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COVID-19 UPDATE / Immunity and Vaccine Development

Dr Doug Quarry from International SOS shares the very latest insights on the development of COVID immunity and vaccine development

1.     US rejoins World Health Organisation

2.     US to join COVAX vaccine initiative

3.     Amazon offers to help with the US COVID-19 vaccination rollout

4.     SARS-CoV-2 Variants: Summary table

5.     SARS-CoV-2 Variants: ECDC Risk Assessment

6.     Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine likely protects against “UK” B.1.1.7 strain

7.     Scale of US plan to give 100 million vaccinations in next 100 days

8.     Leading COVID-19 vaccines summary graphic

9.     UK cases and hospitalisations down

10.  Crowded ICUs tied to higher risk of COVID-19 death

11.  Sputnik vaccine now available for all Russian citizens

12.  Exemptions to Abu Dhabi entry requirements for those vaccinated

13.  Indonesia may allow rich to jump COVID-19 vaccine queue


1.     US rejoins World Health Organisation

Andy Slavitt** has tweeted that Dr Anthony Fauci will be the US representative.

Letter to Dr Tedros from President Biden:

Text, letter

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** Andy Slavitt: Incoming White House Sr Advisor for COVID Response, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from March 2015 to January 2017.


2.     US to join COVAX vaccine initiative

Axios reports that: “Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken announced in a confirmation hearing on 19 January that President-elect Biden would bring the US into the COVAX initiative — the global effort from the World Health Organization and other groups to ensure that every country has access to COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX is expected to be the only source of vaccines for some of the world’s poorest countries, and it needs additional funding to fulfill its goal of vaccinating at least 20% of the population in every country by the end of 2021.

COVAX is designed so that high- and middle-income countries put forward funding to develop and distribute vaccines, effectively subsidizing access for low-income countries in the process.

The US would likely play the role of funder, rather than recipient, given the hundreds of millions of doses the country has already purchased directly.

Note: Canada is developing a mechanism that would allow countries that purchased more doses than they ultimately need to donate them through COVAX.


3.     Amazon offers to help with the US COVID-19 vaccination rollout

According to a letter seen by Reuters, Amazon.com has offered to help with the United States’ efforts involving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The world’s largest online retailer has an agreement with a healthcare provider to administer vaccines at its facilities and will move forward once doses are available, Dave Clark, chief executive of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, said in the letter.

“Beyond offering the vaccine to Amazon employees, Clark added, ‘We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts.’”


4.     SARS-CoV-2 Variants: Summary table

Eric Topol*** has released a summary of the main SARS-CoV-2 variants. This will be kept up-to-date.

Table

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*** Eric Topol is a Professor of Molecular Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute, and a senior consultant at the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. He is Editor-in-Chief of Medscape and theheart.org.


5.     SARS-CoV-2 Variants: ECDC Risk Assessment

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has released a risk assessment on the emergence of three SARS-CoV-2 variants:

  • B.1.1.7 (VOC 202012/01) identified in the United Kingdom
  • B.1.351 (501Y.V2) identified in South Africa
  • P.1 identified in Brazil and Japan

ECDC states that, due to the variants’ increased transmissibility, the probability of introduction and community spread of these variants in the EU is very high, which would result in higher hospitalisation and death rates, especially for those in older age groups or with co-morbidities. The impact of introduction and spread is considered to be high, and so the overall risk is assessed as high/very high.

To reduce transmission and pressure on healthcare systems, stricter non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are required. ECDC also suggests to avoid non-essential travel. Healthcare systems should be prepared for a further increase in demand, and the speed of vaccination for high-risk groups and healthcare workers should be increased.


6.     Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine likely protects against “UK” B.1.1.7 strain

Bloomberg reports that results of a new laboratory trial bolster the expectation that their COVID-19 vaccine will protect against the new variant of the coronavirus that emerged in the UK.

