100 Million Doses in 58 Days
A roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week
Around the world, six vaccines have been approved for limited use and seven approved for full use. This week, China authorized a fifth vaccine from Anhui Zhifei Longcom and IMCAS.
Vaccines are being rolled out in many nations, but access to vaccines and vaccination rates continue to vary widely. Israel continues to lead the world in the vaccine rollout with 53.1% of its population covered, according to Bloomberg’s vaccination tracker. The United States has covered 17.7% of its population. Many countries still have less than 1% of their populations covered.
This week, concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine rose then reached resolution after health agencies cleared the vaccine for continued use. Meanwhile, the United States announced it would lend its stockpile of AstraZeneca doses to Mexico and Canada.
Health agencies say AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective
This week the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) urged nations to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. A number of nations, mostly in Europe, had suspended the use of the vaccine as a precautionary measure after anecdotal reports that the vaccine was linked to blood clot development. On Monday, the WHO said there was currently no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots.
By Thursday, following a preliminary review of the data, the EMA said that the vaccine is “not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots (thromboembolic events) in those who receive it” but noted that it may be associated with “very rare” cases of blood clots associated with a condition called thrombocytopenia.On Friday, the WHO shared results of its own review, which similarly showed no increase in blood clots after vaccination and also noted that “it is not certain” that the “very rare and unique” clotting events linked to thrombocytopenia are caused by vaccination.
In a press conference, Sabine Straus, MD, chair of the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, said, “This vaccine is safe and effective in preventing Covid-19, and its benefits continue to be far greater than its risks.”
European countries lift suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine
A dozen European countries that had suspended their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine resumed using it after the EMA shared the findings of its preliminary review. Many European countries are experiencing a surge in new cases, with Germany, Italy, and Poland, as well as some cities in France, going into lockdown. The rollout of vaccines in Europe has been slow, in part because vaccine manufacturers have been slow to deliver doses. As Science reports, while some public health experts are worried that the concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine will degrade public trust, others are optimistic that the transparency of the review process may increase it.
Biden administration successfully administers 100 million doses in first 58 (not 100) days
One of President Biden’s most ambitious campaign promises was to administer 100 million shots in his first 100 days of office. He reached it on Friday, 58 days after he became the president. “Tomorrow, we will hit 100 million doses that our administration has administered,” Biden said in an address on Thursday. “But as I have always said, that’s just the floor. We will not stop until we beat this pandemic.” He said that he would announce a new vaccination goal next week.
The U.S. will lend 4 million AstraZeneca doses to Mexico and Canada
Amid its steady rollout, the United States has faced increasing pressure to share its stockpile of unused vaccine doses. In particular, the United States has tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines that are not being used because the Food and Drug Administration has not yet allowed them to be used. As sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, PhD, wrote in the New York Times this week, “Along with doing whatever we can to increase vaccine supply globally, we should let our excess doses go where they’re desperately needed, without waiting another day.”
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it would lend 4 million of its AstraZeneca doses to Mexico and Canada. According to a briefing from White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, Mexico will be getting 2.5 million doses and Canada will be getting 1.5 million. These countries will be expected to pay the United States back with doses at a later point.