Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center registered nurse Patricia Stamper looks at a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine before administering it to a health care worker at the hospital on December 16, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. The Eastern Colorado VA Health Care System was chosen as one of 37 VA centers around the country to receive a shipment of the vaccine because of their ability to store the vaccine at extremely cold temperatures and vaccinate a large number of people.Share on Pinterest
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
  • COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Researchers across the globe are working to develop a vaccine.
  • Currently, there are 88 candidate vaccines.
  • Today, there are 20 candidate vaccines in stage 3 clinical trials.
  • So far, 11 vaccines have been authorized across several countries.
  • For general COVID-19 updates visit our live blog.

02/26/2021 10:05 GMT — COVID-19: How do subunit vaccines work?

Subunit vaccines, such as the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate, use a small part of a pathogen to train our immune system to fight off future infection. In a recent feature, Medical News Today provide an introduction to these vaccines.

Read the explainer here.

02/26/2021 09:12 GMT — FDA allows more flexible storage for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

In a press release, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have described changes to the guidelines for the transportation and storage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They explain that it can now be “transported and stored at conventional temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers for a period of up to 2 weeks.”

Until now, the guidelines stated that the vaccine had to be kept at ultra low temperatures of -80ºC to -60ºC (-112ºF to -76ºF).

“Pfizer submitted data to the FDA to support [the new] alternative temperature for transportation and storage,” explains Dr. Peter Marks, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. He continues: 

“This alternative temperature for transportation and storage of the undiluted vials is significant and allows the vials to be transported and stored under more flexible conditions. The alternative temperature for transportation and storage will help ease the burden of procuring ultra-low cold storage equipment for vaccination sites and should help to get vaccine to more sites.”

02/25/2021 09:09 GMT — Johnson & Johnson vaccine nears FDA emergency use authorization

On Wednesday, United States regulators released details of an analysis of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. They found that the one-shot vaccine is safe and works well to protect against COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will discuss the findings tomorrow.

According to an FDA report, the analysis of 39,321 participants demonstrated vaccine efficacy of 66.9% for the prevention of moderate-to-severe/critical COVID-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination. It was 66.1% 28 days after vaccination. 

They also found that the vaccine has an efficacy of around 85% against the most severe cases of COVID-19.

Dr. Paul Offit, who is part of the FDA advisory panel, says, “This is a vaccine to prevent you from going to the hospital and dying at a level that’s certainly comparable” with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Following the meeting, the FDA will decide whether to give the vaccine emergency use authorization. The decision should come within a matter of days.

02/25/2021 08:59 GMT — AstraZeneca vaccine: 3-month dose interval might be preferable

The efficacy of some COVID-19 vaccines relies on having two doses within a certain amount of time. The government of the United Kingdom decided to leave a 12-week interval between doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. A new analysis suggests that this timing “might” be more effective than shorter intervals.

Read more on this study here.

02/24/2021 09:07 GMT — Vaccine manufacturers ramp up production

Yesterday, Pfizer and Moderna told Congress that there would be a sharp increase in available vaccine doses over the coming weeks. They promised that they would be able to supply enough to vaccinate most people in the United States by the summer. 

The two companies expect to be able to supply 220 million vaccine doses to the U.S. government by March.

Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, told congress how they had ramped up production and explained that they are “on track” to hit production numbers.

Additionally, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson offering is likely to receive emergency authorization in the coming weeks. The company are likely to ship around 2 million doses within the first week. By the summer, Johnson & Johnson aim to have provided 100 million doses.

02/24/2021 09:00 GMT — Should we criminalize COVID-19 vaccine disinformation?

People who deliberately spread falsehoods about vaccines on social media may deter large numbers of people from getting vaccinated, which could cost lives. The BMJ recently published a “Head to Head” article in which two scientists argued for and against criminalizing vaccine disinformation.

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

02/23/2021 14:40 GMT — What are human challenge studies?

02/23/2021 09:50 GMT — Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 variants 

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new guidance. In it, they explain that companies that develop COVID-19 vaccines will not need to conduct such lengthy, in-depth trials when updating current vaccines to tackle SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Any adjustments that pharmaceutical companies have to make to address new variants would need only small trials, similar to those required for annual influenza vaccines.

In the press release, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock says: “We know the country is eager to return to a new normal, and the emergence of the virus variants raises new concerns about the performance of these products. By issuing these guidances, we want the American public to know that we are using every tool in our toolbox to fight this pandemic, including pivoting as the virus adapts.”

02/23/2021 09:48 GMT — First dose of COVID-19 vaccines linked to reduced hospital admissions in UK

A new study conducted in the United Kingdom finds that the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines have produced a significant drop in cases of severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. 

The preprint shows that 4 weeks after the first Pfizer-BioNtech shot, the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 fell by up to 85%. Four weeks after the AstraZeneca shot, the risk dropped by up to 94%.

Prof. Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology, who was not involved in the analysis, says: “The primary aim of all vaccination campaigns is to stop people getting seriously ill and [to] save lives. This initial data reported in this preprint on the effectiveness of one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is extremely promising.”

Prof. Akbar adds a note of caution: “While the results of this study indicate a good level of immunity after one dose, it is still the case that the highest and longest lasting protection from getting ill with COVID-19 will only be provided by getting two doses of the vaccine. It is critical that all people eligible for COVID vaccination do return to get their second dose when asked to do so by their medical providers.”

02/19/2021 15:38 GMT — Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may not need to be stored at such low temperatures

Pfizer is seeking permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to store its vaccine for up to 2 weeks at 25°C to -15°C (-13°F to 5°F). These temperatures are common in standard pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators.

If the FDA grant Pfizer’s request, the change could significantly speed up the vaccine rollout in the United States.

“We have been continuously performing stability studies to support the production of the vaccine at commercial scale, with the goal of making the vaccine as accessible as possible for healthcare providers and people across the U.S. and around the world,” explains Albert Bourla, Ph.D., chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer in a press release

He continues: “If approved, this new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply.”

02/19/2021 09:28 GMT — Pfizer begin vaccine trials in pregnant women

Yesterday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they have begun vaccine trials in pregnant participants aged 18 years and older. They write, “We are proud to start this study in pregnant women and continue to gather the evidence on safety and efficacy to potentially support the use of the vaccine by important subpopulations.”

In total, they plan to enroll 4,000 healthy pregnant participants during 24–34 weeks of gestation.

According to the press release, “The study will evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of two doses of [the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine] or placebo administered 21 days apart.”

The press release outlines the importance of this research: “Pregnant women have an increased risk of complications and developing severe COVID-19, which is why it is critical that we develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for this population. We are deeply thankful to the volunteers who are enrolling in the trial and site investigators who are leading this work.” 

02/19/2021 09:05 GMT — What are human challenge studies?

Recently, the government of the United Kingdom received ethics approval to run the world’s first SARS-CoV-2 human challenge study. In a recent feature, Medical News Today explain what human challenge studies are and what insights they can provide.

Read the feature here.

02/18/2021 16:05 GMT — US Government Accountability Office report Johnson & Johnson have a short supply of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate

On January 29, 2021, the Johnson & Johnson corporation announced that they had completed phase 3 of the clinical trial of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine — also known as the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate — is a single-dose viral vector vaccine.

According to the Johnson & Johnson press release, their data indicate that the vaccine candidate is around 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.

Following these promising results, the corporation have submitted an application for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the vaccine candidate to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have also applied for European conditional marketing authorization to the European Medicines Agency.

Johnson & Johnson expect to receive an EUA from the FDA shortly, yet a current U.S. Government Accountability Office report has revealed that, “[a]ccording to Janssen representatives, approximately 2 million doses will be delivered at the time of [EUA].”

This has prompted concerns about the vaccine candidate’s availability once U.S. authorities add it to the national vaccination rollout.

It also casts doubts on Johnson & Johnson’s promise that they will “supply 100 million doses to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.”

02/18/2021 09:14 GMT — UK set to run world’s first coronavirus Human Challenge study

In the next few weeks, the United Kingdom will embark on the world’s first Human Challenge study. As a government press release explains, part of the research will “involve establishing the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.”

Read more in our live updates article.

02/16/2021 10:41 GMT — WHO authorize AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use

The World Health Organization (WHO) have announced that they are granting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine emergency approval. Millions of doses are now likely to be sent to the world’s most vulnerable people as part of COVAX, which is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, assistant director general for Access to Medicines and Health Products at the WHO.

02/12/2021 14:00 GMT — Israel data suggest that the Pfizer vaccine has led to over a 50% reduction in COVID-19 cases so far

Recent data from Israel, which has vaccinated around 3.5 million people, suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is indeed effective at preventing COVID-19.

In a study paper that has yet to be peer reviewed and was shared on the preprint server medRxiv, researchers from various institutes in Israel and elsewhere analyzed real-world data from Israel’s fast and extensive vaccination program.

At the time of the analysis, which was publicized on February 7, more than 75% of Israelis aged over 60 and around 25% of those aged 40–60 had received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“Our findings highlight that vaccination does not only protect the individual who receives it, but is likely to reduce viral shedding and therefore transmission in the population,” the authors of the paper write.

Citing computational biologist Prof. Eran Segal, from the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel, Reuters further report that “Among the first fully vaccinated group, there was a 53% reduction in new cases [of COVID-19], a 39% decline in hospitalizations, and a 31% drop in severe illnesses from mid-January until February 6.”

