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Worth a shot? How one-dose COVID jab could help in pandemic fight – Al Jazeera English

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A vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is close to becoming the first single-dose COVID-19 shot to be approved by regulators in the United States, a key first step towards international approval of a jab that could change how vaccines are administered globally.

The drug company filed an application on Thursday to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after preliminary clinical trial results showed it was 66-percent effective overall and offered 85-percent protection against severe illness 28 days after inoculation.

The FDA has scheduled a meeting for February 26 to discuss the data and decide whether to grant emergency use authorisation. The vaccine is also being reviewed by health authorities around the world.

If approved by the US regulator, the company plans to apply for international approvals, something experts say could boost the global vaccination campaign, which has stalled in some regions as manufacturers reported supply chain issues.

What are the advantages of the Johnson & Johnson shot?

The Johnson & Johnson shot’s efficacy rate is lower than the two other vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which showed 95-percent and 94-percent efficacy respectively.

Unlike the other two vaccines though, it does not require a second dose, which would simplify logistical challenges in the roll-out.

“It’s a very positive development because it is a single dose and can be transported, and stored, in normal temperature so operationally and logistically it is a game-changer,” said the World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan.

The vaccine can be kept in regular refrigerators between 2C and 8C (36 F and 46 F) for three months, compared with other vaccines that need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures. This could aid distribution in rural and remote populations.

“And the higher the number of people we vaccinate, the easier it is to cover the effect of new variants,” Swaminathan added.

Does it work against new variants?

Viruses mutate regularly when they replicate in order to spread and thrive, and the coronavirus has undergone many mutations since it was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

“When a virus replicates itself, it can make ‘errors’ generating new variants that could spread faster or have a higher mortality rate,” said Zoltan Kis, Research Associate at the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub at Imperial College London.

In the worst case scenario, Kis explained, you can have a variant that is so different from the original copy that it requires a new vaccine.

Scientists have identified new variants in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa in recent months which appear to be more transmissible than previous variants of the virus.

The clinical trials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that were carried out in the United States, Latin America and South Africa showed an efficacy rate against moderate to severe infection of 72 percent, 66 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

The drop in efficacy in the South Africa trial, which has been seen with other vaccines, is linked to a new strain of the virus, the B.1.351, which appears to be more resistant to the body’s antibody response. Still, the one-shot vaccine offered high protection against severe illness in the South African trial.

How does the vaccine work?

The Johnson & Johnson shot uses a viral vector to carry the coronavirus’s genetic code into the body. This trains the body’s immune system to produce the coronavirus spike protein, so that it knows how to fight it once it encounters the virus for real.

To trigger the same mechanism, vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna advanced mRNA technology, which had not been used in vaccines before the pandemic.

As scientists look to produce new vaccines to combat the new variants, the mRNA technology could have an advantage as it is more adaptable and can be more easily reconfigured to transmit different genetic instructions to the body.

Supply agreements

One Johnson & Johnson shot will cost $10 as the company has pledged to provide the jab on a “not-for-profit basis” throughout the pandemic.

Pending regulatory approval, the company has agreed to provide up to 500 million doses to COVAX, an international partnership that aims to guarantee access to vaccines for lower-income countries, through the end of 2022.

It has also struck agreements to deliver 100 million doses to the US, 30 million to the UK and 200 million to the European Union.

“The challenge now for all manufacturing companies is that they made so many commitments to mainly high-income countries that are now struggling to provide a dose to everybody, including COVAX,” said WHO’s Swaminathan.

The WHO is therefore pushing other countries to let Johnson & Johnson, as well as other major vaccine manufacturing companies, supply COVAX first.

“We would like to see some consideration for equity,” said Swaminathan, noting that countries such as the US and Canada have ordered enough doses of other vaccines to cover their population.

On Thursday, the UN health agency reported that more than three-quarters of global inoculations have taken place in 10 countries that account for almost 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), while 2.5 billion people living in 130 countries are yet to receive a single dose.

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Key COVID-19 numbers in the Ottawa area today – CBC.ca

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  • Ottawa is reporting 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
  • Another 25 cases recorded in western Quebec.

Today’s Ottawa update

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recorded 55 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday but zero deaths. 

Another 39 cases have been classified as resolved.

