| |

"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 24th Mar 2021

Overnight News Round Up

Germany plans to vaccinate 10m a week as COVID-19 cases hit critical level

  • Germany fears a third wave of the pandemic so plans to step up the rollout of vaccines from 1.5 million doses a week to five million from next month rising to ten million jabs a week in June.
  • One barrier is hostility to the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a recent poll showing that 55% of Germans think it is unsafe. Two million AstraZeneca jabs are in a stockpile that has grown since the decision to suspend its use because of safety scares last week.
  • Olaf Scholz, vice-chancellor and finance minister said 'The vaccine order did not go well, and yes, you can get upset about it. But we should look ahead,' he told Bild am Sonntag.
  • Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, which makes a coronavirus vaccination with Pfizer, said Germany could hit a target of vaccinating 70% of people by the end of September. 'In many European countries and the U.S. we will probably not need lockdowns by summer's end,' he told Welt am Sonntag. 'There'll be outbreaks, but they'll be background noise. There'll be mutations, but they won't frighten us.'
  • Angela Merkel will chair a meeting of federal and regional ministers and mayors to discuss proposals to restrict international travel in the hope of supressing infection rates and the spread of new virus variants.
Germany plans to vaccinate 10m a week as Covid-19 cases hit critical level
Germany plans to vaccinate 10m a week as Covid-19 cases hit critical level
Germany is banking on a mass vaccination drive in April and May amid a surge in coronavirus cases and more imminent lockdown restrictions. The number of new infections per 100,000 has risen to 104 over the past week passing the threshold of 100 that threatens to put hospitals under pressure. Today the government is expected to require that travellers quarantine and take coronavirus tests as millions of Germans contemplate Easter holidays in resorts such as Mallorca, where 24 scheduled flights arrived from German cities yesterday and Lufthansa plans to lay on more for the holiday.
Bavaria's Soeder says we are in most dangerous phase of pandemic
Germany is likely living through the most dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as new coronavirus variants spread faster and affect more people than just the elderly, Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said early on Tuesday. “We are probably now living in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic,” Soeder told journalists in Berlin after agreeing with other state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel to extend Germany’s lockdown until April 18.
Germany's Merkel banks on Easter circuit-breaker to combat 'new pandemic'
Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and calling on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel said early on Tuesday. In talks that ran deep into the night, Merkel pushed the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to take a tougher stance to fight the pandemic, reversing plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate. “We are now basically in a new pandemic. The British mutation has become dominant,” Merkel told a news conference. “Fundamentally, we face a new virus of the same kind but with very different characteristics. More deadly, more infectious, and infectious for longer.”
AstraZeneca to publish full U.S. trial results after rare rebuke over 'outdated' data
AstraZeneca to publish full U.S. trial results after rare rebuke over 'outdated' data
AstraZeneca will publish up-to-date results from its major U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trial within 48 hours after health officials publicly criticized the drugmaker for using “outdated information” to show how well the immunization worked. The rare public rebuke marks the latest setback for the vaccine once hailed as a milestone in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that has since been dogged by questions over its effectiveness and possible side effects. AstraZeneca said results it published on Monday in which the vaccine had demonstrated 79% efficacy were based on an interim analysis of data through Feb. 17, and it would now “immediately engage” with the independent panel monitoring the trial to share its full analysis. The British-based drugmaker on Tuesday said it had reviewed the preliminary assessment of its full, or primary, analysis and found it to be consistent with the interim report.
Reputation of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine marred by missteps
AstraZeneca’s repeated missteps in reporting vaccine data coupled with a blood clot scare could do lasting damage to the credibility of a shot that is the linchpin in the global strategy to stop the coronavirus pandemic, potentially even undermining vaccine confidence more broadly, experts say. The latest stumble for the vaccine came Tuesday, when American officials issued an unusual statement expressing concern that AstraZeneca had included “outdated information” when it reported encouraging results from a U.S. trial a day earlier. That may have provided “an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” according to the statement. AstraZeneca responded that the results, which showed its shot was about 79% effective, included information through Feb. 17 but appeared to be consistent with more up-to-date data. It promised an update within 48 hours.
AstraZeneca to publish more detail on US trial after concerns raised
Drugmaker AstraZeneca said it will release further data "within 48 hours" on US trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, after health officials raised concerns about the initial information disclosed. The company pushed back against a statement from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which said that "outdated information" may have been used to conclude that its vaccine was highly effective against Covid. "We have reviewed the preliminary assessment of the primary analysis and the results were consistent with the interim analysis," AstraZeneca said in a statement.
