Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer to supply US with 200M more vaccines as UK study finds higher antibodies in 8-10 week intervals
The US government has purchased 200 million more doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the companies announced Friday morning.
Pfizer and BioNTech expect to deliver 110 million of the additional doses by Dec. 31, with the remaining 90 million doses to be delivered no later than April 30, 2022.
“Under this contract, the U.S. Government is paying ~$24 a dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The price for this order accounts for the additional investment necessary to produce, package and deliver new formulations of the vaccine, as well as the increased cost associated with delivering the vaccine in smaller pack sizes to facilitate delivery at individual provider offices, including pediatricians,” a Pfizer spokesman told Endpoints News.
The US government has the option to acquire an updated version of the vaccine to address potential variants, as well as new formulations of the vaccine, if available and authorized.
The Pfizer vaccine is likely to convert its EUA into a full approval sometime soon, potentially in August or September, according to FDA’s top vaccine official Peter Marks. President Biden made a similar timeline estimate during a CNN town hall on Wednesday evening.
The US has now purchased 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for domestic use, and another 500 million for donating to the world’s poorest countries and other allies.
Eligible US residents will continue to receive the vaccine for free, Pfizer said. — Zachary Brennan
Pfizer/BioNTech shots produce higher antibodies after 8-10 week intervals — study
The UK is touting the results of a new study that it says vindicates the country’s decision to space out Covid-19 vaccine doses earlier in the pandemic.
An interval of eight to 10 weeks between Pfizer/BioNTech shots results in higher neutralizing antibody levels than the three-week span tested in clinical trials, according to a Bloomberg report. Though the findings have yet to be peer-reviewed, researchers found double the antibodies after 10 weeks compared to three weeks.
Funded by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, the study looked at the immune responses of 503 British healthcare workers. About three quarters of the participants were women.
The findings come after Britain originally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech shot in early December 2020 ahead of the FDA and other regulatory authorities, and subsequently rolled out a plan to space out vaccine doses in order to get as many people as it could their first shots.
Regarding the best interval between doses, “eight weeks is probably the sweet spot,” University of Oxford study lead Susanna Dunachie said at a news conference, per Bloomberg. In addition to boosting antibody levels, the study also reportedly found an improved response from helper T cells.
But the findings also related one significant drawback as the UK and other countries face another pandemic wave amidst the delta variant’s surge: Individuals saw a decline in antibody levels between their first and second shots, particularly against Delta. Regardless, both the short and long intervals in between doses lead to strong real-world protection against the virus, researchers said. — Max Gelman
Japan’s prime minister presses Bourla for more vaccines
As the Summer Olympics get underway in Japan on Friday, the country’s prime minister is pressing Pfizer to speed up vaccine deliveries.
Japan leader Yoshihide Suga reportedly met with CEO Albert Bourla early Friday in order to ask for an accelerated vaccine schedule to the country, per a Reuters report on Japanese media. Suga is attempting to secure shots that were originally scheduled to arrive in October, with local governments around the country struggling with supply.
According to the Reuters vaccine tracker, only 35% of Japan’s population has received their first vaccine dose, a slower start compared to other high-income nations.
The report comes with Japan kicking off the Olympics opening ceremony Friday amidst a swath of controversies and logistical issues. After originally postponing the Games by a year due to the pandemic, Japan has seen a significant rise in cases recently due to the Delta variant. Though the country had originally planned to allow a limited number of spectators, the Olympics are now taking place in largely empty stadiums and arenas.
More than 110 athletes and Olympics workers have also tested positive in the days leading up to the Games, according to the New York Times, and Japan was forced to dismiss its opening ceremony creative director after footage emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust in a 1990s standup routine.
A brouhaha has also emerged over the cardboard beds Japan has set up in the Olympic Village, in what it says is an effort to limit intimacy between athletes while the pandemic surges. — Max Gelman
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