Pfizer jab ‘can stop mutant viruses’, research shows
The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine will protect against the two new mutant variants of the virus spreading across the UK and other parts of the world, research has revealed.
Experts carried out lab tests on the strains and found that the vaccine had levels of antibodies that worked against the variants.
The variants have caused the virus to spread rapidly across the UK, resulting in a third national lockdown that officials claim will last until mid-February.
Emerging in Kent, the variant is understood to be up to 74 per cent more infectious than the strain that was dominant last year.
The variant is called B.1.1.7 and is a version of the virus with 23 mutations, eight of which are in the spike protein the virus uses to bind to and in turn enter human cells.
The second variant was discovered in South Africa and is called 501.V2 - experts previously warned this variant would be able to evade testing.
One of the main concerns regarding the new spread of the variants was whether or not vaccines would work to stop them, The Sun reported.
Two vaccines are currently being rolled out to the most vulnerable in the UK - they are the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering.
And on Friday, Britain approved a third vaccine in a boost to efforts to beat the pandemic.
UK regulators have now recommended the use of the Moderna jab - which is 94 per cent effective in preventing coronavirus.
Pfizer/BioNTech worked alongside researchers from the University of Texas to demonstrate that it would work against the new strains.
The experts took blood samples from 20 people who had received the coronavirus jab.
Lab results revealed that the samples had neutralising levels of antibodies which were able to work against the two new strains.
The study has not yet been peer reviewed and it is not yet clear whether or not the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will also be able to fight the new strains.
One of Pfizer's top viral vaccine scientists, Phil Dormitzer, said the vaccine works across a variety of variants.
"So we've now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact," he said.
"That's the good news. That doesn't mean that the 17th won't."
He did however highlight that vaccines might need tweaking - similar to how the flu vaccine is altered each year.
Mr Dormitzer said the company would be able to tweak the vaccines and that this wouldn't be difficult.
BIDEN WILL RELEASE 'NEARLY ALL AVAILABLE VACCINE DOSES'
As the US once again set new daily COVID records, incoming President Joe Biden has vowed to release nearly every available dose of vaccine when he takes office.
This is a shift from the Trump administration move to hold back half of all available doses to ensure second doses were available.
A transition official said the Biden team believes that vaccine manufacturers will be able to produce enough second doses in a timely fashion while administering first doses to more Americans, CNN reported.
"The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans' arms now," said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Mr Biden's transition team.
"He will share additional details next week on how his Administration will begin releasing available doses when he assumes office on January 20th."
A group of governors has written to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer General Gustave Perna pressing the federal government to distribute "reserved doses" of the COVID-19 vaccine to states that need them.
The development came as America recorded more than 4000 COVID deaths in a single day for the first time on Thursday.
And Britain's government also reported a record 1,325 new coronavirus deaths on Friday - the highest number reported on a single day since the pandemic began.
SEVERE REACTIONS TO COVID VACCINATIONS "EXTREMELY RARE"
Life-threatening allergic reactions after COVID vaccination do occur, but are "exceedingly rare," officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
The CDC has documented 21 confirmed cases of severe allergic reactions after COVID shots, which averages out to a rate of 11.1 severe reactions per 1 million doses administered.
Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases, said that of 20 patients with available data, all had recovered.
The figures were published in a new CDC report and are based on an initial 1.9 million doses administered in the US.
While the agency has since documented 29 total cases, it plans to detail those cases in an upcoming report.
New @CDCMMWR finds severe allergic reaction following #COVID19 vaccination appears to be rare. CDC is monitoring reports of anaphylaxis & providing guidance so healthcare providers can prepare for the possibility of an allergic reaction after vaccination. https://t.co/JPOI6QSz74 pic.twitter.com/lmVV86Pkhy— CDC (@CDCgov) January 6, 2021
Most people who developed symptoms did so within 15 minutes of getting the jab and 17 patients had a documented history of pre-existing allergies or allergic reactions, including to medical products, foods, and insect stings.
By comparison, the rate of anaphylaxis for the flu vaccine is 1.3 cases per 1 million doses administered. While Dr Messonnier noted that the rate of severe allergic reactions is 10 times greater for COVID vaccinations, she assured that the cases are still "exceedingly rare".
The CDC says anyone who has an immediate or allergic reaction to the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine should not receive the second dose. Those with a known allergy to components in the vaccine are not advised to get the shot at this time.
The risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 far outweighs the risk of severe outcomes from #COVID19 vaccines. CDC & FDA review all serious adverse events reported w/ clinicians. Safety was paramount during the vaccine development process & continues to be as vaccines are given. pic.twitter.com/EmypGIdLvd— CDC (@CDCgov) January 6, 2021
The CDC says anyone with a history of an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine, or a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause, be observed for 30 minutes after getting the jab. Most individuals are observed for 15 minutes after vaccination, Fox News reported.
Since the Pfizer and BioNTech jab saw emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration before the one created by Moderna did, most of the CDC's documented cases of severe allergic reactions cropped up among recipients of Pfizer's vaccine, Dr Messonnier said.
The federal health agency's recommendations apply to both drug sponsors' vaccines.
"At this point, we really don't have enough data to say that there's any difference in the risk (between Pfizer and Moderna vaccines), and that's why our recommendations apply to both vaccines," she said.
CDC officials repeatedly emphasised that the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risk of serious consequences arising from COVID-19 disease.
"That doesn't mean, however, that we couldn't see potential serious health events in the future," Dr Messonnier said.
"There are tremendous efforts underway right now to try to understand what might be the cause of this severe allergic reaction with both vaccines. I don't think we have anything definitive to say, there's a lot of hypothesis about it but at this point, our recommendations for this apply to both vaccines."
The information about anaphylaxis cases has not had "significant effects" on distribution plans, and, as the CDC has previously said, all vaccination sites must be properly equipped and trained should any person experience anaphylaxis following vaccination.
Dr Messonnier voiced high hopes for expedited vaccination pace in the coming weeks amid resounding criticism of a slow nationwide vaccination effort.
Meanwhile, the CDC the overall US death toll could exceed 430,000 by the end of the month.
The current total is over 360,000 deaths.
At the same time, hospitals are being flooded with coronavirus patients. On Wednesday, a record 132,476 patients were being treated for the virus, according to the Covid Tracker Project.
LONDON TO BE 'OVERWHELMED BY COVID' IN TWO WEEKS
A "best-case scenario" is that London's hospitals will be overwhelmed by covid patients within two weeks, the National Health Service has warned.
Medical Director at NHS London Vin Diwakar said 2,000 extra beds would be needed in the capital as the current caseload is simply too high to cope.
The news comes ahead of a planned COVID update later today from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where he will update the nation on the UK's vaccine rollout program.
Medics have been told to prioritise getting the vaccine to as many Brits as possible to meet the Government's ambitious target of delivering 13 million jabs to the most vulnerable by mid-February.
The UK recorded a grim milestone Wednesday as coronavirus deaths topped 1,000 for the first time since April and cases jumped by 62,322 in the highest daily rise ever for the second day running.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he believed the death rate would fall as the vaccine is rolled out.
Mr Hancock said the priority groups targeted for vaccines by mid-February accounted for around 85 per cent of deaths.
"I am as confident as you can be, based on all the clinical advice that I have seen and all my own reading of the data, that the number of deaths in this country will fall - for any given number of cases - once the vaccine is rolled out to the vulnerable groups."
OLYMPIC GAMES CHAOS AS TOKYO DECLARES COVID EMERGENCY
Japanese officials have insisted the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead - despite the capital city declaring a COVID state of emergency.
With just 200 days before the scheduled Opening Ceremony of the delayed Games, new regulations were brought in after Tokyo recorded 2,447 positive cases of the virus.
Bars and restaurants must shut by 8pm and stop serving alcohol an hour earlier.
Schools will remain open but the public have been urged to avoid non-essential outings, although sports events will still be allowed with crowds of up to 5,000 spectators.
Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga justified the month-long emergency measures, citing a "sense of crisis".
The official relay of the Olympic and Paralympic torches was put on hold until at least the end of the month.
But Olympic chiefs in Tokyo followed Suga in vowing the Games would still go on as planned, The Sun reported.
A Tokyo 2020 spokesman said: "This declaration of emergency offers an opportunity for Tokyo 2020 to plan for a safe and secure Games this summer.
"We will proceed with the necessary preparations accordingly."
Tokyo's bullish stance was matched by the International Olympic Committee.
"The IOC has full confidence in the Japanese authorities and the measures they are taking.
"Together with our Japanese partners, we continue to be fully concentrated and committed to the safe and successful delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer."
Originally published as Pfizer jab 'can stop mutant viruses', research shows