Coronavirus Now: COVID-19 & Vaccine Updates for July 30

As of July 30, confirmed cases of COVID-19 now number more than 197 million around the world, including more than 35 million cases in the United States and more than 620,000 U.S. deaths. You can see a breakdown of coronavirus cases throughout the world and within the U.S. on the map and chart above.

Below you’ll find updates on the latest news about the coronavirus.


July 30 News Updates

CDC’s New Mask Guidance Prompted by Study Showing Vaccinated Can Also Spread the Virus

While vaccination still means you are less likely to catch SARS-CoV-2, if you do become infected, you may have a similar ability to spread it as an unvaccinated person, CNN reported.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said in a statement on July 30: “High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus.”

The study looked at 469 residents in Massachusetts in July who were infected from a single outbreak of the delta variant. Of those residents, viral loads were similar among the 127 fully vaccinated who caught the virus and the 84 unvaccinated (or whose status was unknown.) Five people were hospitalized: one unvaccinated, one vaccinated with Pfizer, and three vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson.

You can read the full study from the CDC here.

The study noted some limitations: “First, data from this report are insufficient to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant, during this outbreak. As population-level vaccination coverage increases, vaccinated persons are likely to represent a larger proportion of COVID-19 cases. Second, asymptomatic breakthrough infections might be underrepresented because of detection bias.”

The study also noted that the higher percentage of male individuals was due to the event being marketed to the male population, and not due to males being at greater risk.

Before delta, vaccinated individuals were shown to have lower viral roads than unvaccinated, so the new study revealed a change. In general, viral loads from delta are about 1000 times higher than those from other variants, CNN reported.

Texas Governor Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Cities or Counties from Issuing Mask Mandates

After the CDC changed its mask recommendations, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order preventing any cities from requiring masks or vaccines or enacting operating limits on businesses, Chron.com reported. This applies to any entities that receive stand funds, including counties, cities, school districts, government officials, or even public health authorities.

Abbott emphasized that vaccines are the best defense against the virus, but he would not allow them to be mandated.

Internal CDC Document Warns Delta Is as Infectious as Chickenpox

An internal CDC report obtained by The Washington Post warned that delta is as infectious as chickenpox, The Guardian reported. This report played a role in the CDC’s changed guidance on masks.

Walensky, CDC director, said: “I think people need to understand that we’re not crying wolf here. This is serious. It’s one of the most transmissible viruses we know about. Measles, chickenpox, this – they’re all up there.”

The CDC is recommending that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high community spread.

Small Percentage of Vaccinated Individuals Might Develop Long COVID

COVID-19 vaccines don’t provide 100% protection against long COVID, a study from Israel found. About 3% of medical workers in Israel contracted COVID-19 after vaccination, USA Today reported, and 19% of that 3% went on to have long COVID symptoms six weeks later. No one in the study was hospitalized and most individuals’ symptoms were mild.

New COVID Mutations Found in NYC Sewage

Researchers in April found four new COVID mutations in New York City human sewage, NBC New York reported. The study has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

The researchers just started analyzing the sewage for variants in January. They said the findings left them concerned about an outbreak among dogs or rats, since the mutations found spanned the course of months, indicating a possible animal reservoir living near the sewersheds.

The researchers said that NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection told them they would have to fund their own research into rat surveillance connected to their concerns. The city responded that there were no confirmed rat infections connected to COVID-19 and the origin of the mutations is not known.

You can read the preprint of the study here.

Austin Company Working on Inhaled COVID-19 Antibody Treatment

An Austin, Texas, pharmaceutical company (TFF Pharmaceuticals) is working on a monoclonal antibody treatment that can be inhaled, KXAN reported. The treatment (Aug-3387) comes in the form of a dry powder put inside an inhaler. Human clinical trials won’t start until early 2022.

Israel Approved Vaccine Booster for Elderly

A team of experts in Israel’s Health Ministry voted to approve a third dose Pfizer booster for elderly individuals, BNO News reported. They are divided on if approval starts at age 60 or 70.

Pfizer Study Shows Vaccine Effectiveness Declines to 84% Over 6 Months

A preprint funded by Pfizer and BioNTech showed that the vaccine’s effectiveness slowly declines from 96.2% after two months to 84% over six months, The Hill reported. This was a study of 44,000 participants. Efficacy against severe disease was still at 97%.

