Vaccine Roundup

Enough Vaccines for All Americans

A roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week

Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty Images

There are now 20 vaccines in phase 3 trials, six approved for limited use, and four approved for full use in some countries after fully completing phase 3 trials — one more vaccine than last week. The fully approved vaccines include those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm, and Moderna, and this week the vaccine from Sinovac, a Beijing-based biotech company, was added to the list. Others, including the vaccines from AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V, have been approved for emergency use in several countries. More approvals are soon to come.

Vaccines are being rolled out in many nations, but access to vaccines and vaccination rates vary widely around the world. Many countries have not vaccinated a single person yet. Israel, with 26.5% of its population fully vaccinated, is the leader in the global rollout, followed by Seychelles and United Arab Emirates, according to Bloomberg. The United States is sixth, with 3.6% of its population fully vaccinated, and 10.9% partially vaccinated.

Encouraging news came this week from President Joe Biden, who has now secured enough vaccine doses to vaccinate all Americans. Vaccination is slowly but steadily increasing in the United States, but it is happening unevenly: In many states, Black Americans have had fewer vaccinations than white Americans, in large part because of a lack of access. To help improve vaccination rates among all Americans, online platforms are cracking down on vaccine misinformation.

Biden secures 200 million more vaccine doses

On Thursday, President Biden revealed that he had finalized a deal to get 200 million additional vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, a plan he first announced at the end of January. The deal would secure 100 million doses from each company, to be delivered by May; both companies, as NPR noted, are already scheduled to deliver doses by March. “We’ve now purchased enough vaccine supplies to vaccinate all Americans,” Biden said.

Fauci says “open season” for vaccination could start in the spring

Speaking on the Today show on Thursday, infectious diseases chief Anthony Fauci, MD, said that most members of the general public could be eligible for vaccination as early as April. Mass vaccination, he said, will be possible as the number of available doses increases in March or April: “I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for [lack of] better wording, ‘open season.’” Once it begins, however, it will still take several months to vaccinate everyone.

South Africa halts use of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Last Sunday, South Africa suddenly halted its rollout of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine due to concerns that it would not protect against B.1.351, the variant first identified there. The decision was based on preliminary research suggesting the shot “provides minimal protection” from mild-moderate disease caused by the variant, and officials said they were assessing how to use the vaccine more effectively, as STAT News noted. Some experts, however, have criticized the fact that this decision was based on small studies that had not yet been peer-reviewed.

Online platforms crack down on misinformation

Long criticized for letting misinformation spread unchecked, Facebook announced in a blog post on Monday that it was cracking down on vaccine misinformation. Facebook is “expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about COVID-19 and vaccines,” according to Kang-Xing Jin, the company’s head of health. Facebook has made similar attempts before, but anti-vaccine content and groups have continued to flourish, as my colleague Sarah Emerson noted in OneZero. On Wednesday, Facebook-owned Instagram banned anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from the platform for “repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines.”

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.