WHO concludes that updated COVID-19 vaccines may be needed

When confronting an onslaught of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, COVID-19 vaccine makers such as Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna (NSDQ:MRNA) have tested tweaked versions of their vaccines but ultimately decided that they were unnecessary.

Signs are growing that vaccines developed based on the original strain of the novel coronavirus will struggle to offer durable protection against the omicron variant.

A World Health Organization (WHO) technical advisory group concluded that current COVID-19 vaccines might require modification but acknowledged that more research is needed.

In an interim statement, the independent group also concluded that “a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.”

The body also urged that governments worldwide ramp up the distribution of current COVID-19 vaccines.

The WHO advisory panel also predicted there were multiple pathways for drug…

Read more
  • 0

7 potential applications of mRNA-based therapeutics

mRNA image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Scientists have experimented with mRNA for decades, but the pandemic foisted the platform into the limelight. The Pfizer-BioNTech (NYSE:PFE/NSDQ:BNTX) and Moderna (NSDQ:MRNA) COVID-19 vaccines have since emerged as two of the best-selling pharmaceutical products in recent memory.

Researchers are now exploring dozens of new possibilities for the mRNA platform.

Here, we summarize several areas where mRNA could find use in the coming years.

1. Cardiovascular applications

Image by Raman Oza from Pixabay

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently shared positive data related to the use of mRNA and CAR-T cell therapy to treat cardiac fibrosis in a mouse model.

Last year, AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) announced positive results from a Phase…

Read more
  • 0

Israeli researchers release data on fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Early data from Israel’s Sheba Medical Center showed that an additional booster of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NSDQ:BNTX) led to a fivefold increase in antibodies one week after receipt of the vaccine. 

Pfizer had earlier announced that a third dose of the vaccine increased antibody levels 25-fold compared to a two-dose primary series. 

Pfizer and BioNTech, along with their competitor Moderna (NSDQ:MRNA), continue to develop an omicron-specific version of their mRNA vaccine. 

The prospect of a fourth dose of the original vaccine for immunocompetent people may be more controversial than a third. 

While Israel has begun administering a fourth dose to some individuals, the head of the French vaccination program, Dr. Alain Fischer, said there was insufficient evidence at present to recommend an additional vaccine dose. France could dec…

Read more
  • 0

Walter Reed research arm’s pan-coronavirus vaccine could hold up against omicron 

Vaccine candidate image from the Walter Reed Institute of Research

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) is planning to announce positive early clinical results related to a novel nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccine, according to media reports.

A Phase 1 study involving the vaccine found that it was effective against omicron, other SARS-CoV-2 variants and other coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-1. That study began in April.

A preclinical study involving nonhuman primates was recently summarized in Science.

The Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) COVID-19 vaccine will be the subject of Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies, according to an article from Defense One.

Ferritin is an iron-carrying protein that forms a 24-unit sphere-shaped particle.

WRAIR Is also testing the ferritin nanoparticle–baed platform for vaccines for influenza and the Epstein-Barr virus.

Walter Reed …

Read more
  • 0

Israel plans to authorize fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for high-risk populations

Photo by Frank Meriño from Pexels

Mere months ago, health experts were divided on whether COVID-19 boosters were necessary for the broader public. 

Then came delta and then came omicron. 

Now Israel is moving to become one of the first countries to offer a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people at least 60 years old and those at high risk of severe disease. Countries such as Switzerland and the U.K. have reduced the window of time for booster eligibility from six months down to four and three months, respectively. 

As a result, COVID-19 vaccines from companies such as Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, Moderna and others continue to be a hot commodity. 

A number of companies, including Pfizer and Moderna, are also developing omicron-specific versions of their vaccines. Both of those companies are gearing up for clinical trials in early 2022. 

Earlier this month, Pfizer CEO Dr. Al…

Read more
  • 0

100-µg booster dose of Moderna’s vaccine increases antibody levels 83 times against Omicron

Moderna (NSDQ:MRNA) is touting preliminary data suggesting that its COVID-19 vaccine booster led to robust antibody increases against the Omicron variant, both at the 50 µg and 100 µg dose levels.

The 50 µg booster dose, which is currently authorized under emergency use authorization, led to a 37-fold increase compared to pre-boost levels 29 days post-boost. A 100 µg booster dose led to an 83-fold increase in the same time window.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center and Duke University Medical Center conducted the research on sera from 20 booster recipients for the mRNA-1273 vaccine at both 50 µg and 100 µg dose levels.

Two doses of the Moderna vaccine, however, did not offer robust protection against Omicron.

