contact with one another. "The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over," said Brannon Traxler, MD, DHEC Interim Public Health Director. "While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited."
28th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Lingering lung, physical, mental symptoms 4 months after COVID-19

Four months after their release from the hospital, more than half of 238 adult COVID-19 patients in northern Italy still had impaired lung function or mobility issues, and about one-fifth had symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a prospective cohort study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open found. The findings add to growing evidence and discussion of so-called COVID-19 "long-haulers," or patients with function-impairing symptoms persisting for months after their initial recovery. Researchers from two universities in Novara, Italy, assessed the patients, who had been hospitalized from Mar 1 to Jun 29, 2020. Of the 219 patients who completed both lung function tests and carbon monoxide (CO) measurements, 113 (51.6%) had a diffusing lung capacity for CO of less than 80% of the expected level, indicating compromised lung function, and 34 patients (15.5%) had more severe impairment, with a value less than 60% of normal.
28th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer and Moderna haven't proven their COVID-19 vaccines shield against new variants: analysts

Just as the U.S. government is starting to ramp up purchases of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines to prevent COVID-19, a troubling question is emerging in the scientific community: Can these shots protect people against aggressive new variants racing through the U.K., South Africa and Brazil? Several analysts have scoured the medical literature and interviewed infectious disease experts in an effort to answer that question. Their conclusion? There is no clear answer. At least not yet. When it comes to SARS-CoV-2, the virus at the heart of the pandemic, “we are in a state of ignorance with incomplete data,” said SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges in a note to clients Wednesday. He reached that conclusion after interviewing an infectious disease specialist who is also an official with the FDA, he said.
28th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Scramble for specialty syringes as Pfizer, feds look to extract 6th vaccine doses

Syringe makers are scrambling to meet demand for so-called low dead space syringes as Pfizer and the U.S. look to squeeze out extra vaccine doses. The specialty needles are needed to eke out a sixth shot in Pfizer and BioNTech's Comirnaty prepared five-dose glass vials. Physicians and pharmacists discovered the potential extra dose after they began vaccinating patients. But initial enthusiasm has been dampened by the requirement of the now-scarce specialty needles to extract the last bit from each vial. Syringe maker Becton Dickinson contracted with the U.S. government to supply needles for COVID vaccinations without knowing about the niche need. The manufacturer confirmed to Fierce Pharma that its U.S. government contract includes a limited supply of the specialty needles. A spokesman told Reuters that Becton Dickinson is on target to provide 286 million syringes for use with COVID-19 vaccines, a figure that only includes about 40 million low dead space syringes.
28th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Novavax says its Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective, but far less so against one variant

Covid-19 vaccine from Novavax proved nearly 90% effective in preliminary results from a key clinical trial in the United Kingdom, the company said, but in a separate trial appeared far less effective against a new variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in South Africa. In its 15,000-volunteer U.K. trial, Novavax said, the vaccine prevented nine in 10 cases, including against a new strain of the virus that is circulating there. But in a 4,400-volunteer study in South Africa, the vaccine proved only 49% effective. In the 94% of the study population that did not have HIV, the efficacy was 60%. In the U.K. trial, Novavax observed 62 cases of symptomatic Covid-19, with 56 in the placebo group and six among volunteers who got the vaccine. One patient on placebo developed severe Covid-19, compared with zero in the vaccine group. The company provided few details on the vaccine’s safety, saying only that the serious side effects were rare and balanced between the studies’ vaccine and placebo groups.
28th Jan 2021 - Stat News

EMA tightens rules for second vaccinations with the PfizerBiontech vaccine

The European Medicines Agency strongly recommends that you inject the second dose within three weeks. With a longer period between vaccinations, the effectiveness of the vaccine is uncertain as there is a lack of data available. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has tightened the guidelines for the use of the corona vaccine from the manufacturers Pfizer and Biontech. After that, the second dose must be injected within three weeks, according to the decision published on Thursday in Amsterdam. The experts had previously recommended that there should be "at least 21 days" between the first and second vaccination dose. The term three weeks is now clearly being used and it is not advisable to extend the period. Various countries, including the Netherlands, had decided not to inject the second dose of Pfizer until after about six weeks due to the lack of vaccines. The rationale was that it should allow more people to be vaccinated. But remember, full protection against corona infection is only achieved after vaccination with both doses. The EMA now emphatically points out that the effectiveness is not certain in the event of a longer break: "There are currently no clinical data on the effectiveness of the vaccine if it is not administered in the interval of the clinical trials." The EMA has now noted that more than 93 percent of subjects in the clinical trials received the second dose of the vaccine within 19 to 23 days after the first. Only on this basis was the effectiveness of the vaccine deemed to be around 95 percent.
28th Jan 2021 - Berliner-Zeitung

New coronavirus variants call for more surveillance, control

The Covid-19 virus is evolving rapidly. That should come as no surprise: RNA-based viruses generate mutations constantly as a result of their error-prone replication. Wherever there are more infections, there are more opportunities for the virus to mutate. For a virus new to a species, as this coronavirus is to humans, some mutations are likely to make it more transmissible. Important new coronavirus variants have emerged in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. What is worrisome about these variants is that even though they evolved independently, they have some similarities. All share the N501Y mutation in the virus’s immunologically key spike protein. The strains in South African and Brazil also share the E484K mutation in the same protein, which some experiments suggest may at least partially evade the antibody response people generate after infection with older strains.
28th Jan 2021 - Stat News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 28th Jan 2021

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French firm agrees to manufacture vaccine developed by German rival

Sanofi pledges to manufacture 125 million doses of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. European Union is currently struggling with vaccine supply issues amid a row over shortages. Also, a stark warning from South Africa about future danger posed by new Coronavirus variants,
27th Jan 2021 - BBC News

North Korea 'is testing its own coronavirus vaccine'

North Korea has begun developing its own coronavirus vaccine using data that it hacked from foreign scientists, it is claimed. Despite the claims of supreme leader Kim Jong-un that the isolated kingdom has not recorded a single case of Covid-19, vaccine developers are thought to be testing their product on people with virus-like symptoms. A source told Seoul-based outlet Daily NK that scientists at Kim Il Sung University are using expertise gathered through 'hacking activities' to carry out their work at a biological research institute.
27th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

How much does one coronavirus vaccine dose protect you and others?

About 70 million doses of vaccines against covid-19 have now been administered worldwide, including in excess of 20 million in the US. In the UK, where more than 7 million people have received a first dose, most people will be required to wait for about three months before they receive the second dose. This has left many wondering how protected they are, and what measures they still need to take for their safety and that of others. Here’s what you need to know. …
27th Jan 2021 - New Scientist

Coronavirus: EU demands UK-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses

The EU has urged pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca to supply it with more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine from UK plants, amid a row over shortages. The company has infuriated the bloc by saying it can deliver only a fraction of the doses it promised for the first quarter of the year. It blames production issues at European plants, but the EU says doses made elsewhere should make up the shortfall. The EU has been criticised for the slow rollout of its vaccinations. The contract between the EU and AstraZeneca contains a confidentiality clause but the EU has asked the company to release the details nevertheless
27th Jan 2021 - BBC News

People with schizophrenia are THREE TIMES more likely to die from Covid-19 than those without mental health issues – with old age the only higher risk factor

Researchers studied records of more than 7,000 hospitalised Covid-19 patients. Age was the biggest risk factor, with over 75s at 35 times increased risk of death But schizophrenia is second biggest risk factor, increasing risk by 2.67 times.
27th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 cases were widespread in UK much earlier than previously thought, experts say

The coronavirus outbreak across the UK may have begun much earlier than previously thought with European ski resorts believed to be an epicentre of infection, according to experts. When the first two Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the UK on January 31 2020, it was thought at that time the risk of onward transmission was very low. Two Chinese nationals who had recently arrived were staying in a hotel in York when one of them fell ill and was taken to hospital. Both later tested positive for coronavirus. At that time, the UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the UK had been preparing for cases of novel coronavirus and “we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately”.
27th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Scottish company launches Covid-19 antibody test for use by medical professionals

Medical diagnostics company Omega has launched its rapid antibody test for Covid-19. The Alva-headquartered company is launching its Mologic ELISA test through its in-house laboratory service in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. A capillary blood sample collection pack is sent to healthcare professionals, who then send the patient's sample back to the company's laboratory where the test is run. Test results then go back to each healthcare professional, who informs the patient of their result and provides advice as necessary. The company expects to offer this testing service to selected commercial occupational health partners, clinics and health care professionals in the UK. Omega chief executive Colin King said: “We are pleased that we have delivered on our committed timeline for the launch of the lab testing service.
27th Jan 2021 - Insider.co.uk

COVID-19: Breakthrough treatment claims to stop 100% of symptomatic infections

The makers of an experimental drug, now being trialled by the NHS, say it is 100 per cent effective in protecting against symptomatic cases of the virus. US-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals says its two-antibody cocktail called REGEN-COV also reduces overall coronavirus infection rates by about 50 per cent. The claims are based on interim results and the "confirmatory stage" of the trial will not be complete until the second quarter of this year, but the company has said it is hopeful it may "break the chain" of rising infections.
27th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: 'Poor decisions' to blame for UK death toll, scientists say

"A legacy of poor decisions" by the UK before and during the pandemic led to one of the worst death rates in the world, scientists have said. Labour also criticised "monumental mistakes" by the prime minister in delaying acting on scientific advice over lockdowns three times. After UK deaths passed 100,000, Boris Johnson said he took "full responsibility" for the actions taken. But he said it was too soon to learn the lessons from the pandemic response. Prof Linda Bauld, public health expert from the University of Edinburgh, said the UK's current position was "a legacy of poor decisions that were taken when we eased restrictions".
27th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Scientists highlight low risk of COVID-19 spread in schools

Only 3.7% of COVID-19 cases at 17 in-person K-12 schools in Wood County, Wisconsin, were tied to in-school transmission, and incidence was 37% lower than that in the surround community, according to a study published yesterday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). In a commentary in JAMA on the topic, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give recommendations for safe reopening in US schools. The study, led by a physician from Aspirus Doctors Clinic in Wisconsin Rapids, used school and public health records to identify 191 COVID-19 cases in 4,876 students and 654 staff across five rural school districts. Only 7 of the 191 cases (3.7%), all of them in students, were linked to in-school transmission. Five of the cases occurred at elementary schools (3 in a single class), and 2 were associated with secondary schools. No staff member infections were tied to in-school spread.
27th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Order up: U.S. calls on Pfizer, Moderna for 200 million more vaccine doses

Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to deliver another 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the U.S., bringing the total on tap to 600 million, or enough to vaccinate 300 million people. President Joe Biden announced the pending deals on Tuesday, noting the extra doses would be delivered this summer. Moderna confirmed the negotiations in a press release Wednesday, although it said the discussions are for “delivery in the third quarter of 2021.” Pfizer also confirmed the negotiations but didn't specify the timing. The stepped-up orders come as the Biden administration aims to bulk up vaccine supplies and dramatically speed up immunizations around the country. The options to buy these additional doses were included in Pfizer and Moderna's original contracts with the U.S. government.
27th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

AstraZeneca, EU officials duke it out in the press as COVID-19 vaccine supply battle heats up

Within days of AstraZeneca's surprise cut to first-quarter COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe, a fierce debate between the drugmaker and government officials is playing out behind the scenes—and in the press. CEO Pascal Soriot said the company has no legal obligation to deliver vaccines on a specific timeline. The EU maintains AZ’s new delivery schedule is “not acceptable.” The sides were set to meet Wednesday, but an EU official told Politico the drugmaker had pulled out. AstraZeneca told Fierce Pharma via email it hadn't.
27th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

First Moderna, now Pfizer-BioNTech working on booster shot amid rise of COVID-19 variants

One major concern over emerging coronavirus variants focuses on their impact on the efficacy of existing vaccines. But drugmakers appear to have countermeasures in the works. Pfizer and partner BioNTech are developing booster shots so that their COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty can protect against new, highly contagious variants, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. “Every time a new variant comes up we should be able to test whether or not [our vaccine] is effective,” Bourla was quoted as saying. “Once we discover something that it is not as effective, we will very, very quickly be able to produce a booster dose that will be a small variation to the current vaccine.”
27th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Those Covid-19 variants? ‘Don’t worry yet,’ vaccine expert says

In Tuesday, Paul Offit, the vaccine developer and a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, dropped by, virtually, for a conversation with STAT+ subscribers. During the discussion, he addressed a question on everyone’s mind: How worried should we be about new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19? Offit — who, overall, believes “we’re going to turn the corner,” with the help of vaccines — had plenty of worries. A rare side effect of the vaccines could emerge and scare people away from them, even when the benefits far outweigh its risks. It could take a long time to fix vaccine distribution and manufacturing problems. But he said his biggest concern is that a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will learn to evade the vaccines. He also explained, at length, why he doesn’t think it’s time for you to worry yet. The transcript of that explanation follows; it has been edited for clarity and length.
27th Jan 2021 - Stat News


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 27th Jan 2021

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WHO warns pregnant women should NOT get Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine because it hasn't been proven safe after issuing the same warning over Pfizer's shot - but US doctors say it ...

