Coronavirus Now: COVID-19 & Vaccine Updates for May 12

As of May 12, confirmed cases of COVID-19 now number more than 160 million around the world, including more than 33 million cases in the United States and more than 591,000 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.


May 12 News Updates

South Carolina Governor Bans Mask Mandates

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said on Tuesday that he was banning local governments, state agencies, state employees, political subdivisions, and schools from creating mask mandates, NPR reported. McMaster said this was due to every adult in the state having the opportunity to get a vaccine. He also said that vaccine passports are “un-American to its core.”

Oregon Governor Will Lift COVID-19 Restrictions When State is 70% Partially Vaccinated

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that when 70% of residents ages 16 and older have at least one vaccine dose, she’ll lift most statewide COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon Live reported. This would include capacity limits on businesses, although a statewide mask mandate and physical distancing in public spaces might remain. Counties that achieve 65% partial vaccinate can move to a lower-level risk tier as early as May 21.

Texas Launches Call Center for Mobile Vaccine Units

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the launching of a State Mobile Vaccination Team Call Center so businesses and civic organizations can schedule a mobile vaccine team to visit any location with 10 or more employees, visitors, or members interested in vaccinations. Homebound Texans can also request a home visit.

China’s Sinovac Shot Is Effective in Real-World Study

Indonesia reported that China’s Sinovac vaccine protected 98% of healthcare workers from death and 96% from hospitalization, Yahoo! Finance reported. 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%.

U.S. Average of Daily Cases Falls Below 40,000 for First Time Since September

The U.S. average of daily COVID-19 cases fell below 40,000 for the first time since September, CNBC reported. On Monday, the rate of new cases fell to an average of 38,800 a day. That average is down 22% from one week earlier and 46% from mid-April, when 71,000 daily cases were reported.


Ongoing Vaccine Updates

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

Breakthrough Vaccine Cases Are Still Statistically Low

Your Local Epidemiologist (Dr. Katelyn Jetelina) shared an in-depth look at vaccine breakthrough cases in mid-April. Vaccine efficacy is 90% for Moderna and Pfizer, but not 100%. So far, 5,800 breakthrough cases have been reported by the CDC out of 78 million people, which isn’t surprising. Out of those, 74 died. In Washington state, the five deaths were in people older than 80, while the majority of their 217 breakthrough cases were mild. Variants may account for the majority of the breakthrough cases. The rate of breakthroughs in Washington, for example, are “magnitudes better than the rate of COVID19 in Washington without vaccines.”

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. A peer-reviewed study of about 9,000 people published in Lancet in February showed that the first Pfizer dose brings 85% efficacy in preventing symptomatic disease within 15 to 28 days of the shot, The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-February.

A real-world study in Israel of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shows a 94% efficacy in symptomatic infection following two doses, Reuters reported. The efficacy was the same across all age groups and co-morbidities. The study looked at 1.2 million people, and the UK variant was dominant.

Preliminary results in a preprint revealed that Pfizer’s vaccine reduces the viral load four-fold 12 to 28 days after the first dose, The Scientist reported. You can read the preprint here. One dose of the Pfizer vaccine can serve as a booster for people who already had the novel coronavirus, according to a research paper in Lancet, SciTechDaily reported.

A February study at the University of Texas revealed that the Pfizer vaccine still provides substantial protection against the SA variant, The Guardian reported. The researchers acknowledged limitations, including not having the full set of spike mutations. A newer study from early March indicated a reduced efficacy for Pfizer and Moderna against the SA variant, The Hill reported. Moderna’s was 12.4 times less effective against the SA variant and Pfizer’s was 10.3 times less effective. The study in Nature, whose accelerated preview you can read here, involved 12 participants of a Moderna Phase 1 trial and 10 participants who received the Pfizer vaccine.

While the SA variant efficacy is being debated, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates the Pfizer vaccine is likely effective against the Brazil variant, Independent reported.

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.

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 new study from late March indicates the Pfizer vaccine is 100% effective in children ages 12 to 15, NBC News reported. The findings haven’t yet been peer-reviewed. On Facebook, Your Local Epidemiologist reported that this was very encouraging, but there are still some unanswered questions, such as final efficacy numbers with two months of data rather than one, and what exactly “well-tolerated” means in terms of safety.

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 are still looking good in new studies, Your Local Epidemiologist reported in early May. This includes 87-90% efficacy against B.1.1.7 in a Qatar study and 72-75% efficacy against B.1.351 in a Qatar study. Real-world effectivieness against hospitalization in the U.S. is 95%, and in Israel vaccinations led to a 97% reduction in hospitalizations. In Qatar, there were .6% breakthrough cases among people vaccinated with two doses, and a 97% reduction in COVID-19 deaths in Israel among the vaccinated.

Timeline of Moderna Updates (mRNA vaccine)

Data released in mid-December shows 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. Side effects were not dangerous but were unpleasant, including fever, headache, and fatigue. 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.

Moderna announced on January 25 that individuals who got the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are showing neutralizing antibody activity against the UK and South Africa variants (B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.) A weaker response was observed for the South Africa variant (B.1.351), but Moderna noted that “neutralizing titer levels … are expected to be protective.” A study of the Moderna vaccine from Emory University and the University of Texas Medical Branch in early February also indicates that it generated neutralizing antibodies against variants, News Medical reported.

However, 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 accelerated preview you can read here, involved 12 participants from Moderna and 10 from Pfizer.

Moderna is working on a booster vaccine targeted to the South Africa strain, Independent reported in late February. The booster is called mRNA-1273.351.

Moderna is also studying a new COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reported in March. This vaccine could be stored in refrigerators instead of freezers. It’s designated mRNA-1283 and is being studied as a vaccine and as a booster.

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 in mid-April. The information comes from updated Phase 3 clinical trial data, which will help the company get closer to obtaining full FDA approval. Pfizer made similar announcements earlier.

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 has said new data in early May that 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. It’s currently approved by the FDA to be stored between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 days and at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for up to seven months.

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 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 has faced a number of hurdles in recent months.

The vaccine gives mild side effects like a temperature or a headache, Reuters reported. But French health authorities recommended staggering the shot among health care workers so operations aren’t disrupted due to the intensity of the side effects.

South Africa paused its AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine rollout in early February after an analysis revealed the vaccine only provides 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. These included Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, CNBC reported, along with Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, 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.

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. The country has seen 31 people develop the rare clot after 2.7 million doses, most involving women between ages 20 to 63. Nine died.

The Netherlands suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60, Reuters reported. Australia is officially advising people under 50 to get the Pfizer vaccine and not AstraZeneca as of early April, ABC.net reported. Denmark is continuing its rollout of vaccinations without AstraZeneca, the country announced on April 14.

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.

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.

Timeline of Novavax Updates

Novavax announced that in its Phase 1 vaccine trial for NVX-CoV2373, antibodies were induced in 100% of participants, The Motley Fool reported. The vaccine had mild side effects, typically worse with the second dose. On November 9, it was granted fast-track designation by the FDA and is in late-phase clinical development. This 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

A new study calls 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. CoronaVac is most commonly used in China, Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia.

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.

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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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