15 March 2021

• Germany suspends use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Source
• Bulgaria, Ireland and the Netherlands suspend the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Source
• Spain  joins France, Germany and Italy in suspending the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Source
• Health Ministers across the EU await an EMA press conference about the safety of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, scheduled for this afternoon. The bloc has already received 14 million doses of the vaccine although it has not administered nearly 8 million of them. Source
• The European Commission urges member states to step up vaccinations, noting that only 51 million of the 70 million doses delivered to the bloc have been used. Source
• France and Italy announce that they will resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine if it is cleared by the EMA. Source
• Middle-income countries home to nearly half of the world’s coronavirus cases but only 17 percent of vaccines, face high vaccine prices. South Africa, which has budgeted $ 1.3 billion will have to pay $850 million to  cover its population. It is paying $10 per dose for vaccines from Pfizer/BioNtech and J & J, nearly twice as much for the AstraZeneca vaccine – which the country stopped using after a study found  it was largely ineffective against the B.1.351 variant. Colombia, which has a $10 billion health budget for 50 million people, is not eligible for free vaccines from COVAX. Colombia has purchased 20 million doses through COVAX for $225 million, including transport costs, although it cannot provide enough adequate supply for the country’s population. Colombia has also bought 10 million doses  of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at $12 each and spent $295 million on 10 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. Source
• The NIH announces that it will study ensovibep, a novel antiviral developed by Molecular Partners in collaboration with Novartis, in people hospitalized with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 as part of the ACTIV-3 trial. Source
• GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology announce plans to seek emergency use authorization in the US and other countries for VIR-7831 after an Independent Data Monitoring Committee recommended stopping the phase III COMET-ICE trial (which looked at early COVID-19 treatment in people at high risk for severe illness) due to evidence of “profound efficacy” – an 85 percent reduction in hospitalization and death. Source
• The New York Times reports that it is likely that coronavirus variants arise from immunocompromised people who can remain chronically infected for months; this gives the virus an opportunity to continue mutating, leading experts to suggest prioritizing people who have weakened immune systems for vaccination. Source
• Coronavirus cases are increasing in France, Germany, Hungary and Italy, driven in part by low vaccination rates and more transmissible variants. Source
• Weeks after Brazil’s communications minister, Fábio Faria, requested coronavirus vaccines at a meeting with Huawei  executives in Peking, Brazil’s government announced that Huawei, which had been prohibited from the 5G auction, would be allowed to participate. Although a connection between these events has not yet been established, it is noteworthy that millions of Chinese coronavirus vaccine doses have been delivered to Brazil recently, and its government has stopped criticizing China’s policies. Source

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