Covid-19 roundup: AstraZeneca touts booster as effective against Omicron; Africa CDC reportedly in talks to buy Paxlovid
Though it still hasn’t received FDA authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca is charting a course for booster shots.
On Thursday, the British-Swedish pharma company revealed new information for its Vaxzevria shot, saying a booster dose significantly raised antibody levels against Omicron and other variants, including Delta, regardless of whether an individuals’ original vaccine series was AstraZeneca, an mRNA shot or Sinovac. AstraZeneca says it plans to submit the data to regulatory bodies worldwide.
“These important studies show that a third dose of Vaxzevria after two initial doses of the same vaccine, or after mRNA or inactivated vaccines, strongly boosts immunity against COVID-19,” chief investigator and Oxford professor Andrew Pollard said in a statement. “The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is suitable as an option to enhance immunity in the population for countries considering booster programs.”
AstraZeneca did not include specific data in its update, but it was the company’s first statement on how its Covid-19 vaccine performs as a booster. AstraZeneca also pointed to other studies that show its booster regimen “induced significantly higher immune responses” against Delta and the original strain than two-dose mRNA or viral vector jabs.
Though AstraZeneca’s shot has been approved in the UK and EU, it remains unapproved and unauthorized in the US. After being beaten to the market by Pfizer, Moderna and J&J in the US, AstraZeneca said it would stop seeking an EUA from the FDA and instead go after full approval.
That goal hasn’t yet been reached, and it remains to be seen whether AstraZeneca can find a piece of the American market for its booster shots as well. The CDC has rubber-stamped the “mix and match” approach for booster shots, however, allowing individuals to receive any booster regardless of original vaccine series.
Africa CDC in talks to buy Paxlovid pills — report
The Africa CDC is reportedly in discussions with Pfizer to acquire shipments of its antiviral Covid-19 pill.
Paxlovid has shown to be 89% effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19, Pfizer said previously, and retains most of its efficacy against the Omicron variant. Governments around the world have scrambled to buy up supplies, and now the Africa CDC is in the race as well, according to a Reuters report.
“We are in really close discussions with Pfizer to see what can be done to make the drugs available on the continent and accessible on the continent, that is, the Paxlovid drugs,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told Reuters.
The Pfizer pill is one of two FDA-authorized antivirals to fight Covid-19, the other being Merck’s molnupiravir. Figures released from Merck, however, are much lower than Paxlovid, with an original 50% efficacy rate falling to 30% in some cases and drawing concerns from an FDA adcomm last month.
Much like last year with the vaccine race, rich countries have snapped up most available Paxlovid supply. The US contract for 10 million doses puts the price at $530 per five-day Paxlovid regimen, a price that almost certainly remains out of reach for many poor nations.
Pfizer is working with other manufacturers to produce generic versions of Paxlovid for low- and middle-income countries, but it remains to be seen whether it will prove an effective strategy. Vaccine uptake in Africa remains low, as only 10% of Africans are fully vaccinated, Nkengasong said.
Vir, GlaxoSmithKline seek EUA amendment for injectable antibody
Vir and GlaxoSmithKline’s monoclonal antibody remains the only authorized treatment to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death against Omicron, and Thursday the pair requested the FDA expand its EUA.
The companies are seeking an EUA amendment to include intramuscular administration of the antibody in addition to the intravenous method already authorized, they said in a statement Thursday. According to a Phase III study, the injectable version proved non-inferior to the IV version and offered “similar efficacy” in mild-to-moderate, early Covid-19 cases.