AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Ineffective Against South African Variant In Trial

A clinical trial showed a double dose of AstraZeneca’s covid vaccine was not effective in combating the variant first identified in South Africa. In other news, Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees there are still questions about covid vaccines for immunocompromised patients.

AstraZeneca Vaccine Doesn’t Prevent B1351 COVID In Early Trial 

Two doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine were ineffective against mild-to-moderate infections with the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa, according to a phase 1b-2 clinical trial published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The double-blind multicenter study, led by scientists at the South African Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, studied the safety and the efficacy of the AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in HIV-negative adults aged 18 to 64 who received either two standard doses of the vaccine or a placebo in a 1:1 ratio 21 to 35 days apart from Jun 24 to Nov 9, 2020. Median follow-up after the second dose was 121 days. (Van Beusekom, 3/16)

In other vaccine news —

Messonnier: We Can’t Stretch Vaccine Doses Unless We Know It Works

In an effort to stretch the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, some have advocated for further spacing out the two doses required for some of the shots or, in the case of the Moderna vaccine, lowering the dosage given with each jab. But Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, reiterated Tuesday that federal health authorities continue to stand behind the current recommendations about the timing and strength of the shots, which were proven to be protective in clinical trials. She added that regulators and officials would continue to review new data as it was released. (Joseph, 3/16)

USA Today:
COVID-19 Vaccines Pose Questions For People With Immune Issues

None of the large-scale vaccine trials included people who are immunocompromised, though every indication is that vaccines are safe in this group. Organizations representing experts in cancer, organ transplantation and autoimmune diseases all support vaccination for their patients. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that there are still questions about vaccines and the immunocompromised. It’s remains unclear, he said at a news conference, whether people who are immunocompromised make a comparable immune response to those without these conditions, whether the protection from vaccines will last as long in them and whether they will be able to transmit the disease after vaccination. (Weintraub, 3/15)

Can Vaccination And Infection Rates Add Up To Reach Covid Herd Immunity? 

It’s been a long, dark winter of covid concerns, stoked by high post-holiday case counts and the American death tally exceeding 530,000 lives lost. But with three vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — now authorized for emergency use in the United States, there seems to be hope that the pandemic’s end may be in sight. A recent analysis by the Wall Street research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors fueled this idea, suggesting as many as nine states were already reaching the coveted “herd immunity” status as of March 7, signaling that a return to normal was close at hand. (Heredia Rodriguez, 3/17)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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