New Vaccine Breakthrough Lifts Global Hope Against Pandemic

This creative image taken in a studio in Paris on November 16, 2020, showing a syringe and a vaccine vial with the reproduced logo of a US biotech firm Moderna, illustrates the announcement of an experimental vaccine against COVID-19 from Moderna that would be nearly 95% effective, marking a second major step forward in the quest to end the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

 

Global hopes of vanquishing the coronavirus pandemic were boosted Monday after a vaccine was found to be nearly 95 percent effective in a trial, bringing much-needed optimism amid surging infections and grueling new restrictions.

The news from the US biotech firm Moderna comes after similar results were announced last week for a vaccine candidate developed by pharma giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Major stock markets surged Monday in response, building on a boom sparked by the Pfizer news one week ago.

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci hailed the results, telling AFP that the data exceeded expectations.

“The idea that we have a 94.5 percent effective vaccine is stunningly impressive,” he said.

Moderna, whose results stem from a clinical trial of more than 30,000 participants, expects to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the United States by year-end.

Yet with the widespread availability of any vaccine still far off, governments around the world are clamping down with unpopular but life-saving restrictions on free movement, gatherings, and business.

In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration over Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying “more people may die” of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the surging pandemic.

The US is already the country worst-hit by the virus.

Globally, infections have neared 55 million with more than 1.3 million deaths, and experts caution there are still difficult and dangerous months ahead.

“A vaccine on its own will not end the pandemic,” warned World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Supply will initially be limited to healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations, which could offer major help to hospital systems but will “still leave the virus with a lot of room to move,” he said.

British PM isolating

In hard-hit Europe, curbs have returned — often in the face of protests — from Greece to Britain, where COVID-19 survivor Prime Minister Boris Johnson was self-isolating out of precaution Monday after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for the virus.

Sweden, which has drawn attention for a softer approach to combating the virus, decided Monday to ban gatherings of more than eight people for the first time.

“It’s going to get worse. Do your duty and take responsibility for stopping the spread of the virus,” said Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

And in Germany, which began a new round of shutdowns earlier in the month, Chancellor Angela Merkel was pushing for tighter measures such as masks in all schools and smaller class sizes.

While new cases were plateauing in Germany, daily numbers, officials said, were still too high.

But Merkel said state premiers did not have any appetite to up the ante and introduce tougher curbs to bring down infection numbers.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced over the weekend that the country was tightening restrictions to get spiraling infection numbers under control.

Schools and shops will be shut from Tuesday until December 6.

In neighboring Belgium, the government said it intends to make any coronavirus vaccine available free of charge.

“The objective is to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke stated at a health conference.

US reeling

Infections in the United States, meanwhile, show no sign of relenting after one million new cases in less than a week pushed the total number to 11,190,611, with 247,116 deaths.

The spikes have prompted new curbs in various states, while experts warn families against large gatherings for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

A stay-at-home advisory came into force Monday in the country’s third-biggest city, Chicago; while New York, an earlier outbreak epicenter, was also trying to flatten a second curve.

US markets shrugged off a resurgent Covid’s potential economic impact, focusing instead on the vaccine news, with the Dow Jones and S&P 500 closing Monday at record highs.

Responding to the Moderna vaccine news on Twitter, Biden hailed the breakthrough as hopeful but called for continued “social-distancing and mask-wearing.”

Trump, on other hand, tried to take credit for the advancement.

“Please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!” Trump wrote.

But Fauci, who heads the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warned it would be crucial to convince people to take the vaccine, particularly in the US, where anti-vaccine sentiment runs high.

“A vaccine with a high degree of efficacy is of no use if nobody gets vaccinated,” he said.

Australian cluster

Concerns of a resurgence also remain in parts of the world that have largely brought their caseloads under control.

Canada, in the midst of a second wave, recorded 301,332 infections Monday with 11,000 deaths.

Australia’s Adelaide, which had not seen a significant outbreak in seven months, reported that a new cluster of 17 cases was linked to a hotel used to quarantine travelers returning from overseas.