Again? AstraZeneca faces vaccine PR problems as regulators push back on data and pundits shake their heads
Epidemiologist and health economist Eric Feigl-Ding wrote “This is wild” in the first of his series of tweets explaining the back and forth between AZ and NIH. Just what did he mean by “wild,” someone asked? His answer: “This sort of thing never happens.” Eric Topol, Medscape editor-in-chief and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute said it was unprecedented for a DSMB “calling out a company about their data being incorrect.” Even President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci called it an “unforced error” on AstraZeneca’s part. “It really is unfortunate that this happened,” he said in an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday. “It was not necessary—if you look at it, the data really are quite good, but when they put it into the press release it wasn’t completely accurate,” he added.
AstraZeneca scrambles to update COVID-19 vaccine data after NIH flags 'concerns' about Monday's triumphant release
AstraZeneca’s vaccine prospects were looking up Monday when the company reported solid results from a new phase 3 trial it needed to win U.S. approval. Then, sometime after midnight, U.S. officials took the rare step of publicly questioning whether those data were actually complete. Less than 24 hours after the British drugmaker touted 79% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% efficacy against severe disease in an interim analysis—providing only sketchy details about the numbers in a call with reporters—the trial’s independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) raised a red flag to U.S. officials. “AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said in a statement overnight.
After leading a corporate turnaround, a swashbuckling CEO flies AstraZeneca into turbulence
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to become one of the drug industry’s leading lights. Now, after 11 bumbling months of Covid-19 vaccine development, the French-born executive finds himself at the center of a multinational credibility crisis, moving from scandal to scandal as his rivals bask in global acclaim. What’s become clear is that AstraZeneca has failed at exactly what is supposed to be its core competency: conducting research to develop new medicines and to prove that those medicines are safe and effective. On Monday night, the Anglo-Swedish drug giant stumbled into a public clash with the National Institutes of Health — with none other than Anthony Fauci, the NIH infectious disease expert who has come to be seen as America’s doctor, accusing the company in STAT and on “Good Morning America” of an “unforced error.”
The saga of mishaps and miscommunications overshadowing AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine
Yet again, AstraZeneca is in a crisis of its own making. The latest in the drug manufacturer’s long string of mishaps and miscommunications came Tuesday, when top federal health officials accused the company of highlighting in a press release overly positive data about the efficacy of its coronavirus vaccine. It came after widely publicized snafus like administering incorrect doses during clinical trials and keeping U.S. regulators in the dark after pausing a trial entirely due to safety concerns. And there were unlucky issues, too, like an investigation into blood clots in vaccine recipients, that were beyond AstraZeneca’s control.
‘I was sort of stunned’: Fauci and U.S. officials say AstraZeneca released ‘outdated information’ from Covid-19 vaccine trial
U.S. health officials raised concerns early Tuesday that positive results that AstraZeneca announced Monday for its Covid-19 vaccine may have been based on “an incomplete view of the efficacy data” from a clinical trial and relied on “outdated information,” throwing another curveball in the saga of the company’s vaccine. In a statement issued soon after midnight Tuesday morning, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been informed about the data questions by the data and safety monitoring board auditing the trial. DSMBs consist of independent medical experts who review data produced from clinical trials. “We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” NIAID said
AstraZeneca’s shot at redemption sows further confusion
The dispute between AstraZeneca and the independent scientists — who sit on the trial’s data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB — centres on whether the company was wrong to publish data collected before a February cut-off point instead of including more recent figures as well. In a letter sent to AstraZeneca on Monday, which was copied to the NIH and another US government agency funding the trial, the DSMB said it thought a broader analysis including up-to-date results would show a lower efficacy rate of between 69 per cent and 74 per cent, according to a person who has seen it. Anthony Fauci, a senior official at the NIH, told the Financial Times the body was “not accusing anybody of anything”, adding: “[We are] just saying very, very frankly and simply, that we urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the data, and to ensure that it’s the most accurate, up-to-date data that was made public.” AstraZeneca responded to the NIH statement by promising to publish the final data set from the trial within 48 hours.
AstraZeneca says data is ‘consistent’ with previous analysis after NIH questioned use of outdated results for COVID-19 vaccine
AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company headed to market with its COVID-19 vaccine, said Tuesday that its published results went exactly as planned, despite questions from the National Institute of Health.
