Covid-19 roundup: Moderna passes 100M mark for US vaccines in landmark moment; Fake Pfizer vaccine found in Mexico
Moderna announced that it shipped its 100-millionth dose of its Covid-19 vaccine in the US on Monday. So far, 67 million doses have been administered in the US, a statement said.
Shipments to the US government have increased fivefold since the FDA’s emergency use authorization Dec. 18, from 16 million doses to 88 million doses. Moderna expects to ship another 40-50 million doses a month to the US government, according to a statement.
In all, Modena will have shipped 300 million doses of the vaccine to the US by the end of July 2021, the company said. The vaccine has been authorized for use in Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Singapore, Qatar, the UK and the European Union, in addition to the US.
To keep up with the demand for the vaccine, Moderna has been investing heavily in manufacturing operations. In early March, the company signed a deal with Baxter BioPharma Solutions to help produce the vaccine, in an effort to quickly scale up. Manufacturing originally started in Moderna’s Boston facility in 2020, immediately after the company was granted EUA.
Falsified Pfizer vaccine detected in Mexico
A falsified Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was detected in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization.
The fake vaccines were given to patients outside of authorized vaccine programs, and may still be in circulation in the area.
Pfizer confirmed that its scientists did not manufacture the product and the batch number and expiry dates were falsified. The vials and label are also reportedly different than genuine BNT162b2 vials.
NIH Director Francis Collins talks vaccine skepticism in interview
In an interview with The Hill published Saturday, NIH Director Francis Collins said that hesitancy will be the “defining factor” whether or not the US reaches herd immunity and emphasized the danger of classifying the vaccine-skeptical population as a single homogeneous group.
People of faith — particularly white evangelicals — sometimes doubt that they need anything other than God to take care of them, Collins said. Others who consider themselves pro-life worry that vaccines contain a fetal cell line. Among the African-American community, Collins said there is skepticism about whether the healthcare system has individuals’ best interests at heart and cited the lack of ethics involved in the Tuskegee Study in the 1930s.
“In every instance what I’ve learned is if somebody says they’re hesitant, the first thing I want to know is, tell me about that. Tell me what it is that has you troubled. Is it the conspiracy theories you’ve been hearing? And there’s plenty of those out there on social media. Is it your concern about safety issues not having been fully addressed? Is it some other factor that’s in there?” Collins said. “And there’s no single, I think, best response until you’ve listened to hear what the basis of the hesitancy is and that person.”
J&J notches African vaccine supply deal
J&J’s Janssen will make up to 220 million doses of its single-shot Covid-19 vaccine available to the African Union’s 55 member states in an agreement announced Monday.
The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust will also have an opportunity to order an additional 180 million doses through 2022.
“From the beginning of this pandemic, Johnson & Johnson has recognized that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and we have been committed to equitable, global access to new COVID-19 vaccines,” CEO Alex Gorsky said in a statement.
In December, J&J entered into an agreement to support the COVAX facility, which provides equitable access to vaccines for countries in need. The company’s plan is to enter a deal that would provide Gavi with up to 500 million doses of the vaccine to COVAX through 2022.
The increased urgency to get people vaccinated in Africa comes with the emergence and spread of the South African Covid-19 variant.
When asked, a J&J spokesperson did not reveal the financial terms of the deal on Monday.
First round of AstraZeneca vaccine delivered to Mexico
The first 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine were delivered to Mexico from the US on Sunday, Reuters reports.
This was the first round of 2.7 million doses that President Joe Biden promised the country to help deal with local shortages. Mexico’s population is 126 million.
Earlier in March, Biden turned down’s Mexican President Lopez Obrador’s request for doses, which led the country to turn to China for an additional 22 million.
The new agreement comes as the US has seen a surge of Central American immigrants at its southern border. Though not considered a quid pro quo, according to The Washington Post, the US will offer up vaccines as Mexican officials promise to help step up immigration enforcement.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also asked Biden to help out with the country’s vaccine shortage in recent talks, the Post reports.