October 2, 2020

Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer CEO reiterates pledge not to let politics affect vaccine development

Daily Briefing
    • Eyeglasses may help protect against transmission of the novel coronavirus, according to a study recently published in JAMA Ophthalmology. For the study, researchers looked at 276 patients who were admitted to a hospital in Wuhan, China, between Jan. 27 and March 13. According to the researchers, the percentage "of daily wearers of eyeglasses" among the patients "was lower than that of the local population (5.8% vs 31.5%)." The researchers theorized that wearing eyeglasses may discourage wearers from touching their faces, which may reduce their risk of contracting the virus, and that eyeglasses may protect wearers from becoming infected through their tear ducts (Budryk, The Hill, 9/17; Zeng et al., JAMA Ophthalmology, 9/16).

    • FDA last week granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Assure coronavirus test, which is the first point-of-care, rapid antibody coronavirus test to receive an EUA from FDA. The EUA allows providers to administer and conduct the test in physicians' offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and EDs, meaning providers don't have to send patients' samples out to labs to get results (Anderson, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/24).

    • FDA also has granted an EUA to a new coronavirus test aimed at diagnosing patients who are infected with the virus but are not showing symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The test, Hologic's Panther Fusion test, is the first widely available test that's specifically intended to screen asymptomatic patients for the virus. The test is able to provide results within about three hours and can process over 1,000 test results within a day, according to Hologic (Anderson, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/29).

    • FDA has placed a partial clinical hold on Inovio Pharmaceuticals' plans to begin phase 2/3 trials for its novel coronavirus vaccine candidate. FDA said it paused Inovio's plan to move forward because the agency has "additional questions" about the trials. Inovio hasn't provided details on those questions, but the company in a statement said the hold is not related to any side effects linked to the vaccine candidate that occurred during the company's phase 1 study. "The company is actively working to address the FDA's questions and plans to respond in October, after which the FDA will have up to 30 days to notify Inovio of its decision as to whether the trial may proceed," the company said (Mishra, Reuters, 9/28; Al Idrus, FierceBiotech, 9/28; Hopkins, Wall Street Journal, 9/28).

    • Google last week unveiled a new feature in Google Maps that shows the number of novel coronavirus cases that have been reported in a user's area. The tool, labeled "Covid-19 info," shows the average of newly reported coronavirus cases per 100,000 persons in a given area over the past seven days. The data comes from a variety of sources, including Johns Hopkins University, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. The tool is available for all 220 countries and territories covered by Google Maps (Drees, Becker's Health IT, 9/23).

    • Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in a Thursday memo to employees said he was "disappointed" that during Tuesday's presidential debate, a coronavirus vaccine "was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts." Bourla, who has indicated his company may be ready to apply for FDA authorization on its coronavirus vaccine as early as the end of October, added that he would not let political pressure affect the vaccine development timeline. "In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay," he wrote. "Neither of those options are acceptable to me" (Sullivan, The Hill, 10/01; Owermohle, Politico, 10/1).
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