COVID-19 vaccines: Live updates

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  • COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Researchers across the globe are working to develop a vaccine.
  • Currently, there are 110 candidate vaccines.
  • Today, there are 30 candidate vaccines in stage 3 clinical trials.
  • So far, 14 vaccines have been authorized across several countries.
  • For general COVID-19 updates visit our live blog.

04/28/2021 14:28 GMT — Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can stay at refrigerator temperature for 3 months

In a press release, Moderna announced that storage of its COVID-19 vaccine at refrigerator temperate could be extended from 1 to 3 months, subject to authorization by health authorities. 

COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology need cold storage. This can pose logistical challenges when distributing vaccines across nations. 

Moderna’s vaccine can currently stay for up to 7 months in a standard freezer and up to 1 month in a refrigerator. Extending the time that the vaccine vials can safely remain at refrigerator temperature means that distribution to places that lack cold storage facilities will likely become easier. 

The company also announced that it expects to increase its output of vaccine doses to 3 billion in 2022, including a mix of its standard COVID-19 vaccine and lower dose shots designed for children or adapted as boosters against emerging variants. 

Read more about how mRNA vaccines work here.

04/28/2021 15:02 GMT — Household transmission reduced after first vaccine shot

A new study by Public Health England, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, indicates that people who have received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are 40–50% less likely to pass on the SARS-CoV-2 virus if they contract it.

The researchers looked at data from 365,447 households in which one person had a COVID-19 diagnosis. For each of these index cases, the team looked at whether anyone else in the household also had a positive COVID-19 test result 2 to 14 days later. In total, they found 102,662 such secondary cases.

They then examined whether there was a difference in the rate of secondary cases in households where the index case had received one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Starting at 14 days after vaccination, the likelihood of passing on the virus to a household member dropped significantly.

“These results show that the likelihood of household transmission is 40–50% lower for households in which the index cases are vaccinated 21 days or more prior to testing positive (compared [with] no vaccination), with similar effects for both the [Oxford-AstraZeneca] and [Pfizer-BioNTech] vaccines,” the authors of the report conclude.

“While these findings are very encouraging, even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practice good hand hygiene, and follow social distancing guidance,” Dr. Mary Ramsay, who is the head of immunization at Public Health England, comments on the findings.

Prof. Deborah Dunn-Walters from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and the chair of the British Society for Immunology and COVID-19 Taskforce, who was not involved in the research, says: “To understand the full impact [of] vaccines on disease spread, we need to know if they prevent transmission as well as [stop] vaccinated individuals from getting sick with COVID. This new preprint from Public Health England on over 550,000 households provides further evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca [COVID-19] vaccines are effective in reducing transmission of the virus between individuals as well as preventing people getting very ill with disease. This is very promising.”

“While this study brings welcome news, we must not be complacent. There is still much we need to learn about how [COVID-19] vaccines affect transmission. It is still very important for us all to get two doses of the [COVID-19] vaccine to ensure we receive the optimal and longest-lasting protection, both for ourselves and our communities,” she continues.

Read more about how COVID-19 vaccines work here.

04/27/2021 13:58 GMT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: What are the side effects?

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a single-dose vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The most common side effects are:

  • headache
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • pain, irritation, redness, and swelling at the injection site

In response to reports of rare blood clots, the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have added a warning to the vaccine’s label highlighting blood clots as a potential rare side effect.

Read more in our dedicated feature.

04/26/2021 10:16 GMT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine use resumes in the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended on Friday that vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine resume in the United States.

A temporary pause was called 2 weeks ago to assess a number of instances of rare blood clots.

The FDA has now amended the emergency use authorization granted to this vaccine to include information about the risk of these blood clots, which mostly occurred in women aged below 50.

CDC update highlights that women in this age group “should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event” and that there are alternative COVID-19 vaccines for which there are no reports of rare blood clots at this point.

“The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” an FDA news release states.

Read more about COVID-19 vaccine side effects here.

04/21/2021 09:04 GMT — European Medicines Agency finds ‘possible link’ between J&J vaccine and blood clots

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) — the European Union’s drug regulatory agency — has found a “possible link” between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and extremely rare blood clots. The agency also reiterated that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of side effects.