Read more about this story here.

02/11/2021 14:35 GMT — AstraZeneca say adapting their vaccine against new SARS-CoV-2 variants may take 6–9 months

The biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have declared that they will be able to adapt the COVID-19 vaccine, which they developed in collaboration with the Oxford Vaccine Group, against emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Tweaking, producing, and rolling out the vaccine to the public may take around 6–9 months.

The declaration has arrived following concerns that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may not be effective against a new coronavirus variant that has emerged in South Africa, which has led the country’s authorities to halt the rollout of this vaccine to the public.

“[W]e are aiming to be in the clinic in the spring, with next generation vaccines for the new variants,” said Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals R&Dat AstraZeneca.

02/11/2021 09:51 GMT — mRNA vaccines may be slightly less effective against some SARS-CoV-2 variants

A recent study investigated the neutralizing effect of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines against mutant forms of the spike protein found in some of the recently identified SARS-CoV-2 variants. The scientists found a one- to three-fold decrease in neutralizing activity against the variants.

Specifically, the researchers tested blood plasma of 20 people who had received either of the mRNA vaccines. They assessed whether the plasma could neutralize retroviruses that had been modified to express the mutant forms of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

The mutations under trial were N501Y, E484K, and K417N. The researchers also tested a combination of all three. The authors conclude that “mRNA vaccines may need to be updated periodically to avoid potential loss of clinical efficacy.”

02/10/2021 08:53 GMT — South Africa replaces AstraZeneca with Johnson & Johnson shots

The results of a small study hinted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variant that scientists first identified in South Africa. In response, South Africa has scrapped the vaccine and is planning to roll out the Jonson & Johnson offering, which is not currently approved.

Next week, officials will distribute the vaccine to front-line healthcare workers. In a televised statement, Zweli Mkhize, South Africa’s Health Minister, told viewers that the vaccine was safe and had already undergone testing in 44,000 people.

He explained that “the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven effective against the 501Y.V2 variant,” which is dominant in South Africa, “and the necessary approval processes for use in South Africa are underway.”

“The rollout of vaccination will proceed in the form of an implementation study with the partnership of the Medical Research Council and the National Department of Health vaccination sites across the country,” he continued. 

“This will provide valuable information about the pandemic in the post-vaccination community and thus, ensure early identification of breakthrough infections should they occur amongst vaccinated health workers.”

02/09/2021 09:51 GMT — The Navajo Nation to receive 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Yesterday, the Navajo Nation officials announced that they will be receiving almost 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine: 26,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2,925 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Also, an extra 82 federal personnel will help with vaccination.

In a statement on Monday, Tribal President Jonathan Nez wrote: 

“As of Sunday, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service received 78,520 vaccine doses, and 74,048 of those doses have gone into the arms of our people on the Navajo Nation — that’s a 94% efficiency rate so far. Confidence in the vaccines is very high here.”

Yesterday, the Navajo Nation officials reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths. Since the pandemic began, they have registered 28,937 cases and 1,060 deaths.

Read more here.

02/08/2021 09:05 GMT — South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

Officials in South Africa have paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to healthcare staff. The move comes following the results of a small trial, which indicate that the vaccine is not effective in preventing mild-to-moderate illness caused by the variant that is now dominant in the country.

In South Africa, the new variant — which is known as E484K — accounts for around 90% of COVID-19 cases. According to health minister Zweli Mkhize: “The AstraZeneca vaccine appeared effective against the original strain, but not against the variant. We have decided to put a temporary hold on the rollout of the vaccine […] more work needs to be done.”

The trial included data from 2,000 people. Most of these participants were young and healthy. A statement issued by Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, explains:

“Protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization, or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at such low risk.”

The scientists who developed the AstraZeneca shot are already working on an updated vaccine that will tackle the E484K variant.

Read more on this story here.

02/05/2021 14:44 GMT — Tackling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans

Read the full MNT feature here.

02/05/2021 09:02 GMT — Johnson & Johnson push for emergency use authorization 

Preliminary results from clinical trials show that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine candidate is safe and effective. Yesterday, they urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider emergency use authorization. The FDA have asked their independent experts to debate the details on February 26.

According to a preliminary analysis of 44,000 people, the Johnson & Johnson shot is 66% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19. However, it was 85% protective against the most severe symptoms. 

Importantly, after 28 days, no one who received the experimental vaccine died or needed hospital treatment.

Although 66% efficacy is lower than the Pfizer and Moderna results, it is difficult to make a direct comparison. The disparity might be partly due to the emergence of new variants since the Pfizer and Moderna trials. 

For instance, the Johnson & Johnson shot was 72% effective against moderate-to-severe COVID-19 in the United States, compared with 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa.

Speaking with the American Medical Association, FDA Director Dr. Peter Marks, Ph.D., says

“When you’re in a situation like we are now with so much uncertainty and with so much need to get this pandemic under control, I think we can’t ignore any tool in the tool chest. […] I think we will have to do our best to try to make sure that we find the populations that benefit the most from each of these vaccines and deploy them in a very thoughtful manner.”

Read more here.

02/04/2021 09:04 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca working on vaccine to tackle SARS-CoV-2 variants

There is growing evidence that current vaccines are effective against SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, Oxford-AstraZeneca are working on a vaccine designed specifically to protect against these emerging variants. They hope to have the altered vaccine ready by fall 2021. 

According to Prof. Andy Pollard, from Oxford University, in the United Kingdom, adjusting the current vaccine is a relatively simple process. He explains that they would only need to conduct small trials before rolling out the vaccine.

Read more here.

02/03/2021 09:04 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca shot 76% effective for 3 months after single dose

Following a single dose, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% effective at preventing symptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 for 3 months, according to a new study. The results support the United Kingdom’s approach of leaving a 12-week gap between shots. The results of the study appear on a preprint server awaiting publication in The Lancet.

The authors explain that “Vaccination programs [using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot] aimed at vaccinating a large proportion of the population with a single dose, with a second dose given after a 3-month period, [are] an effective strategy for reducing disease and may be the optimal [plan] for rollout of a pandemic vaccine when supplies are limited in the short term.”

According to Prof. Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, the results show that a 12-week interval between doses is “the optimal approach to roll out and reassures us that people are protected from 22 days after a single dose.”

Read more here.

02/02/2021 09:09 GMT — US officials will not make immigration arrests at vaccination centers

According to a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consider vaccination sites “sensitive locations.” As such, the DHS will not make routine immigration enforcement arrests at these centers. They encourage everyone “regardless of immigration status” to receive the vaccine when they are eligible.

The DHS explain that they will only make arrests under “the most extraordinary of circumstances” and that they “fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”

They also write, “DHS [support] the equitable and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to all populations, including historically underserved communities.”

Read the full statement here.

02/01/2021 09:16 GMT — Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate 66% effective

According to an interim analysis, which included data from 43,783 people, the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine is 66% effective in preventing moderate or severe COVID-19 from 28 days after vaccination. Overall, the experimental vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease. Importantly, no one who received the vaccine candidate needed hospital treatment or died.

According to their press release, the protection varied by region: “The level of protection against moderate to severe COVID-19 infection was 72% in the United States, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa, 28 days postvaccination.”

Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, is excited about the results, writing: “We do need to vaccinate the world, and there’s about 8 billion people out there. So the chance to have multiple vaccines available is excellent, and a single-dose product, of course, has advantages in terms of cost and logistics for a large-scale rollout. It can also be quickly manufactured at large scale.”

Read Johnson & Johnson’s press release here.

02/01/2021 09:11 GMT — Allergic reactions to Pfizer vaccine are rare

The results of a recent study, which appear in JAMA, conclude that allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine are rare. For every million first doses, the researchers estimate a rate of 11.1 cases of anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening allergic reaction.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

01/29/2021 14:50 GMT — Addressing COVID-19 vaccine myths

Read the full feature here.

01/29/2021 09:08 GMT — Novavax vaccine shows 89.3% efficacy

Novavax have announced that, according to an interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials, their vaccine candidate demonstrates 89.3% efficacy. The analysis included 62 cases of COVID-19, 56 of which occurred in the placebo group, and six in the vaccine group.

The study involved more than 15,000 participants, 27% of whom were 65 or older. The United Kingdom, where the trials took place, has already purchased 60 million doses.

Novavax also ran trials in South Africa. Here, most cases involved the variant first identified in the region, and in people without an HIV infection, the vaccine demonstrated 60% efficacy.

If Novavax offering is approved for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, it will be the U.K.’s fourth vaccine.

According to Prof. Paul Heath, chief investigator of the U.K. Novavax vaccine trial, “These are enormously exciting findings and show that this is a highly effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine — importantly, it also shows that this is a vaccine that is effective against the U.K. variant that has spread so quickly.”

However, Prof. Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London in the U.K. adds a note of caution:

“The rather lower level of protection […] seen in South Africa is a concern, given that the triple mutant variant virus […] was widely circulating at that time. The press release hints that prior infection with earlier variants of SARS-CoV-2 may not completely protect against subsequent infection by the variant of concern, but that vaccination with [Novavax vaccine candidate] did provide some protection.”

Read more here.

01/28/2021 09:59 GMT — AAVCOVID vaccine candidate receives financial boost

The AAVCOVID Vaccine Program has produced a gene-based vaccine that is storable at room temperature and appears to be effective after one dose. A recent influx of up to $2.1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the company move the vaccine into phase 1 clinical trials.

