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February 12, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: People may need to get Covid-19 vaccine yearly, J&J CEO says

Daily Briefing

    A World Health Organization panel says AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine likely provides some level of protection against a new coronavirus variant; FDA authorizes a rapid coronavirus test for use in airports, schools, and businesses; and more.

    • People may need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 every year for the next few years, Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said this week. That's because "[u]nfortunately, as [the novel coronavirus] spreads it can also mutate," Gorsky said. "Every time it mutates, it's almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine," he explained (Lovelace, CNBC, 2/9; Singh, Reuters, 2/9; Chen, Axios, 2/9).
    • FDA has authorized a rapid coronavirus test developed by Visby Medical for use in airports, schools, and businesses, provided the locations have received a waiver from FDA's requirement that the tests be conducted by a lab. FDA previously authorized the test, which provides results in 30 minutes, for use in labs and hospitals. FDA's new authorization for the test marks "the first time that anyone has been able to take this gold-standard laboratory equipment … and put it in a [form] that anyone can just carry in their hand," Adam de la Zerda, CEO of Visby, said (Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 2/10).
    • FDA on Tuesday issued an emergency use authorization for a combination monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly for use in treating mild to moderate cases of Covid-19. The treatment is a combination of two antibodies called bamlanivimab and etesevimab. Results from a late-stage clinical trial showed the combination treatment reduces hospitalization and mortality risk among Covid-19 patients by 70%, Reuters reports. On Tuesday, Eli Lilly said it had "100,000 doses ready immediately and an additional 150,000 doses will be available throughout the first quarter" (Robbins, New York Times, 2/9; Singh, Reuters, 2/9; Lienhard, Inside Health Policy [subscription required], 2/9; Axelrod, The Hill, 2/9).
    • The World Health Organization's (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) on Wednesday issued new recommendations for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca stating that although preliminary study results suggest the vaccine is less effective against the B.1.351 coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa when it comes to preventing all cases of Covid-19, the study didn't include data on the vaccine's efficacy against only severe Covid-19 cases. SAGE noted that other studies suggest AstraZeneca's vaccine would provide some level of protection against the B.1.351 variant and others. "Considering all these factors, even if there is a possibility that this vaccine has a reduction in efficacy, we see no reason not to use it, even in countries with variants," Alejandro Cravioto, chair of SAGE, said (Beaubien, "Goats and Soda," NPR, 2/10; Schnirring, CIDRAP News, 2/10).
    • A team from WHO on Tuesday announced its findings in its investigation into the origin of the novel coronavirus in China, saying it was "extremely unlikely" the virus originated within the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Instead, the team said "the most likely pathway" for the introduction of the virus was between an animal, likely a bat, and humans. The team also said around 90 people were hospitalized with Covid-19-like symptoms in central China within the two months prior to the novel coronavirus's first discovery in Wuhan. About two-thirds of the patients have received antibody testing, and no trace of infection from the novel coronavirus has been found. However, the team said it's possible they had been infected with the virus, but any antibodies they had developed may have subsided by the time they underwent antibody testing (Fujiyama/Moritsugu, Associated Press, 2/11; Walsh, Axios, 2/10; Hinshaw et. al., Wall Street Journal, 2/10).

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