April 30, 2021

Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer CEO says oral treatment for Covid-19 could be ready next year

Daily Briefing

Sanofi announces it will manufacture up to 200 million doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine, two new studies find one dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine reduces infections by 65% after three weeks, and more.

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  • Federal officials on Tuesday said they will be directing all drugstores and grocery store pharmacies to offer second shots of Covid-19 vaccines to people who received their first shot elsewhere in response to growing numbers of Americans who are missing their second shots. Andy Slavitt, senior advisor for Covid-19 response for the White House, said the directive is especially aimed at helping college students—who may have gotten their first shots of the vaccine on campus—receive their second shots at home (Robbins/Slotnik, New York Times, 4/27).
  • Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, on Tuesday said that "if all goes right," an oral antiviral drug that prevents the coronavirus from replicating could be available by the end of the year. Bourla said the drugmaker is working on two antiviral drugs, one that is administered through an injection and one administered orally. "Particularly, the attention is on the oral," Bourla said, "because it provides several advantages," including the ability to be taken at home rather than requiring a hospital visit. As of now, the only antiviral drug approved for use against the virus that causes Covid-19 is remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, which received full FDA approval in October, and which is administered in a hospital through an IV (Knutson, Axios, 4/27; Lovelace, CNBC, 4/27; Williams, The Hill, 4/27).
  • The Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are both effective at preventing severe Covid-19 and death from the B.1.526 coronavirus variant first discovered in New York, according to two preprint independent studies. According to the studies, although antibodies generated by the vaccines are slightly less effective at combating the variant compared with the original strain of the virus, researchers are "not seeing big differences," according to Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University and an author on one of the studies (Mandavilli, New York Times, 4/24).
  • Sanofi on Monday announced it will manufacture up to 200 million doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine in the United States starting in September. A spokesperson for Sanofi said the manufactured doses will be for the supply in the United States as part of an agreement running through April 2022. Currently, Moderna has said it plans to deliver a total of 300 million doses of its vaccine for use in the United States by the end of July (Loftus, Wall Street Journal, 4/26; Loh, Bloomberg, 4/26).
  • Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, on Sunday said American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to visit the European Union's 27 member nations. Von der Leyen didn't provide a timeline on when tourist travel could open, but said that Americans are using "European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines" which "will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union" (Stevis-Gridneff, New York Times, 4/29).
  • One dose of the Covid-19 vaccine made by either Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca reduces Covid-19 infections by 65% after three weeks, according to two studies. In the studies—which together included more than 1.6 million nose and throat swabs from 373,402 people taken between December 2020 and April—researchers found that symptomatic cases of Covid-19 dropped 74% after one dose of either vaccine, while asymptomatic cases dropped 57%. The second shot of the vaccines increased protection overall to 70%, with symptomatic Covid-19 cases dropping 90% after the second shot and asymptomatic cases dropping 49% (Taylor, CNBC, 4/23).
  • Moderna on Thursday announced that new data shows its Covid-19 vaccine can remain stable at temperatures found in refrigerators for up to three months. Currently, the vaccine is authorized to be stored for up to 30 days in temperatures between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit and up to seven months at minus four degrees Fahrenheit. If the new storage temperature receives authorization from FDA, it could "facilitate easier distribution to doctor's offices and other smaller settings," Moderna said (Lovelace, CNBC, 4/29).
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