The EMA recommended that J&J add a warning to the label. However, it explained that people should consider the blood clots “very rare side effects of the vaccine.”

“There is untold human suffering behind all of these [COVID-19] cases,” says Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director. “These vaccines play an immensely important role in combating this pandemic.”

Prof. Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, says: “These side effects are very similar to those reported for Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccines, which does suggest that it is the inactivated adenovirus delivery system that might be causing the problems. It’s important to remember, though, that in most people, the benefits of these vaccines far outweigh the risks — these are incredibly rare potential side effects.”

04/20/2021 14:55 GMT — UK: More than 10 million fully vaccinated

According to the latest figures, more than 10 million people in the United Kingdom have now received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This equates to 19% of all adults. A further 33 million have had one dose.

Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock told the government that all U.K. adults should receive a shot by the end of July.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, says: “The success of the NHS vaccination program is not a happy accident. It is down to careful planning coupled with the sheer hard work and determination of doctors, nurses, and countless other staff ably assisted by volunteers and many others.”

Find more vaccine updates here.

04/20/2021 09:09 GMT — Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19: What are the side effects?

In a recent feature, Medical News Today outlines some of the most common side effects associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The article also addresses concerns around allergic reactions and false claims regarding risks to pregnancy and fertility.

Read the feature here.

04/19/2021 08:58 — Over 50% of US adults have received COVID-19 vaccine

On Sunday, the United States government announced that 50.4% of all adults in the U.S. — 130 million people — have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 32.5% of the population are now fully vaccinated.

04/16/2021 09:04 GMT — People may need third vaccine dose within 12 months

According to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, people are likely to need a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of their second dose. Although more data need to become available to confirm this, he believes that yearly COVID-19 vaccinations might be necessary.

Speaking with CNBC, he said: “A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months, and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role.”

Yesterday, the United States Chief Science Officer for COVID-19 Response David Kessler also told lawmakers that a booster shot might be necessary.

Kessler explains: “We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong, but there is some waning of that, and no doubt the variants […] make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

04/15/2021 12:19 GMT — Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains on hold in the US

It is unclear when vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States will resume. Experts on the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held off on voting on their recommendations, asking for more time to gather and assess data on rare blood clots.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended pausing any vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of six cases of rare blood clots.

According to a STAT news report, the ACIP, which issues non-binding advice to the CDC, was unable to reach a verdict in yesterday’s meeting on whether to resume vaccinations or restrict the vaccine’s use to certain age groups. The committee asked for another 7-10 days to review data.

Read more about how COVID-19 vaccines work here.

04/14/2021 08:56 GMT — ‘Mix and match’ vaccine trial expanded

A trial in the United Kingdom is investigating whether COVID-19 vaccines can be “mixed and matched.” The so-called Com-Cov study is recruiting people in the U.K. who have already had their first dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine.

As part of the trial, the participants’ second dose could be either the same as their first shot or a dose of the Moderna or the Novavax vaccine.

The scientists want to understand whether mixing vaccines is both safe and effective. Preliminary results should be available in the summer.

The study is orchestrated by the Oxford Vaccine Group. On their website, they explain their aims:

“The purpose of this trial is to see how well people’s immune systems respond when their second ‘boost’ dose is a different type of vaccine to their first ‘prime’ dose. We will also be looking at how common vaccine reactions, such as fever, are after such ‘mixed’ schedules.”

04/14/2021 08:23 GMT — Johnson & Johnson rollout paused in South Africa and Europe

Yesterday, the United States decided to pause rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following reports of incredibly rare blood clot events. South Africa has followed suit. The company has also delayed distribution in Europe.

According to South Africa’s Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize, they have already delivered more than 289,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with no reports of blood clots.

According to Dr. Mkhize, the country has paused rollout “out of an abundance of caution.” Moreover, he expects questions about safety will be “cleared within a matter of days.”

“Whilst a causal link between certain COVID-19 vaccinations, platelet abnormalities, and blood clots has not, so far, been confirmed, the index of suspicion is rising that these rare cases may be triggered by the adenovirus component of the AstraZeneca and [the Johnson & Johnson] vaccines,” explains Prof. Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.

