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Texts Between EU, Pfizer Bosses Vanish Amid Questions About Billion-Dollar Vaccine Deal
Text messages exchanged between the European Union‘s boss and Pfizer’s CEO just before they sealed a lucrative COVID vaccine deal have vanished, a letter released Wednesday revealed, in the latest chapter of what Europeans are calling “delegate.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged over a year ago that she had been in regular contact with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla while they worked out a deal for 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. But after a reporter sought the text messages, the commission, which is the EU’s executive body, said they are gone, according to a letter published by the EU watchdog.
The letter released on Wednesday said the messages are no longer in Von der Leyen’s possession and argued that text messages are not subject to public scrutiny anyway. European Parliament Member Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian Social Democrat and chair of the special committee on COVID-19, told the Guardian the European Commission’s response was unacceptable.
“The complete lack of transparency benefits the industry, not European citizens,” she said.
Tens of Thousands of Monkeypox Vaccine Doses to Be Distributed Immediately in U.S.
As cases of monkeypox virus surge in the U.S., the Biden administration will start distributing the monkeypox vaccine across the country, focusing on people most at risk and communities with the highest numbers of cases, White House officials announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will send 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine immediately to areas with high transmission. An additional 240,000 doses will be distributed over the next few weeks, with even more to come this summer and fall. Officials expect to make at least 1.6 million doses available by the end of the fall.
States with the highest numbers of cases include California, New York, Illinois and Florida, as well as Washington, DC, according to the latest count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Fauci Reveals ‘COVID Rebound’ After Pfizer’s Paxlovid Treatment
When his condition took a turn for the worse, he began a five-day course of Paxlovid, which was granted an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in December 2021 to treat high-risk COVID patients in an effort to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.
Fauci said Tuesday that after he recovered from his initial bout with the coronavirus, he tested negative for three days, but then tested positive again on the fourth day, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
“And then over the next day or so, I started to feel really poorly, much worse than in the first go-around,” Fauci said. “So I went back on Paxlovid and right now I am on my fourth day of a five-day course.”
CDC Activates Emergency Operations Center for Monkeypox
The activation of the EOC “allows the agency to further increase operational support for the response to meet the outbreak’s evolving challenges,” the agency said in a news release.
Maternal Deaths Increased During the Pandemic — After March 2020, Maternal Mortality Rates Rose by 33%
Maternal mortality rates substantially increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
After March 2020, maternal deaths increased by 33.3%, which was higher than the 22% overall excess death estimate expected to result from the pandemic, reported Marie Thoma, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland in College Park, and Eugene Declercq, Ph.D., of Boston University.
The rate of maternal deaths before the pandemic was 18.8 per 100,000 live births, which increased to 25.1 per 100,000 live births during the pandemic, the authors noted in a research letter published in JAMA Network Open.
FDA Panel Recommends Changing COVID Shots to Fight Omicron This Fall
The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of independent vaccine experts on Tuesday voted 19 to 2 to recommend new COVID-19 shots that target the Omicron variant this fall when public health officials are expecting a new wave of infections.
It is the first time the panel has proposed that vaccine makers modify the shots to target a different variant. The FDA will likely accept the committee’s recommendation and authorize a vaccine change. However, the panel did not make a recommendation on which Omicron subvariant the shots should target.
BioNTech, Pfizer to Start Testing Universal Vaccine for Coronaviruses
Germany’s BioNTech, Pfizer‘s partner in COVID-19 vaccines, said the two companies would start tests on humans of next-generation shots that protect against a wide variety of coronaviruses in the second half of the year.
Their experimental work on shots that go beyond the current approach includes T-cell-enhancing shots, designed to primarily protect against severe disease if the virus becomes more dangerous, and pan-coronavirus shots that protect against the broader family of viruses and its mutations.
The two partners, makers of the Western world’s most widely used COVID-19 shot, are currently discussing with regulators enhanced versions of their established shot to better protect against the Omicron variant and its sublineages.
First Reported Case of a Person Getting COVID From a Cat
First, there were sneezing hamsters, now sneezing cats. A team in Thailand reports the first solid evidence of a pet cat infecting a person with SARS-CoV-2 — adding felines to the list of animals that can transmit the virus to people.
Researchers say the results are convincing. They are surprised that it has taken this long to establish that transmission can occur, given the scale of the pandemic, the virus’s ability to jump between animal species, and the close contact between cats and people. “We’ve known this was a possibility for two years,” says Angela Bosco-Lauth, an infectious-disease researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Other animals suspected of infecting people include farmed mink in Europe and North America, pet hamsters in Hong Kong and wild white-tailed deer in Canada. Adding cats to the list “expands our understanding of the zoonotic potential of this virus,” says Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Could Llamas Hold the Key to Fighting COVID?
Llamas are more than beautiful creatures — they could also help protect humans from COVID-19 and a large array of similar viruses.
Contained in their blood samples are tiny, robust immune particles that could protect against every COVID-19 variant, including Omicron and 18 similar viruses, a team of researchers reported.
The findings suggest that these “super-immunity” molecules, known as nanobodies, could be precursors to a fast-acting, inhaled antiviral treatment or spray. This could potentially be stockpiled and used in the ongoing, evolving pandemic and against future virus spread.
Llamas, along with camels and alpacas, have unique immune systems, the researchers explained. They produce antibodies that have a single polypeptide chain instead of two chains. Therefore, their antibodies are roughly one-tenth the size of typical antibodies, are exceptionally stable, and can firmly bind to viruses.
Top Doc: New COVID Wave Starting, ‘Worst Version’ of Omicron
The BA.5 subvariant, which first emerged in South Africa, is considered by some experts to be the “worst version” of Omicron that has emerged. The strain can bypass prior immunity, be transmitted more easily and unlike like some other subvariants of Omicron, appears to target the lungs.
Dr. Jay Varma, a Weill Cornell epidemiologist who served as top public health adviser to the New York City mayor during the pandemic, said “infections appear to have stabilized at a high level in the city, rather than dropping,” NBC New York reported.
Eli Lilly to Supply Additional Doses of COVID Antibody Drug to U.S.
As per the modified supply agreement with the government, Lilly will provide an additional 150,000 doses of bebtelovimab for about $275 million. The drug has also shown effectiveness against the Omicron variant.
Lilly said bebtelovimab retains effectiveness against Omicron as well as its fast-spreading BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which now make up more than 50% of COVID cases in the United States.