The World Health Organization said pregnant women should only be immunized if they are high risk such as being a frontline healthcare worker or having an underlying condition.
26th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Pfizer develops booster shot amid fears its COVID-19 vaccine is less effective against highly-infectious variants from Brazil and South Africa

Pfizer develops booster shot amid fears its COVID-19 vaccine is less effective against highly-infectious variants from Brazil and South Africa. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday his firm will develop booster shots 'every time' a variant makes its shot less effective. Last week, lab tests suggested Pfizer's current shot worked against the spike protein mutation shared by the UK and South African variants It has not announced testing the vaccine against mutation seen in the South African and Brazilian variants that may make them vaccine-resistant Bourla said despite thinking the shot will work against variants, Pfizer is developing booster shots. Moderna said yesterday it is making a South African variant booster shot after finding immunity to the variant from its vaccine may wane faster
26th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine starts human clinical trials

A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 began human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, says the biotechnology company that developed the vaccine. Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three shots will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday. Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo, and 45 will get the vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B. Brad Sorenson, the company's CEO, said it's the first time a vaccine designed and manufactured in Canada has begun clinical trials. The company has purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine.
26th Jan 2021 - CBC.ca

Johnson & Johnson is 'comfortable' meeting coronavirus vaccine delivery promises, CFO says

As the world awaits Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine data, the company is prepping for regulatory filings and a global rollout. Orders for hundreds of millions of doses are pending. But even as rivals face manufacturing and logistics hurdles, a top J&J exec said his company is “comfortable” meeting its 2021 supply commitments. J&J's one-dose vaccine would provide a major boost to worldwide vaccination efforts as shots from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca remain in the early stages of their rollouts. News of supply disruptions for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines has been surfacing in Europe, and U.S. rollouts for the mRNA vaccines have gotten off to a slower-than-expected start. J&J expects to report phase 3 data for its one-dose vaccine by early next week, execs said Tuesday. If the data are positive, that could “could meaningfully accelerate the rollout of vaccinations across the U.S.” and “potentially disrupt other vaccine manufacturers' demand expectations,” Barclays analyst Carter Gould wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.
26th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Moderna vaccine doses can be spaced up to six weeks apart, says WHO

Moderna’s Covid vaccine can be given in two doses as much as six weeks apart, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, known as Sage, recommended the jab be given at an interval of 28 days but said that could be extended by a further two weeks under exceptional circumstances. "The main recommendation for the use of this vaccine is that based on the current elements we recommend it should be given in doses of 100 micrograms or 0.5 ml with an interval of 28 days," Alejandro Cravioto, panel chair, told a virtual briefing. "This interval might be moved to 42 days but the evidence we have does not go behond that time," he said, speaking from Mexico.
26th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Studies extend hopes for antibody drugs against COVID-19

New results extend hopes for drugs that supply antibodies to fight COVID-19 suggesting they can help keep patients out of the hospital and possibly prevent illness in some uninfected people. Eli Lilly said Tuesday that a two-antibody combo reduced the risk of hospitalizations or death by 70% in newly diagnosed, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness because of age or other health conditions. All 10 deaths that occurred in the study were among those receiving placebo rather than the antibodies.
26th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Russian biochemist who created novichok invents Covid-19 drug

Dr Lenoid Rink was involved in the secret Soviet development of Novichok. Novichok was used on the Skripals in Britain in 2012 and Alexei Navalny last year The new coronavirus-tackling drug is based on a Soviet medicine for leprosy Rink said the formulation has been tested on 700 elderly patients with no deaths The drug has been featured positively by Russian state-owned media outlets
26th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Johnson & Johnson expects COVID-19 vaccine data next week

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it expected to report eagerly-awaited data on its COVID-19 vaccine early next week, and that it would be able to meet the delivery target for doses to countries with which it had signed supply agreements. Public health officials are increasingly counting on single-dose options like the one being tested by J&J to simplify and boost inoculations given the complications and slower-than-hoped rollout of authorized vaccines from Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, which require second shots weeks after the first. The company forecast 2021 profit well above Wall Street estimates, and its shares rose 3.4% to $171.55. The outlook does not include any contribution from the COVID-19 vaccine, Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk said.
26th Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: UK to share genomics know-how to help other countries identify new variants

The UK is to offer its genomics expertise to help other countries identify new COVID variants, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. The launch of the New Variant Assessment Platform will see other countries offered UK laboratory capacity and advice to analyse new strains of coronavirus. It will be led by Public Health England working with NHS Test and Trace and a team from the World Health Organisation.
26th Jan 2021 - Sky News

COVID-19 lockdown loneliness leads to depressive symptoms in adults: Study

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has meant more time at home for everyone and people have turned to cooking, reading, among other activities to deal with the health crisis, which brings a fresh supply of stress every day. According to a new study, loneliness in adults aged 50 and over during the COVID-19 lockdown was linked to worsening depressive and other mental health symptoms. Loneliness emerged as a key factor linked to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety in a study of more than 3,000 people aged 50 or over led by the University of Exeter and King's College London and funded by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
26th Jan 2021 - The Tribune India

No data suggesting lower efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine: German health ministry

There is no data that would suggest efficacy of only 8% among older people for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the German health ministry said on Tuesday in response to corresponding media reports. It reiterated that it expects the European Medicines Agency to decide on Friday whether to approve the vaccine.
26th Jan 2021 - Reuters

AstraZeneca: German reports on low efficacy on over-65s 'completely incorrect'

"Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8% in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect," an AstraZeneca spokesperson told DW in a written response. The company said that an influential UK vaccination committee, the JCVI, and the UK's national MHRA medicines regulator supported the use of its vaccine on that particular age group. "In November, we published data in The Lancet demonstrating that older adults showed strong immune responses to the vaccine, with 100% of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose," AstraZeneca's spokesperson said. The firm's response followed reports in Handelsblatt and Bild, two German daily newspapers. Both cited unnamed members of Germany's government as saying that the vaccine had a poor efficacy rate among people above 65. Bild put the figure at "less than 10%," Handelsblatt at 8%. The newspapers further reported that German government officials didn't expect the vaccine to be approved for use on over-65s by the European Medicines Agency regulator as a result.
26th Jan 2021 - Deutsche Welle

Vaccine developments at center stage as pandemic total tops 100 million

As the world's COVID-19 total passed 100 million cases today amid the threat of more-transmissible variants, anxiety grew over vaccine supplies amid promising news of effectiveness and more production capacity. In a major development that could boost global vaccine production, Sanofi today announced that it will help supply more than 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at its plant in Frankfurt, Germany, according to Reuters. The news came from Sanofi's chief executive officer, Paul Hudson, during an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.
26th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Children, teens report mental distress amid pandemic remote learning

A study today in JAMA Network Open reveals that 10.5% of children and teens in a Chinese province during distance learning early in the COVID-19 pandemic reported psychological distress—particularly among those who never wore a face covering or were physically active for less than a half hour a day. A team led by researchers from Southern Medical University in Guangdong province analyzed data from an online survey of about 1.2 million randomly sampled school-aged children and adolescents from 21 cities receiving home-based instruction from Mar 8 to 30, 2020.
26th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Sanofi, after R&D setback, lends a hand to vaccine rival Pfizer for coronavirus shot production

Following its midstage coronavirus R&D setback, Sanofi is still looking for ways to help in the world’s effort to beat back the pandemic. It’s teaming up with Pfizer and BioNTech to produce 100 million doses of the rival vaccine—even as Sanofi works to push its own programs through clinical testing. After Sanofi's weak trial showing in December forced the company to delay its own vaccine development, the French drugmaker approached Pfizer and BioNTech about helping with mRNA shot production, CEO Paul Hudson said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper. A Sanofi spokesman confirmed the manufacturing partnership, saying Sanofi will provide BioNTech “access to our established infrastructure and expertise to produce over 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Europe in 2021.” The first batches will be delivered from Sanofi’s site in Frankfurt, Germany, by August, he said.
26th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Regeneron pitches COVID-19 antibody cocktail for 'passive vaccination' with fresh trial data

As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca continues to outstrip supply and alternative vaccines struggle to make it out of the pipeline, the world is desperate for new ways to end the pandemic. Regeneron says it's offering a potential solution. The New York-based biotech released preliminary data from an ongoing phase 3 trial of its antibody cocktail REGEN-COV in people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 because of exposure to family members with the disease. The results justify using the drug for “passive vaccination,” the company said today. REGEN-COV was 100% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 in the trial as compared to placebo, the company announced. Passive vaccination with the drug slashed the overall rate of infection by half. All the infections that did occur among trial participants on the drug were asymptomatic, lasted no more than one week and showed a “short duration” of the viral shedding that can drive the illness to other people, Regeneron said.
26th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Lilly antibody combo slashed COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations in high-risk patients

Amid new worries about COVID-19 vaccine supplies, monoclonal antibodies—such as those from Eli Lilly and Regeneron—could be important stopgaps to reduce deaths and hospitalizations until vaccinations gain steam. And Lilly is touting data showing two of its antibodies did just that in high-risk patients. In a phase 3 study of more than 1,000 high-risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19, 11 patients who received a bamlanivimab-etesevimab combo were hospitalized and none died. That compared with 26 hospitalizations and 10 deaths among placebo patients, which translates into a 70% reduction in the risk of a COVID-19 hospitalization or death. Aside from the trial’s primary endpoint of reducing those two outcomes, the antibody duo met secondary endpoints such as evidence of reduced viral load and improved resolution of symptoms.
26th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Regeneron says monoclonal antibodies prevent Covid-19 in study

Regeneron said Tuesday that its monoclonal antibody cocktail prevented Covid-19 in a clinical trial. The news, issued via a press release, mirrored similar news from Eli Lilly last week that its monoclonal antibody prevented symptomatic Covid-19 infections in nursing homes. The results represent the first 400 volunteers from the study, which is being run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and is continuing to enroll patients. The volunteers were at high risk of infection because they lived in the same household as a Covid-19 patient. Half the patients received a placebo, and the other half received 1.2 grams of casirivimab and imdevimab, Regeneron’s antibodies
26th Jan 2021 - Stat News

Coronavirus: AstraZeneca defends EU vaccine rollout plan

The head of AstraZeneca has defended its rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the EU, amid tension with member states over delays in supply. Pascal Soriot told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that his team was working "24/7 to fix the very many issues of production of the vaccine". He said production was "basically two months behind where we wanted to be". He also said the EU's late decision to sign contracts had given limited time to sort out hiccups with supply. Mr Soriot, chief executive of the UK-Swedish multinational, said a contract with the UK had been signed three months before the one with the EU, giving more time for glitches to be ironed out.
26th Jan 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19 lockdowns have permanently damaged children′s eyes

Nearsightedness, or myopia, has gone up dramatically during periods of lockdown — that's according to a study of more than 100,000 children in China. Though the damage is irreversible, there are things that all of us (including parents) can do to slow its progress.
25th Jan 2021 - Deutsche Welle


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 26th Jan 2021

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Germany fears AstraZeneca vaccine won't get EU approval for those over 65 -Bild

AstraZeneca denied on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine is not very effective for people over 65, after German media reports said officials fear the vaccine may not be approved in the European Union for use in the elderly. German daily papers Handelsblatt and Bild said in separate reports the vaccine - co-developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University - had an efficacy of 8% or less than 10%, respectively, in those over 65. German officials were concerned that the vaccine may not receive approval from the EU’s medicines authority EMA for use in those over 65, Bild said in its online edition. The reports mark another potential issue for AstraZeneca, which told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March after running into vaccine production problems.
26th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Merck ends its COVID-19 vaccine programme after disappointing early trial results

Merck & Co (MSD) has ended its COVID-19 vaccine programme after reviewing some disappointing phase 1 results for its candidates V590 and V591. Although both V590 and V591 were generally well-tolerated in the phase 1 trials, immune responses for the candidates were inferior to those observed in recovered COVID-19 patients as well as those reported for other vaccines. Merck did not disclose the exact response levels but the company is planning to submit the results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
25th Jan 2021 - PMLiVE

COVID-19 cases, deaths in US increase with higher income inequality

U.S. counties with higher income inequality faced higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the first 200 days of the pandemic, according to a new study. Counties with higher proportions of Black or Hispanic residents also had higher rates, the study found, reinforcing earlier research showing the disparate effects of the virus on those communities. The findings, published last week by JAMA Network Open, were based on county-level data for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
25th Jan 2021 - EurekAlert!

AstraZeneca say they cannot meet EU's Covid-19 vaccine demands 'due to bloc's supply chain' problems

EU leaders have voiced their fury after AstraZeneca said it could not meet the demands of a £300m vaccine deal following a weekend of riots in Europe over lockdown restrictions. The vaccine makers have blamed the EU's supply chain for their failure to deliver the promised 80million vaccines by the end of March as part of the deal. AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, said they could only offer 31million vaccines in the first quarter, a cut of 60 per cent
25th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Heavy smokers face nearly double risk of dying of COVID-19 compared to people who have never smoked

Cigarette smokers face a much higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 compared to those who have never smoked, a new study suggests. Researchers found that all smokers had higher odds of poor outcomes due to the virus, but those at the highest risk were heavy smokers, defined as those smoking at least one pack per day for more than 30 years. These patients had nearly double the risk of death due to COVID-19 and were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized because of the disease.
25th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid: Vaccinated people may spread virus, says Van-Tam

People who have received a Covid-19 vaccine could still pass the virus on to others and should continue following lockdown rules, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Prof Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that scientists "do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission". He said vaccines offer "hope" but infection rates must come down quickly. Matt Hancock said 75% of over-80s in the UK have now had a first virus jab. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines require two doses, and figures so far reflect those given the first dose.
25th Jan 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: Medical-grade masks should be compulsory in shops, says former health secretary

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has joined growing calls for medical-grade masks to be made compulsory on public transport and in shops. It comes as experts fear that cloth masks, which are often homemade, are not of a good enough quality to cope with the emerging new strains of COVID-19. Mr Hunt said "last time we waited too long" before taking action on masks, adding "let's not make the same mistake again". Trisha Greenhalgh, a professor of primary care at the University of Oxford, said "the context has changed" and everyone should be wearing medical-standard coverings.
25th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Fauci: U.K. coronavirus variant leads to worse infections

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Monday that the Covid-19 variant ravaging the United Kingdom — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted will become dominant in the United States within roughly two months — is likely more deadly than the current common strain of the coronavirus. The remarks from Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, represent a new assessment from senior U.S. health officials — who had acknowledged in recent weeks that the U.K. strain was more contagious but said there was no evidence suggesting it was more dangerous
25th Jan 2021 - Politico

New UK and South Africa Covid variants may spread more easily, so what does this mean for the fight against coronavirus?