She continues: “Whilst more data need to be collected, and the implications carefully considered, it remains the case that, for the vast majority of adults in Europe and the U.S., the risks associated with contracting COVID-19 far, far outweigh any risk of being vaccinated. Moreover, increasing awareness of the possibility of such side effects means that they should be diagnosed more quickly and treated more successfully.”

04/13/2021 15:15 GMT — CDC and FDA halt the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the US

In a statement released to the press today — April 13, 2021 — Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced that their agencies now recommend halting the administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine.

The spokespeople said that due to reports of six cases of blood clotting that followed the administration of the vaccine, the CDC and FDA cannot recommend its continued rollout until a more in-depth investigation takes place.

According to the press release, all the blood clotting events occurred in women aged 18–48 years, 6–13 days after receiving the vaccine. They were blood clots that form in the brain’s venous sinuses and are typically difficult to treat.

“Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given,” the spokespeople explained.

“[The] CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. [The] FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine, out of an abundance of caution,” said Drs. Schuchat and Marks. 

04/12/2021 15:08 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine: Side effects

In a recent feature, Medical News Today provides a summary of the side effects associated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The article also covers some of the recent controversies surrounding rare blood clotting incidents linked to the vaccine.

Read the feature here.

04/12/2021 09:49 GMT — Bhutan vaccinates almost all adults in 16 days

Bhutan, with a population of 800,000 people, recently vaccinated 93% of all adults within 16 days. This equates to 62% of the entire population. Although the nation received 150,000 vaccine doses from India in January, it only began the rollout in late March.

Overall, Bhutan has recorded 910 SARS-CoV-2 infections and one death.

The success of the vaccination program was due, in no small part, to an army of volunteers, known as desuups, who made sure that people had appointments and provided education about COVID-19 protocols. In a country with just 37 doctors and 3,000 full-time healthcare workers, the desuups’ assistance has been invaluable.

Bhutan has a good track record with vaccines and solid infrastructure in place. As Dasho Dechen Wangmo, the country’s minister of health, explains: 

“We achieved universal immunizations in the 1990s, and we have always been very successful in vaccinations. So the current immunization is riding on the existing programs. There were already a lot of systems in place, and it made it very easy to introduce a new vaccine through a lot of advocacy and micro-level planning.”

04/09/2021 12:40 GMTAchieving global herd immunity may be severely delayed by vaccine nationalism, experts warn

While some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Israel, are well on their way to vaccinating the majority of their populations against COVID-19, most other countries are still dealing with a slow rollout.

According to a Perspective piece recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, vaccine nationalism is a key part of this problem.

Health experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health, the University of Cape Town, and Harvard Medical School warn that high-income countries may delay the achievement of global herd immunity by monopolizing vaccination resources.

“The early competitive procurement of vaccines by the United States and purchases by other high-resource countries have fed a widespread assumption that each country will be solely responsible for its own population,” the experts write.

Vaccine nationalism could mean that it will take another 4.6 years for global herd immunity to occur. This is when the vast majority of the population has achieved immunity, either by surmounting infection with SARS-CoV-2 or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“By investing in multilateral partnerships with a sense of shared commitment and employing a global allocation strategy that increases supply and manufacturing, we can meet the urgent challenge of COVID-19 while creating sustainable infrastructures and health systems for the future,” the authors of the Perspective piece emphasize.

Read the story in full here.

04/08/2021 13:45 GMT — First ever images show how cells respond to COVID-19 vaccine

For the first time, researchers have been able to obtain images of the spike proteins that develop on the surfaces of cells that have been exposed to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and compare them with the “original,” or “native,” spike proteins that characterize the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is covered by spike proteins, which help the virus latch onto and then penetrate human cells. The AstraZeneca vaccine delivers the genetic code that enables our cells to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. 

Max Crispin, who is a professor of glycobiology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, is one of the lead authors of the new study. He said: “In this study we set out to see how closely the vaccine induced spikes resembled those of the infectious virus. We were really pleased to see a large amount of native-like spikes.”

“This study will hopefully provide further understanding for the public, helping them see how the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine works,” Prof. Crispin added.

“Many people may not realize how their cells become little factories manufacturing viral spikes that then trigger the immune response needed to fight off the disease. This may also provide reassurance that the vaccine is doing its job and generating the material that we need to present to our immune systems.”

