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COVID-19 vaccinations: What’s the progress?

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dw– This vaccine tracker will not be updated and will display the status of November 2021 until further notice. When we started the tracker at the end of 2020, the vaccine landscape changed regularly. By now, several vaccines are established and there aren’t any completely new developments. You can find up-to-date information on COVID-19 here.

How many people are vaccinated?

How far have researchers gotten in the development of a vaccine?

There are more than 200 clinical trials worldwide testing potential vaccines, known as candidates, against COVID-19. So far, seven of the vaccine candidates have been approved.

Please note: To be displayed as approved in the chart, a vaccine needs to be either approved by the USFDA or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), or cleared for emergency use by FDA, EMA or WHO. More details can be found here.

The approved vaccines were developed by:

  • BioNTech-Pfizer (mRNA vaccine)
  • Moderna (mRNA vaccine)
  • AstraZeneca (nonreplicating vector vaccine)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)(nonreplicating vector vaccine)
  • Sinopharm (inactivated virus vaccine)
  • Sinovac (inactivated virus vaccine)
  • Bharat Biotech (inactivated virus vaccine)

The majority of vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are in a preclinical phase. That means the vaccine candidates are being tested in animal experiments, for example, rather than with human patients. When those tests are deemed successful, candidate vaccines can move into clinical trial phases. That’s when they are tested with humans. There are three clinical trial phases for efficacy and safety before a vaccine can be approved for use by humans. The phases differ from each other, most significantly in their scale:

  • In Phase I, a vaccine is tested on small patient groups.
  • In Phase II, a vaccine is tested on larger groups of at least 100 patients; researchers can also test their vaccine candidate in specific subgroups, such as people with preexisting conditions, or patients with particular demographic characteristics, such as a higher age group.
  • In Phase III, a vaccine candidate is tested on at least 1,000 patients.

Some companies, such as BioNTech-Pfizer in Europe, and Sinovac in China, have tested their vaccine candidates in several trials in parallel. For example, they have tested the same vaccine but in different age groups or with different dosages.

If clinical trials are successful, a company can formally apply to regulatory bodies to have their vaccine approved for use by the general public.

Three regulatory authorities are considered to be particularly important in this context: The FDA in the US, the European EMA, and the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Device Agency in Japan.

How fast can vaccines be developed?

It can take several years to develop an effective and safe vaccine. On average, it takes between 10 and 12 years, but it can take longer. The search for a vaccine against HIV has been going since the early 1980s — so far without success.

In the case of COVID-19, researchers are racing to shorten the time it usually takes because of the ongoing pandemic. Despite the pressure that that brings, vaccine developers, manufacturers and the World Health Organization (WHO) say there will be no compromises on safety.

Research teams are aiming to accelerate, or limit, the time it takes to get to approval during the pandemic to an average duration of 16 months.

That will only be the beginning. Once clinical trials are successfully completed and a vaccine is approved and produced, researchers start phase IV, during which they observe the progress of vaccinated patients.

Which types of COVID-19 vaccine are in development?

Researchers are pursuing 13 different approaches for vaccines against COVID-19.

Most of the vaccine candidates use a protein-based subunit — so, instead of using a complete pathogenic virus, they are built on a small component of it, such as a protein found in its outer shell.

That protein is administered to patients in a high dose, with the aim of inducing a fast and strong reaction by the human immune system.

The hope is that the immune system will “remember” the protein and trigger a similar defense reaction if or when it comes into contact with the actual virus.

Vaccines against hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus), for example, are based on this principle.

Four additional approaches have made it to phase III.

Nonreplicating viral vectors are a type of so-called recombinant vaccines: Researchers modify the virus’s genetic information by switching on or off or altering certain functions. By doing that they can, for example, reduce the infectiousness of a virus. Such genetic modifications, however, require that science already has detailed knowledge about which parts of a virus’ genetic material are responsible for which functions in order for them to be able to manipulate them effectively. The term “nonreplicating” means that the virus in the vaccine enters cells in the human body but is unable to reproduce there on its own.

