"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 10th May 2022
BioNTech posts tripled Q1 vaccine sales but still flags full-year decline
BioNTech's first-quarter sales and earnings more than tripled thanks to demand for the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer, but the German biotech firm is still forecasting a full-year decline in vaccine sales. "As a result of an increased order volume initially placed in late 2021 following the then-emerging Omicron variant, we began the year 2022 with strong revenues and earnings, leaving us well-positioned to achieve the 2022 financial guidance," finance chief Jens Holstein said. BioNTech stood by its 2022 vaccine revenue guidance of 13 to 17 billion euros, down from 19 billion last year, implying a decline during the rest of the year. Quarterly revenues more than tripled from a year earlier to 6.37 billion euros ($6.73 billion), as did net income, to 3.70 billion euros, the company said on Monday.
COVID vaccine makers shift focus to boosters
COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster shot market after delivering as many doses as fast as they could over the last 18 months. Executives at the biggest COVID vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID have already done so - more than 5 billion people worldwide. In the coming year, most COVID vaccinations will be booster shots, or first inoculations for children, which are still gaining regulatory approvals around the world, they said.
Covid: Learning to live with the virus in the UK
The latest survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a continued fall in Covid 19 infections from a recent peak in April in the UK. The arrival of summer means more people will congregate outdoors at lower risk to themselves. But the return of people from holidays to work and study after summer holidays, and the onset of cooler autumnal weather could create conditions for another uptick in infections. More immediately, new strains of the Omicron variant could cause problems. The BA.2 version has proved more transmissible than BA.1.
Affordable Covid drugs kept out of reach by sluggish WTO
There is still a long way to go before South Africa and other developing countries can manufacture Covid vaccines and treatments quickly and without paying the huge charges demanded by the big US and European drug companies. Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the 180-member trade forum had taken a step towards a patent waiver that would allow developing countries to make the drugs they need – including vaccines, tests, and treatments – for as long as five years, without payments to pharma giants such as Pfizer. The EU, India, South Africa and the US, known as the Quad, claimed to have come to an agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (Trips) waiver proposal, with China also expected to vote in favour.
Once a zero-Covid poster child, Taiwan learns to live with the virus
Once a poster child for the success of zero-Covid, Taiwan is now dealing with an “Omicron tsunami”. In response – and in stark contrast to regional neighbours – health authorities have decided zero-Covid is no match for the new variant and have flipped the switch to “living with the virus”. “It is the right decision, and it’s also the decision we had to make,” says Dr Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s former vice-president and professor of epidemiology. Taiwan closed itself off in early 2020, and employed a regime of stringent contact tracing, social restrictions and personal hygiene measures which it kept even as vaccines and antivirals were developed. It defeated an outbreak of the Alpha strain and another of Delta in 2021. But after the highly virulent Omicron began affecting countries in November and December, Chen says he and other scholars advised the government to start shifting towards living with the virus.
Covid-19 guidance changes announced for universities and colleges
The Welsh Government has formally removed the Infection Control Framework for Higher and Further Education institutions from today. The change will bring higher and further education into line with the wider public health guidance followed by businesses, employers and event organisers. The advice covers control measures that could be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of the most common communicable diseases, including Coronavirus, flu and norovirus.
Laos reopens to tourists and other visitors from abroad
The landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos reopened to tourists and other visitors on Monday, more than two years after it imposed tight restrictions to fight the coronavirus. Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, head of the government’s agency for controlling COVID-19, announced on Saturday the reopening date, the last in a three-phase plan, state news agency KPL reported. She said vaccination certificates or virus tests will still be required for Lao citizens and foreigners entering the country.
US lobby fears 'exodus' of foreign staff in China due to COVID measures
American businesses are struggling to persuade overseas staff to join them in China due to the country's strict COVID-19 control measures and ongoing lockdowns, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said on Monday. In a survey of 121 members, 49% said foreign workers are either significantly less likely to - or are refusing to - move to China because of COVID-related policies, with 82% singling out uncertainty over how long quarantine and lockdown times will last as the main reason.
