11 March 2021

• Novavax issues a press release with results from two trials of its coronavirus vaccine – an over 15,000-person  phase III trial in the UK and a phase IIb, 2,665- person trial in South Africa which included 240 adults living with HIV. Although efficacy differed in these trials, both reported that the vaccine was 100 percent effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

In the UK trial, seven days after the second vaccine dose, overall effectiveness was 89.7 percent (96.4 percent effective against the original coronavirus strain, and 86.3 percent effective against the B.1.1.7 variant) with 96 cases in  people given placebo and 10 in people who got the vaccine. Notably, in people over age 65 years, 9 of the ten cases occurred in people given placebo. In the South African trial, overall efficacy – mainly against the B.1.351 variant – was 48.6 percent; it was 55.4 percent among HIV-negative study volunteers, but not reported among study volunteers living with HIV. Novavax plans to use these results for regulatory submissions worldwide. Source
• Vir and GSK issue a press release stating that its independent Data Monitoring Committee recommended stopping the 583-person phase III  COMET-ICE trial of  VIR-7831, a  monoclonal antibody, after an interim analysis revealed that it was 85 percent effective in reducing hospitalization and death among people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who were at risk for severe illness.  Source
• US Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweets his support for the WTO TRIPS waiver proposal advanced by India and South Africa. Source
• US President Biden signs the COVID Rescue Package into law; it includes billions of dollars in aid for research, development and production of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19  – and to purchase them as well as funding to improve COVID-19 detection, diagnoses, tracing, monitoring and mitigation and $750 million for global health security.
• Tanzanian President John Magufuli has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus epidemic, disparaged masking and social distancing, promoted unproven remedies, questioned the effectiveness of tests and vaccines, and refused to share epidemiological data with WHO. Now, rumors abound that his  lengthy absence from the public eye is due to COVID-19; opposition leader Tundu Lissu said Mr. Magufuli had been admitted to Nairobi Hospital, then flown to India to avoid social media attention, and that “The most powerful man in Tanzania is now being sneaked about like an outlaw.”  Government officials have threatened to punish anyone making statements about the president’s health, and have not disclosed his whereabouts, replying ““The head of the state is not a television anchor who had a program but didn’t show up.” Source
• In Ukraine, an “infodemic” of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines fueled by divisive internal politics  has led to high rates of vaccine hesitancy- and refusal. Source
• Denmark suspends use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for two weeks, over concerns about blood clots (which caused a death in Denmark and one in Austria and non-fatal cases in other European countries); Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have also paused the vaccine, pending an EMA investigation to determine whether there is any relationship to the vaccine.  Source
• Iceland, Italy, Norway and Romania suspend use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, although the EMA said the rate of blood clots among those who received it is no higher than that among the general population – and no link between the vaccine and blood clots has been identified. Source

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