POST 168. June 10, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. “Our species has a tendency to get distracted. We have a very strong appetite for distraction, and when something is not in the spotlight, when it’s not a crisis anymore, we tend to forget and move on to something else. So the biggest challenge is going to be maintaining focus on this next step of developing vaccines that anticipate pandemics.”

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“U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that a donation of 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the world’s poorest countries would supercharge the battle with the virus and comes with “no strings attached.”…

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE) have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022. read more

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price. Around 100 countries will get the shots.

Pfizer CEO Bourla said the eyes of the world were on the leaders of rich nations to see if they would act to solve the COVID-19 crisis and share with poorer nations.

“This announcement with the U.S. government gets us closer to our goal and significantly enhances our ability to save even more lives across the globe,” he said.

While such a large donation of vaccines was welcomed by many, there were immediately calls for the richest nations of the world to open up more of their giant hoards of vaccines.

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures…”  (A)

“Developing countries have fallen dangerously behind in the global race to end the coronavirus pandemic through vaccinations. The Covax facility aims to get Covid-19 shots to at least 20% of the populations of the world’s poorest nations, but has been struggling with severe supply shortages.

Covax is the world’s main effort to supply Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations. The facility was started last year by the World Health Organization and two groups that have been working on getting vaccines to developing countries—Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—when it became clear that many nations would struggle to access the shots. As rich countries have done, Covax made deals with vaccine manufacturers to buy doses before they had passed clinical trials and been approved by drug regulators. The money to buy the vaccines has been donated mostly by Western governments and charitable groups, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Covax aims to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to at least 20% of the populations of the world’s 92 poorest countries by the end of 2021. Just over 50 other nations, including Canada and upper-middle-income nations such as South Africa and Mexico, have also ordered vaccines through Covax, but have to pay for the doses themselves. (B)

‘Covax was created last year to ensure Covid vaccines were made available around the world, with richer countries subsidising costs for poorer nations.

The scheme hopes to distribute enough vaccines to protect at least 20% of the population in 92 low- or medium-income countries – starting with healthcare workers and the most vulnerable groups.

Its initial goal was to provide two billion doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses to 92 poorer countries by early 2022.

Covax is run by a number of international organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN children’s charity, Unicef.

Stages of coronavirus vaccine distribution: Stage 1: 3% of population – health and social care workers. Stage 2: 20% of population – over 65s and high risk. Stage 3: 20%+ – further priority groups

Ghana was the first country to receive Covax vaccines in February.

Since then, more than 81 million doses have been delivered to more than 120 countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia and Fiji.

Most doses are going to poorer countries, but some are being sent to wealthier countries such as Canada, which defended its request…

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus previously criticised wealthier nations for “gobbling up” the global vaccine supply.

G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13% of the global population.

What vaccines does Covax use?

Six vaccines have been given “emergency use authorisation” by the WHO, meaning they can be shared via Covax: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Janssen, Moderna, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

However, only Pfizer and AstraZeneca doses have been delivered so far.

Moderna has agreed to supply 500 million doses at its “lowest-tiered price”, but most won’t be available until 2022….

Covax has been criticised for being slow. Some initial targets were missed, partly as a result of the poor health infrastructure in many of the recipient countries, and partly because of vaccine hesitancy…

Deliveries have also been delayed because of the deteriorating situation in India. Officials there restricted exports to protect their own population amid soaring infection rates.

The Serum Institute factory in India was a major supplier of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Covax, and the scheme faces a shortfall as a result…

But even if Covax meets its goal to vaccinate 20% of the population in its 92 target countries, that’s well short of the level of immunity that experts say is needed to end the pandemic.

The WHO has suggested that figure is at least 70%. People may also need booster doses to remain protected.” (C)

“A coronavirus variant, first identified in India, is causing a spike in cases in some parts of the UK and experts are worried.

Experts say this variant, named Delta by the World Health Organization, is more transmissible than even the “Kent” or Alpha variant and is now dominant in the UK.

It could delay the final stage of easing of England’s Covid restrictions on 21 June, although hospitalisations remain flat.

