Germany to administer Covid drugs used to treat Donald Trump

Country will be first in EU to use antibody cocktails after government buys 200,000 doses

Specialist clinics in Germany will this week become the first hospitals in the EU to treat Covid-19 patients with expensive and experimental antibody cocktails used to treat the former US president Donald Trump after he caught the virus last October.

“Monoclonal antibodies will be used in Germany as the first country in the EU, initially in university clinics,” the health minister, Jens Spahn, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, confirming that his government had bought 200,000 doses for €400m (£355m).

Continue reading…

Vaccine experts call for clarity on UK’s 12-week Covid jab interval

British Society for Immunology calls for a robust programme monitoring the body’s immune response

Experts have called for greater clarity on the monitoring in place to assess the 12-week dosing interval for Covid-19 vaccines, as the row over delayed second doses continues.

The UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme was shifted late last year to prioritise administering the first dose of jabs to as many at-risk people as possible. As a result, the interval between the two doses of the jab was increased to up to 12 weeks.

Related: Doctors call for shorter gap between Pfizer Covid vaccine doses in UK

Continue reading…

Vaccine experts call for clarity on UK’s 12-week Covid jab interval

British Society for Immunology calls for a robust programme monitoring the body’s immune response

Experts have called for greater clarity on the monitoring in place to assess the 12-week dosing interval for Covid-19 vaccines, as the row over delayed second doses continues.

The UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme was shifted late last year to prioritise administering the first dose of jabs to as many at-risk people as possible. As a result, the interval between the two doses of the jab was increased to up to 12 weeks.

Related: Doctors call for shorter gap between Pfizer Covid vaccine doses in UK

Continue reading…

I’ve had my first vaccine jab. It gives me hope of liberation… but not yet

Exactly a year after his first story about coronavirus, our science editor received the Pfizer injection last week. Here he reflects on a remarkable scientific achievement

I marked a grim anniversary in an unexpected manner last week. On 18 January last year, I wrote my first story about a mysterious disease that had struck Wuhan, in China, and which was now spreading around the world. More than two million individuals have since died of Covid-19, almost 100,000 of them in the UK.

Remarkably, 12 months to the day that the Observer published my story, I was given my first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, allowing me to follow nearly six million other newly immunised UK residents who are set to gain protection against a disease that has brought the planet to a standstill. It was a rare, comforting experience after a year of unremitting sadness and gloom.

Related: World’s poor need action, not Covid ‘vaccine nationalism’, say experts

Related: The pandemic one year on: 100,000 dead in the UK from coronavirus

Related: UK bosses set up IT systems to track Covid vaccine status of staff

Continue reading…

Vaccine experts defend UK decision to delay second Pfizer Covid jab

Medics told they risk undermining public confidence by querying policy of three-month gap between doses

Leading vaccine experts have backed the government’s decision to delay the second dose for up to three months, after doctors warned that the strategy was proving “ever-more difficult to justify”.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, has suggested that the UK has become “increasingly isolated internationally” by deciding that the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine can be delayed, and called for a maximum delay of six weeks. However, several prominent scientists backed the government’s plan to maximise the number of people receiving their first dose.

Continue reading…

World’s poor need action, not Covid ‘vaccine nationalism’, say experts

Nations outbidding each other creates an ‘immoral race towards the abyss’

Pharmaceutical companies should do more to transfer vaccine technology to prevent the poorest countries falling behind in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, according to an expert.

The warning came from Dag-Inge Ulstein, the co-chair of the global council trying to speed up access to Covid vaccines for the world’s poor, known as the Act (Access to Covid-19 Tools) Accelerator. Ulstein, Norway’s international development minister, oversees the drive to ensure vaccines reach the poor – the Covax programme.

Increased transparency on the vaccine deals, including the number of vaccines, the delivery date and price.

Full value for money on the collective funds that the world has given to purchase these vaccines for the world’s poorest so they are purchased at cost price, and not to make a profit.

Increased production of vaccines can be boosted internationally by technology transfer and sharing by pharma companies to local and regional manufacturing firms.

Continue reading…

MHRA and vaccine makers in talks over new Covid variants

Scientists start work on steps needed for potential rapid development of a modified vaccine, AstraZeneca says

The UK medicines regulator is in discussions with coronavirus vaccine manufacturers about “potential modifications” that may be needed to ensure their jabs protect against new variants of the virus.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was no evidence that vaccines failed to work against the new variants that emerged in recent months, but said it had made the issue a priority.

Continue reading…

WHO platform for pharmaceutical firms unused since pandemic began

Exclusive: ‘pool’ to share Covid-19 information has received no contributions since May 2020

A World Health Organization program for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily share Covid-19 related knowledge, treatments and technology so they can be more widely distributed has attracted zero contributions in the eight months since it was established, the Guardian has learned.

The Covid-19 technology access pool (C-Tap) was launched in May last year to facilitate the sharing of patent-protected information to fight the virus, including diagnostics, therapeutics and trial data. The “pooling” of treatments and data would allow qualified manufacturers from around the world to produce critical equipment, drugs or vaccines without fear of prosecution for breaching patents.

Related: Global immunisation: low-income countries rush to access Covid vaccine supply

Continue reading…

South Africa paying more than double EU price for Oxford vaccine

Health ministry quotes says premium is because government did not pay into research and development effort

South Africa will have to buy doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine at a price nearly 2.5 times higher than most European countries, the country’s health ministry has said.

The African continent’s worst virus-hit country has ordered at least 1.5m shots of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), expected in January and February.

Related: ‘South Africa is going to get a third wave of coronavirus, even a fourth’

Related: Global immunisation: low-income countries rush to access Covid vaccine supply

Continue reading…

There are two new Covid-fighting drugs I haven’t heard much about – is it because they are unpronounceable? | Adrian Chiles

Generic medicine names can sound like random collections of syllables. But there is a method to it

It is a couple of weeks since the announcement of two important new drugs in the treatment of Covid. They have not really been mentioned since, especially in the broadcast media. I think I know why: their names are a right mouthful and have been made a meal of several times by people like me. The prime minister, alas, fumbled them in the first place, but on this occasion I don’t see we can blame him. Even with a bit of practice and a steady run-up, tocilizumab and sarilumab remain hard to say and next to impossible to remember.

I have long wondered where they conjure these names up. It is tricky enough, especially for older people, to get your head around what you’re taking and when and what for, without dealing with all these unmemorable, apparently random collections of syllables. I have been taking something for reflux for years and I still forget whether it’s opremazole or omeprazole.

Continue reading…

Single Covid vaccine dose in Israel ‘less effective than we hoped’

Surge in infections dampens optimism over country’s advanced immunisation programme

Israel’s coronavirus tsar has warned that a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine may be providing less protection than originally hoped, as the country reported a record 10,000 new Covid infections on Monday.

In remarks reported by Army Radio, Nachman Ash said a single dose appeared “less effective than we had thought”, and also lower than Pfizer had suggested.

Continue reading…

EU’s Covid vaccination debacle is down to institutional inflexibility

Supply delays underline there was no legal or economic justification for central planning

A storm is raging over the EU’s failure to have ordered more of the approved Covid-19 vaccines ahead of time. Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of the US pharmaceutical company Moderna, which gained approval for its vaccine shortly after Pfizer/BioNTech, claims that the EU has relied too much on “vaccines from its own laboratories”.

Did the European commission prioritise supporting its own pharmaceutical industry over protecting human lives? In fact, matters are not as simple as that. Contrary to what Bancel wants us to believe, the EU has actually ordered too little of its own vaccine. After all, the vaccine that is being administered most widely across the west was developed by a German company, BioNTech, and thus comes from the EU (though it was tested and partly produced in partnership with Pfizer in the US and with Fosun Pharma in China).

Related: The $2,000 stimulus cheques alone won’t work – the US needs better infrastructure

EU member states were wrong to entrust the European commission with the purchase of vaccines last summer

Continue reading…

UK to face short term delay in delivery of Pfizer vaccine

Overall number of doses delivered between January and March will remain the same, the firm says

The UK is set to face short-term delays in delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as the pharmaceutical company upgrades its production capacity.

Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in efforts to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021 – temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

Continue reading…

Second shots of Covid vaccine could be delayed further in England

Evidence growing that spacing doses of Pfizer vaccine improves effectiveness

Second shots of coronavirus vaccine could be delayed even further amid growing evidence that spacing out the doses improves their effectiveness.

The NHS vaccination programme aims to immunise about 14 million people at greatest risk of Covid by mid-February with second doses due to be given up to 12 weeks later.

Related: Vaccine supply is holding back jabs programme, says Matt Hancock

Continue reading…

Australia’s chief medical officer defends AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine amid efficacy concerns

Australia has secured 54m doses of the vaccine some experts say is inferior to Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, which Australia has bought just 10m doses of

  • Covid hotspots Victoria; NSW hotspots; Queensland hotspots
  • NSW and Sydney trend map: where cases are rising or falling
  • Follow the Australia coronavirus live blog
  • Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly and infectious diseases experts have defended securing 54m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine made by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, amid concerns the vaccine will not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity.

    The president of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology, Prof Stephen Turner, told Nine media that Australia should halt the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout because it has “lower efficacy”.

    Related: Australia’s Covid vaccines: everything you need to know

    The choice we have is not whether to use one or the other, it is whether to use what we have

    Related: ‘How dare you leave’: confusion remains for some Victorians stranded interstate

    Continue reading…

    Netanyahu touts Pfizer deal after 20% of Israelis get Covid jab

    Country will share data on its rapid vaccination campaign as ‘global model’, says PM

    One in five Israelis have been given first doses of coronavirus vaccines, roughly ten times higher than the UK and US, with the country aiming to have inoculated all eligible age groups within two months.

    Israel’s lighting-fast vaccine campaign had been expected to slow down this week as the first batches of Pfizer/BioNTech doses ran low.

    Related: Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers

    Continue reading…

    EU plans video summit after doubling supply of Pfizer Covid vaccine

    Bloc agrees deal for a further 300m doses as hopes are raised for speedier rate of inoculations

    EU leaders are to hold a pandemic video summit on 21 January after the bloc said it had reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300m more doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, giving the EU nearly half the firms’ global output for 2021.

    The move raised hopes for speedier inoculation across the continent as the European regulator, which this week approved the Moderna shot, said it would authorise six doses from each vial of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, increasing available jabs by 20%.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab is an mRNA vaccine. Essentially, mRNA is a molecule used by living cells to turn the gene sequences in DNA into the proteins that are the building blocks of all their fundamental structures. A segment of DNA gets copied (“transcribed”) into a piece of mRNA, which in turn gets “read” by the cell’s tools for synthesising proteins.

    Continue reading…

    Moderna Covid vaccine approved for use by UK medicines regulator

    Britain’s third jab to receive clearance for public use will not be available until the spring

    The Moderna coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.

    The jab is the third to be given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), along with the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca. But unlike the previous jabs, the Moderna vaccine will not be available for use straight away, with the first doses not expected to arrive until the spring.

    Continue reading…

    Third Covid vaccine set for UK approval next week but arrival delayed by Brexit

    Moderna jab won’t be available in Britain until April but fourth vaccine may soon come online

    A third Covid vaccine is likely to be approved for use in Britain next week but it will not be available until April because the UK is no longer part of the EU.

    Britain has ordered 7m doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by regulators in the EU and US. But UK authorisation will not help the government towards its goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable by mid-February.

    Continue reading…

    Britain could be mass-producing its Covid shot. Shame we junked our industrial base | Aditya Chakrabortty

    The dire state of UK manufacturing has left us dependent on other nations. We may soon find out why some call this a ‘national security risk’

    Everything now hinges on a vaccine: how many more Britons die, whether the NHS finally breaks, how long the UK stays locked down. All depends on how fast the country can get vaccinated against this plague. Yet we’re in this position in large part because of government failure. When the prime minister imposes lockdowns late and with a sulky grumble; when we haven’t fixed our £22bn test-and-trace system (which, by the way, now bankrolls more outside consultants and contractors than the Treasury has actual civil servants); and when the Dominics and Stanleys are allowed to carry on as if rules are for the little people. If Boris Johnson blunts every political instrument he can lay his pale and meaty hands on, pretty soon a syringe is the only resort.

    Vaccines were always going to be how the world limped out of this pandemic; but as Taiwan and New Zealand show, even without inoculation it is possible to drive the number of Covid cases significantly down. Compare their record with the UK – which is on course to hit 100,000 Covid-related deaths before January is out, and where a staggering one in 30 Londoners is today infected. The lecterns from which Johnson and his top advisers gave their press conference this week read “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives” – exactly as they did at the start of all this last March, as if to confirm how little progress they have made in almost a year.

    Related: For mRNA vaccines, we should stick to the schedule | Angela Rasmussen and Ilan Schwartz

    Continue reading…

    UK vaccine minister vows ‘massive uplift’ in number of jabs this week

    Nadhim Zahawi says ‘absolute focus’ is to get 13.9 million people inoculated by mid-February

    The UK vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has pledged a “massive uplift” in the number of coronavirus vaccinations carried out this week as he said reaching the government’s target of 13.9m jabs offered by February would be “challenging”.

    Zahawi, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My absolute focus is to get to 13.9 million … offered a vaccine by the middle of February, that is my target and I’m confident the NHS has a plan and we will meet that target.”

    The government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19 in the UK. The list is:

    Related: What obstacles stand in the way of UK’s Covid vaccine rollout?

    Continue reading…

    No data to support UK delay of vaccines’ second dose, says WHO

    Move to postpone second jab by up to 12 weeks is not supported by scientific evidence, experts find

    There is no scientific evidence for a delay of more than six weeks in administering the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid, say experts from the World Health Organization.

    The UK is planning to postpone giving the second dose of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines by up to 12 weeks – twice the length of time for which there is data, according to the WHO.

    Continue reading…

    Analysis: is it wise for England to mix and match Covid vaccines?

    US experts warn against plan to give different second jab if supplies run low

    The UK is setting the pace around the world in the approval and use of Covid vaccines but, while other countries watch intently, not all are yet prepared to embrace what looks like public health pragmatism rather than strict adherence to evidence.

    Britain is the first country in the world to approve and use the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, just as it was first with Pfizer/BioNTech’s. In a further trailblazing decision, it is giving everyone a first shot of either of those vaccines, with the second shot delayed to 12 weeks afterwards instead of the three- or four-week interval in the trials.

    Continue reading…

    How is the Oxford Covid vaccine being deployed in England?

    With jab to be administered to public for first time, we look at key questions about its rollout

    The biggest vaccination programme in the UK’s history will receive a major boost on Monday, with the first use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. We answer some key questions around how it will be deployed in England.

    Related: UK hospitals receive Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for Monday rollout

    Continue reading…

    The Oxford Covid jab is delivered this week. But when will vaccines bring results?

