The Brazilian regulator approved on Sunday the emergency use of two vaccines against COVID-19, the British AstraZeneca and the Chinese CoronaVac, the first two to get the green light in Brazil, where the pandemic has already almost done 210,000 dead.
• Read also: [EN DIRECT 17 JANVIER 2021] All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic
This authorization announced by the regulator Anvisa made it possible to launch the vaccination campaign in Brazil. It will initially use CoronaVac, produced by the Chinese firm Sinovac in collaboration with the Brazilian institute Butantan, the only vaccine currently available in the country.
A 54-year-old nurse from Sao Paulo was the first person vaccinated against COVID-19 in Brazil on Sunday, AFP found.
Mônica Calazans, a nurse at Emilio Ribas hospital, received a first injection of the CoronaVac vaccine, during a ceremony in the presence of the governor of the state of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, who is a rival to the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.
In the process, more than 100 people were vaccinated this Sunday in the same hospital, said the government of Sao Paulo.
“A marketing stunt,” responded the Brazilian government, which indicated that the national vaccination campaign will officially begin on Wednesday.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said that any initiative “outside” the government’s agenda “is in contradiction with the law” because it “ignores equality between states and among all Brazilians.”
He said the six million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine will begin to be distributed Monday among Brazil’s 27 states.
Nursing staff, those over 75 and over 60 living in homes for the elderly as well as the indigenous population will be vaccinated as a priority.
The second authorized vaccine is the British AstraZeneca / Oxford, produced in Bombay by the Serum laboratory in partnership with the Fiocruz Foundation of the Brazilian Ministry of Health.
The Brazilian government was hoping to finalize the import of two million doses of the vaccine from India this weekend, but the Indian government, which began a massive campaign on Saturday, has yet to give the green light.
Brazil is facing a virulent second wave, with tolls reaching more than 1,000 deaths per day. The Latin American giant is the second most bereaved country in the world, with 209,847 dead, just behind the United States.
The situation is dire in Manaus in the Amazon, which on Friday began transferring patients to other states and is facing oxygen shortages and overloading its hospitals.
Some scientists believe the situation is likely to have deteriorated due to the presence in the region of a variant of the coronavirus which could prove to be more contagious, such as those which have appeared in the United Kingdom or South Africa. .
Doubts about the new are reasonable, as is the uncertainty in the face of conflicting experiences. Not so the construction of conspiracy theories that unite lies and half-truths with fear. Explosive mix.
Without being a scientist or a doctor, my first reaction to discoveries and proposals is open-minded: listen, analyze the origin and weigh the pros and cons.
The ways of science have always been difficult. Great minds in history were persecuted – and some were burned – for spreading their findings. Today, fortunately, light precedes darkness, although we are faced with another dilemma: misinformation.
For example, vaccination against Covid-19 has unleashed all kinds of speculations, some based on the isolated facts, that every similar process entails, and others completely delusional.
After the publication on http://www.CalaBienestar.news of a guide with 24 fake news about vaccines, signed by doctors and experts, some say that I have joined the “globalist agenda to reduce the world population”. I’d laugh if it wasn’t something so serious.
They are the ones who insist that Covid-19 does not exist, that it is a plan of certain elites to dominate the world. The same deniers who describe the severe snowfall that recently affected Spain as “false”, because, in their opinion, it is “plastic” thrown from the sky (it is not known by whom) “to deceive us.” I’m not exaggerating. The news is in the newspapers.
What sources do they draw from? None worth saving. Faced with the proven knowledge of prestigious institutions, the same ones that have saved us from diseases and have increased life expectancy around the world, a group of “truth doctors” is cited, whose ideas have not been validated by any publication would.
Of course, if someone considers that the whole world is conspiring to affect them, take away their rights and impose a universal dictatorship, that fear will lead to permanent unhappiness. Of course, there are dangers out there, but be careful not to believe in “WhatsApp experts”, because we will end up doubting even our own shadow.
The issue is serious. Today we see eradicated diseases return, including measles, polio, diphtheria, rubella and smallpox, due to the stubbornness of anti-vaccine groups. It is worth commenting and differing. You have the power of choice in almost everything that happens to you.
To the complicated plot of vaccination process against COVID-19 in the big Apple a sentence from Mayor Bill de Blasio was joined this Friday: If the federal government does not send extra doses next week, the city will run out of supplies of new drugs!
There are in the five county inventories less than 186,000 units of the first dose of Pfizer and Moderna.
The municipal president revealed that health centers such as Mount Sinai Hospital and NYU Hospital They no longer accept appointments because they don’t have immunizations available.
“We have a fundamental problem here. We are speeding up the vaccination process, but we will not have enough vaccines by the end of next week. We need maximum pressure on Washington and Albany. And also on the manufacturers, so that they deliver hundreds of thousands of doses to us immediately ”, he highlighted.
