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Why an Israeli company is developing an oral Covid vaccine – MENAFN.COM

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(MENAFN – AFP)

Imagine a Covid-19 vaccine that came as a pill: no needles, no medical professionals required to administer it, potentially delivered directly to people’s homes.

Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed is attempting to accomplish just that, and is poised to start its first clinical trial in early August, CEO Nadav Kidron told AFP in an interview.

With just 15 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated, the global fight to end the pandemic is far from over.

Oral vaccines are particularly attractive for the developing world, because they reduce the logistical burden of immunization campaigns, said Kidron.

But they could also increase uptake in wealthy countries where needle aversion is an often missed factor in hesitancy.

A recent survey found nearly 19 million Americans who decline vaccines would take them if they had a pill option.

“In order for the vaccine to really work well, we need as many people to take it as possible,” said Kidron.

Other benefits include reduced syringe and plastic waste, and potentially fewer side effects.

– Challenges for oral delivery –

Despite many theoretical advantages, there have been few successful oral vaccines because the active ingredients tend not to survive the journey through the gastro-intestinal tract.

Exceptions include vaccines for diseases that are themselves transmitted through the mouth and digestive system — for example there is an effective oral polio vaccine.

Oramed, which was founded in 2006, believes it has overcome the technical hurdles by designing a capsule that survives the highly acidic environment of the gut.

It invented its technology for a previous product, an experimental oral form of insulin, the lifesaving drug required by diabetics that has until now been only administered by injection.

Developed with Nobel Prize winning biochemist Avram Hershko who is on Oramed’s scientific advisory board, the company’s capsule has a highly protective coating that makes it slow to degrade.

It also releases molecules called protease inhibitors that stop enzymes in the small intestine from breaking down the insulin, and an absorption enhancer to help the insulin cross into the bloodstream.

This drug has been dosed in hundreds of patients in late stage clinical trials in the US, with results expected in September 2022.

Oramed has now launched a new majority-owned company called Oravax, which takes the capsule technology from the oral insulin product and uses it for an oral Covid-19 vaccine.

– Virus-like particle –

To evoke an immune response, the company’s scientists have designed synthetic coronavirus-like particles.

These mimic three key structures of the pathogen: the spike protein, the envelope protein and the membrane protein.

Most currently authorized vaccines, like Pfizer or AstraZeneca, are based on the spike protein alone, making them less protective over time as the spike protein of the coronavirus mutates.

By targeting multiple parts of the virus, including structures that mutate less, the Oravax vaccine could be more variant-proof, Kidron said.

The company has applied to begin trials in multiple countries and expects to begin its first in Israel within weeks, pending approval from the health ministry.

Kidron said he foresaw a role for the vaccine initially in developing countries which haven’t yet bought up enough supply of current vaccines — before eventually developed markets.

A vaccine pill could become especially attractive if ongoing boosters are required.

If it’s successful, it would also represent a proof of concept for future orally administered vaccines, he added.

“Imagine… the flu vaccine comes to you in the mail, you take it, you’re done.”

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More than half of Manitoba's 64 new COVID-19 cases unvaccinated – CTV News Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG –

While more than half of Manitoba’s new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated, the province reported 20 breakthrough infections.

On Thursday, Manitoba public health officials reported 64 new COVID-19 cases – including 36 unvaccinated cases and eight partially vaccinated cases. Twenty of the cases were among people who had been fully vaccinated.

“No vaccine is 100 per cent effective. However, people who are fully vaccinated typically have a better outcome than individuals who are not vaccinated,” a spokesperson told CTV News in an emailed statement.

“Public health continues to recommend that the best defence against COVID-19 is to get immunized.”

As of Thursday, 84 per cent of eligible Manitobans have rolled up their sleeve for at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Seventy-nine per cent of eligible Manitobans are vaccinated with two doses.

The spokesperson said while breakthrough cases can occur, the outcomes are typically not as severe as they are for non-vaccinated individuals. They said fully vaccinated people who get infected typically do not need to go to ICU.

As of Thursday, 62 people in Manitoba are in hospital with COVID-19, including 26 people who have active cases. Of those active cases, 20 are not vaccinated, four are partially vaccinated and two are fully vaccinated.

There are five people in the intensive care unit with active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are unvaccinated.

Data from the province obtained by CTV News shows there have been 728 infections and 16 deaths among the 915,200 people fully immunized in the province.

Of the 986,054 people who have been partially immunized in Manitoba, the data shows there have been 2,215 infections and 45 deaths.

The Southern Health region saw the most cases in the province on Thursday, with 23 new cases reported.

The Northern and Winnipeg health regions both reported 15 new cases. Winnipeg is sitting with a 1.2 per cent five-day test positivity rate.

The Prairie Mountain Health Region reported six new cases and the Interlake-Eastern health region reported five new cases.