Earlier this month, the AAVCOVID Vaccine Program published some preliminary results on a preprint server. The scientists conclude that their vaccine candidates “demonstrate potent immunogenicity in mouse and nonhuman primates following a single injection.”

Because the vaccine can be stored safely at room temperature for up to 1 month, it could prove beneficial for developing countries that lack the infrastructure necessary to store vaccines at low temperatures.

Read more here

01/27/2020 09:21 GMT — Problems with EU vaccine rollout

The European Union has been criticized for the slow pace of vaccine distribution across its member states. In December, the E.U. approved the purchase of 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, due to miscommunication and supply chain problems, Pfizer have not been able to meet expectations.

The European Medicines Agency will likely approve the AstraZeneca vaccine this month. However, the company recently announced that they will not be able to supply as many doses of their vaccine to the E.U. as they had initially promised. 

Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca, recently defended their rollout plans. He says that they are working “24/7 to fix the very many issues of production of the vaccine,” but that production was “basically 2 months behind where we wanted to be.”

He explains that the E.U.’s late decision to sign contracts provided limited time to sort out issues with supply. AstraZeneca are also experiencing issues with “scaling up” vaccine production in some plants.

Soriot adds: “We’ve also had teething issues like this in the United Kingdom supply chain. But the U.K. contract was signed 3 months before the European vaccine deal. So with the U.K., we have had an extra 3 months to fix all the glitches we experienced.”

The CEO continues: “Would I like to do better? Of course. But, you know, if we deliver in February what we are planning to deliver, it’s not a small volume. We are planning to deliver millions of doses to Europe, it is not small.”

Read more here.

01/27/2020 09:07 GMT — India’s vaccine rollout ramps up

India has registered the second highest number of COVID-19 cases after the United States. On January 16, the country began one of the largest vaccination campaigns in the world. In less than 2 weeks, India has already vaccinated more than 2 million healthcare workers.

Read more here.

01/26/2021 09:35 GMT — Is the AstraZeneca vaccine only 8% effective in over 65s?

According to some media outlets, German officials were concerned that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be approved by the European Union because it is only 8% effective in adults over 65. However, this seems to be an error.

For instance, Prof. Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in the United Kingdom, says, “The randomized data on immunogenicity does not suggest that there will be notably lower efficacy at older ages for the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine.” He continues:

“If, however, these reports are based on the preliminary randomized trial data from The Lancet paper, [the authors state that], as older age groups were recruited later than younger age groups, there has been less time for cases to accrue and, as a result, efficacy data in these cohorts are currently limited by the small number of cases, but additional data will be available in future analyses.”

In agreement, Prof. Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, in the U.K., says, “Elderly people were recruited to the U.K. phase 3 [study] relatively late and were relatively well shielded, so there were few cases of COVID-19 that had occurred at the time of submission of data to [the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] for approval.”

He adds that he has “no idea where the 8% figure comes from.”

“There is no basis for the claims of very low efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which have been circulating in the media,” explains a spokesperson from the University of Oxford, in the U.K., which helped develop the vaccine.

“The results of the clinical trials have already been published transparently in five peer-reviewed scientific publications showing similar immune responses in younger and older adults, and a good safety profile, and high efficacy in younger adults. Furthermore, the preliminary efficacy data in older adults supports the importance of this vaccine for use in this population.”

Read more about the AstraZeneca vaccine here.

01/25/2021 15:56 GMT — Moderna vaccine effective against emerging variants

According to a Moderna press release, their COVID-19 vaccine is still effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variants, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which scientists first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively. However, the vaccine had a significantly reduced antibody response to the latter.

The researchers used sera from individuals who had received the Moderna vaccine, and they found no significant impact on antibody response to the B.1.1.7 variant. Although there was a six-fold reduction in antibody response to the B.1.351 variant, the press release explains that the antibodies “remain above levels that we expect to be protective.”

Moderna are already testing a booster vaccine candidate that specifically targets the spike proteins of the B.1.351 variant.

Although the press release is upbeat, the study has not yet been through the peer review process, and the research only involved eight serum samples. Prof. Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study, says:

“The effect on B.1.1.7 is consistent with other data using antibodies in sera from individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As for a six-fold reduction with the B.1.351 variant, the data is more of a concern.”

He continues, “A six-fold reduction in neutralizing titer is likely to impact vaccine efficacy and, as stated in the press release, the longevity of the antibody response to vaccination […] It is important that we study the neutralizing antibody response in individuals infected with B.1.35.1. It is likely that this variant will elicit a protective immune response but that the profile of the antibody response will be different.”

Read more here.

01/25/2021 13:51 GMT — Merck scraps SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

In a press release today, Merck & Co. announced that they are “discontinuing development” of their SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. They explain that, although the vaccines were well tolerated, “The immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other” COVID-19 vaccines.

However, the company will continue to work on two therapeutics, known as MK-7110 and MK-4482 (molnupiravir). The president of Merck Research Laboratories, Dr. Dean Y. Li, says:

“We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials. We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, healthcare systems, and communities.”

Read more here

01/25/2021 08:43 GMT — Vaccine rollout in Israel: Successes, lessons, and caveats

Some experts consider Israel a world leader in the race to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine. In a new Special Feature, Medical News Today look at why the vaccine rollout has been so successful in Israel and discuss the controversies and equity issues related to the campaign.

Read the full feature here.

01/22/2021 16:05 GMT — COVID-19: How do inactivated vaccines work?

Read the full article here.

01/22/2021 08:51 GMT — How some people in US are receiving surprise doses of COVID-19 vaccine

If COVID-19 vaccines thaw or the seal has been punctured, they will perish without use. If shots remain at the end of the shift, healthcare workers will sometimes offer them to people who happen to be near the clinic at closing time. 

Some regions are canceling vaccine appointments as doses become scarce. However, some individuals have been in the right place at the right time and received leftover shots.

For instance, David MacMillan and a friend were grocery shopping in Washington when a healthcare worker from the in-store pharmacy offered him a shot.

According to MacMillan, the pharmacy worker said, “I got two doses of the Moderna vaccine. The pharmacy is closing in 10 minutes. Do you want them?”

In Nashville, to avoid the random distribution of spare shots, they set up a lottery system. However, officials believe that as the rollout continues to ramp up and more people become eligible for the shot, fewer and fewer of these leftover doses will be available.

Read more here.

01/21/2021 12:27 GMT — Study finds Pfizer vaccine effective against the B.1.1.7 variant

As scientists identify new SARS-CoV-2 variants, researchers are working to understand the implications for vaccine effectiveness. A recent study, which appears on a preprint server, concludes that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effectively neutralizes the B.1.1.7 variant that was first seen in the United Kingdom.

To investigate, the researchers used two types of pseudovirus. One pseudovirus mimics the B.1.1.7  SARS-CoV-2 variant, and the other was a reference pseudovirus based on SARS-CoV-2 isolated from Wuhan, China.

Using serum from individuals who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, they compared the immune response to the two pseudoviruses. They found that both viruses were effectively neutralized.

The authors conclude that it is “unlikely” that the B.1.1.7 variant will circumvent the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Find the preprint here.

01/21/2021 09:49 GMT — New SARS-CoV-2 variants may impact vaccine effectiveness

A study, which appears on the preprint server bioRxiv, concludes that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines may be less effective against some of the new SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, the study has not yet gone through the peer-review process.

In the study, the scientists focused on three variants with mutations known as E484K, N501Y, and K417N. Researchers first identified variants carrying these mutations in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

The team investigated blood from 20 individuals who had received either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines. They tested their antibody and memory B cell responses to laboratory model viruses that they introduced these mutations to.

The authors concluded that “activity against SARS-CoV-2 variants encoding E484K or N501Y or the K417N:E484K:N501Y combination was reduced by a small but significant margin.”

The authors advise “that the monoclonal antibodies in clinical use should be tested against newly arising variants, and that mRNA vaccines may need to be updated periodically to avoid potential loss of clinical efficacy.” 

It is worth noting that this is one of a number of recent papers investigating how the new variants influence vaccine effectiveness. Not all of the studies reach the same conclusions.

Read more about the new variants here.

01/21/2021 09:11 GMT — Some states report running out of vaccine

As the United States ramps up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, some regions are reporting difficulties meeting demand. Certain states are running out of vaccines and tens of thousands of appointments to receive the first dose have been cancelled.

As an example: Earlier this week, the Erie County Health Department, in Buffalo, NY, had to cancel more than 8,000 appointments due to inadequate supplies of the vaccine.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the confusion is, at least in part, because states overestimated how much of the vaccine was being sent. 

Read more here

01/20/2021 11:56 GMT — How great is protection after the first vaccine dose?

Israeli experts highlight that the level of protection after the first dose of COVID-19 vaccination may not be as high as many hoped. A first data analysis suggests an effectiveness of 33% from 14 days after vaccination in people over 60. 

Prof. Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer for Israel’s largest healthcare provider, told Sky News how researchers had come to this conclusion.

They compared data from 200,000 people aged 60 and older who had received the first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with data from the same number of people who had not received it. During the first 2 weeks after vaccination, there was no difference in how many people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

“But on day 14 post-vaccination, a drop of 33% in positivity was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated,” Prof. Balicer said. 

He told Sky News that he foresees the final rate of effectiveness to be higher than 33%, as data from other age groups become available. 

