For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the United States and around the world.
Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s still-ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.
Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone,” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.
“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press.
“It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand, he said.
A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — one million of them recorded in just the past week. The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, more than 245,000 of them in the U.S.
Still, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year’s end.
Moderna’s vaccine, created with the National Institutes of Health, is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real vaccination or a dummy shot. On Sunday, an independent monitoring board broke the code to examine 95 infections that were recorded starting two weeks after volunteers’ second dose — and discovered all but five illnesses occurred in participants who got the placebo.
Protection rate may change
The study is continuing, and Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 infections are detected and added to the calculations. Also, it’s too soon to know how long protection lasts. Both cautions apply to Pfizer’s vaccine as well.
But Moderna’s independent monitors reported some additional, promising tidbits: All 11 severe COVID-19 cases were among placebo recipients, and there were no significant safety concerns.
The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the vaccine’s second dose, at rates that Hoge characterized as more common than with flu shots but on par with others such as the shingles vaccine.
Moderna shares rocketed higher on the announcement and appeared to be headed for an all-time high Monday. The Cambridge, Mass., company’s vaccine is among 11 candidates in late-stage testing around the world, four of them in huge studies in the U.S.
“This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months,” said Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London.
“This latest press release is based on a study of 30,000 U.S. adults, including many high-risk or elderly persons. This gives us confidence that the results are relevant in the people who are most at risk of COVID-19.”
“We will need much more data and a full report or publication to see if the benefit is consistent across all groups, notably the elderly, but this is definitely encouraging progress,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Both Moderna’s shots and the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate are so-called mRNA vaccines, a brand-new technology. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.
The strong results were a surprise. Scientists have warned for months that any COVID-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50 per cent effective.
Another steep challenge: distributing doses that must be kept very cold. Both the Moderna and Pfizer shots are frozen but at different temperatures. Moderna announced Monday that once thawed, its doses can last longer in a refrigerator than initially thought, up to 30 days. Pfizer’s shots require long-term storage at ultra-cold temperatures.
Ontario reports 1,373 new COVID cases today – SooToday
Public Health Ontario has confirmed 1,373 new cases of COVID-19 today, as well as 35 deaths.
The deaths reported today include one person between 20 and 39 years old, two people between the ages of 40 and 59 years old, eight people between the ages of 60 and 79 years old, and 26 people over the age of 80. Twenty-two of the people who died were residents at long-term care facilities.
Since yesterday, 51 people have been hospitalized with the coronavirus and seven people have been admitted to intensive care units with COVId-19.
Included in the 1,373 new cases reported today are 415 cases from Peel, 445 cases from Toronto, and 136 cases from York Region.
The province has also reported 162 new school-related cases today, including 138 student cases and 24 staff cases. There have been 1,193 school-related cases reported in the last 14 days and 4,269 school-related cases reported to date.
There are 688 schools in the province with one or more reported COVID-19 cases and four schools are closed because of cases.
Today, there are 23 new cases of COVID-19 reported in licensed child care settings. Eleven of the cases are children and 12 are staff/care providers. Five centres and one home are closed because of COVID-19 cases.
The province reported 1,476 recoveries today, bringing the total number of active cases down.
There are currently 12,779 active, lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, which is down from 12,917 active cases yesterday. There are 523 people hospitalized with the coronavirus, which is down from 523 yesterday. There are 159 COVID patients in intensive care units and 106 COVID patients on ventilators.
Since yesterday’s report, Ontario’s public health labs have processed 36,076 COVID-19 tests and those results produced a 4.7 per cent positivity rate. There are 44,950 COVID tests awaiting processing.
To date, the province has confirmed 107,883 cases of COVID-19 and has reported 91,550 recoveries and 3,554 deaths.
In Northern Ontario, all but two of the health unit regions are currently classified as green under the province’s new regional restrictions. It means the areas are permitted the broadest allowance of Stage 3 activities.
Public Health Sudbury and District and Thunder Bay District Health Unit are in the yellow (protect) restriction level.
Since yesterday, five of the seven Northern Ontario health units reported a total of 31 new cases. There are 128 known active cases.
The breakdown of Public Health Ontario data for the rate of cases for Northern Ontario health units is:
- Algoma Public Health: 58 cases, rate of 50.7 per 100,000 people. The health unit has reported 60 cases. There are three known active cases. The last case was reported Nov. 24.
- North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit: 66 cases, rate of 50.9 per 100,000 people. The health unit has reported 68 cases. There are nine known active cases. The last cases were reported Nov. 24.
- Porcupine Health Unit: 106, rate of 127 per 100,000 people. There are three known active cases. The last case was reported Nov. 20.
- Public Health Sudbury and Districts: 222 cases, rate of 111.5 per 100,000 people. The health unit has reported 224 cases. There are 14 known active cases. The last case was reported Nov. 24.
- Timiskaming Health Unit: 18 cases, rate of 55.1 per 100,000 people. There is one known active case. The last case was reported Nov. 15.
- Northwestern Health Unit: 108 cases, rate of 123.2 per 100,000 people. The health unit has also reported two probable cases. There are 23 known active cases. The last case was reported Nov. 24.
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit: 248 cases, rate of 165.4 per 100,000 people. The health unit has reported 252 cases. There are 75 known active cases. The last cases were reported Nov. 25.
The Ontario rate of infection is 725.8.
Saskatchewan suspends sports, expands masking as COVID-19 numbers rise – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Article content continued
Restrictions will be revisited by chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on Dec. 17.
While the province is no longer seeing “super-spreader” events, Shahab said Saskatchewan has reported an average of more than 200 new cases per day over the past week, quadruple what it saw approximately a month ago.
“Some of the measures we’ve made in the last few weeks have made a difference, but the difference has not been enough to bring our numbers down,” Shahab said.
U of S epidemiologist Dr. Cordell Neudorf said the latest set of restrictions is positive, but warned they might not be sufficient given the extent of community transmission.
His advice is to hunker down and support local businesses via curbside pickup or delivery, he said.
“The danger is that all we’re going to do is affect the slope, and the cases are just going to keep going up, and that might be enough to take our hospitals over capacity in the coming weeks. That’s the danger in this kind of move.”
Moe said the government is considering financial relief for businesses affected by new restrictions, but would not say which businesses may received it, or when further details might be provided.
He said the new measures are “significant” and expressed confidence they will reduce the infection rate.
However, he did not rule out further steps in the weeks ahead.
“Had (previous measures) worked perfectly, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
The province reported a record 111 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 19 in intensive care. Seventy-nine people were reported to have recovered.
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