Serum Institute to manufacture 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Agencies
September 29, 2020

Pune, Sept 29: A further collaboration among the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, Gavi and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will accelerate the manufacture and delivery of up to 100 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for India and low-and middle income countries.

This brings the total number of vaccine doses to be covered by the partnership between SII, Gavi, and the Gates Foundation to an aggregate of up to 200 million doses, following the initial agreement for up to 100 million doses announced in August.

The arrangement again provides an option to secure additional doses if the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator sees a need for it. The collaboration will provide upfront capital to SII to help it increase manufacturing capacity now so that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gains regulatory approval and WHO Prequalification, doses can be distributed at scale to LMICs as part of the Gavi COVAX AMC mechanism as early as the first half of 2021.

"The collaboration further bolsters our fight against COVID-19. Through the avid support of Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will now manufacture and deliver up to an additional 100 million doses of immunogenic and safe-proven future Covid-19 vaccines to India and low- and middle-income countries in 2021," said Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.

He added, "At this stage, it is important for governments, global health and financial institutions in the public and private sector to come together in ensuring that no one is left behind in the road to recovery. This association is in line with our efforts to see that the future vaccines reach the remotest part of the world providing full immunization coverage in a bid to contain the spread of the pandemic."

The funding will help accelerate the manufacturing by SII for candidate vaccines licensed from AstraZeneca and Novavax, which will be available for procurement if they are successful in attaining full licensure and WHO Prequalification.

The vaccines will have a ceiling price of US$3 per dose, a price enabled by investments made by partners such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and SII. "This is vaccine manufacturing for the Global South, by the Global South, helping us to ensure no country is left behind when it comes to access to a Covid-19 vaccine," said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

"The momentum behind our effort to ensure global, equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines is really building. Last week, we were able to announce the historic number of countries that are now signed up to the COVAX Facility, today we can announce further doses of safe, effective vaccines that will be reserved specifically for low- and middle-income countries. No country, rich or poor, should be left at the back of the queue when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines; this collaboration brings us another step closer to achieving this goal."

The Gavi COVAX AMC, which is currently seeking at least US$2 billion in initial seed funding, will meet at least part of the cost of procurement for the vaccine doses. The Gavi Board has agreed upon the final list of 92 countries that will be supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. Under the new collaboration, AstraZeneca's candidate vaccine, if successful, will be available to 61 Gavi-eligible countries.

Novavax's candidate, if successful, will be available to all 92 countries supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC. These countries align with SII's licensing agreements with the two partners. The collaboration between Gavi, SII, and the Gates Foundation supports the efforts of the ACT Accelerator's vaccines pillar, also known as COVAX, co-led by Gavi, CEPI and the World Health Organization (WHO), to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure rapid, global access to them.

Decisions around investment in manufacturing are taken in close collaboration between these three lead organisations of the COVAX pillar. Under the COVAX umbrella, Gavi is coordinating the COVAX Facility, which provides governments with the opportunity to benefit from a large portfolio of Covid-19 candidate vaccines using a range of technology platforms, produced by more manufacturers across the world, with a bigger market to provide security of demand.

So far 73 higher-income economies have formally committed to join the Facility, in addition to the 92 low- and middle-income economies that are eligible for support from the Gavi COVAX AMC. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, via its Strategic Investment Fund, will provide at-risk funding of a further US$150 million to Gavi, bringing the total funding provided through this collaboration to US$300 million.

This will be used to support the Serum Institute of India to manufacture potential vaccine candidates, and for future procurement of vaccines for India and low- and middle-income countries via Gavi's COVAX AMC.

The deal is additional to a Memorandum of Understanding between AstraZeneca and Gavi, announced in June, which will commit an additional 300 million doses of AstraZeneca's candidate vaccine to the wider COVAX Facility, to be supplied upon licensure or prequalification. These two deals can help assure access to early doses for the most vulnerable on a truly global scale.

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Agencies
October 13,2020

New Delhi, Oct 13: The World Health Organization has debunked the idea of herd immunity, saying it is 'scientifically and ethically problematic' and is not an option.

There are some who say the coronavirus be allowed to spread naturally in the lack of a vaccine to achieve immunity in a community.

Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus not by exposing them to it, said WHO Director General Tedros Ghbreseysus.

"Allowing a dangerous virus that we don't fully understand to run free is unethical. It is not a option," Tedros said in a statement on Monday.

Medical journal Lancet also warned that exposure to the virus does not guarantee future immunity. The second infection may come with more severe symptoms.

The Covid-19 virus has claimed one million lives and still spreading across the world. And there is no vaccine available right now.