The New York City Health authorities has already administered more than 337,500 doses to New Yorkers, including more than 42,000 second doses. 71.3% of the 175,000 vaccines that were planned to be distributed at the end of this weekend have already been inoculated.
Plans fall apart
Resupplying 100,000 doses in recent weeksBased on the numbers that the Mayor manages, it is “very insignificant”, taking into consideration that since last Monday all New Yorkers over 65 years of age have been incorporated into the vaccination strategy.
The drug shortage would disrupt the City’s goal of administering 1 million doses in all five boroughs by the end of January, delaying the prospect of quickly achieving herd immunity and fully reopening the economy safely.
Cuomo: We need more doses!
Despite the pitfalls in the vaccination process, the governor Andrew Cuomo is optimistic that New York will “win the war” against the coronavirus with “the vaccine as its greatest weapon”, although he remarked that during the last week the supply of doses to the state decreased from 300,000 to 250,000.
At present 7.1 million New Yorkers in Group 1A and 1B are eligible to be vaccinated. At the current rate of supplies from the federal Administration, that means it would take six months to immunize to health and education personnel, police, firefighters, rescuers and people over 65 years of age.
The issue is further complicated when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also recommended incorporating into this phase the group of individuals with “Pre-existing diseases”.
“We are speaking with federal officials to clarify what underlying health conditions would qualify. Diabetics, the obese, smokers, those with coronary problems? That guide is still not clear to us. All roads lead to you we need more dosesCuomo claimed.
According to preliminary estimates by the State Department of Health, if everyone with pre-existing conditions were allowed to be vaccinated, that would translate into close to 12 million more people would qualify to be eligible for the stage 1B vaccine.
The curve flattens
Within the sea of complications to stop the second wave of the pandemic, the state president assured that in the last three days it was observed a slight decrease in the new infected compared to the worrying figures that began to emerge immediately after the New Year.
“As social activity started to flatten out, the rate of COVID-19 started to drop a bit. And that is good news. We would rather not have seen the increase, it would have been worse if we had not made so many warnings during the holidays, “he said.
It was also confirmed a new variant case of the coronavirus that was detected in the UK in a patient in Nassau County. So far there is 16 infected with this new strain throughout New York State.
This Thursday the average of positivity in the whole state showed a 6.14%, were confirmed 19,942 infected and 183 deceased.
One month after the vaccine in NY:
eleven% of people who qualify to be immunized in the first phase in NY have received the drugs.
827,715 doses of the vaccine had been applied throughout New York state as of this Thursday.
731,285 of the first dose and 96,430 of the second dose.
2.1 million of people in group 1A (health sector workers) is the State’s vaccination goal.
3.2 million are eligible for group 1B in NY (education personnel, police, rescuers, firefighters and seniors).
1.8 million people 65 and older qualify for the dose.
32,566 deaths due to complications with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in NY.
The numbers of new cases and deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise in almost all parts of the world.The best hope is now in the different vaccines -various of which have already been approved- to stop contagion.
Although all immunizations have the same objective – to train the immune system so that it can recognize the coronavirus and thus fight it – not all are done in the same way or work according to the same principles.
In this graph we show you 4 types of vaccines that they have developed for covid-19 and we explain how they work.
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FRIDAY, Jan. 15, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Now that federal guidelines have expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include people over 65 and those of all ages with underlying health conditions, drug stores say they are ready, willing and able to start giving the shots.
There’s just one slight glitch: supply. But with two vaccines already available and others moving toward emergency use authorization, experts say supply will likely soon catch up with demand.
As of Jan. 14, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program has tapped two pharmacy chains per state to offer free COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmacies will be notified if they can take part in this initial rollout.
Spearheaded by Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine development program, this plan will ultimately allow more than 40,000 pharmacies across the nation to inject 100 million vaccines in a month’s time. Already signed on as partners are CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Costco, Walmart, Rite Aid, Publix and more.
Fully 250 million people in the United States are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and pharmacies can help speed the slower-than-expected vaccine distribution process, said Kathleen Jaeger, senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), an Alexandria, Virginia-based trade group representing chain pharmacies.
“With 40,000 drug stores and one vaccinator per store, it would be very easy to deliver 100 million vaccine doses in one month,” said Jaeger during an NACDS news briefing on Wednesday.
“Many people live within five miles of a local pharmacy, so it will be easier to give out the vaccines,” she said. “We stand ready, and our capacity is tremendous.”
Exactly how pharmacies will dole out COVID-19 vaccines is not fully understood yet. They may use an appointment system to avoid long lines and crowding, she said. The government asked 19 pharmacy partners to help develop a more precise game plan.
