Booster Shots Seem More Likely. Israeli Data Shows Delta Variant's Risks.

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Barron's 23 July, 2021 - 07:39am 42 views

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Weeks after Pfizer’s announcement that it would seek authorization for a booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine led to open conflict between the company and U.S. health officials, the tide seems to be turning toward booster shots for at least some Americans.

On Thursday, an influential committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signaled early support for giving Covid-19 booster shots to immunocompromised people.

Meanwhile, Israel’s health ministry put out data showing that Pfizer’s vaccine had been only 40.5% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 while the Delta variant has been dominant in the country, though it remains highly effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.

And on Friday, Pfizer (ticker: PFE) and its partner BioNTech (BNTX) said that the U.S. government had agreed to buy an additional 200 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, a purchase that will put the number of doses of messenger RNA-based Covid-19 vaccines bought by the U.S. well over the number required to give every American two doses.

The companies don’t mention booster doses in their press release, and Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said in a statement that the doses “will help the U.S. government ensure broad vaccine access into next year.”

The U.S. government, however, has already bought 600 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna (MRNA) combined, enough to vaccine virtually the entire U.S. population. That suggests that the newly-purchased doses are likely being bought with a mind toward having doses on hand for a booster campaign, if regulators decide to approve one.

The developers of messenger RNA-based Covid-19 vaccines have been arguing for months that boosters doses will be necessary. The assumption of at least a short-term booster market is likely priced into the stocks of companies like Moderna and BioNTech.

On Friday, BioNTech shares were up 1.4% in premarket trading, while Moderna shares were up 1.3%, and Pfizer shares were down 0.2%. S&P 500 futures were up 0.4%, as the market erased the Monday rout, when Covid-19 concerns sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 2.1%.

Covid-19 cases continue to climb in the U.S., with the average number of new daily cases now up 180% over the past two weeks, according to the New York Times.

“It’s looking likely that a 3rd vaccine dose will be needed at least for elderly/immune compromised if not more,” Evercore ISI analyst Josh Schimmer wrote in a note out Thursday.

At a meeting Monday of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which sets recommended vaccination schedules in the U.S., a CDC official told the committee that immunocompromised people don’t respond as well to Covid-19 vaccines as healthy people, and that data suggests that a booster dose increases both their antibody response and the proportion who respond.

The CDC official noted in the presentation that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must allow a booster dose of the vaccine in immunocompromised people before ACIP can allow it. ACIP members were supportive of the notion of recommending a booster for immunocompromised people, according to a Wall Street Journal report on the meeting.

Meanwhile, Israel’s health ministry put out numbers on Thursday reflecting its data on the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine during a recent four-week period in which the Delta variant was dominant in the country.

The ministry said that the vaccine was 39% effective at preventing infection with the virus that causes Covid-19 and 40.5% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, but 88% effective at preventing hospitalization due to Covid-19, and 91.4% effective at preventing what it referred to as “severe Covid-19,” a category that includes deaths from the virus.

Those numbers appear to be in contrast to the findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week by scientists at Public Health England, a government health agency in the U.K., who wrote that the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against the Delta variant was 88% after two doses.

In a statement to Barron’s, Pfizer said that no variant, including Delta, has escaped the protection of its Covid-19 vaccine.

“An ongoing analysis from the Phase 3 study has shown a decline in efficacy against symptomatic infection over time – from 95 percent at the first two months to low- to-mid-80 percent after 4-6 months post the second dose,” the company said. “Initial data of a third dose of the current vaccine demonstrates that a booster dose given at least 6 months after the second dose elicits high neutralization titers against the wild type and the Beta [variant].”

Pfizer said it would publish more data on the analysis, and it will share its data with the FDA and other regulators in the coming weeks. It said that if a third dose of its original vaccine isn’t found to protect against Delta, it could make a tailor-made version of its vaccine to protect against that strain or any other within 100 days.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at josh.nathan-kazis@barrons.com

Weeks after Pfizer’s announcement that it would seek authorization for a booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine led to open conflict between the company and U.

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COVID-19 Vaccine | Jabs for Africa

eNCA 23 July, 2021 - 10:10am

Most vaccines offer protection against Delta variant with just 1 dose: Study

POLITICO Europe 23 July, 2021 - 05:57am

The study compared the efficacy of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs against several variants of concern.

The real world study, which isn't yet peer reviewed, was announced by AstraZeneca Friday but first published on July 16. It compared the efficacy of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines against several variants of concern. The authors found that even a single dose of any of the three vaccines provides “considerable protection against symptomatic infection and severe outcomes.” 

In particular, protection against the Delta variant, first identified in India, was 56 percent effective against symptomatic infection after one dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. Moderna was 72 percent effective, and Oxford/AstraZeneca 67 percent. 

The findings contrast with results from a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, using data from Public Health England, that found the effectiveness of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was just 36 percent after a single dose, while one jab of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine 30 percent effective. 

As for more severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death, the Canadian study indicated that one dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines was 78 percent, 96 percent and 88 percent effective, respectively, against the Delta variant. 

However, one dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine showed much lower efficacy against symptomatic illness caused by the Beta and Gamma variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively, with efficacy standing at 48 percent. BioNTech/Pfizer had 60 percent efficacy and Moderna 77 percent against the Beta and Gamma variants. 

Data showed the Moderna jab produced a comparable antibody response in 12- to 17-year-olds as it did in young adults.

U-turn by the British government means daily testing will replace isolation for some key workers.

The move comes after COVID-19 cases more than doubled over the last week.

The agency’s safety committee, added the rare disorder to the jab’s side effects after assessing 108 cases reported worldwide.

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