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January 22, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: Is Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine effective against the UK variant? Here's what research suggests.

Daily Briefing

    Amazon offers to help the Biden administration with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Quest Diagnostics announces a partnership with CDC to sequence the new coronavirus' genome, and more.

    • Amazon on January 5 started to offer an at-home Covid-19 test, developed by DxTerity Diagnositcs, on its website for $110. Once a customer takes the test—which uses saliva samples to test for Covid-19—he or she has to drop it off at a FedEx location the same day. Results are available for viewing within 24 to 72 hours of the lab receiving the sample (Adams, Becker's Health IT, 1/14).
    • In a letter sent to President Biden Wednesday, Dave Clark, incoming CEO of Amazon's retail unit, offered Amazon's help in the national effort to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. Clark wrote that Amazon—which has partnered with a health care provider to administer vaccines at its locations when doses are ready—is "prepared to leverage our operations, IT, & communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts." Clark also requested that Amazon employees working at fulfillment centers, Amazon Web Services data centers, and Whole Foods Market stores, receive the vaccine "at the earliest appropriate time" as they "cannot work from home" (Soper/Day, Bloomberg, 1/20; Byers, NBC News, 1/20; Dastin, Reuters, 1/20).
    • HHS in the last days of former President Trump's administration announced that it was partnering with NDA Partners, a consultancy that has hired former FDA regulators, to evaluate the accuracy of lab-developed Covid-19 tests. According to Politico, HHS in August had rescinded FDA's authority to require premarket review of the lab-developed tests (LDTs). Ultimately, FDA opted to stop reviewing LDTs to prioritize tests that could either significantly boost testing capacity or that represented a meaningful technological advance, such as at-home testing. As a result, Politico reports, HHS partnered with NDA to issue emergency use authorizations for the tests without FDA input. However, health care experts say the move is mostly symbolic, since the Biden administration could revert sole responsibility for the reviews to FDA (Lim, Politico, 1/17).
    • The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to be equally as effective against the variant of the new coronavirus first discovered in the United Kingdom—called B.1.1.7—which has been shown to be more contagious than the original virus, according to a new study. For the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, researchers looked at the blood of 16 participants who had previously received the vaccine and found that there was "no biologically significant difference in neutralization activity" between tests on the original the virus and B.1.1.7—suggesting it's "unlikely that the B.1.1.7 lineage will escape" the vaccine's defense (Joseph, STAT News, 1/20; Meredith, CNBC, 1/20).
    • Quest Diagnostics on Monday announced it has contracted with CDC to provide genomic sequencing of the new coronavirus, with the goal of identifying mutations to the virus and better understanding transmission patterns and viral prevalence throughout the United States. Quest will take random, de-identified patient samples—collected as part of the molecular diagnostic testing the organization provides—sequence the genomes of the new coronavirus, and share the results with CDC (AP/Modern Healthcare, 1/19).
    • Uber and Lyft are pushing the Biden administration to give them a role in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. According to Megan Callahan, leader of Lyft's health care business, executives from Lyft met with President Biden's transition team in December asking for federal funds for vaccine-related transportation. Uber also announced Tuesday that it's partnering with Moderna to give Uber customers information about vaccine safety through Uber's app (Glazer/Krouse, Wall Street Journal, 1/12).

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