There has been some concern about allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines, and pharmacists can handle this as they have experience in giving flu and H1N1 shots, she said. “We always observe a patient for 15 minutes after a vaccine,” she noted. If a person has a history of life-threatening allergic reactions, they should get their vaccines under strict medical supervision, she added.
There is not enough data to know the effectiveness of the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna if the 2nd dose is given beyond 42 days after the first, the public health of Canada said Thursday.
• Read also: Quebec ready to wait up to 90 days for the 2nd dose
• Read also: 2,132 new cases and 64 deaths in Quebec
• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic
If Quebec waits up to 90 days before administering second dosesThe provincial health authorities will therefore need to closely monitor the impact and collect data on it.
This is what Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said in a briefing Thursday.
“In terms of effectiveness with the interval between the two doses, we have enough data to say that yes, it is effective if we have an interval of up to 42 days. After 42 days, we don’t know, ”he said.
However, he acknowledged that the stakes are real in terms of the variable flow of doses of COVID-19 vaccines arriving in Canada and that he understands that Quebec must make difficult choices.
A joint statement released Thursday by the chief medical officers of the provinces and the federal government underlines the obligation of the provinces to document the effects that come with the choice to stretch beyond 42 days the time between the two doses.
“When deemed necessary for a program to increase the interval between doses beyond 42 days, based on specific epidemiological data and their impact, this program should closely monitor the observed effects and share the results regularly, which will be added to the ever-expanding evidence base ”, we can read.
According to Dr. Njoo, Quebec’s national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, endorsed the joint statement.
The Pfizer vaccine is designed so that 21 days between the administration of the first and second dose. Moderna’s plan is 28 days apart.
However, with the unstable flow of first deliveries, Quebec chose to postpone the administration of the second dose in order to distribute a first dose to as many people as possible.
Given the supply issues, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) agreed that it was possible to delay the administration of the 2nd dose for up to 42 days. However, François Legault’s government announced Thursday that it will allow a wait of up to 90 days.
In their joint statement, Chief Medical Officers across Canada say they support NACI’s recommendations. “The flexibility afforded by reasonable stretching of the dose interval up to 42 days, depending on operational needs, and the increased predictability of vaccine dose supply, supports our public health goal of protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible, ”he wrote.
Note that the number of doses arriving in Canada will increase significantly as of April. Major General Dany Fortin, responsible for logistics for the federal government, indicated that it will be around one million doses that will be sent per week.
Boots and Superdrug have started dishing out coronavirus vaccines this morning after No10 finally turned to the high street to deliver its lockdown-ending promise of immunising almost 14million people by mid-February.
MailOnline revealed this week that the Boots store in Halifax and Superdrug branch in Guildford, Surrey, would be included in the first wave of high street chemists to join the national effort.
The chains are among six pharmacies across England to be converted into Covid hubs this morning and will be able to administer hundreds of jabs a day between 8am and 8pm.
Vaccines are also being dispensed at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford, Shropshire, and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes, Cheshire.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move was ‘fantastic’ and ‘will make a big difference’ in ramping up the national jab programme, while a Government source said ministers were on track to reach 3million weekly jabs by the start of February and hit the 13.9m target by next month.
The source told the Sun: ‘We’re in a good place and have enough to meet our pledge, with supply continuously improving. We are already vaccinating more than 200,000 a day and are nowhere near capacity. If things go smoothly we could well be doing 400,000 a day — three million a week — by the start of February.’
But Independent chemists who’ve been begging for months to help chip in said they were ‘concerned’ that the target would be missed unless more of England’s 11,500 pharmacies were drafted in. Just 2.5m Brits have been jabbed so far since the national programme launched in early December, a fifth of the 13.9m target by mid-February.
Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline: ‘We are relieved to see that six designated pharmacy sites have been given the opportunity this week to administer the Covid-19 vaccine and we’re 100 per cent committed to help NHS England work through any challenges in order to allow many more community pharmacies to play their part.
‘However, as we are yet to see the current vaccination numbers, we are concerned that the target of 13.9m may not be met by mid-February if not many more of the nation’s accessible high street pharmacies, who are reliable healthcare providers are able to offer the vaccine. We want to continue working with the government to enable this vital vaccine to reach all communities, much sooner than they currently are.’
It comes after it emerged more than 21million Covid jabs are on British soil, meaning there are enough doses to hit the target of injecting all over-70s, care home residents and health staff by February 15. Not all the vaccine consignments have passed regulatory checks – and many are yet to be put into vials. But the fact so many logistical hurdles have been jumped is a major victory in the fight against coronavirus.