This contrasts with an Israeli study showing Pfizer effectiveness against delta had waned to 64% compared to 94.3%, according to the Times of Israel.

Mayo Clinic Releases Study Confirming Masks Can Prevent COVID-19 Transmission

The Mayo Clinic recently released a study confirming that properly using masks reduces the spread of droplets, thus reinforcing the understanding that widespread mask usage and social distancing can reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Using mannequins with and without masks and simulating respiratory and aerosol droplets, the researchers found that masks were effective even with smaller particles. Two-layer cloth masks and paper medical masks also reduced transmission to varying degrees.

The new study was published in July 2021 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. You can read it here.

The study noted: ” A modest decrease in particle count was observed when only the receiver was masked. The most substantial exposure reduction occurred when the aerosol source was masked (or both parties were masked). When both the source and target were masked, particle count was reduced by more than 99.5% of baseline, regardless of separation distance or which type of mask was employed.”


Ongoing Vaccine Updates

GettyA  woman leaves Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020, in Kirkland, Washington.

Timeline of Pfizer Updates (mRNA vaccine)

The first dose of the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine delivers about 90% protection after 21 days, The Guardian reported in February, based on the original strain. A real-world study in Israel of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed a 94% efficacy in symptomatic infection following two doses, Reuters reported in February. The study looked at 1.2 million people, and the UK (Alpha) variant was dominant.

Pfizer/BioNTech is working on boosters specifically against the new variants, Newsweek reported in late January. If any variants show resistance to the current vaccine, Pfizer wants to be able to produce a booster “very, very quickly.”

In late February, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for normal freezer storage (temperatures of -25°C to -15°C) for up to two weeks, Time reported.

Pfizer’s vaccine reduces the viral load four-fold 12 to 28 days after the first dose, The Scientist reported in February. You can read the preprint here. A February study at the University of Texas revealed that the Pfizer vaccine provides substantial protection against the SA (Beta) variant, The Guardian reported. The researchers acknowledged limitations, including not having the full set of spike mutations. A study from March indicated a reduced efficacy for Pfizer and Moderna against the Beta variant, The Hill reported. Moderna’s was 12.4 times less effective against the Beta variant and Pfizer’s was 10.3 times less effective. The study, which you can read here, involved 12 participants of a Moderna trial and 10 participants who received the Pfizer vaccine.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates the Pfizer vaccine is likely effective against the Brazil (Zeta) variant, Independent reported.

Italy researchers have proposed that people with a higher BMI may need a larger dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Independent reported in early March. The study looked at 158 females and 90 males, and saw that people with a higher BMI had a lower antibody response.

A preliminary peer-reviewed CDC report, published by The New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that Moderna and Pfizer are safe during pregnancy, CBS News reported. It covered the first 11 weeks of the vaccines’ rollout, ending on February 28. You can read the study here.

Pfizer results were still looking good in early May studies, Your Local Epidemiologist reported in early May. This includes 87-90% efficacy against B.1.1.7 (the Alpha variant) and 72-75% efficacy against B.1.351 (Beta variant) in a Qatar study. Real-world effectiveness against hospitalization in the U.S. is 95%, and in Israel vaccinations led to a 97% reduction in hospitalizations.

The European Medicines Agency announced in mid-May that both Pfizer and Moderna appear effective against the Delta variant (B.1.617) in India, Euro News reported.

An NYU lab-based study found that Pfizer and Moderna’s antibodies were a little weaker against the two India variants (B.1.617 Delta and B.1.618), but not enough that researchers believed it would impact protection, France 24 reported in mid-May.

The CDC’s advisers met in mid-June to discuss rare cases of heart inflammation following vaccination with mRNA vaccines Moderna and Pfizer, CBS News reported. The FDA added a warning about the rare heart inflammation side effect to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Reuters reported in late June. The CDC noted at that time that there were 309 hospitalizations for heart inflammation in people under 30, with 295 discharged. The cases were higher the week after the second dose, mostly in young men ages 12 to 24. The effect disappeared in ages 50 and older.

The UK government announced in late June that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are effective against hospitalizations from the Delta variant. The Pfizer vaccine was 96% effective against hospitalization and AstraZeneca was 92% effective (both after two doses.)

