Studies: Vaccines effective against Delta, protection wanes in elderly

In this May 27, 2021, file photo, a woman from East Los Angeles gets vaccinated with the Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine by a licensed vocational nurse at the Esteban E. Torres High School in Los Angeles.
(DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP)

MILAN/ LONDON/ DUBLIN/ RABAT/ CHICAGO – Three US studies suggest COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against hospitalization and death, even in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant, but vaccine protection appears to be waning among older populations, especially among those 75 and older.

US data on hospitalization from nine states during the period when the Delta variant was dominant also suggests that the Moderna Inc vaccine was more effective at preventing hospitalizations among individuals of all ages than vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer Inc or Johnson & Johnson.

In that study of more than 32,000 visits to urgent care centers, emergency rooms and hospitals, Moderna's vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing hospitalization compared with 80 percent for Pfizer and 60 percent for J&J.

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Overall, the findings, released on Friday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly report on death and disease, show that vaccines continue to offer strong protection from COVID-19.

Ireland

Ninety percent of adults in Ireland have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, announced a senior public health official on Friday.

The news came at a time when the COVID-19 daily cases in Ireland remained above the 1,000-level for 56 days in a row.

The Irish Department of Health reported 1,620 new confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country Friday evening, an increase of 328 cases from Thursday.

Italy

Italy's medicines agency AIFA warned on Friday against the misuse of an unlicensed antiviral drug as a COVID-19 therapy, calling it a potential danger to people's health.

Regulators said the Ministry of Health had alerted them of a high number of requests to import Parvulan, an antiviral drug used as treatment for Herpes Zoster, which is not authorised in Italy but legally registered and marketed in Brazil.

AIFA added that requests from customers in Italy showed that Parvulan is being proposed off-label – for uses different from its original purpose – as a treatment for the prevention of COVID-19, in alternative to licensed vaccines.

"The use of the drug Parvulan in the prophylaxis of Sars-COV-2 infection is not supported by the slightest evidence, under the profile of efficacy and safety", the agency said in a statement, adding its scientific committee had not even authorized it in a clinical trial.

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"The possible use of the drug as a substitute for authorized vaccines therefore represents a potential danger to human health", AIFA said.

The danger would not only be due to the lack of safety in its use but also to the unjustified sense of protection patients would have from it, given the lack of documented efficacy, the regulator added in its statement.

Morocco

Morocco reported on Friday 2,668 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 899,581.

The death toll rose by 66 to 13,436, while 1,846 people are in intensive care units, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health.

North Macedonia 

North Macedonia’s Health Minister Venko Filipche submitted his resignation after a fire in a COVID-19 hospital killed 14 people in the city of Tetovo. 

“As a doctor and a minister I have integrity, this is why today I submit my resignation for moral reason,” Filipche said.

Novavax

Vaccine developer Novavax said on Friday at least 2 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine would be available in 2022.

The company, which in June announced its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in a late-stage US-based clinical trial, said it was on track to file an application for emergency use of its vaccine to the US Food and Drug Administration in the fourth quarter.

Commuters on an underground train in London. (HOLLIE ADAMS / BLOOMBERG)

UK

After several false starts during the last eighteen months, London is showing signs of finally getting back to business.

Traffic levels and public transportation usage in the city climbed decisively this week as more people returned to work after the end of the school and summer holidays. London Underground marked its busiest morning since the pandemic began.

It’s a sign that normality is returning after several weeks where it looked like the return to the office had stalled. Back in July, the UK removed almost all coronavirus restrictions — but that initial step toward normality was marred by a surge in cases of the Delta variant of the virus, and many people opted to wait until after the summer vacation to return to their desks.

There’s still a long way to go. Offices are generally a little over half-full, and many people have embraced hybrid working, only venturing into the city two or three days a week. Variants of the virus could yet derail the return: the number of cases is still creeping up.

For now, though, the City of London feels markedly more alive than it did even two weeks ago: the streets are busier, and the pubs are thronged with office workers.

The morning rush hour on the tube is back. On Sept 6, the underground marked its busiest start to the day since the pandemic began.

London City airport, popular with business travelers because of its connections and proximity to the center of London, is also seeing signs of a recovery.

Flights to Zurich, Frankfurt and Rotterdam have resumed as business demand returns, Chief Operating Officer Alison FitzGerald said in an interview this week. The airport expects that overall passenger numbers will be up 30 percent this week on the previous seven days.

Another 37,622 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 7,168,806.

The country also recorded another 147 coronavirus-related deaths.

US

US heath regulators said children in clinical trials testing COVID-19 vaccines should be monitored for at least two months for side effects, suggesting that the agency is considering a quicker path to authorize the shot for emergency use than full approval.

The FDA granted full approval last month for the use of Pfizer Inc's vaccine in people over the age of 16 based on a six-month follow-up from the trial. The shot was authorized in December for emergency use based on a shorter, two-month follow up.

The agency is under pressure to approve a vaccine for children below 12 years of age amid a surge in infections fueled by the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, which has disrupted the reopening of schools.

Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine has been currently authorized for children aged 12 to 15 in the United States.

For children between six months and two years, Pfizer has said it could have a safety and immunogenicity data as early as October or November.

Moderna on Thursday said it has fully enrolled participants in a trial testing its shot in children between six and 11 years and that it was still conducting dose selection studies for younger age groups.