Authorities snapped back a roster of restrictions and suspended international flights into Adelaide.

In Hong Kong, the government further tightened restrictions from Monday on the number of people in bars and restaurants, to guard against a spike.

 

 

-AFP

FG Links Recent Petrol Price Hike To Pfizer’s COVID-19 Breakthrough

The Federal Government has explained the rationale behind the recent increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol.

Mr Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, said the hike is as a result of the announcement by an American pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, on its recent breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He told State House correspondents on Monday in Abuja that the announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer triggered a slight increase in the price of crude oil in the global market.

“What happened recently was because of the announcement of a vaccine for COVID-19 by Pfizer. With that, crude oil prices went up a little bit,” the minister said after a routine visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa.

He added “If you have been following crude oil prices, you would have seen that crude oil prices went up a little bit as a result of this announcement.

“So, when crude oil prices go up a little bit, then you will see that (it will) instantly reflect on the price of petrol, which is a derivative of crude oil.”

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, briefs State House correspondents in Abuja on November 16, 2020.

 

According to Sylva, the pump price of petrol is directly determined by the price of crude oil in the global market.

He stated that it was not the first time the government would give the same explanation whenever the pump price of petrol changed in the country.

The minister explained that the government took the decision to deregulate the sector in order to ensure its optimum performance.

He said, “When the price of crude oil goes up, then it means that the price of the fixed stock has gone higher; it will also affect the price of the refined product and that is why you see that product prices are usually not static, it depends on the price of crude oil which goes up and down.

“That is why we say, deregulate so that as the price goes up or down, you begin to go up and down as well at the pump. Before now, we fixed it – which was not optimal for us as a country.”

A file photo of an attendant filling the fuel tank of a car.

 

Sylva added that the nation’s earnings were not fixed because they were dependent on crude oil prices and fixing the pump price would be unsustainable at some point.

He stated that this was why the government decided to keep the price floating, to be determined by the price of crude oil in the international market.

Oxfam Says Rich Nations Have Cornered Half Of Future COVID-19 Vaccine Supply

File photo: A Sinovac Biotech LTD vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus is seen on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6, 2020. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)

 

 

A group of wealthy nations representing 13 per cent of the global population have already bought up more than half of the promised doses of future Covid-19 vaccines, according to a report by Oxfam on Wednesday.

The non-governmental organization analyzed deals struck by pharmaceuticals and vaccine producers for the five leading vaccine candidates currently in late-stage trials, based on data collected by the analytics company Airfinity.

“Access to a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you have,” said Robert Silverman of Oxfam America.

“The development and approval of a safe and effective vaccine is crucial but equally important is making sure the vaccines are available and affordable to everyone. Covid-19 anywhere is Covid-19 everywhere.”

The five vaccines analyzed were from AstraZeneca, Gamaleya/Sputnik, Moderna, Pfizer and Sinovac.

 

In this file photo taken on August 13, 2020, a lab technician sorts blood samples for a COVID-19 vaccination study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

 

Oxfam calculated the combined production capacity of these five vaccine candidates at 5.9 billion doses, enough for three billion people given that all five future vaccines will or are highly likely to require two doses.

Supply deals have so far been agreed for 5.3 billion doses, of which 2.7 billion (51 per cent) have been bought by developed countries, territories and regions, including the US, UK, European Union, Australia, Hong Kong and Macau, Japan, Switzerland and Israel.

The remaining 2.6 billion doses have been bought by or promised to develop countries including India, Bangladesh, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, among others.

The non-profit added that one of the leading candidates, developed by Moderna, has received $2.5 billion in committed taxpayers’ money, but has said it intends to make a profit and has sold the options for all its supply to rich nations.

Oxfam and other organizations are therefore calling for a “people’s vaccine” free of charge, distributed fairly based on need.

“This will only be possible if pharmaceutical corporations allow vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by freely sharing their knowledge free of patents, instead of protecting their monopolies and selling to the highest bidder,” Oxfam said.

It added that the estimated cost of providing a vaccine for everyone on Earth was less than one per cent of the projected cost of Covid-19 to the global economy.