There are a few “India” variants, but one called B.1.617.2 appears to be spreading more quickly in the UK.

Surge testing is being deployed in some areas, including Bolton and Blackburn, to identify infections – but it may not be stopping the spread.

Second jabs for all over-50s (and the clinically vulnerable) in England are now being brought forward to protect more people, faster. Second doses will come eight weeks after the first, rather than 11-12 weeks.

Latest research suggests the Pfizer and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines are highly effective against the variant after two doses, but protection from one dose appears to be reduced.

There are thousands of different variants of Covid circulating across the world.

Viruses mutate all the time and most changes are inconsequential. Some even harm the virus. But others can make the disease more infectious or threatening – and these mutations tend to dominate.

Those with the most potentially concerning changes are called “variants of concern” and kept under the closest watch by health officials, and include:

The UK, Kent or Alpha variant (also known as B.1.1.7) is prevalent in Britain – with more than 200,000 cases identified – and has spread to more than 50 countries and appears to be mutating again

The South Africa or Beta variant (B.1.351) has been identified in at least 20 other countries, including the UK

The Brazil or Gamma variant (P.1) has spread to more than 10 other countries, including the UK

There is no evidence that any of them cause much more serious illness for the vast majority of people.

As with the original version, the risk remains highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions.

But a virus being more infectious and equally dangerous will in itself lead to more deaths in an unvaccinated population….

Experts are confident existing vaccines can be redesigned to better tackle emerging mutations.

The UK government has a deal with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants, and has pre-ordered 50 million doses.

Depending on how variants continue to develop, these could potentially be used to offer a booster vaccine to older or clinically vulnerable people later in the year.” (D)

“The Delta coronavirus variant of concern, first identified in India, is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant which was previously dominant in Britain, a prominent UK epidemiologist said on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that England’s full reopening from COVID-19 lockdown, pencilled in for June 21, could be pushed back due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. read more

Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told reporters that estimates of Delta’s transmission edge over Alpha had narrowed, and “we think 60% is probably the best estimate”.

Ferguson said that modelling suggested any third wave of infections could rival Britain’s second wave in the winter – which was fuelled by the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, south east England.

But it was unclear how any spike in hospitalisations would translate into a rise in deaths, as more detail was needed on how well the vaccine protects against serious illness from Delta.

“It’s well within possibility that we could see another third wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations,” he said.

“I think deaths probably would be lower, the vaccines are having a highly protective effect… still it could be quite worrying. But there is a lot of uncertainty.”

Britain has seen over 127,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, but has given more than three-quarters of adults a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Public Health England has shown that the Delta variant reduces the effectiveness of Pfizer (PFE.N) and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shots among those who have only received one shot, though protection is higher for those who have received both doses.

Ferguson said that up to a quarter of the Delta variant’s transmissibility edge over Alpha might come from its immune escape from vaccines, saying it was “a contribution but not an overwhelming contribution” to its advantage.” (E)

“Geneva: A top World Health Organisation official estimated Monday that COVID-19 vaccination coverage of at least 80% is needed to significantly lower the risk that imported coronavirus cases like those linked to new variants could spawn a cluster or a wider outbreak.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told a news conference that ultimately, high levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic.

Many rich countries have been moving to vaccinate teenagers and children who have lower risk of more dangerous cases of COVID-19 than the elderly or people with comorbidities even as those same countries face pressure to share vaccines with poorer ones that lack them.

Britain, which has vastly reduced case counts thanks to an aggressive vaccination campaign, has seen a recent uptick in cases attributed largely to the so-called delta variant that originally appeared in India a former British colony.

Ryan acknowledged that data wasn’t fully clear about what percentage of vaccination coverage was necessary to fully have an impact on transmission.

But … it’s certainly north of 80% coverage to be in a position where you could be significantly affecting the risk of an imported case potentially generating secondary cases or causing a cluster or an outbreak, he said.

So it does require quite high levels of vaccination, particularly in the context of more transmissible variants, to be on the safe side, Ryan added.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, noted the delta variant is spreading in more than 60 countries, and is more transmissible than the alpha variant, which first emerged in Britain.