Tedros made the comments in the context of China which is preparing to test an entire population of the eastern city Qingdao this week.

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News Network
October 26,2020

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Houston: Indian and Pakistani women are diagnosed with breast cancer, including more aggressive forms, at a younger age, according to a study that provides an insight into understanding the risk factors influencing the disease.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, examined the characteristics of breast cancer among Indian and Pakistani-American and non-Hispanic white women in the US using data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program.

Both, Indian and Pakistani women are diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease, at a younger age, according to the researchers.

The researchers, who are part of the Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, reviewed incidence data among Indian and Pakistani women between 1990 and 2014.

"Our results provide an insight into breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women, suggesting several hypotheses to guide future scientific studies to better understand the risk factors influencing disease etiology and prognosis," said Jaya M Satagopan, lead author and director of the Center for South Asian Quantitative Health and Education at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

South Asians are the fastest-growing major ethnic group in the United States with breast cancer rates increasing within the population, but little is known about the disease in this socio-culturally unique population, according to the study.

The researchers also reviewed the disease characteristics, treatment and survival data between 2000 and 2016 for 4,900 Indian and Pakistani women and 482,250 non-Hispanic white women with breast cancer.

They found that the occurrence of breast cancer in Indian and Pakistani women was lower than in non-Hispanic white women, however, the number of Indian and Pakistani women diagnosed with breast cancer increased over the years.

Indian and Pakistani women with breast cancer were more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and at more advanced stages of the disease. In addition, they received more subcutaneous or total mastectomies than non-Hispanic white women, it said.

While the researchers found that Indian and Pakistani women were less likely to die of breast cancer than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, their health was tracked for a shorter time.

Prior cancer research has shown that fewer Indian and Pakistani women participate in scientific studies and that several sociocultural factors may delay their seeking health care.

Research also has shown poor mammogram screening rates in Indian and Pakistani women, which is linked to a lack of family support, lack of transportation, modesty, fear, beliefs that cancer is divine punishment for past deeds, having lived in the United States for less than 10 years, low English proficiency and a lack of faith in the health system.

"Our study indicated that there are important differences in this population that justify further studies to better understand biological, sociocultural, and system level factors such as interactions with the health system, affecting breast cancer screening patterns, diagnosis, risk and survival among South Asian women, given the paucity of literature on this topic,” said the study's senior author Elisa V Bandera, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The study recommends identifying strategies to better engage Indian and Pakistani women in breast cancer studies and to improve interactions between health care providers and Indian and Pakistani women to identify sociocultural factors associated with screening decisions and health care use in this population.

"As the South Asian population in the United States — and especially in New Jersey — grows, it is imperative that we work to promote health equity in cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis and treatment through community engagement and a team science approach," said Anita Kinney, director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity at Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, who is also one of the study's authors.

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Agencies
October 24,2020

Washington, Oct 24: The initial phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, which was imposed through March and April in several countries, may have dramatically altered people's personal eating and sleeping habits, according to a new study based on a first-of-its-kind global survey.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, evaluated the inadvertent changes in health behaviours that took place under the pandemic's widespread restrictions.

According to the survey, conducted by the researchers, including those from Louisiana State University (LSU) in the US, the lockdown's effects were magnified among people with obesity.

"The stay-at-home orders did result in one major health positive. Overall, healthy eating increased because we ate out less frequently. However, we snacked more. We got less exercise. We went to bed later and slept more poorly. Our anxiety levels doubled," said study co-author Leanne Redman from Louisiana State University.

"Overall, people with obesity improved their diets the most. But they also experienced the sharpest declines in mental health and the highest incidence of weight gain," Redman said.

The survey ran during the month of April and included responses from 7,754 people and the majority of the respondents were in the US with residents of Australia, Canada, the UK, and more than 50 other countries also participating.

It revealed that about one-third of surveyed people with obesity gained weight during the lockdown, compared to 20.5 percent of people with normal weight or overweight.

"This study is the first to survey thousands of people across the globe on lifestyle behaviour changes in response to stay-at-home orders. The study demonstrates that chronic diseases like obesity affect our health beyond the physical," said John Kirwan, another co-author of the study.

The scientists believe physicians and scientists should modify the way they manage patients with obesity in two ways.

One of these methods is by increasing the number of mental health screenings during and after the pandemic, said Emily Flanagan, lead author of the study from LSU.

Flanagan said physicians should also monitor patients by remaining connected to the study participants through remote visits and telehealth to prevent irreversible health effects from the pandemic.

The scientists believe virtual visits via telehealth checkups can assuage patients' concerns about the safety of in-person visits.

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