Friday Five

Coronavirus latest: Additional vaccine results and vital care home testing – this week’s Friday Five

More promising results from Covid-19 vaccine trials

In the past week, the key players in the race to produce an effective Covid-19 vaccine have all announced promising results. More results from other teams working on advanced trials are expected in the coming weeks.

The partnership between Pfizer and BioNtech were the first to share information from the final stages of their vaccine testing, which suggested the jab could be 90% effective. Additional data has now shown their vaccine to be 94% effective in adults over 65 years old. Thus far, the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine has been tested on 43,000 people. Pfizer believes they will be able to supply 50 million doses worldwide by the end of the year.

Moderna ran a trial of its vaccine on 30,000 people in the UK, which found its vaccine protects 94.5% of people. Following these results, Health Minister Matt Hancock said the UK has an ‘’initial agreement’’ to purchase 5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Lastly, trial results from the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and scientists at the University of Oxford have found ‘’robust’’ immune responses in adults over 60. The team is now orchestrating bigger trials to see if the vaccine stops people developing Covid-19. The AstraZeneca/Oxford partnership have agreed to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine to the UK.

Read the full story in the BBC.

Testing pilot aims to reunite care home residents with families 

A trial to regularly test family and friends of people living in care homes to allow them to visit their loved ones had started. The new pilot is currently taking place in around 20 care homes across Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall. The government says it wants the scheme to be rolled out to other regions before Christmas. It is hoped this will put an end to ‘’heart-breaking’’ restrictions on visiting.

Regular testing will be offered to one family member or friend per resident, which when combined with infection-control measures such as PPE – will support meaningful visits. This means indoor visits without a screen could take place, while reducing the risk to care home residents, staff and visitors. Visitors will be offered either PCR tests which they can do at home, or the new 30-minute rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs), which can be administered in person at care homes before a visit.

Read the full story in ITV news.

UK researchers develop nasal spray that protects against Covid-19

A nasal spray which prevents infection from coronavirus, as well as stopping people from infecting others, has been developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham. The nasal spray formula catches the virus in the nose and then encapsulates it in a viscous coating from which it cannot escape to cause infection. This means the virus would be harmless if it entered the respiratory tract, and safe for a person to breathe out as it would already be inactive even if inhaled by another person.

Cell-culture laboratory experiments showed that the spray prevented infection for up to 48 hours. The team believes the spray could be useful in areas in which crowding is unavoidable, such as aeroplanes and classrooms. “We engineered the product using materials which we knew were both food and pharma approved. This means that we know that large amounts of the polymers can be ingested without toxic effects” said Dr Richard Moakes, University of Birmingham

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

What are the 4 different types of coronavirus vaccine?

The purpose of a vaccine is to harmlessly expose parts of the virus to the immune system, which then recognises it as an invader and learns how to fight it off. Multiple methods are used to produce a vaccine, as illustrated by the various Covid-19 vaccines. Understanding which method produces the best result will be vital.

Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna have both developed RNA vaccines. This is an experiential approach, which involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body to train the vaccine. RNA vaccines hold the promise of being faster, cheaper, more adaptable and easier to mass-produce than other vaccines.

Contrastingly, the Janssen vaccine trial uses a common cold virus that has been genetically modified to make it harmless and more like coronavirus at a molecular level. This should train the immune system to recognise and fight coronavirus. Similarly, the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Russian vaccines both take harmless viruses that infect chimpanzees, and genetically modify it to resemble coronavirus to get an immune response. Two of the big China vaccines use the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but in a disabled form so it cannot cause infection.

Read the full story in the BBC.


Quote of the week

As we discussed in a previous blog, the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact ethnic minorities. An encouraging factor observed from the vaccine trials has been the increase in clinical trial diversity. For example, Moderna and Pfizer recently announced that 37% and 42% of their vaccine trial participants are from ethnic minorities, respectively.

Boston Globe Editorial Board said: ”Longstanding mistrust of pharmaceutical companies and the government in communities of colour has been a major obstacle in the crisis of recruiting diverse patients for clinical research…It’s encouraging, then, that Pfizer and Moderna, the clear front-runners in the vaccine race, have done an admirable job in recruiting a diverse panel of patients for their clinical trials.”

Read the full article in the Boston Globe.