Brenda Clegg, 92, receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Rae Hynes at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, West Yorkshire
Patricia Main, 75, receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Bhavika Mistry at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax,
The Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, which was among the first wave of pharmacies to be recruited to help the national effort
Pharmacist Andrew Hudson administers a dose of the coronavirus vaccine to Robert Salt, 82, at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Andrews Pharmacy was among six high street chemists to start dishing out doses of the jabs this morning
But, amid reports of manufacturing and supply issues, small pharmacies claim to have still not been contacted about getting involved, even though they claim they have the expertise and local knowledge to be able to significantly bolster the programme.
Those who are eligible for a Covid vaccine will be contacted and invited to make an appointment through the normal NHS booking service. This gives them the option of having a vaccine at their local pharmacy or in a GP-led vaccination centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that distribution ‘will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can’ but said supply of doses remained the main sticking point. At the moment the pharmacies will run a 12-hour day operation.
The six pharmacies have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing, the Government says. Mr Hancock added: ‘Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.’
UK has enough doses to vaccinate all over-70s, care home residents and NHS frontliners
More than 21million Covid jabs are on British soil, the Daily Mail revealed today.
It means there are enough doses to hit the target of injecting all over-70s, care home residents and health staff by February 15.
Not all the vaccine consignments have passed regulatory checks – and many are yet to be put into vials. But the fact so many logistical hurdles have been jumped is a major victory in the fight against coronavirus.
Boris Johnson tonight pledged a ‘big, big stream of vaccines’ would arrive over the coming weeks. Three million have already been given out.
Around 2.6million people have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine across the UK so far, with just four and a half weeks remaining for the Government to hit its target of reaching the 15million most vulnerable.
Nearly 208,000 received their first dose on Tuesday, according to figures published last night – up from 145,000 the day before.
AstraZeneca, the firm which helped develop the Oxford University vaccine, yesterday revealed it is to double the number of vaccines released to the NHS by next week, with production to then be ramped up to two million doses a week.
The firm is understood to have enough vaccine for 19million doses already in the country, of which 1.1million have already been provided. At least another three million are in vials, awaiting batch approval by regulators. ‘In excess’ of one million of these are expected to be released next week.
Another 15million doses are at factories in Oxford, Staffordshire and Wrexham, waiting to be put in vials.
Pfizer is understood to have delivered at least five million doses.
It means enough doses for 24million vaccines have been provided so far – of which 3million have already been given out.
AstraZeneca is expected to provide a total of 40million by the end of March, by which time Moderna – a third firm with an approved vaccine and a deal with the UK – will start to provide the first of 17million doses.
Batch approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency remains a key hurdle – with only two consignments of the Oxford vaccine released for use so far. But officials are confident that issue will be resolved soon.
A Government spokesman said: ‘The UK has already vaccinated more people than any other country in Europe, and we are mobilising government, the NHS and our armed forces as part of a massive national effort. Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support the vaccination of the top four [priority] groups by February 15.’
Mr Johnson said: ‘We have a big, big stream of vaccines coming down the track but there is also a programme to accelerate the delivery of the Oxford vaccine, the remaining Pfizer vaccine is being brought forward, the Moderna vaccine as well.’
By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England. The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.
Superdrug last week told MailOnline that it had five sites ready to dish out the vaccine, with a spokesperson saying stores in Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Guildford and Basingstoke were just waiting on deliveries of the jab. Boots also said it had several sites ready to go from last week. Supply is thought to be the main stumbling block in getting the branches up and running.
The expanded vaccination service in England comes as the daily reported UK death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
The latest figures meant the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths involving coronavirus has now been passed in the UK, according to official data.
The Prime Minister warned that hospital intensive care units (ICUs) face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control, with the latest official figures showing more than 36,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus, including almost 3,500 on ventilation.
He told MPs: ‘If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.
‘But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.’
Mr Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that ‘the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS’ and ‘the strain is colossal’ on staff.
The Scottish Government published a 16-page document setting out how it intends to vaccinate 4.5 million people, including 400,000 a week from the end of February.
It set out the supply of vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna from the start of April that it expects to receive each week.
This angered ministers in London, with a senior Government source warning: ‘Publication of numbers like these risks suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
‘These vaccines are a finite resource and as we have said throughout – supply is the limiting step.’
Amid the warnings of struggling hospitals, the Government’s top scientist also warned the country is ‘in for a pretty grim period’ of deaths which will not ‘reduce quickly’.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV’s Peston programme: ‘The daily numbers jump around a bit but I think we are in a position now – when you look at the number of infections we’ve had over the past few weeks and how this is likely to continue, so I don’t think they’re going to drop very quickly – that I’m afraid we’re in a period of high death numbers that’s going to carry on for some weeks.
‘It’s not going to come down quickly even if the measures that are in place now start to reduce the infection numbers.
