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UK strikes deals for two antiviral drugs to help combat coronavirus surge this winter


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.

Record number of coronavirus booster jabs administered – with 800,000 given in past 72 hours


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 Develop New Vaccine to Prevent Future Coronavirus Outbreaks


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.

Booster Covid jab offers near total protection, Pfizer study shows


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 vaccinates 50% of the population


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 administers over one billion Covid vaccine doses


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.”

Melbourne bids farewell to COVID-19 lockdown and the controversial curfew


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.

Only very old and sick die of COVID if vaccinated, Italian study shows


People vaccinated against COVID-19 are highly unlikely to die of the disease unless very old and already badly ill before getting it, a study in Italy showed on Wednesday.

The study by the national Health Institute (ISS), contained in a regular ISS report on COVID-19 deaths, shows the average age of people who died despite being vaccinated was 85. On average they had five underlying illnesses.

The average age of death among those not vaccinated was 78, with four pre-existing conditions.

Cases of heart problems, dementia and cancer were all found to be higher in the sample of deaths among those vaccinated.

The analysis, carried out from Feb. 1 to Oct. 5 this year, studied the medical records of 671 unvaccinated COVID fatalities and 171 fully vaccinated ones.

There were 38,096 COVID deaths in Italy during the period under review.

Gates Foundation to spend $120 mln to speed access to generics of Merck COVID-19 pill


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Wednesday it would spend up to $120 million to kick-start development of generic versions of Merck & Co’s oral COVID-19 treatment to help ensure lower-income countries have equal access to the drug.

The aim is to reduce the gap between when wealthy countries have access to the antiviral medicine, molnupiravir, and when the rest of the world can benefit from it.

“To end this pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in the world, has access to life-saving health products,” Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

The Gates Foundation investment will be used to help drugmakers ramp up production of generic molnupiravir, as well as support regulatory filings and prepare local markets, Trevor Mundel, the foundation’s president of Global Health, said in an interview.

Initial data from a clinical trial on Merck’s experimental pill suggest it can halve the risk of serious disease and death from COVID-19 when given early in the illness.

Mundel said the funding would act as a bridge to get the manufacturing process started. Ultimately, he estimated the total cost to launch a generic version of Merck’s antiviral at up to $500 million dollars. “That’s where the global funders are going to have to come in,” he said.