Finally, a U.S. Vaccination PlanA roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week
There are now 20 vaccines in phase 3 trials, eight approved for limited use, and two approved for full use in some countries after fully completing phase 3 trials — the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm. (Those from Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca are being used with emergency use approval in some countries.)
In the U.S., lagging vaccinations are picking up speed in many states, but the vaccine supply is running low due to manufacturing constraints. It’s not expected to pick up speed until April.
Biden releases his plans for vaccination
On his second day in office, President Joe Biden released a 23-page document outlining a national pandemic strategy, which included his administration’s goals regarding vaccination. Some key goals were boosting production of vaccines and required equipment (like syringes) by invoking the Defense Production Act, providing federal support and funding for local vaccination sites, mounting a science-based public health campaign to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, and focusing on at-risk and hard-to-reach groups.
Biden has often said he would get 100 million doses administered in his first 100 days, a task that Jeff Zients, the new White House Covid-19 coordinator, has said is “ambitious but achievable.” Others have expressed skepticism about the feasibility of this goal, pointing to the dwindling vaccine supply, insufficient communication between states and the federal government, and a lack of federal funding for state-run vaccination campaigns.
Studies suggest some variants are less susceptible to vaccines
Researchers in South Africa studying the effectiveness of vaccines against new, mutated variants of the coronavirus raised concerns with two small laboratory studies posted online on January 19. The studies, which haven’t yet been peer reviewed, suggest that the variant known as B.1.351 (the “South African” variant) is less susceptible to the antibodies produced by natural infection, the Moderna vaccine, and the Pfizer vaccine, as science journalist Apoorva Mandavilli wrote in the New York Times. Previous research, however, has shown more optimistic news about the efficacy of vaccines against certain variants, in particular the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K.
India and Brazil begin vaccination campaigns
On Saturday, India kicked off a massive vaccination campaign after approving vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech, an Indian company. Following suit on Monday, Brazil greenlit vaccines from Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca and began its vaccination campaign. Vaccines in both countries have garnered skepticism. Bharat Biotech’s vaccine has not yet completed clinical trials, and Sinovac’s vaccine is only 50.4% effective, according to Brazil’s latest data. For more on the effectiveness of Sinovac’s vaccine, which is rolling out in Turkey and Indonesia and is expected to be used in many other countries, read Maria Godoy’s analysis on NPR, in which one expert notes: “It’s much better than nothing.”
The U.S. joins a global vaccine distribution
In a videoconference with the World Health Organization on Thursday, infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci, MD, pledged that the U.S. would stay a member of WHO and would join COVAX, a global effort to distribute vaccines equitably. Fauci, who made a welcome return to the White House podium alongside President Biden after months of being sidelined, has been picked to lead the U.S. delegation to the WHO.