Moderna booster effective; South Africa registers 2,149 new cases

Moderna booster effective; South Africa registers 2,149 new cases
A health worker prepares vaccine shots against Covid-19 at the Museum of Contemporary art in Rivoli, Turin, Italy on 29 April 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jessica Pasqualon)

South Africa registered 2,149 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,590,370. A further 63 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,620.

Moderna said mid-stage trials showed its booster shots were effective against strains of the coronavirus that emerged from Brazil and South Africa. Canada became the first nation to clear the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for adolescents.

US cases could see a sharp decline by July if nationwide vaccination efforts continue to be successful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US will support a proposal to waive intellectual property protections for vaccines, joining an effort to increase global supply and close the gap between rich and poor nations.

The UK insisted a meeting of top Group of Seven diplomats in London should go ahead after India’s foreign minister said he would self-isolate over possible exposure to coronavirus. Meanwhile, new research suggests deaths from Covid-19 in India may double from current levels.

Key developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 154.6 million; deaths exceed 3.23 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.19 billion doses have been given
  • Moderna Covid booster shots prove effective against variants (Video)
  • Vaccines work on this India variant. Experts fret about the next
  • Here comes the Covid-19 community corps and they want you
  • What are vaccine passports and how would they work?: QuickTake

Novavax shows efficacy against variant

Novavax said initial primary analysis of Phase 2B results for its vaccine showed efficacy against a South African variant of the coronavirus.

Among healthy adults without HIV, the Novavax vaccine showed efficacy of 60% in the initial analysis and 55% in the subsequent complete analysis, the company said.

Novavax may have lost the race on vaccinating millions in the US, but a successful trial can still help developing nations like India and Brazil where shots are in high demand.

Canada may mix vaccines amid supply crunch

Canada is considering allowing patients to receive two different types of vaccines as the country deals with shortages of shots from AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Federal health officials are closely watching a UK-based trial in which participants received two kinds of shots. Results are expected in the next month or so, said Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

If adopted, the new protocol would mark another major deviation from original vaccine guidelines. Canada has opted to extend the length of time between mRNA vaccines from the recommended three to four weeks to as long as four months, in order to stretch supplies.

Colorado woman is pro-vaccine despite blood clot 

A Colorado woman who suffered a rare blood clot after receiving Johnson & Johnson vaccine urged others to get a shot just the same.

Morgan Wolfe (40), of Denver, told the Colorado Sun: “Despite everything that’s happened, I definitely still think that it’s important to keep on pushing for as much of the country and as much of the world to get vaccinated as possible.”

“Obviously, I had a bad reaction to this one. And that’s unfortunate for me, but I do still think that there’s a place for it in the overall strategy,” Wolfe said.

Moderna booster effective on variants

Moderna’s booster shots gave positive results against immune system-evading strains that emerged in South Africa and Brazil, according to early results from a mid-stage trial.

Two types of booster shots studied spurred higher levels of virus-halting antibodies, Moderna said in a statement. One of the boosters is an additional low-dose shot of its existing vaccine, while the other type is customised against the South Africa strain.

“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants,” Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said.

“We will continue to make as many updates to our Covid-19 vaccine as necessary to control the pandemic.”

US to back waiver of vaccine IP protections

The US will back a proposal to waive intellectual-property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, joining an effort to increase global supply and access to the life-saving shots as the gap between rich and poor nations widens.

“We are for the waiver at the WTO, we are for what the proponents of the waiver are trying to accomplish, which is better access, more manufacturing capability, more shots in arms,” US trade representative Katherine Tai said in an interview on Wednesday.

The Biden administration will now actively take part in negotiations for the text of the waiver at the World Trade Organization and encourage other countries to back it, Tai said.

She acknowledged the talks will take time and “will not be easy,” given the complexity of the issue and the fact that the Geneva-based WTO is a member-driven organisation that can only make decisions based on consensus.

Biden touts relief funds for restaurants

President Joe Biden visited a Washington restaurant owned in part by Mexican immigrants on Wednesday to highlight $28.6-billion in federal aid for restaurants that struggled during the pandemic.

Under the Covid-19 relief measure Biden signed in March, restaurants can apply for grants ranging from $1,000 to $5-million per location, or $10-million for those with 20 or fewer locations.

Pandemic delays FDA plant inspections

Pandemic disruptions severely hampered US regulators’ ability to inspect drug and device-makers’ manufacturing plants, delaying at least 68 applications for approval to market new products, according to a Food and Drug Administration review.

Seven of the delayed applications were mission-critical, meaning they represented a medical advancement, the agency said on Wednesday in its report, and six of those were for new drugs. The delayed applications were among 600 where the FDA required a factory inspection before approval decisions.

Yankees, Mets to segregate unvaccinated fans

New York Yankees and Mets stadiums will reopen to all fans on 19 May with separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated spectators.

Those who are vaccinated can sit together at 100% capacity, as long as they wear masks. The unvaccinated fans will need to wear masks and also observe a 1.8m social distancing rule, which works out to about 33% capacity in those sections, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

Fans will be able to get vaccines at the games, under a deal between the state and the teams. Those who get a shot at a game will get a free ticket to another game, Cuomo said. New York joins several other states offering incentives for vaccines as the pace of inoculations slow.

The governor also announced that Broadway tickets will go on sale Thursday, with shows starting on 14 September at full capacity, Cuomo said.

US cases could see ‘sharp decline’: CDC

US Covid-19 cases could see a sharp decline by July if nationwide vaccination efforts continue to be successful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers used scenario modelling techniques to show long-term projections of potential trends in Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths in data released on Wednesday in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Canada clears Pfizer shot for teens

Canadian public health officials authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for teenagers, making Canada the first nation to do so. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser with Health Canada, made the announcement on Wednesday at a press conference. The department determined the vaccine was “safe and effective” for the younger age group, Sharma said. The US is considering similar action.

Fauci sees Pfizer shot cleared for US teens soon

The Food and Drug Administration is likely to issue an emergency authorisation for use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for adolescents “within several days,” said White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci.

“I think it is going to be very soon,” Fauci said during an interview with NBC News. “I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of the FDA, but I believe it is going to be within several days.”

G-7 meeting goes ahead in UK

The UK insisted a meeting of top Group of Seven diplomats in London should go ahead after India’s Foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said he would self-isolate over possible exposure to coronavirus.

The news risked derailing a high-profile event that marked the G-7 debut of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Britain is hosting the gathering, which began on Tuesday.

Thailand readies relief

Thailand is planning to spend billions of dollars for financial relief to low-income groups to cope with the economic hit from the biggest outbreak sweeping the nation since the pandemic began.

The Cabinet on Wednesday approved in principle fiscal stimulus measures, including extension of two cash handout programs by a month at a cost of $2.8-billion. It also proposed $4.4-billion of spending for co-payment and e-voucher programs and more cash handouts to welfare cardholders and special groups to stimulate consumption, officials said.

Malaysia tightens curbs in capital

Malaysia tightened restrictions on movements in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to defuse a fresh wave of coronavirus infections, a day after it imposed similar curbs in the nation’s richest state of Selangor.

The movement control order will be in force from 7 May to 20 May, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement on Wednesday. Dining at restaurants is prohibited and curbs on interstate travel remain, the minister said. DM

— With assistance by Marthe Fourcade, Jason Scott, Natalie Lung, Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Xuan Quynh Nguyen, Anisah Shukry, Angus Whitley, Philip Heijmans, Andreo Calonzo, Mai Ngoc Chau, Anirban Nag, Suvashree Ghosh, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Justin Sink, Stacie Sherman, Danielle Bochove, and Vincent Del Giudice.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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