Russia-China Vaccine Partnership; India Covax Haul: Virus Update

Russia-China Vaccine Partnership; India Covax Haul: Virus Update

Bloomberg NewsFri, 5 February 2021, 9:02 am

(Bloomberg) — Russian vaccine developers are in talks with China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. to test a combination of their shots aimed at better results. The U.K. government said a mandatory quarantine for travelers will start Feb. 15, fleshing out a policy announced last month.

Top Democrats from the U.S. House of Representatives will meet with President Joe Biden on Friday after the Senate backed a non-binding call to oppose stimulus checks for upper-income taxpayers. India is set to receive the largest number of Covid-19 vaccine doses in the initial distribution from the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, despite the fact that the country’s current supply of shots outstrips demand.

When might life around the world return to normal? In 7.4 years, at today’s vaccine rates.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases approach 104.9 million; deaths near 2.3 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 119 million shots given worldwideSuper Bowl crowd presents an experiment in Covid immunityWhat the future of restaurants might look likeThe $9.2 trillion price tag for failing to vaccinate the worldBin Laden, robot conspiracy theories test Pakistan vaccine driveBrace yourself: Long-haul travel may not get going until 2023

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Russian Vaccine Team in Talks With China on Combination Trial (4:29 p.m. HK)

Fresh off global validation of their Covid-19 vaccine’s extraordinary effectiveness, Russian developers are in talks with China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. to test a combined regimen of their shots to better protect against new virus strains, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, a partner in the Sputnik V vaccine program, forged a preliminary agreement with the Tianjin-based vaccine developer and Petrovax Pharm Llc, owned by billionaire Vladimir Potanin, to conduct tests in Russia, four people said, declining to be identified as the information isn’t public. Petrovax is Cansino’s Russian partner.

Israel Extends Lockdown, Will Ease Some Restrictions From Sunday (4:23 p.m. HK)

Israel’s cabinet voted overnight to extend the country’s lockdown to Sunday morning from Friday, and agreed to begin gradually reopening parts of the economy next week.

Starting Feb. 7, restrictions on movement will be lifted while certain businesses will be able to reopen. Ministers will meet Sunday to further discuss the country’s exit plan from its third lockdown.

Hungary’s Most Vulnerable to Get Vaccine By Mid-March: Orban (4:04 p.m. HK)

Hungary could gradually start its return to normality as soon as this spring with inoculation of the most exposed groups taking place by March 15, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.

While research into Chinese shots is still ongoing, the use of Russia’s Sputnik V could potentially start next week, Orban told state radio station Kossuth in a weekly interview. Besides joint European Union procurement of shots produced by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc., Hungary has approved AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine, as well as ones from China and Russia.

Israel’s Pioneering Covid Vaccination Program Offers Key Lessons (3:44 p.m. HK)

Israel, with the highest proportion of citizens vaccinated against Covid-19 in the world, found it took three weeks for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot to start curbing new cases and hospitalizations.

Researchers in the Middle Eastern country reported preliminary observations Wednesday from a national immunization program that began Dec. 20. Improvement in the number of new cases and hospitalized patients occurred 21 days following the vaccination campaign, the scientists said, noting that the real-life effect of vaccines may take longer than what was demonstrated in clinical trials.

AstraZeneca Applies for Japan Vaccine Approval: Report (2:58 p.m. HK)

AstraZeneca applied to Japan’s health ministry Friday for approval for its Covid-19 vaccine, Nikkei reported, without attribution. The company still needs to submit clinical data in March, the report said.

French, German Leaders Comment on Lockdowns (2:42 p.m. HK)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said it’s not possible to ease Covid-19 restrictions yet, but the situation doesn’t justify imposing a fresh lockdown.

“We have kept the epidemic under control while preserving the economic and social life of our country as much as possible,” Castex said Thursday in a weekly news conference to update the nation on the health situation and examine whether current measures are effective.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview with RTL Media Group it’s still too soon to ease the lockdown in Europe’s largest economy, even as the pandemic shows signs of ebbing. She’ll meet regional German leaders next week to discuss whether to continue current restrictions, which include shuttered bars, restaurants and most retailers, beyond Feb. 14.

Lancet Study Recommends Weekly Testing in U.S. (2:24 p.m. HK)

Until vaccines are widely available, weekly Covid-19 testing plus a two-week isolation period for positive cases may be the most cost-effective strategy to tackle the spread of the virus in the U.S. when transmission is high, a study by The Lancet found.