Ottawa and communities under the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) are now in the orange alert level, with slightly more restrictive rules than the rest of eastern Ontario, which is green.

Ottawa’s medical officer of health is backing up what some key numbers and experts have suggested: that the capital is close to moving to the red zone if the spread of COVID-19 doesn’t slow.

Numbers to watch

33.8: The weekly incidence rate, a rolling seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases expressed per 100,000 residents. The red zone threshold is 40.

.98: The number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t). Health officials consider the spread under control if it’s below one.

34: The number of outbreaks in Ottawa.

504: The number of known active COVID-19 cases in Ottawa. One month ago there were more than 1,200.

Across the region

In western Quebec, another 25 cases were reported on Sunday but no new deaths. 

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LILLEY: Trudeau makes Canada 'vaccine pirate,' stealing from poor nations – Toronto Sun

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Canada is being described as a “vaccine pirate” after the latest announcement of COVID vaccine approvals showed we will be getting our doses from a facility funded to provide vaccines for the developing world.

On Friday, Health Canada announced that they had approved two related but distinct products, the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in collaboration with Oxford University and COVISHIELD, a version of the AstraZeneca recipe manufactured by Serum Institute of India.

The problem is that Canada will be getting its doses, starting as early as Wednesday, from the Serum Institute, an organization funded to produce vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.

Like the announcement that the Trudeau government will take 1.9 million doses from COVAX, this makes it look like Canada is taking vaccines meant for poorer countries.

In a news release last June announcing the deal that would allow the SII to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, the company specifically said it was “to supply 1 billion doses for low-and-middle-income countries” In September, a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allowed the program to expand by an extra 100 million doses.

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“This is vaccine manufacturing for the Global South, by the Global South, helping us to ensure no country is left behind when it comes to the race for a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO Gavi, the alliance to ensure poor countries have access to vaccines.

Now Canada has found its way to the front of that line.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirmed on Friday that of the 3.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines that we will see delivered before the end of June, 2 million will come from the Serum Institute and 1.9 million from COVAX.

The move has led one former Canadian health bureaucrat who now works internationally to accuse the Trudeau government of turning Canada into a “global vaccine pirate.” It’s a view held by many people paying attention to the details of our latest vaccine announcement.

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Amir Attaran, a professor with the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa, accused the Trudeau government of poaching these doses from developing countries.

“How many people in other lands will this kill? ‘Sunny ways’ it isn’t,” Attaran said on Twitter.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease specialist with the B.C. Children’s Hospital, said that Canada was taking doses away from LMICs or low and middle-income countries.

“This is much more anger-inducing than the COVAX conversation weeks ago. The Serum Institute of India was funded by CEPI and GAVI to produce vaccines for LMICs. Canada, because of diplomacy and money, is skipping that line and taking doses meant for LMICs,” Dr. Murthy said.

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When the Trudeau government announced at the beginning of February that we would be taking vaccines from COVAX, the move was blasted by a broad range of organizations including Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam.

“Canada should not be taking the COVAX vaccine from poor nations to alleviate political pressures at home,” Oxfam said at the time.

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Yet, that is exactly what Trudeau was doing in early February and it is what he is doing now. Canadians are upset at seeing Americans, Brits, Italians, Serbians and Barbadians vaccinated much fast than we are, and they are rightly blaming the federal government.

Even the record 643,000 doses received across the country last week is less than the Americans use before lunch each day.

Justin Trudeau campaigned on improving Canada’s reputation on the world stage, now we are taking vaccines meant for developing countries. It is nothing short of a national embarrassment.

The Trudeau government owes Canadians an explanation on his latest moves; let’s hope he faces the tough questions he should later this week.

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Experts advise Canadians to take whatever COVID-19 vaccine is offered – CBC News: The National

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[unable to retrieve full-text content]

  1. Experts advise Canadians to take whatever COVID-19 vaccine is offered  CBC News: The National
  2. Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday  CBC.ca
  3. AstraZeneca approval opens door to some B.C. front-line workers getting earlier vaccine  Global News
  4. Europe must get its act together with Covid vaccine rollout  Telegraph.co.uk
  5. Keep up COVID-19 protocols as vaccines roll out, experts say  CBC News: The National
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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