06 August 2021

• The World Food Program reports that an estimated 270.5 million people are acutely food insecure or at high risk, an increase of 120.7 million since the pandemic – a situation calling for urgent action to prevent millions of people from enduring famine. Source

• South Africa’s Ministry of Health announces preliminary results from the 500,000-person Sisonke trial of J & J’s coronavirus vaccine in healthcare workers, which ran from February 2021 until May 2021. The vaccine was up to 71 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and up to 95 percent at preventing death from the Delta variant. Breakthrough infections were mild in 96 percent of cases; less than 0.05 percent of them led to severe COVID-19 or death.  Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, co-lead of the study and director of the Desmond Tutu H.I.V. Centre at the University of Cape Town, said “We believe this vaccine is doing what it was designed to do, which was to stop people going to hospital and stop them ending in I.C.U.s and dying.” During the trial, two cases of the rare clotting disorder occurred among vaccine recipients, both of whom recovered. Source

• Quartz reports that Moderna reaped $4.4 billion in revenue from its coronavirus vaccine in the second quarter of 2021. The company is planning to buy back $1 billion of its stock. During a call with analysts, the company’s president, Stephen Hoge, said that he expects that a booster will be required for protection against variants such as Delta. Source 

• China’s President Xi Jinping pledges to increase coronavirus vaccine exports from the current total of 770 million to two billion doses in 2021 – an amount matching the G7’s commitment.  He also announced a $100 million donation to COVAX. Source

• A pre-print article analyzes effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against the Alpha and Delta variants during the period between January and July 2021 among 51,178 people, half of whom were fully vaccinated and half unvaccinated. Overall, vaccines were highly effective (Moderna: 86 percent; Pfizer/BioNTech: 76 percent). As the Alpha variant waned and prevalence of the Delta variant increased, vaccine efficacy dropped (Moderna:76 percent; Pfizer/BioNTech: 42 percent). The researchers went on to compare breakthrough infection rates among fully vaccinated people (106 among Moderna recipients; 220 among Pfizer/BioNTech recipients), most of which occurred as the Delta variant became widespread. Although the researchers cautioned that the timing did not imply causality and that waning immunity and other factors could be driving differences in efficacy. They noted differences between vaccine formulations and regimens and suggested a head-to-head comparison of neutralizing antibody titers elicited by these vaccines. Source

• The US CDC publishes research on coronavirus reinfection among unvaccinated persons, drawing from Kentucky’s National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) to find people who had a laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020 and either a subsequent positive test result during 1 May- 30 June 2021 (N=246) or who were not re-infected (N=492); data on their vaccination status came from the Kentucky Immunization Registry. People who were unvaccinated were 2.34 times more likely to be reinfected than those who were vaccinated, supporting the CDC recommendation for COVID-19 vaccination, regardless of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection status. Source

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