Israel is a forerunner globally with rolling out their COVID-19 vaccination program. The country is adhering to Pfizer’s protocol and providing the booster vaccine 3 weeks after the first shot. 

However, new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection remain high, despite over 2 million residents already receiving their first shot.

When pharmaceutical companies report how well an experimental vaccine performs in a clinical trial, it is called vaccine efficacy. Pfizer and BioNTech reported an efficacy of 95% after two doses of the vaccine and 52% after the first dose. 

That said, clinical trials do not necessarily reflect how well a vaccine does when it is administered across the wider population, which scientists refer to as a vaccine’s effectiveness.

Read more about vaccine efficacy and effectiveness here.

01/19/2021 10:35 GMT — WHO chief warns of ‘catastrophic moral failure’

Speaking yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decried the inequity in global vaccine distribution. He said that it is “not right” that young and healthy people in wealthy countries should receive vaccinations before older people and healthcare workers in poorer countries.

He outlined a particularly vivid example of this inequity: “Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000 — just 25. I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.”

According to a WHO spokesperson, the country in question is Guinea. Tedros continues:

“It’s right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own health workers and older people first. But it’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are receiving vaccinations before health workers and older people in poorer countries. There will be enough vaccines for everyone.”

“Vaccines are the shot in the arm we all need, literally and figuratively,” Tedros explains. “But we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the world’s haves and have-nots.”

Read more here.

01/19/2021 09:17 GMT — Vaccines and COVID-19: The latest hopeful research

In a Special Feature, Medical News Today cover the latest COVID-19 vaccine research. The author also investigates whether currently available vaccines will be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variants that scientists have identified in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Brazil.

Read the feature in full here.

01/18/2021 09:12 GMT — Frustrations over lack of US vaccine reserves

A number of United States governors have recently expressed frustration at the administration of President Donald Trump. They were assured that the federal government had adequate vaccine stockpiles to speed up or expand rollouts, but they were later informed that the reserves do not exist.

Among the disgruntled U.S. governors are Wisconsin’s Democratic governor Tony Evers and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

01/18/2021 09:04 GMT — UK sets lofty vaccination goals

According to officials in the United Kingdom, they aim to give every adult in the country, which is more than 51 million people, at least one vaccine dose by September. According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, “If we can do it faster than that, great, but that’s the road map.”

Currently, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) is struggling under immense pressure. According to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England: 

“The facts are very clear and I’m not going to sugarcoat them, hospitals are under extreme pressure and staff are under extreme pressure. Since Christmas Day we’ve seen another 15,000 increase in the in-patients in hospitals across England. That’s the equivalent of filling 30 hospitals full of coronavirus patients.”

Read more here.

01/15/2021 14:42 GMT — How do viral vector vaccines work?

Read the full article here.

01/14/2021 08:59 GMT —Future coronavirus vaccines may harness nanoparticles

According to a recent preclinical study, a nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccine could be cheap, safe, and effective. The findings suggest that a single dose could provide robust immunity. It would also be easier to store and transport than current vaccines. The research appears in the journal ACS Central Science.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

01/14/2021 08:57 GMT — UK pharmacies join vaccine rollout effort

From today, pharmacies in the United Kingdom will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines. Initially, this will only include large high street pharmacies, but 200 community drugstores will join them over the coming weeks. This approach forms part of the government’s push to provide a 24-7 vaccination program.

Health minister Matt Hancock says, “Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout program by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.”

The U.K. government aims to vaccinate all older adults, clinically vulnerable individuals, and frontline healthcare and social care workers by mid-February. This will require about 2 million vaccinations per week.

To date, the U.K. has administered 2.6 million vaccine doses.

Read more here.

01/13/2021 08:57 GMT — Which US demographics are more likely to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine?

A recent study found that more than 31% of 5,009 U.S. individuals queried between May 28 and June 8, 2020, did not intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The groups most likely to reject the vaccine were Black people, women, and those with conservative political leanings.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here

01/11/2021 13:41 GMT — Russia set to test a modified one-shot version of the Sputnik V vaccine

Russian officials have announced that they will test a one-dose version of the country’s Sputnik V vaccine in 150 volunteers. The modified version could be exported to countries experiencing high rates of new COVID-19 cases. It will likely only provide temporary immunity, however. 

Russia will continue to use the two-dose regimen to roll out the vaccine across the country. The modified version comprises only the first dose and has been dubbed “Sputnik Light.” 

According to Reuters, President Vladimir Putin announced that Sputnik Light would not provide the same level of protection as the two-shot version, but vaccine efficacy “will still reach 85%.”

Read more here.

01/08/2021 14:46 GMT — UK approves third vaccine

Today, the United Kingdom approved its third COVID-19 vaccine. Similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna offering uses mRNA technology. In contrast to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna shot only needs to be kept at temperatures equivalent to a standard freezer.

The U.K. has ordered 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, although most will not arrive until spring. Overall, the U.K. has ordered 367 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Nadhim Zahawi, the U.K.’s vaccine deployment minister, says, “The NHS [National Health Service] is pulling out all the stops to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible, with over 1,000 vaccination sites live across the U.K. by the end of the week to provide easy access to everyone, regardless of where they live.”

He continues, “The Moderna vaccine will be a vital boost to these efforts and will help us return to normal faster.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. To date, around 1.5 million people in the U.K. have been given at least one dose.

Read more here.

01/08/2021 09:11 GMT — Pfizer study shows vaccine effective against new variant

Scientists recently identified two new strains of SARS-CoV-2 — one of which had been discovered in the United Kingdom and the other in South Africa. A new Pfizer study concludes that its vaccine should be effective against the U.K. variant.

Both new variants, which appear to be more contagious, have mutations in a spike protein called N501Y. 

Because most vaccines currently under investigation essentially teach the immune system to respond to the spike proteins, some people have questioned whether the vaccines will be effective against the variants. 

The new study, which appears on a preprint server, is a combined effort from Pfizer and scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The researchers analyzed blood samples from 20 people who had received the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine during previous clinical trials. 

They demonstrated that antibodies from vaccine recipients successfully fought off a virus with the N501Y mutation. The study has limitations, though. For instance, the variant first identified in South Africa has an additional mutation known as E484K, which the new study did not address. 

Importantly, the study has also not yet been peer-reviewed. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Philip Dormitzer, acknowledges:

“It was a very reassuring finding that at least this mutation, which was one of the ones people are most concerned about, does not seem to be a problem.”

The authors of the preprint conclude: “The ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 necessitates continuous monitoring of the significance of changes for vaccine coverage. This surveillance is accompanied by preparations for the possibility that a future mutation in SARS-CoV-2 might necessitate a vaccine strain change. Such a vaccine update would be facilitated by the flexibility of mRNA-based vaccine technology.”

Read more here.

01/07/2021 08:52 GMT — EU approve Moderna vaccine

Yesterday, the European Union (E.U.) approved the Moderna vaccine. The rollout will likely begin next week. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the E.U., we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come.”

Since two new virus variants have been detected — one first reported in the United Kingdom and the other in South Africa — there is a new urgency to the vaccine rollout.

The European Medicines Agency have now approved the Moderna vaccine for use in people over 18, and the first deliveries to the E.U. countries will begin next week. 

Alongside the E.U., the United States, Canada, and Israel have already approved the Moderna shot. Singapore and Switzerland are also likely to follow suit in the coming weeks. The U.K. recently issued an emergency use authorization for the vaccine, and a rollout has begun.

Read more here.

01/06/2021 08:52 GMT — Israel has already vaccinated 15% of population

Around 2 weeks after vaccination began, Israel has already vaccinated around 15% of its 9.3 million people. According to Israeli authorities, they paid a premium to receive doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine early.

An anonymous official claims that Israel’s government paid “around $30 per vaccine dose, or around twice the price abroad.” 

Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s health minister, believes that freeing Israel’s economy from successive lockdowns justifies the higher cost of the vaccine. The country is currently in its third lockdown of the pandemic.

Speaking with Reuters, Edelstein explains, “What we basically said to Pfizer, and Moderna, and to the others was that if we will be one of the first countries to start vaccinating, very soon these companies will be able to see the results.” He continues:

“It’s a kind of win-win situation. We are a small country. And I knew for a fact that [we’d] better be one of the first on the ground because after the vaccine is developed, the companies, commercially speaking, wouldn’t even look in the direction of countries Israel’s size.”

The seemingly successful vaccine program has faced criticism from human rights groups. Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip face longer waits to be vaccinated.

Read more here

01/05/2021 14:33 GMT — What does ‘efficacy’ mean?

Read MNT‘s full explainer here.

01/05/2021 10:15 GMT — Indonesia to begin vaccination this month

Today, Indonesia’s health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced that the country would begin rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine on January 13. The vaccine, which is called CoronaVac, was designed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech SVA.O. President Joko Widodo will receive the first shot.

Indonesia’s food and drug agency (BPOM) has not yet given CoronaVac emergency approval. However, they expect to grant emergency use authorization once the data from late-stage trials in Indonesia, Brazil, and Turkey are analyzed.

After the president, frontline healthcare workers will be next in line. According to Budi, regional governors should get the vaccination next “to generate confidence in the community.”

Read more here.

01/05/2021 09:01 GMT — Is it ethical to continue COVID-19 vaccine trials?

The recent authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in the United States poses some ethical dilemmas for researchers conducting ongoing clinical trials. For instance, what is their responsibility toward participants who received placebo injections? The authors of a recent opinion piece in Science address this perplexing question.