    Fall or rise in coronavirus cases will not initially be a good measure of efficacy, say scientists devising ways to audit progress

    People in Britain are set to get their first shots of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday, with millions of doses being given over the next few months. The mass vaccination of the UK’s population should bring an end to the country’s Covid-19 misery, but how long will it take for this immunisation programme to make a difference to our lives – and what will be the first signs that salvation is on the way?

    These key issues will be anxiously pursued as the battle against Covid proceeds and daily cases involving the new virus variant continue to spread. However, scientists have warned that simply waiting for a reduction in new cases it not the way to tell whether the vaccine is starting to have an impact.

    Related: Symptomless cases in schools could be key driver in spread of Covid-19

    Related: Why is Britain delaying second doses of Covid vaccines?

    Continue reading…

    What difference will Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine make in UK?

    We look at how the introduction of a new vaccine in the fight against Covid will work

    The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is central to the government’s plans for ending social distancing in the UK and returning to some sort of normality. It has invested in seven different vaccines, but the biggest order is for 100m doses of the AstraZeneca jab, most of which will be manufactured in the UK. While the prime minister was jubilant that the UK was first in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, he is now able to claim a British triumph. More to the point is the ease of use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Unlike Pfizer’s, it does not have to be kept in the long term at -70C. Pfizer’s vaccine can be stored in a fridge for five days, but AstraZeneca’s can be kept for months at fridge temperature, which is 2-8C and will be easy to take to care homes to administer to residents, the first priority group for vaccination.

    Related: BioNTech criticises EU failure to order enough Covid vaccine

    Related: World leaders urged to make Covid vaccine available to millions of refugees

    Continue reading…

    Change in vaccine policy is a high-stakes gamble | Letters

    The effectiveness of delaying the second dose of Covid vaccines must be carefully monitored, argues Dr Grizelda George, while Jan Mortimer and Jenny van Tinteren fear the move will increase distrust and uncertainty

    The manufacturer of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has said its efficacy has only been assessed for two doses given three weeks apart. Therefore the idea that a single dose will be protective beyond three weeks is speculative (Covid vaccine: chief medical officers defend rescheduling of second doses, 31 December). It would be truly tragic to vaccinate millions of recipients with the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine (at considerable effort and financial cost) with a twelve-week gap between doses if this doesn’t give them protection.

    It is worth noting that there is likely to be a correlation between the antibody response and protection from infection. Therefore volunteers who have already completed two doses could be asked to give a small sample of blood to check the level of neutralising antibodies present four weeks from the first dose. Recipients whose second dose has been postponed after 4 January could give a similar sample from 11 January onwards to check their levels at the four-week point. A relatively small number of volunteers (perhaps 20 or 30 in each group) might settle this.

    Continue reading…

    BioNTech criticises EU failure to order enough Covid vaccine

    Firm races to fill potential gap left by bloc’s gamble on several vaccines being approved

    BioNtech has criticised the EU’s failure to order more doses of its coronavirus vaccine, saying it is now racing with its US partner Pfizer to boost production amid fears of a European “gap” left by the lack of other approved vaccines.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved by the bloc late last month, after being accepted by the UK, Canada and the US. They and other countries have also since approved the Moderna or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, leaving the EU trailing behind.

    Continue reading…

    Sector by sector: are British firms ready for post-Brexit trade?

    Analysis: From retail to aviation to pharmaceuticals, we look at what will change from 1 January

    After months of tortuous negotiations between the UK and the EU, a Brexit trade deal was agreed at almost the last minute. But how prepared are UK businesses for the significant changes that will come into force on 1 January? Are they happy with the terms of the agreement?

    Continue reading…

    Questions hang over UK’s rollout of Oxford/AstraZeneca jab

    Analysis: regulator surprises by approving 12-week gap between first and second shots of vaccine as well as Pfizer/BioNTech shot

    It’s a pragmatic solution to an incredibly urgent problem – how to immunise very large numbers of people at risk from a rampaging variant of Covid-19 in the shortest possible time. The answer that government advisers have come up with is to give them all – more than 20 million of them – a single shot of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine so that they have some protection and postpone the second dose to three months afterwards, when hopefully there will be plenty of vaccine available for boosters.

    Related: How well does the Oxford vaccine work? What we know so far

    Related: The vaccine miracle: how scientists waged the battle against Covid-19

    Continue reading…

    ‘Happy vaccine day’ at Welsh factory proudly preparing Oxford doses

    Staff at Wockhardt in Wrexham buzzing at news of approval after working over Christmas

    Most of the sprawling industrial estate on the edge of Wrexham was quiet. There was little sign of activity at the engineering firms or in the self-storage units or greasy spoon cafes.

    But behind the wire fence of the Wockhardt UK plant, the laboratories and production lines were buzzing as scores of staff worked on the final part of the manufacture of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    Continue reading…

    ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’: 2020 smashes records in global markets

    From worst crash in a generation to record highs on news of a Covid vaccine, experts review the rollercoaster that was 2020

    2020 has been the most remarkable year for the global financial markets. After the Covid-19 pandemic triggered the worst crash in a generation, unprecedented stimulus measures and vaccine breakthroughs have sent stocks roaring back to record highs.

    In a year in which at least 1.7 million people died from coronavirus and unemployment soared in a global recession, world stock markets are ending 2020 up 13% – despite the latest surge in cases forcing further lockdowns this winter.

    GUARDIAN: Stock markets in biggest fall since 2008 #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/1FX7ivVZZT

    Related: As Airbnb’s shares go through the roof, we need to challenge the Big Tech monopoly | Will Hutton

    Continue reading…

    NHS doctors ‘scrabbling’ to get vaccine amid alarm at Covid variant

    Many medics ‘frustrated’ about low priority given to frontline staff at high risk of infection

    Frontline NHS staff have been denied the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, leaving doctors alarmed and “scrabbling” to get immunised.

    A new survey reveals that almost two-thirds of medics who responded to it have still not had the vaccine, half believe its delivery to the NHS frontline has been “ad hoc” and a third have no idea when they will be offered it. They fear the government’s decision to prioritise over-80s and care home staff above health workers has left them at risk of catching the disease, especially given the emergence of the coronavirus variant, which is 70% more transmissable.

    Continue reading…

    UK scientists trial drug to prevent coronavirus infection leading to disease

    Exclusive: antibody therapy could confer instant immunity against Covid-19 to at-risk groups

    British scientists are trialling a new drug that could prevent someone who has been exposed to coronavirus from going on to develop the disease Covid-19, which experts say could save many lives.

    The antibody therapy would confer instant immunity against the disease and could be given as an emergency treatment to hospital inpatients and care home residents to help contain outbreaks.

    Continue reading…

    Covid vaccine ‘highly likely’ to work on UK variant, BioNTech says

    Chief executive, Uğur Şahin, says team will know within two weeks if vaccine works or needs adaption

    The chief executive of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech has said he is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but that further studies are need to be certain.

    Uğur Şahin told a press conference that his team had been working on trying to find out whether the vaccine worked on the UK variant or whether it would be necessary to adapt it. Results would be known within two weeks, he said.

    Related: New Covid variant in UK: spreading Christmas fear?

    The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab is an mRNA vaccine. Essentially, mRNA is a molecule used by living cells to turn the gene sequences in DNA into the proteins that are the building blocks of all their fundamental structures. A segment of DNA gets copied (“transcribed”) into a piece of mRNA, which in turn gets “read” by the cell’s tools for synthesising proteins.

    Continue reading…

    Government ‘operated illegal buy British policy’ over Covid contracts

    Other firms better placed to supply antibody tests, argues case against health secretary Matt Hancock

    The government was operating an illegal “buy British” policy when it signed contracts with a small UK firm to supply Covid antibody tests, claim lawyers who have filed a case against the health secretary.

    The Good Law Project said there were a number of other companies in a better position to supply antibody tests in June and August, when the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed deals worth up to £80m with Abingdon Health without going out to tender.

    Continue reading…

    Belgian minister tweets EU’s Covid vaccine price list to anger of manufacturers

    Pharmaceutical companies complain of breach of confidentiality after amount EU has agreed to pay for leading vaccines goes public

    A Belgian minister has inadvertently blown the lid off a sensitive and commercial secret – the price that the EU has agreed to pay for the leading Covid vaccines.

    Belgium’s budget state ecretary, Eva De Bleeker, posted the price list on Twitter, with the amounts of each vaccine that her country intends to buy from the EU. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not soon enough to prevent interested parties taking screenshots, which have now made it public knowledge.

    Oxford/AstraZeneca: €1.78

    Johnson & Johnson: $8.50

    Sanofi/GSK: €7.56

    Pfizer/BioNTech: €12

    CureVac: €10

    Moderna: $18

    Continue reading…

    British American Tobacco wins approval to test Covid vaccine on humans

    Treatment grown on tobacco plants gets US backing for clinical study

    British American Tobacco has moved a step closer to producing a vaccine for coronavirus using tobacco plants, as it won approval in the US to begin testing on humans.

    The company behind cigarette brands including Lucky Strike, Rothmans and Benson & Hedges said the US Food & Drug Administration had given it clearance to begin a clinical study with adult volunteers.

    Continue reading…

    Scheme to get Covid vaccine to poorer countries at ‘high risk’ of failure

    Risk assessment documents say cost, delays and shortages could lead to billions not vaccinated until 2024

    The global scheme to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, internal documents say.

    The Covax scheme has been beset by a number of issues, including a shortage of doses of approved vaccines, and a decision by India’s Serum Institute, which was initially earmarked to supply Covax, saying it would prioritise supplying India first.

    Continue reading…

    Tensions mount over handling of UK Covid vaccine rollout

    With overall costs for vaccinating the UK population at £12bn, the public accounts committee flags ‘highly unusual’ arrangements

    Vaccinating the population against Covid-19 will cost up to £12bn, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has disclosed, amid details of tensions between health bodies over the rollout.

    The National Audit Office said the government would spend up to £11.7bn on purchasing and manufacturing Covid-19 jabs for the UK before deploying them in England.

    Related: Can the UK deliver on the Covid vaccine rollout? | Stephen Buranyi

    Related: Kate Bingham: well-connected but under-fire UK vaccines chief

    Continue reading…

    Ministers would be wise to play for time before ordering Sizewell C | Nils Pratley

    Dashing ahead with a nuclear power station that’s modelled on Hinkley Point C would be reckless

    This is the government’s problem as it reopens talks on a proposed nuclear power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk: it is contemplating ordering a replica of Hinkley Point C before the Somerset original has produced a single megawatt of electricity.

    That is not a small point. Developer EDF’s pre-Hinkley version of its European pressurised reactor at Flamanville in Normandy is about a decade behind schedule. What’s more, EDF wants UK taxpayers or bill-payers to bear more of the construction risks at Sizewell, a less-than-compelling offer when you remember that Flamanville is also €9bn (£8.2bn) over budget.

    Continue reading…

    AstraZeneca shares slump after it agrees $39bn Alexion buyout

    Britain’s biggest drugmaker offers 45% premium for shares of US rare diseases specialist

    AstraZeneca shares fell sharply after it agreed to a $39bn (£29bn) takeover of the US rare diseases specialist Alexion, the biggest deal in its history if it goes ahead.

    Investors sold off shares in the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker over fears it was paying too much for Alexion in the stock-and-shares deal. The offer price of $175 a share represents a 45% premium on Alexion’s closing price before the deal was announced. To finance the deal, AstraZeneca has secured a $17.5bn bridging loan.

    Continue reading…

    Deal or no deal: how life will look for key industries after Brexit

    Companies are praying a trade agreement can be struck, but must prepare for talks to fail. Which will be most affected?

    The scene is set for a showdown, and the future of the UK economy is at stake. Will Britain secure a free trade deal with the EU? Or will the prime minister choose to sail into uncharted waters, not only stepping outside the single market and customs union, as the UK will be even under a deal, but adding the tariffs and border checks that come with a no-deal Brexit?

    Armed with a determination to end the transition period on 31 December, Boris Johnson is poised to force British businesses to sell their goods and services across the EU without any of the benefits that a deal offers, and with only a few days’ notice. Here we assess the impact on some of the worst-hit industries of securing a deal – albeit a slimmed-down one – compared with the alternative.

    Continue reading…

    GSK/Sanofi Covid vaccine delayed until end of next year

    Trials reveal vaccine failed to produce a strong immune response in older people

    A coronavirus vaccine being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and its French partner, Sanofi, will be delayed until the end of next year after trials revealed it failed to produce a strong immune response in older people.

    The drug companies hoped to have regulatory approval for the candidate vaccine in the first half of 2021, but interim results from a phase 1/2 trial showed an “insufficient” response in the over-50s, the age group most vulnerable to severe Covid-19.

    Now that the UK has authorised the first Covid vaccine, who will get it first?

    Continue reading…

    Can the UK deliver on the Covid vaccine rollout? | Stephen Buranyi

    The challenge of delivering vaccines on this scale are hard, but are firmly within the world of logistics, engineering, and politics

    The UK has become the first country to approve one of the coronavirus vaccines that the entire world has been desperately waiting for. And on Tuesday it delivered the first dose, to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan in Coventry. We should be very pleased about this. But, as with every other stage of the pandemic, the final stretch brings a new set of unprecedented challenges. The world is watching as the UK becomes the first test case of our collective ability to manufacture, ship, and deliver an entirely new class of vaccines, on a scale and speed that no previous vaccination drive in history has ever approached.

    The thing everyone knows about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is that it needs to be extremely cold. The mRNA that makes up the vaccine payload is the same stuff your cells use to send short-lived genetic instructions. It’s a messenger that isn’t supposed to stick around, as temporally fragile as a Snap on Snapchat. The vaccine is happiest at -70C, and after thawing can be kept at between 4C and -8C – the temperature of a regular fridge – for just five days before it degrades. Most logistics providers aren’t set up to ship at -70C, and while university labs and large hospitals generally have some -70C freezers, GP surgeries and smaller centres do not. The temperature for shipping and storage has been identified as one of the biggest challenges in getting this vaccine out.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab is an mRNA vaccine. Essentially, mRNA is a molecule used by living cells to turn the gene sequences in DNA into the proteins that are the building blocks of all their fundamental structures. A segment of DNA gets copied (“transcribed”) into a piece of mRNA, which in turn gets “read” by the cell’s tools for synthesising proteins.

    Stephen Buranyi is a writer specialising in science and the environment

    Continue reading…

    Hackers accessed vaccine documents in cyber-attack on EMA

    Papers relating to Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reportedly targeted in attack on European Medicines Agency

    German biotech firm BioNTech said on Wednesday that regulation documents related to the Covid-19 vaccine it has developed with Pfizer were “unlawfully accessed” after a cyber-attack on Europe’s medicines regulator.

    Earlier, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – which is responsible for assessing and approving vaccines for the European Union – said it had been targeted in a cyber-attack. It gave no further details.

    Continue reading…

    Covid vaccines: US regulator sceptical over AstraZeneca model

    Vaccine developed in Oxford criticised by FDA with efficacy rates and trials delaying official take-up

    For a man presenting landmark results from trials of a vaccine that it is hoped will save the world from a devastating pandemic, Sir Menelas Pangalos did not look cheerful on Wednesday.

