Friday Five

Covid-19 latest: AstraZeneca concerns, vaccine shortages and potential public inquiry – This Week’s Friday Five

Oxford-AstraZeneca is “safe and effective” says EU regulator

After a review of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced that it is “safe and effective”.

Concerns over links between the vaccine and blood clots cases led 13 EU states to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week. The World Health Organization (WHO) advised that the vaccine rollout should be continued but countries including Germany, France and Italy said they would await results of the EMA investigation as a precaution. Alain Fischer, head of a French government advisory board, spoke with France Inter radio and said “there were a few very unusual and troubling cases which justify this pause and the analysis”.

Some countries, including the UK, have continued vaccinating with AstraZeneca. Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group which developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, said there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe [have] been given so far”.

Read the full story in the BBC.

 

Vaccine shortage could slow rollout

NHS England warns of a supply reduction of the Covid-19 vaccine in April.

A delayed delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, has meant only half of the expected 10 million doses arrived in the UK. After extending the vaccine programme to all over-50s this week, the NHS has said no more first dose appointments will be booked in April. The government aimed to vaccinate all over-40s by Easter, but shortage could lead to delay in moving onto younger age groups.

Dr Nikita Kanani, the NHS medical director for primary care, said “The Government’s Vaccines Task Force have now notified us that there will be a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning in the week commencing March 29, meaning volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained.” Instead, the vaccination programme in April will be focused on second doses, according to a government source.

Read the full story in the Telegraph.

Calls for Covid public inquiry

This week, pressure is growing for a public inquiry into the handling for the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. The group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice is calling for an independent judge-led, statutory inquiry.

Rachel Reeves, labour MP and shadow cabinet office minister, has written to Michael Gove to add her support to the campaign. Reeves highlights the protection of frontline workers, deaths in the care system and a lack of intensive care beds as some of the reasons why an inquiry is necessary.

After hearing from bereaved relatives, Reeves said “they want an inquiry because they want to understand what happened and whether anything more could have been done – but also, and I think this is probably the strongest argument, the lessons to be learned, because this is unlikely to be the last virus or disease that comes our way.”

Read the full story in the Guardian.

Novavax vaccine effective for UK Covid-19 variant

Results of Phase III trial show Novavax vaccine to be effective against the original UK strain of Covid-19.

According to Novavax, the vaccine has an overall efficacy of 89.7%. The trial included more than 15,000 people aged 18-84, with 27% of these over 65 years. Novavax have also released findings of a 55.4% efficacy from a study in South Africa, where the ‘South Africa’ B.1.351 variants was dominant.

Stanley Erck, chief executive officer of Novavax said that “We are very encouraged by the data showing that NVX-CoV2373 not only provided complete protection against the most severe forms of disease, but also dramatically reduced mild and moderate disease across both trials. Importantly, both studies confirmed efficacy against the variant strains.”

Read the full story in the PharmaTimes.


Quote of the week

In news this week, former US President Donald Trump has recommended the Covid-19 vaccine. He said people should have freedom to decide for themselves. Despite 42% of Republicans saying they probably or definitely will not take the vaccine, Trump’s view is that:

“It is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works.”

Read more at CNBC.