German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new U.K. variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure, its chief executive said Tuesday.
The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the U.K. as a result.
“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” CEO Ugur Sahin told a news conference the day after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”
Sahin said that the proteins on the U.K. variant are 99 per cent the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective.
“But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” he said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high.”
Should the vaccine need to be adjusted for the new variant the company could do so in about 6 weeks, Sahin said, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be used.
Having to adjust the vaccine would be a blow for the rollout of immunization campaigns and rein in the pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide.
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BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has been authorized for use in more than 45 countries including Britain, the United States and the EU. Hundreds of thousands of people have already received the shots.
The companies submitted data to regulators showing the vaccine, which goes by the brand name COMIRNATY in Europe, is 95 per cent effective in preventing infection with COVID-19.
“All countries across the EU that have requested doses will receive them in the next five days, the very initial supply, and that will be followed up next week with further supplies,” said Sean Marett, BioNTech’s chief commercial officer.
Several EU countries have said they plan to start vaccinating on Sunday. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said he expects the country to receive more than 1.3 million doses by the end of this year.
Germany is among the European countries that have banned flights from the U.K. because of the new variant there.
“We want to avoid for as long as we can that a possibly dangerous virus variant spreads to continental Europe,” said Spahn.
But Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control centre, said it was very likely the U.K. variant is already circulating in Germany.
Wieler, who heads the Robert Koch Institute, said it was common for viruses’ genetic material to change, and that can affect how transmissible they are.
“Whether that is really the case with the variant in England is not yet entirely clear,” Wieler said. “What is clear is that the more widely viruses spread, the more opportunity they have to change.”
A leading German virologist who was initially skeptical about reports that the strain was much more contagious voiced concern after seeing further data. Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, tweeted that “unfortunately it doesn’t look good.”
But Drosten added: “What is positive is that cases with the mutation so far only increased in areas where the overall incidence was high or rising. So contact reduction also works against the spread of the mutation.”
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Quebec confirms it will delay second vaccine dose for CHSLD residents and staff – Montreal Gazette
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On Feb. 15, Quebec will begin vaccinating seniors ages 80 and over who live at home.
Health officials told the Montreal Gazette this week that they aren’t ready to release details about the next phase of vaccination plan.
Public health authorities say they’re closely monitoring seniors in CHSLDs who have received the first dose to make sure it’s still effective weeks later, said Richard Massé, a public health epidemiologist.
Massé defended Quebec’s decision to ignore a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination, which said if provinces delay administering the second dose due to logistical or epidemiological reasons, it should be given with 42 days of the first dose.
On Thursday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each province and territory, also weighed in on Quebec’s plan, saying if the second dose is extended beyond 42 days, “the impact on people vaccinated must be closely monitored.”
Wife of Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 pleads with people to get vaccinated – CTV News
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT —
The wife of a Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 after contracting it in his community is urging the territory’s residents to get vaccinated.
Diane Sammurtok’s husband Luki died in December after being flown from his home in Arviat to a southern hospital.
Sammurtok called in to Arviat’s local radio station and pleaded with people to get the vaccine.
A recording of the call was played at a news conference today and broadcast over radio and television.
Speaking through tears and sobs, Sammurtok said she doesn’t want anyone to go through what she did.
Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, had tears in his eyes as he listened and his voice shook as he addressed the media.
Savikataaq urged people to stop spreading misinformation about the vaccine and said he will get it when it’s his turn.
Vaccination clinics are underway in four Nunavut communities this week and are tol roll out in four more next week.
There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.
Pfizer investigates post-vaccine death for possible connection – Mint
Pfizer Inc. and federal health officials are investigating the death of a health-care worker 16 days after the person received the first dose of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine.
So far, the evidence doesn’t suggest a connection, Pfizer said in a statement on Tuesday. The Florida-based physician developed a rare disorder called severe thrombocytopenia that decreases the body’s ability to clot blood and stop internal bleeding.
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Pfizer cited its clinical trials and data gathered since the vaccine was authorized in the US in reporting its initial conclusion that the evidence doesn’t suggest a causal association to the shot it developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE. Meanwhile, the x said it is aware of the death, and “will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available,” according to spokesman Tom Skinner.
“To date, millions of people have been vaccinated and we are closely monitoring all adverse events in individuals receiving our vaccine,” Pfizer said in its statement. “It is important to note that serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine, are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population.”
Pfizer’s shares were down 2% to $37.03 at 3:14 pm in New York trading on a day when the company also said its 2021 adjusted earnings would be between $3 and $3.10 per share, less than what analysts were expecting.
The New York Times first reported news of the death of Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist located in Miami Beach. The Times cited a Facebook post written on Jan. 5 by his wife, Heidi Neckelmann, who said Michael had died from a brain hemorrhage.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the US on Dec. 14, with health-care workers and those in long-term care facilities the first in line to get the shot. Thus far, 9.27 million shots have been administered of this vaccine and a second authorized vaccine developed by Moderna Inc., according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg and data from the CDC.
The CDC, along with the US Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies, regularly review Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring data and share their findings with a group of vaccine safety experts, who provide independent guidance to the federal officials, according to the CDC’s Skinner.
“Our thoughts are with the family during this heartbreaking time,” Skinner said.
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