On June 24, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli researchers from the Institute of Hematology at Shamir Medical Center found that the Pfizer vaccine might be connected to a rare blood disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP.) The research is still being evaluated, but indicated a “chronological connection” for both new patients and a flaring up of older cases following remission. The team is recommending that people with TTP only be vaccinated with their doctor’s permission.

The Pfizer vaccine may be less effective at preventing Delta’s spread, Israel’s Health Ministry reported on July 5, according to the Times of Israel. Current data indicates Pfizer is still good at preventing hospitalization and severe cases, but its effectiveness at preventing symptomatic COVID is now 64% compared to the 94.3% seen in May.

In early July, Pfizer noted that we’ll likely need a third booster dose to help protect from variants and is about to submit that data to the FDA, seeking emergency use authorization for August, CNN reported. However, both the FDA and the CDC said they don’t agree with Pfizer’s assessment yet. Both organizations said fully vaccinated Americans don’t need a booster “at this time.”

A clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, is testing a third dose (or a booster) of Pfizer in people who were part of the original Pfizer trial and received the vaccine six months ago or more, News4Jax reported.

Timeline of Moderna Updates (mRNA vaccine)

Data released in mid-December showed that Moderna’s vaccine is highly protective, The New York Times reported. The vaccine had an efficacy of 94.1% in a trial with 30,000 participants. During trials, Moderna (and CanSino) both stopped giving high doses for the second dose because of the side effects, StatNews reported. Moderna’s current vaccine uses the lower dose for the second dose.

In mid-April, it was revealed that up to six months after the second dose, Moderna’s vaccine is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 and more than 95% effective at preventing severe disease, CNBC reported. The information came from updated Phase 3 clinical trial data.

Moderna announced on January 25 that individuals who got the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine showed neutralizing antibody activity against the UK and SA variants (B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.) A study from early March revealed potentially less efficacy against the SA variant than previously thought, The Hill reported. Moderna’s was 12.4 times less effective against the SA variant. The study in Nature, whose preview you can read here, involved 12 participants from Moderna and 10 from Pfizer.

A preliminary peer-reviewed CDC report, published by The New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that Moderna and Pfizer are safe during pregnancy, CBS News reported. It covered the first 11 weeks of the vaccines’ rollout, ending on February 28. You can read the study here.

Moderna said in early May that new data shows its vaccine is stable for up to three months if refrigerated, CNBC reported. The company is working on formulas to extend the shelf life more.

The European Medicines Agency announced in mid-May that both Pfizer and Moderna appear effective against the Delta variant (originally referred to as the India variant), Euro News reported. An NYU lab-based study found that Pfizer and Moderna’s antibodies were a little weaker against the two India variants (B.1.617 and B.1.618), but not enough that researchers believe it would impact protection, France 24 reported.

Moderna is now seeking full FDA approval as opposed to emergency use approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, Bloomberg reported. Pfizer applied for full approval on May 7.

The FDA added a warning about a rare heart inflammation side effect to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Reuters reported in late June. The CDC noted at that time that there were 309 hospitalizations for heart inflammation in people under 30, with 295 discharged. The cases were higher the week after the second dose, mostly in young men ages 12 to 24. The effect disappeared in ages 50 and older.

Moderna is beginning a medical trial of 1,000 women that will last 21 months and will study the vaccine’s effects on pregnancy, UPI reported in mid-July. Participants will have received the vaccine 28 days before their last period or any time during their pregnancy. The trial will focus on pregnancy outcomes, complications, and infant outcomes.

Timeline of Oxford/AstraZeneca Updates (Adenovirus vaccine)

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (called Covidshield in India) uses a chimpanzee-based adenovirus vector (ChAdOx1) to try to avoid pre-existing immunity in the human population. It is made from an adenovirus that was modified to help human cells create the spike protein so the immune system can recognize it, Nature reported.

It is about 62% effective in people who got two full doses, BBC reported in late November. Another trial showed about 90% efficacy in 3,000 people who got a half-dose first and then a full dose the second time rather. AstraZeneca is testing a component of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in its clinical trials, according to a press release.