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

04/01/2021 09:04 GMT — COVID-19 pandemic 2020: The search for a vaccine

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, researchers all over the world have joined the race to develop an effective vaccine. In a recent feature, Medical News Today outline how the search for a vaccine progressed throughout 2020.

Read the full feature here.

04/01/2021 09:01 GMT— US might split Moderna vaccine doses in half to speed up rollout

United States officials have announced that the government is considering giving some people half doses of the Moderna vaccine to help speed up the vaccination rollout.

According to Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed chief adviser, “We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half of the dose to people between the ages of 18 and 55, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have.”

Slaoui explained that half a dose “induces an identical immune response” to the full dose.

Read more here.

04/01/2021 08:55 GMT — UK begin rolling out AstraZeneca vaccine

This morning, officials in the United Kingdom began rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine designed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person to receive the shot. This is the second vaccine currently being rolled out in the U.K., following the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The U.K. have acquired 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine. The vaccine can be kept at fridge temperatures, making it easier to store and transport than the Pfizer–BioNTech offering.

According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, more than 1 million people in the U.K. have now received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He said: 

“That’s a triumph of British science that we’ve managed to get where we are. Right at the start, we saw that the vaccine was the only way out, long term.”

Read more here

12/23/2020 12:38 GMT — AstraZeneca and Sputnik V developers to test a combined experimental vaccine

The developers of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine have signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to test a combination of both vaccines, according to the Associated Press.  

AstraZeneca and partners from the University of Oxford published the results of some of their vaccine candidate clinical trials earlier this month in The Lancet, demonstrating 70% efficacy after two doses of the experimental vaccine.

Days later, the company announced that they were considering testing their vaccine candidate in combinations with others. 

“Assessing different types of COVID-19 vaccines in combination could help unlock synergies in protection and improve vaccine accessibility and could provide an additional approach to help overcome this deadly virus,” a press release said. 

Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine frontrunners here.

12/22/2020 15:10 GMT — Dr. Anthony Fauci to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine today

In a statement posted on Twitter on December 21, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced that their director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, would be inoculated against COVID-19 today.

Dr. Fauci will receive the vaccine developed by the biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics in collaboration with NIAID.

United States Secretary of Health Alex Azar, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins, and many frontline healthcare workers at the NIH Clinical Center, in Bethesda, MD, will join Dr. Fauci in receiving the Moderna vaccine.

Read more here

12/22/2020 14:16 GMT — European Medicines Agency grant authorization for the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), an agency of the European Union (EU), have recommended that the European Commission (EC) grant a conditional marketing authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, called Comirnaty.

An EMA conditional marketing authorization entails approving a medicinal product “that addresses unmet medical needs of patients on the basis of less comprehensive data than normally required,” as long as the benefits of that product outweigh its risks.

The EC granted the authorization on December 21, 2020, and the first doses of the vaccine are due to reach EU member states on December 26, 2020, with the start of vaccinations planned for the December 27–29, 2020, period.

According to Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, “Our thorough evaluation means that we can confidently assure EU citizens of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and that it meets necessary quality standards.”

Read more here.

12/21/2020 09:20 GMT — Low income countries lose out to wealthy countries

In a recent report, a coalition of scientists, activists, and international organizations warn that 90% of people in 67 low income and lower-middle income countries will not receive vaccinations against COVID-19 in 2021.

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, this is partly due to rich countries purchasing many times the number of doses of the vaccine necessary to vaccinate their populations. Anna Marriott, health policy manager for Oxfam, explains:

“No one should be blocked from getting a lifesaving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket. But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come.”

Read MNT’s coverage of the report here.

12/21/2020 09:05 GMT — US authorizes Moderna vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have given the Moderna vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA), making it the second vaccine with EUA in the United States. Already, the U.S. has agreed to purchase 200 million doses. Officials expect that healthcare professionals will give the first shots this morning.

On Friday, the FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said that the move is “another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day.”

As with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna offering is also an mRNA vaccine. However, the Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage during transportation, which will make it easier to supply to more remote and rural areas.

Read more here.

12/18/2020 11:05 GMT — How do mRNA vaccines work?

Both the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine candidate utilize mRNA technology. In a recent article, Medical News Today took a deep dive into the science behind mRNA vaccines. We explain how they differ from other types of vaccines and discuss their stability and safety.

Read the feature here.

12/18/2020 10:20 GMT — Johnson & Johnson announce phase 3 clinical trial

Johnson & Johnson recently announced a multicountry phase 3 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company have already enrolled around 45,000 participants and, if the vaccine proves safe and effective, they will look for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2021.

Data from the trial, called ENSEMBLE, could be available by the end of January 2021.

In contrast to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson offering only requires one dose. However, in parallel to ENSEMBLE, the company are running a phase 3 clinical trial called ENSEMBLE 2, which is investigating a two-dose regimen of Janssen.

Read more here.

12/18/2020 09:14 GMT — Moderna vaccine nears approval

Yesterday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisors endorsed the emergency use of Moderna’s vaccine. Although one expert abstained, the remaining 20 experts voted that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweighed the risks in people over 18. The FDA are expected to grant emergency use authorization today.

Because the Moderna vaccine does not need storing in ultra-cold freezers, it will be easier to ship to remote and rural areas. As with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is based on mRNA technology and requires two shots around 4 weeks apart.

The expert who abstained was Dr. Michael Kurilla from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He explained his reasoning: “I’m not convinced that for all of those age groups, the benefits do actually outweigh the risk. And I would prefer to see it more targeted towards people at high risk of serious and life threatening COVID disease.”

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, advised that 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine were already ready to be shipped across the United States.

Read more here.

12/17/2020 09:33 GMT — Guidance on mandatory vaccines for employees in the US

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidance for companies that are considering making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. They explain that employers must be prepared to exempt employees with disabilities and religious objections.

The EEOC also state that companies choosing not to administer the vaccine in the workplace can require employees to provide proof that they have been vaccinated without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, the law only allows employers to ask workers why they have refused the vaccine if the information is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Also, if an employee refuses vaccination due to religious or medical reasons, the employee cannot be excluded from the workplace unless the employer cannot find a way to reasonably accommodate the individual.

Read more here

12/17/2020 09:16 GMT — Pfizer vaccine temperature concerns

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored at -94°F (-70°C). Yesterday, a number of batches in California dipped to lower than -112°F (-80°C). Pfizer are replacing the doses, and officials are investigating whether or not these lower temperatures would impact the vaccine.

Find more information here.

12/16/2020 09:16 GMT — Vaccine developed by British American Tobacco (BAT) approved for human trials in US

Yesterday, the U.S. health regulator approved a vaccine developed by BAT for human trials. The vaccine, developed by BAT’s biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing, derives from tobacco leaves. Enrollment for the study is likely to begin shortly. BAT expect clinical trials to start in late June 2021. 

According to a BAT news release from April, “The vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology, which has several advantages over conventional vaccine production technology.“

According to the news release, using tobacco plants “is potentially safer given that tobacco plants can’t host pathogens, which cause human disease.” They also explain that their technology “has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.“

Read more here.

12/16/2020 09:01 GMT — How have we developed vaccines so quickly?

As countries begin distributing vaccines, Medical News Today spoke with a number of medical experts to learn how scientists created COVID-19 vaccines so swiftly without compromising safety.

With rapid research development, some people may be concerned that the vaccine was rushed, and with these concerns comes vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Sam Sun is the director of inDemic Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides information about COVID-19, and a chief resident at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, TX.

He explained that transparency throughout the vaccine process will be key to debunking misinformation and building the public’s trust.

Read the feature here.

12/15/2020 14:46 GMT — Moderna vaccine draws closer to emergency use authorization

According to Food and Drug Administration’s reviewers, the Moderna vaccine is 95% effective. Importantly, the group did not raise any safety concerns. The FDA released the data in a 54-page document earlier today. The organization will discuss the findings in a vaccine panel meeting on Thursday. 

If the FDA give the vaccine emergency use authorization, the first shipments could be sent before the weekend. 

Like the Pfizer-BioNTech, which received emergency use authorization a few days ago, the Moderna vaccine also requires two shots to achieve full protection from the virus.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s offering does not require ultra-cold storage: it can be kept at temperatures similar to a standard freezer. 

Read more here.

12/15/2020 10:58 GMT — How do COVID-19 vaccines compare with other existing vaccines? 

In a recent feature, Medical News Today compare the COVID-19 frontrunner vaccines to other vaccines, such as the flu shot, and look at their safety considerations. We also explain the difference between effectiveness and efficacy. 

Read the full article here.

12/14/2020 15:42 GMT — Canada starts vaccination rollout today

Over the weekend, 30,000 doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine arrived in Canada. Quebec and Ontario are set to begin vaccinations today. In Quebec, they plan to prioritize care homes, where 80% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred.

Read more here.

12/14/2020 15:24 GMT — First New York healthcare worker receives vaccine

Today, Sandra Lindsay became the first healthcare worker to receive the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in New York. The intensive care unit nurse received the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, one of the epicenters of COVID-19 earlier this year.

Lindsay says: “I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.”

Read more here.

12/14/2020 09:27 GMT — FDA issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The FDA concluded that the “potential benefits [of the vaccine] outweigh the known and potential risks […].” The first shipments of the vaccine left FedEx and UPS facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky yesterday.

In a press release, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn says, “The FDA’s authorization for emergency use of the first COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic that has affected so many families in the United States and around the world.”

