A roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week
The U.K. gets creative with its dosage guidelines
Leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, MD, has said that the U.S. would not delay the second dose of the vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines say that the vaccines are not interchangeable. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. will not also have to get creative: As a New York Times analysis pointed out, concerns about vaccine shortages are leading experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to consider other ways to stretch the vaccine supply, like using syringes that can extract an extra dose and cutting doses in half.
China’s Sinovac vaccine gets the green light from Brazil
On Thursday, researchers in Brazil announced that their late-stage trial of China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine was 78% effective, Reuters reported. The trial, which began in July, enrolled around 13,000 volunteers; of 218 Covid-19 cases that occurred in this group, over 160 occurred in people who received a placebo. Not much else is known about the study beyond these details, leading some scientists to express criticism about the transparency of the research.
On December 25, 2020, researchers behind Sinovac’s smaller late-stage trial in Turkey announced it had an effectiveness of 91%. This finding, reports the New York Times, was based on only 752 volunteers who received the vaccine and 570 who received the placebo, and so has been called into question. In addition to Brazil, Sinovac is gearing up to supply vaccines to Indonesia, Turkey, Chile, Singapore, Ukraine, and Thailand.
Vaccination set to begin in U.S. pharmacies
Responding to the sluggish rollout of the vaccine in the U.S., the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it would accelerate the launch of vaccinations in retail pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Costco. When this effort was first announced in November, the White House did not provide a timeline. As The Hill reports, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday that only a few thousand pharmacies will start vaccination because of the limited supply, but the program will ultimately involve over 40,000 pharmacy locations across the U.S.
India approves a controversial vaccine
On January 3, India approved its first two Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and a vaccine produced by the Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech. The latter vaccine was approved before collecting Phase 3 trial data, eliciting sharp criticism from experts. Making such a decision without the data, said Vineeta Bal, PhD, an immunologist at India’s National Institute of Immunology, in an interview with Science, was “unconscionable.”