    Pangalos, executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, and his colleagues are undoubtedly exhausted, having been working round the clock on the coronavirus vaccine with Oxford University since April. But they are now dealing with a sizeable new headache – the doubts of the US regulator.

    Continue reading…

    NHS told not to give Pfizer vaccine to extreme allergy sufferers after two people have reaction

    Anyone scheduled to receive vaccine will be asked about history of allergic reactions

    Regulators have issued a warning that people who have a history of “significant” allergic reactions should not currently receive the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine after two people who had the jab on Tuesday had allergic reactions.

    Two NHS staff members who received the vaccine on the first day of the mass vaccination programme experienced an allergic reaction, the NHS in England has confirmed.

    Continue reading…

    Nine out of 10 in poor nations to miss out on inoculation as west buys up Covid vaccines

    Billions unlikely to get jabs as rich countries secure 53% of most promising vaccines

    Nine out of 10 people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 next year because the majority of the most promising vaccines coming on-stream have been bought up by the west, campaigners have said.

    As the first people get vaccinated in the UK, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is warning that the deals done by rich countries’ governments will leave the poor at the mercy of the rampaging virus. Rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the most promising vaccines.

    Continue reading…

    FDA: Pfizer Covid vaccine data fits with guidance on emergency authorization

    Comments raise hopes that the vaccine could soon be available to Americans aged 16 and above

    US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff said on Tuesday that data on Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was in line with its guidance on emergency use authorization, raising hopes it could soon be available to Americans aged 16 and above.

    The comments were made in documents released ahead of Thursday’s meeting of outside experts to discuss whether the vaccine developed by Pfizer with German pharmaceutical partner BioNTech should be authorized for emergency use in America.

    Continue reading…

    Covid vaccine arrives in UK hospitals ready for first jabs

    Medical director warns of great hurdles in largest vaccination campaign in UK history

    Batches of the Covid vaccine have begun to arrive in hospitals around the UK, ready for the first jabs on Tuesday in what NHS England’s medical director warned would be the largest and most complex vaccination campaign in the country’s history.

    The UK’s record-breaking approval of the vaccine and the rapid start of immunisation against Covid-19 did not mean the end of the pandemic was in sight, said Prof Stephen Powis. It would be a marathon and not a sprint, he said.

    Related: How does the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine work and who will get it?

    Related: How vaccine approval compares between the UK, Europe and the US

    Continue reading…

    Covid-19 vaccine ‘very safe and highly effective’, UK health chief says

    Vaccine safety message ‘vitally important’, head of medicines regulator tells Andrew Marr Show

    Public health messaging that people can have faith in the safety of coronavirus vaccines is “vitally important”, the leader of the body that has approved the Pfizer jab has said.

    Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said of the Pfizer treatment that there “should be no doubt whatever that this is a very safe and highly effective vaccine”.

    Related: The vaccine miracle: how scientists waged the battle against Covid-19

    Continue reading…

    The vaccine miracle: how scientists waged the battle against Covid-19

    We trace the extraordinary research effort, from the discovery of the virus’s structure to the start of inoculations this week

    In the early afternoon of 3 January this year, a small metal box was delivered to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre addressed to virus expert Prof Zhang Yongzhen. Inside, packed in dry ice, were swabs from a patient who was suffering from a novel, occasionally fatal respiratory illness that was sweeping the city of Wuhan. Exactly what was causing terrifying rises in case numbers, medical authorities wanted to know? And how was the disease being spread?

    Related: ‘I worked so hard in the lab. I cried when the news came’

    What Zhang did was critical … Without the information he provided no one could have started working on vaccines

    Related: Team behind Oxford Covid jab start final stage of malaria vaccine trials

    Related: NHS staff no longer at front of queue for Covid vaccine after rethink

    Continue reading…

    Covid vaccines offer chance for big pharma to improve its image

    They make life-saving medicines, but no one likes them. Could this year be a turning point?

    Never before has the world awaited a new medicine with such bated breath. A vaccine for Covid-19 has the potential to unlock society and save millions of people from death and serious disease, and the hero of the hour is an industry that is often regarded with disdain.

    “Traditionally and historically, public trust in pharma has been comparable to the trust they put in their broadband provider,” said Alex Davies, a healthcare PR expert at Hanover Communications, which counts many drug companies as clients.

    Continue reading…

    How does the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine work and who will get it?

    Covid vaccine with an efficacy of almost 95% has been authorised by the UK medicines regulator

    The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine, which has an efficacy of almost 95%, has been authorised by the UK medicines regulator, making the UK the first western country to license a vaccine against the disease. The UK has 40m doses of this vaccine on order.

    Continue reading…

    Zoloft enters list of 10 most commonly prescribed drugs in Australia

    Increase in women being diagnosed with depression partly behind rise in use

    An increase in women being diagnosed with depression is partly behind a significant rise in prescriptions of the antidepressant sertraline – sold under the brand name Zoloft – which is in the list of Australia’s most commonly prescribed drugs for the first time.

    On Tuesday Australian Prescriber published its annual list of the 10 most commonly taken drugs – based on standard daily doses for every 1,000 people in the population each day – along with a list of the 10 most costly drugs to government, and the 10 most common drugs by prescription counts.

    Related: Why mental health is the legacy-defining fight Scott Morrison can’t afford to lose | Katharine Murphy

    Continue reading…

    Oxford controversy is the first shot in international battle over vaccine efficiency

    Trials will not reveal all the facts on prevention for each new drug – that process could last for years

    In a few days, researchers plan to solve a medical mystery that threatens to erupt into a major transatlantic battle. Scientists at Oxford University say they intend to publish full, peer-reviewed data, in the journal Lancet, about trials they have completed on their Covid-19 vaccine.

    The information, they say, should end mounting controversy about the vaccine’s effectiveness and explain apparent inconsistencies in trial results. Opponents, most of them American, say this is unlikely, and insist new phase 3 trials now need to be restarted from scratch to restore confidence in the vaccine.

    Continue reading…

    Different age groups may get different Covid vaccines, experts say

    Oxford/AstraZeneca planning new trial of lower-dose jab to see how well it works in older people

    Concerns around the efficacy of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus jab in older people could lead to different age groups being given different vaccines, experts have said.

    The partners announced last week that the vaccine had a 70% efficacy overall. For most trial participants – given two full doses, spaced a month apart – the efficacy was 62%, but for 3,000 participants mistakenly given half a dose for their first jab, the efficacy was 90%. No participants, regardless of dosing, developed severe Covid or were hospitalised with the disease.

    Continue reading…

    BioNTech’s Covid vaccine is a triumph of innovation and immigration | Hans-Werner Sinn

    Pioneered by a Turkish-German couple, its significance exceeds its practical value

    The world took note when the German startup BioNTech announced its breakthrough in the development of a new type of vaccine to combat Covid-19. After testing tens of thousands of people, BioNTech’s vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective in providing protection for those who would otherwise have been infected. The company was the first to apply for emergency use authorisation for a coronavirus vaccine in the US and it has announced it will soon take similar steps in Europe.

    Antiviral vaccines are usually made with devitalised viral materials fabricated outside the body but BioNTech has pursued a new method of injecting genetically modified RNA into the patient. This prompts the patient’s cells to produce a characteristic protein of the relevant Sars-CoV-2 virus themselves, enabling the body’s immune system to build up an effective response before it encounters the real virus.

    Related: Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci: German ‘dream team’ behind vaccine

    Continue reading…

    Will everyone in the world have access to a Covid vaccine? – video explainer

    The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine is showing promise but it is premature to say the end of the pandemic is nigh. Several rich countries have signed a ‘frenzy of deals’ that could prevent many poor nations from getting access to immunisation until at least 2024. Also, many drug firms are potentially refusing to waive patents and other intellectual property rights in order to secure exclusive rights to any cure.

    Michael Safi, the Guardian’s international correspondent, explains why ‘vaccine nationalisation’ could scupper global efforts to kill the virus and examines what is being done to tackle the issue

    Continue reading…

    Here’s how to tackle the Covid-19 anti-vaxxers | Will Hanmer-Lloyd

    Do not demonise. To optimise the vaccine rollout, all of us must show respect to those who are unsure about inoculations

    • Will Hanmer-Lloyd is a behavioural strategist

    The Covid-19 vaccines, which are up to 95% effective, have the potential to save millions of lives in the UK and many more around the world.

    Yet creating the vaccines is just the first step. We now need to produce them as quickly as possible, work out the logistics of distribution and administration and – most importantly – ensure as many people as possible take them. And as the history of vaccines shows, that is not as easy as some might assume. You only have to look at the fall in uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine after it was falsely linked with autism.

    Related: Vaccine results bring us a step closer to ending Covid, says Oxford scientist

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    A vaccine revolution | podcast

    Results from clinical trials have shown that the world has three apparently highly effective vaccines for Covid-19. With the race now on for regulatory approval, production and distribution, is the end of the pandemic within reach?

    After a gruelling year of successive waves of Covid-19 infections and national lockdowns there has been a burst of good news this month, with three separate vaccine candidates performing extremely well in clinical trials.

    First, Pfizer and Moderna announced that their vaccines were testing at an efficacy of around 95%. Then came the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine (the one pre-ordered in bulk by the UK government) was hitting 90%. It marks not just a new phase in the Covid-19 pandemic but potentially a revolution in vaccine technology itself.

    Continue reading…

    Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to criminal charges related to US opioid crisis

    OxyContin maker admits to actions aimed at boosting opioid prescriptions, including conspiring to defraud officials and offering illegal kickbacks

    Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges over the handling of its addictive prescription painkiller OxyContin, capping a deal with federal prosecutors to resolve an investigation into the drugmaker’s role in the US opioid crisis.

    During a court hearing conducted remotely on Tuesday before US district judge Madeline Cox Arleo in New Jersey, Purdue pleaded guilty to three felonies covering widespread misconduct.

    Related: OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to plead guilty to three criminal charges – report

    Continue reading…

    Vaccine results bring us a step closer to ending Covid, says Oxford scientist

    Latest breakthrough comes as PM says he hopes most at-risk could be immunised by Easter

    The world is moving a step closer to ending the coronavirus pandemic, the scientist behind Britain’s first vaccine has declared, as Boris Johnson said he hoped the majority of those most at-risk could be immunised by Easter.

    Successful trial results for the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, suggesting it could protect up to 90% of people, are the third set of promising findings in as many weeks. Before this year, there had never been a vaccine for a coronavirus.

    The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

    Continue reading…

    Why AstraZeneca’s reward for Covid vaccine is a share price slump | Nils Pratley

    Despite the promising trial data, a viable – and profitable – vaccine is still some way off

    The stock market is cruel. AstraZeneca’s reward for unveiling promising data for its “vaccine for the world”, developed in partnership with Oxford University, was a 3.8% fall in its share price. No gratitude there – just a decline of roughly £4bn in the company’s value.

    Investors have to react somehow, but the strong response looks odd. AstraZeneca, remember, has pledged to distribute the vaccine at cost during the course of pandemic. For the purposes of that pledge, it’s a little vague who decides when the pandemic is over. But it has always been reasonably clear that AstraZeneca won’t make profits from the initial orders that have been received from governments and international bodies. So the day when the company can move to a for-profit model (with supplies to poorer nations remaining at cost) is still some way off.

    Continue reading…

    Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine ‘likely first to be widely used in UK’

    Experts say Pfizer/BioNTech product faces more logistical challenges and obstacles

    The Oxford vaccine is likely to be the first Covid jab that large numbers of Britons receive, despite Pfizer’s candidate already being analysed by the medicines regulators, experts say.

    The fact that the Oxford vaccine can be kept in normal fridges, whereas Pfizer’s product has to be stored at -75C , may see it enter widespread usage ahead of the latter.

    The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

    Continue reading…

    ‘It’s a great day’: Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteers on trial data

    Trial participants react to news that Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has up to 90% efficacy

    Dan McAteer describes his reaction more as a sense of relief than elation when his phone pinged on Monday morning with a push alert reporting that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has up to 90% efficacy.

    Several months on from becoming one of thousands of volunteers in trials of the Covid-19 vaccine, the 23-year-old student is trying to comprehend the news that people could be vaccinated as early as next month

    Related: Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccine: everything we know so far

    Continue reading…

    Oxford AstraZeneca results open up Covid vaccine to developing countries

    Jab can be kept in fridge and is part of global initiative to distribute doses at limited cost

    The efficacy of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine opens the way for a cheap and more easily transportable vaccine to be made available to some of the world’s poorest countries.

    Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine is already a part of Covax, the global initiative which hopes to distribute some 2bn doses to 92 low- and middle-income countries at a maximum cost of $3 a dose.

    Related: Latest vaccine success is good news but high price may restrict access

    Continue reading…

    The Guardian view on coronavirus and vaccine scepticism: time to act | Editorial

    Plans for mass immunisation against Covid-19 are developing fast, but concerns must be addressed

    In the 1960s, academics studying rumours drew inspiration from epidemiology. They noted how such stories spread through communities, “infecting” some individuals while others seemed immune, and how more resistant populations could stop their spread.

    Their insights have in turn been taken up by health professionals. Hearsay can be useful, helping to catch disease outbreaks. It can also be deadly. Though vaccine hesitancy is as old as vaccines themselves, it has risen sharply in many countries in recent years. Unfounded scare stories about the safety of immunisation programmes have contributed to growing scepticism and outright refusal, with fatal consequences. In her new book Stuck: How Vaccine Rumours Start – and Why They Don’t Go Away, Prof Heidi Larson notes the paradox: we have better vaccine science, more safety regulations and processes than ever before, yet a doubting public.

    Continue reading…

    Do mRNA vaccines for Covid signal a new era in disease prevention? | Adam Finn

    No one knew whether mRNA technology would work against this virus – but it does. It’s an extraordinary moment for science

    The past few months have brought a number of scientific terms to public attention. We’ve had to digest R (a virus’s reproduction number) and PCR (the polymerase chain reaction method of testing). And now there’s mRNA. This last one has featured heavily in recent news reports because of the spectacular results of two new mRNA vaccines against coronavirus. It stands for “messenger ribonucleic acid”, a label familiar enough if you studied biology at O-level or GCSE, but otherwise hardly a household name. Even in the field of vaccine research, if you had said as recently as 10 years ago that you could protect people from infections by injecting them with mRNA, you would have provoked some puzzled looks.

    Essentially, mRNA is a molecule used by living cells to turn the gene sequences in DNA into the proteins that are the building blocks of all their fundamental structures. A segment of DNA gets copied (“transcribed”) into a piece of mRNA, which in turn gets “read” by the cell’s tools for synthesising proteins. In the case of an mRNA vaccine, the virus’s mRNA is injected into the muscle, and our own cells then read it and synthesise the viral protein. The immune system reacts to these proteins – which can’t by themselves cause disease – just as if they’d been carried in on the whole virus. This generates a protective response that, we hope, lasts for some time. It’s so beautifully simple it almost seems like science fiction. But last week we learned that it was true.