Pandemic pushes Spanish workers out of the shadows
For decades, a cash-filled envelope - or "sobre" - was how hundreds of thousands of Spaniards working without legal contracts in tourism, agriculture or construction collected their salaries. COVID-19, however, may finally be putting paid to the "sobre", economic data and workers' experiences suggest - accelerating a six-year-long crackdown in Spain on the shadow economy and providing a welcome boost to the country's public finances.
Aptiv Shanghai plant suspends some shipments after COVID cases - sources
Aptiv stopped shipping over the weekend some parts from a Shanghai plant that supplies Tesla Inc and General Motors Co after COVID-19 infections were found among its workers, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday. The suspension of shipments from Aptiv could represent a setback to Tesla, which had planned to bring output in Shanghai back to the levels before the city locked down to control a wave of infections and forced a shutdown through much of April.
China's April exports slow, imports unchanged amid expanding virus curbs
Article reports that China's export growth slowed to single digits, the weakest in almost two years, while imports barely changed in April as tighter and wider COVID-19 curbs halted factory production and crimped domestic demand, adding to wider economic woes. Exports in dollar terms grew 3.9% in April from a year earlier, dropping sharply from the 14.7% growth reported in March although slightly better than analysts' forecast of 3.2%. It was the slowest pace since June 2020. Imports were broadly stable year-on-year, improving slightly from a 0.1% fall in March and a bit better than the 3.0% contraction tipped by the Reuters poll.
WHO, Gavi not planning COVID vaccine buys from S.Africa's Aspen
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVID-19 vaccine partner Gavi have no immediate plans to buy shots made by Aspen Pharmacare, the two bodies said, dealing a blow to Africa's efforts to develop its own vaccine production capacity.
Taiwan receives 1.85 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine doses
Taiwan received all of the 1.85 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses for people 12 years and older it had ordered this year on Monday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said. The 1,857,960 vaccine doses will expire on Oct. 4, and adolescents aged 12-17 who need a booster shot will be given priority to receive the vaccine, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said at the CECC press briefing
Low Covid jab uptake among minorities shows health officials need to 'win back trust'
Low Covid vaccine uptake among ethnic groups was completely predictable and it will take up to 15 years for health officials to win back the trust of those communities, a leading academic has said. Although some improvements have been made, much more work has to be done so that low vaccine uptakes among ethnic minorities are a thing of the past, Winston Morgan, professor of toxicology, equity and inclusive practice at the University of East London, said.
Israel to end mandatory COVID-19 tests for arrivals at Tel Aviv airport
Israel said on Sunday it was ending mandatory COVID-19 testing for arrivals at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, but foreigners would still have to test negative overseas before boarding a flight to the country. The health ministry said testing at Ben Gurion would no longer be required as of May 20. It cited a drop in daily infection numbers, from more than 6,000 to fewer than 2,000 over the past month, for the decision.
WHO, Gavi not planning COVID vaccine buys from S.Africa's Aspen
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVID-19 vaccine partner Gavi have no immediate plans to buy shots made by Aspen Pharmacare, the two bodies said, dealing a blow to Africa's efforts to develop its own vaccine production capacity. Aspen completed a deal in March to package, sell and distribute Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in what was lauded as a game-changing moment for an under-vaccinated continent frustrated by sluggish Western handouts. But the South African company's expectations of high demand in Africa, where just a sixth of adults are fully vaccinated, have not materialised. Its CEO warned last week it would be forced to re-purpose about half of its vaccine production capacity if orders did not pick up.
‘Late Show’ pauses production after Colbert shows COVID-19 symptoms
“The Late Show” announced Monday afternoon that it will pause production due to host Stephen Colbert showing symptoms of COVID-19. Colbert tested positive for the coronavirus last month but returned to the CBS series last week. “Stephen is experiencing symptoms consistent with a recurrence of COVID. Out of an abundance of caution for his staff, guests, and audience, he will be isolating for a few additional days,” the late-night show tweeted from its official account on Monday.
FDA limits J&J COVID vaccine as dose shortage looms
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine as federal budget documents herald a vaccine shortage this fall if second boosters are widely encouraged. In the 14 months after gaining an emergency use authorization, the J&J one-dose vaccine hit another, when the FDA limited its use to certain individuals, citing rare but serious blood clotting events following vaccination.
