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Pause in Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial not necessarily a setback, says Hancock

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Nobody can know where the first safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19 will come from, warned one of the UK’s leading medical experts, as the trials of the frontrunner, from Oxford University, were put on hold.

The Oxford vaccine appeared to be storming ahead, amid hopes it would have the data to get it approved by a regulator before the end of the year. Last month, Donald Trump was said to be considering pushing for it to be fast-tracked in the US before the presidential election in November.

But the phase 3 trials, the final stage involving tens of thousands of people, have been paused because of the illness of one of the UK volunteers. Studies are also under way in the US, Brazil and South Africa, with a view to getting a quicker answer because of the greater numbers of cases in those countries.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the head of Wellcome and an infectious diseases specialist, said vaccine development “is an inherently risky endeavour, and you cannot back on a single vaccine candidate. You have to have a portfolio, you have to be pragmatic that not all of these vaccines in late stage development will make it through.”

Safety is absolutely critical, he said. Large-scale trials and follow-up of people who have been vaccinated after licensing were vital.

Farrar, who is also a member of the government’s Sage scientific advisory body, called for scientists worldwide to share their data, as Oxford/AstraZeneca has. It is “absolutely critical that we know what’s happening in the US and Europe in China and Russia and everywhere else, developing these vaccines”.

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said he was not overly concerned about the decision by the pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca to halt vaccine trials, he said, adding that it had already overcome a similar delay.

“This is a normal part of a vaccine development that, when you find a problem, the system is paused while you investigate that particular problem,” he told LBC radio.

“What it underlines is that we won’t bring forward a vaccine unless it is safe, no matter how enthusiastic I am for a vaccine.”

Hancock told Sky News: “It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine. It’s not actually the first time it has happened to the Oxford vaccine and it’s a standard process in clinical trials.”

Asked if it was a setback, Hancock said: “Not necessarily – it depends on what they find when they do the investigation. There was a pause earlier in the summer and that was resolved without a problem.”

He told LBC the UK had “other irons in the fire”. The government has ordered 340m doses of six different vaccines, which was “far more” than was needed for the UK population, said Hancock.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/09/pause-in-oxford-coronavirus-vaccine-trial-not-necessarily-a-setback-says-hancockHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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We are finally unravelling the mystery of what causes severe covid-19

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An out-of-control human peptide called bradykinin could be responsible for some of the varied and sometimes deadly symptoms seen in people who have contracted the coronavirus. We already have drugs to control bradykinin, which are being tested as treatments for people with covid-19.

Bradykinin normally helps to regulate blood pressure, and in some people, the coronavirus seems to be pushing bradykinin production into overdrive. This would create a kind of “bradykinin storm” in the body that may lead to a number of symptoms common in covid-19.

Renuka Roche at Eastern Michigan University says such a storm could explain many aspects of covid-19 that seem disjointed, such as muscle pain, women sometimes having milder illness than men, and African Americans being more likely to develop complications.

In July, a team led by Daniel Jacobson at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee published a study in which they mined gene expression data in samples of lung fluid from nine people with covid-19 in China, and compared them with samples from a control group that didn’t have the disease. They found an over-expression of genes that are responsible for bradykinin production, along with under-expression of genes that produce enzymes to keep bradykinin levels in check.

Because bradykinin dilates blood vessels and makes them more permeable, high levels of bradykinin could lead to fluid leakage in a blood-vessel-rich environment like the lungs. It can also break down the blood-brain barrier, suggesting a possible pathway for some of the coronavirus’s puzzling neurological symptoms.

Fortunately, drugs that help regulate hyaluronic acid and bradykinin predate covid-19. In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the anti-inflammatory drug icatibant for acute attacks of the hereditary genetic disease angioedema, a condition that involves its own bradykinin storms.

In July, a team led by Roger Brüggemann at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands did a preliminary trial of icatibant on nine Dutch coronavirus patients who were being treated with oxygen for difficulty breathing. The team found a reduction in the need for oxygen supplementation in eight of those people.

Studies are now under way in the US and Europe to test another bradykinin signal-blocking drug called lanadelumab.

“We hope … once this is completed, it will be the next step towards a multinational study involving several hundreds of patients,” says Brüggemann.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2253987-we-are-finally-unravelling-the-mystery-of-what-causes-severe-covid-19/HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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China reports two new COVID-19 cases vs 10 a day earlier

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Mainland China reported two new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 8, down from 10 a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that both cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas, marking the 24th straight day of no local infections.

The number of new asymptomatic cases also fell to eight from 13 reported a day earlier. China does not count these symptomless patients as confirmed COVID-19 cases.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-cases/china-reports-two-new-covid-19-cases-vs-10-a-day-earlier-idUSKBN260004HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine candidate appears safe, slightly weaker in elderly

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Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd (SVA.O) said on Monday its coronavirus vaccine candidate appeared to be safe for older people, according to preliminary results from an early to mid-stage trial, while the immune responses triggered by the vaccine were slightly weaker than younger adults.