However, this vaccine faced a number of hurdles. South Africa paused its AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine rollout in early February after an analysis revealed the vaccine only provided minimal protection against the B.1.351 South Africa variant, StatNews reported. A small study revealed that the AstraZeneca vaccine may only provide 10% protection against mild to moderate infections of the SA variant, The Guardian reported.

Then in mid-March, many countries began pausing the vaccine after concerns about blood clots, CNBC reported. The Norwegian Medicine Agency noted a small number of cases of a rare blood clotting situation after getting the vaccine: a combination of low platelet blood count, bleeding, and blood clots in small and large blood vessels. This is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

At first, WHO said it had found no links between the vaccine and blood clots, and  AstraZeneca also said there was no evidence of an increased blood clot risk. On Thursday, March 18, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that it didn’t increase overall blood clots, but acknowledged there was a possible connection to a rare type of clot. On April 4, the EMA’s safety committee concluded that rare blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of AstraZeneca’s vaccine (now renamed Vaxzevria.) Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, abdominal pain, persistent headaches or blurred vision, or tiny blood spots under the skin that are beyond the injection site.

Two groups of researchers in Norway and Germany believe they may have found the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clot issues, The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-March. The teams identified an antibody the vaccine creates which may trigger the rare blood clot reaction and could be treated in hospitals. The findings still need peer reviews.

On March 30, Canada suspended its use for anyone under 55, The Guardian reported. New data from Europe indicated the blood clot risk may be as high as one in 100,000. The rare blood clot typically occurs between four and 20 days after vaccination. In June, Canada announced that people who got AstraZeneca as their first dose could get Pfizer or Moderna for their second.

Germany also announced that it would stop giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone under 60 unless they’re in a high-risk category for getting severe COVID-19, ABC News reported on March 30. In May, they changed their mind and said anyone 18 or older could get the vaccine.

The Netherlands suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60, Reuters reported. Australia advised people under 50 to get the Pfizer vaccine and not AstraZeneca as of early April, ABC.net reported. In June, the country clarified that only people over 60 should get the AZ vaccine.

Another issue cropped up later in March. AstraZeneca had announced that its vaccine was 79% effective in a U.S. trial of 30,000 volunteers, but the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases issued a statement of concern that the results were incomplete, Bloomberg reported on March 23. Fauci said there is concern that trial data was outdated and might be “misleading.” AstraZeneca responded that the numbers were based on interim analysis and they would update the numbers in a couple of days. On Facebook, Your Local Epidemiologist noted that it was “highly unusual for the Data Safety and Monitoring Board (DSMB) and a vaccine sponsor (AstraZeneca) to publicly (or privately in that matter) disagree.”

The EMA is also investigating capillary leak syndrome after five cases were reported following the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU Commission won’t renew its contracts for vaccines using the viral vector, including J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, Reuters reported in mid-April.

In the UK, most people under 40 will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, BBC reported in early May. So far there have been 242 rare clotting events and 49 deaths out of 28.5 million doses. However, the clot risk in the UK for people in their 30s was one in 60,000 and for people in their 40s, one in 100,000. Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said that the benefits are still greater than the risks for older demographics, but the benefits versus risks for younger demographics are “more finely balanced.”

AstraZeneca is showing a low efficacy against the B.1.351 variant, with a good efficacy against B.1.1.7, Your Local Epidemiologist reported. Efficacy against B.1.351 (from South Africa) was about 10 to 22% against mild-to-moderate disease. For B.1.1.7, it showed 74% efficacy.

German scientists reported that they believe they can improve AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to avoid blood clots, The Guardian reported. Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe University, developed the solution with a team of colleagues. The team released the findings in a preprint still awaiting peer review, which you can read here.

The UK government announced in late June that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are effective against hospitalizations from the Delta variant. The Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization and AstraZeneca is 92% effective (both after two doses.)

Thailand is going to use AstraZeneca’s vaccine as a booster shot for people who received China’s Sinovac, Reuters reported in mid-July.

Timeline of Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine Updates (Adenovirus vector vaccine)

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine using Ad26 as its first dose and Ad5 for its second.

Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is reported to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective against moderate and severe cases, CNN reported in early February. This is reported in interim Phase 3 trials and published in The Lancet. People over age 60 showed a 91.8% efficacy. Serious reactions were rare, and most side effects included mild-flu like symptoms, pain at the injection, and low energy. The analysis hasn’t reviewed asymptomatic cases, transmission, or how long protection lasts.

