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Covid vaccine: First 'milestone' vaccine offers 90% protection – BBC News

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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;The first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19, a preliminary analysis shows.

The developers – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”.

Their vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.

The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.

No vaccine has gone from the drawing board to being proven highly effective in such a short period of time.

There are still huge challenges ahead, but the announcement has been warmly welcomed with scientists describing themselves smiling “ear to ear” and some suggesting life could be back to normal by spring.

“I am probably the first guy to say that, but I will say that with some confidence,” said Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University.

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  • Analysis: Have we finally got a vaccine?
  • Who would get the coronavirus vaccine and how?

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How effective could it be?

A vaccine – alongside better treatments – is seen as the best way of getting out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives.

The data shows that two doses, three weeks apart, are needed. The trials – in US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey – show 90% protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.

However, the data presented is not the final analysis as it is based on only the first 94 volunteers to develop Covid so the precise effectiveness of the vaccine may change when the full results are analysed.

Dr Albert Bourla, the chairman of Pfizer, said: “We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.”

Prof Ugur Sahin, one of the founders of BioNTech, described the results as a “milestone”.

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When will the vaccine be available?

A limited number of people may get the vaccine this year.

Pfizer and BioNTech say they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.

Until it has been approved it will not be possible for countries to begin their vaccination campaigns.

The two companies say they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Each person needs two doses.

The UK should get 10 million doses by the end of the year, with a further 30 million doses already ordered.

Who would get it?

Not everyone will get the vaccine straight away and countries are each deciding who should be prioritised.

Hospital staff and care home workers will be near the top of every list because of the vulnerable people they work with, as will the elderly who are most at risk of severe disease.

The UK is likely to prioritise older resident in care homes and the people that work there.

But it says a final decision has not been made, saying it will depend on how well the vaccine works in different age-groups and how the virus is spreading.

People under 50 and with no medical problems are likely to be last in the queue.

Are there any potential problems?

There are still many unanswered questions as this is only interim data.

We do not know if the vaccine stops you spreading the virus or just from developing symptoms. Or if it works equally well in high-risk elderly people.

The biggest question – how long does immunity last – will take months or potentially years to answer.

There are also massive manufacturing and logistical challenges in immunising huge numbers of people, as the vaccine has to be kept in ultra-cold storage at below minus 80C.

The vaccine appears safe from the large trials so far but nothing, including paracetamol, is 100% safe.

How does it work?

There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stages of testing – known as a phase 3 trial – but this is the first to show any results.

It uses a completely experimental approach – that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code – in order to train the immune system.

Previous trials have shown the vaccine trains the body to make both antibodies – and another part of the immune system called T-cells to fight the coronavirus.

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What has the reaction been?

The UK’s chief medical advisor Prof Chris Whitty said the results showed the “power of science” and was a “reason for optimism” for 2021.

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The US president-elect Joe Biden said it was “excellent news”.

“It is also important to understand that the end of the battle against Covid-19 is still months away,” he added.

The UK Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the results were “promising” and that “the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk once a Covid-19 vaccine is available”.

Prof Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford, said: “This news made me smile from ear to ear.

“It is a relief… there is a long long way to go before vaccines will start to make a real difference, but this feels to me like a watershed moment.”

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Alberta province halts AstraZeneca vaccine first shots due to supply issue

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Alberta has stopped administering first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of limited supply, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said the change was due to supply issues rather concerns about rare side-effects.

“This decision is based on the fact that we are receiving no known future shipments of AstraZeneca at this time but are receiving large quantities of mRNA vaccines,” McMillan said in an email, referring to messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

The shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines comes as the western oil-producing province of Alberta struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Last week the provincial government introduced new restrictions to curb infections.

Alberta has administered approximately 255,000 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The remaining supply of about 8,400 doses will be used as second doses.

Last week, Alberta reported its first case of a patient dying from a blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. There have been three such deaths in Canada.

Despite the deaths linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canada‘s health regulator has continued to support the use of the vaccine and highlighted its benefits.

Dozens of countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this year after reports of rare, but serious, blood clots. Several of them have now resumed use either fully or with restrictions after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.