New research suggests that new coronavirus variants may spread more easily than the regular, or wild type coronavirus. Fifty-five countries have now reported the presence of the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, originally identified in the UK, and 23 countries have identified the 501Y.V2 variant, originally identified in South Africa. Most of the research characterising the new variants has been published as “preprints”, which means that the studies have not yet gone through the usual peer review and journal publication process. In areas where more infectious variants are established in the community current controls are likely to be less effective and need to be strengthened to prevent the risk of an increase in cases, deaths and long-term illness.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Moderna to test out jab against South African variant

Vaccine manufacturer Moderna is to test out a jab against the South African variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The company made the decision after laboratory tests showed a six-fold reduction in the ability of antibodies, produced in response to the vaccine, to kill the new version of the virus. The UK has 17 million doses of Moderna's vaccine on order, with deliveries due to start in the spring.
25th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Risk of 'vaccine-busting' coronavirus variants prompt tougher UK quarantine - Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he was looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk of “vaccine-busting” new coronavirus variants. New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are opening up the prospect of a much longer battle against the pathogen than previously thought. Scientists fear the new variants may be more deadly, and that vaccines may be less effective against them. “We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in - we’ve got to be able to keep that under control,” Johnson told reporters at a vaccination centre. “We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad,” Johnson said. “We need a solution.”
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Merck ends COVID vaccine program, cites inferior immune responses

Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Merck Shuts Down Covid Vaccine Program After Lackluster Data

Merck & Co. is discontinuing development of its two experimental Covid-19 vaccines after early trial data showed they failed to generate immune responses comparable to a natural infection or existing vaccines. The U.S. drug giant, which has a history of successfully developing vaccines, had adopted a different strategy from rivals Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, using a more traditional approach of focusing on shots based on weakened viruses. One, called V590, borrowed technology from Merck’s Ebola inoculation, while the other, V591, is based on a measles vaccine used in Europe.
25th Jan 2021 - Bloomberg

EU urges AstraZeneca to explain vaccine delay

The European Commission has issued a strongly worded statement demanding that the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca spells out what Covid-19 vaccine doses it has produced and to whom they have been delivered, as the controversy over the disruption to vaccine supplies deepens. A statement by the EU Health Commissioner appears to suggest that the Commission believes that vaccine doses produced by AstraZeneca that were destined for EU member states may have gone elsewhere. Stella Kyriakides said: "The EU wants to know exactly which doses have been produced whereby AstraZeneca so far, and if, or to whom, they have been delivered."
25th Jan 2021 - RTE.ie

UK official Covid death toll has always undercounted fatalities, analysis shows

The UK government death toll is missing coronavirus fatalities and it always has, Guardian analysis has shown. According to the paper by the University of Leicester 30% of Covid-19 patients discharged from English hospitals were readmitted within five months and almost one in eight of them die, raising further concerns over the accuracy of the widely quoted official figure. If the paper proves correct, it would mean in the future thousands of coronavirus patients will be readmitted to hospital and some will die with complications from the virus without being included in the government tally.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Fewer stayed home, more wore masks as pandemic wore on

Self-reported adherence to such coronavirus-curbing behaviors as physical distancing fell substantially—while mask wearing rose significantly—from spring to fall 2020, regardless of US Census region, according to a research letter published in JAMA. The study, led by scientists from Johns Hopkins University, analyzed responses to 16 waves of the national Coronavirus Tracking Survey from Apr 1 to Nov 24, 2020. The respondents were recruited from the University of Southern California's Understanding America Study, an ongoing nationwide panel of US residents. The researchers asked all participants to complete a survey every 14 days on 16 evidence-based nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) vulnerable to COVID-19 pandemic fatigue, or apathy due to prolonged coronavirus-related isolation, uncertainty, and disruptions. Among the 7,705 participants who completed all survey waves, the NPI index showed peak compliance at the beginning of the pandemic (70.0 in early April), a leveling off in June (high 50s), and a slight climb to 60.1—but still much lower than in the spring—at the end of the survey in November.
25th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Moderna to test different booster shot against South Africa coronavirus variant

Moderna is weighing a second booster shot to battle back a new coronavirus variant, even as it affirms its current vaccine's activity against newly emerging mutants. While the current two-dose regimen is holding so far, it's less effective against a South African variant—which has the company exploring a third shot and a variant-specific booster. The variant candidate is moving into preclinical studies and a phase 1 U.S. study, targeting the coronavirus strain first identified in South Africa, Moderna said Monday. The South African variant, known as B.1.135, notched a sixfold reduction in neutralizing titers in tests made by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Despite the decrease, the vaccine maintained levels expected to protect vaccine recipients, Moderna said.
25th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

AstraZeneca's surprise COVID-19 vaccine shortfall prompts Europe to press for answers

After AstraZeneca’s surprise announcement Friday that its first COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe would be lighter than expected, angry government officials have been demanding answers. In Italy, prime minister Giuseppe Conte said he’d consider “all legal steps” against the company, the Financial Times reports. Italy's first-quarter allotment had been cut to 3.4 million doses from 8 million, according to the report. Following AZ's announcement Friday, European officials were set to meet with AstraZeneca executives on Monday to seek clarification, Reuters reports; one European official had called AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot ahead of the meeting. Europe has the power to review AstraZeneca's documents under their contract, and one official told Reuters that penalties aren't out of the question.
25th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Pfizer's 6-dose-per-vial OK boosts its supply numbers. The catch? Special syringes are required

When pharmacists discovered a sixth dose could be pulled from vials of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, rather than the original five, it looked like a solution to supply-constrained vaccine rollouts. But now that the FDA has approved that tactic, Pfizer's counting those extra doses toward its established orders, The New York Times reports—which means it won't help boost immediate supplies. In fact, it might actually cut them. Special syringes needed to extract that extra shot aren’t necessarily on hand, meaning states could wind up with fewer doses than expected, not more. Pfizer is reportedly working with the U.S. government to pair the right syringes with vaccine shipments—and count doses accordingly—but that's not official or certain.
25th Jan 2021 - Fierce Pharma

Moderna’s vaccine is less potent against one coronavirus variant but still protective, company says

Moderna is studying adding booster doses to its vaccine regimen after finding its Covid-19 vaccine was less potent against a coronavirus variant that was first identified in South Africa, the company said Monday. In lab research that involved testing whether blood from people who had received the vaccine could still fend off different coronavirus variants, scientists found that there was a sixfold reduction in the vaccine’s neutralizing power against the variant, called B.1.351, than against earlier forms of the coronavirus, Moderna reported. There was no loss in neutralization levels against a different variant, called B.1.1.7, that was first identified in the United Kingdom. Both variants are thought to be more transmissible than other forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
25th Jan 2021 - STAT News

In a major setback, Merck to stop developing its two Covid-19 vaccines and focus on therapies

Merck said Monday it will stop developing both of the current formulations of the Covid-19 vaccines the company was working on, citing inadequate immune responses to the shots. Work will continue on at least one of the vaccines, which is being developed in partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), to see if using a different route of administration would improve how effective it is. The announcement marks a shocking setback for one of the most storied vaccine makers, and will raise tensions around readouts expected soon from other companies, including Johnson & Johnson and the upstart NovaVax.
25th Jan 2021 - STAT News

First U.S. case of highly transmissible Brazil coronavirus variant identified in Minnesota

Minnesota officials announced Monday they have identified a person infected with a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading at alarming rates in recent weeks in Brazil. This is the first report in the United States of the P.1 variant, which has been of particular concern to scientists as they have observed the disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus. One research study published in the journal Science estimated that 76 percent of the Manaus population already had been infected by the coronavirus. That should have put Manaus close to herd immunity. The new surge has raised fears that the P.1 variant has mutations that allow it to evade the human immune system. Evidence to support this hypothesis remains limited.
25th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

New coronavirus variants accelerate race to make sure vaccines keep up

The scientific and pharmaceutical race to keep coronavirus vaccines ahead of new virus variants escalated Monday, even as a highly transmissible variant first detected in people who had recently traveled to Brazil was discovered in Minnesota. Moderna, the maker of one of the two authorized coronavirus vaccines in the United States, announced it would develop and test a new vaccine tailored to block a similar mutation-riddled virus variant in case an updated shot becomes necessary. The effort is a precautionary step. Evidence released Monday suggested that the Moderna vaccine will still work against two variants of concern that emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
25th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 25th Jan 2021

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Australia regulator approves Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 for use

Australia's medical regulator has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use under a formal process, one of the first countries to complete a comprehensive approval, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. The vaccine had been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) for Australians aged 16 years and over, Morrison told reporters, noting it was a year since the first coronavirus case was detected in the country. Vaccination of priority groups is expected to begin in late February, at 80,000 doses per week, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters. Two doses will be required – at least 21 days apart, a government statement said. Australia will administer both doses of the vaccine at the recommended time.
24th Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

South Africa Health Regulatory Body Approves Serum Institute of India's Covid-19 Vaccine

South Africa Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday announced that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has granted approval to Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply COVID-19 vaccine to the country. The approval by the health regulatory body comes amidst growing public concern that the 1.5 million vaccine doses to be shipped to South Africa in the next few weeks have not been approved yet. “We will, in the next coming days, engage with the public in order to give an update on the progress of the first batch of the vaccines that we committed would be received in the first quarter," Mkhize said.
23rd Jan 2021 - Outlookindia

AstraZeneca warns EU countries it will cut deliveries of Covid-19 vaccine by 60% in first quarter

AstraZeneca has warned EU countries it will cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine by 60 per cent to 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. The decrease deals another blow to Europe's Covid-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE slowed supplies of their vaccine to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.
23rd Jan 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

The Coronavirus Kills Mink. They May Get a Vaccine.

At least two American companies, as well as Russian researchers, are working on coronavirus vaccines for mink. The animals have grown sick and died in large numbers from the virus, which they have also passed back to people in mutated form. Zoetis, a large veterinary pharmaceutical company in New Jersey with more than $6 billion in annual revenue in 2019, and Medgene Labs, a small company with about 35 employees that is based in South Dakota, are both testing vaccines in mink. They are seeking licensing of their products from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both companies said their vaccine technologies are generally similar to the one used by Novovax for a human vaccine, which is in late-stage trials. That system involves making insect cells produce the spike protein on the coronavirus, which is then attached to a harmless virus that enters into the body’s cells and trains the immune system to be ready for the real thing.
23rd Jan 2021 - The New York Times

Dr. Fauci says one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be approved in two weeks

Latest data shows case counts fall in 43 states and District of Columbia, according to COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations also on the decline in 24 states as experts say lockdowns and behavior are yielding fruit. But public health officials warn that case counts may surge as new variant of COVID-19 circulates in the US There were nearly 189,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday nationwide; 116,264 Americans are hospitalized. The COVID-19 death count remains high as the number of fatalities recorded on Friday was 3,655. Since the start of the pandemic, 414,117 Americans have died of COVID-19 with 24.8 million people infected Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday he believes a new coronavirus vaccine is two weeks away from FDA approval. Single-dose shot developed by Johnson & Johnson is in final phases of clinical trials with data expected soon
23rd Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

CDC says 2nd coronavirus vaccine shot may be scheduled up to 6 weeks later

People who have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine can schedule their second shot up to six weeks later if they are not able to get one in the recommended time frame, according to updated guidance this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency also said that in “exceptional situations,” patients may switch from one of the authorized vaccines to the other between the first and second doses. The recommended interval between doses is three weeks for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

China and Russia find markets for their Covid-19 vaccines despite safety doubts

Russia and China are carving out global influence with their Covid-19 vaccines, despite lingering concerns about insufficient testing of the jabs. Hungary this week became the first European Union state to give preliminary approval to the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, which has been touted as a symbol of Moscow’s scientific prowess despite its patchy healthcare system. Many Russians are expressing scepticism about receiving the jab, with a recent opinion poll indicating that only 16 per cent of respondents would definitely get it, while another 24 per cent said they were likely to do so. However, the partially tested Sputnik vaccine is establishing footholds abroad, including in South America, where Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia have signed up to receive it.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Times

Moderna And Pfizer Behind On Supplying COVID-19 Vaccine : Shots - Health News

With a spotlight on COVID-19 vaccine distribution shortcomings, there's another bottleneck that could prevent inoculations from significantly speeding up in the near future: Pfizer's and Moderna's ability to scale up manufacturing and deliver doses to the U.S. government. The companies promised to deliver 100 million doses apiece to the United States by the end of March. But they'll need to make huge leaps in a short time to meet that goal. In the last few weeks, they've each been steadily delivering about 4.3 million doses a week, according to an NPR examination of vaccine allocation data. But to hit their targets of 100 million doses on time, they each need to deliver 7.5 million doses a week for the next nine weeks. "I think it is going to be a real challenge for them to hit that contracted target. There's just no question about that," said consultant John Avellanet, who's advised pharmaceutical companies since the 1990s on manufacturing and compliance issues.
23rd Jan 2021 - NPR

Covid-19: Scientists challenge 'flawed' lateral flow tests report

A group of experienced scientists has issued a statement supporting the use of lateral flow tests in the battle against Covid. They say the rapid devices have identified 27,000 infected people in the UK who would not otherwise have had to self-isolate. The findings of a recent report suggested the tests were inaccurate and potentially harmful. But the scientists say that report was flawed and confused. Signatories to the statement include Prof Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine and child health, from the University of Liverpool, Prof Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, and Dr Susan Hopkins, interim chief medical adviser from Public Health England.
23rd Jan 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Senior doctors urge medical chiefs to halve the wait between doses of Covid-19 vaccine

The British Medical Association has written to chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty calling for the gap between vaccine doses to be reduced to six weeks, it has been revealed. The private letter, seen by the BBC, said the current plans of people waiting up to 12 weeks for a second dose - which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said is supported by data from an Israeli study - are "difficult to justify". It said: "The absence of any international support for the UK's approach is a cause of deep concern and risks undermining public and the profession's trust in the vaccination programme."
23rd Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Covid-19: UK variant 'may be more deadly' but nation's R number drops

We already knew that the Covid-19 variant first discovered in south-east England was more transmissible, but now - speaking at a Downing Street briefing - Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed it may also "be associated with a higher degree of mortality". On how much more deadly the UK strain might be, the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said if the old variant might lead to the deaths of 10 in 1,000 men in their 60s who caught the virus, the new variant might kill 13 or 14 in 1,000. However, he added: "There's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it."
23rd Jan 2021 - BBC News

