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‘Nobody Wants Them’: Moderna Throwing out 30 Million Vaccine Doses, CEO Says
After two-and-a-half years of COVID-19, we’re all moving on. Sure, the virus is still there, albeit generally less dangerous with the Omicron variant, but many Americans no longer don masks and regular life has mostly returned. The whole “moving on” thing has one serious effect on vaccine makers.
“It’s sad to say, I’m in the process of throwing 30 million doses into the garbage because nobody wants them,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said this week. “We have a big demand problem.”
Speaking to an audience at the World Economic Forum, Bancel also said efforts to contact various governments have failed. “We right now have governments — we tried to contact … through the embassies in Washington. Every country, and nobody wants to take them,” he said. “The issue in many countries is that people don’t want vaccines,” he added.
Bancel’s announcement comes just after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a stern warning: the COVID-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over,” warned WHO head Tedros Ghebreyesus.
The Risk for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Following J&J COVID Vaccination
In the U.S., there are 3 available COVID-19 vaccines, the replication-incompetent adenoviral vector vaccine Ad.26.COV2.5 or the mRNA vaccines BNT162b2 from Pfizer-BioNTech and mRNA-1273 from Moderna.
In April 2021, use of Ad.26.COV2.5 was paused due to concerns about thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome and in July 2021, a report from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) raised concerns about GBS after Ad.26.COV2.5.
The researchers sought to evaluate the rate of GBS after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine. Data were sourced from the Vaccine Safety Datalink which included records from 10,158,003 people in the US as of November 2021. Incidence rates of GBS up to 84 days after vaccination were evaluated for each of the 3 vaccines.
Novavax Missed Its Global Moonshot but Is Angling to Win Over mRNA Defectors
Novavax hitched its wagon to the global coronavirus pandemic. Before most Americans truly grasped the scope of the danger, the small Maryland biotech startup had secured $1.6 billion in U.S. funding for its COVID vaccine. Its moonshot goal: delivering 2 billion shots to the world by mid-2021.
Although the U.S. commitment eventually expanded to $1.8 billion, hardly any Novavax shots have found arms due to manufacturing issues, and most of the world has moved on. Novavax stock has plummeted from $290 a share in February 2021 to around $50 recently.
The FDA finally appears poised to authorize the company’s vaccine, however. If it does, Novavax would target the tens of millions of Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 or would benefit from boosters but have avoided mRNA vaccines because of health concerns or conspiracy theories about their dangers.
South Africa COVID Vaccine Hesitancy Due to Side-Effect Fears — Survey
Fears over the possible side effects and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have been the main drivers of hesitancy among thousands of South Africans, a government-backed online survey showed on Thursday.
It has, like many countries in Africa and on other continents, struggled to convince skeptics to get vaccinated.
Among the 18-34 age group, hesitancy was highest, at 39%, the survey taken in October and November found, with the white population the most likely racial group to eschew the vaccine, at 48% of respondents.
“What this analysis has demonstrated is that the majority of those that express hesitation about taking the vaccine are not anti-science, but are expressing rational and legitimate doubts,” a presentation on the survey’s findings said.
Dominant Coronavirus Mutant Contains Ghost of Pandemic Past
The coronavirus mutant that is now dominant in the United States is a member of the Omicron family but scientists say it spreads faster than its Omicron predecessors, is adept at escaping immunity and might possibly cause more serious disease.
Why? Because it combines properties of both Omicron and Delta, the nation’s dominant variant in the middle of last year.
A genetic trait that harkens back to the pandemic’s past, known as a “Delta mutation,” appears to allow the virus “to escape pre-existing immunity from vaccination and prior infection, especially if you were infected in the Omicron wave,” said Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist in Texas. That’s because the original Omicron strain that swept the world didn’t have the mutation.
The Omicron “subvariant” gaining ground in the U.S. — known as BA.2.12.1 and responsible for 58% of U.S. COVID-19 cases last week — isn’t the only one affected by the Delta mutation. The genetic change is also present in the Omicron relatives that together dominate in South Africa, known as BA.4 and BA.5. Those have exactly the same mutation as Delta, while BA.2.12.1 has one that’s nearly identical.
WHO: COVID Cases Mostly Drop, Except for the Americas
The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths are still falling globally after peaking in January, the World Health Organization said.
COVID-19 cases rose in only two regions of the world: the Americas and the Western Pacific.
WHO said it is tracking all Omicron subvariants as “variants of concern.” It noted that countries which had a significant wave of disease caused by the Omicron subvariant BA.2 appeared to be less affected by other subvariants like BA.4 and BA.5, which were responsible for the latest surge of disease in South Africa.
U.S. Making COVID Antiviral Drug More Available at Test Sites
The White House on Thursday announced more steps to make the antiviral treatment Paxlovid more accessible across the U.S. as it projects COVID-19 infections will continue to spread over the summer travel season.
The nation’s first federally backed test-to-treat site is opening Thursday in Rhode Island, providing patients with immediate access to the drug once they test positive. More federally supported sites are set to open in the coming weeks in Massachusetts and New York City, both hit by a marked rise in infections.
Rebound COVID Is Just the Start of Paxlovid’s Mysteries
The first data on Paxlovid, out last November, hinted that the COVID antiviral would cut the risk of hospitalization and death by 89%. Pundits called the drug “a monster breakthrough,” “miraculous,” and “the biggest advance in the pandemic since the vaccines.”
Now, finally, the game is being changed. The government has ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid, committing half of the $10 billion in additional COVID funding that is being negotiated in the Senate; and Pfizer says that the number of patients taking the drug increased by a factor of 10 between mid-February and late April.
But as the treatment spreads, so too does confusion over its effectiveness and side effects. Patients have complained of a bitter, metallic taste, or one like grapefruit juice mixed with soap, the whole time they were on the drug. More concerning, some have reported experiencing a second round of symptoms, and going back to testing positive, when the pills were done, a phenomenon that’s become known as “Paxlovid rebound.”
Meanwhile, Pfizer has never published any final data on the use of the drug by vaccinated patients, leaving medical professionals with little information about how the drug works for people who have received their shots — which is to say, most of the adult population in the U.S.
Nation’s Latest COVID Wave Largely Hidden From View, Health Experts Say
Health experts say this anecdotal evidence may not be simply coincidence, as the U.S. may be in a “hidden” wave — one much larger than reported data would suggest.
This is due in part to changes in data collection and reporting and the proliferation of at-home tests. Some state officials report that health departments and healthcare facilities have also ended traditional tracking of COVID-19 patients, which epidemiologists say make it more difficult to know how many patients are coming into hospitals in need of care.
Hospitalization numbers have been increasing in recent weeks, but not at a rate as significant as infections.
With Failed COVID Shot Still Dragging on Earnings, CureVac Tries to Turn Page to Next-Gen mRNA Tech
CureVac’s first-generation COVID vaccine — a shot that failed to reach anywhere near the high efficacy bar set by rivals — is continuing to drag on the German biotech’s earnings and is expected to negatively impact sales for the rest of the year.
But the company is looking to its future, pointing to a next-generation COVID-19 shot and an influenza program in development with GlaxoSmithKline, plus a new focus on oncology thanks to a freshly signed deal with myNEO.
The company’s financials continued to be marred by “prior commitments” related to the CVnCoV vaccine, CFO Pierre Kemula said in a first-quarter earnings report released Wednesday. These impacts will continue through the year but will start to wane.