Covid-19 vaccine doubt emerges | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 28, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:58 AM, November 28, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine doubt emerges

AstraZeneca vaccine to undergo new global trial after mix-up in phase-III; Germany hits million cases

Questions emerged over just how much protection is offered by one of the leading vaccine candidates as Germany, once a beacon of hope in Europe's coronavirus nightmare, logged its one millionth case yesterday.

Like much of Europe, Germany is battling a resurgence of a pandemic that is filling hospitals and forcing countries to shut down for business while they wait for help from a clutch of vaccines that could start rolling out for use next month.

Some of the excitement about the new jabs dampened when Britain's pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca admitted that further research was needed after a mixup in its third-stage trial.

"We need to do an additional study," AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot told Bloomberg.

The vaccine will undergo a new global trial as questions remain of the claims whether it could protect up to 90 percent of people.

Researchers accidentally discovered it performed best when a half dose is given followed by a full one, rather than two full doses.

Sir John Bell, Oxford's regius professor of medicine and the UK government's life sciences adviser, rejected claims that the previous trial had not been properly conducted.

The British government said yesterday it has asked its independent medicines regulator to assess AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine as part of the formal approval process for the drug to be rolled out by the end of the year.

But Russia unexpectedly stepped in with an announcement that an Indian generic drug maker would start producing 100 million doses of its government-backed vaccine in early 2021.

Germany had largely contained the spread when the virus descended on Europe from China at the start of the year after first emerging in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Yet its careful approach failed to avert a second wave, imperilling the health of Europe's biggest economy and dampening the mood heading into the winter holidays.

Germany's Robert Koch Institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases yesterday, pushing the country's total beyond the one million mark.

More worryingly, number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care soared from around 360 in early October to more than 3,500 last week.

It has shuttered restaurants, bars, sporting facilities and cultural venues, though schools and shops remain open.

Globally, more than 1.4 million deaths and over 61 million infections have been recorded, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

Most countries hope to ease their virus rules for Christmas and New Year, allowing families a respite before bracing for what the world hopes is one last wave of restrictions until the new vaccines kick in.

BLACK FRIDAY

In the meantime much of the world faces a gloomy winter dampened by lockdowns, economic anxiety and mental strain.

Bulgaria allowed its stores to enjoy one last spurt of business on Black Friday -- usually the day shops are packed with people looking for holiday deals -- before closing almost everything for three weeks shortly before midnight.

"People have only just started returning in the past three days and now we'll be shutting down for three weeks," one Sofia restaurant owner lamented.

The mood was just as sour in the West Bank, where police in face masks set up road blocks on the first day of new restrictions that included weekend curfews.

"I doubt the curfew will be fully respected," said Amer Salamin, an accountant in Ramallah.

Lockdown fatigue is spreading even as governments unfurl new measures to save healthcare systems from collapse.

Restaurant owners in Istanbul organised a protest after Turkey -- hitting one-day records of 174 deaths and more than 29,000 infections on Thursday -- switched to takeout and delivery service nationally.

AFRICA READINESS

The World Health Organization warned African countries are "far from ready" for mass immunisation.

Other experts said more research is needed to develop vaccines more suitable to the continent. The most promising vaccines discovered so far must be kept at -70 degrees Celsius -- all but impossible for most hospitals in Africa.

The African region is so far only 33 percent ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, WHO said in a statement.

That figure, based on data provided by 40 countries on a series of "readiness criteria", is well below a desired 80 percent benchmark.

"Planning and preparation will make or break this unprecedented endeavour," WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said during a virtual press briefing.

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