Vaccine Trump ready
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Coronavirus vaccine may be ready within 3-4 weeks

President Donald Trump again raised hopes - and concern - about swift U.S. approval for a coronavirus vaccine, saying at a town hall event hosted by ABC News that the shot could be ready within four weeks.

"The previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine, because of the FDA and all the approvals," Trump said on Tuesday. "We're withing weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks."

Trump's timetable is far more optimistic than estimates by drug industry executives or other government officials, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci. He has said to expect a vaccine approval closer to the end of the year with broad distribution next year.

Public health authorities have raised concerns the White House is pressuring the FDA to approve a vaccine before the election on Nov. 3, and drug companies developing a shot have jointly said they would not put forward a vaccine until it had been thoroughly vetted for safety and efficacy.

'Herd mentality'

Trump offered the optimistic timeline after a man who identified himself as a conservative diabetic told the president he was pleased with his response to the pandemic until about May 1. The man said he felt he had to dodge people who refuse to wear masks or socially distance and accused Trump of leaving vulnerable people exposed.

Trump made a broad defense of his response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 196,000 Americans since February, and said again that the virus "is going to go away."

"It would go away without the vaccine," he told the host, George Stephanopoulos. "You'll develop like a herd mentality, it's going to be herd developed, and that's going to happen. That will all happen."

Some of Trump's supporters have said the nation should pursue "herd immunity" to the virus by exposing people who are unlikely to die to infection while protecting more vulnerable people.

Stephanopoulos noted that Fauci has disagreed that the virus will disappear on its own. "But a lot of people do agree with me," Trump said. "You look at Scott Atlas, you look at some of the other doctors, that are highly, from Stanford, look at some of the other doctors, they think maybe we could have done that from the beginning."

The Washington Post has reported that Atlas, a neuroradiologist associated with Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution who advises Trump, has urged the president to pursue a herd immunity strategy. Atlas has previously denied that report.

Russia to supply 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to India's Dr. Reddy's Laboratories

The Russian Direct Investment Fund on Wednesday confirmed reaching an agreement to supply 100 million doses of Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V to India's Dr. Reddy's Laboratories. "The RDIF, Russia's sovereign wealth fund, and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd. (Dr. Reddy's), a global pharmaceutical company headquartered out of India, have agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V vaccine in India. Upon regulatory approval in India, RDIF shall supply to Dr. Reddy's 100 million doses of the vaccine," Sputnik quoted the RDIF's press release.

Deliveries could start in late 2020, the release added. GV Prasad, Co-Chairman and Managing Director of Dr. Reddy said that the Phase I and II trials results have shown promise, and the company will be conducting Phase III trials in India to meet the requirements of the Indian regulators.

"We are pleased to partner with RDIF to bring the vaccine to India. Phase I and II results have shown promise, and we will be conducting Phase III trials in India to meet the requirements of the Indian regulators. Sputnik V vaccine could provide a credible option in our fight against COVID 19 in India," Dr. Reddy's Co-Chairman and Managing Director GV Prasad said, as quoted in the press release.

The RDIF is pleased to reach the agreement with the Indian company, the RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said. "Dr. Reddy's has had a very well established and respected presence in Russia for over 25 years and is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in India," he said

"India is amongst most severely impacted countries from the novel coronavirus and we believe our human adenovirus dual vector platform will provide a safe and scientifically validated option to India in the battle against COVID 19. RDIF partners will receive an effective and safe drug to fight the coronavirus," he added.

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Image Credit: AP

Last week, the Russian Health Ministry announced that the first batch of Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 has been released into civil circulation. The Russian health ministry registered the first vaccine against COVID-19, named Sputnik V, on August 11.

Philippines' Duterte to prioritise China, Russia vaccine offers

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would prioritise China and Russia in sourcing a Covid-19 vaccine over Western drugmakers, which require cash advances in exchange for supplies.

"We will give preference to Russia and China, provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market," Duterte said in a pre-recorded briefing Monday night, adding that both countries have not asked for upfront payments. Philippine law prevents government from making pre-payments to procure non-existent products, Duterte said while threatening to kick out representatives of Western drugmakers for asking cash advances to reserve vaccine stocks.

The Philippines has seen a resurgence in new infections, topping 3,000 in the last seven days. It reported 4,699 cases on Monday to bring the total to nearly 266,000, the most in Southeast Asia.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said during Monday's briefing the country's virus task force will review Tuesday its decision relaxing distancing rules on public transport after health care workers warned this could increase Covid-19 infections and deaths. Studies show the risk of transmission can be managed if people don't eat, talk or use their mobile phones while commuting, the task force's chief implementer Carlito Galvez said in the same briefing.

Pfizer trial free of major safety issues so far

Researchers monitoring Pfizer Inc.'s giant trial of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine have reported no safety problems even after more than 12,000 people received their second of two doses.

Pfizer vaccine BNT162b2
Image Credit: Reuters

The trial, now targeted at enrolling 44,000 people, has reached its initial goal of 30,000 subjects, Pfizer executives said. The trial is comparing two shots of the vaccine Pfizer is co-developing with Germany's BioNTech SE to two doses of a placebo.

AstraZeneca resumes vaccine tests in South Africa

AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford have restarted testing an experimental Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, according to a researcher overseeing the trial, but tests remain on hold in the U.S. after studies were halted due to concerns about a participant who became ill.

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Because of safety concerns, AstraZeneca paused late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine, which is being tested in locations like São Paolo, Brazil. Reuters

The trial in South Africa resumed Tuesday, according to Shabir Madhi, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand who is leading the study. The move follows a recommendation in the U.K. to resume tests.

Abivax rebuffs suitors as drug starts tests for Covid-19 

Abivax SA, the French biotech embarking on tests of its lead experimental medicine for COVID-19, has turned away several suitors in recent months, according to its chairman.

The company is in the process of recruiting more than 1,000 patients to test whether a drug it's developing for inflammatory bowel diseases can also stifle a powerful overreaction of the immune system known as a cytokine storm that comes with the most severe coronavirus cases.

Siemens Healthineers, CDC to develop antibody standard 

Siemens Healthineers AG has joined U.S. and European health officials to create an international standard for coronavirus antibody tests, a key step toward knowing who needs a future vaccine or booster shot.

The effort aims to establish a unit of measurement for the level of protection someone has built up against the deadly virus. The project from Healthineers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre will probably take a matter of "weeks, not months," Deepak Nath, president of laboratory diagnostics at Healthineers, said in an interview.

BioNTech gets $445 million in German funding for shot 

BioNTech SE will get as much as 375 million euros ($445 million) from Germany to back its Covid-19 program, about half of the money the government set aside to accelerate development of a vaccine.

The German biotech company is working with Pfizer Inc. and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. on what is expected to be one of the first vaccines to deliver results from late-stage trials. Pfizer has repeatedly said data from a U.S. study could be ready next month.

Broad China vaccine flagged for November 

A COVID-19 vaccine may be available for "ordinary Chinese" as soon as November or early December following a Phase III trial that "went very smoothly," the Global Times said in a tweet, citing the Chinese CDC's chief biosafety expert.