Many countries have recently reported development in their COVID-19 vaccine trials, bringing hope to the world amid the still raging pandemic, while health experts called for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine candidates.
At least 24 COVID-19 candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, and another 142 in preclinical evaluation, according to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
On Monday alone, four countries reported their new research results of COVID-19 vaccines.
Chinese experts said in a new study published in medical journal The Lancet that a phase 2 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate has found that the vaccine is safe and induces an immune response.
“The phase 2 trial adds further evidence on safety and immunogenicity in a larger population than the phase 1 trial. This is an important step in evaluating this early-stage experimental vaccine and phase 3 trials are now underway,” said Professor Fengcai Zhu from Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China.
A report published also in The Lancet reveals the results of the phase 1/2 trial of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It indicates no early safety concerns and produces strong immune response.
According to the University of Oxford, the trial involves more than 1,000 healthy adult volunteers. The vaccine provoked a T cell response (white blood cells that can attack cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus) within 14 days of vaccination, and an antibody response within 28 days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that together with the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, it has successfully completed clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine with the participation of volunteers.
“Without exception, all volunteers, having received immunity from the coronavirus, felt fine,” First Deputy Defense Minister of the Russian Federation Ruslan Khadzhismelovich Tsaikov told Moscow’s Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
German biotech company BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer announced that data from their experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed that it was safe, and induced an immune response and high-level T-cell responses against the novel coronavirus in patients.
Earlier this month, research institutes in other countries also reported progress in their COVID-19 vaccine trials.
In a study published July 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that the COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273, co-developed by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Therapeutics, induced immune responses and no serious side effects in volunteers in the second clinical trial.
Moreover, the University of Queensland in Australia, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, among other institutes, also reported positive results in their COVID-19 vaccine research.
Despite the good news on COVID-19 candidate vaccines, experts warned of uncertainties of vaccine development and clinical trials, as well as multiple risks and challenges including virus mutation, while appealing for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine research.
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said on July 3 that there is no accurate timetable for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
Although the preliminary data of some candidate vaccines is quite promising, it is still unpredictable which one is totally clinically effective, he told a briefing.
While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year’s end, the question is how soon it could be mass produced, he added.
Saudi Arabia’s Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said recently that researchers should avoid being over-optimistic about the significant progress of some candidate vaccines in clinical trials, and wait for further trial results.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said that the effectiveness of developing vaccines cannot be guaranteed.
Some studies showed that the level of anti-bodies will decline after COVID-19 patients recover. Joint efforts of scientific research teams are needed to tackle issues including how COVID-19 vaccines provide sufficient long-term immunity and how to deal with possible virus variation.
The WHO urged that before a COVID-19 vaccine is officially available, all countries should consistently take full-flung prevention and control measures.
Gallup Poll: 35% of Americans Unwilling to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine – InsideHook
According to a new Gallup poll, an astonishing number of Americans would refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, whenever it may arrive. A July 20 to Aug. 2 tracking survey revealed that 35 percent of the country has no intention of being vaccinated for the deadly virus, even if it comes FDA-approved and available to them at no cost.
For public health officials already sick of having to convince Americans — particularly Republicans — to wear face coverings, this data suggests that the real battle has only just begun. While 81 percent of Democrats said that they would agree to be vaccinated, only 47 percent of Republicans voted “Yes.” Independents came in at 59 percent. It’s a baffling twist; back in December 2019, before most people had ever heard of COVID-19, a commanding 84 percent of Americans had voted in another Gallup poll, agreeing: “It’s extremely or very important that parents get their children vaccinated.” Somehow, a once-in-a-century pandemic that’s killed 712K people (as of August 7, 2020) has generated an army of anti-vaxxers across the country.
It’s unclear exactly what will need to happen to convince certain Americans that ending the pandemic is more important than supporting a science-denying demagogue, but it seems, at least, that certain age groups get it more than others. Perhaps they can help spread the word. The youngest and oldest cohorts (18-29 and 65+) both voted overwhelmingly in support of the vaccine. Other concerning distinctions: Non-white Americans and rural areas are the both less likely to get get the vaccine. Considering that minorities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and small-town areas have less access to expert care to begin with, public health officials should work to get ahead of this unwillingness early.
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'Cautious consumer' to remain until COVID-19 vaccine, Indigo CEO says – Squamish Chief
TORONTO — Canadian customers likely won’t start frequenting stores for items not on their shopping list until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, Indigo Books & Music Inc. founder and chief executive said Friday.
“I think our own view is that customers will continue well, well into the months ahead to make shopping an activity they do when they have something specific to buy,” Heather Reisman said during a conference call with analysts. The company released its first-quarter financial results after markets closed Thursday.
Foot traffic is “still way down” for the book retailer, which shuttered all its stores to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and only reopened nearly all 182 of its locations by the end of its most recent quarter.
The Toronto-based company’s revenue for the 13 weeks ended June 27 fell to $135.1 million from $192.6 million due to store closures. It recorded a net loss of about $31.6 million or $1.15 per common share compared with a loss of about $19.1 million or 69 cents per share in the same quarter last year.
Since reopening, retail store sales have tracked at about 72 per cent of sales at the same time last year, said chief financial officer Craig Loudon.
However conversion and average transaction size are both “way up,” noted Reisman.
“So, that’s saying that you’ve got a deliberate customer and we think that that’s going to remain, frankly, until there’s a vaccine.”