Liverpool expert warns about 'darknet' covid vaccines
A Liverpool scientist warned against fake covid vaccines advertised on the darknet. Dr Sulaf Assi, a senior lecturer in pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores University, developed a new portable device to detect counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines in "less than a minute". Last year, the NHS urged the public to be wary of 'vaccine fraud', and news outlets reported on fake versions of major Covid-19 vaccines being sold on the darknet, a section of the internet accessible only through specialised software.
UK Labour's Starmer to offer to resign if fined for COVID rule breach - Sky News
British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said on Monday he would resign if police decide he broke COVID-19 rules, putting pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has refused to step down after he was fined over a lockdown-busting party. After months of Johnson being criticised for attending parties at his Downing Street residence when Britain was in a strict coronavirus lockdown, attention has turned to a gathering Starmer attended last year in the northeast of England. Footage from April 2021 shows him drinking a bottle of beer with colleagues indoors, when such gatherings were banned if not essential for work.
'Like a prison': Shanghai, Beijing ratchet up COVID restrictions
China's two largest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on Monday, fuelling public angst and even questions about the legality of its uncompromising battle with the virus that has battered the world's second largest economy. In Shanghai, enduring its sixth week of lockdown, authorities have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by late May, according to people familiar with the matter
Chaos at Apple supplier shows strains of Shanghai COVID lockdown
Quanta Shanghai Manufacturing City would seem like an ideal site to implement China's "closed-loop" management system to prevent the spread of COVID that requires staff to live and work on-site in a secure bubble. Sprawled over land the size of 20 football fields, the campus houses factories, living quarters for 40,000 workers, some living 12 per room, and even a supermarket. But as COVID-19 breeched Quanta's defences, the system broke down into chaos. Videos posted online showed more than a hundred Quanta workers physically overwhelming security guards in hazmat suits and vaulting over factory gates to escape being trapped inside the factory amid rumours that workers on the floor that day tested positive for COVID.
Shanghai tightens lockdown to hit zero-COVID goal by late May
Shanghai is tightening its already strict COVID-19 lockdown in a fresh push to eliminate infections outside quarantined areas of China's biggest city by late this month, people familiar with the matter said. Curbs will likely vary across the city's 16 districts as some have already hit the target, but the people said movement curbs will generally remain until the end of May due to fears of a rebound, despite recently falling case numbers in the country's worst coronavirus outbreak.
Shanghai tightens lockdown despite falling COVID cases
Authorities in Shanghai have again tightened anti-virus restrictions, just as the city was emerging from a month of strict lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Notices issued in several districts said residents were ordered to stay home and are barred from receiving nonessential deliveries as part of a “quiet period” lasting at least until Wednesday. The tightened measures could be extended depending on the results of mass testing, the notices said.
Cancer diagnosis a year before infection not linked to worse outcomes; air travel carries COVID risks
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Old cancer diagnosis not linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes. Patients diagnosed with cancer more than a year before contracting COVID-19 and those not receiving active treatment may be no more vulnerable to worse COVID outcomes than those without cancer, according to a new study.
FDA sets limits on the use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in US
The FDA has limited the authorized use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years of age and older who cannot access other approved COVID-19 shots for various reasons.
ZF2001 vaccine safe and effective against symptomatic and severe-to-critical COVID
Preliminary preclinical studies of the ZF2001 vaccine using rodents and macaques revealed promising efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, the phase 1 and 2 clinical trials also reported the vaccine to be safe and effective in humans. Scientists designed a three-dose regimen in the phase 3 trial of ZF2001. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has discussed the efficacy and safety profile of the ZF2001 vaccine in adults, based on a randomized, placebo-controlled, multinational, double-blind phase 3 trial. During this study, the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant was dominantly circulating globally.
Vaccine to stop Covid transmission should now be top priority, says leading UK scientist
It is questionable how much longer current Covid-19 vaccines will be used as they have largely done their job in preventing mass deaths, and scientists should focus on developing a vaccine that stops transmission of the virus, according to leading scientist Sir John Bell. The huge success of Covid vaccines in countries able to get them has led to sharp declines in deaths and severe disease from the virus, even though the latest Covid variant, Omicron, has spread rapidly. “We need a new vaccine to stop transmissions and there are lots of interesting ideas,” said Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a former member of the UK vaccine taskforce who has worked on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab.