He continues: “Today’s action follows an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists to ensure this vaccine met FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization. The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life threatening disease in an expedited time frame after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide.”

Read the FDA’s full news release here.

12/11/2020 09:03 GMT — Spotlight on 3 vaccine front-runners

In a Special Feature, Medical News Today provide an overview of the latest advancements in vaccine development. We focus on three leading vaccine candidates that have been approved or are nearing approval: the Oxford/AstraZeneca candidate, the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate, and the Moderna candidate.

Read the full feature here and watch our video summary:

12/11/2020 08:57 GMT — FDA experts recommend Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine

This week, a panel of experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the body should give the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency approval. The committee voted 17–4 that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for people aged 16 years and older. 

Although we do not know why four voted against the decision, some of the experts were uncomfortable with including people under the age of 18 years.

The vaccine has already received approval in the United Kingdom, Canada, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

The FDA’s vaccine chief will decide whether or not to formally approve the vaccine in the next few days. After the meeting, U.S. health secretary Alex Azar said, “We could then have a vaccine within days, and be administering it to the most vulnerable by next week.”

According to Operation Warp Speed, vaccine deliveries will begin within 24 hours of official approval. Pfizer will have 6.4 million doses ready for the U.S. by late December, which is enough to vaccinate 3.2 million people, or almost 1% of the U.S. population.

Healthcare workers are likely to be vaccinated first. People who are not at high risk will likely have to wait until spring to be vaccinated. 

Read more here.

12/10/2020 09:18 GMT — Two allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine reported in UK on first day of roll-out

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom began rolling out the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to the head of Britain’s medicine regulator, two individuals had allergic reactions shortly after receiving it. Both have since recovered.

The two people are National Health Service (NHS) employees with histories of allergic reactions, and they carry epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens). Reactions to vaccines, including to the annual flu vaccine, are uncommon, but they do occur.

According to Prof. Peter Openshaw, an expert in immunology at Imperial College London, “The fact that we know so soon about these two allergic reactions and that the regulator has acted on this to issue precautionary advice shows that this monitoring system is working well.”

In a statement, Pfizer write: “As a precautionary measure, the [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)] has issued temporary guidance to the NHS while it conducts an investigation in order to fully understand each case and its causes. Pfizer and BioNTech are supporting the MHRA in the investigation.”

They continue: “In the pivotal phase 3 clinical trial, this vaccine was generally well-tolerated, with no serious safety concerns reported by the independent data monitoring committee. The trial has enrolled over 44,000 participants to date, over 42,000 of whom have received a second vaccination.”

Prof. Saad Shakir, director of the Drug Safety Research Unit, in the U.K., observes: “The summary of product characteristics [SmPC] for the Pfizer vaccine includes a statement saying that this vaccine should not be given to people with hypersensitivity to active substances. A list of active substances was included in the SmPC, but this was not specific.”

He concludes: “It seems that the advice now has been upgraded so that people should not be vaccinated with this vaccine if they have a history of allergic reactions severe enough to require them to use an EpiPen […] when they get a severe allergic reaction. This is the correct risk minimization action.”

Read more here.

12/09/2020 09:21 GMT — ‘Oxford’ vaccine: Results from phase 3 trial

Yesterday, The Lancet published the results of phase 3 clinical trials investigating AstraZeneca’s so-called Oxford vaccine. The study involved people in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Overall, the results show that the vaccine candidate protects against the symptomatic disease in 70% of cases.

Although 70% efficacy is lower than efficacy of some of the other vaccine candidates, the researchers found that when participants received a half dose followed by a whole dose, the vaccine was 90% effective. However, the researchers only gave this regimen to a relatively small group — 1,367 participants — and no one in this group was over 55.

When participants received two full doses, the vaccine was 62% effective.

The Oxford vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus viral vector that contains the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The viral vector enters human cells, where it begins to express the spike protein.

The cell then mounts an immune response against the spike protein, priming it to respond to SARS-CoV-2 in the future.

The phase 3 results also show that the Oxford vaccine has an acceptable safety profile. Severe adverse events occurred in 168 participants. Of these, three events were possibly due to vaccination. One occurred in the experimental group, one in the control group. The third participant is in a group that has not been unblinded. All three have recovered or are recovering.

One of the study authors, Dr. Merryn Voysey from the Oxford University, U.K., says, “The results presented in this report provide the key findings from our first interim analysis. In future analyses, with more data included as it becomes available, we will investigate differences in key subgroups, such as older adults, various ethnicities, doses, timing of booster vaccines, and we will determine which immune responses equate to protection from infection or disease.”

Dr. Voysey continues: “In order to assess vaccine efficacy, we need to have a sufficient number of COVID-19 cases among participants to indicate that the vaccine is protecting them from disease. Since recruitment of older adults started later than in younger adults, there has been less follow-up time for these cohorts and less time to accrue COVID-19 cases. This means we have to wait longer to have sufficient data to provide good vaccine efficacy estimates in smaller subgroups.”

Read the full paper here.

12/09/2020 09:07 GMT — Pfizer vaccine closer to authorization in US

Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate was 95% effective against COVID-19. They are currently working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to secure approval for emergency use. Yesterday, the FDA released documents declaring no issues with safety or efficacy.

The documents were released in advance of a meeting on Thursday, at which the FDA will speak with outside experts to discuss whether to give the vaccine to people over 16.

Although the FDA tend to follow the advice of their advisory panels, they are not obliged to. It is not clear how long the FDA will take to make their decision, but states are beginning preparations for vaccine deliveries in mid-December. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently being rolled out across the United Kingdom.

Read more here.

12/08/2020 09:46 GMT — UK begins mass vaccinations

Today, the United Kingdom became the first Western nation to begin mass vaccinations. Health Secretary Matt Hancock dubbed the day “V-day.” In Coventry, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials.

According to Simon Stevens, the head of the National Health Service (NHS), “The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic.”

The vaccine, which was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, must be kept at -94°F (-70°C) and can only last 5 days in a domestic fridge. This may prove to be a challenging logistical issue, even in a relatively small country. This problem of maintaining the temperature would be compounded in larger countries and those with warmer climates. 

A vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is easier to store. The U.K.’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, hopes it will meet regulatory approval within the next 2 weeks.

The U.K. has ordered enough of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine for 20 million people. Around 800,000 doses will be available within the first 7 days, and Hancock expects millions to be vaccinated by the end of the year. In all, the U.K. has purchased 357 million doses of seven different vaccine candidates.

Read more here.

12/07/2020 09:51 GMT — ‘Clear, balanced information’ important for vaccine uptake

In a recent editorial, David Phizackerley, the deputy editor of the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, argues that clear and balanced information on the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is important for ensuring their broad uptake.

In the editorial, Phizackerley explains that “balanced information on vaccination risks and benefits by healthcare professionals has been shown to have an impact on uptake.”

He believes that information should be tailored to both different age groups and people with different vulnerabilities to the disease.

He concludes, “Such information will be essential to support national vaccination programs and to help counter rumors, fake news, unsubstantiated scare stories, and overinflated claims of success.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the editorial here.

12/07/2020 09:46 GMT — Adapted yellow fever vaccine may protect against COVID-19

A new study finds that a genetically altered yellow fever vaccine is highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals. If it passes clinical trials, the vaccine might have some advantages over other SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. For instance, it provided protection after just one shot.

The results of the study appear in the journal Nature and as a preprint. The scientists tested the modified yellow fever vaccine in hamsters and monkeys. Prof. Johan Neyts, one of the study leads, believes that the vaccine may provide long-term protection. He says:

“It could, therefore, be an ideal candidate for repeat vaccinations when immunity decreases in people who have received one of the first-generation vaccines.”

Only clinical trials can reveal whether the vaccine is safe and effective in humans. However, the researchers are optimistic that it will provide rapid, strong immunity after a single dose.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

12/04/2020 10:15 GMT — Three former presidents willing to take the vaccine publicly

In an attempt to increase public confidence, three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — have all stated that they would be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine publicly once it receives approval.

During a recent interview, Obama said: “I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it. […] I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science.”

In a statement on Thursday, Clinton’s spokesperson Angel Ureña explained that the former president would take the vaccine “in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”

Talking with CNN, Bush’s chief of staff Freddy Ford said that Bush “wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated.” He explained that once the vaccines are ready and priority populations have received the vaccination, “Bush will get in line for his and will gladly do so on camera.”

Read more here.

12/04/2020 09:40 GMT — Dr. Fauci apologizes for claiming UK rushed decision

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, sparked controversy when he claimed that the United Kingdom had not acted as carefully as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it licensed its first COVID-19 vaccine. Yesterday, he apologized and said he has “great faith” in the U.K. regulators.

Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), explained that he had not phrased his thoughts correctly earlier in the week and that the way in which U.K. regulators work is different from, but not better than, the FDA’s.

Talking with the BBC, he said: “Our process is one that takes more time than it takes in the U.K. And that’s just the reality. I did not mean to imply any sloppiness, even though it came out that way.”

Read more here.

12/03/2020 09:31 GMT — Russia plans large-scale COVID-19 vaccination plan

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale vaccination program to begin next week. Doctors and teachers will be first in line for the vaccine. Experts are concerned as the Sputnik V vaccine is yet to complete advanced clinical trials for safety.