Russians who receive the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are being asked not to drink alcohol for two months after, the New York Post reported. This is the amount of time they said it takes the vaccine to be effective and alcohol can be a strain on the body’s immune response, the experts said.

In mid-February, the first 100,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine arrived in Venezuela, Yahoo News reported. On February 23, AP reported that Mexico received its first shipment of the Sputnik vaccine: 200,000 doses.

Fauci said in late March that data on Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine indicates it’s “quite effective” and “looks pretty good,” Bloomberg reported. He had previously said he was skeptical of the vaccine when Russia approved it before Phase 3 trials.

A committee of experts has recommended Sputnik V’s use in India, NDTV reported on April 12. If approved, this would make it India’s third vaccine, alongside Covishield (AstraZeneca’s vaccine) and Covaxin. It still requires approval by the Drug Controller General of India before it can be used.

The Gamaleya Center announced in mid-April that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine did not show signs of CVST in its clinical trials. (The Gamelaya Center is a research institution in Russia that developed Sputnik V.) The Gamaleya Center proposed several ideas for why it has not yet shown the blood clot issue, writing:

Sputnik V is a two-component vaccine in which adenovirus serotypes 5 and 26 are used. A fragment of tissue-type plasminogen activator is not used, and the antigen insert is an unmodified full-length S-protein. Sputnik V vaccine is produced with the HEK293 cell line, which has long been safely used for the production of biotechnological products.Thus, all of the above vaccines based on adenoviral vectors have significant differences in their structure and production technology. Therefore, there is no reason and no justification to extrapolate safety data from one vaccine to safety data from other vaccines.The quality and safety of Sputnik V are, among other things, assured by the fact that, unlike other vaccines, it uses a 4-stage purification technology that includes two stages of chromatography and two stages of tangential flow filtration.

Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund announced in mid-April that a real-world study showed the Sputnik V vaccine is 97.6% effective, higher than reported in the initial trial, Reuters reported. The results are expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal next month. The results were calculated after the second booster dose, about 35 days after the first injection. An incident rate of .027% was reported, as compared to unvaccinated adults showing 1.1%.

Brazil’s regulatory authority turned down emergency use authorization for the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia after Anvisa, Brazil’s drug agency, said that data indicated it had a “replication-competent” adenovirus, Science Mag reported in late April. However, the Gamaleya Institute disputed the findings and threatened a defamation lawsuit in response. Others have debated if Anvisa is interpreting Sputnik’s data correctly, Science Mag reported.

Russia approved a one-dose version of its Sputnik V vaccine that’s called Sputnik Light in early May, The Straits Times reported. The two-dose version has 91.6% efficacy compared to 79.4% for the one-dose version after 28 days.

Argentina researchers have found that Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is effective against the Brazil variant, Reuters reported. Russia’s Direct Investment Fund said in a statement: “The study confirmed that the immunity developed in people vaccinated with ‘Sputnik V’ neutralizes the Brazilian strain after having received two doses, and even after the first.”

Timeline of Novavax Updates

Novavax is not an mRNA vaccine, ScienceMag reported. Instead, Novavax is using a baculovirus to insert a gene for the spike protein, harvesting the spike proteins and using that in an adjuvant.

Your Local Epidemiologist shared that Novavax’s vaccine is different from the others available in the U.S. This one “contains a coronavirus protein that prompts the immune system,” which is combined with an immune-boosting adjuvant from the soapbark tree. The vaccine was made in moth cells, rather than mammal cells, allowing Novavax to manufacture the vaccine faster.

In mid-February, FT reported that Novavax was about to finish its U.S. trial of the vaccine in record time, having enrolled 30,000 participants since beginning the trial in late December. A UK trial of the two-shot vaccine found it 85.6% effective against B.1.1.7 and 95.6% effective against the original variant.

Production of the vaccine is underway in Billingham as of late March, along with some areas in the United States, TessideLive reported. The UK has ordered 60 million doses, but the vaccine hasn’t yet been approved by the MHRA.

Novavax showed 49% efficacy in HIV+ and HIV- participants in South Africa. A placebo group showed no protection against B.1.351 variant.