Moderna, like Pfizer, is also developing an Omicron-specific vaccine. Moderna’s is known as mRNA-1273.529.

Moderna anticipates to organize clinical trials for the Omicron-based va…

Read more
  • 0

CDC’s ACIP deprioritizes Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 15 to 0 to prioritize the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines over Johnson & Johnson’s.

One of the main reasons for the recommendation is a rare side effect associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that results in low blood clots and blood-platelet levels.

CDC officials revealed that there had been 54 cases of the condition, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome.

FDA temporarily paused the use of the vaccine in April over blood clot concerns.

The J&J vaccine has lagged behind the mRNA-based Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in terms of demand.

To date, U.S. health workers have administered 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine compared to 286 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses and 187 million Moderna doses, according to CDC data.

The J&J vaccine also trails its rivals in terms of vaccine efficacy.

That said…

Read more
  • 0

Three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine neutralized Omicron variant in the lab

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech SE (NSDQ:BNTX) have announced that their vaccine remains effective against the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529 lineage) of SARS-CoV-2 in early lab studies.

Two doses of the vaccine significantly reduced neutralization titers, while three neutralized the variant.

The lab studies showed that three doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine were similar in efficacy against Omicron as two doses were against the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Pfizer and BioNTech indicated that two doses of the BNT162b2 are likely insufficient to prevent infection from the Omicron variant. However, the companies still expect that two doses of the vaccine will be effective at protecting against severe disease related to the Omicron variant.

Early evidence suggests that Omicron may offer less of a risk of severe disease than the Delta variant, which continues to dominate the U.S.

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection agains…

Read more
  • 0

Why global vaccine equity could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic

[Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash]

In May, the World Health Assembly set the goal of fully vaccinating 10% of each country’s population by September 30. A number of countries hit the goal, including 15 in Africa, but more than 50 didn’t.

“It’s very concerning,” said Donna Patterson, a fellow at the Wilson Center, in a recent webinar from that organization. Uneven vaccination rates threaten to extend the COVID-19 pandemic’s timelines. Some countries remain far behind the 10% goal. For example, the percentage of fully vaccinated people in Senegal is 5.6%. Burundi’s rate is near 0%. “There are other countries that are higher, mostly in North Africa, including Morocco, but that also varies,” said Patterson, who is also a professor at Delaware State University.

Vaccination rates are also lagging in regions such as the Caribbean, Latin Americ…

Read more
  • 0

FDA’s Woodcock reassures about COVID-19 tests, vaccines under Omicron

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock

Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock thinks many COVID-19 tests will continue to work with the new Omicron variant — with information coming soon on vaccine efficacy.

In a statement posted yesterday, Woodcock said she thought the agency is well-positioned to work with companies to address the potential impact of viral mutations on COVID-19 tests, therapeutics, and vaccines.

“Getting vaccinated or receiving a booster with one of the currently available vaccines is the best thing that you can do right now (in addition to standard precautions like wearing a mask) to help protect yourself, your family and friends,” Woodcock said.

Discovered in late November in South Africa, the Omicron variant has more than 30 changes to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The variant has enough mutations to raise concerns worldwide, even though it is still un…

Read more
  • 0

UK puts vaccine manufacturing goes up for auction

Image courtesy of VMIC

The U.K. government has put a manufacturing plant up for sale that was instrumental in the country’s plan to battle future pandemics.

According to The Financial Times, the plant, dubbed the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC), had received at least £215 million of public funding since it was launched in 2018.

A handful of companies have placed bids for the 74,000 m2 plant, located in Harwell, approximately 15 miles from Oxford.

The U.K. had planned on using the facility to make vaccines for epidemics, but the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the role of private industry in vaccine manufacturing.

The country had scheduled to complete work on the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre in 2023 but moved that date to spring 2022 in an earlier phase of the pandemic.

Created as a nonprofit organization, the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC) …

Read more
  • 0

J&J joins Moderna and Pfizer in researching Omicron variant

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has announced that it is collaborating with academic institutions internationally to gauge the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine against Omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.

In particular, J&J said it is conducting research on blood serum from clinical trial volunteers who have received single or multiple doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.

The company also vowed to design and develop an Omicron-specific variant vaccine if necessary.

“We remain confident in the robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses elicited by the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated by the durability and breadth of protection against variants to date in clinical studies,” said Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head, Janssen Research & Development, in a press release. “Building on our long-term collaboration with scientists on the ground in South Africa and the ongoing real-world effectiveness studies being conducted with the J…

Read more
  • 0