To read more about the study and to see the images, click here.

04/07/2021 17:00 GMT — EMA: ‘Possible link’ between AstraZeneca and ‘very rare’ blood clot incidents, but benefits still outweigh risks overall

Today, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) held a press briefing on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. 

The EMA concluded that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects” of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European regulator reminds individuals and healthcare professionals alike that there is a possibility of very rare cases of blood clots occurring in combination with low levels of blood platelets within 2 weeks of vaccination. 

However, the risk factors for this possibility remain unknown for now, and the EMA has concluded that “the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.

Read the full story here.

04/07/2021 16:40 GMT — UK regulatory body issues new guidance for AstraZeneca vaccine

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom has held a press conference today to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In it, Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for “the vast majority of people.” Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, echoed the sentiment, saying that people are at a much higher risk of developing blood clots if they develop COVID-19 than if they take the vaccine.

However, the risk-benefit analysis could be more finely balanced for young people, as the risk of rare blood clotting incidents is higher in this age group than it is in older adults. The reasons for this increased risk, however, remain unclear.

Therefore, the MHRA recommends that people under the age of 30 who do not have a preexisting condition that may put them at a higher risk of COVID-19 should be given an alternative to the AstraZeneca shot.

Sir Pirmohamed also explained that pregnant women should discuss the risks with their doctor before taking the shot. People who have had blood disorders in the past should only take the vaccine if they have decided, together with a physician, that the benefits are greater than the risks.

Finally, people with a history of blood clotting should not take a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Read more about the press briefing here.

04/07/2021 12:20 GMT — Moderna vaccine offers protection for at least 6 months, study says

A new study, appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine, shows that antibodies persist for 6 months in people who have received the second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Nicole Doria-Rose of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and her team tracked antibody activity in 33 people who enrolled in the Moderna vaccine trials.

The trial participants were between 18 and over 71 years old. “Antibody activity remained high in all age groups at day 209,” write the authors. “Our data show antibody persistence and thus support the use of this vaccine in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” they conclude.

The authors add that ongoing studies continue to examine whether the immune responses persist beyond 6 months and whether adding a booster dose of the vaccine can extend the “duration and breadth of activity” against new variants.

Read the study here.

03/31/2021 08:28 GMT — How Black faith leaders help their communities get vaccinated

Although COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Black communities in the United States, vaccination rates in these communities remain low. A recent paper proposes that a coalition of Black faith leaders, public health officials, and Black medical professionals may be able to increase the number of people getting vaccinated.

Read more about the study here.

03/30/2021 14:13 GMT — AstraZeneca blood clotting events

A new preprint, which has not undergone peer review, draws links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting events. The paper describes nine patients who “presented with thrombosis beginning 4 to 16 days postvaccination.” However, experts confirm that this is not a cause for concern.

For instance, Prof. Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, says that the study has “several limitations.” For instance, the researchers do not explain how common these events are in the general, unvaccinated population.

Also, Prof. Finn explains that “the paper does not report whether or not any of the patients had evidence of current or previous infection with SARS-CoV-2, which is itself a risk factor for blood clotting disorders.”

He concludes that “it is clear that the personal risks of death and serious complications, including blood clots, as a consequence of contracting COVID-19, which can be largely and possibly entirely prevented by this vaccine are currently much greater in almost all countries in the world than any possible, but as yet unproven, risks of blood clots related to receiving it.”

Similarly, Dr. Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control and former editor of Vaccines in Practice Magazine, says:

“This preprint implies a causal association between vaccination and clotting events but provides only the weakest of evidence. With millions of doses of vaccine given, of course some people who were destined to suffer clotting events anyway will get them after vaccination.”

He continues, “As far as I can see, it provides no evidence of a causal link. The conclusion that ‘The AZD1222 vaccine is associated with development of a prothrombotic disorder’ is completely unsupported by their findings. In my opinion, this research is not of high quality and is completely unable to say whether or not the vaccine causes clotting.”

He concludes: “[I]t is clear that the personal risks of death and serious complications, including blood clots, as a consequence of contracting COVID-19, which can be largely and possibly entirely prevented by this vaccine are currently much greater in almost all countries in the world than any possible but as yet unproven risks of blood clots related to receiving it.”

