• AstraZeneca has submitted a new data package to the EMA, seeking authorization for booster doses of its coronavirus vaccine, and is in discussions with the Agency – which has already authorized mRNA boosters. Source
• The Guardian covers data on the discovery of a gene associated twice the risk of respiratory failure and death from COVID-19. The gene, called LZTFL1, changes the way the lungs respond to infection. It is carried by an estimated 60 percent of people with south Asian ancestry, and 15 percent of people with white European ancestry. Scientists think it could be a partial explanation for excess deaths in the UK’s south Asian communities and on the Indian subcontinent.
Other scientists noted that socioeconomic risk factors faced by ethnic minorities, including workplace exposure and unequal access to healthcare, might be more important factors, and suggested that the findings receive further confirmation.
Oxford Professor James Davies, a lead author of the paper, said that genetic factors could account for higher death rates among south Asian populations in the UK, after socio-economic factors were considered. During the second wave in the UK, the risk of death from COVID-19 was three to four times higher among people with Bangladeshi backgrounds, up to three times higher among people with Pakistani backgrounds, and 1.5 to two times higher for people with Indian backgrounds versus the general population.
Nazrul Islam, of Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, cautioned that the data “…provides an easy gateway for policymakers to say ‘it’s genetic, we can’t do anything. We have to be very careful in analysing the data, questioning it repeatedly, and how we disseminate the findings. It has profound social issues.” Source
• Hans Kluge, WHO Director, Europe, says that COVID-19 in the region is approaching record levels, and that up to 500,000 more deaths may occur by February of 2022. He asked national health officials to “…carefully reconsider easing or lifting measures at this moment, adding “The message has always been: do it all. Vaccines are doing what was promised: preventing severe forms of the disease and especially mortality … But they are our most powerful asset only if used alongside public health and social measures.” Source
• Regulators in the UK become the first to approve Merck’s oral antiviral molnupiravir. Britain has already 480,000 five-day treatment courses, which are recommended for use within five days of symptom onset among vaccinated and unvaccinated people with at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19 and a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Source
• The Biden administration announced a 4 January deadline for private sector business with over 100 employees to implement a coronavirus vaccine mandate, or weekly testing of unvaccinated workers. A separate COVID-fighting measure requires 17 million workers at nursing homes and other health care facilities that receive government funding to be vaccinated by 4 January without an option for testing. Vaccines are already required for over four million federal workers and companies with federal government contracts. Source
• In India, where 25 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. over 680,000 traveled across the country for Diwali celebrations. according to government officials. Health experts cautioned that such that large gatherings could still become superspreader events. Dr. Hemant Thacker, a physician in Mumbai, said. “We should be extra careful when it comes to masks and avoid large gatherings.” Source
• Germany reported 33,949 new daily coronavirus cases, surpassing the record it set in December 2020 during the country’s second wave of COVID-19. Vaccine refusal is fueling hotspots in Munich, which has reached a 500 cases per 100,000 people per week. Source
• Hong Kong announces that it will begin offering a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine four weeks after the second dose to residents with a higher risk of illness (cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, people living with advanced HIV and people taking active immunosuppressive drugs) as of 11 November. Source
• Coronavirus cases in England have reached their highest-ever level since May 2020 (when researchers began collecting data), reaching one in 58 people, with the highest rates among children. Source
• The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing $4 million to Kenya’s Revital Healthcare to avert a lack of syringes for coronavirus vaccines. Source
• Moderna’s stock price dropped by 14 percent after it reduced the end-of-year sales forecast for its coronavirus vaccine by over three million doses and shifted some deliveries to 2021, which the company said allowed it to prioritize shipments to COVAX and the African Union. Source
• Science publishes research on a new tool that enables researchers to examine viral assembly, budding, stability, maturation, entry and genome uncoating involving all of the viral structural proteins without having to produce replication-competent virus. The new strategy allowed them to identify a molecular basis for the Delta variant’s increased fitness and transmissibility. The authors suggest that their approach is “…ideally suited for the development of new antivirals targeting SARS-CoV-2 as it is sensitive, quantitative and scalable to high-throughput workflows.” Source
• Novavax issues a press release to announce that it has completed its application for WHO emergency use listing of its experimental adjuvanted, protein-based coronavirus vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, which has been approved in Indonesia. ced authorization of its vaccine in Indonesia. The company has also applied for authorization in Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, and the UK, and expects to file with the US FDA by the end of 2021. Source