• Valneva issues a press release to announce topline results from its 4,012-person phase III trial of VLA2001, an inactivated virus-based, adjuvanted coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine generated a higher level of neutralizing antibodies than its comparator, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and was more tolerable. The company has begun a rolling submission to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, and is preparing a rolling submission to the EMA. Source

• Port workers and other opponents of Italy’s new mandated health for workers protest by blocking the port of Trieste, which is one of the country’s largest. Workers in Genoa, Turin and Bologna also demonstrated against the mandate. Source

• The lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand, which began on 17 August, will be extended by two weeks. Source

• After interviewing over 140 US local health officials, policymakers and public health experts, reviewing and surveying health departments across the country, and assessing new state laws and local government documents, the New York Times reports that the US public health system is now less able to confront a pandemic than it was in early 2020.

The NYT research revealed that the public has “turned against agencies, voting in new local government leaders who ran on pledges to rein in public health departments.” Over 100 new laws limit the power of state and local health officials have been passed; these laws empower elected officials to make – or undo – key public health decisions. Health agencies have had significant staff losses; over 500 top health officials have quit, many because they faced threats. “We have learned all the wrong lessons from the pandemic,” said Adriane Casalotti, chief of public and government affairs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials, “We are attacking and removing authority from the people who are trying to protect us.”

The billions of dollars allocated for the COVID-19 response have been used to deal with immediate emergency needs (such as testing, vaccines and temporary workers) instead of hiring permanent staff and long-term capacity building. “If a ship is sinking, throwing treasure chests of gold at the ship is not going to help it float,” said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Public Health Director. Inadequate staffing and insufficient have forced health departments to stop other functions and focus on the pandemic, leading to increased drug overdoses, outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases and more cases of child abuse. “It’s a depressing moment,” said David Rosner, a public health historian at Columbia University. “What makes a society if you can’t even get together around keeping your people healthy?” Source

• After reviewing scientific information and consultations with expert committees, including leading local and international scientific community members, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) did not approve Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine because of concerns that an ingredient in the vaccine could increase the risk of HIV among men. A pair of HIV vaccine trials in South Africa found that Ad5, an adenoviruses that Sputnik V relies on to deliver spike-protein making instructions into cells, increase HIV risk among men with pre- existing Ad-specific neutralising antibodies (NAbs). Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed the vaccine, was unable to grant Sahpra’s request for data showing that Sputnik V would be safe in settings with high HIV prevalence and incidence. Source

• A descendant of the Delta coronavirus, the AY.4.2 subtype, (sometimes called “Delta-plus”) is responsible for an increasing proportion of the UK’s COVID-19 cases. Virologists tracking AY.4.2 say it appears to be 10 to 15 per cent more transmissible than the Delta variant, but that this needs to be confirmed as ongoing research results become available. Source

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