The province is now receiving large and consistent shipments of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with more than 236,000 doses arriving this week.

(Reporting by Nia WilliamsEditing by Bill Berkrot and Nick Zieminski)

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BioNTech committed to deliver 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine this year

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BioNTech SE said on Monday that its order backlog for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines this year together with partner Pfizer Inc had grown to 1.8 billion doses, underscoring its role as a major global supplier of immunization shots.

That was up from 1.4 billion doses announced in March.

Based on these delivery contracts, the company said it expects about 12.4 billion euros ($15.1 billion) in revenue from the vaccine this year, including sales, milestone payments from partners and a share of gross profit in the partners’ territories, up from a previous forecast of 9.8 billion euros.

More than 450 million doses of the two-shot vaccine known as Comirnaty were supplied globally as of May 6, 2021. By contrast, AstraZeneca, which has pledged to deliver up to 3 billion vaccine doses this year, said on April 30 it had supplied more than 300 million doses so far. That includes production from partners such as the Serum Institute of India.

BioNTech and Pfizer, which have been spared the type of production setbacks that have hobbled AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson , have repeatedly lifted projected delivery volumes amid a global scramble to speed vaccination campaigns.

Earlier on Monday, BioNTech unveiled plans to set up a new factory in Singapore to produce several hundred million doses of its mRNA vaccines per year from 2023.

BioNTech’s partner for China, Fosun Pharma , said on Sunday it would provide a factory with an annual capacity of up to 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine under a joint venture with BioNTech.

That followed a contract with the European Union for up to 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses.

BioNTech reported first-quarter total revenue of 2.05 billion euros, up from 27.7 million a year earlier, driven by vaccine sales, and including an estimated 1.75 billion euros from BioNTech’s share of gross profit from sales in Pfizer’s territories.

Quarterly net profit jumped to 1.13 billion euros, compared to a 53.4-million-euro loss in the year-earlier period.

The company said there was no evidence its current vaccine will need to be adapted to fight new virus variants, but added that it had developed strategies to address such variants should the need arise.

BioNTech reiterated that output capacity for the vaccine would reach 3 billion doses by the end of 2021, and more than 3 billion doses in 2022.

Pfizer last week said the pair was targeting production of as much as 4 billion doses of the shot next year, mostly for low- and middle-income countries.

($1 = 0.8222 euros)

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Thomas Escritt, Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)

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Canada ready to discuss COVID-19 vaccine IP waiver, ‘not interfering or blocking’ -Trudeau

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covid-19 vaccines

Canada is ready to discuss an intellectual property rights (IP) waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and will not block one even though it stresses the importance of protecting patents, officials said on Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines. Any such waiver would have to be negotiated through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We’ve been working with partners at the WTO to find a consensus-based solution and are ready to discuss proposals, in particular for COVID-19 vaccines,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

Biden’s proposal angered pharmaceutical companies. Firms working on vaccines have reported sharp revenue and profit gains during the crisis.

Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng earlier said that Ottawa firmly believed in the importance of protecting IP.

“I can assure you Canada is not interfering or blocking. Canada is very much working to find a solution,” said Trudeau, who did not give details of the Canadian negotiating stance.

Ng said Ottawa recognized how much the pharmaceutical industry had done to innovate COVID-19 vaccines, adding that many barriers to access were unrelated to IP, such as supply-chain constraints.

Canada is trying to quell a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that is pushing some healthcare systems to breaking points, particularly in the western provinces of Alberta and Manitoba.

Manitoba officials said they were postponing some non-urgent surgeries to open space for COVID-19 patients and planned to announce tougher public health restrictions as daily cases soared to a near-record high.

The U.S. state of Montana will offer vaccines to around 2,000 Alberta truckers who regularly cross the border, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said.

Truckers will get vaccinated at a post being set up just south of the border, using Montana’s surplus Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The scheme mirrors an agreement that Saskatchewan and Manitoba reached with North Dakota.

 

(Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Goodman/Mark Heinrich, Grant McCool and Marguerita Choy)

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