‘So we’re in for a pretty grim period, I’m afraid.’
In his two-hour questioning from a committee of MPs, the Prime Minister also acknowledged concerns about a new strain of coronavirus from Brazil, but stopped short of promising a travel ban on the South American country.
‘We already have tough measures … to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad,’ he said.
‘We are taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.’
Meanwhile, a new study has found that Covid infection provides some immunity for at least five months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.
The first report from Public Health England’s Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.
In 36 days, some 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been injected in about 46 countries around the world, World Health Organization director of health emergencies Michael Ryan said on Wednesday.
Despite the start of vaccination campaigns, he was concerned about the speed of transmission observed in some countries, particularly because of new, more contagious variants.
• Read also: Residents and staff of CHSLDs vaccinated next week
• Read also: 10 million people have received an injection in the United States
• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic
“We are entering the second year (of the pandemic) and it could even get even harder, when you see the rates of transmission,” he said during one of the regular question and answer sessions that the WHO organizes for the general public.
As for the vaccination campaigns, he regretted that they are mainly done by rich countries. “I think we are at 28 million doses of vaccine administered so far. Five different vaccines or platforms were used, ”said Dr. Ryan.
“Approximately 46 countries are currently vaccinating, but there is only one low income,” said Michael Ryan, while 38 of these 46 are rich countries.
“There are populations who want and need vaccines and who are not going to receive them unless, and until, we share better,” he said, adding “everyone must do more”.
WHO and the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) set up the Covax mechanism to distribute COVID vaccines to underprivileged countries, but the system suffers from a beggar-thy-neighbor tendency of rich countries and a lack of funding.
WHO’s goal is to deliver doses for up to 20% of the population of Covax participating countries by the end of the year. The UN agency hopes to send the first vaccines in late January or February.
The pandemic, which broke out in China at the end of 2019, killed 1,964,557 people, according to a report established by AFP on Wednesday from official sources.
Jan. 12, 2021 — There’s no evidence that the new vaccines against COVID-19 cause infertility, yet that’s a worry that’s been cited by some health care workers as a reason they’re reluctant to be first in line to get the shots.
Across the country, significant numbers of health care workers have balked at getting the new vaccines.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a recent briefing that 60% of Ohio’s nursing home staffers had declined their shots. In Georgia, an infection prevention nurse who coordinates COVID vaccines for the 30,000 employees in her health system said that so far, fewer than 33% had gotten the shot. The rest had decided to “wait and see.” The nurse disclosed the numbers on the condition that we not reveal what hospital she worked for, as she was not authorized to speak to reporters.
None of this has surprised Jill Foster, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who has been studying vaccine hesitancy.
“With COVID, it was the perfect storm. With COVID, there was already a bunch of people out there saying there’s no such thing as COVID, it’s no worse than the flu,” she says. Many of those people gained substantial followings for themselves on social media. When the vaccines came along, they used those platforms to stir up conspiracy theories.
Where did this infertility myth come from?
In early December, a German doctor and epidemiologist named Wolfgang Wodarg, who has been skeptical about the need for vaccines in other pandemics, teamed up with a former Pfizer employee to ask the European Medicines Agency (the European Union counterpart to the FDA) to delay the study and approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. One of their concerns was a protein called syncytin-1, which shares similar genetic instructions with part of the spike of the new coronavirus. That same protein is an important component of the placenta in mammals. If the vaccine causes the body to make antibodies against syncytin-1, they argued, it might also cause the body to attack and reject the protein in the human placenta, making women infertile.
Their petition was picked up by anti-vaccination blogs and websites and posted to social media. Facebook eventually removed posts about the petition from its site for spreading misinformation.
The idea that vaccines could be deployed for population control was also woven into the plot of a recent, fictional miniseries on Amazon Prime Video called Utopia. In that show — spoiler alert — a drugmaker obsessed with population control creates the illusion of a flu pandemic to convince people to take its vaccine, which doesn’t prevent infection, but human reproduction.
A spokesperson for Amazon Studios says the series is pure fiction.
“Utopia premiered on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 25, 2020,” the spokesperson said in a statement to WebMD. “It was written 7 years ago, and was filmed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is based off of the original U.K. version, which premiered in 2013, and shares much of the same plot, including the vaccine storyline.”
While the show is the stuff of creative writing minds, could something like that happen in real life?
The biological basis for this idea is really shaky, Foster says.
The coronavirus’s spike protein and syncytin-1 share small stretches of the same genetic code, but not enough to make them a match. She says it would be like two people having phone numbers that both contain the number 7. You couldn’t dial one number to reach the other person, even though their phone numbers shared a digit.
“What we know is that they are similar on such a tiny level,” Foster says.
