Vaccine security : busy day amid EU sabre-rattling and vaccine nationalism !!

A lot of vaccine news in the last 24 hours. I don’t know where to start. Last year, Kate Bingham the head of the government’s vaccine procurement team placed orders for a portfolio of seven vaccines, to ensure that at least a few would be successfully developed following clinical trials.

Chart showing the vaccine doses the UK has on order

In addition to the three already approved and in use (Pfizer, Astra Zenica and Moderna), a further two were announced over the last 24 hours (Novavax and Janssen). The Novavax jab, which is given in two doses, was shown to be 89.3% effective at preventing Covid-19 in participants in its Phase 3 clinical trial in the UK, and around 86% effective at protecting against the new UK variant. The jab’s efficacy against the original Covid-19 strain was calculated to be 95.6%. The Phase 3 trials – the final stage before a vaccine is looked at by a regulator – enrolled more than 15,000 people aged between 18-84, of whom 27% were older than 65, US firm Novavax said. In the South African part of the trial, where most of the cases were the South African variant of the virus, the vaccine was 60% effective among those without HIV.

Dr Nita Patel, Director of Antibody discovery and Vaccine development, returns a box of potential coronavirus vaccines to a fridge at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on 20 March, 2020
Biotech firm Novavax has labs in the US (pictured) and has carried out trials in the UK and South Africa

Janssen also announced their new single-dose vaccine today, which has shown to be 66% effective against Covid-19, and offered complete protection against hospitalisation and death in trials. However, there are signs the jab, made by Belgian pharmaceutical firm Janssen, is less effective against the new variant spreading in South Africa. Crucially, no one needed hospital treatment or died from coronavirus after the Janssen vaccine took effect in the international trial. The Johnson & Johnson-owned company is looking at whether two doses will give stronger or longer-lasting protection, and plans to make one billion doses this year. click full article. Both new vaccines will need to be reviewed by regulators before they can be used.

Undated handout photo issued by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) of Dr Claire Cole, head of research delivery at MFT, receiving a dose of the vaccine developed by the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson after she became the first volunteer for the phase three trial
Dr Claire Cole from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust volunteered in the Janssen jab’s Phase 3 trial

Meanwhile, the EU’s drugs regulator has approved the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged over 18. The bloc agreed to buy up to 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last year. Germany’s vaccine commission has said it cannot recommend the use of the jab in people aged over 65, citing a lack of data on how it affected this age group. Individual EU countries are free to decide who vaccines should be given to, once they have been approved.

The European Commission has published its contract with the Anglo-Swedish drug-maker, hoping to show a breach. However, as if the EU hadn’t bungled the vaccine roll-out enough, the publication of the vaccine contract has become another embarassment after someone failed to properly redact the document. Opening the contract up on Adobe Reader, Guido was free to see beneath much of the mass-redactions via the programme’s widely used bookmarks feature.

click for full source from Guido Fawkes website

It comes amid an ongoing dispute over whether AstraZeneca is breaking its vaccine delivery commitments to the bloc, which has seen the EU confirm that it will bring in export controls on Covid vaccines made in the bloc. In a surprise announcement this evening, the EU has temporarily overridden a section of the Brexit deal in relation to Northern Ireland, over concerns the country could become a backdoor for vaccines from the EU to be sent into the wider UK. Arlene Foster, DUP leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister, called the move “an incredible act of hostility” by the EU. Late reports this evening are saying that that the EU is retreating from this stance, but this is not clear. The EU must “urgently clarify its intentions” after it brought in export controls on Covid vaccines to Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson has said. The PM said the bloc must explain what it plans to do to ensure it honours its commitments to Northern Ireland.

So there we have it. Amid the good news of the new vaccines later this year, we have the chaos the the EU politicising the supply of vaccines in an attempt to secure its supply of the Astra Zenica vaccine from the UK factories. This includes endangering the supply of future Pfizer vaccines to the UK from Belgium and compromising the second doses of this vaccine.

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