Nasal vaccines may be the next generation of protection against COVID
Current vaccines are great at stopping severe disease. But people can still catch COVID-19, even after two, three or more shots. Researchers hope a different delivery system will make for a vaccine that is better at preventing transmission and infections. By putting the vaccine directly into the nose, it might prevent the virus from taking hold in the mucus membranes, where it first enters the body. Studies are still underway to prove whether this approach will work. And even if it does, the vaccines are likely to take another year to become widely available.
Knowledge about COVID-19, vaccination influences vaccine uptake in pregnancy
Pregnant patients who had more knowledge about COVID-19 and immunization were more likely to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, according to a study presented here. However, researchers emphasized that it is also incumbent on providers to improve vaccine uptake and increase acceptance. While Eva Agasse acknowledged that informing patients is vital to encourage vaccination, how clinicians present themselves is also important.
Oral COVID-19 Vaccine Protects Host, Slows Transmission in Hamsters
The available COVID-19 vaccines have been called the biggest scientific accomplishment of the century and a modern miracle. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from working on making improvements. To that end, a new study presents promising data on a COVID-19 vaccine that is designed to be taken as a pill. Moreover, the vaccine not only protects the host, but also decreases the airborne spread of the virus to other close contacts. The experiments, done in a hamster model that mimics human exposures, demonstrated the potential of a COVID vaccine that works through the mucosal tissue to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, limiting infections and the spread of active virus in airborne particles.
COVID-19’s hidden, heartbreaking toll: millions of orphaned children
The World Health Organisation estimates that as of May 5, nearly 15 million people have died of causes related to COVID-19 since the global pandemic hit—almost three times the official death toll. In the United States, the country that has recorded the most deaths, nearly one million Americans have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins. Hidden behind those statistics is an orphanhood crisis unprecedented in modern history. Nearly 10.4 million children worldwide have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, according to latest estimates from Imperial College London. In the worst affected country by number of cases and deaths – the U.S. – more than 214,000 children have lost a parent or caregiver. Like the death toll itself, the true numbers are likely higher.
How Hong Kong's vaccination missteps led to the world's highest covid-19 death rate
Hong Kong’s strict guidelines on social distancing and its restrictions on travel ensured months of low infection rates for covid-19, until the omicron variant hit the city in February 2022. Before that, Hong Kong had reported 212 deaths related to covid-19; around 9000 people have since died from the virus in the city’s fifth wave of infection. As of late April, more than 70% of deaths were in patients aged 80 or older, 73% of whom were unvaccinated. The hospital system has been overwhelmed, with patients occupying hospital beds in parking lots, bodies kept in hospital corridors and in patient rooms, and morgues overflowing. This is despite vaccines being readily available in the city since February 2021. Hong Kong had procured enough doses of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines for its population of seven million, and both vaccines were made available at community vaccination centres and private clinics across the city within weeks of the rollout. Older citizens were given priority access to vaccination.
Study investigates the cause of lymphopenia as seen in COVID-19 patients
In a recent study posted to the Research Square preprint server, researchers explored the underlying mechanism resulting in thymic atrophy and subsequent lymphopenia in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. Previous studies have reported dysregulated T cell function and lymphopenia in COVID-19 patients. However, the literature does not shed light on immunological and pathological alterations in thymus post-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection.
COVID vaccine makers shift focus to boosters
COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster shot market after delivering as many doses as fast as they could over the last 18 months. Executives at the biggest COVID vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID have already done so - more than 5 billion people worldwide. In the coming year, most COVID vaccinations will be booster shots, or first inoculations for children, which are still gaining regulatory approvals around the world, they said.