In Canada, people watch the news and are afraid of the virus, she said.
“So, all in all, we predict that the retail consumer will remain a cautious consumer,” she said.
The company is working to make the shopping experience easy and safe and is planning for the important holiday shopping season although it remains to be seen how consumers behave during a usually busy period.
The company accelerated efforts during the first quarter to help serve customers safely during the holiday season, including “a robust click-and-collect capability and Instacart service,” said Reisman. These efforts should be implemented in the current quarter.
The company’s e-commerce revenue grew threefold, jumping up 214 per cent for the quarter compared with last year. That demand “has moderated, but remained strong” as stores reopened, said Loudon.
Indigo’s shares, which have plunged from a high of $8.06 last August, surged 19 per cent or 20 cents at $1.25 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:IDG)
speed of COVID-19 vaccine race raises safety concerns
BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – The frenetic race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has intensified safety concerns about an inoculation, prompting governments and drugmakers to raise awareness to ensure their efforts to beat the coronavirus aren’t derailed by public distrust.
FILE PHOTO: A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker stands near a medical syringe in front of displayed “Coronavirus COVID-19” words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
There are more than 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development globally, including more than 20 in human clinical trials. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to have a shot ready before year’s end, although they typically take 10 years or longer to develop and test for safety and effectiveness.
In the drive to find a potential COVID-19 vaccine “fast is good for politicians,” said Heidi Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP), a global surveillance programme on vaccine trust. “But from the public perspective, the general sentiment is: ‘too fast can’t be safe’”, she told Reuters.
Regulators around the world have repeatedly said speed will not compromise safety, as quicker results would stem from conducting in parallel trials that are usually done in sequence.
However, these reassurances have failed to convince many, including in Western countries where scepticism about vaccinations was already growing before the pandemic.
Preliminary results of a survey conducted over the last three months in 19 countries showed that only about 70% of British and U.S. respondents would take a COVID-19 vaccine if available, Scott Ratzan, co-leader of ‘Business Partners to CONVINCE’, told Reuters.
Business Partners to CONVINCE, a U.S./UK initiative that is partly government funded, conducted the survey jointly with VCP and the results were broadly in line with a Reuters/Ipsos poll of the U.S. public in May.
“We just see this distrust growing against science and government,” said Ratzan.
“We need to address legitimate concerns about the rapid pace of development, political over-promises and the risks of vaccination.”
The VCP/Business Partners’ survey, expected to be published in a few weeks, will also show that Chinese participants were the most trusting of vaccines, while Russians were the least so, Ratzan said.
Drugmakers and governments had hoped the scale of the COVID-19 crisis would allay concerns about vaccines, which they see as crucial to defeating the pandemic and enabling economies to fully recover from its impact.
Vaccine hesitancy – or the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated – is also known as “anti-vax”, a term that is sometimes associated with conspiracy theories when often it simply reflects many people’s concerns about side-effects or industry ethics.
In January 2019 the World Health Organisation named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats for that year.
In Europe, scepticism among the public was high before the pandemic due to a range of factors including negative coverage of pharmaceutical companies as well as false theories including suggested links between childhood immunisations and autism.
Only 70% of French people considered vaccines safe in a 2018 survey commissioned by the European Union executive. The EU average was 82%, but trust fell to 68% for the shot against seasonal flu.
The VCP project on vaccine trust, funded by the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies among others, aims to identify early signs and causes of public mistrust and tackle them with information campaigns before it is too late.
Larson said headlines referring to Warp Speed – the name of the U.S. operation aimed at delivering a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. population by next year – could increase vaccine hesitancy even more than perceptions that the disease could become less lethal.
“One of the most frequent things that comes up in people’s conversations is concerns about how quick it is. If I have to pick one theme that is more recurrent than others it is this one,” Larson said.
Data collected by VCP from social media show that by the end of June about 40% of Britons’ posts concerning a COVID-19 vaccine, for example, were negative, with many distrusting any coronavirus vaccine and the medical establishment.
Announcements about fast progress in COVID vaccines in Russia and China in particular could also contribute to rising scepticism. “We don’t have transparency and don’t know how accurate or valid their data are,” Ratzan said, adding that errors there could boost scepticism elsewhere.
Key for any information campaign to be successful is to tailor it to different audiences as there is no uniform profile of anti-vaxxers, said Kate Elder of Doctors Without Borders, a non-governmental organisation.
“They go from the highly educated to those who don’t believe in science,” she said, urging politicians to be more careful in their messages on vaccines and to better explain the reasons behind potentially fast results against COVID-19.
“We are exploring the idea of a chatbot that will speak in different languages,” said Ratzan, adding it could be something similar to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service’s campaign to educate about preventing wildfires.
“Different parts of the world will require different strategies. We know we need to tailor it and to be specific,” he said.
Risks are high if hesitancy is not addressed quickly.
During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, growing scepticism about the vaccine led to a failure of the vaccination campaign in France, where only 8% of the population got a shot against the virus which is estimated to have killed around 280,000 people across the world.
A study published in May in the Lancet by a group of French scientists warned of similar risks now in the country where vaccine hesitancy went up from 18% in mid-March when a lockdown was imposed on the French to 26% by the end of that month.
“Distrust is likely to become an issue when the vaccine will be made available,” the scientists concluded.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Josephine Mason in London; Editing by Susan Fenton
Source: – Reuters
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