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Today’s News in COVID-19 Vaccine Development, Efficacy, Safety & Distribution

LOCAL specialist Dr Doug Quarry from International SOS shares the very latest insights on the development of COVID vaccine development, efficacy, safety and distribution

DR DOUG QUARRY


In this edition: 

1. Vaccine Development, Efficacy and Safety 

1.1 CDC reassures about the safety of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines 

1.2 Update on Pfizer vaccine trials in children 

1.3 COVID vaccine reducing risk of hospitalisations 

1.4 UK data shows 70% decline in COVID infections after first Pfizer shot 

1.5 Pfizer studying effect of third dose and preparing for an updated vaccine  

1.6 Pfizer asks FDA to approve storage of COVID vaccine in standard freezers 

1.7 New Data Boost Calls for Single COVID-19 Vaccine Dose 

1.8 We don’t know if the AstraZeneca vaccine prevents serious illness 

1.9 Cuban Government on the brink of a successful COVID-19 vaccine 


2. Vaccine Distribution 

2.1 Jab but no tab: Israeli bar offers free drinks with vaccine shots 

2.2 President Biden to pledge $4 billion to COVAX vaccine program at G7 meeting

2.3 Wealthy nations stockpiling a billion more COVID-19 shots than needed 

2.4 US health officials urge countries to share COVID-19 vaccines  

2.5 Forty-three million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine administered

2.6 Air New Zealand to trial digital coronavirus vaccination passport  


1. Vaccine Development, Efficacy & Safety


1.1 CDC reassures about safety of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines 

Reuters reports that the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has released a report for adverse events  recorded with the use of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.  

During the period 14 December 2020 to 13 January 2021, 6,994 reports of adverse events after  vaccination were recorded with 90.8% of them classified as non-serious and 9.2% as serious. 

“Rare cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction requiring medical attention, were reported with both vaccines at a rate of 4.5 cases per million doses administered, down from the agency’s previously  reported rate of 5 per million doses administered. 

“’Healthcare providers and vaccine recipients can be reassured about the safety of Pfizer and Moderna  COVID-19 vaccines,’ the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.” 


1.2 Update on Pfizer vaccine trials in children

CNBC reports that: “Pfizer said it had fully enrolled its COVID-19 vaccine trial in children aged 12 to 15, a key step before the vaccine could be used in that age group. 

“Pfizer declined to say when it expected results from the trial, which are dependent on the rate of  infections observed to be able to compare the rates in the placebo group to those receiving the vaccine.” 

In addition, in an interview on PBS, Dr Fauci said that Pfizer is extending the trial for their COVID-19 vaccine to children from ages five years and up. He said that, if it goes well, children five years and up could be vaccinated in Fall of 2021. 


1.3 COVID vaccine reducing risk of hospitalisations 

Reuters reports that Scotland’s vaccination drive suggests that both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Oxford AstraZeneca shots are highly effective in preventing severe infections.  

Results of the study, which covered the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million people, showed that by the fourth week after the initial dose: 

• The Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by 85%, and 

• The AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by 94%  

International SOS comment: As these are the comments of the lead researcher and have not been peer  reviewed, cognitive bias may be present. 

BBC reports that researchers did not look at the impact on transmission – whether people who were vaccinated passed it on – or whether immunity waned over time. 


1.4 UK data shows 70% decline in COVID infections after first Pfizer shot 

Reuters reports that “England’s coronavirus vaccine campaign is significantly reducing cases of COVID-19, with a drop of around 70% in infections among healthcare workers who have had a first dose of the  Pfizer-BioNTech shot. 

Single dose prevents hospitalisation, 

“Data analysed by Public Health England (PHE) showed the Pfizer vaccine provided high levels of  protection against infection and symptomatic disease from a single dose, and that hospitalisation and  death from COVID-19 will be reduced by more than 75% in elderly people who have had a first dose.” 


1.5 Pfizer studying effect of third dose and preparing for an updated vaccine  

CNN reports that Pfizer is beginning a study to investigate if a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine makes  it more effective against variants. 

“’We have seen no real-world evidence to date that suggests a significant reduction in protection provided by our current vaccine. However, we are preparing to respond quickly and initiating a study to investigate  the effectiveness of a third-dose booster of our current vaccine in trial participants who have already  received two doses,’ John Young, the company’s Chief Business Officer, said in written testimony ahead of a House Sub Committee hearing.

“Young said Pfizer is also discussing clinical study designs with the US Food and Drug Administration to  ‘investigate the safety and immunogenicity of an updated vaccine’ that involves a change to its vaccine to target an emerging variant.” 


