23 July 2021

• The EMA recommends extending the indication for Spikevax, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, to include children ages 12 to 17. Source 

• Israeli data suggests that the Pfizer/BioNTech may become less effective over a six-month period. But breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people may be due to the Delta variant rather than waning immunity. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are about one-sixteenth of what they were before the vaccines were available in Israel, and admissions to the intensive care unit have also plummeted, underscoring the vaccine’s effectiveness. Pfizer suggests that a third booster could increase immunity, but this remains controversial. Notably, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is less effective at preventing symptomatic infection from the Delta variant than older versions of the virus (64 percent versus 95 percent), but it remains highly effective (93 percent) at preventing severe illness and hospitalization from Delta. Source

• The US CDC forecasts that cases could rise to over 300,000 by 14 August, as vaccination rates are stagnant and few places have imposed indoor masking. Source 

• Some senior health officials in the Biden administration expect that people over age 65 and those who are immunocompromised will need a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine as a booster. The administration has already purchased more than enough vaccines to provide a third dose. But some public health experts say that boosters may not be needed. Dr. Paul A. Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine Advisory Committee,  said the vaccine’s goal “ …is not to prevent mild or low, moderate infectious disease. The goal is to prevent hospitalization to death. Right now, this vaccine has held up to that.” Source 

• As conflicting data emerge on waning efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Bloomberg publishes an article noting that more data are needed. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine provided 88 percent protection against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant, while Public Health England reported that the vaccine was 96 percent effective against hospitalization. 

Ran Balicer, chairman of Israel’s national expert advisory team on COVID-19 response noted  “…heavily skewed exposure patterns in the recent outbreak in Israel, which are limited to specific population sectors and localities,” saying researchers are “…trying to complement this research approach with additional ones, taking additional personal characteristics into account.” Source

• The US has purchased an additional 200 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at $24 per dose. It expects a delivery of 110 million doses  by 31 December, and the rest before 30 April 2022. Pfizer spokesperson noted that the price includes “…the additional investment necessary to produce, package and deliver new formulations of the vaccine, as well as the increased cost associated with delivering the vaccine in smaller pack sizes to facilitate delivery at individual provider offices, including pediatricians.” Source

• A 503-person study of dosing intervals for the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine among UK healthcare workers, which was funded by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, found that an eight to 10 week interval between vaccine doses increases the vaccine’s effectiveness more than shorter intervals. The researchers noted a decline in antibody levels between the first and second doses – especially against the Delta variant – which underscores the importance of a second dose. Source

• The US CDC is looking at ways to provide booster doses of coronavirus doses to an estimated 3 million immunocompromised people (including organ transplant recipients, people undergoing treatment for cancer, and people living with rheumatologic conditions, HIV and or /leukemia). The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices cannot recommend additional doses until the US FDA has granted full approval or amends its emergency use authorization for currently available vaccines. Source

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