Covid-19 roundup: CDC study confirms real-world efficacy of mRNA shots; India export limits delay COVAX shipments
A new real-world study from the CDC confirms the high efficacy levels and protective benefits of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, the agency announced Monday.
Vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna reduced the risk of infection by 80% within two weeks after taking just one shot, the study said. That rate rose to 90% two weeks following the second scheduled vaccination.
The study comprised nearly 4,000 health care personnel, first responders, and other essential workers across six states. Researchers looked at data from Dec. 14 to March 13.
“This study shows that our national vaccination efforts are working,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
One of the study’s strengths, the CDC said, was its design. Participants self-collected nasal swabs each week for PCR testing, regardless of whether they had developed symptoms of illness.
As a result, researchers were able to determine that the vaccines reduce the risk of all cases of Covid-19, including asymptomatic cases. The late-stage trials examining the shots last year would have missed infections with no symptoms.
The CDC study comes a few weeks after Israel’s health agency presented real-world data showing the Pfizer/BioNTech shot was 94% effective in preventing Covid-19. At the time of that study, the UK coronavirus variant was the dominant strain in the country.
Monday’s 80% figure after one shot appears to validate some countries’ approaches, such as Britain and Canada, of spacing out the first and second doses of the mRNA shots in order to provide more shots to more people in the face of limited supply. Pfizer and BioNTech have said, however, in reference to previous studies, that they hadn’t evaluated single dose regimens and such decisions were best left up to health authorities. US officials have continued to recommend the two doses be given on schedule as administered in the clinical trials.
India export restrictions result in COVAX delays
Countries expecting to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the equity program COVAX were left scrambling to find alternative supply after major contributor India curbed exports on the shots, Reuters reported Tuesday.
South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines are among several Asian countries expecting shipment delays after the Indian measures, which limited delivery from mass producer Serum Institute of India. The manufacturer is the largest maker of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, and Indian officials are focusing on meeting rising demand domestically.
The Serum Institute was due to deliver 90 million vaccine doses to COVAX over March and April, Reuters reported. South Korea confirmed the delays, with its vaccination task force chief noting it would only receive 432,000 of the 690,000 promised doses in the third week of April.
Vietnam and the Philippines have also asked for help from their countries’ private sectors, while Indonesia is expecting more than 10 million doses to be delayed until May. India has not said when it will lift the restrictions.
The delays are pushing some of the countries to turn toward Chinese and Russian vaccines, with the Philippines expected to receive its first batch of Sputnik V in April, Reuters reported. The Philippines and Indonesia are already relying heavily on shots from Chinese company Sinovac.
International syndicate calls for global pandemic treaty
The World Health Organization has teamed up with the EU and more than two dozen countries to call for a global pandemic treaty to better prepare the world, and hopefully prevent future outbreaks.
The group published a joint article in several newspapers internationally calling for universal and equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, the New York Times was among those to report. Researchers warned that future pandemics are inevitable and the sort of international cooperation seen in the wake of World War II is needed to combat what lies ahead.
“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone,” the article said. “We believe that nations should work together toward a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.”
In addition to vaccine access, the letter also calls for improved alert systems and data sharing operations among countries, as well as “responsibility, transparency and cooperation within the international system and with its rules and norms.”
The article did not, however, outline how it expects to enforce violations of such norms, a concern that has arisen during the current pandemic with China being accused of withholding data from the WHO about the origins of the pandemic. Neither China nor the US has thus far signed onto the letter.
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