Recent Phase 3 trials showed positive results for Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, NBC News reported in mid-June. The trial showed an overall efficacy of 90.4% (77 cases of COVID-19 were found in the placebo group and 14 in the vaccine group with nearly 30,000 participants.) The vaccine group cases were mild, indicating 100% effectiveness against moderate to severe illness. The findings, however, still need peer review. The company will apply for FDA authorization in the third quarter based on the results. 

Timeline of Inovio Updates

Inovio is working on a vaccine called the INO-4800 DNA vaccine. Inovio announced positive results from two Phase I clinical trials in early July. The Phase 1 trial was expanded to include older participants in June and July. This is a nucleic-based vaccine that will be stable at room temperature for more than a year and doesn’t need to be frozen.

On January 4, Inovio said it expected to begin a late-stage study of its vaccine in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2021 after finishing mid-stage trials in March, Reuters reported. The vaccine has three mid-stage trials, one in the U.S., one in China with Advaccinek, and one in South Korea. The U.S. Phase III trial had been delayed as the FDA requested more information on the delivery device.

On February 12, Inovio shares traded higher, Seeking Alpha reported. Analyst Hartaj Singh believed Inovio’s vaccine showed promise, noting: “We believe the overall DNA platform by INO should not be overlooked.”

Timeline of Johnson & Johnson Updates (Adenovirus vector vaccine)

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine using an Ad26 vector (a human adenovirus) believed to have less natural immunity in the human population.

Johnson & Johnson received emergency use authorization for its vaccine in the U.S. Data related to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine shows 66% overall effectiveness: 57% in South Africa (rising to 64% after about a month), 66% in Latin America, and 72% in the United States, CNBC reported. The vaccine group reported no deaths, while the placebo group reported seven deaths. People ages 60 and older with comorbidities had a lower efficacy rate of about 42.3%. You can read the 62-page FDA briefing document from Johnson & Johnson here.

Following approval in the United States, Canada approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, CBC reported.

Johnson & Johnson said it would be working on new COVID-19 vaccines that would be effective against variants, Reuters reported in mid-March.

But on April 9, EMA announced that it was investigating if Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine might have any correlation with rare blood clot events found in AstraZeneca, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.

The FDA and CDC paused the J&J vaccine while investigating CVST on April 13. Fifteen people in the U.S. had developed a rare clotting condition — cerebral venous sinus thrombosis out of about 8 million doses, as of late April. It’s not clear how many of those fall in the 18-48 demographic. One was a healthy 25-year-old man who had a cerebral hemorrhage, The New York Post reportedthe only case not in a woman ages 18-59. On April 25, the CDC recommended that use of the vaccine resume in the U.S., believing benefits outweigh risks. The CDC noted that women under 50 should be aware of the rare but increased blood clot risk and know there are other vaccines for COVID-19 that don’t show this risk.

The Australian government announced that it won’t use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in its rollout, because of the similarities to the AstraZeneca vaccine, UPI reported.

The EU Commission won’t renew its contracts for vaccines using the viral vector, including J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, Reuters reported in mid-April.

A real-world trial of Mayo Clinic patients from February 27 to April 14 revealed 76.7% efficacy for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to an April 30 study.

German scientists reported that they believe they can improve AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to avoid blood clots, The Guardian reported. Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe University, developed the solution with a team of colleagues. The team released the findings in a preprint still awaiting peer review, which you can read here.

In the UK, Janssen’s single-dose vaccine was approved in late May.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine shows that it generates an antibody response against the Delta variant in a study of eight individuals, NPR reported in early July. This is in a preprint. The preprint noted: “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine efficacy (VE) against the Delta variant of concern is currently unknown and may become available from our ongoing phase 3 trials only later this year.” Your Local Epidemiologist explained that the study found a 1.6-fold decrease in neutralizing antibodies, which can’t be directly mapped to real-world efficacy, but a mathematical model predicts it might be 55 to 60% against symptomatic disease.

The FDA has added a warning to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine about a rare Guillain-Barre syndrome side effect, the New York Times reported in mid-July 2021. The chances are still low, but three to five times higher for vaccine recipients than the general population.