Even Wodarg, in his petition, writes “there is no indication whether antibodies against spike proteins of SARS viruses would also act like anti-Syncytin-1 antibodies.”
Indeed, data from the human studies of the Pfizer vaccine don’t bear out this theory. In the Pfizer trial, which included more than 37,000 people, women were given pregnancy tests before they were accepted to the study. They were excluded if they were already pregnant. During the trial, 23 women conceived, likely by accident. Twelve of these pregnancies happened in the vaccine group, and 11 in the placebo group. They continued to be followed as part of the study.
Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says this idea really crumbles when you consider that more than 22 million people in the United States have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In fact, experts believe that number is much higher because 22 million is just the number who have been tested and found. Most think the real number is at least 3 times that high.
Offit says to consider that 70 million Americans have been infected, or about 20% of the population. If the infertility theory was true, he says, you’d expect that the body making antibodies against the natural infection would show up in our fertility statistics. It hasn’t.
“There’s no evidence that this pandemic has changed fertility patterns,” Offit says.
He says there are cases where vaccines have caused biological effects linked to a disease. Take measles, for example. After a measles vaccine, you can get little broken blood vessels, called petechiae, as a result of a problem with blood clotting. It’s rare, but it can happen. The vaccine causes that phenomenon, he says, because measles, the disease, can also cause it.
“If natural infection doesn’t alter fertility, why would a vaccine do it?” says Offit, who has been reviewing clinical trials behind the vaccines as an adviser to the FDA.
Offit admits that we don’t have all the long-term safety data we’d like on the vaccines. That’s being gathered furiously right now, as the vaccines roll out to millions of people, and reported by the CDC.
But so far, he says the major issues seem to be a severe allergic reaction that appears to happen very rarely — in about 11 people for every million doses given. If it’s going to happen, he says, people generally know right away, when they are still under observation by nurses and doctors. Offit says the reaction, while serious, is treatable. It’s one reason why the CDC has advised people who have allergies to any part of the vaccine, including PEG or a related compound called polysorbate, to avoid these first shots.
Bell’s palsy, which causes one side of a person’s face to droop temporarily, may be another rare risk. In clinical trials, this temporary paralysis happened slightly more often in vaccinated people than in those who got the placebo, though cases of Bell’s palsy were not more common than you would expect to see in the general population. Right now, it’s unclear whether it’s a side effect of the vaccines.
Offit says what people should know is that they might feel pretty crummy after their shots. He says he had about 12 hours of fatigue and fever after his recent vaccine. That’s not a side effect, but the body generating a protective shield against the virus.
“It was a hit,” he says, “but again, a small price to pay to avoid this virus.”
The first vaccines against the coronavirus began to be applied just when the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 soared again in many countries.
And that, together with the slowness of a process that for the moment has started especially in some of the richest countries in the world, has ended up making people aware that the end of the pandemic is clearly not around the corner.
Anna Mouser, Vaccine Advocacy and Policy Officerl Wellcome Trust -one of the most important health research NGOs in the world- nevertheless considers that, in the midst of it all, the news is good.
But in an interview with BBC Mundo, he also warns that if the vaccination effort is not truly global, even the vaccinated populations of the richest countries will be threatened by new mutations of the coronavirus.
Are you surprised by how slowly the vaccination process appears to be progressing?
I think you have to step back and look at the context to begin with: this is and will be the largest vaccine launch ever. It really is a huge task. And while I understand that with the pandemic as it is, people everywhere are feeling impatient and frustrated – for many the vaccine might not come soon enough – it seems to me that things are moving relatively fast, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
Part of the problem is that many of the vaccines still have some hurdles to overcome. At the moment only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been fully approved. The United Kingdom, India and Mexico have also approved the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, but it has not been approved by the FDA or the EMA, which are the US and European regulators, which is what would allow its approval by the WHO.
That’s one of the reasons things are taking time: because there are regulatory processes that have to be completed. Regulators are moving as fast as they can – I have heard reports from regulators that they are working 24 hours a day – but that is an essential step in making sure vaccines are safe and effective.
Now, in addition to regulatory processes, I think one of the biggest challenges will be that many countries in the world probably don’t have platforms to immunize adult populations. Most vaccines are usually given to children, and that too is done in a staggered fashion – shots are given throughout the year, when children are born, or when they reach different ages.
But this is really different. I know that some countries have vaccination programs against influenza, which reach the elderly and health workers, which is more similar to what we are seeing, but in many countries where there are no vaccination programs against influenza will have to create mechanisms from scratch to immunize the entire population, which is really difficult.
As I said, I think the impatience and frustration are understandable, the situation is really difficult for everyone at the moment, but it is extremely important that we remain calm, that we make steady progress in launching vaccines, and that we focus on doing make vaccination as simple as possible for all people, wherever they live.
