27 July 2021

• The US reports the world’s highest daily total of coronavirus cases at 89,418. Source

• The US CDC revises its masking recommendation, saying that people should resume indoor masking regardless of their vaccination status in places where the virus is surging (more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, or more than 8 percent of test results are positive over seven days). The revised recommendations also call for universal masking in schools. Source

• Sydney reports a record-breaking 172 daily coronavirus cases despite being under lockdown – which is likely to be extended as Adelaide and Melbourne end their lockdowns. Source

• Although 55 percent of Spain’s residents have been fully vaccinated, the country is experiencing a Delta-driven coronavirus surge – with 25,000 daily cases. Nearly two-thirds of cases are among people under age 40. Source 

Bloomberg reports that researchers from the University of Washington have developed a model that suggests 60 percent of US COVID-19 cases have not been reported, and an estimated 65 million people, or 19.7 percent of U.S. residents, were infected by 7 March 2021. Other researchers have estimated that infections were 12-fold higher than reported, and that 35 percent of US deaths from COVID-19 were unreported. Source 

• World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says that African countries should build their capacity to produce vaccines and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that they can access the necessary raw materials to make vaccines. “There a handful of countries – maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent, Senegal, South Africa – where we have some capacity; that’s why we are importing 99% of our vaccines,” she said, adding “If we get IP today, we won’t be able to do anything with it because we don’t have investment, we don’t have manufacturing capacity.” Source

• Iran is facing record-breaking daily cases reaching almost 35,000. Source         

• Bhutan was able to give first doses of the vaccine to more than 90 percent of adults, thanks to a donation of 550,000 doses of Covishield from India. Then India cut back on exports to deal with its own COVID-19 crisis, so Bhutan’s leaders asked 28 countries to donate second doses. Doses arrived from Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Denmark, the US and other countries – which Bhutan has administered to 90.2 percent of adults across the country, including to yak herders who work at high altitudes. Source        

• New York City is moving homeless people from hotel rooms into group shelters, despite the city’s increasing coronavirus cases, lack of information about the number of people in the shelter system who have been vaccinated, and objections from homeless people and their advocates. Source 

• Thailand approves medicine made from green chiretta extract for asymptomatic COVID-19 a move intended to help reduce pressure on its public health system. The current total of infections in Bangkok and surrounding provinces is at least three times higher than what the public health system can handle, and patients are being transferred to hospitals in Northeast Thailand. Source  

• The Phuket “Sandbox,” which welcomes vaccinated tourists without quarantine, may be suspended after 125 new cases were reported during the week ending July 27 – most among local residents. Of the nearly 12,000 vaccinated foreign visitors, 26 have tested positive. Source                                 

• South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases announces that the country’s official death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 70,000 – with 10,000 deaths in the last month. But the actual number of COVID-19 deaths could top 200,000, according to studies from the South African Medical Research Council. Source 

• Lancet publishes research funded by AstraZeneca, using data from the company’s global safety database to look at the incidence of very rare cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among recipients of its coronavirus vaccine. All cases of TTS occurring within 14 days of the first or second dose of the vaccine until 30 April 2021 were included. After the first vaccine dose, 399 cases of TTS occurred among approximately 49·23 million vaccinees – a rate of 8.1 per million people. After the second dose, 13 cases of TTS occurred among an estimated 5.62 million vaccinees – a rate of 2.3 per million people. Source 

• ImmunityBio is developing hAd5, a vaccine intended to specifically generate a T-cell responses against the coronavirus spike protein and viral nucleocapsid, which could make it an ideal booster for different vaccines.   

The South Africa Sisonke T-Cell Universal Boost trial will enroll some of the 485,000 health workers who received the J & J vaccine. They will be given placebo or the experimental booster and their immune responses will be compared.  Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns more than 80 percent of ImmunityBio, says the booster aims to produce “…potent T-cells so you can kill the factory that is making the virus, [to] help overcome this challenge of mutations that happens continuously.”

Some scientists are concerned about the Ad5 backbone of ImmunityBio’s shot, which was used in an unsuccessful trial of an HIV vaccine developed by Merck – because Ad5 was blamed for a higher rate of HIV among people who got Merck’s experimental vaccine – but Mr. Soon-Shiong believes that the findings were not conclusive and is confident about the booster’s safety. 

The booster is being developed in different formulations: as a single-dose injection, droplets placed under the tongue, a capsule and a nasal spray. Source

• Tillman Gerngross, co-founder of Adimab, which has advanced 41 antibodies into the clinic without doing its own drug development, has signed a deal with Adagio to develop a treatment based on the antibody ADG20. Biocon Biologics has agreed to manufacture and commercialize the l treatment in India and other countries. Source

• BioNTech announces plans to develop an mRNA vaccine for malaria and transfer the technology to Africa, where it will work with partners to develop their manufacturing capacity. Source 

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