Timeline of CureVac updates

On February 12, EMA began a rolling review of CureVac’s vaccine, CVnCoV, EMA reported. CureVac is conducting clinical trials on safety, immune response, and effectiveness. CureVac utilizes the mRNA vaccination method.

On February 25, CureVac announced that preliminary animal trials showed it was effective against UK and SA variants, Reuters reported.

On March 4, CureVac and Novartis signed a manufacturing agreement for the second quarter of 2021, with the hope of having 50 million doses available by the end of 2021 and 200 million in 2022. Manufacturing would take place in Austria.

CureVac is now expanding late-stage clinical trials as of late March, BioPharma reported. The trials will look at efficacy against UK, SA, and Brazil variants. Phase 1 data showed strong antibody responses and T cell activation.

CureVac’s clinical trial of 40,000 volunteers in Latina America and Europe showed just a 47% efficacy in mid-June, The New York Times reported. The German company will still apply for approval with the European Medicines Agency, but some experts believe variants are to blame for the poor results compared to earlier trials. CureVac’s CVnCoV is also an mRNA-based vaccine.

Final trial results were also disappointing, The New York Times reported on June 30. It showed an overall efficacy of 48%. Efficacy was 53% in ages 18-60, with 100% protection against hospitalization and death.

Timeline of Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Updates

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline vaccine early trials were disappointing, The New York Times reported in mid-December. The vaccines didn’t produce a good immune response in older participants, although they did in people under 50.

Timeline of China/Sinovac’s CoronaVac Vaccine Updates

One study called into doubt whether Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine will trigger enough protection against the Brazil variant, Reuters reported. This was based on plasma samples from eight people, which didn’t effectively neutralize the variant. The vaccine uses an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Meanwhile, Turkish trials showed China’s Sinovac vaccine was 83.5% effective, and 100% effective in preventing hospitalization, Bloomberg reported. Officials in Brazil had said it was 50.38% effective in preventing cases.

Indonesia reported that China’s Sinovac vaccine protected 98% of healthcare workers from death and 96% from hospitalization, Yahoo! Finance reported on May 12. About 94% of the 128,290 health care workers were also protected from symptomatic infection, the January-March study found. This differs greatly from a Phase III trial in Brazil that showed efficacy at about 50%.

Indonesia Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that after tracking 25,374 healthcare workers who received the vaccine in Jakarta, they found that Sinovac protected 94% from infection and 96% from hospitalization, SCMP reported. It’s not known if they were screened for asymptomatic infection.

Sadikin said they saw a “drastic drop” in hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated healthcare workers. In Chile, 89% of people vaccinated with CoronaVac were protected from serious COVID-19 complications.

Thailand is going to use AstraZeneca’s vaccine as a booster shot for people who received China’s Sinovac, Reuters reported in mid-July.

Timeline of China’s CanSino Biologics’ Vaccine (Adenovirus vector)

China’s CanSino Biologics revealed that its coronavirus vaccine had 65.7% efficacy at preventing symptomatic cases and 90.8% effective in preventing severe disease, Bloomberg reported on February 8. The one-shot vaccine is developed by the biologics company and the Chinese military. This adenovirus vector vaccine was the first to start clinical trials in the world, but a trial in North America was indefinitely delayed.

The vaccine received emergency use approval in Hungary on March 22, Reuters reported. It was also approved in China, Pakistan, and Mexico.

China’s CanSino Biologics has also obtained approval to start clinical trials of an inhaled version of the COVID-19 vaccine using an Adenovirus Type 5 vector, Global Times reported in late March. The vaccine is the same as the already approved single-dose vaccine, only using an “atomization inhalation device.”

Timeline of Covaxin & Covishield Updates

Covaxin, a vaccine from India created by Bharat Biotech International and the Indian Council of Medical Research, showed an efficacy of 81% after two doses in early Phase 3 data, but whether this applied to mild symptoms or severe cases isn’t known, Bloomberg reported. This data was based on 36 cases of COVID-19 in a placebo group versus seven cases in a vaccinated group. The vaccine came under criticism when it was rolled out in India before Phase 3 trial data was available.

On March 4, Zimbabwe announced that it had approved the vaccine for use, making it the first country in Africa to authorize the vaccine.