'Too early to say': scientists unsure if UK Covid variant is more deadly

Scientists have warned against alarmism over the new variant of coronavirus, after Boris Johnson announced there was evidence it was more deadly. Speaking at the daily coronavirus news briefing on Friday, Johnson said scientists had found the new variant may be associated with “a higher degree of mortality”. Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, said that for every thousand people in their 60s infected with the original strain of coronavirus, 10 would be expected to die. With the new variant, this figure is thought to ris
23rd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Israel finds single dose gives high resistance

A single shot of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine produces a robust antibody response within weeks, according to Israeli data that could help inform whether scarce global supplies can be stretched by delaying second doses. At the Rambam Health Care Campus in northern Israel, 91 per cent of the 1,800 doctors and nurses that received the two dose vaccine showed a major presence of antibodies 21 days after their first shot, before receiving the second dose, according to Michael Halberthal, chief executive of the hospital. A further 2 per cent showed a moderate presence of antibodies. “If 93 per cent had a major response three weeks after the first injection, this raises a good question, that you might rather be using the first injection on more people” said Dr Halberthal. At the Sheba Medical Center, similar serological tests at different intervals showed at least 50 per cent of staff with a level of antibodies “above the cut-off point” two weeks after the first jab, said Arnon Afek, the associate director-general of the hospital chain.
23rd Jan 2021 - Financial Times

EU hit by delay to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine delivery

AstraZeneca has warned EU countries to expect significant shortfalls to early deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine, in a fresh blow to the rollout of the bloc’s immunisation programme, European officials have said. The EU was expecting 100m doses of the jab in the first quarter of the year. But people with knowledge of the discussions said the company may fail to deliver even half that amount, although they stressed that final figures had not been established. AstraZeneca insisted there was no “scheduled delay” to the start of shipments of its vaccines, but said “initial volumes” would “be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain”. “We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the EU, as we continue to ramp up production volumes,” the company said, adding that the change in expected volumes did not affect the UK
23rd Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Exclusive: AstraZeneca to cut EU's COVID vaccine deliveries by 60% in Q1- EU source

AstraZeneca told European Union officials on Friday it would cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, a senior official told Reuters. The company was expected to deliver to the 27 EU countries about 80 million doses by the end of March, the official who was involved in the talks said. The company had also agreed to deliver more than 80 million doses in the second quarter, but on Friday was not able to indicate delivery targets for the April-June period due to the production issues, the official said.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters

British Medical Association says 12-week Pfizer vaccine dose gap is ‘difficult to justify’

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called on England’s Chief Medical Officer to reduce the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination, stating that it is “difficult to justify”. Health officials increased the time between jabs from three to 12 weeks to allow as many people as possible to receive a first dose. But the BMA has since written to Professor Chris Whitty calling for an urgent review and a reduction in time between jabs to six weeks.
23rd Jan 2021 - iNews

COVID-19: Halve the gap between vaccine doses, senior doctors urge

Public Health England (PHE) officials are resisting senior doctors' calls to halve the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The British Medical Association (BMA) has said the gap between doses being given to patients should be cut from 12 weeks to six. But officials at PHE have said it is essential to protect as many people as possible to prevent the coronavirus getting "the upper hand" over the healthcare service. The World Health Organisation has recommended that the gap should be a maximum of six weeks - but the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has opted to delay a second Pfizer dose for up to 12 weeks, to ensure more people get the first jab sooner.
23rd Jan 2021 - Sky News

Coronavirus: Children do NOT play a key role in spread, study says

German researchers enrolled nearly 2,500 parents and their children in a study Found three times as many adults had coronavirus antibodies than children Data also shows a previously infected adult and an uninfected child was 4.3 times more common than a previously infected child and an uninfected parent
23rd Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Despite reactions, California says virus vaccine can be used

California said it's safe to immediately begin using a batch of coronavirus vaccine doses after health officials urged a halt to injections and held a review because several people had reactions. Wednesday's decision frees up more than 300,000 doses to counties, cities and hospitals struggling to obtain supplies. With the largest U.S. population at 40 million people, California has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll in the country behind New York.
23rd Jan 2021 - Medical Xpress

Israeli Covid chief's claim single vaccine dose less effective 'inaccurate'

Israel’s health ministry has moved to row back on comments by the country’s coronavirus tsar, who suggested single doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine had not given as much protection against the disease as had been hoped. The remarks by Nachman Ash, reported first in the Israeli media earlier this week, drew widespread attention for appearing to suggest that the vaccine was less effective than expected after a single dose had been administered as the country recorded record cases and extended its lockdown earlier this week. As experts in the UK questioned whether it was too soon to make such a judgement, the Israeli health ministry pushed back, saying that the comments were inaccurate and had been taken out of context.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Covid: Delaying second dose of vaccine increases risk of new resistant strain, Sage papers reveal

Delaying doses of coronavirus inoculations will increase the chances of a vaccine-resistant strain of Covid-19 emerging, government scientists have warned. In new reports, released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), experts also warned that resistant new variants were a “realistic possibility” driven by the virus reacting to increasing levels of natural immunity among the population. The government’s decision to delay the second dose of vaccines to 12 weeks rather than three, to try and give more people some protection from the virus, has sparked anger among frontline health workers who fear they are being left at increased risk from infections. There have also been suggestions from Israel, that have yet to be fully validated, that the protection from a first dose could be far less than originally thought.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Independent

UK COVID-19 variant may carry higher risk of death but data limited - journalist cites advisory group

The COVID-19 variant identified in England last month could carry a higher risk of causing death although data is limited, according to one of the government's scientific advisory groups, ITV political editor Robert Peston said on Twitter on Friday.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters

Senior doctors attack decision to make people wait 12 weeks for second dose of Pfizer Covid vaccine

Senior doctors have criticised the decision to make people wait 12 weeks for a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, calling for the wait to be halved. The UK is the only country to have introduced such a long gap, flouting a World Health Organisation recommendation, the British Medical Association (BMA) said. “What we're saying is that the UK should adopt this best practice based on international professional opinion,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, its council chairman “If the vaccine's efficacy is reduced....then of course the risk is that we will see those who are exposed maximally to the virus may get infected.”
23rd Jan 2021 - The Independent

California virus variant driving surge around LA; smell training advised for lingering problem

The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Virus variant found in California drives SoCal surge. A new variant of the coronavirus appears to account for the recent surge of cases in southern California, researchers say. The variant, called CAL.20C, accounted for fewer than one in every 1,000 COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles county in July. It was not detected again until October, but by December accounted for 36% of cases, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reported on Wednesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
22nd Jan 2021 - Reuters

At least 54 Brits have been infected with super-infectious South African Covid variant and it has been spreading in the UK since October, official report reveals

Dozens of cases of the South African coronavirus variant have already been spotted in Britain, it was revealed today. The Covid-19 Genomics Consortium UK (COG-UK) said 54 Brits have tested positive for the variant so far, with the first case spotted in October last year. It's likely that there have been far more than the number reported because COG-UK only analyses 10 per cent of random positive coronavirus samples.
22nd Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

SARS-CoV-2 needs cholesterol to invade cells and form mega cells

People taking cholesterol-lowering drugs may fare better than others if they catch the novel coronavirus. A new study hints at why: the virus relies on the fatty molecule to get past the cell's protective membrane. o cause COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 virus must force its way into people's cells—and it needs an accomplice. Cholesterol, the waxy compound better known for clogging arteries, helps the virus open cells up and slip inside, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Clifford Brangwynne's lab reports.
22nd Jan 2021 - Phys.org

Denmark is sequencing all coronavirus samples and has an alarming view of the U.K. variant

Like a speeding car whose brake lines have been cut, the coronavirus variant first spotted in Britain is spreading at an alarming rate and isn’t responding to established ways of slowing the pandemic, according to Danish scientists who have one of the world’s best views into the new, more contagious strain. Cases involving the variant are increasing 70 percent a week in Denmark, despite a strict lockdown, according to Denmark’s State Serum Institute, a government agency that tracks diseases and advises health policy. “We’re losing some of the tools that we have to control the epidemic,” said Tyra Grove Krause, scientific director of the institute, which this past week began sequencing every positive coronavirus test to check for mutations.
22nd Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

Covid-19 news: UK variant may be 30 per cent more deadly

Preliminary evidence indicates the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK may additionally be more deadly, UK prime minister Boris Johnson told a press briefing on Friday. The government was briefed by researchers in the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, who are assessing the data on the variant, which appears to be about 30 per cent more deadly. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at Imperial College London who analysed data on the new variant concluded it is between 29 and 36 per cent more lethal, whereas researchers at the University of Exeter put the figure at 91 per cent. The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said the evidence on lethality “is not yet strong”, adding: “but it is obviously a concern”.
22nd Jan 2021 - New Scientist News

"I Am Quite Apprehensive about What Might Otherwise Happen in Spring and Summer"

In an interview with Christian Drosten, the German virologist looks back on the mistakes he has made in the coronavirus pandemic – and ahead to the dangers that the pandemic still has in store for us.
22nd Jan 2021 - Der Speigel

ConserV Bioscience to develop ‘broad-spectrum’ coronavirus vaccine

UK biotech company ConserV Bioscience will collaborate on the development of a broad-spectrum coronavirus vaccine with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The vaccine has been designed to enable broad-spectrum protection against coronavirus pathogens originating from humans and animals, including MERS, SARS and SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine candidate consists of conserved immunoreactive regions from external and internal coronavirus proteins encoded in messenger RNA (mRNA). LLNL will use its proprietary nanolipoprotein particle (NLP) technology to formulate the mRNA constructs prior to injections.
20th Jan 2021 - Pharma Times


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Jan 2021

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India allows commercial export of COVID-19 vaccines from Friday; first stop brazil, morocco

India has allowed commercial export of COVID-19 vaccines being manufactured in the country from Friday. Brazil and Morocco will be the first two countries that are getting the commercial contracted supplies of 20 lakh doses each with flights leaving at 4.15 am IST and 8 am IST, respectively on Friday. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had written Prime Minister Narendra Modi for COVID-19 vaccines. In a letter, he had said, "Brazilian government has launched the National Immunization Program against COVID-19" and "Among the vaccines selected by the Brazilian government, are those from the Indian company Bharat Biotech Internacional Limited (Covaxin) and AstraZeneca at the University of Oxford (Covishield), also produced by the Serum Institute of India."
21st Jan 2021 - India.com

Covid UK: Herd immunity may not be achievable even if ALL vaccinated

University of East Anglia (UEA) study found Kent strain too infectious for herd immunity with current vaccines. But goal of vaccination scheme is to prevent the most vulnerable from falling sick or dying, not eradicate virus. SAGE scientists said today at current pace, most draconian curbs need to remain in place until May at least
21st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

'Five dead' in devastating fire at world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine facility

As many as five people have been killed in a fire at the site of the world's largest coronavirus vaccine manufacturer, according to reports. Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the Serum Institute of India (SII) today. Millions of doses of the Covidshield vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, are being produced at the plant. Initial reports suggested that there had been no casualties but Adar Poonawalla, SII's CEO, confirmed there had been "some loss of life" in a statement. He said: "Upon further investigation we have learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life at the incident.
21st Jan 2021 - Mirror Online

Eli Lilly's coronavirus antibody drug prevents 80% of nursing home residents from falling ill from COVID-19, firm reveals

Eli Lilly tested its antibody drug against a placebo in 1,000 US nursing home staff and residents. The drug, bamlanivimab, prevented COVID-19 in 57% of staff and residents combined. In nursing home residents alone, the drug prevented 80% of infections. Nursing home residents account for 4.7% of cases but 37% of COVID-19 deaths. The drug is already authorized to treat mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 and Lilly will ask the FDA to expand the emergency approval for preventive use.
21st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Lilly: Drug can prevent COVID-19 illness in nursing homes

Drugmaker Eli Lilly said Thursday its antibody drug can prevent COVID-19 illness in residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care locations. It's the first major study to show such a treatment may prevent illness in a group that has been devastated by the pandemic. Residents and staff who got the drug had up to a 57% lower risk of getting COVID-19 compared to others at the same facility who got a placebo, the drugmaker said. Among nursing home residents only, the risk was reduced by up to 80%. The study involved more than 1,000 residents and staff at nursing homes and other long-term care locations like assisted living homes. The vast majority tested negative at the start of the study. Some were assigned to get the drug, which is given through an IV, and others got placebo infusions.
21st Jan 2021 - The Independent

Will Britain's vaccine drive be enough to end Covid crisis? UK WON'T achieve herd immunity through jab rollout, study claims as SAGE warns lockdown may be needed until MAY ...