“Like previous work out of the University of Texas Medical Branch, the results published on 20 January showed that antibodies in the blood of people who had been vaccinated were able to neutralize a version of the mutant virus that was created in the lab. The study was published on preprint server BioRxiv prior to peer review.

“Unlike an earlier study, which focused on one crucial mutation, the new research tested all ten mutations located on the virus’s spike protein, which helps it bind to cells in the host. It’s a promising but not conclusive result, as scientists continue to closely monitor whether mutations in the virus may make it necessary to adjust the vaccines.”


7.     Scale of US plan to give 100 million vaccinations in next 100 days

The New York Times reports: “Building on the strategies developed for smallpox vaccination, we estimate that vaccinating an average of one million people daily for 100 days would require at least 400 vaccination sites across the country, staffed by somewhere between 100,000 and 184,000 people.

“About 17,000 of those workers would need to be qualified to administer vaccines. Our model assumes that each clinic would operate 12 hours per day and have ten vaccination stations (like checkout lines in a grocery store) that together could vaccinate 200 people per hour.

“This plan would require 120 to 220 workers at each clinic per shift and could immunize 2,400 people per clinic per day.”


8.     Leading COVID-19 vaccines summary graphic

From IS Global, Barcelona Institute for Global Health

Table

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9.     UK cases and hospitalisations down

·       UK COVID cases down 18% today compared to Wednesday last week

·       7-day average now down 30% from the 9 Jan peak

·       Hospitalizations starting to fall also

Chart

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Table and analysis: Ian Sherherdson, Chief Economist, Pantheon Macroeconomics

Note:  UK is under a “stay-at-home” lockdown:

·       England: until 31 March at least

·       Scotland: until mid-February at least

·       Wales: until end-January at least


10.  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 in JAMA Network Open suggests.


11.  Sputnik vaccine now available for all Russian citizens

The Russian Government has announced (in Russian) that vaccination with the Sputnik V vaccine is available for the public.

The first priority group (which included medical workers, teachers and public servants) began receiving the vaccine in early December 2020. Vaccination was expanded to include people over the age of 60 years on 28 December.

The Government has also announced (in Russian) that a registration system will be available from 31 January on the portal of Public Services; in addition, an electronic vaccination certificate will be issued to people who have received two doses.


12.  Exemptions to Abu Dhabi entry requirements for those vaccinated

Since 17 January, Abu Dhabi has tightened requirements for people arriving in the emirate. All arriving passengers need to provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test upon arrival and be tested again on certain days after entry, depending on the country of departure and length of stay.

Exemptions to these requirements will be given to United Arab Emirates (UAE) citizens and residents who have been vaccinated, either as part of Phase 3 clinical trials or the national vaccine campaign. Since the vaccination campaign began in late December 2020, over 2.1 million people in the UAE have already received at least their first vaccine dose, accounting for 23% of the population.

An app called AlHosn has been developed in the UAE for contact tracing and also contains information about COVID-19 test results and vaccine status. People who were vaccinated as part of clinical trials will have a “gold star” on their profile; people who have been vaccinated since late December will have the letter ‘E’.

Timeline

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Source: Twitter @admediaoffice (the official account of Abu Dhabi Government Media Office)


13.  Indonesia may allow rich to jump COVID-19 vaccine queue

The Australian newspaper reports that: “Indonesia is considering allowing private firms and the rich to pay to jump the national COVID-19 vaccination queue…

“Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, a former banker, admitted at the weekend the government was discussing ‘mechanisms’ for allowing companies to procure their own vaccines and conduct independent vaccination programs.

“’As long as this vaccination program can be done as quickly as possible, as wide as possible, as cheap as possible, in principle I’m OK (with it),’ Mr Sadikin said.

“’But what we must avoid is the public perception that the rich can get vaccinated first. The vaccine should not fall in the hands of the disaster mafias. We must be very careful about this. We are thinking about the plan now, and how to go about it.’”


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