    Related: What has to happen before a Covid vaccine can be used?

    Adam Finn is professor of paediatrics at the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre, University of Bristol

    Continue reading…

    Trials to begin in UK for Covid antibody cocktail drug treatment

    Scientists say jab could be used to protect those who cannot be given vaccines

    Major trials will begin this weekend of an antibody cocktail that scientists hope will protect people against Covid-19 and could be swiftly used in care homes or on cruise ships in the event of an outbreak.

    A UK volunteer will be given the first dose of a drug that is expected to give vulnerable people immediate protection. The jab into the muscle of the arm takes effect straight away and could last for six months to a year. If it works as well as scientists predict, it could be used to protect those who cannot be given vaccines because of their state of health.

    Continue reading…

    First Americans may get Covid vaccine in December if US approves Pfizer request

    Pharmaceutical partners submitted bid to the FDA for vaccine to be reviewed and emergency authorization may occur within weeks

    It could take as little as three weeks for US regulators to approve Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s emergency authorization request for their Covid-19 vaccine – with the first Americans being offered the first inoculation outside clinical trials in early December.

    The major turning point in the worsening coronavirus pandemic came on Friday morning when the pharmaceutical partners submitted their bid to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their vaccine to be reviewed.

    Continue reading…

    UK faces calls to drop opposition to patent-free Covid vaccines

    Request will be made at WTO meeting in order to allow mass production of treatments

    The UK will be asked to reconsider its opposition to waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments at a World Trade Organization meeting on Friday, a move that would allow mass production of treatments and inoculations against the disease and could significantly shorten the length of the pandemic, campaigners say.

    India and South Africa have proposed that WTO member states be allowed to waive patents and other intellectual property (IP) rights on any treatments and tools related to Covid-19 until the end of the pandemic, including for the Moderna and Pfizer/BionNTech vaccines that are expected to be approved for use in the coming weeks.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine has 95% efficacy and is safe, further analysis shows

    Among first 170 Covid cases in trial, eight had received vaccine and 162 were in placebo group

    The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 performs even better than previously thought, with 95% efficacy, equalling the early results from Moderna on Monday, according to an analysis of the final data from their trials, which paves the way for regulators to grant an emergency licence and vaccination campaigns to begin.

    The news will excite scientists, public health experts and politicians. Pfizer/BioNTech say they also have the necessary safety data that regulatory bodies require, and will submit the vaccine for emergency approval within days to the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators around the world.

    Continue reading…

    Standing ovation: Spike Lee to direct musical about Viagra

    The director’s next project after Da 5 Bloods is based on a 2018 Esquire article and will be co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah

    Spike Lee is to direct a musical about the impotence medication Viagra, it has been revealed.

    According to Deadline, the film will be Lee’s next project after Da 5 Bloods and American Utopia, and is based on a 2018 Esquire article headlined All Rise, which chronicled the discovery and marketing of the drug (called sildenafil citrate). Lee is co-writing the script with British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, current artistic director of the Young Vic, and the music is by songwriters Stew Stewart and Heidi Rodewald (who previously collaborated on the stage musical Passing Strange, filmed by Lee in 2008).

    First And Foremost, I Thank Ms. Jacquelyn Shelton Lee. I Thank My Late Mother For As She Would Say Taking “My Narrow, Rusty Behind” Dragging, Kickin’ And Screamin’ To The Movies When I Wuz A Nappy Headed Kid Growing Up In Da Streets Of Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn. I Did Not Want To See Corny People Singin’ And Dancin’. I Instead Wanted To Play With My Friends On Da Block, Stoop Ball, Stick Ball, Punch Ball, Soft Ball, Basketball, 2 Hand Touch, Tackle Football, Coco Leevio, Johnny On Da Pony, Hot Peas And Butter, Crack Top, Down Da Sewer And Of Course-Booty’s Up. All The Great New York City Street Games That Might Be Sadly Lost Forever. My Father, Bill Lee, Jazz/Folk Bassist, Composer HATED HollyWeird Movies, Henceforth And What Not, Me Being The Eldest Of 5 Children I Became Mommy’s Movie Date. She Was A Cinefile. Thank You Lawdy She Didn’t Listen To My Ongoing Complaints About Musicals. So Finally Going Into My 4th Decade As A Filmmaker I Will Be Directing A DANCIN’, ALL SINGIN’ MUSICAL Spike Lee Joint And I Can’t Wait. My Moms Has Been Waiting TOO!!! And Dats Da Rodgers And Hammerstein Truth, Ruth.

    Continue reading…

    Warren Buffett makes big investment in US pharmaceutical firms

    Berkshire Hathaway bought $5.7bn worth of shares in four companies in third quarter

    The investment company run by billionaire investor Warren Buffett bet $5.7bn (£4.3bn) on pharmaceutical companies during the third quarter of 2020, as the sector takes centre stage in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

    Berkshire Hathaway bought shares in drug companies AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Pfizer between July and September, according to filings with the US regulator.

    Continue reading…

    Easier distribution may make Moderna’s vaccine much more valuable | Nils Pratley

    While Pfizer/BioNTech’s version requires -75C storage, Moderna’s could be easier to roll out

    A second coronavirus vaccine candidate was always likely to struggle to match the excitement of the first, at least in stock market terms. Sure enough, Moderna’s promising trial results merely added to the generally bullish mood in markets without generating the same sense of wild relief, and 5% rise in the FTSE 100 index, that Pfizer and BioNTech achieved a week ago.

    But, actually, the key difference with Moderna’s version looks significant. It’s the fact the company says its vaccine can be transported and stored for up to six months at -20C and will then remain stable for 30 days at fridge temperatures. By contrast, Pfizer and BioNTech spoke about -75C in storage and then only five days of stability in conventional fridges.

    Continue reading…

    Moderna vaccine’s effectiveness bodes well for Oxford/AstraZeneca jab

    Phase 3 success rate of 95% for US firm’s treatment is promising for UK vaccine trial

    Hopes are rising for the Covid jab being developed by Oxford University, after Moderna became the second company to reveal impressive results from its vaccine trials.

    Interim results from phase 3 clinical trials of the Covid vaccine from US company Moderna has revealed it to be almost 95% effective at preventing the disease. The news followed an announcement last week from Germany-based Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine was more than 90% effective.

    Continue reading…

    UK in ‘advanced discussions’ to buy Moderna Covid vaccine

    Britain decided not to buy US vaccine and earliest it could be supplied to UK is spring 2021

    The UK has not acquired the Moderna vaccine but is in “advanced discussions” to ensure British access, officials have said, while cautioning that no one in the UK would be able to be given it until spring next year.

    A government spokesman said the company was scaling up its European supply chain but that it would be around four to six months before the vaccine might be available in the UK, a far longer timeframe than the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine, which the chief scientific officer has said could be available by Christmas.

    100m doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

    40m doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, reported last week to have 90% effectiveness

    60m doses of Novavax vaccine

    Continue reading…

    It’s the ‘vaccine hesitant’, not anti-vaxxers, who are troubling public health experts | Gaby Hinsliff

    To make vaccination work, we must reach out to the naturally cautious – a bigger proportion than you might assume

    Lydia Guthrie is not very daring by nature. A psychotherapist and mother of two from Oxford, she couldn’t be persuaded into bungee jumping for all the money in the world, and even shudders at skiing. “I’m very risk averse and a bit of a coward. I can’t even watch horror films.” Yet nonetheless, earlier this year she volunteered to be injected with an experimental Covid-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial in the city, a partnership between the university, the NHS and drug company AstraZeneca.

    Like all the guinea pigs, she doesn’t yet know if she got the real thing or the meningitis vaccine used as a dummy. She had a headache afterwards and felt exhausted for a couple of days, but has never regretted taking part. She trusts the university’s ethics panel, having encountered it through her own degree research, and was also swayed by gratitude towards the city’s John Radcliffe hospital, where she had her own children. “If it hadn’t been for the NHS we might all have died. I feel I owe them.”

    Continue reading…

    Moderna Covid vaccine candidate almost 95% effective, trials show

    US-based biotech firm is latest to reveal impressive results from phase 3 trials of jab

    The race for a coronavirus vaccine has received another shot in the arm with the US biotech firm Moderna becoming the latest to reveal impressive results from phase 3 trials of its jab.

    An interim analysis released on Monday, and based on 95 patients with confirmed Covid infections, found the candidate vaccine has an efficacy of 94.5%. The company said it now plans to apply to the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, for emergency-use authorisation in the coming weeks. In the trial, 90 of the patients received the placebo with the remaining five the vaccine.

    Related: Here are the major hurdles ahead for Covid-19 vaccine distribution in the US

    Continue reading…

    BioNTech vaccine scientist says jab could halve Covid transmission

    Uğur Şahin ‘very confident’ vaccine candidate developed with Pfizer will cause big reduction in cases

    The scientist behind the first potential Covid-19 vaccine to clear interim clinical trials says he is “very confident” the jab will reduce transmission of the disease, perhaps by 50%, resulting in a “dramatic” reduction in cases.

    The German company BioNTech and the American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer announced to worldwide acclaim last week that their jointly developed vaccine candidate had proved 90% effective in stopping people from falling ill.

    The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

    Continue reading…

    Vaccination hesitancy is about lack of trust. Compulsion is not the answer | Kenan Malik

    Better to build social solidarity than to dismiss reluctance to be immunised as ignorance

    “If a strain as deadly as the 1918 influenza emerges and people’s hesitancy to get vaccinated remains at the level it is today, a debilitating and fatal disease will spread.” So wrote Heidi Larson in 2018. Larson is director of the London-based Vaccine Confidence Project and probably the most knowledgeable person on the question of “vaccine hesitancy” – the unwillingness of some to get vaccinated.

    Two years after Larson wrote those words, we do have a pandemic that so far has taken more than a million lives, including at least 50,000 in the UK. We also have the possibility of a vaccine, the first of a number that could transform the Covid-19 landscape. Whether they do depends not just on how effective they are, but also on the willingness of people to be vaccinated. In the US, just half the population seems so inclined. In Britain, the figure is higher – about 70% – but still probably insufficient to generate herd immunity.

    The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

    Continue reading…

    Speedy work on Covid gives the vaccine industry a shot in the arm

    Pfizer was first with the news, but biotech firms, governments, banks and NGOs are all involved in the search for a jab to prevent coronavirus infectionThe leading candidate to become the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, developed by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, had its genesis in late January 2020. Uğur Şahin, chief executive of the Mainz-based biotech, read about coronavirus in the Lancet and worried that the outbreak could grow into a pandemic.

    Şahin summoned colleagues to tell them that the company would shift its focus from cancer treatments to finding a vaccine for the deadly virus. It would use a method based on mRNA, whereby a stetch of genetic material from the coronavirus is injected into the body, resulting in human cells producing its so-called spike protein. This in turn triggers an immune response. Pfizer stepped in to help with development and distribution costs.

    ‘Here in the US, a recent poll showed that more than half of people said they wouldn’t take a Covid-19 vaccine’

    Continue reading…

    BioNTech chief rejects Trump claim it delayed Covid vaccine news

    Exclusive: Ugur Şahin says he and Pfizer CEO received results night before announcement

    The scientist behind the BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has defended his company from Donald Trump’s accusation that it deliberately delayed news of its rapid progress until after the election, saying “we don’t play politics”.

    BioNTech, a German company, and the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Monday that their jointly developed vaccine candidate had exceeded expectations in the crucial phase 3 vaccine trials, proving 90% effective in protecting people from coronavirus infections.

    The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

    Continue reading…

    Scientist behind BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine says it can end pandemic

    Exclusive: BioNTech’s CEO Uğur Şahin says he is confident vaccine can ‘bash the virus over the head’

    The scientist behind the first Covid-19 vaccine to clear interim clinical trials says he is confident his product can “bash the virus over the head” and put an end to the pandemic that has held the world hostage in 2020.

    The German company BioNTech and the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced via a press release on Monday that their jointly developed vaccine candidate had outperformed expectations in the crucial phase 3 trials, proving 90% effective in stopping people from falling ill.

    Related: 6 key questions about the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    The Covid vaccine will benefit humanity – we should all own the patent | Owen Jones

    The pharmaceutical industry has long made exorbitant profits by free-riding on research carried out by the public sector

    Hooray for Pfizer! As news of a vaccine potentially offering 90% protection against Covid-19 offers a life raft for lockdown-weary humanity, perhaps those home-drawn posters on people’s windows thanking the NHS will soon be applauding big pharma instead.

    The hope of a successful vaccine to liberate us from protracted economic misery should be embraced – but we should be sparing with the bunting for the pharmaceutical industry. If you want a particularly egregious case study of “socialism for the rich”, or of private businesses dependent on public sector research and innovation to make colossal profits, look no further than big pharma.

    Related: The race to find a coronavirus treatment has one major obstacle: big pharma | Ara Darzi

    Continue reading…

    Why a Covid vaccine doesn’t mean the end of face masks yet | David Salisbury

    Despite the Pfizer breakthrough, social distancing and remote working won’t disappear overnight

    The news this week that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine protected more than 90% of recipients is of huge importance. The vaccine efficacy is higher than we had hoped for.

    There appear to be no safety concerns, although the final safety data along with other data on manufacturing and the full efficacy results will need to be submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to review whether it’s safe enough to grant temporary authorisation. This would allow the vaccine to be rolled out before a full product licence is issued.

    Related: Speed trumps efficacy in UK’s Covid vaccine rollouts, says adviser

    Continue reading…

    Where will poorer countries stand in the queue for a Covid-19 vaccine? | Clare Wenham and Mark Eccleston-Turner

    The lion’s share of the potential Pfizer vaccine is already claimed by high-income nations

    The news that joint efforts by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNtech have produced a vaccine that is 90% effective at protecting people from Covid-19 has been understandably applauded – in spite of the caveats. Pfizer states that it can manufacture up to 50m doses by the end of 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses in 2021.

    Given the desire to get life back to normal, these doses will be in incredibly high demand. Some governments around the world, including the UK, have already begun to indicate to their populations that they will receive a vaccine by Christmas. But how will the distribution of this finite number of vaccines work when we only have enough for one seventh of the global population?

    Related: Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine poses global logistics challenge

    Clare Wenham is assistant professor of global health policy at the LSE. Mark Eccleston-Turner is a lecturer in Global Health Law at Keele University

    Continue reading…

    Pfizer chief sold $5.6m of shares on day Covid vaccine was announced

    Pfizer said sale of shares by Albert Bourla was automated under plan set up in August

    Pfizer’s chief executive sold shares in the company worth $5.6m (£4.2m) on the day the drugmaker announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective in protecting people from transmission of the virus, triggering a surge in the company’s stock.

    Albert Bourla sold 132,508 shares at $41.94 a share, equivalent to 62% of his shareholding in Pfizer, according to filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is close to the $41.99 peak the share price hit on Monday.

