New Hope Against the U.K. Variant
A roundup of the most important Covid-19 vaccine news this week
There are now 20 vaccines in phase 3 trials, seven approved for limited use, and three approved for full use in some countries after fully completing phase 3 trials: the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm, and Moderna. Others, including that from AstraZeneca, have been approved for emergency use in several countries. More approvals are soon to come.
Vaccines are being rolled out around the world, but vaccination rates vary widely between nations. Many have not vaccinated a single person yet. Israel, with 22.1% of its population fully vaccinated, is the leader in the global rollout, followed by United Arab Emirates and Seychelles, according to research from Our World in Data. The United States is sixth, with 2.1% of its population fully vaccinated, and 8.4% partially vaccinated.
The coronavirus variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa are still raising concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines, but preliminary data is promising. Meanwhile, the unevenness of the global rollout of vaccines suggests inequality at the local, national, and international levels. Vaccines from Russia and China, which have drawn skepticism from experts, are being approved in some non-Western countries, and some argue that it’s time to increase global trust in them.
AstraZeneca vaccine protects against U.K. variant
Preliminary research released on Friday shows that the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is protective against the coronavirus variant from the U.K. known as B.1.1.7. This variant is troubling because it is more transmissible than the original strain and thereby can cause a rise in new infections and deaths, and it has already been detected in 70 countries. The preprint, which has not yet been peer reviewed, shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine has 74.6% efficacy against the variant (for comparison, it has 82.4% efficacy against the original strain). This is promising news, though limited in scope; the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the South African variant B.1.351, the other major variant currently in circulation, was not…