AFP

AstraZeneca, Oxford University Resume COVID-19 Vaccine Trial In UK

 

Pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Saturday said they had resumed a Covid-19 vaccine trial after getting the all-clear from British regulators, following a pause caused by a UK volunteer falling ill.

“Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, have resumed in the UK following confirmation by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that it was safe to do so,” the company said in a statement.

AstraZeneca announced on Wednesday it had “voluntarily paused” its trial of the vaccine developed alongside Oxford University after the volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

An independent committee was drafted in to review safety, in what the company and the World Health Organization described as a routine step.

The committee “has concluded its investigations and recommended to the MHRA that trials in the UK are safe to resume”, AstraZeneca said.

Oxford University confirmed the resumption and said: “In large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.”

After the pause, AstraZeneca had said it remained hopeful that the vaccine could still be available “by the end of this year, early next year”.

But pharma companies including AstraZeneca and scientists have expressed concern about political pressure to rush a vaccine out, not least from US President Donald Trump.

Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, has accused Trump of “undermining public confidence” by regularly raising the possibility a vaccine will be ready before the election on November 3.

Charlotte Summers, lecturer in intensive care medicine at Cambridge University, welcomed the resumption of the Oxford trial and said the researchers had shown their commitment “to putting safety at the heart of their development programme.”

“To tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, we need to develop vaccines and therapies that people feel comfortable using, therefore it is vital to maintaining public trust that we stick to the evidence and do not draw conclusions before information is available,” she said.

‘Losing control’

AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is one of nine around the world currently in late-stage Phase 3 human trials.

In the United States, the company began enrolling 30,000 volunteers across dozens of sites on August 31, and the inoculation is being tested on smaller groups in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. Trials are also planned in Japan and Russia.

The AZD1222 vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold-causing adenovirus engineered to code for the spike protein that the Covid-19 coronavirus uses to invade cells.

After vaccination, this protein is produced inside the human body, which primes the immune system to attack the coronavirus if the person is later infected.

“AstraZeneca is committed to the safety of trial participants and the highest standards of conduct in clinical trials,” Saturday’s statement read.

“The company will continue to work with health authorities across the world and be guided as to when other clinical trials can resume to provide the vaccine broadly, equitably and at no profit during this pandemic.”

The disease has killed more than 900,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, according to an AFP count. More than 28.5 million cases have been confirmed, and the United States has the most deaths, with more than 193,000.

In Britain, infection rates are again surging in line with the rising trend seen of late in the rest of Europe, forcing the government to tighten public restrictions from Monday and impose local lockdowns.

“I think one would have to say that we’re on the edge of losing control,” Mark Walport, the British government’s former chief scientific adviser, told BBC radio.

AFP

Russia Presents COVID-19 Vaccine To Nigeria

L-R: The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire receives the aide-memoire from the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin. Photo: [email protected] Ministry of Health.

 

The Nigerian Government has received the samples of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Russia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexey Shebarshin gave the samples of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire during a visit to the Ministry in Abuja on Friday.

The Russian Ambassador also handed over to the Minister an aide memoire which gives details about the vaccine to help the Nigerian Government conduct further research on it.

 

“We are exploring all knowledge in terms of therapeutics and vaccines,” the Ministry quoted Ehanire as saying.

“We are expressing our interest in the COVID-19 vaccine so that we will have the opportunity to work elaborately.”

He explained that the country has been taking part in a series of knowledge exchange and contact with several research bodies and nations in a bid to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ehanire noted that the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Nigeria for the right of access, immediately the Russian COVID-19 vaccine was announced.

The Director of Hospital Services Department in the Ministry, Dr Adepimpe Adebiyi who was also present at the event said it is an opportunity to expand Nigeria’s vaccine production.

“The technical officers will interphase with the #Russian team in order to strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and Russia,” he said.

‘No Serious Adverse Events’

Russia had on August 11th, 2020, announced that it had developed the vaccine which has now shown some signs of success in early trials.