    Continue reading…

    Mini-nuclear plants may be an experiment worth exploring

    Roll-Royce gave an eye-catching pitch but the economics of nuclear power needs further inspection

    An energy white paper is in the offing, so consider Rolls-Royce’s pitch for the wonders of small modular reactors (SMRs) a piece of last-minute lobbying. After all, it is clear already that more nuclear, in combination with more offshore wind capacity, is likely to be judged a central way to meet the UK’s targets for cutting carbon emissions.

    It’s an eye-catching pitch. “A domestic energy solution for the first time in a generation, with a product that is engineered, designed and manufactured in the UK,” as Tom Samson, the chief executive of the nine-member Rolls-led UK SMR consortium puts it. So not one of those mammoth £20bn-plus French-led and Chinese-backed Hinkley Point C constructions.

    Continue reading…

    UK security bill signals open door era for foreign takeovers is over

    China’s ambition to build a nuclear plant in Essex will likely fail on national security grounds

    The new national security and investment bill, aiming to give the government sweeping powers to block foreign takeovers and investments, will inevitably be viewed through the lens of China and new nuclear power plants in UK.

    That is, indeed, one way to look at it. Even before the Huawei 5G saga and Beijing’s introduction of draconian security laws in Hong Kong, the mood had cooled on Chinese ownership of critical UK infrastructure.

    Continue reading…

    FTSE 100 recovers to highest level since June after vaccine unveiled

    Promising clinical data from Pfizer and BioNTech help the index to a £28bn one-day gain

    Optimism that a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccines will lead to an economic recovery lifted stocks in London again on Tuesday, to their highest closing level in over four months.

    London’s FTSE 100 index of blue-chip shares rallied by nearly 1.8% to finish at 6,296 points, the highest close since 23 June. This added £28bn to the index’s value, taking its gains so far this week to nearly £100bn after it surged 4.6% on Monday on news of a vaccine breakthrough.

    Continue reading…

    Pfizer and BioNTech could make $13bn from coronavirus vaccine

    Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca pledged to make their vaccines available on a not-for-profit basis

    The US drugmaker Pfizer and the German biotech firm BioNTech stand to bring in nearly $13bn (£9.8bn) in global sales from their coronavirus vaccine next year, which will be evenly split between the two companies, according to analysts at the US investment bank Morgan Stanley.

    Pfizer’s half would be more than the US pharmaceutical group’s bestselling product, a pneumonia vaccine that generated $5.8bn last year.

    Related: Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine poses global logistics challenge

    Related: 6 key questions about the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

    Continue reading…

    Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine poses global logistics challenge

    Europe and US create vast facilities for Covid-19 vaccine but poorer nations lack infrastructure say experts

    Two vast football-pitch-sized facilities equipped with hundreds of large freezers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Puurs, Belgium, will be the centres of the huge effort to ship the coronavirus vaccine developed by US drug giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech, around the world.

    Governments are scrambling to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine, which must be stored at -70C (-94F), after the announcement from the two companies that it was more than 90% effective and had no serious side-effects. The news sparked hopes of a return to normal life and a stock market rally, but now minds are turning to the practicalities of getting the vaccine quickly to populations across the world, in particular to the vulnerable people who need it most.

    Related: 6 key questions about the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

    The problem is particularly acute in the global south where many rural villages don’t even have a working vaccine fridge

    Continue reading…

    The Guardian view on the Covid vaccine breakthrough: making it work | Editorial

    At last, there is hope of an end to this pandemic. Scientists appear to have performed an amazing feat, the rest of us must do our best too

    Medicine is only partly a matter of science; it is, very much, the business of people. The inspiring news that a Covid vaccine appears within reach, with interim results showing the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate has 90% efficacy in protecting people from illness, reflects the extraordinary efforts of scientists this year. The speed with which this one has been developed – with others close behind – is remarkable. Detailed data has yet to be published, and much remains unknown, including how long individuals may be protected, whether it prevents infection and how effective it will be for older people, who are most vulnerable to Covid-19. There are still no guarantees it will be used, though manufacturing has begun. Nonetheless, this is a potentially transformative moment.

    Now it is up to the rest of us to do our part. If this vaccine becomes available from the end of the year, as now looks likely, and others soon follow, the deployment will matter as much as its discovery. As one scientist has noted: “Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives.” Pfizer and BioNTech hope to make 50m doses available this year, but each patient requires two doses, and with the US, EU, UK and others all having placed advance orders, each country will get a tiny fraction of those it ultimately needs. Even if production of this vaccine is scaled up as planned, others will still be needed. The UK has a clear plan for who will be protected first, beginning with the oldest in society and those who care for them and thus might transmit the virus to them. Professor John Bell told MPs that there is a 70%-80% chance of having the most vulnerable covered by Easter if authorities “don’t screw up the distribution”. Mass inoculation will be a challenge; NHS England is planning seven-day services.

    Continue reading…

    Will enough people in the UK take the Covid-19 jab?

    The UK usually has a high take-up for vaccines, experts say, but there are fears over misinformation and scepticism

    The spread of scepticism and misinformation about coronavirus and the development of a vaccine for it has raised questions about whether it will pose a threat to the goal of achieving widespread immunity.

    A report published on Tuesday by the British Academy and the Royal Society for the SET-C (Science in Emergencies Tasking: Covid-19) group said an 80% take up of a jab could be necessary in order for enough people to become immune to the virus and stop its spread. However, the actual threshold will depend on the efficacy of the vaccine, and the 90% achieved by the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate in trials was higher than many dared hope for.

    Continue reading…

    Cautious optimism over Covid-19 vaccine trials | Letters

    Readers respond to news that an interim analysis has shown Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine candidate was 90% effective in protecting people from transmission of the virus in global trials

    The media have been awash with stories about the apparent success of the Pfizer Covid vaccine following the publication of preliminary trial outcomes (Hopes rise for end of pandemic as Pfizer says vaccine is 90% effective, 10 November). I am not surprised that the public has latched on to these, as hope and positivity have been in short supply this past year. I have even had patients contacting me about when the vaccine will be available, stating that it will allow “normal” life to resume.

    While the public can be forgiven for overoptimism, it is important that the medical profession, the media and the government keep expectations grounded and do not encourage the notion that we now have a panacea that will take us out of the pandemic.

    Continue reading…

    6 key questions about the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

    There are grounds for optimism but also several unknowns around this coronavirus vaccine

    Hopes that the end of the coronavirus pandemic has become nearer have soared after the news that a coronavirus vaccine was found to be 90% effective in global trials.

    Although there is definite reason to be optimistic, experts have cautioned that the data from the trials conducted by Pfizer and BioNTech are not final, and there remain plenty of unknowns.

    Related: Covid vaccine could be ready for rollout next month, says Hancock

    Continue reading…

    Despite the fine print, we can still feel optimistic about a Covid vaccine | Charlotte Summers

    Pfizer’s preliminary results are a huge development, although hurdles still lie ahead

    We could all do with some good news right now. After a long and difficult year of multiple lockdowns and numerous sacrifices, the announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech that preliminary results show their vaccine is 90% effective at protecting people from Covid-19 felt like the light at the end of the tunnel.

    The announcement is based on interim results from phase 3 of a multinational, randomised controlled trial – considered the gold standard of clinical trials – involving 43,538 people. Each participant was given two doses of the vaccine or a placebo 21 days apart, to see if this would prevent them developing Covid-19. To date, 94 of those enrolled in the trial have developed confirmed Covid-19. The data suggests that just eight of these had been given the vaccine.

    Related: If you’re pinning your hopes on a Covid vaccine, here’s a dose of realism | David Salisbury

    Continue reading…

    What does the Pfizer Covid vaccine breakthrough mean for Australia?

    Interim results show vaccine to be 90% effective, but findings have not been peer-reviewed, Australia has only secured enough for five million people, and there are concerns around its storage temperature

    • Pfizer says vaccine is 90% effective
    What has Pfizer’s vaccine trial found?
    Vaccine announcement is cause for cautious celebration

    News that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and partner company BioNTech have developed a vaccine that proved 90% effective in protecting people from Covid-19 in global trials has been heralded a “breakthrough”. Pfizer chief executive, Dr Albert Bourla, described the results as “a great day for science and humanity”.

    But what do the findings mean for Australia, and for the other Covid-19 vaccines being researched?

    Related: Hopes rise for end of pandemic as Pfizer says vaccine is 90% effective

    Related: The race for a Covid vaccine: inside the Australian lab working round the clock to produce 100m doses

    Continue reading…

    Global markets: winners and losers as Covid vaccine hopes send shares surging

    But the news highlighted divergences in fortunes across sectors during the pandemic

    The FTSE 100 posted its biggest one-day gain since March on Monday after the drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech said their prospective coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective.

    The news jolted global stock market indices to record levels but it also highlighted the stark divergences in fortunes across sectors during the pandemic. Those companies who gained from people spending their work and leisure time at home were among the biggest losers on Monday, while the vaccine news offered some welcome relief to previously hard-hit sectors such as travel and events.

    Continue reading…

    Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine announcement is cause for cautious celebration

    Interim trial results are encouraging as scientists welcome news

    It is not yet the end of the pandemic, but the announcement by Pfizer/BioNTech that their vaccine has been 90% successful in the vital large-scale trials has got even the soberest of scientists excited.

    These are interim results and the trial will continue into December to collect more data. The two companies – a tiny German biotech with the big idea and the giant pharma company Pfizer with the means to develop it – have not yet published their detailed data, so it is all on trust. And yet, nobody is suggesting the results have been over-egged. It looks as though the vaccine not only works, but works better than anyone hoped.

    Related: Covid-19 vaccine candidate is 90% effective, says Pfizer

    Continue reading…

    BioNTech’s Covid vaccine: a shot in the arm for Germany’s Turkish community

    Couple who set up and run firm are children of long-maligned ‘guest workers’ from Turkey

    When the German biotechnology company BioNTech picked a street called An der Goldgrube or At the Goldmine in the western city of Mainz for its headquarters, the couple behind it could not have predicted how prophetic the address would turn out to be.

    The company’s shares shot up 23.4% on Monday morning after the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with the US pharma giant Pfizer became the first candidate worldwide to show positive results in phase 3 trials, the crucial final stage of testing.

    Related: Covid-19 vaccine candidate is 90% effective, says Pfizer

    Continue reading…

    What has Pfizer’s Covid vaccine trial found and is this a breakthrough?

    Early results from phase 3 trial look promising but there are still many questions to be answered

    Pfizer and the German biotech company Biontech said on Monday that they had had encouraging early results from a phase 3 clinical trial of their coronavirus vaccine. The trial is assessing how well the vaccine works in preventing humans from becoming infected. Although details are scant, the news is positive.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    Global stock markets surge after Pfizer Covid vaccine news

    FTSE 100 jumps as Pfizer and BioNTech report coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective

    Global stocks have surged after the drug companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective in tests, giving hope that economies around the world can soon return to normal.

    The FTSE 100 soared on Monday by 5.5% to 6,242 points, up 332 points, its highest since mid-August. Most of the increase happened immediately after the vaccine announcement was first reported just before midday in London.

    Related: Global stocks hit record high on Biden victory and Covid-19 vaccine news – business live

    Continue reading…

    Future market for Covid vaccines ‘could be worth more than $10bn a year’

    Analysts estimate revenue generated, assuming an annual jab at an average price of $20

    The future market for Covid-19 vaccines could be worth more than $10bn (£7.6bn) in annual revenues for pharmaceutical companies, according to industry experts, even though some drugmakers have pledged to provide their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis during this pandemic.

    The calculations by analysts at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse assume people will need to be vaccinated every year, similar to the traditional flu jab, with an average price of $20 for a Covid-19 vaccine dose. Prices range from $3 a dose to $37.

    Continue reading…

    Oxford Covid vaccine works in all ages, trials suggest

    Vaccine being trialled by Oxford University and AstraZeneca offers hope for all age groups

    One of the world’s leading Covid-19 experimental vaccines produces an immune response in both older and young adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.

    The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among elderly people, said the British drug maker AstraZeneca, which is helping to manufacture the vaccine, on Monday.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Related: At 75, I’ve volunteered for a Covid vaccine trial. It could set people free

    Continue reading…

    Boots to offer 12-minute Covid testing service within weeks

    Pharmacy chain says £120 cost will be one of cheapest private tests available

    Boots is to offer a coronavirus testing service it says can return results from swab tests in only 12 minutes.

    The pharmacy chain said the LumiraDx devices, which are able to quickly process swab tests to give customers same-day results, will be rolled out in selected stores over the next few weeks.

    Continue reading…

    Boots accused of harming social distancing by roping off HQ toilets

    Employees at Nottingham head office say they were barred from toilets newly reserved for executives

    Boots roped off office toilets for executives during the pandemic, making it harder for ordinary employees to practise social distancing, the Guardian has learned.

    The pharmacy firm was criticised last week for “encouraging” staff to come into the head office in Nottingham, where cases are the highest in England, despite government guidelines to the contrary.

    Continue reading…

    Are we near to having a vaccine for Covid-19?

    Even a once bullish PM is now not so optimistic but there are promising signs of a vaccine on the horizon

    In March, Boris Johnson said we would turn the tide in 12 weeks and “send the coronavirus packing” and by May ministers were boasting of having a vaccine by September. Last week the prime minister sounded far less confident, telling MPs that there was still no vaccine for SARS, 18 years after it emerged. A vaccine may not be far away though.

    Continue reading…

    Boots bosses ‘encouraged’ staff to work at head office despite UK government advice

    Emails show senior managers ‘expecting’ attendance at Nottingham HQ despite big spike in local cases

    Boots told staff they were “encouraged” to come in to its headquarters in Nottingham, where Covid-19 infection rates are the highest in England, even after the government advised people to work from home where possible.

    Employees said messages from senior managers – seen by the Guardian – indicated they were expected to be at their desks for at least part of the week. Boots verified the messages, including one from its UK boss, Seb James, but denied that staff were put under any implicit pressure to be in its Nottingham office.

    Tier one – medium

    Continue reading…

    Boots chain reports 30% sales drop at retail sites in UK

    Profit margin fall, blamed on Covid-19 effects, drags global firm to $3m quarterly loss

    Sales at Boots slumped nearly 30% in the three months to the end of August as shoppers stayed away from town centres and picked up health goods at supermarkets instead.

    Over the three-month period, the UK retailer has lost share in every market in which it operates, except for beauty. Shoppers shunned its stores and opted to pick up pain relief, shampoo and soaps at the same time as their groceries, driven by fears of catching Covid-19.

    Continue reading…

    Johnson & Johnson pauses Covid vaccine trial over participant’s ‘unexplained illness’

    Company is unclear about whether patient was receiving vaccine or placebo in 60,000-patient study

    Johnson & Johnson has paused its Covid-19 vaccine trial due to an “unexplained illness” in a participant, the company confirmed.