Inactivated vaccines use a “dead” version of the pathogen. They tend to provide a lower level of protection than live vaccines. Some vaccines in this class have to be administered several times to achieve sufficient immunity. Examples of inactivated vaccines include ones against influenza and hepatitis A.

RNA vaccines follow a different strategy, without using any “real” component of the virus at all. Instead, researchers aim to trick the human body into producing a specific virus component on its own. Since only this specific component is built, no complete virus can assemble itself. Nevertheless, the immune system learns to recognize the non-human components and trigger a defense reaction.

Vaccines based on viruslike particles use another approach: Researchers only use the empty virus envelope — without any genetic material inside of it — to train the immune system.

With DNA-based vaccines, patients are injected with the virus’s genetic makeup for the human body to produce virus particles itself without being actually infected. Confronted with these self-produced virus particles, the immune system is supposed to learn to recognize and fight the actual virus.

Who is working on a COVID-19 vaccine?

At time of writing, there were well over 100 research teams worldwide developing a COVID-19 vaccine. So far, several teams have advanced their vaccines to the third phase of clinical trials. Although some of these vaccines have already been approved in some countries, they still continue to be tested in clinical trials in parallel.

Five teams stand out for conducting the most extensive clinical trials:

  • Belgian company Janssen Pharmaceutical is testing its candidate vaccine, which is based on a nonreplicating viral vector, on about 576,000 people in South Africa, Belgium, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.
  • The US company Moderna is testing its RNA-based vaccine on 79,000 people in the US, Canada, France and Japan
  • In a public-private partnership between the University of Oxford and the British company AstraZeneca, researchers are testing their vaccine candidate on approximately 66,000 people in the US, Chile, Peru and the UK. Their vaccine is based on a similar principle to Janssen’s.
  • The Chinese company Sinopharm is working in various constellations with the Beijing Institute and Wuhan Institute. Taking all trial series together, they are testing an “inactivated” vaccine on around 61,000 people in Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Argentina and Peru.
  • A German company, BioNTech, is pursuing a different approach: It is focusing on RNA-based technology and testing the BioNTech-Pfizer candidate vaccine on about 49,000 people in the US, Argentina and Brazil, among other countries.

 

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Health

Spanish researchers pave way for fair play in global Covid testing and research

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thelocal– The World Health Organisation described the accord as the first transparent, global, non-exclusive licence for a Covid-19 health tool, that should help towards correcting the “devastating global inequity” in access.

The deal brings the Spanish National Research Council CSIC together with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) knowledge-sharing platform.

“The aim of the licence is to facilitate the rapid manufacture and commercialisation of CSIC’s Covid-19 serological test worldwide,” the WHO said.

The test effectively detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to either a Covid-19 infection or a vaccine.

CSIC, one of Europe’s main public research institutions, will provide the MPP or prospective licencees with know-how and training.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the licence, which will be royalty-free for low and middle-income countries, as “the kind of open and transparent licence we need to move the needle on access during and after the pandemic”.

He added: “I urge developers of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide… on the devastating
global inequity this pandemic has spotlighted.”

C-TAP was founded in May 2020 as a platform for developers of Covid-19 tools to share knowledge and intellectual property.

Set up during the scramble for Covid vaccines and treatments, the health technology repository was first suggested by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

The information pool was intended as a voluntary global bank for IP and open-sourced data as part of a common front against the new coronavirus.

However, as it turned out, rival pharmaceutical companies have largely kept their findings to themselves rather than sharing them as global public goods.

Tuesday’s deal “shows that solidarity and equitable access can be achieved”, said Alvarado.

CSIC president Rosa Menéndez said she hoped the move would serve as an example for other research organisations.

‘Preposterous’ tests hoarding

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the test could quantify three different types of antibodies — and crucially, differentiate vaccinated people from those with natural Covid infection.