AstraZeneca may have "included outdated information" in COVID-19 vaccine trial report
AstraZeneca may have used "outdated information" when it released data from a late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine early Monday, federal officials say. The Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) said late in the day it "was concerned" about the information the British drugmaker made public about the large-scale U.S. trial of the vaccine it developed along with Oxford University. CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus joins "CBS This Morning" to address the news.
AstraZeneca to reissue Covid-19 vaccine trial data after monitors raise alarm
AstraZeneca said it would reissue key data on its American clinical trial “within 48 hours” after the independent monitoring board that oversaw the study warned US authorities that results released by the company on Monday were misleading.
European Union set to curb Covid-19 vaccine exports for six weeks
European Union set to curb Covid-19 vaccine exports for six weeks
The EU is finalizing emergency legislation that will give it powers to curb exports for the next six weeks of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the bloc, a sharp escalation in response to supply shortages at home that have created a political maelstrom amid a rising third wave on the continent. The draft legislation, which is set to be made public Wednesday, was reviewed by The New York Times and confirmed by two EU officials involved in the drafting process. The new rules will make it harder for pharmaceutical companies producing Covid-19 vaccines in the European Union to export them and is likely to disrupt supply to the UK. The EU has been at loggerheads with AstraZeneca since it drastically cut its supply to the bloc, citing production problems in January, and the company is the main target for the new rules. Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/international/world-news-politics/european-union-set-to-curb-covid-19-vaccine-exports-for-six-weeks-965785.html
E.U. Set to Curb Covid Vaccine Exports for 6 Weeks
The European Union has drafted new emergency rules that will most likely severely cut exports to Britain and other countries to ease supply shortages at home.
WTO chief 'disappointed' in EU vaccine export restrictions
The director-general of the World Trade Organization said on Tuesday she was disappointed in the European Union’s export authorisation scheme for COVID-19 vaccines, saying that she was talking to the bloc about this measure. The European Commission said on March 11 it had extended the mechanism, set up at the end of January as a reaction to vaccine makers’ announcements of delays in deliveries to the EU, to the end of June. “While we understand the politics of what they are doing - I have said openly I am disappointed, particularly in the fact that they extended it from March,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said at a WTO online event, saying export restrictions must be temporary.
A national shortfall in vaccines in the UK likely
Covid-19: Birmingham GPs told to postpone vaccinating under 50s
GPs in Birmingham who had offered Covid-19 jabs to some under-50s have been told to cancel the appointments. Some patients aged in their 40s got text messages at the weekend telling them vaccinations had been postponed due to a "national shortfall". The UK will be affected by a delay in a delivery from India, but on Friday a record number of Covid jabs were given. The NHS said some Birmingham bookings had been cancelled because those people were not in a currently eligible group.
UK facing surge in coronavirus infections, problematic variants and 'vaccine stockouts', warns Professor Chris Whitty
COVID-19: UK facing surge in coronavirus infections, problematic variants and 'vaccine stockouts', warns Professor Chris Whitty
The COVID crisis will cause a "long rain shadow" and there will "definitely" be another surge in infections, according to England's chief medical officer. Professor Chris Whitty, speaking on the anniversary of the UK's first lockdown, warned of "bumps and twists on the road" as the country attempts to recover from the pandemic. And he also highlighted the "very big job of work" in preventing "lifelong" problems related to the effect of lockdowns, such as increased deprivation and non-COVID health issues.
Is Gibraltar a glimpse into the future for vaccination-leading UK?
Rock 'n' Rollout: Is Gibraltar a glimpse into the future for vaccination-leading UK?
Gibraltar, the tiny British territory on Spain’s south coast, was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this winter - but it has now become one of the most open places in Europe. With its population densely packed in, and frequent movement of people over the border from Spain, COVID-19 infected 4,000 of its 33,000 residents, killing 93. The small but packed population that made coronavirus so dangerous there, has also helped with the rollout of its vaccination campaign, with the government expecting to have vaccinated all residents over the age of 16 by the end of this month. Its successful vaccination campaign is largely down to the shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs from the UK. This has meant a recent easing of restrictions - and could be a preview of what the UK will be hoping to see when a high enough percentage of its 66 million residents has been immunised.
J&J plant authorization clears way for big boost in U.S. COVID-19 shots
J&J plant authorization clears way for big boost in U.S. COVID-19 shots
A large plant being used to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was cleared by U.S. regulators on Tuesday, setting the stage for the weekly U.S. supply to surge more then 20 percent. About 27 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be allocated to U.S. states and other localities this week, including 4 million from J&J, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. That is the largest allocation yet, up from 22 million last week. Earlier, the Indiana plant at which Catalent Inc is helping to manufacture the J&J vaccine received U.S. regulatory authorization, the companies said.