BioNTech trumpets strong sales, but pandemic 'uncertainty' still suggests a decline in 2022
Omicron-fueled vaccine orders propelled Pfizer’s COVID-19 partner BioNTech to record sales in 2022’s first quarter, but the German mRNA specialist still expects sales to fall this year compared with 2021. Chalk it up to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s trajectory and now, a war in Ukraine, BioNTech executives said on a call with analysts. Despite a strong start to the year, the company must "acknowledge the uncertainty derived from the course of the pandemic and the political uncertainties of recent months,” Jens Holstein, BioNTech’s chief financial officer, said
3 COVID vaccine doses appear to protect against Omicron subvariants
Three new studies report on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness (VE) and antibody responses to Omicron, with one from Sweden finding a drop in two-dose VE against severe disease after the transition from the BA.1 to the BA.2 subvariant but three-dose protection remaining above 80% against severe disease. Also, a study from Hong Kong shows good antibody response against BA.2 after three doses, and one from the United States finds that nursing home patients who received a third dose had a 47% lower risk of Omicron infection.
The CDC is investigating a Covid-19 outbreak on board a Carnival cruise ship
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a recent Covid-19 outbreak on a Carnival cruise ship that docked in Seattle after a two-week voyage. The Carnival Spirit, which sailed through the Panama Canal, departed Miami on April 17 and arrived in Seattle on May 3, according to a statement from the cruise line. The ship holds 2,124 guests and 930 crew members, Carnival said. The CDC says it's not permitted to publicly share the number of passengers and crew members who quarantined or tested positive. But the ship is labeled as orange status per the agency's cruise ship Covid-19 threshold, indicating that 0.3% or more of total passengers and or crew members tested positive, according to CDC's guidelines.
Taiwan reports 40304 new COVID-19 cases, 12 deaths
Taiwan's single-day COVID-19 cases exceeded 40,000 for the third consecutive day on Monday, with 40,304 new cases and 12 deaths from the disease, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). The new cases consisted of 40,263 domestically transmitted infections and 41 cases that were contracted abroad, the CECC said at their daily press conference.
BA.5 arrives: Aotearoa's Covid-19 case numbers will rise - expert
Epidemiologist Michael Baker is predicting New Zealand's Covid-19 case numbers will rise again over the coming months - resulting in increased hospitalisations and deaths. Baker said he was not surprised at confirmation that the BA.5 variant had entered Aotearoa, and expected it has already spread into the community. On 1 May, the BA.4 was earlier confirmed to have reached New Zealand. Baker said new variants were among several factors that would force Covid-19 numbers upwards this winter.
8-month-old baby becomes Taiwan's youngest severe COVID-19 case
An 8-month-old infant has become the youngest person in Taiwan to develop a severe COVID-19 infection after being reported as one of Monday's severe domestic COVID-19 cases by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). The baby girl, who has no underlying conditions and is unvaccinated against COVID-19, developed a fever of up to 39 degrees Celsius on May 4 and her parents sought medical attention at a hospital emergency room, said Taiwan Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun
Covid-19 Cases Rise in Parts of U.S. With High Vaccination Rates
Some of the places that have avoided the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, including Puerto Rico and Northern New England states, are coping with elevated cases and hospitalizations as the latest highly contagious iterations of the virus circulate. Most counties in Vermont, as well as a growing number in Maine and southern New England, now have community Covid-19 levels categorized as “high” by the CDC based on case and hospitalization trends. Puerto Rico recently has had the highest rate of newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S., along with climbing hospitalizations. Some of these places, including Puerto Rico and Vermont, have below-average rates of prior infections, recent CDC data show. Epidemiologists and health officials believe immunity from vaccines and heavy exposure to the virus at the national level may be limiting severe illness from the latest subvariants. The New England region and Puerto Rico have among the highest vaccination rates in the U.S.
Covid-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Rise in New England and Puerto Rico
Some of the places that have avoided the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, including Puerto Rico and Northern New England states, are coping with elevated cases and hospitalizations as the latest highly contagious iterations of the virus circulate. Most counties in Vermont, as well as a growing number in Maine and southern New England, now have community Covid-19 levels categorized as “high” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based on case and hospitalization trends. Puerto Rico recently has had the highest rate of newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S., along with climbing hospitalizations. Some of these places, including Puerto Rico and Vermont, have below-average rates of prior infections, recent CDC data show.