Covid-19 roundup: Questions remain on US supplies of Pfizer, Merck pills as UK ramps up; Israel to go for a fourth dose for those over 60
As the FDA is poised to authorize the new Pfizer and Merck pills to treat those with Covid-19 who haven’t been hospitalized, Bloomberg reports that the US will only have limited supplies of each pill initially.
US officials said Americans should have nearly 400,000 courses of Merck’s pill available upon its authorization and 65,000 courses of Pfizer’s pill. By the end of January, the government expects 3 million Merck courses — its entire order — and 250,000 Pfizer courses. Merck’s pill has been shown to be less effective in early trials than Pfizer’s, although Merck did not test its pill head-to-head against Pfizer.
Biden’s administration also apparently offered Pfizer the support of the US government if it runs into any production issues, including use of the Defense Production Act, but Pfizer “hasn’t needed any intervention,” citing the pill’s “lengthy, intensive manufacturing process” to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, the UK on Wednesday bought an additional 2.5 million treatment courses (on top of 250,000 bought previously) of Pfizer’s pill, and 1.75 million courses of Merck’s pill.
Israel goes for a 4th dose of Pfizer’s vaccine for those over 60
Israel said Wednesday that it will administer a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60 and medical personnel, becoming the first nation in the world to do so, according to Bloomberg.
Those eligible for the fourth dose can receive it provided at least four months have passed since the third dose, the country’s prime minister’s office said, according to CNN. In Israel, almost all vaccinated citizens have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
AstraZeneca to make Omicron-specific vaccine
AstraZeneca and Oxford University have teamed up to make a vaccine specific to the Omicron variant, joining Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to do so.
The news comes following a study in The Lancet that protection offered by the AstraZeneca jab wanes three months after vaccination, while other evidence suggests that a two-dose shot course provides fewer antibodies against Omicron, and that a third mRNA shot can increase the number of antibodies. AstraZeneca’s shot is adenovirus-based.
“Like with many previous variants of concern, and together with our partners AstraZeneca, we have taken preliminary steps in producing an updated vaccine in case it is needed,” Oxford research group leader Sandy Douglas said to the Financial Times.
AstraZeneca’s shot has not been approved in the US, though it was used throughout the UK and Europe before access was restricted due to rare, but fatal blood clots being linked as a side effect.