    The pharmaceutical giant was unclear if the patient was administered a placebo or the experimental vaccine, and it’s not remarkable for studies as large as the one Johnson & Johnson are conducting – involving 60,000 patients – to be temporarily paused.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    China still allowing use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine

    Report reveals country has failed to fully regulate trade despite promises to crack down

    The Chinese government continues to allow the use of pangolin scales for traditional medicine despite promises to crack down on a trade that has made them the most illegally trafficked mammals in the world.

    A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals online sales platforms such as eBay and Taobao continue to advertise pangolin products, while major pharmaceutical companies, including the leading China Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group, offer similar items directly on their websites.

    Continue reading…

    Demand surges for Regeneron drug that Trump claims ‘cures’ Covid-19

    Doctors say patients are seeking to participate in drug’s trials as Regeneron’s stock soar after president touts treatment

    Doctors are reporting a spike in enquiries by patients for an experimental Covid-19 drug cocktail after Donald Trump called the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals drug “a blessing from God” that is a “cure” for the virus.

    Two doctors involved in the trial of the drug told Reuters that more patients are asking to participate in the drug’s trials, though medical experts have pointed out the drug, REGN-COV2, is still too early in its trial period to confirm that it can help treat Covid-19.

    Continue reading…

    Provider of Trump Covid drug is president’s golf friend

    Link to drug company boss raises questions about ‘cure’ claims and exclusive access

    New questions have emerged over the circumstances in which Donald Trump was given an experimental antibody drug cocktail produced by a golfing acquaintance to treat his coronavirus infection.

    As Trump wrongly hailed his treatment – which included a drug called REGN-COV2 produced by Regeneron – as a “cure”, it emerged that the company’s chief executive, Leonard Schleiffer, is a member of the Trump National golf club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and had met the president in May to talk about drugs his company was developing.

    Continue reading…

    NHS coronavirus tests threatened by Roche supply chain glitch

    Pharmaceutical firm reports ‘significant drop in processing capacity’ of reagents, kits and swabs

    Concerns have been raised over the supply of vital testing materials for a range of conditions, including Covid-19, following a supply chain problem with the pharmaceutical company Roche.

    On Tuesday, Roche said it had experienced a “very significant drop” in its processing capacity due to a problem with its Sussex distribution centre, the only one in the UK. It has been reported that the shortage includes vital reagents, screening kits and swabs.

    Related: UK government ‘thwarting independent labs’ efforts to step up Covid-19 testing’

    Continue reading…

    GSK tells UK staff: turn off Covid test-and-trace app while at work

    Drugs company says infection controls at some of its sites are so secure the app is not needed

    The pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline has told staff to switch off the contact tracing function that allows the NHS test-and-trace app to monitor the spread of Covid-19 while at work in case it is “disruptive” to business, the Guardian has learned.

    GSK, which is among the companies working on a vaccine for Covid-19, sent the instruction to employees at its research and development labs and some of its manufacturing sites.

    Continue reading…

    Trump’s steroid Covid treatment adds to confusion over health

    Dexamethasone ‘normally reserved for people going into respiratory failure’, says expert

    The latest intervention from Donald Trump’s medical team has been to put the president on dexamethasone, a steroid that is proven, thanks to the UK’s Recovery trial, to benefit Covid-19 patients who are having breathing difficulties.

    But the decision to administer the steroid now has only added to the confusion surrounding the president’s state of health. Normally, dexamethasone is reserved for patients who have been ill for at least a week and whose oxygen levels are low.

    Related: Trump doctors say he had two oxygen dips but is ‘improving’ and may return to White House tomorrow – live

    Related: Trump and Covid: what we now know about the week he caught the virus

    Continue reading…

    Anti-Covid treatments being given to Trump are still unproven, say experts

    Neither remdesivir nor REGN-COV2 have completed large-scale randomised trials, say UK scientists

    Scientists still lack conclusive proof that the two anti-Covid drugs given to Donald Trump are clinically effective.

    UK researchers point out that both medicines – remdesivir and REGN-COV2 – have still to complete the large-scale, randomised trials needed to demonstrate fully their ability to counter Covid-19 in patients. And many have criticised US authorities for their failures to carry out such trials. This has undermined efforts to find effective medicines to treat people affected by the disease.

    Continue reading…

    Katie Porter lambasts big pharma over cancer drug price hike using whiteboard calculations – video

    US representative Katie Porter used her now-signature whiteboard as she questioned former Celgene CEO Mark Alles over the connection between the significant price hike for Revlimid, a common cancer drug, and his personal bonus.

    The Democratic congresswoman for California presented her argument during a House oversight and reform committee hearing that centred on an 18-month investigation into pharmaceutical price gouging. The drug makers defended the price rises as the cost of doing research and development and talked about price-reduction programmes their companies offer

    Continue reading…

    UK doing more than most to help poor get Covid vaccine, study finds

    Campaign scoring countries for global access efforts calls for more British transparency

    The UK is doing more than most countries to support access to Covid vaccines for the poorest populations in the world, but it is not transparent enough about the deals it is doing at home, according to an international aid organisation launching a tracker.

    The One campaign has given countries and pharmaceutical companies scores for the efforts they have made to ensure the poorest get vaccines. In the vaccine access test no country or company scores green, the top rating, classed as aiding global access to vaccines.

    Continue reading…

    Thalidomide survivors mourn Harold Evans, their hero and friend

    Former Sunday Times editor’s genius and empathy will be missed, say campaigners

    At 5.39am on Thursday morning Guy Tweedy, a thalidomide survivor, campaigner and friend of Harold Evans, received an email from Tina Brown and Georgie and Izzy, the couple’s two children.

    Related: Sir Harold Evans – a life in pictures

    Continue reading…

    Pharmacies in England pause online flu jab bookings as demand soars

    Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy report unprecedented take-up and many chemists run out of stock

    Pharmacies across England are struggling to keep up with the demand for the flu vaccine, pausing online bookings and limiting it to those most in need.

    The country’s three largest pharmacy chains – Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy – have all reported unprecedented demand after a government vaccination campaign to reduce the pressure on the NHS during a second wave of Covid-19.

    Continue reading…

    Australia’s drug regulator TGA approves Covid tests that deliver results in 15 minutes

    Healthcare workers and health departments will be among the first to use the rapid antigen tests

    Australia’s drugs regulator has approved four rapid antigen Covid-19 tests for distribution throughout the country with health workers and departments among the first to use the tests than can deliver results in 15 minutes.

    The Australian pathology and pharmaceutical companies approved to import and distribute the tests are required to provide the Therapeutic Goods Administration with data about the efficacy of the tests over time. Supply of the tests will be limited to accredited laboratories, medical practitioners, healthcare professionals in residential or aged care facilities, and to government health departments.

    Related: NSW lifts more Covid restrictions as border reopens with South Australia

    Related: Covid map Australia: tracking new cases, coronavirus stats and live data by state

    Continue reading…

    From the archives: How Boots went rogue – podcast

    We are raiding the Audio Long Reads archives and bringing you some classic pieces from years past, with new introductions from the authors.

    This week’s article: Britain’s biggest pharmacy used to be a family business, dedicated to serving society. Now, many of the company’s own staff believe that its relentless drive for profit is putting the public at risk. By Aditya Chakrabortty

    Continue reading…

    Medical cannabis companies cleared for London stock market

    Regulator agrees to float of UK firms but recreational suppliers still banned

    Medicinal cannabis companies have been cleared by the UK’s financial regulator to float on the London Stock Exchange but firms that sell marijuana to recreational users will still be banned.

    The Financial Conduct Authority said businesses that grow and sell recreational cannabis, even in countries such as Canada where it is legal, cannot list in London because of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Income from the sale of cannabis and cannabis oil outside the UK could constitute “criminal property” under the act, because it covers conduct abroad that would constitute a crime if it happened in the UK.

    Related: Cannabis capitalism: who is making money in the marijuana industry?

    Continue reading…

    Beware of big pharma in rush for Covid-19 vaccine | Letter

    Heidi Chow on why the pharmaceutical industry must not be left in the driving seat to supply an effective Covid-19 vaccine

    The biggest gamble that governments are taking is not on specific vaccine candidates, but on the pharmaceutical industry itself (The Covid-19 vaccine gamble: where bets have been placed and why, 11 September). The pharmaceutical industry has long been criticised for defending intellectual property rights and profiteering. For decades, countless patients the world over have been denied access to life-saving treatments and vaccines because of high prices propped up by patent monopolies.

    Once an effective vaccine is discovered, we will need open sharing of the technological process so that as many suppliers as possible can make it, to ensure an adequate supply across the world. This is not a time for monopolies. While governments leave big pharma in the driving seat, there will be vaccine scarcity and the global race to hoard vaccines will deplete global stocks, leaving very little – if any – for the WHO to supply to poorer countries. This is not just morally wrong, it is also counterproductive, because we will only be safe if everyone is safe.
    Heidi Chow
    Global Justice Now

    Continue reading…

    Oxford University resumes Covid-19 vaccine trials

    Trials of vaccine being developed with AstraZeneca had been paused after participant fell ill

    The closely watched trial of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine that was halted after a participant fell ill is to resume in the UK.

    The University of Oxford, which has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to pilot the study, said that the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had recommended that its trials resume after an independent committee review of safety data triggered a pause last week.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    Show more empathy to boost confidence in vaccines, scientists told

    Expert behind vaccine confidence report points to halting of Oxford Covid trial as example

    Doctors and scientists need to show more empathy towards volunteers in coronavirus vaccine trials who fall ill if the public is to have full confidence in the safety of the vaccines being developed, say experts.

    The temporary halting of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca trial after one volunteer in the UK was admitted to hospital was good news, not bad, said Heidi Larson, who leads the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as it showed that scientists and the company were putting safety first.

    Continue reading…

    Oxford Covid-19 vaccine is still possible this year, says AstraZeneca chief

    Pharmaceutical firm’s boss says 2020 deadline possible if regulators move fast

    AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine could still be available by the end of the year, or early next year, according to the company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, despite clinical trials being paused after a volunteer fell ill.

    AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which are jointly developing the vaccine and testing it on 50,000 to 60,000 people around the world, halted trials on Wednesday to investigate the “potentially unexpected illness” of one participant.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    Oxford Covid vaccine trial suspension: what happens next?

    Tests have been paused after a UK volunteer became ill. How will it affect the search for a cure?

    One of the volunteers in the UK has become ill and it is crucial that the researchers find out whether this could be related to the vaccine. This is not uncommon in vaccine trials – and in fact it is said to be the second time it has happened with this vaccine . Very large trials are essential to pick up any rare side-effects. Something that affects one in 10,000 people, for instance, will probably not be detected in the early trials of just a few thousand.

    Continue reading…

    The Oxford University AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial has been paused – should we be worried?

    Is this the end for hopes of an early breakthrough in the race to find a coronavirus drug?

    The halt in development of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine due to a possible adverse reaction in a trial participant has triggered fears of a delay in finding a solution to coronavirus restrictions.

    A spokesman for AstraZeneca, the company working with the academic team to produce the vaccine, said the voluntary pause is “routine”.

    Related: Oxford University Covid vaccine trial put on hold due to adverse reaction in participant

    Related: Why are Australian church leaders opposing the Oxford coronavirus vaccine?

    Related: Covid-19: ‘possible’ Oxford vaccine data will be put before regulators this year

    Continue reading…

    Oxford University Covid vaccine trial put on hold due to possible adverse reaction in participant

    A spokesman for AstraZeneca, the company working on the coronavirus vaccine, said pausing trials was common during vaccine development

    The development of a promising Covid-19 vaccine has been put on hold due to a possible adverse reaction in a trial participant.

    A spokesman for AstraZeneca, the company working with a team from Oxford University, told the Guardian the trial has been stopped to review the “potentially unexplained illness” in one of the participants.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Related: Let’s get real. No vaccine will work as if by magic, returning us to ‘normal’ | Jeremy Farrar

    Continue reading…

    Why did the US justice department let Purdue off the hook for the opioid crisis? | Maggie Hassan and Sheldon Whitehouse

    Prosecutors believed Purdue was implicated in mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Yet the firm got a slap on the wrist

    The opioid epidemic is not over. Even as Covid-19 rages, opioid-related deaths continue to devastate communities across our states. In New Hampshire, overdose deaths rose in April and May over last year’s levels. In the first four months of 2020, Rhode Island overdose deaths jumped 29% from the same period last year and 38% from the same period in 2018. Opioid addiction remains a persistent, lethal menace.

    Related: Bleak new record as 71,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year

    The justice department could have made a stronger effort to stop a public health crisis in its tracks more than a decade ago. But it didn’t

    Maggie Hassan is a US senator for New Hampshire

    Sheldon Whitehouse is a US senator for Rhode Island

    Continue reading…

    GSK and Sanofi to start human trials of potential Covid-19 vaccine

    World’s largest vaccine makers to begin testing on people in US with eye on rollout in early 2021

    GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are to start testing their protein-based Covid-19 vaccine on humans for the first time, following promising results in earlier studies.

    GSK, the world’s largest vaccine maker, and the French drugmaker Sanofi joined forces in April to work on an effective treatment to halt the devastating pandemic.

    Continue reading…

    Italian vaccine makers in race to produce flu doses before winter

    Authorities order 50% more doses than in 2019 in bid to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed

    Italian vaccine manufacturers are scrambling to produce millions of flu vaccination doses amid concern there will not be enough to meet demand this autumn and winter.

    The country’s 20 regional authorities have so far ordered 17m doses between them – almost 50% more than in 2019 – as they seek to prevent the country’s health services from becoming overwhelmed if they also have to deal with a serious resurgence of Covid-19.

    Continue reading…

    AstraZeneca expands Covid-19 vaccine deal as final trials begin

    UK drugmaker and Oxford Biomedica to produce more of potential coronavirus product

    AstraZeneca has expanded an agreement with Oxford Biomedica to scale up production of its potential Covid-19 vaccine, as the race continues to find an effective prevention for the deadly virus.

    Under the supply agreement, the Oxford-based cell and gene therapy firm said it would produce tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s potential vaccine, AZD1222, for 18 months, which could be extended by a further 18 months into 2023.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

    Continue reading…

    Best not to look like your passport photo | Brief letters

    AstraZeneca | Sizes of cities | Starlings | Mickey Mouse degrees | Passport photos

    As a participant in the Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trial, I’d be put out if AstraZeneca rushed through a deal with Donald Trump in time for the US presidential election (Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine firm says it is not in talks with Trump, 24 August). AstraZeneca must issue a less ambiguous rebuttal of the reports of such a deal. If it doesn’t, I’ll withdraw from the trial.
    Paddy Clark
    Chiddingfold, Surrey

    • Britain’s most populous city in its own right is in fact Birmingham (Letters, 24 August). While Greater London is Britain’s biggest urban area, only the City of London and Westminster have city status. Manchester comes fourth (after Leeds and Sheffield), though this may depend on which boroughs you include – not Salford, surely?
    Matthew J Smith
    New Malden, London

    Continue reading…

    Oleandrin: Trump allies pitch extract from poisonous plant to fight Covid

    Experts raise concern over compound that has not been proven safe but could reach public as dietary supplement

    Allies of Donald Trump have promoted a plant extract called oleandrin to people seeking to ward off Covid-19. The plant the extract is derived from, oleander, is poisonous and there is no proof the compound is either safe or effective to treat or prevent Covid-19, experts say.

