SARS. MERS. COVID-19. Coronaviruses caused all three diseases, and scientists are betting other members of this viral family will cause new outbreaks.
But what if a single vaccine worked against all coronaviruses — past, present and future?
Researchers from San Diego to Boston are racing to turn that possibility into a reality, and they just got some major help. La Jolla Institute for Immunology announced Thursday that Erica Ollmann Saphire, president of the organization, won a three-year, $2.6-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a so-called pan-coronavirus vaccine.
“It’s a class of viruses that we know can cause global pandemics. And it’s something that we need to be prepared for,” Saphire said. “We’re trying to ward off the next pandemic.”
She’s part of a larger effort led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and joined by researchers at MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University. Scientists in Boston are studying people who’ve been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, searching for immune responses with the potential to fight off a broad swath of coronaviruses.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has hailed two new additions to the UK’s “armoury of life-saving measures” to tackle COVID-19 as he announced the purchase of 730,000 doses of possible coronavirus treatments.
The government’s antivirals taskforce has struck deals for two new coronavirus treatments, which – if they are approved by the medicines regulator – are expected to be given to those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The agreements have seen the UK secure 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir – produced by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) – which has been proven in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms by 50%.
The US has already struck a $1.2bn deal to purchase around 1.7m courses of Molnupiravir, should it be approved by the American regulator.
A “record number” of coronavirus booster jabs were administered on Saturday, with more than 800,000 inoculations given in the past 72 hours, the NHS has said.
A total of 5.1 million third jabs have been given, with around half of people aged 50 and over – and those who are currently eligible – being given a dose.
Saturday was the biggest booster day on record, with 325,140 vaccines given.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many coming forward to book in their vital vaccination.
“Getting your booster jab is essential and is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter – the vaccine is safe and effective so please do go online if you’re eligible or call 119 to book in for your lifesaving booster today.”
Japanese scientists have developed a new vaccine that will successfully stop five different types of coronaviruses—not just COVID-19.
Rather than targeting specific coronaviruses and going through the process all over again in future pandemics, the Japanese approached the problem with a broader solution.
A newly published paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the Japanese have successfully genetically engineered proteins from Sars-CoV-2.
American companies like Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson go after a specific section of the virus, the spike protein of the virus, which includes the receptor-binding domain, known as the head region. That specialized targeting vaccine only proves effective against a particular coronavirus.
Aside from the head region of the coronavirus, there is the core region of the virus, which is very similar in multiple coronaviruses. So instead of targeting a specific head region of a particular virus, why not target the core region and wipe out multiple coronaviruses?
American researchers were not able to get around that predicament, however, researchers at Osaka University in Japan genetically engineered the receptor-binding domain (head region) of the spike protein to have sugar molecules attached.
What does that mean? Well, mice exposed to those genetically engineered proteins produced a greater proportion of antibodies against the core region—the core region is where multiple coronaviruses are very similar. By controlling the head, you essentially control the body.
According to the Journal of Experimental Medicine, antibodies made by this new method are what scientists call “broadly neutralizing antibodies” and in tests, they were found to not just neutralize Sars-CoV-2, but also Sars-CoV-1, which caused the Sars outbreak of 2002.
The Japanese genetically engineered proteins were also effective against three coronaviruses found in pangolins and bats, where many believe coronaviruses originated from.
A third dose of the Pfizer vaccine provides “excellent” immunity, the first full trial has shown, as Boris Johnson suggested older people should be able to get boosters sooner than currently allowed.
The prime minister piled pressure on vaccines chiefs to change their advice and let people have boosters less than six months after their second dose, as a study showed an additional jab raises protection by a further 95 per cent.
In the study of 10,000 people, those who received a third injection of the Pfizer vaccine almost a year after their first two saw protection against symptomatic infection soar compared with those who had had just two doses.
An earlier study, looking at real world data from Israel, found a similar boost in protection against serious illness.
This means that any waning of the first two doses is more than compensated for by the third, scientists said. Since its early introduction of a booster programme, Israel has seen a steady fall in its case rates and hospital admissions.
Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “These two studies show the booster jab provides excellent protection against both mild and more serious Covid-19 infections so should both reduce the infection rates in the community and the pressure on hospital services.”
The JCVI advised that people should wait six months after their second dose before having a booster to ensure that immunity is maintained through the winter months.
Brazil reached, this Wednesday (20), the mark of 50% of the general population with complete vaccination against Covid-19 . The information is from a survey conducted by the CNN Agency based on data from the state health departments across the country.
The index includes those vaccinated with the two-dose regimen (Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Coronavac) and the single dose ( Janssen vaccine ). According to the balance, 106,764,063 people have already received the second dose or single dose in the country.
In relation to the population able to be vaccinated , which considers individuals over 12 years of age, the percentage of fully immunized is 69.3%. According to the Ministry of Health, 110,980,594 Brazilians have the complete vaccination schedule.
The vaccination campaign against the disease caused by the new coronavirus began in Brazil on January 17 this year.
India has administered more than 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines since starting its ambitious vaccination program in January.
Government data showed 708 million people, or around 75% of the eligible population, received at least one dose of vaccine while 30% are now fully inoculated against the disease. Only those above 18 are currently allowed to receive the shots.
“This achievement belongs to India, every citizen of India,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, according to CNBC’s translation of his remarks in Hindi. “I express my gratitude to all the vaccine manufacturing companies of the country, workers engaged in vaccine transportation, health sector professionals engaged in vaccine development.”
Victoria has finally downed one of the bluntest and most controversial public health tools used during the pandemic.
As of today, the lockdown has lifted from Melbourne, and along with it, the curfew.
There are hopes the measures will not be needed again any time soon in a highly vaccinated population.
With the eased restrictions come a raft of returned freedoms, including dine-in hospitality, more outdoor activities and limited household visits.
Counts of days spent under lockdown vary, but most find Melburnians have now spent the longest period under COVID-19 lockdown as any city in the world.
But while the usefulness of lockdown in curbing movement and preventing a catastrophic overwhelming of health systems has been broadly accepted, the curfew has remained a controversial measure.