According to Putin, 2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine “has been produced or will have been produced in the next few days.” He continued:

“This gives us the opportunity to start if not mass, but large-scale vaccination, and of course, as we agreed, first of all of the two risk groups — doctors and teachers,” He called on Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova to “organize the work in such a way so that large-scale vaccination starts by the end of next week.”

Golikova explained that the vaccine will be free of charge and voluntary. 

Although clinical trials are still ongoing, certain at-risk groups and government officials have already received the vaccine. On Wednesday, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko claimed that more than 100,000 people in Russia had already received the vaccine.

Read more about the Russian vaccine here.

12/03/2020 09:16 GMT — AstraZeneca’s US vaccine trial results due early 2021

On Wednesday, the chief adviser for the United States government’s Operation Warp Speed program announced that results from AstraZeneca’s U.S. vaccine trials should be available in January. If the results are encouraging, they will likely file for an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

United Kingdom researchers helped develop AstraZeneca’s so-called Oxford vaccine. Recent results from trials in the U.K. and Brazil raised questions. 

Overall, the vaccine was around 70% effective. However, due to an error, scientists gave a group of participants a half dose followed by a full dose, rather than two full doses. In this relatively small group of participants, the vaccine was 90% effective.

Because of the discrepancies, Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Moncef Slaoui believes that the data from the U.K. and Brazil research is not strong enough to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA.

He said, “Unless there is a very clear explanation based on facts and data of what’s behind those two numbers, it’s very likely that package would not be sufficient for [FDA] approval.”

However, Slaoui expects that, by the end of January, “data will become available and potentially an emergency use authorization could be filed.”

Read more here.

12/02/2020 08:57 GMT — UK licenses vaccine against COVID-19 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the United Kingdom have authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The U.K. has already purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine, and the first 10 million doses should arrive this month.

Chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, says, “Today’s emergency use authorization in the U.K. marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.”

Pfizer and BioNTech combined believe that they can produce and supply 50 million vaccine doses throughout 2020 and up to 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.

Although the vaccine needs to be kept at -94°F (-70°C), the pharmaceutical companies explain that it can be stored in a standard fridge at 35–46°F (2–8°C) for 5 days.

The first doses are likely to be given to residents and healthcare workers in U.K. care homes. Next, the vaccine will be provided to people over 80 and National Health Service (NHS) staff

Find more details here.

12/02/2020 08:49 GMT — The FDA move toward vaccine approval

On Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it was possible that the FDA would approve Pfizer’s experimental vaccine before the end of the year. However, in the ABC News interview, he explained that “it’s hard to predict. […] We need everything to fall into place.”

Next week, Donald Trump, who is keen to leave his mark on the vaccine process, will be meeting with industry and government leaders to discuss the vaccine. In a statement, White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern said: 

“President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed continues rapidly advancing toward a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine five times faster than any other vaccine in history.”

Read more about the vaccine push in the United States here.

11/30/2020 14:57 GMT — Moderna apply for approval for mRNA vaccine candidate in the US and Europe

Today, Moderna announced the completion of their phase 3 clinical trial primary efficacy analysis. The vaccine candidate is 94.1% effective against COVID-19 and 100% effective against severe COVID-19. The company will apply today for emergency use approval in the United States. 

In addition, it will also apply to the European Medicines Agency for conditional marketing authorization.

In a press release, Moderna highlighted that 196 people enrolled in their 30,000-participant trial have now had COVID-19. Of them, 11 were in the group that had received the vaccine. 

There were 30 cases of severe COVID-19, all in the placebo group. One person in this group died. 

The 196 cases of COVID-19 in the study occurred among diverse participants, including older adults and those from minority ethnic groups.

The company stressed that they will submit the results of the study to a peer reviewed journal. 

Read more updates about the novel coronavirus here.

11/26/2020 10:26 GMT — Scientists in the Netherlands plan ‘human challenge’ vaccine study

Scientists from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands are hoping to deliberately transmit SARS-CoV-2 to participants to test vaccine efficacy. Already, 240 people have stepped forward to participate in the “human challenge” trial.

The trial has the support of 1Day Sooner, a nonprofit organization advocating for COVID-19 human challenge trial volunteers. In a press release, they write, “These studies may be essential to developing enough proven vaccines to vaccinate the whole world in 2021, not just the wealthy.”

As Meta Roestenberg, a researcher at LUMC who will be involved in the trial, explains: “Such a study can be important in answering questions we still have about COVID-19: How long will you stay protected after an infection? How do we compare vaccines? How many antibodies are you producing? How much virus load causes an infection in which cases? You can answer such questions with this research.”

Find more live COVID-19 updates here.

11/23/2020 09:52 GMT — AstraZeneca’s ‘Oxford’ vaccine 70% effective

According to a recent press release, the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University prevents just over 70% of people from developing COVID-19. Although this is lower than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, using a different dosing regimen may increase the protection to 90%.

The recent announcement is based on data from 24,000 participants in three countries. Importantly, the Oxford vaccine is more cost effective to produce and easier to store and transport than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The so-called Oxford vaccine trial tested two dosing regimens:

  • two full doses, which provided 62% protection
  • one half dose followed by one full dose, which provided 90% protection

Prof. Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, explains:

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective, and if this dosing [regimen] is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.”

Dr. Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, U.K., says:

“This is yet more excellent news and should be considered tremendously exciting. The Oxford vaccine, as for the others we’ve heard about recently, is capable of generating 90% protection against COVID-19. Given the favorable stability seen for this vaccine, it has great potential to be delivered across the globe, achieving huge public health benefits.”

Dr. Griffin was not involved with the study.

Read more here.

11/19/2020 10:31 GMT — Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 candidate vaccine is 95% effective

In a recent press release, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the results from their phase 3 clinical trial. According to the results, the experimental vaccine is 95% effective. These results build on preliminary results that were announced last week.

According to the new press release, “[e]fficacy was consistent across age, gender, race, and ethnicity demographics” and in people over 65. 

The study included 43,000 participants and the scientists identified no significant safety concerns. The researchers have dubbed their mRNA vaccine candidate BNT162.

According to the press release, “[t]he companies expect to produce, globally, up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.”

Read more here

11/18/2020 09:18 GMT — Hopeful preliminary results from Chinese vaccine trials

Yesterday, The Lancet Infectious Diseases published the results of a Phase 1/2 clinical trial on a vaccine candidate designed in China. The study included more than 700 participantsaged 18–59. The vaccine, which is called CoronaVac, appears to be safe and elicit an immune response.

The researchers gave the participants two doses of the vaccine 2 weeks apart. Within 4 weeks of the initial dose, they detected a robust antibody response.

It is worth noting that this study was not designed to test how effective the vaccine is. Instead, it assessed the immune response and the vaccine’s safety. Ongoing phase 3 trials are studying CoronaVac’s efficacy.

The results leave some questions unanswered; for instance, the recent study did not assess T-cell activity. The authors are addressing this question in the phase 3 trials.

Similarly, scientists will need to carry out further research to understand whether the vaccine is effective over months and years. Additionally, the recent study only recruited healthy adults without existing health conditions.

One of the authors, Dr. Gang Zeng from Sinovac Biotech explains, “CoronaVac is one of many COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are being explored in parallel. There are a multitude of different vaccine technologies under investigation, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.”

He continues: “CoronaVac could be an attractive option because it can be stored in a standard refrigerator between 2°C and 8°C [35.6°F–46.4°F], which is typical for many existing vaccines, including [that for the] flu. The vaccine may also remain stable for up to 3 years in storage, which would offer some advantages for distribution to regions where access to refrigeration is challenging. However, data from phase 3 studies will be crucial before any recommendations about the potential uses of CoronaVac can be made.”

Read the full study here.

11/16/2020 13:15 GMT — Moderna’s experimental vaccine almost 95% effective

Today, Moderna released the latest findings from their COVE study. The research focuses on an experimental vaccine known as mRNA-1273. According to their press release, the “[p]hase 3 study met statistical criteria with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%.” The U.S. study included more than 30,000 participants.

Explaining the results, the press release states: 

“This first interim analysis was based on 95 cases, of which 90 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 5 cases observed in the mRNA-1273 group, resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 94.5% […]. A secondary endpoint analyzed severe cases of COVID-19 and included 11 severe cases (as defined in the study protocol) in this first interim analysis. All 11 cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the mRNA-1273 vaccinated group.”

The company plan to submit the new findings to a peer-reviewed journal for further scrutiny.

Speaking about the recent results, Prof. Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, says, “This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months.”

However, he remains cautious: “We need more complete details than we have in this press release, but this announcement adds to the general feeling of optimism about vaccines for Covid-19. What we still don’t know is how long any protective immunity may last. For that, we will need to wait.”

Prof. Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says:

“This announcement from Moderna is a further encouragement that vaccines will be found to not only have an acceptable efficacy but an efficacy that is much greater than we had anticipated. […] Although they reported efficacy being over 94%, there is statistical uncertainty in this; but based on these data, the likely efficacy will be better than 85%, which would be greater than most scientists would have expected.”

Read more about Moderna’s experimental vaccine here.

11/13/2020 15:00 GMT — Dr. Fauci: Another vaccine ‘literally on the threshold of being announced’

In a live webinar hosted by the British think tank Chatham House, Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that, in addition to the Pfizer vaccine, another one is “literally on the threshold of being announced.”

The news comes soon after Pfizer/BioNTech reported their vaccine candidate has 90% effectiveness. The additional vaccine that Dr. Fauci refers to is under development by Moderna therapeutics and is almost identical to the Pfizer one.