University of East Anglia (UEA) study found Kent strain too infectious for herd immunity with current vaccines. But goal of vaccination scheme is to prevent the most vulnerable from falling sick or dying, not eradicate virus. SAGE scientists said today at current pace, most draconian curbs need to remain in place until May at least
21st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

France will need new COVID lockdown if curfew doesn't work -epidemiologist

France will probably need a third national lockdown if the current 6 p.m. curfew fails to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus, a member of the French national vaccine committee told BFM TV on Thursday, before saying that it could be limited to the most vulnerable. "If the number of cases keep rising, we shall have to resort to a lockdown again," epidemiologist Odile Launay said. "We should seriously consider a lockdown limited to vulnerable people."
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Research finds people more likely to follow Covid rules when friends and family do

New research has shown that people are more likely to follow Covid-19 restrictions based on what their friends do, rather than their own principles. Research led by the University of Nottingham carried out in partnership with experts in collective behaviour from British, French, German and American universities shows how social influence affects people's adherance to government restrictions. The researchers found that the best predictor of people's compliance to the rules was how much their close circle complied with the rules, which had an even stronger effect than people's own approval of the rules. The research published in British Journal of Psychology highlights a blindspot in policy responses to the pandemic. It also suggests that including experts in human and social behaviour is crucial when planning the next stages of the pandemic response, such as how to ensure that people comply with extended lockdowns or vaccination recommendations.
21st Jan 2021 - EurekAlert

Officials warn of threat to Europe from variant COVID-19

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) today raised the risk of spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants to very high, as COVID-19 activity in the United Kingdom, where the B117 variant is dominant, keeps a tight hold despite the country's third lockdown. Meanwhile, nations in other parts of the world, including China, announced new steps to beat back the stubborn spread of the virus. In its first update of its SARS-CoV-2 variant risk assessment today, the ECDC said the more transmissible variants have led to deteriorating epidemiological situations. Based on new information, the risk of B117 introduction and community spread is very high and impact on health systems is considered high. For the 501Y.V2 variant first found in South Africa, cases have been confirmed in 10 European countries, with one cluster under investigation in France and the United Kingdom and Israel also reporting cases or clusters of non-travel related 501Y.V2 infections.
21st Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Combo monoclonal antibody drugs may lower coronavirus loads

Mildly to moderately ill COVID-19 adult outpatients given a combination of the monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab early in the disease had significantly lower viral loads at day 11 than those who received a placebo, but a similar effect was not seen in those given bamlanivimab alone, a study published today in JAMA finds. Bamlanivimab manufacturer Eli Lilly sponsored the double-blind phase 2/3 BLAZE-1 clinical trial, which involved 533 COVID-19 patients at 49 US medical centers. The goal was to assess the antispike neutralizing antibodies' effects on viral loads of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at 11 days and clinical outcomes at 29 days.
21st Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Remember normal? Pfizer and BioNTech join with health groups to remind us—and promote COVID-19 vaccine safety

Remember hugging, playing with grandchildren, kissing people goodbye and sharing exciting news with family in person? While COVID-19 has kiboshed those things, Pfizer and BioNTech want to remind people about them—and how they'll be possible again with vaccines. The Comirnaty vaccine makers, together with a coalition of health organizations, recently debuted an awareness campaign aimed at shoring up confidence in the new COVID-19 shots. The 25- to 30-second videos are real takes of real people—found online and then licensed with consent for the digital campaign, which launched last week on social media. Future plans include a move to local TV.
21st Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

With many Regeneron and Lilly antibodies going unused, new candidates aim to ease dosing and defeat variants

Thanks to dosing logistics, COVID-19 antibodies from Eli Lilly and Regeneron have gotten off to a slow start in the U.S., and now they're facing a new stumbling block in viral variants. While the two companies are scrambling to learn about their meds' efficacy against the variants, other drugmakers are advancing their own antibodies with eyes on both challenges—dosing and the new variants. Eli Lilly, which has agreed to sell 950,000 doses of its bamlanivimab antibody to the U.S., believes the drug “should maintain full activity against the new strain originating in the U.K.," a spokeswoman said.
21st Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Eli Lilly says its monoclonal antibody prevented Covid-19 infections in clinical trial

Eli Lilly said Thursday that its monoclonal antibody prevented Covid-19 infections in nursing home residents and staff in a clinical trial, the first time such a treatment has been shown to prevent infection. Lilly released the results in a press release, although it said that it would publish the data in a research paper as quickly as possible. In November, the antibody, bamlanivimab, was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration in treating patients with Covid who are at risk of more severe disease. An antibody cocktail made by the biotechnology firm Regeneron has also been authorized.
21st Jan 2021 - STAT News

Antibody-assisted vaccination will speed the path to protection

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for two safe and effective vaccines that science has delivered at record speed. The question now is: How do we best distribute them? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has published guidance that vaccinations should start with health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities, followed by other essential frontline workers and those over 75 years old. Mentioned only as a subpriority is how a history of Covid-19 infection should affect one’s place in line: “HCP with documented acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the preceding 90 days may choose to delay vaccination until near the end of the 90-day period in order to facilitate vaccination of those HCP who remain susceptible.”
21st Jan 2021 - STAT News

Moderna's COVID-19 given to first Japanese volunteer as Takeda starts trial

Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine was administered to the first test subject in Japan on Thursday, its distributor said, a critical step toward securing enough shots to inoculate the nation’s population. Takeda Pharmaceutical Co announced the start of a combined phase I and II study of 200 adult volunteers in Japan. The government has purchased 50 million doses of the vaccine, enough for 25 million people, contingent on its regulatory approval.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 21st Jan 2021

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Moderna cooperating with investigation into possible COVID-19 vaccine allergic reactions

Moderna said in a statement yesterday that it is ‘fully’ cooperating with an investigation into possible allergic reactions at a vaccination centre in the US administering its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. The adverse events were reported by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in the US, after a number of individuals at a vaccination centre in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions following vaccination using doses from one lot of Moderna’s jab. On Sunday, California’s state epidemiologist Dr Erica Pan issued a statement with recommendations for healthcare providers to pause vaccination from the lot in question – no. 041L20A – after the possible allergic reactions.
20th Jan 2021 - PMLiVE

Coronavirus: Israeli doctor claims Pfizer's vaccine is less effective than expected after one dose

Dr Nachman Ash complained people were still catching coronavirus after jabs But protection is only expected to kick in from two weeks after the first dose British vaccine regulator claims one Pfizer dose gives high level of protection Sir Patrick Vallance said lower efficacy to be expected but UK should watch data
20th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Glass maker Schott predicts enough vials to go around for COVID-19 vaccines

Germany’s unlisted Schott AG, the world’s biggest supplier of speciality glass for medical bottles and syringes, said on Wednesday it did not see any shortage of vials for bottling COVID-19 vaccines. Drugmakers last year warned of limited supplies of vials to bottle future COVID-19 vaccines, but Schott said at the time that their rush to secure supplies early risked making matters worse. Schott, whose founder Otto Schott invented heavy-duty borosilicate glass in the 1890s, delivered 110 million vials for COVID-19 vaccines during the second half of last year and was now scheduled to clear an order backlog of 600 million vials for that purpose well into 2022.
20th Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: 'Real-world' analysis of coronavirus vaccine in Israel raises questions about UK strategy

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK's decision to delay the second dose. Scientists in Israel - which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race - have told Sky News that they are "very hopeful" having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people. But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.
20th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: How likely you are to die from the virus, according to the latest research

The pandemic rages on and over 2 million people have now succumbed to Covid-19. Since last year, scientists have scrambled to determine just how deadly the virus is. But it's a hard question to answer. “Globally, about 3.4 per cent of reported Covid-19 cases have died,’’ WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus​ told media during a March 2020 briefing. The comments sparked widespread alarm, particularly as initial estimates suggested Covid-19’s mortality rate was lower. A death rate of 3.4 per cent was terrifying. Flu’s mortality rate, in comparison, is usually below 0.1 per cent. During the Spanish influenza pandemic, 2.5 percent of those infected died.
20th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

One-dose vaccine strategy may not protect against Covid-19

Health officials have said they must look “very carefully” at Britain’s plan to delay second vaccine doses after research from Israel suggested that one dose may not provide adequate protection against Covid-19. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said this morning that the government would “just need to keep measuring the numbers” to ensure that a single dose offered reasonable protection. He also said it was monitoring how many inoculated people were taken to hospital with the virus.
20th Jan 2021 - The Times

DNA test developed in Cambridge can identify secondary infections in Covid-19 patients in hours

A DNA test developed in Cambridge can quickly identify secondary infections in Covid-19 patients, who face double the risk of developing pneumonia while on ventilation compared to those with other conditions. It is capable of detecting 52 pathogens that often cause infection in intensive care, and can pick up antibiotic resistance. It means targeted antibiotic treatments can be given within hours, rather than days. Dr Andrew Conway Morris, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Medicine and an intensive care consultant, said: “Early on in the pandemic we noticed that Covid-19 patients appeared to be particularly at risk of developing secondary pneumonia, and started using a rapid diagnostic test that we had developed for just such a situation. “Using this test, we found that patients with Covid-19 were twice as likely to develop secondary pneumonia as other patients in the same intensive care unit.”
20th Jan 2021 - Cambridge Independent

What new Covid-19 variants mean for our fight with the virus

For more than three months the patient struggled against Covid-19. His immune system was already in a bad way when he caught the virus – he had been receiving a drug treatment for lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, that depleted some of his immune cells. With fewer of the usual defences against infection, the virus was able to spread in his body relatively unchecked. As doctors tried to help the elderly patient fight the virus, they gave him blood plasma collected from people who had already recovered from Covid-19. Contained within this milky-brown liquid – also known as convalescent plasma – were antibodies against the virus that might help to neutralise it. Over the course of 101 days as they treated the man, clinicians at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, UK, took 23 swab samples as he fought against the disease. Each swab was sent off to a nearby laboratory to be analysed. But when virologists looked at the virus’s genetic material in the samples, they noticed something astonishing – Covid-19 was evolving before their eyes.
20th Jan 2021 - BBC News

BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine found effective against Covid-19 variant

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is likely to be effective against a rapidly spreading strain of the virus that was first discovered in the UK, a laboratory-based study by the companies has shown. The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has a high number of mutations, which has led to concerns that could bypass the immune defences built up by vaccines being rolled out worldwide, a large proportion of which have been made by BioNTech and Pfizer. However, researchers at BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz found that a test-tube version of the virus carrying all the new strain’s mutations was neutralised by antibodies in the blood of 16 patients who had received the vaccine in previous trials, half of whom were over 55 years old.
20th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Lockdown, quarantine and self-isolation: How COVID restrictions affect our mental health

In the year since the city of Wuhan, China, went into the world's first coronavirus lockdown, we have all had to live under some form of pandemic-related restriction. Some countries have opted for strict national lockdowns, like the one currently in place in the UK, while other countries such as Taiwan have opted for border closures and mandatory quarantine for overseas arrivals. Such different approaches to restricting movement have different effects on our well-being.
20th Jan 2021 - Medical Xpress

One in eight people in England has had Covid, ONS survey estimates

An estimated one in eight people in England had had Covid-19 by December last year, according to antibody data from the Office for National Statistic’s Covid-19 Infection Survey. It comes as the number of first doses delivered in the UK passed four million. Indeed, the Government says it is on track to vaccinate around 15 million high-priority people across the UK by February 15, including frontline health and social care staff, the over 70s and people in care homes. Once those vaccines have taken effect, around two to three weeks later ministers will consider whether lockdown measures can be eased in England.
20th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Novavax sees some COVID-19 vaccine trial dropout as Pfizer, Moderna rollouts gear up

As more supplies of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s authorized COVID-19 vaccines arrive, many states are expanding their reach beyond the elderly and into the 65-plus crowd. That broader rollout has created some problems for clinical trials of other experimental shots. Novavax’s phase 3 trial of its COVID-19 candidate NVX-CoV2373 has received drop-out requests from some participants 65 or older as New York said it’s now vaccinating people of that age group, The Washington Post reported. One Long Island physician told the Post that the trial site he managed has received a “significant” number of calls asking to be unblinded from the study and that recruitment is getting harder because “all of a sudden the people over 65 became less interested.”
20th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Patients, clinicians seek answers to the mystery of 'Long COVID'

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, public attention has mainly focused on the number of people who become severely ill and die from COVID-19. But what's become clear in recent months is the large and growing group of people who continue to deal with prolonged symptoms long after their original illness. In a recent study posted on the preprint server medRxiv, analysis of an international survey of more than 3,700 respondents with COVID-19 found that over two-thirds were still experiencing numerous symptoms at 6 months, with significant impacts on patients' lives and livelihoods. Respondents with symptoms for more than 6 months said they are experiencing an average of nearly 14 symptoms across multiple organ systems.
20th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Race, income inequality fuel COVID disparities in US counties

A study today in JAMA Network Open details US county-level COVID-19 infection and death inequities based on racial composition and income in the first 200 days of the pandemic, adding to mounting evidence of disproportionate burdens among racial minorities and those of lower income levels. Researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and DePaul University analyzed data from seven US agencies and organizations on all but 1 of 3,142 counties in 50 states and Washington, D.C. from Jan 22 to Aug 8. They found that a 1.0% increase in a county's income inequality was associated with a 2.0% increase in COVID-19 infection and a 3.0% rise in related deaths.
20th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine works just as well against variant first detected in U.K., study indicates

The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech appears to work just as well against a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom as it does against earlier forms of the pathogen, the companies reported in a study Wednesday. The paper from company scientists, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is a welcome signal that existing vaccines don’t seem to be weakened by the variant in question, dubbed B.1.1.7. Already, scientists had tested the Pfizer vaccine against one of the key mutations in the variant and found the immunization’s neutralization power was not affected.
20th Jan 2021 - Stat News

BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine found effective against Covid-19 variant

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is likely to be effective against a rapidly spreading strain of the virus that was first discovered in the UK, a laboratory-based study by the companies has shown. The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has a high number of mutations, which has led to concerns that could bypass the immune defences built up by vaccines being rolled out worldwide, a large proportion of which have been made by BioNTech and Pfizer. However, researchers at BioNTech’s headquarters in Mainz found that a test-tube version of the virus carrying all the new strain’s mutations was neutralised by antibodies in the blood of 16 patients who had received the vaccine in previous trials, half of whom were over 55 years old.
20th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

China's COVID-19 vaccine makers apply to join COVAX scheme

China said on Wednesday three drugmakers had submitted applications to supply their COVID-19 vaccines to global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX in the country's first formal move to provide locally developed shots to the initiative. Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics have applied to join the scheme, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference on Wednesday. The COVAX scheme - led by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance - is due to start rolling out vaccines to poor and middle-income countries in February, with 2 of 3 billion doses expected to be delivered this year.
20th Jan 2021 - Yahoo!


