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Solving COVID: March 31, 2021


Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 100 percent efficacy among adolescents aged 12 to 15 in a phase 3 study. The vaccine also demonstrated “robust antibody responses, exceeding those recorded earlier in vaccinated participants aged 16 to 25 years old, and was well tolerated.” This trial consisted of 2,260 adolescents between 12 and 15, and there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group but none in the group that was vaccinated. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said the initial results suggests “children are particularly well protected by vaccination,” which he called “very encouraging” news, and the companies plan to submit this data to the FDA with “the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.” [The New York Times, The Week]


Moderna’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be “highly effective” under real-world conditions in a new CDC study, preventing both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found that two vaccine doses prevented 90 percent of infections by two weeks after the second dose, while one dose also prevented 80 percent of infections after two weeks. The study consisted of 3,950 essential workers, and the CDC said its findings demonstrated that “vaccines can reduce the risk of all” COVID-19 infections, “not just symptomatic infections.” The findings also do not support fears that COVID-19 variants might render vaccines less effective, as variants were circulating while the study was being conducted from December through March. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the findings “should offer hope to the millions of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead.” [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Times]


Oxford is seeking participants for a trial to deliver the vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca as a nasal spray, with a phase 1 trial including around 30 healthy participants. It’s reportedly expected to take about four months, and the efficacy could then be studied in a larger trial. “Some immunologists believe that delivering the vaccine to the site of infection may achieve enhanced protection, especially against transmission, and mild disease,” Dr. Sandy Douglas said. “We hope this small safety-focused study will lay the foundation for future larger studies.” AstraZeneca’s revised data shows its vaccine was 76 percent effective in a large U.S. trial. Russia’s Gamaleya centre, which developed the Sputnik V vaccine, is also starting trials of a nasal spray vaccine. “This is a very gentle and patient-friendly form of vaccination for children … who can be traumatized when they see a syringe,” said director Alexander Gintsburg. The AstraZeneca nasal spray trial could start “as early as next week.” [Financial Times]


A new poll suggests COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is on the decline. In a Census Bureau survey conducted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of adults said they definitely or probably wouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, a decline from 22 percent in January. The decline was more prominent among those who said they “probably” would not get vaccinated, as 13 percent said as much in January compared to nine percent in March. Eight percent of respondents said they “definitely” won’t get the vaccine, down only one point from January. Though hesitancy was highest in the South, there were notable declines in Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Among Black Americans, 22 percent said they probably or definitely wouldn’t get the vaccine, down from 34 percent in January. [The Wall Street Journal]


Canada suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on people 55 and younger Monday. An advisory committee said its recommendation was a “precautionary measure” due to “rare” cases of blood clots in Europe, mostly affecting women under 55. “There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” said Dr. Shelley Deeks, the committee’s vice chair. Europe’s drug regulator said there is no evidence of an overall increase in blood clots and the vaccine is safe and effective to use. There have been no reports of blood clots in Canada, and the country is still using the vaccine for those over 55. Canada approved the vaccine in late February, but only for people under 65. When British data came in showing its effectiveness on older people, Canada reversed itself. “The messaging has been brutal overall,” said Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto. “I am fearful it is toast. It shouldn’t be.” [The Associated Press]

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