“The cavalry is coming, but don’t put your weapons down,” Dr. Fauci said, urging people to continue to follow and “double down” on the public health measures against COVID-19.

Watch the recording of the webinar in full here.

11/12/2020 09:30 GMT — More vaccine updates

Russia has announced that the first phase 3 trial interim analysis of their Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine showed 92% efficiency. However, many questions remain. Meanwhile, Moderna announced that they would be submitting the first set of their phase 3 trial vaccine data for analysis soon.

This week saw announcements from three of the companies who are currently running phase 3 trials of their vaccine candidates. 

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their experimental mRNA vaccine was 90% effective. This was based on an interim analysis of 94 cases of COVID-19.

Yesterday, the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology announced that their interim analysis, based on 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, showed a 92% efficiency. 

However, neither Pfizer nor the Russian team have shared their data, which leaves many questions unanswered.

Moderna have followed suit with a press release explaining that they had seen an increase of COVID-19 cases across all of their phase 3 trial study sites in the last week. The company have now collected enough data to prepare this for the first interim analysis.

Read more detail on the different types of vaccine candidates in development here.

11/10/2020 09:21 GMT — COVID-19 vaccines: What PAHO experts want you to know

With 47 COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently in testing, it is no wonder that myths and rumors are circulating. Recently, experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) addressed some of these confusions in a webinar.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the webinar here.

11/09/2020 13:06 GMT — Pfizer and BioNTech announce preliminary vaccine results

Today, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears to be effective and safe, according to preliminary data. They explain that the vaccine was “more than 90% effective” in preventing the disease in people who received two doses of the vaccine 3 weeks apart. 

They showed that protection against COVID-19 begins 1 week after the second dose is administered.

It is important to reiterate that these are preliminary findings. However, so far, they include data from 43,538 people in six countries. The press release also explains that “no serious safety concerns have been observed.”

To date, the analysis includes data from 94 people with COVID-19. The study will continue until there are 164 confirmed cases.

Once the required safety milestone is reached, toward the end of November, the companies plan to submit the vaccine for Emergency Use Authorization to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science, and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

Read more here.

11/02/2020 10:28 GMT — Surgeon General predicts vaccine by the end of 2020

During a recent lecture, Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, said he has “a high degree of confidence” that a vaccine will be successful because it is “the most scrutinized vaccine of all time.” He believes it will be ready by the end of 2020.

During the lecture — part of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine’s Grand Rounds series — he promoted the “three Ws” — wearing masks, washing hands, and watching your distance from other people.

“We know what works to keep people safe,” he said. “When you look at New York, they were the worst in the world for COVID-19, and they were able to drive their transmission rates down to less than 1%. They didn’t have a vaccine; they did it with the three Ws.”

Read more here.

10/30/2020 09:09 GMT — Vaccine may be ready by January 2021

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a vaccine may be available by early next year. First, it would be provided to high risk individuals. Based on projections from Moderna and Pfizer, Dr. Fauci expects that we will know “sometime in December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine.” 

In July, both Moderna and Pfizer began late stage trials involving tens of thousands of participants. However, Dr. Fauci also reminds us that even once a vaccine is ready, a return to “normal” will not be possible “until the end of 2021, at least.”

Read more here.

10/26/2020 10:27 GMT — AstraZeneca’s ‘Oxford vaccine’ moves forward

An experimental vaccine, developed by scientists at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and AstraZeneca, recently passed another milestone. In July, the team announced that the experimental drug produced “robust immune responses” in adults. Today, they report that the experimental vaccine responds similarly in older adults and young people.

The scientists are yet to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, but Prof. John Ball from the University of Nottingham, U.K., who was not involved in the study, is hopeful. He told the Financial Times:

“If what they’ve got is data that show the vaccine generates good immunity, as measured in the lab, in the age group over 55, and that also includes good responses in people who are even older than that, I think that’s a promising sign.”

However, he remains realistic, explaining that, “ultimately, it’s whether the vaccine protects against serious disease that’s crucial and we will only know that from phase 3 trials.”

Read more here.

10/23/2020 09:13 GMT — What will COVID-19 vaccine trials tell us? Less than some may think

What will COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials tell us? Not whether they will prevent deaths or serious illness, according to a new article in the BMJ. The feature highlights precisely what these trials do and do not set out to answer.

Read MNT’s full write up here.

10/21/2020 08:58 GMT — UK scientists plan to infect participants with SARS-CoV-2

Scientists in the United Kingdom are planning to infect young and healthy volunteers with SARS-CoV-2. The U.K. government will spend $43.5 million on these human challenge trials. If regulators and the ethics committee approve, they will begin early in 2021.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital plan to manufacture the virus, while Imperial College London will run the research. The trials will also involve hVIVO, a company that provides “viral challenge studies and laboratory services;” and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Involving up to 90 participants, the scientists plan to work out the minimum amount of virus sufficient to induce COVID-19.

According to Imperial College scientist Chris Chiu, this work will improve our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and accelerate the search for better treatments and vaccines.

Speaking about the ethical considerations, a spokesperson from the World Health Organization (WHO) said:

“What is critical is that if people are considering this, an ethics committee must oversee this and the volunteers must have full consent. And they must select the volunteers to minimize their risk.”

Read more about COVID-19 research here.

10/16/2020 09:25 GMT — Russia approves a second vaccine

Last month, Russia announced the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine known as Sputnik V. This week, President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of another vaccine, which is called EpiVacCorona. As with the first, scientists have not yet put the experimental vaccine through phase 3 trials.

The vaccine was developed by scientists at the State Virology and Biotechnology Center, known as Vektor, in Novosibirsk. According to The Moscow Times:

“Early trials on 100 volunteers were said to have been successful.”

In a televised news conference, Putin explained that researchers had given the vaccine to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova and the head of Russia’s consumer safety watchdog, Anna Popova, as part of ongoing trials. During the briefing, they explained that:

“Early trials on 100 volunteers were said to have been successful.”

As with Sputnik V, experts are likely to view the new vaccine with caution. Vaccines must be rigorously investigated before they can be used widely, and it is crucial to test their efficacy and safety in a large group of people.

Sputnik V is a vector vaccine, based on a human adenovirus, while EpiVacCorona is an antigen-based vaccine.

During the briefing, Golikova also announced that a third vaccine would be approved sometime toward the end of 2020x.

Read more here.

10/13/2020 10:35 GMT — Johnson & Johnson pause vaccine trial

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson announced they had paused their experimental vaccine trial “due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.” The participant’s illness is now under review with an independent safety board and the company’s clinical and safety physicians. 

The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is part of the Operation Warp Speed program.

In the press release, Johnson & Johnson explain that serious adverse events are “not uncommon in clinical trials,” especially when a study has recruited large numbers of participants. To date, the company has not released any further information about the participant’s illness.

Find more live updates here.

09/24/2020 09:33 GMT — Most people in the United States could be vaccinated by July next year

Despite promising candidates, there is still no vaccine for COVID-19. However, according to Robert Redfield — the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the “entire American public [could be] completely vaccinated” by July. He estimates that 700 million doses will be available by April.

Read more here.

9/15/2020 09:58 GMT — Chinese vaccine ready by November?

According to officials in China, a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready by the end of November. Scientists are currently testing four candidate vaccines in late-stage clinical trials, and three of these have already been offered to frontline staff.

According to Guizhen Wu, the chief biosafety expert at China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), phase 3 clinical trials are going well.

Read more here.

09/10/2020 09:18 GMT — Promising results for Russian vaccine

A new paper in The Lancet outlines the findings of two early phase clinical trials of the Russian vaccine known as Sputnik V. According to the authors, the vaccine “has a good safety profile and induced strong humoral and cellular immune responses in participants.”

It is worth noting, though, that the trials were designed to assess the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine, not whether it can prevent COVID-19. Senior author Prof. Alexander Gintsburg explains the next steps:

“The phase 3 clinical trial of our vaccine was approved on 26 August, 2020. It is planned to include 40,000 volunteers from different age and risk groups and will be undertaken with constant monitoring of volunteers through an online application.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the vaccine trial here.

09/14/2020 10:53 GMT — AstraZeneca resume vaccine trial

Last week, AstraZeneca paused a trial investigating an experimental vaccine. The move came following an illness in one participant. Following a review, the scientists are resuming the trial. The World Health Organization (WHO) have described this vaccine as a leading candidate.

In a recent statement, AstraZeneca state, “The independent review process has concluded, and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator, the [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency], the trials will recommence in the U.K.”

Read more about the clinical trial here.

09/09/2020 08:32 GMT — AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trials halted

According to AstraZeneca Plc., they paused a large-scale clinical trial of an experimental vaccine because one participant developed an unexplained illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) had described this vaccine, developed at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, as a leading candidate.

AstraZeneca has halted trials while an independent committee reviews the safety data. In a statement, the company explain: “This is a routine action, which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of our trials.”

Although AstraZeneca has not disclosed the nature of the participant’s illness, doctors expect the individual to recover. At this point, it is not clear whether the vaccine was directly responsible for the condition.

Read more here.

09/02/2020 09:59 GMT — Third US vaccine reaches final trial stages

Today, AstraZeneca announced that their experimental vaccine had entered the final stage of testing. The upcoming study will involve up to 30,000 people in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. The vaccine was developed at the University of Oxford in the U.K.

Read more here.

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