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 20th Jan 2021

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How to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 when travelling by car

Experts outline the best way to prevent coronavirus infection when sharing a car Sanitising high touch-points and sticking to essential travel only are also advised Government currently prohibits travel with other people with some exceptions
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Wearing face masks DOES stop spread of Covid-19 and reduces R rate

US researchers gave a questionnaire to more than 300,000 people in 50 states Increase of 10% in people wearing masks makes it 3x more likely R is less than 1 Experts add that wearing a mask does not mean social distancing is not needed
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

SAGE papers reveal three key fears experts have about Covid vaccine rollout

Many Brits will "probably no longer follow the rules" once vaccinated and this may outweigh the benefits of the jabs, the Government's scientific advisers fear. Minutes from a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meeting reveal three key fears experts have about Covid vaccine rollout, the Telegraph reports. They are an increase in social mixing, the country being divided into a two tier system and black and ethnic minority group members refusing to get inoculated. There are growing concerns people will ignore distancing and begin meeting up with those outside their households, including non-vaccinated family members visiting elderly relatives who have had the inoculation, assuming they are safe.
19th Jan 2021 - The Mirror

A New COVID-19 Challenge: Mutations Rise Along With Cases

The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge. The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.
19th Jan 2021 - Haretz

Pfizer's Covid vaccine COULD stop people spreading the virus as well as preventing serious illness, Israeli doctor claims after finding antibody levels surged after second dose

Patients who received the Pfizer vaccine may prevent transmission of Covid-19 The Israeli study found only two subjects developed low amounts of antibodies Elderly people have been the priority since the vaccine programme started
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

US needs national COVID 'smart testing' strategy, APHL says

As the United States starts off 2021 with COVID-19 vaccines as well as variants, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) reasserts the importance of strategic COVID-19 testing strategies with a report published late last week. In the report, "Smart Testing for Optimizing Pandemic Response," the group recommends a coordinated national approach, supply chain management, and a focus on using test results as a means to improve public health surveillance.
19th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Crowded ICUs tied to higher risk of COVID-19 death

COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) at US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals during peak coronavirus patient surges were twice as likely to die than those treated during low-demand periods, an observational study published today in JAMA Network Open suggests. VA researchers studied 8,516 COVID-19 patients, 94.1% of them men, admitted to ICUs at 88 veterans hospitals from Mar 1 to Aug 31, 2020, with 30 days of follow-up.
19th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer and BioNTech, scaling up for 2B coronavirus vaccine doses, temporarily cut deliveries in EU, Canada

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said they were boosting vaccine production to 2 billion doses this year. There's a catch, though: Scaling up a factory in Belgium to help meet that goal means supplies will run short temporarily in Europe, Canada and other places. BioNTech late last week unveiled a factory upgrade that’ll allow the company and Pfizer to deliver "significantly more doses in the second quarter" but require a short-term disruption of supply. The disruption will affect Europe, Canada and a few other countries, The Wall Street Journal reports. The companies say deliveries will return to normal starting next week. The manufacturing upgrade will start to boost output in mid-February, BioNTech said, leading to more deliveries in the first quarter and “significantly more in the second quarter.” The companies last week hiked their 2021 output target to 2 billion doses from a prior goal of 1.3 billion doses.
19th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Covid-19 vaccine guidance for those who are lactating is based on faulty assumptions, experts say

Maggie Anthony didn’t have much time to deliberate before getting her Covid-19 vaccine. A labor and delivery nurse at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, she suddenly heard from her manager that shots would be available the next day. But with an 8-month-old breastfeeding baby at home, she wasn’t sure whether to accept. Those who are pregnant and lactating haven’t been included in clinical trials for the Covid vaccines, so there’s no data on the vaccines’ safety for these groups. At first, Anthony thought she would decline. She knew that in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service had said people who are pregnant and breastfeeding shouldn’t be vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration simply advises, “If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, discuss your options with your healthcare provider.” But Anthony had another factor to consider: She regularly cares for Covid-positive women. “During labor, in the operating room, in their faces — there is no distance,” she said. “So I know that I am definitely exposed.”
19th Jan 2021 - Stat News

Small biotech launches human trials of a potential ‘backstop’ for Covid-19 vaccines

A small biotechnology firm said that it will start human testing of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine it hopes can target potential strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that could evade current vaccines — if such strains ever exist and become a problem. “We all hope that this will not be necessary,” said Andrew Allen, the CEO of the firm, Gritstone Oncology, in an interview with STAT. “I think it’s prudent to have it developed as a backstop. We all talk about pandemic preparedness. So that’s what this is about.” “We have a good vaccine that is delivering benefit in the short term, but we need to be ready for scenarios where those vaccines lose effectiveness, because that historically has been seen many times and we should be ready for that and not be caught short again,” Allen said.
19th Jan 2021 - Stat News

COVID-19: Study shows one vaccine dose leaves UK's over 60s 'seriously vulnerable'

Vaccines have to work in the real world, not in the artificial bubble of a clinical trial. So the findings from Israel's impressively-rapid rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are troubling. They suggest the UK's decision to delay the second dose exposes the elderly and vulnerable to a significantly higher risk of infection than we were told by the government's vaccines advisers.
19th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Israel’s virus czar says 1st dose less effective than Pfizer indicated — report

Israel’s coronavirus czar Nachman Ash has reportedly said the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine provides less protection against COVID-19 than the US pharmaceutical firm had initially indicated it would, and cautioned that it may not protect against new strains of the virus. During talks among Health Ministry officials ahead of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting on the possibility of extending the nationwide lockdown, Ash questioned the effectiveness of the vaccine after just one dose, Army Radio reported Tuesday afternoon.
19th Jan 2021 - The Times of Israel

COVID-19: 'Real-world' analysis of vaccine in Israel raises questions about UK strategy

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK's decision to delay the second dose. Scientists in Israel - which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race - have told Sky News that they are "very hopeful" having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people. But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.
19th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Moderna says possible allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine under investigation

Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it had received a report from California’s health department that several people at a center in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions to its COVID-19 vaccine from a particular batch. The company’s comments come after California’s top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. "A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic. Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours," the epidemiologist said in a statement here. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
19th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Allergy cases emerge in California with batch of Moderna’s Covid vaccine

Moderna is co-operating with California’s investigation into several cases of possible allergic reactions among people who received its Covid-19 vaccine, the company said Tuesday. California State Epidemiologist Erica Pan recommended providers withhold shots from one batch of Moderna’s vaccine “out of an extreme abundance of caution”. The recommendation came after the state received reports of several people experiencing serious allergic reactions following immunisation from the same batch, a higher-than-usual number, Pan said in a statement. About 1 in 100,000 people have had a severe allergic reaction to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, which uses similar technology as Moderna’s shot, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month.
19th Jan 2021 - The Irish Times

What we now know — and don’t know — about the coronavirus variants

The coronavirus variants are, in a word, confusing. By now, you have likely heard about different variants that first raised trouble in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and now maybe California — though the jury is very much out on whether that last one is cause for concern. To make a messy alphabet soup even more jumbled, these variants have unwieldy names, and they each contain mutations with unwieldy names of their own. The result is that people are left trying to differentiate among B.1.1.7 and N501Y and E484K and C-3PO.
19th Jan 2021 - Stat News

Up to HALF of people who've already had Covid may still be vulnerable to South African variant because it can 'escape' the immune system, scientists warn - and it could also evade vaccines

South African researcher Professor Penny Moore warned of 'immune escape' She said people with milder first illnesses had less immunity to reinfection Separate study in US found mutation on South African variant reduced immunity Antibodies from older versions of virus struggle to bind to mutated version
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Almost 30% of Covid patients in England readmitted to hospital after discharge – study

Nearly a third of people who were discharged from hospitals in England after being treated for Covid-19 were readmitted within five months – and almost one in eight died, a study suggests. The research, which is still to be peer-reviewed, also found a higher risk of problems developing in a range of organs after hospital discharge in those younger than 70 and ethnic minority individuals. “There’s been so much talk about all these people dying from Covid … but death is not the only outcome that matters,” said Dr Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in this study.
18th Jan 2021 - The Guardian


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Jan 2021

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Coronavirus: the race between vaccines and new variants

Anna Gross lays out the threat new variants of the disease pose to the UK's vaccination programme. The hopes of the rest of the world could rest upon whether Britain succeeds in its target of 15m vaccinations by mid-February
18th Jan 2021 - The Financial Times

Scotland factory to produce Valneva Covid vaccine | News

A French-Austrian pharmaceutical company is to start manufacturing millions of doses of what it hopes could be Britain’s fourth vaccine at a plant in Scotland. Valneva hopes that the serum could be in use in Britain by September. The company has agreed to provide Britain with 60 million doses of its vaccine, compared with 100 million doses of the shot from Oxford University and Astrazeneca.
18th Jan 2021 - The Times

Covid: Brazil approves and rolls out AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines

A nurse has received Brazil's first Covid-19 vaccine dose after regulators gave emergency approval to two jabs. Regulator Anvisa gave the green light to vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac, doses of which will be distributed among all 27 states. Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll from Covid-19 and cases are rising again across the country. President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for his handling of the pandemic. The far-right leader has played down the pandemic from the beginning, promoted an unproven treatment for the disease and gone against measures including mask-wearing and social distancing.
18th Jan 2021 - BBC News

World on the brink of 'catastrophic moral failure' due to unfair vaccine rollouts, WHO chief says

The head of the World Health Organization said the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines is at “serious risk.” WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world was on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure.”
18th Jan 2021 - CNBC

Israel sharing COVID-19 data with Pfizer to help fine-tune vaccine rollout

Israel is giving weekly data updates on its COVID-19 outbreak to vaccine maker Pfizer under a collaboration agreement that may help other countries fine-tune their inoculation campaigns and achieve “herd immunity”, officials said. Israelis began receiving first shots of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Dec. 19 in one of the world’s fastest vaccination rollouts. Israel’s Health Ministry made public most of a 20-page collaboration agreement it signed with Pfizer, which said the aim was “to determine whether herd immunity is achieved after reaching a certain percentage of vaccination coverage in Israel”.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19: Norway investigates 23 deaths in frail elderly patients after vaccination

Doctors in Norway have been told to conduct more thorough evaluations of very frail elderly patients in line to receive the Pfizer BioNTec vaccine against covid-19, following the deaths of 23 patients shortly after receiving the vaccine. “It may be a coincidence, but we aren’t sure,” Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA), told The BMJ. “There is no certain connection between these deaths and the vaccine.” The agency has investigated 13 of the deaths so far and concluded that common adverse reactions of mRNA vaccines, such as fever, nausea, and diarrhoea, may have contributed to fatal outcomes in some of the frail patients. “There is a possibility that these common adverse reactions, that are not dangerous in fitter, younger patients and are not unusual with vaccines, may aggravate underlying disease in the elderly,” Madsen said. “We are not alarmed or worried about this, because these are very rare occurrences and they occurred in very frail patients with very serious disease,” he emphasised. “We are now asking for doctors to continue with the vaccination, but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it.” This evaluation includes discussing the risks and benefits of vaccination with the patient and their families to decide whether or not vaccination is the best course.
18th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

Covid-19 having 'devastating effect' on children

Northern Ireland's mental health champion is among child health experts warning of the "devastating effect" of the coronavirus pandemic on children. Professor Siobhan O'Neill was among more than 50 signatories to a letter calling children's welfare "a national emergency". It was published in the Observer newspaper on Sunday. Professor O'Neill was appointed Northern Ireland's interim mental health champion in June 2020. She is also professor of mental health sciences at Ulster University (UU).
18th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Israel trades Pfizer doses for medical data in vaccine blitz

After sprinting ahead in the race to inoculate its population against the coronavirus, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer promising to share vast troves of medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of its hard-to-get vaccine. Proponents say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate most of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world. But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including possible privacy violations and a deepening of the global divide that enables wealthy countries to stockpile vaccines as poorer populations, including Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, have to wait longer to be inoculated.
18th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Dr. Fauci warns of 'more ominous' strains of COVID-19 from Brazil and South Africa

US top infectious disease expert warns of 'more ominous' COVID-19 mutations Dr. Anthony Fauci said health officials are 'looking at them very carefully' New strains from Brazil and South Africa are considered more contagious But it is not known if the new variants will less impact of COVID-19 vaccine Fauci said US is 'weeks away' from approving two new COVID-19 vaccinations Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are getting set to roll out new inoculation Fauci also inoculating 100 million Americans in Biden's first 100 days is 'doable'
18th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

One-in-eight 'recovered' Covid patients 'DIE within 140 days': Study finds devastating toll on people who were hospitalised - with a THIRD readmitted within weeks

A third of recovered Covid patients are readmitted to hospital within five months Leicester University found one-in-eight of the Covid patients then died The long-term effects of Covid can cause many to develop heart problems
18th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Staying safe in the time of coronavirus: pay attention to ‘the guy you know’

"For the last nine months, my team of anthropologists and I have been asking people across the United States to tell us their experiences of living during a global pandemic. We have seen a dangerous theme emerge: the belief that dangers of the virus come from strangers and that friendship and family ties can cancel contagion. Though logical, these interpretations of biology are wrong — sometimes dead wrong. Stories help people make sense of a world in crisis. They can also lead to potentially harmful behaviors that can interfere with the ability to stay healthy or protect loved ones from Covid-19. When we asked dozens of interviewees across a spectrum of demographics, “What is Covid-19?” they consistently responded with answers like, “It’s a guy we don’t know,” or “It’s dangerous because we know the cold and the flu, but we don’t know this one.”
18th Jan 2021 - STAT News

French firm 'days away' from producing fourth Covid vaccine in UK

A French-Austrian drug company is gearing up to start work in Britain next week on a new Covid-19 vaccine, it has been claimed. The UK is set to receive 60 million doses of drugmaker Valneva’s candidate – making it the country’s second largest coronavirus vaccine supply after Britain’s own Oxford-AstraZeneca jab. In September, Valneva confirmed its partnership with the UK Government, which invests in the firm’s major manufacturing facility in Livingston, Scotland, to support the scale up and development of the jab. Valneva is now said to be ‘days away’ from starting manufacturing efforts in the UK of its two-dose jab, called VLA2001, according to the company’s boss.
17th Jan 2021 - Metro.co.uk

Patients dying waiting for ambulances as crews 'overwhelmed' by Covid, study reveals

Paramedics have reached "breaking point" as patients are dying before they can respond to 999 calls due to overwhelming numbers of Covid cases in hospital, a study suggests. Three out of four emergency service workers are struggling to cope and have asked for improved PPE, with many turning up for shifts terrified, according to the GMB union. GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said the "system is collapsing" in straits far worse than the first lockdown last March. The troubling study comes after the head of the NHS revealed today that hospitals across England are taking on a new Covid patient every 30 seconds. NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said he could not "sugar-coat" the scale of the crisis on wards and in intensive care.
17th Jan 2021 - The Mirror


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 18th Jan 2021

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Bayer aims to help CureVac with COVID-19 vaccine output, says CEO

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer is examining whether it can help CureVac to produce its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Sunday. Though inoculation campaigns have started around the world using various COVID-19 vaccines, many countries say their ability to get shots into arms is being limited by lower than expected supplies owing to a shortage of production. “We are prepared to pull out all the stops for this,” Werner Baumann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “This is not primarily about financial considerations but about making the vaccine available as quickly as possible.” Bayer agreed this month to help fellow German company CureVac with development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is in late-stage clinical trials and has not yet been approved.
17th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Valneva says UK rollout of COVID-19 vaccine could start in July-September: report

French drugmaker Valneva hopes its COVID-19 vaccine can start to be used in Britain between July and September, the company's chief executive was quoted as saying. Valneva has agreed to provide Britain with 60 million doses of its vaccine, compared with 100 million doses of the shot from AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is expected to need a two-dose regimen. "We are days away from starting the commercial manufacturing," Thomas Lingelbach told The Mail on Sunday newspaper.
17th Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Most hospitalized COVID-19 patients still have symptoms after 6 months

In their study, the researchers found that 76% of COVID-19 patients from a hospital in Wuhan, China, were still not symptom-free at a 6-month follow-up. The research, which appears in the journal The Lancet, identifies the most common symptoms that the study participants continued to experience. It also highlights the possible effects of COVID-19 on the participants’ cardiopulmonary health and identifies potential risk factors associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19.
17th Jan 2021 - Medical News Today

Reeling again from COVID-19, Amazonas gets respirators, oxygen from Brazil Air Force and Venezuela

The Brazilian jungle state of Amazonas received more emergency supplies of oxygen and respirators on Saturday, as the military and neighboring Venezuela scrambled to alleviate an unfolding humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Air Force also said it had evacuated 12 patients from hospitals in the state capital Manaus to the northern city of Sao Luis overnight, with hospitals at breaking point with no oxygen supplies and overflowing intensive care wards. Mass graves were dug in Manaus during the first wave of the pandemic last year. Harrowing scenes are again emerging in the second wave, of doctors and relatives running out of supplies and equipment while trying desperately to keep patients alive. Brazil’s Air Force said on Saturday a second flight had landed in Manaus with eight tanks of liquid oxygen, following an earlier emergency delivery of five tanks, and the Navy said in a statement that it is sending 40 respirators.
17th Jan 2021 - Reuters

The new Covid variant from Brazil may have been found in the UK - but is it more infectious?