1.6 Pfizer asks FDA to approve storage of COVID vaccine in standard freezers 

A Pfizer press release reports that Pfizer and BioNTech have submitted data to the US Food and Drug  Administration (FDA) demonstrating that their COVID-19 vaccine can be safely stored at temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators. 


1.7 New data boost calls for single COVID-19 vaccine dose 

A single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offers 92.6% efficacy in new calculations based on data submitted to the FDA, researchers report in Medscape (password protected site). 

Together with previous findings that a single Moderna vaccine dose provides 92.1% efficacy against  SARS-CoV-2 infection, investigators propose it is time to defer the second dose to extend protection to more people through single-dose mRNA vaccinations. 


1.8 We don’t know if the AstraZeneca vaccine prevents serious illness 

The New York Times reports analyses the finding that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine-produced antibodies had a reduced neutralisation of the B.1.135 “South African” variant.  

“The findings were far from conclusive: they came from a small clinical trial that enrolled fewer than 2,000  people. And they did not preclude what some scientists say is the likelihood that the vaccine protects against severe disease from the variant — a key indicator of whether the virus will overwhelm hospitals  and kill people. 

“Because the trial participants in South Africa were relatively young and unlikely to become severely ill, it  was impossible for the scientists to determine if the vaccine protected people from hospitalisation or  death.” 


1.9 Cuban Government on the brink of a successful COVID-19 vaccine 

The New York Times reports that the Cuban Government says it is on the brink of a successful COVID-19  vaccine invented in Cuba. It is planning mass production for export. The first of four vaccines – “Sovereign  2” – developed by Cuban scientists will enter Phase 3 trials in March.  

Cuba is already floating the idea of enticing tourists with the cocktail of sun, sand and a shot of  “Sovereign!” 


2. Vaccine Distribution


2.1 Jab but no tab: Israeli bar offers free drinks with vaccine shots

Reuters reports that an Israeli bar doubled as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Thursday, with free drinks given to those who got the shots. 

Image Credit / Reuters

2.2 President Biden to pledge $4 billion to COVAX vaccine program at G7 meeting 

Reuters reports that: “The Biden administration will pledge $4 billion to a vaccination program for poorer countries at a global economic summit on 26 February in hopes that other countries will follow suit and contribute additional funds”, US officials said on a Thursday press call. 


2.3 Rich nations stockpiling a billion more COVID-19 shots than needed 

Reuters reports that: “Rich countries are on course to have over a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need, leaving poorer nations scrambling for leftover supplies as the world seeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a report by anti-poverty campaigners found on 19 February.” 


2.4 US health officials urge countries to share COVID-19 vaccines 

CNN reports that: “Top US public health officials backed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call for  more attention to equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine during a WHO briefing on 22 February. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the US should not only focus on equitable production and distribution of vaccines domestically, but should also  prioritize global accessibility to vaccines.  

“We (must) realize that this is a global pandemic, requiring a global response,” Fauci said. “An outbreak in  any part of the world is an outbreak for the entire world.” 


2.5 Forty-three million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine administered 

The Global Times reports that: “Forty-three million shots of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinopharm have been administrated; 34 million in China and nine million in other countries.  

“The annual production could reach four billion by the end of 2022, China Central Television (CCTV)  reported.  

“China has clinical trials for 16 COVID-19 vaccine candidates with six in Phase 3, according to the  National Medical Products Administration. 

“Eighteen production lines for COVID-19 vaccines have been established.  

“The nation’s annual COVID-19 vaccines production capacity is expected to reach 2 billion doses by the  end of 2021 and 4 billion by the end of 2022, Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry  Association told CCTV.”


Air New Zealand to trial digital coronavirus vaccination passport
Air New Zealand to trial digital coronavirus vaccination passport

2.6 Air New Zealand to trial digital coronavirus vaccination passport  

Air New Zealand has announced it will trial a digital vaccination passport on flights between Auckland and  Sydney from April. 

The trial of the “Travel Pass” app, developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will  allow travellers to create a ‘digital health wallet’ that is linked to their passport. 

Once they have been tested or vaccinated, the lab can securely send that information to the app, which is  then cross-checked against the travel requirements for the country they hoped to visit. 

“Travel Pass” is one of four leading contenders which would allow passengers to share their vaccination  or testing records.  

The airline says the app should speed up the check-in process and give travellers confidence everyone  else on board has met government requirements.


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