By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) – A major non-profit health emergencies group has set up a global laboratory network to assess data from potential COVID-19 vaccines, allowing scientists and drugmakers to compare them and speed up selection of the most effective shots.
Speaking to Reuters ahead of announcing the labs involved, Melanie Saville, director of vaccine R&D at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said the idea was to “compare apples with apples” as drugmakers race to develop an effective shot to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.
The centralised network is the first of its kind to be set up in response to a pandemic.
In a network spanning Europe, Asia and North America, the labs will centralise analysis of samples from trials of COVID-19 candidates “as though vaccines are all being tested under one roof”, Saville said, aiming to minimise the risk of variation in results.
“When you start off (with developing potential new vaccines) especially with a new disease, everyone develops their own assays, they all use different protocols and different reagents – so while you get a readout, the ability to compare between different candidates is very difficult,” she told Reuters.
“By taking the centralised lab approach … it will give us a chance to really make sure we are comparing apples with apples.”
The CEPI network will initially involve six labs, one each in Canada, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and India, Saville said.
Hundreds of potential COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of development around the world, with shots developed in Russia and China already being deployed before full efficacy trials have been done, and front-runners from Pfizer , Moderna and AstraZeneca likely to have final-stage trial results before year-end.
Typically, the immunogenicity of potential vaccines is assessed in individual lab analyses, which aim to see whether biomarkers of immune response – such as antibodies and T-cell responses – are produced after clinical trial volunteers receive a dose, or doses, of the vaccine candidate.
But with more than 320 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the works, Saville said, the many differences in data collection and evaluation methods are an issue.
As well as potential variations in markers of immunity, there are differences in how and where samples are collected, transported and stored – all of which can impact the quality and usefulness of the data produced, and make comparisons tricky.
And with a range of different vaccine technologies being explored – from viral vector vaccines to ones based on messenger RNA – standard evaluation of their true potential “becomes very complex”, she said.
“With hundreds of COVID-19 vaccines in development … it’s essential that we have a system that can reliably evaluate and compare the immune response of candidates currently undergoing testing,” she said.
By centralising the analysis in a lab network, much of what Saville called the “inter-laboratory variability” can be removed, allowing for head-to-head comparisons.
CEPI says all developers of potential COVID-19 vaccines can use the centralised lab network for free to assess their candidates against a common protocol. For now, the network will assess samples from early-stage vaccine candidate testing and first and second stage human trials, but CEPI said it hoped to expand its capacity to late stage (Phase III) trial data in the coming months.
Results produced by the network will be sent back to the developer, with neither CEPI nor the network owning the data.
CEPI itself is co-funding nine of the potential COVID-19 vaccines in development, including candidates from Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and CureVac.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Potter)
Canadian Press NewsAlert: Quebec reaches more than 100000 total cases of COVID-19 – Vancouver Courier
MONTREAL — Quebec reached more than 100,000 total cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming the first province in Canada to hit the somber milestone since the pandemic began in March.
But despite remaining the country’s coronavirus epicentre, public health experts say a recent downward trend of infections is an encouraging sign.
“It’s a moment where we all sit up and say wow, 100,000 – that’s a lot of zeroes,” said Erin Strumpf, an associate professor at McGill University specialized in health economics.
“But again I think the more important thing to be paying attention to is the trend that we’ve been seeing recently in the province.”
The province reported 879 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 100,114infections since the start of the pandemic.
The curve of new infections appears to have flattened over the past few weeks though, Strumpf said in an interview.
That downward trend, she said, coincides with stricter public health guidelines that aimed to stem the spread of the virus.
The government ordered the closure of bars and gyms, among other places, in hard-hit areas and advised residents to limit their contact with people who do not live in their households.
Montreal and Quebec City are among several Quebec regions that remain under the highest COVID-19 alert.
Strumpf said it is hard to pinpoint what exact measures are responsible for flattening the curve, however.
She added that she expects to see many public health restrictions remain in place moving forward. “It’s very difficult to know right now or to predict how long those closures may stay in place,” she said.
Still, the high COVID-19 infection numbers bring up painful memories for Quebecers who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
July Mak, whose 68-year-old father Paul contracted COVID-19 in a long-term care home in Montreal and died at the end of March, said the pain of her father’s death has not eased with time.
“To see these numbers this high… it blows my mind,” Mak said in an interview Sunday.
She said she wants the Quebec government to recognize that its COVID-19 data is more than just numbers — and thousands of people across the province have been directly affected.
“They mattered,” Mak said, about the thousands who have died.
On Sunday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter that the number of new infections is “stable but remains high.”
Those cases can turn into hospitalizations and deaths, Dube warned, urging Quebecers to remain vigilant to reduce transmission.
Quebec health officials also reported 11 additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 6,143.
Five of those additional deaths took place in the past 24 hours, five were reported between Oct. 18-23 and one occurred at an unspecified date.
Hospitalizations went up by two across the province, for a total of 551. Of those, 97 people were in intensive care — an increase of four compared to the previous day.
The province said it conducted 25,378 COVID-19 tests on Friday, the last date for which the testing data is available.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.
Ontario dog becomes first known to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada | News – Daily Hive
An Ontario dog has tested positive for COVID-19 after a research study proved the possibility by placing the animal in an infected household.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they had been notified of the confirmed case contracted by a Niagara region dog on October 23.
The dog was part of a research study “following the diagnosis of COVID-19 in several people in the same household,” according to the release by OMAFRA.
“This dog did not have any clinical signs of disease. The current understanding of COVID-19 is that the overall risk of infection and illness in most domestic animals is low.”
The release states that current evidence suggests that mink, ferrets, cats, and (rarely) dogs can be infected with the virus; however, there is still “uncertainty” surrounding what this means for animals and how the virus behaves through different animal species.
“As a precautionary measure, people with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case, should restrict contact with their pets, livestock or any other animals, and exercise the same infection control precautions they would around people,” read the release.
“Pets belonging to owners infected with COVID-19 should be kept indoors as much as possible and contact between these pets and anyone other than their designated caretaker should be avoided as much as possible.”
Quebec gym, yoga and dance business owners vow to reopen despite COVID-19 measures – Global News
A coalition of about 200 Quebec gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners say they intend to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.
The businesses are calling on Quebec Premier François Legault to lift COVID-19 restrictions that forced fitness facilities to close this month.
In a statement, they say their facilities contribute to the overall physical and mental health of the population and they were not the source of COVID-19 outbreaks.
They say the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they’ve made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.
The owners say they intend to reopen across the province but will back down if health authorities can demonstrate by Thursday that their operations have led to outbreaks.
On Oct. 8, Quebec introduced new public health measures for regions under the province’s highest COVID-19 alert level, shuttering gyms, putting limits on team sports and making masks mandatory for high school students.
Last week, Legault hinted that some red zone restrictions would remain in place even as the initial 28-day lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City come to an end on Wednesday.
Legault, Health Minister Christian Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, are to hold a news conference this afternoon.
Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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