January 29, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: How effective is Pfizer's vaccine against the South African variant? Here's what research suggests.

Daily Briefing

    Eli Lilly says its antibody treatment is effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19, the World Health Organization releases new guidance for Covid-19 treatment, and more.

    • Eli Lilly on Tuesday announced that its combination treatment of two monoclonal antibodies significantly reduces both hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19, according to a final-stage clinical trial involving more than 1,000 patients. According to data from the trial, 11 patients who received the combination therapy of bamlanivimab and etesevimab were hospitalized for Covid-19, compared with 36 patients who had received a placebo. A total of 10 deaths occurred among the participants, and all of those patients were in the placebo group. Separately, Eli Lilly announced that clinical trial data also show that bamlanivimab on its own was effective in preventing Covid-19 among residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, reducing Covid-19 risk by about 57% when compared with a placebo group. In addition, the drugmaker said it is working on a new Covid-19 antibody therapy that would specifically target a new coronavirus variant that scientists recently discovered in South Africa. Similarly, Regeneron on Tuesday announced that data from a clinical trial on its monoclonal antibody treatment shows the therapy was effective at preventing Covid-19. According to Regeneron, eight of the 223 patients in the trial's placebo group developed Covid-19, compared with none of the 186 patients who received Regeneron's antibody treatment. Participants who received the treatment also were less likely to carry the new coronavirus asymptomatically, Regeneron said (Weixel, The Hill, 1/26; Maddipatla, Reuters, 1/26; Weintraub, USA Today, 1/26; Loftus, Wall Street Journal, 1/21; Herper, STAT News, 1/26; Weintraub, FiercePharma, 1/26).
    • A new study of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which is one of two vaccines authorized for use in the United States, found that the vaccine was only slightly less effective against a virus engineered with the key mutations of the new coronavirus variant recently discovered in South Africa. The study, which was conducted by Pfizer and researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch and hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, found there was less than a two-fold drop in the antibody titer levels produced by the vaccine against the mutated virus, suggesting that the vaccine would effectively neutralize the new variant. Separately, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday said Pfizer and BioNTech are working to develop booster shots for their vaccine to help protect against new variants of the novel coronavirus, however Bourla did not specify which variants the companies are targeting with the booster shot (Erman, Reuters, 1/27; Hernandez, Wall Street Journal, 1/27; Liu, FiercePharma, 1/27).
    • Procter & Gamble has developed an at-home coronavirus test in partnership with Rhinostics. According to Rhinostics, for the test, individuals use a nasal swab that's able to gather a sample up to 30-times the concentration of other nasal swabs. After a user collects the sample, they place the swab into a secure transport tube, seal the tube in a specimen bag, and send the sample to a lab for testing. Rhinostics said the testing kits could improve coronavirus testing throughput by 10 times and potentially could be used for testing for other viruses, such as influenza (Brownfield, Columbus Business First, 1/25).
    • Salesforce on Wednesday released its Vaccine Cloud technology, a platform that helps health care organizations develop and manage their own Covid-19 vaccine rollouts. Organizations using the platform will be able to track the process of their vaccination efforts via access data on communities' health care needs and risk factors, Salesforce said. The platform also features tools for inventory management, education, and staff training, and it can be used to notify patients to schedule both their initial and follow-up vaccinations (Drees, Becker's Health IT, 1/27).
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday released new guidance for Covid-19 treatment that suggests health care providers use at-home oxygen saturation testing for discharged Covid-19 patients, as well as low-dose anticoagulants for hospitalized Covid-19 patients to prevent thrombosis. The guidance also recommends that providers place hospitalized Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms who require ventilation or supplemental oxygen in the awake prone position. WHO also released separate guidance regarding the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, which is the second Covid-19 vaccine authorized for use in the United States. The guidance suggests that pregnant women don't receive the vaccine unless they're at high risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus or of developing a serious case of Covid-19, which is similar to a recommendation WHO released earlier this month advising against pregnant women receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. In both cases, WHO said there isn't yet enough data on the vaccines' effect on pregnant women to assess how effective or safe the vaccines are during pregnancy (Budryk, The Hill, 1/26; Toy, Wall Street Journal, 1/27).

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