    But unlike other unproven and potentially dangerous Covid-19 “cures” pitched by Donald Trump and his supporters, including the prescription antimalarial hydroxychloroquine, experts fear this compound could easily reach the public as a dietary supplement.

    Related: What is blood plasma therapy and does it work for Covid-19?

    Continue reading…

    AstraZeneca starts Covid-19 antibody drug trial in UK

    Volunteers are receiving doses of drug, which has potential both as a vaccine and a treatment

    The pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca has started a clinical trial of a drug to help prevent and treat Covid-19, with the first volunteers already receiving doses.

    The company, which is separately developing a potential Covid-19 vaccine together with scientists at Oxford University, said the drug, known as AZD7442, is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies.

    Continue reading…

    Six of the most promising treatments for Covid-19 so far

    While a cure-all drug or therapy is a long way off, there have been some breakthroughs

    Many different drugs and therapies are being trialled and used on patients with Covid-19. There are some positive results, which may be beginning to bring the hospital death toll down, but there is still a long way to go towards something that will cure all comers. These are some of the most promising.

    Continue reading…

    Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine firm denies Trump talks

    AstraZeneca says it has not discussed ‘emergency use authorisation’ with the US

    The company manufacturing the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine has denied it is in talks with the Trump administration about fast-tracking its vaccine for emergency use ahead of November’s presidential elections.

    With both Russia and China pressing ahead with inoculations involving experimental vaccines yet to pass final efficacy and safety trials, the Trump administration has become increasingly frustrated with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which the president has tried to suggest is slowing approval of a vaccine for “political reasons”.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will we have a coronavirus vaccine?

    Continue reading…

    Here’s everything you need to know about the potential Oxford University Covid vaccine

    The vaccine is designed to mimic the coronavirus and train the immune system to react if a person is later infected

    The vaccine developed and tested by a team at Oxford University is one of the most promising of the many candidates being developed around the world to protect against Covid-19. Australia has now signed a letter of intent with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to supply Australians with the vaccine if it clears safety and effectiveness trials, with the prime minister now saying it won’t be compulsory but will be encouraged.

    Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine.

    Related: Covid vaccine tracker: when will we have a coronavirus vaccine?

    Related: Global report: WHO warns against dangers of ‘vaccine nationalism’

    A Phase II/III trial aims to enrol up to 10,560 adults and children across the UK.

    A Phase III trial in the US is looking for 30,000 participants.

    Brazil started a Phase III trial of the vaccine in June, which will enrol 5,000 volunteers.

    A team in South Africa is looking to enrol 2,000 people to trial the vaccine.

    Related: Will a vaccine or recovery from the virus give us long-term immunity to Covid-19?

    Continue reading…

    Purdue Pharma escaped serious charges over opioid in 2006, memo shows

    A justice department document shows prosecutors recommended the OxyContin face wire fraud and money-laundering charges

    A Department of Justice internal memorandum obtained by the Guardian shows that government prosecutors found evidence that executives at the drugs giant Purdue Pharma may have committed multiple crimes, including wire fraud and money laundering, to boost sales of its billion-dollar OxyContin opioid.

    The document comes to light as a new claim by US states for $2.2tn for harm from the drugmaker’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic was disclosed on Monday as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings.

    Related: Activists see Purdue bankruptcy case as last chance to call Sacklers to account

    Continue reading…

    Honey better treatment for coughs and colds than antibiotics, study claims

    Research suggests honey also more effective than many over-the-counter medicines

    Honey may be better than conventional treatments for coughs, blocked noses and sore throats, researchers have said. The substance is cheap, readily available, and has virtually no side-effects.

    Doctors can recommend it as a suitable alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such infections, even though they are not effective, scientists from the University of Oxford said.

    Continue reading…

    ‘Vaccine nationalism’ stands in the way of an end to the Covid-19 crisis | Stephen Buranyi

    Russia is not the only country pursuing domestic politics over global cooperation in the fight against coronavirus

    We’re all waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, but when Russia announced earlier this week that it would be the first country to approve one, nobody rejoiced. Scientists pointed out clinical testing wasn’t complete, the vaccine had been tested on fewer than 100 people. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he had “serious doubts” it would work. It was a transparent and potentially dangerous PR stunt. “It’s ridiculous,” the head of Russia’s Association of Clinical Research Organizations told the magazine Science, “I feel only shame for our country”.

    The mysterious vaccine may turn out not to be dangerous. The technology is similar to several approved vaccines, and Russia has said its release will be limited to healthcare workers and other at-risk populations until further trials are completed. China similarly approved an in-trial vaccine for military use with essentially no fanfare. But it’s unlikely to work – most vaccines don’t. The point for Russia appears to be to pass off a limited-release in-trial vaccine as completed in order to score a little nationalistic dopamine hit. (The project is even named Sputnik V, suggesting it is a successor to the Soviet rockets that bested the US in the space race.)

    Continue reading…

    UK agrees deals for 90m doses of two potential coronavirus vaccines

    Government secures early access to those being developed by Novavax and Janssen

    The UK government has reached agreements it says will give British citizens early access to 90m doses of two more potential Covid-19 vaccines.

    The vaccines are being developed by the US biotech company Novavax and the pharmaceutical business Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson and has its headquarters in Belgium.

    Continue reading…

    The Guardian view on Brexit bureaucracy: tied up in red tape | Editorial

    Businesses already struggling with the fallout from Covid-19 will be forced to deal with a mountain of new bureaucracy in the middle of a deep recession

    The government did not quite achieve the Brexit breakthrough it was seeking on Friday, when there was hope that a fast-tracked trade agreement with Japan might be reached. But it seems likely that a deal, essentially replicating one signed by the EU and Japan last year, will be done by the end of the month. Some kind of morale booster for Britain’s battered and bruised businesses would certainly be welcome.

    As the clock runs down to the end of the transition period on 31 December, ministers are no longer bothering to offer the false hope of a relatively frictionless trade agreement with the EU. Even a Canada-style free trade deal will mean a vast infrastructure of compliance and checks: permits for lorry drivers to enter Kent, huge customs clearance centres and tracking apps are all in the mix. The government estimates that, from 2021, there will be over 400m extra customs checks a year on goods going to and from the EU.

    Continue reading…

    Trump has no problem letting billionaires profit off the pandemic | Robert Reich

    The president thinks that as long as they buoy the stock market, they’re helping the US economy – and that’s pure rubbish

    Since the start of the pandemic, American billionaires have been cleaning up. As more than 50 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance, billionaires became $637bn richer. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth has ballooned 59%. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s, 39%. Walmart’s Walton family has added $25bn.

    Big drug company CEOs and their major investors are doing nicely, too. Since the start of the pandemic, Big Pharma has raised prices on over 250 prescription drugs, 61 of which are being used to treat Covid-19.

    Continue reading…

    Up to 750,000 UK Covid test kits recalled due to safety concerns

    Products made by diagnostics firm Randox removed from care homes and individuals

    the Up to 750,000 unused coronavirus testing kits manufactured by diagnostics company Randox have been recalled from care homes and individuals due to concerns about safety standards.

    At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is understood to have operated a haphazard policy for obtaining testing kits and it faced criticism for the purchase of millions of kits that turned out to be significantly less effective than originally claimed by pharmaceutical companies.

    Continue reading…

    Australia experiencing critical shortage of antidepressants, contraceptives and HRT

    Reasons for shortages are often unclear and substitutes, which are not subsidised by PBS, are prohibitively expensive

    Australia is experiencing a critical shortage of key drugs including antidepressants, contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies, a situation that experts say highlights systemic problems with medicine supply in the country.

    Most of the shortages appear unrelated to coronavirus disruptions, although in the case of the popular antidepressant Prozac, the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, cites “unexpected increase in demand” during the crisis. Other manufacturers refuse to detail reasons for the supply problems.

    Related: Australian drugmakers hit by critical shortages at height of pandemic, inquiry hears

    Related: Many doctors have colleagues they wouldn’t want to treat their own family | Ranjana Srivastava

    Continue reading…

    Covid-19: Gilead Sciences urged to study drug that showed promise with cats

    Activists are calling on the pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences to study a drug for the treatment of Covid-19 that showed promise in curing cats of a coronavirus.

    The drug, called GS-441524, is chemically related to remdesivir, an antiviral also made by Gilead, and one of the only treatments to successfully shorten the duration of Covid-19 recovery.

    Related: US secures world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir

    Continue reading…

    UK warns drug firms to stockpile in case of Brexit disruption

    Companies should ensure six weeks’ worth of drugs for end of transition period, DHSC says

    Pharmaceutical companies should stockpile six weeks’ worth of drugs to guard against disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period, the government has said.

    The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to medicine suppliers advising them to make boosting their reserves a priority.

    Continue reading…

    Return to work: a sector-by-sector look at the plans of England’s major employers

    Companies can return to work from 1 August, but many employers are making their own plans

    Major companies in England have been told that, from 1 August, they can discuss with workers whether it is safe to return to work. Up until now, the government had asked all employees to work from home where possible.

    In addition, the advice in England to avoid public transport is being scrapped. However, some of the largest office occupiers in the country do not appear to be in a rush to return to their workplaces, with many waiting for the end of the school summer holidays at the start of September. And some will be waiting until 2021 at the earliest before they consider asking homebound employees to return to their offices. Here we take a sector-by-sector look at some major employers and their working plans.

    Continue reading…

    Coronavirus: UK signs deal for 60m doses of potential vaccine

    GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur could supply vaccine by early next year if it is successful

    The government has signed a deal with the pharmaceutical firms GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur for 60m doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

    If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

    Related: Coronavirus vaccine tracker: how close are we to a vaccine?

    Continue reading…

    UK must ensure medicines replenished for Covid-19 second wave

    The trade committee urged ministers to develop “parallel supply chains” as a solution

    Britain needs to ensure its stockpile of medicines is replenished to deal with a second wave of coronavirus and any shocks to a supply chain dominated by China and India, the trade committee warned in a report released today.

    The cross party committee said the pandemic had revealed that 70% of the active ingredients used in pharmaceuticals in the UK are made in China – while India manufactured “virtually all” the paracetamol in British shops.

    Continue reading…

    AstraZeneca signs deal worth up to £4.7bn for cancer treatment

    Pharmaceuticals company buys global rights to new technology from Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo

    Drugmaker AstraZeneca could pay up to $6bn (£4.7bn) for the global rights to a new Japanese cancer treatment.

    The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company said it would pay $1bn (£800m) up front to its partner Daiichi Sankyo.

    Related: Covid-19 is Big Pharma’s chance to impress. But who’ll do best?

    Continue reading…

    Covid-19 is Big Pharma’s chance to impress. But who’ll do best?

    AstraZeneca and GSK both release results this week. But picking winners in the sector may be complicated

    It was the press announcement heard around the world: a potential Covid-19 vaccine from the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca had not only been “tolerated” by patients, but “generated robust immune responses against the Sars-CoV-2 virus in all evaluated participants”. The project will now proceed to all-important phase 3 trials in Brazil and South Africa to test if it actually stops infection.

    For a global population that has seen its movement curtailed and its health threatened, it was a welcome dose of good news. It is also a large feather in the cap for AstraZeneca, whose boss, Pascal Soriot, will unveil financial results for the first half of 2020 on Thursday.

    Continue reading…

    ‘Major’ breakthrough in Covid-19 drug makes UK professors millionaires

    Synairgen’s share price rises 540% on morning of news of successful drugs trial

    Three professors at the University of Southampton school of medicine have this week made a “major breakthrough” in the treatment of coronavirus patients and become paper millionaires at the same time.

    Almost two decades ago professors Ratko Djukanovic, Stephen Holgate and Donna Davis discovered that people with asthma and chronic lung disease lacked a protein called interferon beta, which helps fight off the common cold. They worked out that patients’ defences against viral infection could be boosted if the missing protein were replaced.

    Epidemics of infectious diseases behave in different ways but the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed more than 50 million people is regarded as a key example of a pandemic that occurred in multiple waves, with the latter more severe than the first. It has been replicated – albeit more mildly – in subsequent flu pandemics.

    Very proud of my husband’s efforts!!
    He is the CSO of this company. He and has team have worked their socks off over the last 5 months to make this happen.

    And the results are stunning! #COVID19 #Synairgen #SNG #clinicaltrials https://t.co/NThZDV1k0O

    Continue reading…

    The world needs a ‘people’s vaccine’ for coronavirus, not a big-pharma monopoly | Helen Clark and Winnie Byanyima

    AstraZeneca and others should not own a lucrative patent on a medicine that is needed by poor as well as rich nations

    See all our coronavirus coverage

    • Helen Clark is a former prime minister of New Zealand and Winnie Byanyima is UN undersecretary general

    To bring an end to the pandemic, the world needs a vaccine. Promising early trial results for the vaccine developed by Oxford University suggest we’re inching closer to discovering one.

    Related: Oxford offers best hope for Covid-19 vaccine this year, MPs told

    Continue reading…

    GlaxoSmithKline makes bold move with £130m Covid-19 investment | Nils Pratley

    GSK’s share price has been left standing by AstraZeneca’s high-risk success in cancer treatments

    Monday’s most important vaccine news was the promising early data from the Oxford University and AstraZeneca coronavirus trial – “robust immune responses” is encouraging. But let’s not overlook other vaccine developments. The industry has been viewed for years as a dull subsector of the pharmaceutical business; now it is a whir of deal-making activity.

    GlaxoSmithKline, already one of the world’s biggest vaccine makers, leaped into action by paying £130m for a 10% stake in German group CureVac, the company that briefly registered on President Trump’s radar (he suggested the US should buy the firm for its Covid-19 possibilities).

    Continue reading…

    GSK buys £130m stake in German coronavirus vaccine maker

    Stake of 10% in CureVac is part of deal that could eventually be worth more than £800m

    The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has bought a 10% stake in a German biotech company that is a key player in the global race for a coronavirus vaccine as part of a deal that could eventually be worth more than £800m.

    GSK on Monday said it would pay £130m for the stake in CureVac. GSK will also make a separate payment of £104m that will fund research into CureVac’s development of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines.

    Continue reading…

    UK ‘95% sure’ Russian hackers tried to steal coronavirus vaccine research

    Minister says Britain and allies confident Russian intelligence was behind cyber-attacks

    The UK security minister James Brokenshire has said Britain is “more than 95%” sure that Russian state-sponsored hackers targeted UK, US and Canadian organisations involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine.

    Brokenshire said the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and its counterparts in the other countries were confident “Russian intelligence agencies” were responsible for the attacks on drug companies and research groups.

