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Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine seems highly effective against P.1 variant, study finds


Eli Lilly's combination antibody treatment found to reduce hospitalization and death risk among high-risk Covid-19 patients by 87%, the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant is found to be deadlier than other versions of the virus, and more.

Good? Bad? Ugly? We've updated our take on what's next for the epidemic.

  • The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech appears to be highly effective against the P.1 coronavirus variant first discovered in Brazil, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. For the study, researchers from Pfizer, BioNTech, and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston took the blood of people given the vaccine and tested it on an engineered version of the variant. The researchers found the vaccine's ability to neutralize the engineered version of variant was about equal to the vaccine's effect on previously discovered, less contagious variants of the virus (Cunningham et. al., Washington Post, 3/9; Erman, Reuters, 3/8).
  • FDA on Friday granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a new Covid-19 test developed by Adaptive Biotechnologies. The test, called T-Detect COVID, looks for evidence of past infections in a body's adaptive immune system, specifically the T cells, making it the first Covid-19 test of its kind. FDA has also granted an EUA for the first over-the-counter, at-home molecular Covid-19 test developed by Cue Health. The battery-operated test can detect the presence of the novel coronavirus within about 20 minutes (Palmer, STAT News, 3/5; Taylor, Healthcare Dive, 3/8).
  • Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced a new initiative by the Biden administration that will offer $250 million in federal grants to local governments to collaborate with community organizations working to improve "health literacy," testing efforts, contact tracing, and preventive measures. HHS projects the initiative will fund around 30 projects in urban areas and 43 projects in rural areas over the next two years (Chen, Axios, 3/8; Chalfant, The Hill, 3/8).
  • The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has been shown to be between 30% and 100% more deadly than previous coronavirus strains, according to a study published in The BMJ. For the study, researchers compared death rates among those infected with other strains of the new coronavirus to those infected with B.1.1.7 and found that, among 54,906 patients, B.1.1.7 led to 227 deaths within 28 days compared to 141 among those infected with previous strains (University of Exeter news, 3/10; Williams, The Hill, 3/10).
  • Eli Lilly on Wednesday announced that its combination antibody therapy, a mix of bamlanivimab and etesevimab, was shown to reduce hospitalization and death risk from Covid-19 by 87% among 769 patients at high-risk for severe cases of Covid-19. This is the second late-stage study on the therapy, with the first study finding the therapy reduced hospitalization risk by 70%. The therapy in February received an EUA from FDA for use as a treatment for Covid-19 (O'Donnell/Erman, Reuters, 3/10; Jensen, Biopharma Dive, 3/10).

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