Travellers from across South America have been banned from entering the UK amid growing concerns about a mutant coronavirus strain which has emerged in Brazil. The ban which, also covers Portugal (due to its strong travel links with Brazil), the Central American state of Panama, and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday. But what is the Brazil variant, and how worried should we be about the latest mutation of the virus?
17th Jan 2021 - The News Letter

Brazil's health agency approves the use of two vaccines

Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to delay and political disputes. Brazil currently has 6 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of 2 million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University. “This is good news for Brazil, but 6 million doses are still very few. It will not allow the entire population at risk to be fully immunized, nor is it clear how quickly the country will obtain more vaccines,” said Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Espirito Santo.
17th Jan 2021 - The Associated Press

Sidelining experts, Brazil bungled its immunization plans

Like many Brazilian public health experts, Dr. Regina Flauzino spent most of 2020 watching with horror as COVID-19 devastated Brazil. When the opportunity to join the government’s vaccination effort came, she was thrilled: She would be able to share her decades of on-the-ground experience. But her excitement quickly faded. Flauzino, an epidemiologist who worked on Brazilian vaccine campaigns for 20 years, became frustrated with what she described as a rushed, chaotic process. The government has yet to approve a single vaccine, and Health Ministry officials have ignored outside experts’ advice. Shortly after the government presented its vaccination plan, more than a quarter of the roughly 140 experts involved demanded their names be excised.
17th Jan 2021 - Associated Press

Japan to study cases of people infected even after coronavirus vaccination

Japan plans to collect data from people who become infected with the novel coronavirus even after they receive vaccinations to assess how vaccines may help prevent the spread of the virus, sources close to the matter said on Sunday. Inoculations are expected to start in Japan possibly in February. The health ministry will create a system to gather vaccination records of all infected people by adding checkboxes to a document that doctors are required to submit to public health centres when they confirm coronavirus infections, the sources said. The formats for reporting rubella and measles, other major communicable diseases, also have checkboxes for vaccination records.
17th Jan 2021 - South China Morning Post

Every adult in UK 'on track to get Covid jab by July', secret government data suggests

Every single British adult could have a Covid vaccine as early as July as the UK's race for immunisation picks up speed, secret Government data suggests. The Scottish Government came under fire earlier this week for publishing the closely guarded stats about the vaccine rollout on its website. The figures were deleted from the page after the UK Government complained that they created problems for pharmaceutical companies - but not before some quick-witted internet users saved a copy. They reveal Britain appears to be on target to deliver its promise of 15 million Covid vaccines for vulnerable people by mid-February.
16th Jan 2021 - Mirror Online

French drugs firm 'days away' from making 60million doses of Britain's FOURTH coronavirus vaccine

Whitehall sources have set an ambitious target of vaccinating four to five million people a week in summer. Came as new state-of-the-art vaccine production factory said it was on standby to tackle any future variants. French drugs firm Valneva is just also 'days away' from kick-starting manufacture of its jab on British soil
16th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

COVID-19: Indonesia vaccine rollout bucks trend by targeting younger generations

With shaking hands, broadcast live to the nation, a doctor administered Indonesia's first COVID-19 vaccination. The recipient was President Joko Widodo, a man who hopes to get 181.5 million Indonesians vaccinated this year. It's a huge challenge, almost three times the population of the UK and so far one of the largest rollouts in the world. But the nation's vaccination drive, which started this week using CoronaVac, a jab from Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech, bucks the current trend by injecting under-60s first.
16th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Progress reported on one-dose J&J vaccine; COVID-19 reinfections seen as rare

The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Johnson & Johnson vaccine advancing through clinical trials An experimental COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson produced protective antibodies against the novel coronavirus in 90% of 805 volunteers by 29 days, and that increased to 100% by day 57, according to data from an ongoing mid-stage study. Side effects such as fever, muscle aches and injection site pain resolved quickly, researchers reported on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. To be approved by regulators, the J&J vaccine must show efficacy as reflected by a lower risk of infections and severe disease in study participants who receive it compared to those who do not. Efficacy data from a large late-stage trial on the vaccine is due by February
16th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Pakistan becomes latest to approve AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Pakistan on Saturday gave the green light to the country's first coronavirus vaccine with the approval of AstraZeneca's inoculation for emergency use. The country's health minister, Faisal Sultan, informed Reuters of the emergency approval, which the nation hopes will be the first of many as it battles a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
16th Jan 2021 - The Hill on MSN.com

COVID may cut US life expectancy, especially in blacks, Latinos

COVID-19 may shorten Americans' life expectancy at birth of by a median of 1.13 years, to 77.48 years—the largest single-year dip in at least 40 years and the lowest estimated lifespan since 2003, according to projections from a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers, from the University of Southern California (USC) and Princeton University, also projected a decline in life expectancy at age 65 of 0.87 years. They caution that their projections are only best estimates and not definitive. The decline is especially steep for black Americans, who could expect to die 2.10 years sooner, at 72.78 years, and for Latinos, who could see their lives shortened by 3.05 years, to 78.77.
15th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

New coronavirus variant could become dominant strain in March, CDC warns

A new, more transmissible variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 could sweep the United States in coming weeks and become the dominant strain as soon as March, leading to a new surge of cases through the spring, the CDC warned. The CDC believes the variant, known as B117, is still circulating at low levels in the U.S. Only 76 infections caused by the new variant have been detected, in 12 states, though testing for it has not been routinely conducted. CDC officials acknowledge the variant is likely more widespread here than is currently recognized. Modeling work done by CDC scientists suggests that unless the pace of vaccination of the population increases dramatically and people adhere stringently to Covid-19 control measures, the new variant will spread rapidly
15th Jan 2021 - STAT News

Are more people surviving Covid-19 because doctors are doing less?

Haider Warraich is a cardiologist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate director of the heart failure program at the VA Boston Healthcare System, and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He writes about his experience of treating Covid-19 patients: "Physicians crave agency, a power they can use to turn around the course of an ailing patient’s life. Yet for me and countless physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, Covid-19 has been a grim lesson in humility. While we have learned so much about this illness in such a short time, we still have almost no ability to change the fate of patients with severe Covid-19 infections." "There is now concern that some of the drugs we were giving to Covid-19 patients were more than just useless — they might, in fact, have been harmful."
15th Jan 2021 - STAT News

The new Covid variants are a peril to us all

During every major epidemic I’ve worked on, there has been speculation about virus mutations. Mostly these mutations are innocuous, just random errors in a virus’s genetic code that don’t change how it infects or spreads. But every now and then, a collection of mutations crops up and dramatically changes the threat we face. In recent weeks, researchers have noticed three troubling new Sars-Cov-2 variants scattered among the various virus lineages circulating globally. Such variants could well change the pandemic’s shape in 2021. The first new variant was detected in south-east England in autumn 2020. It sparked concern after spreading easily, despite the control measures in place during November, outpacing existing variants to become dominant in much of the UK by the end of December. Early analysis of contact tracing data and local epidemic growth suggested this variant could be 40 to 70 per cent more transmissible than earlier viruses. It has since been detected in other countries, with initial patterns in Denmark and Ireland consistent with its accelerated growth in the UK.
15th Jan 2021 - Financial Times


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 15th Jan 2021

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Pfizer coronavirus jab has stopped 50% of infections - NOT just symptoms - Israeli study finds

Israel has given first dose of the Pfizer jab to almost 20 percent of its population Preliminary studies show that the vaccine cuts transmission, not just symptoms Expert warned initial studies not enough to conclude transmissions are stopped Data from hundreds of thousands of people offers extensive view of efficacy But experts have warned that people must stay vigilant despite having first dose Two other studies were also done, with varying results. One found the vaccine cuts infection risk by 60 percent, while another found it was cut by 33 percent Full 95 percent immunity is only achieved when a person is given second dose
14th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Future coronavirus vaccines may harness nanoparticles

A nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccine may be cheap, safe, and effective. Preclinical study suggests that a single dose of a nanoparticle-based vaccine could provide robust immunity. It may be easier to store and transport than currently available vaccines.
14th Jan 2021 - Medical News Today

Recovering from Covid gives similar level of protection to vaccine

People who recover from coronavirus have a similar level of protection against future infection as those who receive a Covid vaccine – at least for the first five months, research suggests. A Public Health England (PHE) study of more than 20,000 healthcare workers found that immunity acquired from an earlier Covid infection provided 83% protection against reinfection for at least 20 weeks. The findings show that while people are unlikely to become reinfected soon after their first infection, it is possible to catch the virus again and potentially spread it to others. “Overall I think this is good news,” said Prof Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser to PHE. “It allows people to feel that prior infection will protect them from future infections, but at the same time it is not complete protection, and therefore they still need to be careful when they are out and about.”
14th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

What should I know about COVID-19 vaccines if I'm pregnant?

What should I know about COVID-19 vaccines if I’m pregnant? Vaccination is likely the best way to prevent COVID-19 in pregnancy, when risks for severe illness and death from the virus are higher than usual. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says COVID-19 vaccinations should not be withheld from pregnant women and that women should discuss individual risks and benefits with their health care providers. The U.S. government’s emergency authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being rolled out for priority groups doesn’t list pregnancy as a reason to withhold the shots.
14th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Blood plasma transfusions with high levels of COVID-19 antibodies reduced the number of patient deaths by 25%, Mayo Clinic study finds

Convalescent plasma infusions can help reduce the number of coronavirus deaths, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at people ill with COVID-19 who received blood plasma from recovered coronavirus patients. When given early enough, patients who received antibody-rich plasma had a one-quarter lower risk of death than those given plasma with low concentrations of COVID-19 antibodies. The team, from the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, says the treatment could be a stopgap until enough people receive coronavirus vaccines for herd immunity to be achieved.
14th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

COVID-19: How long are you protected for if you've already had coronavirus - and are you still a risk to others?

People who've had COVID are likely to be protected from reinfection for at least five months and have a similar defence to someone who's been vaccinated, according to a UK study. But does it mean those who have recovered are no longer a risk to others? And could the protection last any longer? Here's what you need to know.
14th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Lancaster scientists developing Covid-19 vaccine nasal spray

The researchers administered two doses of the vaccine via a nasal spray in animal trials which are the first stage in vaccine development. This elicited robust antibodies and T cell responses which were enough to be able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2. There was also a significant reduction in lung pathology, inflammation and clinical disease in the rodents who received the vaccine. The vaccine is based on a common poultry virus called the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), which can replicate in humans but is harmless. The scientists engineered NDV to produce the spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19, tricking the body into mounting an immune response against SARS-CoV-2.
14th Jan 2021 - Lancaster Guardian

Interim Results of a Phase 1–2a Trial of Ad26.COV2.S Covid-19 Vaccine

After the administration of the first vaccine dose in 805 participants in cohorts 1 and 3 and after the second dose in cohort 1, the most frequent solicited adverse events were fatigue, headache, myalgia, and injection-site pain. The most frequent systemic adverse event was fever. Systemic adverse events were less common in cohort 3 than in cohort 1 and in those who received the low vaccine dose than in those who received the high dose. Reactogenicity was lower after the second dose. Neutralizing-antibody titers against wild-type virus were detected in 90% or more of all participants on day 29 after the first vaccine dose (geometric mean titer [GMT], 224 to 354) and reached 100% by day 57 with a further increase in titers (GMT, 288 to 488), regardless of vaccine dose or age group. Titers remained stable until at least day 71. A second dose provided an increase in the titer by a factor of 2.6 to 2.9 (GMT, 827 to 1266). Spike-binding antibody responses were similar to neutralizing-antibody responses. On day 14, CD4+ T-cell responses were detected in 76 to 83% of the participants in cohort 1 and in 60 to 67% of those in cohort 3, with a clear skewing toward type 1 helper T cells. CD8+ T-cell responses were robust overall but lower in cohort 3.
14th Jan 2021 - nejm.org