Health officials have been concerned about whether experimental vaccines could safely protect the elderly, whose immune systems usually react less robustly to vaccines, against the virus that has led to nearly 890,000 deaths worldwide.

Sinovac’s candidate CoronaVac did not cause severe side effects in a combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials launched in May involving 421 participants aged at least 60, Liu Peicheng, Sinovac’s media representative, told Reuters. The complete results have not been published and were not made available to Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vaccine-sinovac/chinas-sinovac-coronavirus-vaccine-candidate-appears-safe-slightly-weaker-in-elderly-idUSKBN25Y1QMHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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China parties likes it’s 2019 as country moves on from coronavirus

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People in China are shedding their face masks and partying again, with bars, nightclubs and beach venues across the country filling up after months of pandemic controls.

Last weekend, hundreds of Beijing residents attended a music festival on the beachfront at Beidaihe — a location that also serves as the annual getaway for the Communist Party leadership.

To get into the venue, partygoers had to scan their government-designed app that tracks were they have visited, and have their temperatures taken. But once inside the sealed-off resort, they could throw off any thoughts of coronavirus.

“Nobody was wearing masks. It was like we’d all entered a parallel universe and forgot the existence of the epidemic,” said Nancy Lee, 33, an art curator who was one of the festival-goers. “After suffocating at home for more than six months, it was time to loosen up.”

In the capital Beijing, bars and restaurants are becoming busy again. Revellers say they feel they have earned the “freedom to party” after months of strict social distancing from late January.

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China reports 17 new Covid-19 cases but no local cases for 15 straight days

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China reported 17 new Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases on Aug 30, up from 9 reported a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission said all of the new cases were imported infections involving travellers returning from abroad, marking the 15th straight day of no local infections for the country.

The number of asymptoma Covid-19 infections now stands at 85,048, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

No new suspected cases or deaths related to the disease were reported on Sunday, the health commission said.

Of the imported cases, six were reported in Shanghai, five in Tianjin, two in Fujian and one each in Shanxi, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shaanxi, the commission said.

On Sunday, a total of 24 Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovery, the commission said.

https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2020/08/31/china-reports-17-new-covid-19-cases-but-no-local-cases-for-15-straight-daysHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine candidate approved for emergency use in China

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Sinovac Biotech Ltd’s coronavirus vaccine candidate CoronaVac was approved for emergency use as part of a programme in China to vaccinate high-risk groups such as medical staff, a person familiar with the matter said.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), also said it had obtained emergency use approval for a coronavirus vaccine candidate in social media platform WeChat last Sunday.

CNBG, which has two vaccine candidates in phase 3 clinical trials, did not say which of its vaccines had been cleared for emergency use.

China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to high-risk groups since July, and a health official told state media in an interview aired last week that authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use programme to try to prevent possible outbreaks during the autumn and winter.

State media Xinhua reported late on Friday that two vaccine candidates were approved in June for the emergency use program launched in July, without identifying the specific products.

Officially, China has given little details on which vaccine candidates have been given to high-risk people under the emergency use programme and how many people have been vaccinated.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-vaccines-idUSKBN25O0Z3?taid=5f4a53b94b992e000118c435&utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthemHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Air Travel Within China Is Nearly at Pre-Pandemic Levels

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Domestic air travel in China has nearly returned to normal levels, according to data released on Wednesday, a significant milestone for the country where the coronavirus pandemic started.

Airline bookings in China reached about 98 percent of last year’s levels in the second week of August, according to ForwardKeys, a company that tracks travel reservations globally. And domestic arrivals stood at 86 percent. Based on current trends, China’s domestic aviation market should fully recover by the beginning of September, the company said.

“This is a highly significant moment because it is the first time since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak that a major segment of the aviation market anywhere in the world has returned to pre-pandemic levels,” Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys, said in the statement.

The achievement comes as most of the world’s airlines prepare for a long, painful recovery. In most countries, domestic travel has recovered first, while international flying has lagged far behind, thwarted by travel restrictions and people’s unwillingness to go on long trips. In the United States, domestic travel is down about 44 percent, according to Airlines for America, an industry group, as airlines prepare to cut tens of thousands of jobs if Congress does not extend aid to the industry.

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/08/26/business/stock-market-updates-coronavirusHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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China logs ninth consecutive day with no locally transmitted COVID-19 cases

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China reported its ninth consecutive day with no new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, as a major university in the city of Wuhan opened for face-to-face classes on Tuesday for the first time in eight months.

The daily update from national health officials, which provided data for Monday, showed the recent streak without any new locally transmitted cases stretched into another day.

There were 14 new imported cases, involving travellers returning from overseas, down from 16 the previous day. There were also 16 new asymptomatic cases – patients who are infected with the coronavirus but not exhibiting any symptoms – compared with 27 a day earlier.

In the central city where the virus was first detected, Wuhan University opened its doors to more than 9,100 students on Monday.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-toll/china-logs-ninth-consecutive-day-with-no-locally-transmitted-covid-19-cases-idUSKBN25L00HHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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