She cited worrying trends of increased transmissibility, increased social mixing, relaxing of public health and social measures, and uneven and inequitable vaccine distribution around the world.”  (F)

“COVID-19 variants are still threatening to spread in the U.S., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday, saying the possible threat of variants is a reason more Americans need to get vaccinated.

Case rates have continued to decline in the U.S. as more Americans get vaccinated, overall cases have declined 94% since January and the number of new cases is at the lowest amount since March 2020.

But Fauci said that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of variants like the one that devastated India and spread to the U.K., causing more serious illness and increased risk of hospitalizations in the U.S.

Fauci said 6% of cases in the U.S. where the virus has been sequenced were a variant known as Delta which was first detected in India. The majority of cases in the U.K. are now that same variant which is primarily spreading in adolescents and young adults, which Fauci said is a reason it’s even more important for Americans to get vaccinated.

“We cannot let that happen in the United States, which is such a powerful argument to underscore what Dr. (Rochelle) Walensky said, to get vaccinated, particularly if you’ve had your first dose, make sure you get that second dose,” he said. “And for those who have been not vaccinated yet, please get vaccinated. This is the national month of action.”

Fauci said two doses of vaccine have been shown to be effective against the variant but people who aren’t vaccinated or who have only received one dose are still more at risk.”  (G)

“The White House is concerned about southern states like Louisiana where COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower than desired as the “Delta” variant is on the move. And CDC data shows how the variant’s presence is increasing in the U.S.

FOX 8 spoke one-on-one with Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Advisor for Equity on the White House COVID-19 Task Force.

“We’re concerned about the vaccination rate anywhere where we’re relatively lower and you look at a state you get one picture but if you look at even some of the parishes within Louisiana, you’ll see that there are some places with far lower rates of vaccination than others and those are the places where the virus is most likely to spread,” said Webb.

The “Delta” variant was first identified in India and the mutation has proved to be very deadly there.

“It spreads more quickly, and it could also cause more severe disease and so that’s yet another reason why we feel the vaccine is so important. The vaccines are really effective if you get both doses against the Delta variant,” says Webb.

But public health officials say far too many people are not vaccinated against the coronavirus which continues to mutate.

“The places that are protected are the places that have higher vaccination rates. The places with the lower vaccination rates are not protected and so that’s why we’re going to keep pushing,” said Webb.

According to CDC data, less than 50 percent of the populations for Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While the CDC says it no longer asks states to report cases of specific variants, it says through its own “Nowcast” data for the two-week period ending June 5. 2021, the national proportion of cases attributed to the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant are predicted to be 6.1 percent, and in HHS Region 4, which includes nine southern states the proportion of cases attributed to the B.1.617.2 variant is predicted to be 3.1 percent…

“In the past 20 years alone, three coronaviruses have caused major disease outbreaks. First came the original SARS virus in 2002. Then, in 2012, MERS was identified. In 2019 SARS-CoV-2 emerged, setting off a global pandemic.

Hundreds of other coronaviruses are known to be circulating in bats and other animals. Scientists have warned that some of them could emerge in the future and potentially infect people. Our current COVID-19 vaccines were specifically designed for SARS-CoV-2, but what if a next-generation vaccine could protect against both known and unknown coronaviruses?

Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., are working on a so-called universal coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad is leading the effort.” (H)

Modjarrad: The deadly coronaviruses—like SARS-1, MERS and now SARS-2—have all come from animal populations, and there’s a strong expectation that this pattern is not going to end anytime soon. So we have to have a platform positioned to anticipate the emergence of new coronaviruses.

Mullin: But Modjarrad says it’s going to take sustained interest and investment from the government and pharmaceutical companies to get a vaccine like this ready in time for the next pandemic.

Modjarrad: Our species has a tendency to get distracted. We have a very strong appetite for distraction, and when something is not in the spotlight, when it’s not a crisis anymore, we tend to forget and move on to something else. So the biggest challenge is going to be maintaining focus on this next step of developing vaccines that anticipate pandemics.” (I)


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