Convalescent Plasma Antibody Levels and the Risk of Death from Covid-19

Of the 3082 patients included in this analysis, death within 30 days after plasma transfusion occurred in 115 of 515 patients (22.3%) in the high-titer group, 549 of 2006 patients (27.4%) in the medium-titer group, and 166 of 561 patients (29.6%) in the low-titer group. The association of anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels with the risk of death from Covid-19 was moderated by mechanical ventilation status. A lower risk of death within 30 days in the high-titer group than in the low-titer group was observed among patients who had not received mechanical ventilation before transfusion (relative risk, 0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.48 to 0.91), and no effect on the risk of death was observed among patients who had received mechanical ventilation (relative risk, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.78 to 1.32).
14th Jan 2021 - nejm.org

The Remaining COVID-19 Journey

I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I breathed a sigh of relief at the much ballyhooed arrival of COVID-19 vaccines at the end of 2020. We’re in the midst of a dark and grief-stricken pandemic winter, and the sooner the vaccine gets us to herd immunity—and, pray, a semblance of normalcy—the better. But the well-worn trope that life is a journey, and not a destination, has an epidemiological application as well. As of this writing, the U.S. just suffered a record-breaking day of thousands of fatalities caused by the novel coronavirus. So in the interim months while most Americans wait their chance to be vaccinated, our goal certainly must be to minimize deaths from COVID-19. In this issue’s cover story, Charles Schmidt takes a comprehensive look at the latest developments in clinical treatments for COVID-19 infection, many of which still need research to bolster their effectiveness
14th Jan 2021 - Scientific American

Past Covid-19 infection may provide 'months of immunity'

Most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months, a study led by Public Health England shows. Past infection was linked to around a 83% lower risk of getting the virus, compared with those who had never had Covid-19, scientists found. But experts warn some people do catch Covid-19 again - and can infect others. And officials stress people should follow the stay-at-home rules - whether or not they have had the virus.
14th Jan 2021 - BBC News

WHO team arrives in China to investigate Covid origins as country sees new case spike

A team of World Health Organization (WHO) researchers have arrived in China to probe the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic - following months of political wrangling with President Xi Jinping’s government. A 10-member team has now landed in Wuhan to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into the origins of the pandemic, amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries. Scientists suspect the virus - that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 - jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest.
14th Jan 2021 - ITV News

W.H.O. Finally Lands in China to Begin Tracing the Coronavirus

More than a year after a new coronavirus first emerged in China, a team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived on Thursday in the central city of Wuhan to begin hunting for its source. But in a sign of Beijing’s continuing efforts to control the investigation, the team of scientists and W.H.O. employees almost immediately ran into obstacles. Two scientists were unable to enter China at the last minute and remained in Singapore because they had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, the W.H.O. said on Twitter. The Chinese authorities required the remaining 13 experts to undergo two weeks of quarantine in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in late 2019.
14th Jan 2021 - The New York Times

J&J’s one-shot Covid vaccine is safe and generates promising immune response in early trial

J&J scientists randomly assigned healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55 and those 65 and older to receive a high or low dose of its vaccine — called Ad26.COV2.S — or a placebo. Most of the volunteers produced detectable neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe play an important role in defending cells against the virus, after 28 days, according to the trial data. By day 57, all volunteers had detectable antibodies, regardless of vaccine dose or age group, and remained stable for at least 71 days in the 18-to-55 age group.
14th Jan 2021 - CNBC

Regeneron inks big new coronavirus antibody supply deal worth up to $2.6B

Pharma companies worldwide scrambled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, but so far only a few have advanced therapies and vaccines through to the market. Regeneron is one, and now the drugmaker's antibody cocktail could bring a multibillion-dollar windfall in 2021. After previously agreeing to supply the U.S. government with 300,000 doses of its antibody cocktail, Regeneron this week inked a much larger supply deal for up to 1.25 million doses. If the company is able to supply all doses, the deal will come out to $2.63 billion. Under the agreement, the government will pay Regeneron for any doses it’s able to produce by the end of June. The government can also purchase any additional doses past that point at its discretion.
14th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Marketing Moderna hitches a ride with Uber to boost vaccine confidence—and, of course, drive access

COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna is looking for a lift from Uber—a collaboration lift, that is. The two companies say they're planning to work together to promote vaccine confidence and ease access to coronavirus shots. Early ideas include promoting vaccine safety on the Uber network and through in-app messages as well as incorporating Uber rides into the vaccination scheduling process. While those details are still in the works, the appeal of Uber as a partner for Moderna is not only its nationwide network and connections but also the diversity of its 1.2 million drivers. “Uber has broad access across the United States—its ride-sharing platform is used by Americans everywhere, and its drivers represent a wide variety of the population," Michael Mullette, Moderna's vice president of commercial operations in North America, said. "There’s a great opportunity for us to think about educating the population about how do you get immunized … but also how do you access credible information about vaccines."
14th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

COVID: Turkey launches Chinese vaccine drive despite concerns

Turkish doctors and nurses rolled up their sleeves on Thursday as the nation of 83 million people launched a mass coronavirus vaccination drive with China’s Sinovac jab. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca received the first shot of CoronaVac live on television after formally approving the vaccine on Wednesday despite contradictory data about its efficacy rate. He was followed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who received the vaccine at a hospital in Ankara, according to state-owned Anadolu news agency. Preliminary studies involving more than 7,000 volunteers in Turkey showed CoronaVac to be 91.25 percent effective. The shot, however, came under scrutiny from regulators after the latest data from Brazil showed it to be just more than 50 percent effective – slightly above the benchmark that the World Health Organization fixed for a vaccine to be effective for general use.
14th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine production lags goals as data readout nears: NYT

Amid slower than expected rollouts for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could serve as a key boost for the nationwide immunization push. But the pharma giant has fallen behind on its initial manufacturing goals, The New York Times reports, just as its first big data readout looms. Under J&J’s original $1 billion contract with Operation Warp Speed, the company was set to deliver 12 million vaccine doses by the end of February and 100 million by the end of June. Now, sources told the NYT, federal officials have been informed the company is behind its original manufacturing timeline. During a press briefing last week, Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Moncef Slaoui told reporters he thought the company would be able to deliver doses in the “single-digit” millions by the end of February, the NYT reports. J&J was “trying to make that number get as close to a double-digit number as possible, and then a larger number in March and a much larger number in April,” Slaoui added, as quoted by the newspaper.
13th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma


Scientific Viewpoint - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 14th Jan 2021

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Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine generates immune response, few side effects, in early trials

Early stage trials of Johnson & Johnson's experimental coronavirus vaccine show it generated an immune response in nearly all volunteers, with minimal side-effects, after a single dose. The company expects to report details of more advanced trials later this month and is hoping to apply for authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration soon after. Researchers who tested the vaccine in a combined Phase 1-2 trial -- mostly meant to show safety -- found either one or two doses of the vaccine generated both antibody and T-cell responses against the coronavirus. The trials were not designed to show whether the vaccine protected people against either infection or symptoms of coronavirus -- that's what the ongoing Phase 3 trials are designed to do. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, an international team of researchers who tested the vaccine in around 800 volunteers said the early stage trials showed it was safe and probably should work.
13th Jan 2021 - CNN International

COVID-19 infection gives some immunity for at least five months, UK study finds

People who have had COVID-19 are highly likely to have immunity to it for at least five months but there is evidence that those with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus, a UK study of healthcare workers has found. Preliminary findings by scientists at Public Health England (PHE) showed that reinfections in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from a past infection are rare - with only 44 cases found among 6,614 previously infected people in the study. But experts cautioned that the findings mean people who contracted the disease in the first wave of the pandemic in the early months of 2020 may now be vulnerable to catching it again. They also warned that people with so-called “natural immunity” - acquired through having had the infection - may still be able carry the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in their nose and throat, and could unwittingly pass it on.
14th Jan 2021 - Reuters

JPM: How did Pfizer up its COVID-19 vaccine capacity? 'Out of the box manufacturing,' CEO says

Pfizer partner BioNTech upped the pair’s 2021 COVID-19 output projection to 2 billion doses for 2021, up from a previous estimate of up from a previous estimate of 1.3 billion But how will the companies get there?
13th Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

COVID-19 vaccine dosing schedules should be adhered to, say stakeholders

In a collective flexing of muscles over the controversy of how and when to dose the new COVID-19 vaccines now appearing on global markets, the leading pharma and vaccine lobbying bodies have come out strongly in favor of using the products as indicated by manufacturers and the various medicine regulators that have approved their use, which so far has largely been on a conditional/emergency basis. In a joint statement issue this afternoon, the biopharmaceutical industry said it acknowledges the considerable challenges governments are facing to urgently address the enormous strain the pandemic is placing on healthcare systems, societies and economies. In light of the urgent need to reach as many people as possible with COVID-19 vaccines, there are emerging discussions regarding dosing strategies that may not be supported by the authorized labelling or published clinical data.
13th Jan 2021 - The Pharma Letter

J&J likely to seek EU approval for COVID-19 vaccine in February: lawmaker

Johnson & Johnson could deliver the first doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Europe in April, an EU official told Reuters on Wednesday after a top lawmaker said the U.S. healthcare company was likely to seek EU regulatory approval in February. Clinical data on the vaccine has been assessed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) since Dec. 1 under a rolling review to speed up possible approval. A senior EU official, who is involved in negotiations with vaccine makers and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the J&J shot could be available from April 1 in Europe. Earlier on Wednesday, an EU lawmaker said J&J could seek EU approval for its one-shot vaccine in February.
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Johnson & Johnson Expects Covid Vaccine Results Soon but Lags in Production

Johnson & Johnson expects to release critical results from its Covid-19 vaccine trial in as little as two weeks — a potential boon in the effort to protect Americans from the coronavirus — but most likely won’t be able to provide as many doses this spring as it promised the federal government because of unanticipated manufacturing delays. If the vaccine can strongly protect people against Covid-19, as some outside scientists expect, it would offer big advantages over the two vaccines authorized in the United States. Unlike those products, which require two doses, Johnson & Johnson’s could need just one, greatly simplifying logistics for local health departments and clinics struggling to get shots in arms. What’s more, its vaccine can stay stable in a refrigerator for months, whereas the others have to be frozen.
13th Jan 2021 - The New York Times

J&J COVID-19 vaccine on track for March rollout, still aims for 1 billion doses this year: executive

Johnson & Johnson is on track to roll out its single-shot coronavirus vaccine in March, and expects to have clear data on how effective it is by the end of this month or early February, the U.S. healthcare company's chief scientific officer said. Dr. Paul Stoffels in an interview on Tuesday also said J&J expects to meet its stated target of delivering 1 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of this year as the company ramps up production. Stoffels said it was premature to say how many doses would be available in March, presuming the company receives emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The New York Times reported earlier on Wednesday that J&J was experiencing manufacturing delays that would reduce the number of doses on hand initially.
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Stricter COVID-19 restrictions likely saved THOUSANDS of lives in European countries, study finds

European countries that had stricter mitigation measures against COVID-19 likely saved thousands of lives, a new study finds. Nations such as Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had closed schools and offices, limited gatherings and implemented stay-at-home orders before cases began rapidly spreading across the continent, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Tuesday. Meanwhile countries such as the UK, Belarus and Luxembourg implanted few to no restrictions, allowing infections to spread relatively unchecked. What's more, the CDC found that sterner restrictions in most European countries could have led at least 74,000 fewer deaths - mostly in the UK, France and Spain.
13th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Sinovac: Brazil results show Chinese vaccine 50.4% effective

A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials, according to the latest results released by researchers. It shows the vaccine is significantly less effective than previous data suggested - barely over the 50% needed for regulatory approval. The Chinese vaccine is one of two that the Brazilian government has lined up. Brazil has been one of the countries worst affected by Covid-19. Sinovac, a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company, is behind CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine. It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body's immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response.
13th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Are women with asthma at increased risk for severe COVID-19?

Although adults with asthma appear to have a reduced risk of severe COVID-19 compared with younger populations,1 women with asthma might represent a somewhat susceptible subgroup for severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation.2 A study by Atkins and colleagues established female sex as an independent risk factor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) hospitalisation among patients with asthma in the UK.2 This study and three additional studies from Paris, France, Illinois, USA, and New York, NY, USA, report that 37–53% of all individuals hospitalised with SARS-CoV-2 were women.3, 4, 5 However, 56–71% of patients with asthma hospitalised for COVID-19 were women in these studies
13th Jan 2021 - The Lancet

Coronavirus UK: Lockdown is creating 'unprecedented' mental illness pandemic, experts warn

Mental health charity Mind's daily website views rose from 9,580 to 14,167. Its chief executive Paul Farmer warned there was a 'mental health pandemic.' YoungMinds' parents helpline has received calls about anxiety and depression. Britain was plunged into a third national lockdown by Boris Johnson last week
13th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

COVID-19: Study suggests almost half of ICU staff have turned to alcohol or had suicidal thoughts

Almost half of intensive care workers have turned to alcohol or had suicidal thoughts during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study suggests. The research shows that 45% of ICU staff polled met the clinical threshold for at least one of the following: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety or depression and problem drinking. One in eight (13%) said they had experienced frequent thoughts of "being better off dead" or hurting themselves within the past two weeks. The study, published in the Occupational Medicine journal, surveyed 709 healthcare workers from nine intensive care wards across England in June and July 2020, but has not yet been peer reviewed.
13th Jan 2021 - Sky News

AstraZeneca boss says two million weekly doses of vaccine will be delivered to NHS ‘imminently’

Two million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs will “imminently” be delivered to the NHS a week as the vaccine roll-out is dramatically stepped up, a pharmaceutical boss said today. Tom Keith-Roach, president at AstraZeneca UK, said 1.1 million doses of the company’s Covid-19 jab had been released to date. He told the Commons science and technology committee: “We are scaling up very rapidly and this will happen imminently to releasing two million doses a week. “We’re absolutely on track to do that and therefore deliver tens of millions of doses in the first quarter of the year.
13th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

German COVID-19 study finds concert halls are safe ‘at half capacity’

A German concert hall commissioned a study which found that – with the correct ventilation system – arts venues are theoretically ‘covid-safe’ at half audience capacity. Concert hall closures have been a heavy blow for musicians in Germany, the UK and in all countries shaken by the coronavirus pandemic. And while there has been government aid, it has rarely been enough to offset lost income from cancelled gigs. In the wake of ongoing closures in its region, in n