Patients involved in early tests of the vaccine developed antibodies with “no serious adverse events”, according to research published in The Lancet Friday, but experts said the trials were too small to prove safety and effectiveness.

Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.

This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.

Russia denounced criticism as an attempt to undermine Moscow’s research.

 

 

 

 

Nigeria Working With WHO To Track COVID-19 Vaccine Development – Health Minister

File photo: Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire.

 

 

Nigeria is working with the World Health Organisation to finalise enrollment with ACT Accelerator, a global mechanism tracking and sponsoring research organisations working on covid19 vaccine development.

Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire said this on Thursday during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

“We are also interested in the COVAX facility, a GAVI supported global initiative to procure and assure equitable access to vaccines, as soon as they are available, especially for lower and lower middle-Income Countries (LMIC),” the minister said.

 

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP
File photo: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP

 

“This will prioritise Nigeria for allocation of a part of two billion vaccines doses that will be secured, in a special plan to protect the interests of poorer countries.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria crossed the 50,000 mark on Wednesday with the death toll at 985, despite efforts to halt the spread of the pandemic.

 

 

 

Dr Ehanire who noted the data, including the fact 37,304 people have recovered from the virus, warned that the continued emergence of new cases is evidence that “COVID-19 has not abated”.

With the race for a vaccine still on and deaths being reported from across the world amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic, the health minister once again called for concerted efforts from all Nigerians to halt the spread of the disease.

“I shall end my speech today by reminding us all to take responsibility together, not only for today but also for the days ahead, when the imperative to open our economy will demand great sacrifice and discipline from us all,” he said.

“The new normal may be demanding, but we all – government and citizens- must collaborate to halt the spread of this disease for each other’s sake.

“Global experience so far has proved that by following advisories and adhering to all the prescribed measures including the appropriate wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and respiratory hygiene, we can control the spread of this disease.”

As people play their parts, Dr Ehanire gave the assurance that the Health sector, on its part, is being strengthened and new coping measures are being developed to counter the challenges ahead, “from developing ambulance networks for patient transportation in case of emergency to improving treatment options for COVID-19. Our objective remains to depress the case fatality rate.”

Germany Questions ‘Quality, Safety’ Of Russian Vaccine

This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP
This handout picture taken on August 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Handout / Russian Direct Investment Fund / AFP

 

Germany on Tuesday raised doubts over the quality and safety of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, stressing that drug approval is granted in the European Union only after full clinical trials.

“Patient safety is of the highest priority,” a health ministry spokeswoman told German newspaper network RND. “There is no known data on the quality, efficacy and safety of the Russian vaccine.”

Russia claimed Tuesday it has developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, despite mounting scepticism about its effectiveness as fears grow over a second wave of infections across the globe.

President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was safe and that one of his own daughters had received the inoculation, dubbed “Sputnik” after the pioneering 1950s Soviet satellite.

“I know that it is quite effective, that it gives sustainable immunity,” Putin said of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Moscow’s defence ministry.

Russia’s health ministry said though clinical trials were not yet complete and final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people was to start only on Wednesday.

Western scientists have previously raised concerns about the speed of development of Russian vaccines, suggesting that researchers might be cutting corners.

The World Health Organization’s spokesman in Geneva Tarik Jasarevic said it was in “close contact” with Russian health authorities but that it was too soon for any WHO stamp of approval.

“Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data,” he said.

 

 

AFP

Russia Dubs New Coronavirus Vaccine ‘Sputnik’ After Soviet Satellite

This file photo taken on April 29, 2020 shows an engineer taking samples of monkey kidney cells as he make tests on an experimental vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus inside the Cells Culture Room laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing.  (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) 

 

 

Moscow has dubbed its new coronavirus vaccine “Sputnik V” after the Soviet satellite, the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund said Tuesday, after Russia declared itself the first country to develop a vaccine.

Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which finances the vaccine project, said Phase 3 trials would start on Wednesday, industrial production was expected from September and that 20 countries had pre-ordered more than a billion doses.