But in the latter there are also obvious delays …
Certainly. Equitable access is a major issue. The world needs to work together to ensure that all healthcare workers, wherever they live, are immunized. And not just healthcare workers: we have to make sure that priority groups around the world are immunized. It really takes a global effort, and only a global effort can guarantee that we can end the pandemic.
Now, at the moment what is happening is that the first vaccines are only being administered in high-income countries. And people are understandably wondering why, and the answer has to do with COVAX, the primary mechanism for ensuring that doses reach everyone.
As of today, COVAX does not have an agreement signed with Pfizer and I think they have not signed it with Moderna either. So we are really waiting for the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine so that vaccination really starts globally. But I think it is very important that all pharmaceutical companies seek to provide dosages and reach agreements with COVAX.
And it’s also vitally important that governments, particularly those in high-income countries that are already administering vaccines, invest in this global effort, that they make sure that not only are their national populations being vaccinated, because we are a crucial moment for multilateral efforts and global unity.
And why should they? That is, what is the consequence of immunizing the population itself and ignoring the rest of the world?
Because that would allow the virus to continue to spread uncontrollably in other parts of the world. On the one hand, this has obvious human and economic costs, especially in the affected areas. But also, the longer we allow the virus to move freely among the population, anywhere in the world, the greater the risk of mutations.
And we have already seen how the situation of the pandemic changed radically in the last month with the appearance of new strains. We know that the UK strain is spreading quite quickly here and in many other countries, because it is much more transmissible, and there is also the South African strain, which appears to be a different mutation that may render some potential treatments ineffective.
So it is about containing the spread of the virus as much as possible, because that will increase the chances of reducing possible mutations.
At the same time, we live in a very globalized world and we have already seen how quickly the virus spreads. Countries cannot be completely isolated. And if our answer is country by country, we will see how the new strains spread. For all of us to be protected, vaccination really has to be global.
So it is not just a matter of equity …
No. For me, equity is the most important thing, I think it is the right thing to do, that we must make sure that we are not prioritizing only vulnerable people in our own country, whatever it is, but all over the world. That’s right.
But there are also very, very real risks of taking that kind of country-by-country approach. And the pandemic will last longer if we do not focus on vulnerable and priority groups globally. If some countries are dedicated to vaccinating their entire population before other countries have vaccinated their priority groups, that would undoubtedly extend the duration of the pandemic.
And is there not also a risk of mutation if it takes too long to immunize the entire population of a certain territory?
I think there is always the risk of mutations. But these occur mostly in places where the virus is uncontrolled and spreading rapidly. A possible quite British analogy is that of the Great Fire of London, which was a fairly large and significant event here. What had to be done was to create a gap between the houses, so that the fire no longer had fuel to spread. And it is a bit like this with the virus: you need to create a kind of gap between people, big enough so that this virus can no longer infect and that slows it down.
So it pays to have priority groups within populations rather than entire populations, because even that has a really big impact. So countries can target health workers, the elderly, the most vulnerable groups in each country. That will significantly slow down the spread of the virus, even if it doesn’t reach the entire population.
How concerned should people be about the impact of mutations on the effectiveness of vaccines?
I am not a scientist, but from what I understand there is not much concern when it comes to the new UK strain. Everything indicates that vaccines are still just as effective. And that seems to be the case for the South African variant as well. Therefore, it is very likely that the vaccines will continue to work.
Now, there is always a risk that there is a mutation that changes that for some of the vaccines, but the good thing about the ones that have been developed for Covid is that they adapt quite easily to new strains. Therefore, it would not be necessary to start from scratch.
But for the moment, that is not an imminent threat. So I think people can rest easy, because right now vaccines are proving to be effective and because they could adapt quickly in case there is a new strain that somehow evades the action of vaccines.
Are there countries that are doing better than others regarding vaccination?
I think people are always going to compare and this is going to be a debate and a question that will be asked over and over again over the next few months and years. I would not dare to go into the details of the launch of vaccines country by country, because it is something very complex and it is not something in which we are involved.
But whatand Do you think, for example, the decision of the United Kingdom to space the two doses more space to be able to give the first to a greater percentage?
We as Wellcome believe that it is best to stick to the vaccination schedules recommended by the trials. But this is an extraordinary pandemic. And the extremely virulent strain we have in the UK is an acceptable reason to widen the dose gap.
People shouldn’t worry too much about this because it is kind of the standard in immunology to have delays between the first and second doses. And there is evidence to suggest that extending the time between doses can actually improve the immune response.
That said, I think this decision was very specific to the UK context. Some data from the trials were used, but it was not something that was formally tested in the trial. And therefore, it must be done with great caution, it is not a recommended strategy everywhere. The rationale was simply to reach more people with the first dose faster, but the second dose of all vaccines is absolutely vital for immune protection and should not be delayed too long.