Similarly, Dr. Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control and former editor of Vaccines in Practice Magazine, says:

“This preprint implies a causal association between vaccination and clotting events, but provides only the weakest of evidence. With millions of doses of vaccine given, of course some people who were destined to suffer clotting events anyway will get them after vaccination.”

He continues, “As far as I can see, it provides no evidence of a causal link. The conclusion that ‘The AZD1222 vaccine is associated with development of a prothrombotic disorder’ is completely unsupported by their findings. In my opinion, this research is not of high quality and is completely unable to say whether or not the vaccine causes clotting.”

03/30/2021 09:00 GMT — Multiple states open vaccines to all adults

As many experts fear a fourth wave, a number of states have extended vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 16 years or older. While certain areas might struggle to cope with the influx of newly eligible individuals, some experts are concerned that people with chronic conditions might get left behind.

In some states, such as Texas and Kansas, current vaccine appointment slots are not being filled. This widening of eligibility might help boost their stalled vaccination program.

States that are opening vaccine slots for anyone aged 16 or over on Monday include Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, North Dakota, and Kansas.

Other states — including Indiana, South Carolina, Connecticut, Montana, Hampshire, and Colorado — will join them later in the week.

Certain regions in Illinois are also extending eligibility if doses are left unused.

03/29/2021 11:59 GMT — Limited protection against SARS-CoV-2 reinfection in over 65s

A recent study suggests that a first infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides only 47% protection against a second infection for those aged 65 years and over, compared with 80% protection across all age groups.

The findings underscore the importance of physical distancing and vaccination, even among people who have already had COVID-19.

Read more about the study here.

03/25/2021 12:27 GMT — AstraZeneca confirm vaccine efficacy results

After several days of uncertainty around the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial results in the United States, the company confirmed efficacies of 76% against symptomatic disease and 100% against severe disease and hospitalization. 

The efficacy figure against symptomatic disease is slightly lower than the 79%, which AstraZeneca released in a statement on Monday. In the most recent press release, the company also added that the vaccine’s efficacy stood at 85% against symptomatic COVID-19 in adults aged 65 years and over and that the “results have been presented to the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board [(DSMB)].”

This news comes after the DSMB notified the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of concerns that AstraZeneca had included outdated information in their efficacy analysis published on Monday, prompting the NIH to release a public statement.

“AstraZeneca may have just been too hasty in submitting the earlier, incomplete interim analysis rather than waiting to analyze and submit the full dataset,” the Associated Press quoted Dr. Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences at the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Tang went on to say that to him, the updated figures did not look substantially different from those presented earlier this week by AstraZeneca.

Read more about how viral vaccines, like the AstraZeneca vaccine, work here.

03/24/2021 09:16 GMT — Experts discuss the recent furor surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine

Yesterday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)released a statement regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. The NIAID reported that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) had “expressed concern” that AstraZeneca may have included “outdated information” from their clinical trial in the United States.

This, they explain, might have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.

Dr. Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control says: “There is a single sentence behind this story: ‘The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.’ I find this problematic in various ways. It reads like a sentence from the conclusions of a paper but one that has been presented out of context, without any explanation of the reasons for drawing the conclusion or of what they think the consequences might be.”

He continues: “If you present data, stating the period in which the data were collected, how can the data be ‘outdated’[?] The AstraZeneca press release did say it was on ‘interim’ data. There may be more recent data, but that would not normally outdate or invalidate the interim results.”

Dr. English calls the National Institutes of Health (NIH) communication “shamefully bad” and worries that it might increase vaccine hesitancy.

“For me, this further announcement by the DSMB in response to the [AstraZeneca] release yesterday highlights the importance of data being provided at the same time as summaries being made public. Naturally, the news yesterday was taken in good faith, and the issues raised by the DSMB may be a mere technicality, yet this won’t be clear until we have full disclosure,” explains Dr. Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He shares Dr. English’s concerns about vaccine uptake.

“[W]e must ensure that issues such as this are dealt with appropriately and that idle speculation is not seized upon by groups seeking to undermine faith in vaccination programs.”

03/23/2021 11:10 GMT — Oxford-AstraZeneca US vaccine trial controversy

Yesterday, AstraZeneca announced that their vaccine has an efficacy of 79%, based on phase 3 trial data from the United States. Less than 24 hours later, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that an independent panel of experts had raised concerns over the data.