Catalent's Bloomington plant cleared to turn out J&J's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine: reports
Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been more of a trickle than a stream so far in the U.S., with the company still on the hook to deliver some 15 million doses by next week. But J&J has said it can meet that goal, and thanks to the approval of a U.S. manufacturing site, millions more doses could soon be on the way. The FDA blessed Catalent's Bloomington, Indiana, facility with an emergency nod to help produce Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine and ship out finished doses, Bloomberg first reported Tuesday. The CDMO could subsequently release millions of vials that have already been packaged and inspected, a source close to the matter said. The approval could be announced as soon as Tuesday, Bloomberg added, though Catalent didn't immediately respond to Fierce Pharma's request for comment. Reuters also reported on the plant approval.
Brazil situation remains alarming
Brazil's COVID-19 crisis affecting nearby countries
The worsening COVID-19 surge in Brazil—a dire situation that has filled much of the country's intensive care unit (ICU) capacity—is affecting its neighbors, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today. The group urged people and their leaders to take steps that slow the spread of the virus. At a briefing today, Sylvain Aldighieri, MD, PAHO's incident manager, said transmission in Brazil is very high and increasing in all regions, unlike the spike in 2020 that affected only a few regions. He said 26 of the country's 27 federal units have ICUs under stress, with 23 reporting more than 85% of ICU beds occupied. The country is battling the more transmissible P1 SARS-CoV-2 variant, which has now been reported in 15 Americas countries, Aldighieri said. Since the variant emerged in Amazonas state in late 2020, Brazil has experienced two spikes: one 2 weeks after Christmas and one 2 weeks after Carnival (Feb 12 to 17).
Brazil's Bolsonaro says he is still not 'convinced' by COVID-19 restrictions
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday said he had not yet been convinced to change his long-held stance against lockdown measures to control the coronavirus outbreak sweeping his nation. Speaking at an event in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said lockdowns only served to make the poor poorer, and he refused to moderate his position against stay-at-home measures which he said kill jobs. He added that Brazil’s focus should be on destroying the virus and not attacking his government.
In Brazil, COVID increasingly hitting the young
Leading the morning medical meeting at an intensive care unit in Sao Paulo, Jaques Sztajnbok reviews his COVID-19 patients. "We're seeing a high prevalence of younger patients, with no pre-existing conditions, hospitalized with very severe cases," Sztajnbok, head of intensive care at Emilio Ribas Hospital, told AFP. "The same trend is being reported at ICUs across Brazil." In Brazil, like most of the world, severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 were mainly among the elderly during the first wave of the novel coronavirus last year. Now, the country is dealing with a devastating resurgence of the virus, blamed partly on the emergence of a new strain known as "P1" or the "Brazil variant."
Covid-19 vaccines and the danger of religious misinformation
Covid-19 vaccines and the danger of religious misinformation
As coronavirus vaccines slowly roll out across the world, leaders are working hard to build confidence in them. Religious leaders in particular can play a crucial role in convincing people to vaccinate. Many are working hard to spread the news that vaccines are safe and effective, but as the BBC’s population reporter Stephanie Hegarty has been finding out, there are figures in almost every faith who are undermining that message, with some spreading misinformation which could lead to vaccine hesitancy.
Covid-19: Vaccines and vaccine passports being sold on darknet
Covid-19: Vaccines and vaccine passports being sold on darknet
Covid-19 vaccines, vaccine passports and faked negative test papers are being sold on the darknet. Prices range between $500 (£360) and $750 for doses of AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm or Johnson & Johnson jabs. Fake vaccination certificates are also being sold by anonymous traders for as little as $150. Researchers say they have seen a "sharp increase" in vaccine-related darknet adverts, while the BBC has been unable to verify if the vaccines are real. The darknet, also known as the dark web, is a portion of the internet that is only accessible through specific browser tools.
COVID-19 cases exploding
Yemen declares COVID-19 emergency as second wave accelerates
Yemen's internationally recognised government declared a health emergency in areas under its control, as infections in a second wave of a coronavirus epidemic surge. Yemen's six-year war has restricted testing and reporting of COVID-19,
Macron promises faster vaccine roll-out as infections 'explode'
France will offer COVID-19 shots to anyone over 70 from this weekend, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, as he sought to breathe more urgency into his country’s vaccination campaign. France and its neighbours are suffering a third wave of infections that threatens recovery in Europe’s largest economies. Hospitals could face an “unprecedented shock” within three weeks as infections explode, said the head of France’s hospital federation as he urged tougher curbs on social interaction if the spread did not slow soon. New COVID restrictions that closed non-essential stores and limited how far people can move came into effect in Paris and much of the north last weekend, but Macron stopped short of a full lockdown.