Even monthly testing across the U.S., requiring 12 million tests a day, would be more cost-effective than the current approach of testing only people with symptoms and their close contacts, the medical journal said.

Von der Leyen Acknowledges Vaccine-Strategy Flaw (1:50 p.m. HK)

Ursula von der Leyen said she underestimated the complications that can arise in the production of coronavirus vaccines, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing an interview with the European Commission president.

“We focused very much on the development of a vaccine,” she said. “In retrospect, we should have thought more about the challenges of mass production in parallel.”

Celltrion Treatment Gets Conditional Approval in Korea (1:26 p.m. HK)

South Korea’s drug safety ministry approved Celltrion’s Covid-19 treatment for high-risk patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms. The approval is under the condition that Celltrion submits results of its Phase 3 clinical trial.

Pfizer Withdraws Emergency Use Request in India: Report (1:22 p.m. HK)

Pfizer has withdrawn an application for emergency-use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine in India, Reuters reporter Krishna Das tweeted, citing an unidentified spokeswoman. Pfizer reportedly made the decision after understanding what additional information India’s regulator requires.

Philippines to Require Masks in All Vehicles (1:20 p.m. HK)

The Philippines will make it mandatory to wear masks inside all vehicles, even for passengers from the same household, the Transport and Health Departments said in a statement. Only drivers traveling alone may remove masks, while violators face fines, according to the statement.

Brazil in Talks for 20 Million More Sinovac Shots: Reuters (1:11 p.m. HK)

Brazil in talks to buy 20 million more doses of the Sinovac Biotech coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reported, citing an interview with Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria. The order will be on top of 100 million vaccine doses secured by Butantan biomedical institute, Doria said.

Valneva Eyes Head-to-Head Advanced Trial For Vaccine (1:05 p.m. HK)

Valneva SE is looking at running a head-to-head trial with an approved Covid-19 vaccine for advanced tests of its own shot in the U.K., where the rapid rollout of immunizations could make it hard to conduct a conventional study using a placebo.

The French pharmaceutical company is in discussions with regulators about whether volunteers in the control arm of the trial, planned to start in April, could be given a coronavirus shot that has already been authorized, Chief Executive Officer Thomas Lingelbach said. The company is planning to enroll about 4,000 people in its late-stage trials in the U.K. and aims for approval in the last quarter of 2021.

U.K. Variant Found in Melbourne Before Australian Open (12:53 p.m. HK)

More than 500 members of the Australian Open tennis cohort received negative Covid-19 test results Friday after a quarantine hotel worker contracted the virus. Host city Melbourne had all but eliminated the virus until a local case of the B.1.1.7 variant was detected in a worker at a hotel where players quarantined.

The isolation for more than 24 hours of players, officials and support staff who were staying at the Grand Hyatt added to already disrupted preparation for the tournament, which begins Feb. 8.

AMLO Says in Good Health While Recovering From Covid (11:21 a.m. HK)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said a Covid antigen test he took returned a negative result. AMLO, as the president is commonly known, posted a video online saying he’s in good health as he recovers from Covid-19.

India Gets Lion’s Share of Covax Shots Despite Tepid Demand (10:32 a.m. HK)

India is set to receive the largest numberof Covid-19 vaccine doses — 97.2 million shots — in the first tranche of distribution from the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, despite the fact that supply in the country currently appears to outstrip demand.The Covax initiative, aimed at creating equitable global access to Covid vaccines especially for developing countries, is planning to distribute 337.2 million doses at the end of this month, the first delivery of some 2 billion shots it’s ordered so far.According to an interim distribution forecast published Wednesday, the second-biggest tranche of 17.2 million shots will go to Pakistan, followed by 16 million doses to Nigeria and 13.7 million to Indonesia. North Korea will receive 2 million shots.

The large allocation to India is likely to raise eyebrows given that the country currently seems to have plenty of shots, but few takers. Only around half of those eligible to get vaccinated in its inoculation drive have come forward, and local media reports say that India producer Serum Institute of India is sitting on over 55 million doses and has temporarily halted production.

Post-Coup Myanmar Kicks Off Vaccination Drive (10:12 a.m. HK)

Myanmar is set to kick off vaccination for the general public Friday, starting with townships with the highest number of infections and mortality rate, according to Khin Khin Gyi, director of emerging infectious disease at the Ministry of Health and Sports. The initial phase will prioritize those 65 and above.

Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a coup earlier this week, has vowed to inoculate 38.4 million people 18 and older by the end of this year. The administration expects the first batch of 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine ordered from the Serum Institute of India to arrive next week and 27 million doses from the Covax facility from March.

Tokyo Survey Shows 0.91% Have Covid Antibodies (10:03 a.m. HK)

A survey conducted by Japan’s Health Ministry in December found 0.91% of people in Tokyo have Covid-19 antibodies, up from 0.1% in a June tally. The survey showed a rate of 0.58% in Osaka and 0.54% in Aichi prefecture.

House Dems to Meet Biden After Senate Move on Stimulus (9:33 a.m. HK)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other U.S. House of Representatives leaders will meet with President Joe Biden on Friday after the Senate backed by 99-1 a non-binding call to oppose stimulus checks going to “upper-income taxpayers” — part of the complex process of preparing Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan for passage through Congress.

The amendment to the fiscal 2021 budget resolution doesn’t define the income cutoff for stimulus checks, but serves as a test vote for senators to gauge support on tightening the requirements.

FDA Limits Emergency Use Authorization for Plasma (9:11 a.m. HK)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revised its Emergency Use Authorization for convalescent plasma, limiting its use to hospitalized patients early in the disease. The convalescent plasma used must contain high levels of antibodies.

The EUA was updated based on data from more recent clinical trials since the original order was issued in August, the agency said in a statement. The original authorization produced an embarrassing episode for then-FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who had to walk back comments he made exaggerating the benefit of convalescent plasma. Plasma with low levels of antibodies has not been shown to be helpful in treating Covid-19 and is no longer authorized for use in treatment, the FDA said.

Canada Extends Cruise-Ship Ban to February 2022 (9:03 a.m. HK)

Canada extended its ban on cruise ships through February 2022 because of Covid-19, effectively shutting down popular summer trips to Alaska for another year. The prohibition will allow authorities to focus on vaccine rollout and limit the spread of new variants, the government said in a statement.

The decision is a setback for an industry trying to get back in business after being in dry dock for almost a year. While Alaska is one of the industry’s top destinations, the ban will also affect New England cruises that travel north to Montreal and other stops.

China Gets Northern Outbreak Under Control (8:50 a.m. HK)

China appears to have controlled a virus resurgence in its northern regions, with new local cases reported at just six Friday, from 135 on Jan. 14. Overall, China’s winter wave — concentrated in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hebei — numbers more than 2,000 infections.

While there were concerns that infections would seep into the Beijing ahead of Lunar New Year and national political meetings scheduled for March, the capital has recorded only 44 cases so far. Still, officials remain on high alert and have discouraged travel during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts Feb. 11, while tightening restrictions on people entering Beijing.

U.K. to Start Mandatory Quarantine for Travelers Feb. 15 (8:15 a.m. HK)

The U.K. will require travelers from coronavirus hot spots to quarantine starting Feb. 15, the government said, adding flesh to a policy first announced last month.

Arrivals from countries on the U.K.’s travel ban list will be required to isolate for 10 days in government-approved accommodation, the Department for Health and Social Care said Thursday. The government is seeking bids from hotels near airports and ports to support the program.

FDA Says Variants Won’t Mean Back to Square One (7:32 a.m. HK)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with industry to ensure that updated vaccines for Covid-19 variants are deployed as quickly as possible, Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said. The option of “streamlined” clinical trials for altered vaccines is under discussion, she said.

“We do not believe there will be the need to start at square one with any of these products,” Woodcock said. “We do not want to create obstacles to getting these tools to the frontlines.”

The FDA is building on experience with vaccines for other evolving infections diseases, such as the flu, she said.

J&J Seeks Emergency Vaccine Clearance in U.S. (5:49 p.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. drug regulators to clear its experimental Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, setting up what’s likely to be a fast-moving review process that could lead to millions more doses becoming available for the immunization drive within weeks.

The drugmaker said Thursday it had filed an application for emergency-use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The shot would give the U.S. a third vaccine to try to halt a pandemic that has killed more than 450,000 Americans.

The agency scheduled a Feb. 26 meeting where outside advisers will consider the request and make a recommendation about whether to grant it. While their decision isn’t binding, it would be unusual for the FDA to reject the experts’ advice.

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