“This feature will become very important for measuring the number of Covid-19 cases in countries and the impact of control measures,” it said.

In welcoming CSIC’s move, MSF diagnostics adviser Stijn Deborggraeve said it was “preposterous” in a global pandemic that tests were being monopolised by “a handful of privileged people and countries”.

The Geneva-based MPP is a UN-backed international organisation that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.

The antibody test licensing accord is the third Covid-related deal that the global pool has struck in a month.

Last week, the MPP reached an agreement with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in 95 low- and middle-income countries via sub-licensing to generic drug manufacturers.

The MPP signed a similar deal last month with Pfizer’s US rival Merck for its prospective oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir.

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Europe

Covid: Europe region faces 700,000 more deaths by March – WHO

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bbc– A further 700,000 people could die of Covid by March in Europe and parts of Asia, the World Health Organization has warned.

The death toll already exceeds 1.5 million in the 53 countries of what the WHO terms as its Europe region.

The WHO warned of “high or extreme stress” in intensive care units in 49 of the nations by March 2022.

Europe is facing a surge in cases, prompting Austria to return to lockdown and others to consider fresh measures.

A number of countries – including France, Germany and Greece – could also soon make booster jabs a requirement for their citizens to be considered fully vaccinated.

But several countries have seen fierce protests against new measures. The Netherlands saw several nights of rioting over a partial lockdown.

In its assessment, the WHO warned Covid was the top cause of death in its Europe region.

“Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2 million by spring next year, based on current trends,” the WHO said on Tuesday.

Confirmed Covid-related deaths recently doubled to almost 4,200 a day, it added.

In Russia alone, the daily death toll has been recently topping 1,200.

A high number of unvaccinated people and the prevalence of the Delta variant in some countries were key factors behind high transmission rates in the Europe region, the WHO said.

The WHO Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, urged those who were still unvaccinated to get the jab.

“All of us have the opportunity and responsibility to help avert unnecessary tragedy and loss of life, and limit further disruption to society and businesses over this winter season,” he said.

As well as European nations, the WHO also considers Israel and ex-Soviet states like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as making up the region.

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Australia

Perrottet Government moves to extend COVID-19 emergency powers until 2023

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skynewsThe Perrottet Government will extend the use of COVID-19 emergency powers until March 2023 after the New South Wales Health Minister pushed the proposal through Cabinet on Monday.

Cabinet approved Brad Hazzard’s proposal on Monday night which has led to backlash from some Coalition MPs, according to The Australian.

Mr Hazzard’s proposal to extend the powers comes off the back of a recommendation from Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.

Under the state of emergency powers, the Health Minister has jurisdiction to declare Public Health Orders including restriction of movement, mask mandates, curfews and lockdowns.

The Australian has reported the Health Minister took the proposal to a party room meeting on Tuesday where multiple MPs challenged the necessity for the powers to be extended until March 2023.

It comes as NSW has surpassed the 90 per cent double dose vaccination rate, with greater freedoms being returned to fully jabbed citizens after the state hit 70 per cent and again at 80 per cent.

Greater Sydney endured more than three months of harsh lockdowns while the state boosted its vaccination rate, with the Berejiklian and Perrottet Governments linking COVID-19 jabs with greater freedoms.

The debate within Government ranks comes amid outrage in Victoria over the Andrews Government updating and changing its own emergency pandemic powers.

The Victorian Opposition Leader has argued that Victoria – which joined NSW in easing restrictions in late October – should be focussed on recovery, and the passing of the pandemic powers threatened certainty in the state.

It is understood the NSW Health Minister will address concerns with particular MPs on Tuesday in an emergency meeting.

Premier Dominic Perrottet responded to SkyNews.com.au’s request for comment and said: “Only the health provisions that need to be extended will be extended. I will be carefully considering this matter over the summer break”.

SkyNews.com.au has contacted Mr Hazzard’s office for comment.

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