I know there have been suggestions to give just one dose, and that’s definitely something that would not be a good idea, because booster doses are really important for long-term protection against viruses.
Another thing we are saying is that in those countries that are doing things differently, that are modifying procedures, monitoring studies should be carried out. How does that affect the launch of the vaccine? It is best to act on the evidence and evaluate it, especially when there are many other things uncertain at the moment.
And how much of a problem does rejection or mistrust of vaccines create? What impact has the pandemic had on anti-vaccine sentiment? So that dIn some polls, sometimes it seems that he has stoked it …
That’s a pretty hot topic, as you already know. And many different surveys have been conducted in different countries to ask people whether they would apply them or not. But the evidence we have at Wellcome suggests that the vast majority of people will most likely want this vaccine.
We must not forget that hundreds of millions of children are vaccinated each year. Getting vaccinated is really a normal activity, in a sense it is part of everyday life …
But there we are talking about vaccines that have been used for a long time, not vaccines developed in record time …
Certainly. But I think that surveys that were done when vaccines were still in development may not adequately reflect the sentiment of the people. While they have now been approved, they have been scrutinized by regulators …
Obviously people will follow legitimate questions and want to understand how they work. And we have to do a good job of communication in that regard. People wonder, how can they have done it in a year when it normally takes much longer? And the analogy that I have used is that it is a bit like crossing a city at rush hour. In a normal situation it can take years, because there are all kinds of queues, traffic lights, etc. But what they did with this vaccine is a bit like crossing the city with a police escort. This way it was possible to cross it much faster, although the path was the same as always. In other words, the same steps were followed, but it was given much higher priority and more resources were injected, more money than usual.
I think that is a very important message. People should feel reassured that no risks have been taken, that no steps have been skipped. It’s just that a really Herculean effort has gone into being able to pull it off. And as you already know, the effectiveness of these vaccines is much higher than anyone expected, so we have had some very good news. Even though it is a very difficult time around the world, what was achieved is truly incredible.
So what do you think the effect will be on future vaccination campaigns? It will help you to will people remember how important vaccines are, or will it fuel the skepticism seeded by the anti-vaccine movements?
My hope is that when surrounding countries start vaccinating against COVID, their immunization systems will be strengthened. Because there are many countries that have not done anything like this in a long time, since they have not had to face infectious diseases. Indeed, in many countries the threat of infectious diseases has been quite low for many years and we have forgotten what it feels like to live with that level of risk, that level of concern in our lives. And, in that sense, I think this is all a powerful reminder of what vaccines do for us every day.
Before, every summer parents were concerned about polio, swimming pools were closed, public places were locked. I hadn’t realized it before the pandemic started, but lockdowns were something that happened quite often because of polio. And now we have almost completely eliminated it from the planet. So I hope all of this underscores the amazing work vaccines do and reminds us and strengthens our systems.
At the same time, however, there is also a risk. If things are not done well, if communications are poor, there is a risk that misinformation will gain ground. I hope that is not the case. But for that, community participation is absolutely vital wherever the vaccine is implemented in the world.
There are community leaders who need to be involved in the process. You have to rely on them, religious groups, etc., to build trust. Try to understand what might prevent people from getting a vaccine.
It is also really important to make sure that the vaccination systems are well designed. We know from accumulating evidence that it is often primarily practical factors that stand between people and vaccines. And if for some reason the vaccines don’t get to the right place at the right time, and people travel to get vaccinated and there are no doses available, that bad experience may mean they won’t go the next time.
Those kinds of things may not be as visible as the threat of misinformation and conspiracy theories, but those details are what really make a big difference in how successful the vaccine launch can be.
Vaccines have been presented as a turning point, but also I know has warned that they are not a magic bullet. What must continue to be done so that vaccination really marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic?
The first thing is to continue applying public health measures. And we must also continue to support the development of more effective diagnostic tests and treatments. Vaccines, treatments, diagnostic tests and public health measures are the tools we have against this virus. And keep in mind that it will be a long time before everyone is vaccinated.
Therefore, it will be necessary to maintain some of the public health measures for longer than we would all ideally wish. And a very small, but very important point is that people who get vaccinated should maintain those measures for at least two weeks, because it can take a while for immunity to activate. Many may believe that the vaccine starts to work as soon as it enters the body, but it actually takes a little time.
Now, the global effort around vaccines, treatments and diagnostics is currently underfunded and still struggling to get the investments it needs. So it’s very important that governments invest in that global effort. There are huge economic costs every day for the pandemic. And that investment, when compared to the losses we are incurring, is quite small and can make a big difference.
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