The new cases bring Manitoba’s total to 59,526, including 599 active cases and 57,724 recoveries. Seven cases were removed from the total due to data corrections.

The provincial five-day test positivity rate is now 2.5 per cent.

The province also released some details of two deaths that were announced on Wednesday – both of which were linked to variants of concern. The deaths include a woman in her 70s from the Interlake-Eastern health region, linked to the Delta variant, and a man in his 80s from Winnipeg linked to an unspecified variant.

The total number of people who have died with COVID-19 sits at 1,203, including 201 deaths that have been linked to variants of concern.

In total, Manitoba has linked 18,065 cases to variants. 370 variant cases are active, and 17,494 have recovered.

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Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: top COVID-19 vaccines renamed in Canada – KitchenerToday.com

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It’s pronounced koh-MIHR’-nuh-tee. Never heard of it? Well, get used to it. It’s what Canada will be calling the Pfizer vaccine from now on, at least officially.

Health Canada has approved new monikers for Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and announced the change on social media today.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now been dubbed Comirnaty, which the company says represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity.

The Moderna vaccine will go by SpikeVax and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria.

Pfizer and Moderna say the change marks the full approval of the vaccines by Health Canada, which were previously approved under an interim order that was set to expire today.

During the interim order, the vaccines didn’t go by their brand names, but now that new and more long-term data has been submitted and approved they will go by their permanent name.

“Health Canada’s approval of COMIRNATY for individuals ages 12 and older affirms the vaccine’s safety and efficacy shown in longer term data submitted to Health Canada — and hopefully that licensure may improve vaccine confidence among Canadians,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou wrote in a statement.

It’s the first time SpikeVax, until now known as the Moderna vaccine, has been fully approved anywhere in the world, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said in a press release Thursday.

Health Canada points out the vaccines themselves are not changing — only the names are.

Although the name change has been approved, Canada will still receive vials labelled Pfizier-BioNTech for the next several months.

The FDA approved new names in the United States earlier this summer, and the vaccines have been going by their brand names in the EU since the spring.

Story by Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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How concerning is the latest COVID-19 Mu variant in B.C.? – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new strain of the COVID-19 virus is now in the province, and it is leading to questions around potential risk.

The B.1.621 — or Mu — variant was first discovered in Colombia in January and has been found in more than 40 people in B.C. since June. The World Health Organization has now classified the strain as a “Variant of Interest.”

The case numbers are minimal compared to the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has exploded across the country, leading to more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

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In B.C. alone, nearly all the new cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Delta variant.

Still, there was a time when the impact of that strain was not known, prompting many to worry that the new Mu variant could be just as dangerous as Delta.

Sally Otto, a UBC zoology professor and modelling researcher, says right now, that’s not the case and there is no need to panic.

“Mu hasn’t actually been rising in frequency, it’s been kind of hovering under about two per cent frequency, relative to what we saw with Delta, which was once it got established, [there was] really rapid exponential growth,” Otto said.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it, we absolutely should keep an eye on it. But it’s not taking off. Right now, Delta is the main player, the main variant that is the most transmissible and the most worrisome in this country,” Otto said.

Dr. Birinder Narang, co-founder of This is Our Shot campaign, agrees. “It is not showing a significant impact in B.C., we need to watch,” he wrote on social media.

The bigger concern than the variant itself, Otto says, is how slow Canada is at sharing data from mapping virus sequences to discover variants of interest present in the population.

A new report found Canada among the worst for sharing data on genome sequencing.

Canada takes three months to present collected data to the global database, compared to the United Kingdom which is able to do it in just two weeks.

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The data is then studied by public health officials, scientists, and other experts around the world to examine what variants are present, and how fast they are spreading.

“There could absolutely be more variants. Now to be honest, Canada doesn’t have as much cases as there are globally so the chances are the variant of concern is going to arise somewhere else. But if a variant of concern arises in Canada, we can’t tell.”

She says the delay in information impacts making real-time decisions on public policy surrounding the virus.

“We can’t tell within Canada if there are subtypes of the Delta that are spreading faster than others, and that’s something we need to know,” she said about the mutations and which ones to pay attention to.

Otto says the disconnect of information sharing is even happening in Canada between provinces and territories.

“Here in British Columbia we are sequencing almost every single case of COVID to try and identify what exactly the genetic changes are inside the genome of the virus. But unfortunately that is not then being shared globally, and it’s not even being shared across Canada. And that means that scientists like me who aren’t inside the public health office, we can’t use our skills to look for the changes that are happening in these genomes,” she said, adding the last time B.C. updated their data was two months ago.

Despite fears, the BC Centre of Disease Control says the current vaccines protect against all variants of concern, including Delta, and because variants spread more easily, it is even more important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.

“This helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated, including children under 12,” the BCCDC explained.

With files from Nikitha Martin

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