Pfizer COVID drug Paxlovid is effective with high-risk people: updates

December 14, 2021
Omicron variant in more states; delta surge continues: COVID updates


An experimental antiviral drug from Pfizer to help combat COVID-19, delivered in a five-day course of pills, reduced hospitalization or death among high-risk people by 89%, according to a final analysis of a previously released study conducted by the drugmaker.

A second study of people at average risk found the drug reduced their chances of developing severe disease by 70%, compared to a placebo. To get these results, the drug, called Paxlovid, must be given within three days of the beginning of COVID-19 symptoms — which will require people to quickly test and request a prescription once they feel ill.

The drug was tested on people who were not vaccinated but is also expected to protect people who have so-called breakthrough infections after vaccination.

Paxlovid appeared safe in both studies, which included nearly 3,500 volunteers, half of whom received a placebo. Lab studies also suggest the antiviral will remain potent against the omicron variant, which has been rapidly spreading across the globe.

The new research “underscores the treatment candidate’s potential to save the lives of patients around the world, whether they have been vaccinated or not,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO said in a prepared statement. “Emerging variants of concern, like omicron, have exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those who contract the virus, and we are confident that, if authorized or approved, this potential treatment could be a critical tool to help quell the pandemic.”

Paxlovid is designed to block the activity of an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to replicate and is administered with a low dose of an HIV drug that helps slow the body’s breakdown of that enzyme so it remains active longer.

Late last month, an FDA advisory committee narrowly recommended authorizing a different COVID-19 antiviral from Merck, called molnupiravir. Unlike that drug, Paxlovid will not cause the kind of genetic mutations in the virus that had worried some on the committee.

Also in the news:

►As the U.S. nears 800,000 COVID-19 deaths, the country has recorded 50 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. has logged more deaths from COVID-19 than any other country across the globe, according to World Health Organization data, though health experts say global counts are likely undercounts.

►The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots. 

►On the heels of a record 37 players testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the NFL is requiring Tier 1 and 2 employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

►Pop star Billie Eilish revealed during her Monday appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” that she was sick for nearly two months after testing positive for COVID-19 in August. She told Stern that she could have died if she weren’t vaccinated, adding that “to be clear that it is because of the vaccine that I’m fine.”

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 50 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 798,710 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 270.8 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 202 million Americans — 60.9% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: A year after the first COVID-19 vaccine, here’s what’s next for researchers – and what worries them.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

If we move this to intro, bump John up to a co-byline, give Karen credit on the Pfizer antiviral pill subhead

South African study finds omicron ‘highly transmissible,’ more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines

The omicron variant is substantially more contagious and reduces the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, but people who are fully vaccinated are still largely protected against severe disease, according to a study from South Africa released Tuesday.

The variant, which is believed to have emerged this fall in southern Africa, looks poised to take over the world, as delta did before it. Omicron accounts for 90% of COVID-19 cases in South Africa and is a growing problem in Europe. It has been seen in at least 30 U.S. states, though the delta variant still dominates the American outbreak.

Formally identified only the day before Thanksgiving, information on omicron’s characteristics – including how contagious and dangerous it may be – are just emerging.

The new study from Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest private health insurer, shows that two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which provided over 90% protection against infection with the original version of the virus is only 33% protective against omicron.

Full vaccination continues to provide 70% protection against severe disease, which seemed to hold up across high-risk groups, though it declined somewhat in people over 60 and even more in those over 70. Read more here.

— Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY

African countries see surge in cases but deaths remain low

Despite an 83% surge in new COVID-19 cases in Africa due to the delta and omicron variants, the region is seeing fewer deaths compared to previous surges, the WHO said in a Tuesday report.

The number of new cases in the continent is doubling every five days, and Africa recorded more than 196,000 new cases in the week ending on Dec. 12. But deaths “remain low” and dropped by 19% last week, the WHO said, adding that “this data should be interpreted with caution as the pattern may change in the coming weeks.”

“We are cautiously optimistic that deaths and severe illness will remain low in the current wave, but slow vaccine rollout in Africa means both will be much higher than they should be,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement.

Vaccination rates vary greatly across the region with only 20 African countries vaccinating at least 10% of their populations by Dec. 13. Six African countries had fully vaccinated 40% of their populations while Mauritius and Seychelles reached 70%.

“We’re at a pivotal moment in this pandemic where complacency is the enemy,” Moeti said. “With supplies starting to increase we now must intensify our focus on other barriers to vaccination. They include lack of funding, equipment, healthcare workers and cold chain capacity along with tackling vaccine hesitancy.”

University of Florida launches probe into reports of pressure to destroy COVID-19 research

The University of Florida is investigating possible violations of its research integrity policy following a 274-page faculty committee report that included claims of barriers to publish COVID-19 research and pressure to destroy data.

It is the latest development of the university’s academic freedom saga, which began in late October when it became public that multiple professors were restricted from participating in lawsuits against the state. The issue has developed into a nationwide debate over academics, freedom of speech, politics, prestige and money that has reached as far as UF’s accreditor and Congress.

In an emailed statement sent to faculty and staff Friday, David P. Norton, the university’s vice president for research, said University of Florida Research and the university’s Office of Compliance and Ethics have initiated a formal investigation. He added its results would be “made public once completed” but did not specify a timeline.

The lengthy Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom document released in early December reported the following claims:

  • There was external pressure to destroy COVID-19 data and inconsistencies in procedures for things like data destruction
  • A State of Florida government entity created barriers to and delayed publication of COVID-19 data
  • University of Florida employees were told verbally not to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis or UF policies related to COVID-19 in media interactions

The committee report also discussed faculty members’ “grave concern about retaliation” and “a sense that anyone who objected to the state of affairs might lose his or her job or be punished in some way.”

— Danielle Ivanov, The Gainesville Sun

Contributing: The Associated Press


Source link

Article Categories:

Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 8 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here