 

 

-AFP

Russia Aims To Produce ‘Millions’ Of Vaccine Doses By 2021

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris.  JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

 

 

Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.

The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one trialled by the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development and is about to pass state registration, officials said.

“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” Industry Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by state news agency TASS.

“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.

 

File photo: Medical workers transport a woman into a hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated in the settlement of Kommunarka outside Moscow on April 27, 2020. Alexander NEMENOV / AFP.

 

The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which finances the trials, said he expects official registration of the vaccine to be complete “within ten days.”

“If this happens in the next ten days, we will be ahead not just of the United States but other countries too, it will be the first registered coronavirus vaccine,” RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev said in televised remarks.

Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Saturday.

Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding the needed immune response into cells.

Gamaleya’s vaccine is based on the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.

– ‘Who will buy it?’ –

The state-run Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and its director injected themselves with the prototype several months ago, with specialists criticising the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.

Vitaly Zverev, laboratory chief at the Mechnikov Research Institute of Vaccines and Sera, said it was too early to register a vaccine.

 

File photo: Health workers wearing protective equipment arrive with a man wearing a face mask past an ambulance at a hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 are being treated in Khimki, outside Moscow on May 3, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP.

 

“I believe a vaccine that is not properly checked must not be registered, no matter in what country,” he said.

“It is impossible to ensure the vaccine’s safety in the time that has passed since the beginning of this pandemic,” he told AFP.

“You can make anything, but who is going to buy it?”

Zverev added that the three firms named as future producers of Russia’s vaccines are well-known pharmaceutical firms that do not normally make vaccines, let alone high-tech ones using DNA technology.

“No adenovirus-based vaccine has been proven effective before,” he said. “How are they going to grow it? Nobody explains this.”

Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.

At more than 850,000 infections, Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.

AFP

EU Reserves 300mn Doses Of Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

 In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi's world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France. JOEL SAGET / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

The EU announced Friday that it had struck a deal with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi for 300 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which negotiated the agreement, said it would allow all 27 member countries to purchase the vaccine once it was proven to be safe and effective.

The announcement comes on the same day the US government said it would provide up to $2.1 billion to Sanofi and GSK for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, as the world continues to battle the pandemic.

As official data revealed coronavirus lockdowns had caused a devastating 12 percent economic contraction in the EU in the second quarter of 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was doing everything it could to help find a vaccine.

“We are in advanced discussions with several other companies,” she said in a statement, adding that Europe was investing in a “diversified portfolio of promising vaccines”.

“This increases our chances to obtain rapidly an effective remedy against the virus.”

 In this file photo taken on July 29, 2013, the headquarters of the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is pictured in west London. Ben STANSALL / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 29, 2013, the headquarters of the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is pictured in west London. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Sanofi hopes to seek marketing authorisation from the European Medicines Agency for a vaccine in June next year.

The French government welcomed Friday’s announcement as a “decisive step”.

“This future contract will allow each EU member state to order the vaccine under good conditions once it has shown enough proof of its effectiveness and safety,” the French government said in a statement.

Six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 17 million people, with global daily cases now approaching the 300,000 mark.

Europe overall has nearly 210,000 deaths from 3.2 million cases, and with infections rising again in several countries there are fears a “second wave” of the pandemic could be on the way.

The highly restrictive lockdowns enforced to deal with the pandemic earlier this year has caused economic turmoil and an effective vaccine may be the only long-term solution to the highly contagious respiratory disease.

 

AFP

Brazil Doctors Volunteer To Test Coronavirus Vaccines

Covid-19- vaccine
In this file photo taken on July 10, 2020 A photo shows vaccines in prefilled, single-use syringes before the inspection and packaging phase at the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val de Reuil, France. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

 

In Brazil, health care workers are on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic in more ways than one, treating patients but also volunteering to test some of the most promising experimental vaccines.

Brazil is the country with the second-highest number of infections and deaths in the pandemic, after the United States, and the virus is still spreading quickly here.

That is bad news in every way but one: it makes the South American country an ideal testing ground for potential vaccines against the virus.

