Quality news, views and analysis of issues that affect and inform us in the Douglas Shire.

The COVID-19 Report

LOCAL specialist Dr Doug Quarry from International SOS reports in on this week’s developments in the pandemic world.

DR DOUG QUARRY


In this edition:

1.     THE UNITED STATES

1.1 COVID-19 cases reducing across the US

1.2 Progress of the US COVID-19 vaccination program

1.3 US will have enough vaccine for 300 million by the end of May

2.     VACCINE DISTRIBUTION, NATIONALISM & HESITANCY

2.1 Inequitable vaccine distribution

2.2 Tracker of dates of COVAX vaccine distribution and start of vaccination campaigns

2.3 Italy blocks export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia

2.4 France uses only quarter of AstraZeneca vaccine doses

2.5 Australian businessman and ex-politician feeds vaccine hesitancy

3.     VARIANTS

3.1 Eric Topol has again updated his variant summary table

3.2 Variants are “Innocent until proven guilty”

3.3 Sao Paulo to shut down as Brazil nears Pfizer deal

3.4 New Russian variant of COVID-19 detected in Queensland hotel quarantine



1.1 COVID-19 cases reducing across the US 

The number of cases of COVID-19 is reducing across the US. This graphic from The Economist is striking  for the marked and consistent decline in every state. 


1.2 Progress of the US COVID-19 vaccination program 

Andy Slavitt has tweeted about the first doses of vaccine progress 

• 1 in 9 adults 

• 1 in 6 aged 50-64  

• 46% aged 65-74 

• 64% aged over 75 

Now averaging 2 million shots/day over the last week


1.3 US will have enough vaccine for 300 million by the end of May 

Recently announced by President Biden, this is an acceleration of two months over the prior outlook.


2. VACCINE DISTRIBUTION, NATIONALISM & HESITANCY


2.1 Inequitable vaccine distribution 

Only 24 countries have vaccinated more than 1% of their population.


2.2 Tracker of dates of COVAX vaccine distribution and start of vaccination campaigns 

COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (abbreviated as COVAX) is a global initiative aimed at equitable  access to COVID-19 vaccines led by: 

• GAVI: the global vaccine alliance 

• WHO: World Health Organisation 

• CEPI: Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others. 

The GAVI website now contains this news tracker 

4 March 

• 487,200 doses arrive in the Philippines 

3 March 

• First doses arrive in Rwanda 

• 820,000 doses arrive in Sudan 

• First doses arrive in Kenya 

• First doses arrive in Rwanda 

2 March 

• First doses arrive in the Gambia 

• First doses arrive in DRC 

• 324,000 doses arrive in Cambodia 

• 624,000 doses arrive in Angola 

• 3.94 million doses arrive in Nigeria 

• 1 March 2021 12:10 CET 

• Côte d’Ivoire starts its first vaccinations 

• Ghana starts its first vaccinations 

• Half a million doses arrived in Côte d’Ivoire from Mumbai 

• South Korea receives 117,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as a self-financing participant in  COVAX Facility 

• 600,000 COVAX vaccines arrive in Ghana: beginning of global roll-out

Italy blocks export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia 26 Feb 

The Guardian reports that: “Italy has blocked the export of 250,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia in an escalation of a row with the Anglo-Swedish company. 

“The EU has been engaged in high-profile row with AstraZeneca after the company informed officials of a  24 February shortfall in deliveries this quarter due to a production problem in one of its EU sites.”


2.3 Italy blocks export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia 

Reuters reports that: “The European Commission and Italy have blocked a shipment of AstraZeneca’s  coronavirus vaccine destined for Australia after the drug manufacturer failed to meet its EU contract  commitments, two sources said on Thursday. 

“The sources said AstraZeneca had requested permission from the Italian Government to export some  250,000 doses from its Anagni plant, near Rome. 

“The Italian Government refused and the European Commission supported its decision, the sources said.  An EU source in Brussels said national authorities had the final say in such matters.” 


2.4 France uses only quarter of AstraZeneca vaccine doses 

Reuters reports that: “France has used only a quarter of its AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses…as of  Feb 28, well below a target set at 80-85%.” 

The BBC reports that some of the reluctance for the French to use the AstraZeneca vaccine comes from  President Macron’s claim that it was “quasi-ineffective” for people over 65. 

“But the UK, and a number of other countries including India, Mexico and Argentina, have approved its  use for all age groups. 

“’Current evidence does not suggest any lack of protection against COVID-19 in people aged 65 or over  who receive the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca,’ the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory  Agency (MHRA) chief executive, Dr June Raine, said in a statement. 

“’The data we have show that the vaccine produces a strong immune response in the over-65s, and that it  is safe.’”


2.5 Australian businessman and ex-politician feeds vaccine hesitancy 

Clive Palmer has published this full-page advertisement in “The Australian” – the widest circulating  newspaper in Australia.


3. VARIANTS 


3.1 Eric Topol has again updated his variant summary table 

Prof Topol comments: 

• Vaccines work well vs B.1.1.7 and vs severe infections for all 3 variants to date • Immune evasion and vaccine efficacy reduction more with B.351 than P.1  


3.2 Variants are “innocent until proven guilty” 

This discussion regarding variants between Dr John White, Medical Editor of WebMD and Prof Eric Topol  is highly recommended.  

While many variants are now being discussed, only a few turn out to be of importance. Some points from the conversation: 

1. The three main attributes of variants that worry us are: 

• Are they more infectious? 

• Are they more virulent (cause more severe and/or fatal illness)? 

• Can they evade vaccine-produced immunity (immune evasion)?

We do not have any variants with all three of those properties. However, the UK variant is more  infectious and more virulent. 

2. While we wait for new vaccine supplies, we should consider alternative vaccination plans: get more  people vaccinated, including delaying the second dose to 6-8 weeks after the first; giving a single  dose to people with prior COVID-19 infection; and giving a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine. 

3. Many US states are relaxing mitigation strategies, which is the wrong approach right now because we  may be facing our biggest challenge yet with the UK variant. 

4. Researchers are making claims and sending pre-preprints – which are not even on a preprint server  yet – to journalists but not to the biomedical community. 


3.3 Sao Paulo to shut down as Brazil nears Pfizer deal 

Reuters reports that Brazil has set another daily record for COVID-19 deaths as a resurgence of the virus  led Sao Paulo state to shut businesses and the government to try to close vaccine deals with Pfizer and  Janssen. 

There are questions in Brazil about the suitability of Brazil’s current vaccine portfolio, consisting mainly of  225m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 120m doses of Sinovac, against the P1 variant. 

The Government said it intended to buy 100m doses from Pfizer and 38m from Janssen / Johnson &  Johnson (J&J). Pfizer doses are expected to arrive in May and Janssen / J&J by August. 


3.4 New Russian variant of COVID-19 detected in Queensland hotel quarantine 

Nine News reports that: “Passengers aboard a Qatar Airways flight that landed in Brisbane last month will  have their quarantine period extended after it was revealed several people on board tested positive for  the Russian strain of coronavirus.” The relatively long article concludes with “health officials know little about the new Russian variant so far.”


Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
error

Do you enjoy our news & views? Please share our site!

Share
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x