The vaccine uses an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A preprint study submitted to The Lancet indicates that India’s Covishield may have an overall 63% efficacy and 81% efficacy against severe disease in those who are fully vaccinated, Deccan Herald reported. This was reported during the Delta variant’s second wave.

Timeline of Zoetis Animal Vaccine Updates

San Diego Zoo vaccinated nine great apes (four orangutans and five bonobos) using an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. They’re planning to vaccinate three more bonobos and a gorilla. The apes were given two doses in January and February, spaced by three weeks. They voluntarily sat down for the injections, which weren’t forced. No visible side effects have been noted, except a few rubbed their head or the injection site.

Zoetis, which was once part of Pfizer, is developing the COVID-19 vaccine for animals. It delivers a piece of the surface protein, similar to how Novavax works. The doses aren’t authorized for people.

The vaccine will soon be trialed in a formulation developed for minks, The Guardian reported in late March. A vaccine among minks might help slow down the emergence of variants that could infect the human population.

Timeline of Oravax Medical’s Oral Vaccine Updates

Oramed Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-American pharmaceutical company, is working with India’s Premas Biotech to develop a vaccine by a new company called Oravax Medical. This would be an oral vaccine that could be taken at home, The Jerusalem Post reported in late March. Phase 1 trial data could be available within three months. The vaccine targets three structural proteins rather than one spike protein, and the company believes it may be more resistant to variants.

China’s Sinopharm Vaccine Updates

On May 7, WHO gave emergency approval to China’s vaccine made by Sinopharm, Channel News Asia reported. This was the first time WHO gave emergency approval to any Chinese infectious disease vaccine, and the first non-Western country to receive WHO approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. This is another vaccine using an inactivated virus.

Sinopharm announced December 30 that it was 79% effective, but the United Arab Emirates said it was 86% effective in January. A Phase III clinical trial revealed 78.1% efficacy, Channel News Asia reported.

The Argentine Ministry of Health found in mid-July that China’s Sinopharm vaccine is 84% effective in preventing death in peoples ages 60 and over after two doses, The Straits Times reported.

QazVac Vaccine Updates

Kazakhstan has begun rolling out a new vaccine called QazVac (originally called QazCovid-in), Fortune reported on April 27, 2021. The vaccine was developed within Kazakhstan and researchers claim it has 96% efficacy in Phase 2 trials. Phase 3 trials will end in July, but regulators already approved a rollout of the vaccine. This is a more traditional vaccine that, like India’s Covaxin and China’s CoronaVac, uses an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus. It requires two doses, three weeks apart.

Cuba’s Abdala Vaccine

Cuba’s Abdala vaccine was 92.28% effective in clinical trials, Reuters reported in late June. This vaccine requires three doses as opposed to the two-dose regimens more commonly seen in other regions. The country’s other vaccine, Soberana 2, was 62% effective after the second of three doses. MarketWatch reported that Cuba did not release any details about the vaccine testing.

ImmunityBio Oral Vaccine Updates

At Chan Soon-Shiong Research Institute in El Segundo, California, researchers from ImmunityBio are testing an oral COVID-19 vaccine, CBS News reported in early April. It’s being tested on healthy volunteers using four approaches, including some people getting both the pill and a vaccine shot. The pill targets creating T cells that react to a globe in the middle of the virus that’s less prone to mutation, while current vaccines create antibodies to the spike protein. The trial is available to people who are 55 or younger, haven’t had COVID, and aren’t pregnant.

Other Adenovirus Vaccines

ImmunityBio is developing an adenovirus-vector vaccine based on Ad5. They are conducting a trial using a combination of an oral vaccine and an under-the-tongue vaccine. Some hope that Ad5 delivered this way might have less of an issue with pre-existing immunity in the population.

Altimmune, Stabilitech BioPharma, and Vaxar are testing Ad5 vaccines using nasal sprays or pills, CEN reported. Altimmune’s AdCOVID is adenovirus-based but is delivered intranasally. On March 15, the results from a transgenic mouse model were announced from a preclinical trial.

ReiThera (once called Okairos) is testing a COVID-19 vaccine using a gorilla-derived adenovirus vector, CEN reported. This GRAd-COV2 vaccine candidate just started its Phase 2/3 clinical study on March 18. The study is named COVITAR.

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