The job of guinea pig falls to medical staff who work in facilities treating patients infected by the virus, because they are the most likely to come into contact with it, enabling researchers to run a controlled experiment to see how well it works.

 

 

A researcher works at the special techniques laboratory where a genetic test was developed to diagnose the new coronavirus, COVID-19, at Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 28, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP

 

“I want to contribute, and this is my contribution — through science,” said pediatrician Monica Levi, one of 5,000 volunteers in Brazil helping test one of the most promising vaccines so far, developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Levi, 53, works at the Specialized Clinic for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases and Immunizations (Cedipi) in Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the outbreak in Brazil, where more than 2.5 million people have been infected so far, with more than 90,000 deaths.

“Vaccination is my cause. So I have to act on my beliefs,” she told AFP.

Last week, Brazil also became the first country carrying out Phase 3 trials of Chinese vaccine CoronaVac, developed by pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech.

Phase 3 clinical trials involve large-scale testing on humans, the last step before vaccines seek regulatory approval.

Medical workers play the starring role in testing that vaccine, too.

“They pick health care professionals because we are constantly at risk,” Levi said.

Volunteers must be between 18 and 55 years old, work in a patient care role and have no underlying medical conditions.

Half the volunteers in the Oxford trial are receiving the vaccine and the other half a placebo.

But they will only know which a year from now.

Levi got her shot on July 21, and had a headache and chills the first day, she said.

“But I don’t even know if they gave me the vaccine or the placebo,” she added.

While she waits to find out — and to learn whether the vaccine is the exit from the pandemic that the whole world is hoping for — she goes to regular check-ups where researchers monitor her health.

A patient affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus is treated at a field hospital set up at a sports gym, in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, on May 11, 2020. Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP.

 

 

Scientists worldwide are racing to develop and test a vaccine for the virus. There are more than 150 projects so far.

But there are no guarantees in the high-stakes race.

Brazil has a deal to make up to 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine if it proves effective.

But if it doesn’t, said Levi, “it will all go in the garbage.”

AFP

US Secures 100m Doses Of Potential Coronavirus Vaccine For $1.95bn

File photo: Handout picture released by the Sao Paulo State Government press office showing a volunteer receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during the trial stage of the vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech at the Hospital das Clinicas (HC) in Sao Paulo state, Brazil, on July 21, 2020.  Handout / Sao Paulo State Government / AFP

 

 

The US government has agreed to pay almost $2 billion for 100 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine, German firm BioNTech said on Wednesday.

BioNTech, which is developing the drug with US pharma giant Pfizer, said in a statement that American people would receive the future vaccine “for free” in line with the Trump administration’s “commitment for free access for COVID-19 vaccines”.

Under the agreement, the US government has placed an initial order for 100 million doses to be delivered if regulatory approval is granted.

The US government also has an option to purchase as many as 500 million additional doses, BioNTech added.

Labs around the world are racing to produce a vaccine to help end the worst health crisis in over a century.

More than 200 candidate vaccines are currently being developed with roughly two dozen at the stage of clinical trials with human volunteers.

 

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

 

BioNTech and Pfizer have narrowed their vaccine candidates down to two frontrunners and waiting for the green light to begin a mass trial involving 30,000 healthy volunteers, which may happen later this month.

Subject to successful outcomes and regulatory approvals, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020, and “potentially more than 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021”.

Their vaccine method relies on using messenger RNA, genetic code that slips into human cells to make them generate antibodies that are specifically tailored to the coronavirus.

Trials so far have shown that their treatment triggers “robust” antibody and T cell immune responses against the novel coronavirus, according to BioNTech.

The agreement between the US, Pfizer and BioNTech “increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year”, said US health official Alex Azar.

A BioNTech spokeswoman told AFP that two injections would probably be needed for maximum protection, with the booster shot following seven days after the first injection.

Based on the price paid by the US government, it would therefore cost $39 to immunise a person against the deadly virus.

Oxford University and AstraZeneca are also working on a vaccine, which they have vowed to make available “at cost price”, amounting to roughly $2.90 per unit.

AFP