    Continue reading…

    UK government orders halt to Randox Covid-19 tests over safety issues

    Care homes and members of public told to immediately stop using firm’s kits

    The UK government has instructed care homes and members of the public to immediately stop using coronavirus testing kits produced by a healthcare firm after safety problems were discovered.

    Randox was awarded a £133m contract in March to produce the testing kits for England, Wales and Northern Ireland without any other firms being given the opportunity to bid for the work.

    Continue reading…

    The Guardian view on a women’s health scandal: under the skin | Editorial

    An official review of vaginal mesh and medicines in pregnancy reveals systemic weaknesses, and sexism too

    Greater openness about women’s bodies was one of the big themes of postwar feminism. Access to contraception and the right to terminate a pregnancy were crucial stepping stones on a path to liberation from a social order that for centuries constrained women. The right to choose whether to have children is now well established, along with access to education, employment and equal pay (although gender pay and pension gaps remain). But sexism has not gone away. Among the findings of the Independent Medical Devices and Medicines Safety Review set up to investigate vaginal mesh implants is that the UK’s health system has a habit of ignoring women.

    One patient likened the search for a doctor who would take seriously her concerns about the implants, which were widely used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence until 2018, to “traipsing through treacle”. A former doctor referred to an “unconscious negative bias” towards middle-aged women in chronic pain. The report described a culture in which “anything and everything” women said about their discomfort was put down to the menopause.

    Continue reading…

    Pelvic mesh scandal is what happens when men with power ignore women | Richard Vize

    Cumberlege report is a damning reminder of how arrogant, intimidating doctors have suppressed their patients’ views

    Julia Cumberlege’s report into avoidable harm inflicted by the healthcare system exposes an institutional inability to listen to patients in general and women in particular.

    Her investigation into decades of failure batters the reputation of the NHS, professional bodies, regulators, manufacturers, private providers and policymakers.

    Related: ‘It took years to get diagnosed’: the women who were not listened to

    Related: The pelvic mesh scandal makes it clear: doctors must declare any funding | Margaret McCartney

    Related: Sign up for Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals

    In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected]. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

    Continue reading…

    The pelvic mesh scandal makes it clear: doctors must declare any funding | Margaret McCartney

    We need a public register to show if healthcare professionals are in the pay of industry – or more patients will suffer

    It was never “just women’s problems”. After decades of having their suffering dismissed, many patients will have been relieved about the publication of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review yesterday. Led by Julia Cumberlege, the review has spent two years investigating three medical interventions: pelvic mesh, used in prolapse surgery, which resulted in chronic, life-changing pain for many women; Primodos, a hormonal pregnancy test, used up until 1978; and sodium valproate, an epilepsy treatment. The latter two have both been linked with birth defects.

    Related: Denial of women’s concerns contributed to decades of medical scandals, says inquiry

    Continue reading…

    Activists see Purdue bankruptcy case as last chance to call Sacklers to account

    The family behind the firm that made OxyContin denies wrongdoing – but numerous cases against them have been halted while a court deliberates

    With most Americans transfixed for months by the election, Donald Trump’s impeachment, the coronavirus and economic catastrophes and anti-racism protests, the nation’s opioids crisis risks becoming “the forgotten epidemic”.

    But millions of people continue to struggle with painkiller addiction or recovery efforts amid the Covid-19 pandemic, while billions of dollars and – as important to many – a sense of justice are at stake in huge legal battles still raging between opioid victims and “big pharma”.

    Related: What does Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy filing actually mean?

    Related: House of pain: who are the Sacklers under fire in lawsuits over opioids?

    Related: ‘I don’t know how they live with themselves’ – artist Nan Goldin​ takes on the billionaire family behind OxyContin

    Related: Sackler family members face mass litigation and criminal investigations over opioids crisis

    Continue reading…

    Thanks to a new drug for cystic fibrosis, I can plan a future I thought I’d never have | Isabelle Jani-Friend

    With the NHS deal on Kaftrio, I’m likely to live longer. This is why swift access to novel treatments is so important

    It’s been 15 weeks since I went into isolation to shield from Covid-19 – having cystic fibrosis (CF) put me in the high-risk category. I had expected this year to be a write-off but, after a devastating four months, 2020 may finally be looking up.

    While the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures has provided relief for many, there has been more specific, and life-changing, recent news for CF patients: soon we will be able to get our hands on the drug Kaftrio under the NHS. Now for the first time in my life, I can plan a future I never expected to have. Regular hospital admissions and hours of unbearable pain may no longer be my reality, and growing old is something I may actually get to experience.

    I always thought I would have to suffer from disease for the rest of my life, feeling it take over and destroy my body

    Related: The Tories must learn from the Orkambi victory and keep drug-pricing off the table | Diarmaid McDonald

    Isabelle Jani-Friend is a journalist

    Continue reading…

    Jonathan Sackler, joint owner of opioid maker Purdue Pharma, dies aged 65

    • Former pharmaceutical executive died of cancer on 30 June
    • Sackler was named as defendant in key opioid lawsuits

    Jonathan Sackler, one of the owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the controversial opioid prescription painkiller OxyContin has died, the company confirmed on Monday.

    Sackler died on 30 June, according to a court filing. He was 65 and the cause of death was cancer.

    Related: House of pain: who are the Sacklers under fire in lawsuits over opioids?

    Continue reading…

    WHO says trials show malaria and HIV drugs don’t cut Covid-19 hospital deaths

    Hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir not found to help patients in hospital

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that it was discontinuing its trials of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir for patients in hospital with Covid-19 after they failed to reduce mortality.

    The setback came as WHO also reported more than 200,000 new cases globally of the disease for the first time in a single day. The US accounted for 53,213 of the total 212,326 new cases recorded on Friday, the WHO said.

    Hydroxychloroquine, also known by its brand name, Plaquenil, is a drug used to treat malaria. It is a less toxic version of chloroquine, another malaria drug, which itself is related to quinine, an ingredient in tonic water.

    Related: Oxford offers best hope for Covid-19 vaccine this year, MPs told

    Continue reading…

    Oxford offers best hope for Covid-19 vaccine this year, MPs told

    University is leading rivals but first drugs may not work fully, says vaccine taskforce chair

    Oxford University is leading the world in developing a vaccine against Covid-19 and offers the best chance of having something protective against the virus as we go into winter, MPs have been told.

    Kate Bingham, chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, said she expected to have a vaccine “early next year” from one or more of the candidates, although it was possible the first vaccines might only “help alleviate the symptoms” so that people have a less serious bout of disease, rather than fully protecting them.

    Related: ‘I felt guilty’: volunteer on signing up for Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial

    Related: The Lancet’s editor: ‘The UK’s response to coronavirus is the greatest science policy failure for a generation’

    Continue reading…

    US secures world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir

    No other country will be able to buy remdesivir, which can help recovery from Covid-19, for next three months at least

    The US has bought up virtually all the stocks for the next three months of one of the two drugs proven to work against Covid-19, leaving none for the UK, Europe or most of the rest of the world.

    Experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the US unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available. The Trump administration has already shown that it is prepared to outbid and outmanoeuvre all other countries to secure the medical supplies it needs for the US.

    Related: Remdesivir: US allows emergency use of experimental drug for coronavirus

    Continue reading…

    I believe Roundup gave me cancer. The Monsanto settlement is a slap in the face | Christine Sheppard

    I have to inject myself with needles just to stay alive. Still, Bayer will continue to sell Roundup, and refused to label it as carcinogenic

    Last Wednesday was my 71st birthday, a low-key celebration in these Covid-19 times. Then I heard the news that the pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer has offered a settlement to resolve several massive class-action lawsuits alleging that the company’s herbicide, Roundup, is dangerous and causes cancer.

    I’m one of the thousands of people who filed suit. The news of the settlement ruined my birthday.

    Bayer admitted no guilt, will continue to sell Roundup, and refused to label it as carcinogenic. People will continue to get cancer from it

    Christine Sheppard was born in Hertfordshire, England, and immigrated to the US in 1980. She is now a retired grandmother living in southern California

    Continue reading…

    Watchdogs warn pharmacies not to hike price of face masks

    Regulators also criticise sale of paracetamol and hand sanitiser at excessive costs

    Two UK watchdogs have warned pharmacies they should not be overcharging customers for in-demand items including face masks, hand sanitiser and paracetamol.

    With face masks compulsory on public transport and increasing numbers of people returning to work, these products remain in high demand but in a joint letter to businesses, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said this was not an opportunity to hike prices.

    Continue reading…

    Australian drugmakers hit by critical shortages at height of pandemic, inquiry hears

    Evidence given to parliamentary committee sparks new calls to develop national capability to manufacture medicines and key supplies

    Australian companies were “shocked” to experience price-gouging and had trouble accessing critical supplies to make medicines and personal protective equipment at the height of the pandemic, a parliamentary committee has been told.

    It has prompted fresh calls for Australia to build up its ability to manufacture critical drugs “without reliance on opaque and fragile offshore supply chains”.

    Related: Paracetamol and Ventolin limited to one per customer as Australia combats coronavirus hoarding

    Related: Australia needs a national centre for disease control, peak doctors’ group says

    Continue reading…

    How will the world’s poorest people get a coronavirus vaccine? | Achal Prabhala and Kate Elder

    Rich countries’ governments are putting all their trust in a marriage of markets and philanthropy called Gavi

    Vaccines for Covid-19 are coming. Billions of dollars are flowing in, over 100 efforts are under way, and at least 13 leading candidates are already being tested on humans. But how will these vaccines reach the poorest people on the planet? This question haunts the fate of more than half the world’s population. It is the central question of our time. The failure to address this question in the past has resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths – and yet, some believe there is a simple answer. Ask pharmaceutical corporations about how they will ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines, and they say “Gavi”. Ask the wealthiest governments in the world what they are doing to ensure global equity, and they too say “Gavi”.

    Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, is a 20-year old public-private partnership that believes the marriage of markets and philanthropy will bring vaccines to everyone in the world. The numbers are impressive: every year, Gavi sends out 500 million vaccine doses against 17 different diseases. The sums of money pumped into Gavi are equally impressive. At the Global Vaccine Summit held earlier this month, Gavi raised a record-breaking $8.8bn. With £330m committed annually for the next five years, the British government is their single largest donor, alongside other wealthy countries and the Gates Foundation. At the summit, Gavi launched its newest initiative, a fund for future Covid-19 vaccines – the Covax Facility – which invites countries to invest in a wide portfolio of potential vaccines, pool their risk, and gain dedicated access to eventual products.

    Related: UK plans £38m centre to start production of coronavirus vaccine

    Related: Covid-19 vaccine may not work for at-risk older people, say scientists

    Achal Prabhala is the coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which campaigns for access to medicines in India, Brazil and South Africa. Kate Elder is the senior vaccines policy adviser at the Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign

    Continue reading…

    UK firms critical to public health protected from foreign takeovers

    Legislation protects those needed in future pandemics who may be struggling now

    The UK government has introduced legislation to protect businesses that are key to public health from foreign takeovers.

    The changes give the government the power to protect companies that could be critical in helping the country in future health emergencies but which may be struggling to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

    Related: Markets hit by coronavirus second-wave fears, as gold touches one-month high – business live

    Continue reading…

    ‘The wondrous map’: how unlocking human DNA changed the course of science

    Thanks to the success of the Human Genome Project, 20 years ago this week, scientists can track biology and disease at a molecular level

    Twenty years ago this week, an international group of scientists announced it had put together the first genetic blueprint of a human being. After 10 years of effort, the team – made up of thousands of scientists working on both sides of the Atlantic – revealed it had pinpointed all 3bn units of DNA that make up the human genome.

    The result was “the most wondrous map ever created by humankind”, US President Bill Clinton told a special White House ceremony to mark the event. A parallel event, hosted by Tony Blair in Downing Street, also featured glittering praise for the effort.

    DNA studies have helped to develop new drugs for conditions ranging from cystic fibrosis to asthma

    We are sequencing samples of Sars-Cov-2 from different sources to see if the virus is mutating significantly

    Related: Human code fully cracked

    Continue reading…

    Watchdog investigates possible overcharging for hand sanitiser in UK

    Four unnamed stores suspected by competition regulator of profiteering during Covid-19 crisis

    The competition watchdog is to investigate suspected profiteering by four pharmacies and convenience stores for over-charging shoppers for hand sanitiser during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Stocks of hand sanitiser were among the first items the British public cleared off the shelves as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the UK. The Competition and Markets Authority, which announced the investigations, has previously identified hand sanitiser as the product suffering the biggest price hike.

    The coronavirus lockdown has prompted some of the UK’s most prominent companies to announce large-scale job losses. The aviation, automotive and retail sectors have been among the worst hit, as businesses adjust to dramatically reduced revenue projections.

    Continue reading…

    Demand for flu vaccine soars as countries plan for second Covid-19 wave

    Manufacturers warn they will struggle to meet demand as governments seek to ease pressure on health services

    Fears of a second wave of coronavirus have sparked a global scramble for influenza shots from countries that hope to vaccinate great swathes of the population to reduce pressure on their health services.

    Health officials in the UK are considering whether to offer flu shots to everyone as part of planning for a resurgence of coronavirus in the autumn, but with other countries hitting on the same strategy, demand for flu vaccines has soared.

    Continue reading…

    The Lancet’s editor: ‘The UK’s response to coronavirus is the greatest science policy failure for a generation’

    Richard Horton does not hold back in his criticism of the UK’s response to the pandemic and the medical establishment’s part in backing fatal government decisions

    There is a school of thought that says now is not the time to criticise the government and its scientific advisers about the way they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Wait until all the facts are known and the crisis has subsided, goes this thinking, and then we can analyse the performance of those involved. It’s safe to say that Richard Horton, the editor of the influential medical journal the Lancet, is not part of this school.

    An outspoken critic of what he sees as the medical science establishment’s acquiescence to government, he has written a book that he calls a “reckoning” for the “missed opportunities and appalling misjudgments” here and abroad that have led to “the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of citizens”. 

    In being shielded, he has learned the true significance of key workers… ‘they are making society work’

    Related: UK failures over Covid-19 will increase death toll, says leading doctor

    Whitty is in the middle of viral storm… it’s debatable whether he’d increase public confidence by acknowledging he got it wrong

    Continue reading…

    What on earth is the boss of AstraZeneca up to with his approach to Gilead? | Nils Pratley

    Pascal Soriot heroically defended the company against Pfizer, but now he needs to calm his investors

    It’s hard to keep AstraZeneca out of the headlines. A booming share price made the company the biggest in the FTSE 100 index last month, albeit Shell is now marginally in front again. More significantly, the group is in the vanguard of Covid-fighting efforts by helping Oxford University develop a vaccine and then, we hope, produce a successful product in massive volumes.

    Now, though, comes something different: a Bloomberg report of an approach last month to Gilead of the US to create a new pharma giant. Nobody expects a deal to happen, it should be said. The proposal, if that’s what it was, seems to have been tentative and no talks are in progress now.

    Continue reading…