French COVID-19 figures going up at 'vertiginous rate': hospital executive
France will offer COVID-19 shots to anyone over 70 from this weekend, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, as he sought to breathe more urgency into his country’s vaccination campaign. France and its neighbours are suffering a third wave of infections that threatens recovery in Europe’s largest economies. Hospitals could face an “unprecedented shock” within three weeks as infections explode, said the head of France’s hospital federation as he urged tougher curbs on social interaction if the spread did not slow soon. New COVID restrictions that closed non-essential stores and limited how far people can move came into effect in Paris and much of the north last weekend, but Macron stopped short of a full lockdown.
Austria delays reopening restaurants as COVID-19 cases rise
Austria has postponed the reopening of cafe, restaurant and bar terraces planned for March 27 due to rising coronavirus cases and is preparing for regions to adapt restrictions locally, the government said on Monday. Infections have been increasing steadily since Austria loosened its third lockdown on Feb. 8 by letting non-essential shops reopen despite stubbornly high COVID-19 cases. A night-time curfew replaced all-day restrictions on movement. The number of new infections reported rose above 3,500 on Friday, the highest level since early December, when cases were falling during the second national lockdown.
School children having to isolate as COVID-19 cases break out
More than 200,000 pupils are self-isolating at home because they have Covid or have been in contact with positive cases after schools reopened, new figures show
Secondary school attendance has risen to 91 per cent since schools reopened. But up to 201,000 pupils aren't in classrooms because of Covid-19 concerns. The figures - up from 60,000 last week - have caused concerns over the spread of coronavirus through schools
In it for the 'Long Haul'
COVID-19 'long haulers' need dedicated clinics, experts say
The United States should create multispecialty COVID-19 clinics dedicated to treating patients still experiencing serious multiorgan effects of infection well after recovery from acute illness, say the authors of a comprehensive review of literature on so-called coronavirus "long-haulers" published yesterday in Nature Medicine. The exact number of US long-haul COVID-19 cases is unknown, but the researchers said that many patients struggle in silence or become frustrated when their doctors don't consider that their symptoms could be related to their previous infection. The review, led by researchers at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, found that the cell damage, inflammatory immune response, abnormal blood clotting, and other complications of acute COVID-19 infection can leave in their wake long-term symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, "brain fog," fatigue, joint pain, and posttraumatic stress disorder, all of which can compromise quality of life. The researchers detailed literature from the United States, Europe, and China on high percentages of long-haulers, or those with chronic or post–COVID-19 syndrome, who often have debilitating symptoms for more than 3 months. COVID-19 has been associated with diabetes, strokes, heart rhythm abnormalities, blood clots in the lungs, and other complications.
What we know and don’t know about long Covid
Whether you call it long Covid or post-acute Covid-19 or just identify yourself as a long-hauler, the constellation of prolonged symptoms after Covid-19 infection has become all too familiar. About one-third of people who were sick enough to need hospitalization — including supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation to breathe — still struggle with problems affecting their bodies and their minds four weeks or more after the first onset of symptoms. About 1 in 10 people who had Covid but were never admitted to a hospital report they experience bewildering brain fog, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, or crushing fatigue in the months after the first signs of their initial illness. Some see no end in sight; others seem to recover. To help understand how to recognize and treat this mysterious condition, researchers from Harvard and Columbia culled the scientific literature to guide treatment for nine organ systems where the SARS-CoV-2 virus does its damage.
UK Government considering mandatory vaccines for care home workers
Government considering mandatory vaccines for care home workers, says Hancock
Care home workers in England could be required by law to have a coronavirus vaccine under plans being considered by the government, Matt Hancock has said. The health secretary said legislation would need to be put forward in order to protect vulnerable residents but that there was already a precedent for such a move. “There is a duty of care that people have if you work in an elderly care home, after all, residents of elderly care homes are the most vulnerable of all to Covid,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “There are important moral questions on both sides, there would be a change in the law required, so this is something that we are considering but we haven’t made a final decision on and we do want to hear from care homes and indeed care home staff on this question.”