25 August 2021

• Officials in at least 12 Chinese cities warn unvaccinated residents that they will be held accountable if they are found to be responsible for spreading outbreaks. Overall, 55 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated. Source 

• Coronavirus cases in New South Wales reach a daily total of 919, despite the lockdown – and Sydney’s healthcare system is becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Source 

• New Zealand’s top health official, Ashley Bloomfield, announced that that some of the 732 people who received coronavirus vaccines in Auckland last month may have been given saline solution. Source

• In Japan, where daily coronavirus cases have increased by 65 percent over the past two weeks, the state of emergency has been expanded to cover 21 of the nation’s 47 prefectures and extended until 12 September. Source

• After a failed first trial, Brii Bioscience announces positive results from an interim analysis of an 837-person trial of its antibody combination, BRII-196/BRII-198, which was developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital. When given to outpatients with COVID-19 in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the US, BRII-196/BRII-198 reduced the odds of hospitalization or death by 78 percent. The trial is also exploring efficacy of early (<5 days) versus later (6-10 days) treatment, although an earlier study did not show any benefit from BRII-196/BRII-198 in hospitalized patients and was stopped early. The company also reported that there were fewer adverse events among people who got BRII-196/BRII-198 than placebo recipients (3.8 percent versus 13.4 percent, respectively). Source 

• J & J issues a press release to announce that support use of a booster shot for people who got its single-dose coronavirus vaccine, based on two Phase 1/2a studies that J & J performed in people who were previously vaccinated with its single-shot vaccine. Interim data from these studies demonstrate that a booster dose of the vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, which was nine-fold higher than the response 28 days after the single-dose vaccine. The study was submitted for pre-print publication. J & J is working with the US FDA, the US CDC, the European Medicines Agency and other health authorities about boosting with its COVID-19 vaccine. Notably, results from J & J’s two-dose trial were not included in the press release, which only covered results from a 20-person trial – three of whom were excluded from analysis. Source

• Thailand is introducing a robotic arm developed at Chulalongkorn University. The arm, which is called the “AutoVacc”, helps draw vaccines doses more efficiently to maximize the country’s low supply –  the “AutoVacc” can draw 12 doses of the vaccine from a vial in four minutes, an improvement from the 10 doses that can be drawn manually. The prototype, which can only be used with the AstraZeneca vaccine, costs $76,243. The team plans to produce similar machines that can use Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Source                   

• New England Journal of Medicine publishes a report on safety of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, based on data from two groups of nearly 885,000 vaccinated and unvaccinated people in Israel. The vaccine was associated with an excess risk for myocarditis (an inflammation of heart tissue) -which is most likely to occur among young men – and estimated at 1 to 5 cases per 100,000 people. Notably, the risk of myocarditis was much higher among people with COVID-19, at 11 cases per 100,000 people. Source

• WHO announces that it will work to address vaccine inequity by starting a program to manufacture vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean, where only 23 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Currently, 30 proposals for vaccine production are under review, with a decision expected in September. Source

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