The interim analysis of the company’s U.S. clinical trial comes after a week of turmoil in Europe, with several countries temporarily halting vaccination in response to a number of vaccine recipients developing severe blood clots and rare types of stroke. 

The European Medicines Agency, however, stated last Thursday that the vaccine does not carry an increased risk of blood clots and that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risk of side effects.

In their press statement, AstraZeneca reported an efficacy of 79% at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% efficacy at preventing hospitalization and severe illness.

“The vaccine was well tolerated, and the independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) identified no safety concerns related to the vaccine,” the statement reads.

Yet the trial’s DSMB  the independent panel of medical experts who review the trial data  notified the NIH, AstraZeneca, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of concerns about the data.

“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the NIH statement says.

Prof. Eric Topol, a professor at Scripps Research in La Jolla, CA, told The New York Times that such a public disagreement was “highly irregular.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s so, so troubling.”

Read more about how COVID-19 vaccines work here.

03/23/2021 09:12 GMT — Global COVID-19 vaccine summary: Side effects

Currently, in various areas of the world, 13 COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for use. In a recent Medical News Today feature, we summarize the known side effects of these vaccines and provide insight into the risks researchers are still investigating.

Read the feature here.

03/19/2021 09:06 GMT — UK faces vaccine shortfall

Due to production and testing issues, the United Kingdom is facing a shortfall in vaccine supplies. This setback will delay shots for people under 50, and these may now be pushed back until May.

Speaking with the BBC, Dr. Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners says, “It was disappointing news when we heard yesterday that the supplies weren’t going to be available during April. It’s a massively successful program overall, and this is a bit of a setback.”

03/19/2021 09:00 GMT — Countries restart AstraZeneca rollout

Over the last few days, a number of countries halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because a small number of people developed blood clots. This week, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine does not increase the risk of blood clots.

Following the statement, France, Italy Germany, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands announced that they would restart the rollout over the coming days.

The EMA found that the number of clotting events within people who had been vaccinated was lower than would be expected from the population at large.

03/18/2021 09:30 GMT — Woman gives birth to baby with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies

This week, a partially vaccinated frontline healthcare worker gave birth to a baby with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The mother received the Moderna shot when she was 36 weeks pregnant, and the baby was born 3 weeks later. Scientists detected the antibodies when they analyzed blood from the umbilical cord. 

The details appear in a preprint, which experts have not yet reviewed. In the article, the authors explain that this is “the first known case of an infant with SARS-CoV-2 [immunoglobulin G] antibodies detectable in cord blood after maternal vaccination.”

The authors also acknowledge that scientists need to conduct more investigations. In an interview, one of the authors, Dr. Chad Rudnick, explains:

“This is one small case in what will be thousands and thousands of babies born to mothers who have been vaccinated in the next several months. Further studies have to determine how long this protection will last. They have to determine at what level of protection or how many antibodies does a baby need to have circulating in order to give them protection.”

03/17/2021 09:03 GMT — Trump urges people to get vaccinated

Last night, during an interview on Fox News, former President Donal Trump urged people in the United States to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He said, “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly.”

03/17/2021 09:00 GMT — Members of the clergy receive vaccine in Washington National Cathedral

This week, in an attempt to encourage vaccine uptake, a group of clergy at Washington National Cathedral lined up to receive a COVID-19 shot earlier this week. The event particularly aimed to reach Black and Latinx communities and other people among whom vaccine hesitancy is most prevalent.

03/17/2021 08:52 GMT — mRNA vaccines reduce symptom-free cases by 80%

A new study helps alleviate concerns that people may still be vulnerable to asymptomatic COVID-19 after vaccination. The researchers found that people who have had two doses of an mRNA vaccine are 80% less likely to develop asymptomatic COVID-19 than people who have not received the vaccine.

Read more on this study here.

03/16/2021 09:07 GMT — China approves another vaccine for emergency use

This week, Chinese officials approved a fourth COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The protein subunit vaccine was developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Currently, there is no publicly available information in peer reviewed journals regarding the efficacy or safety of the vaccine.

Read more about subunit vaccines here.

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