Global COVID-19 Update: Pfizer's Vaccine Candidate, Biden's Task Force

Medscape, Univadis, & MediQuality Staff

November 13, 2020

These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

As the UK's COVID-19 death toll passed the 50,000 milestone, and US President-elect Joe Biden announced a coronavirus task force, COVID-19 continued to have an impact globally.

Here are some highlights reported by Medscape's global editions, Univadis, and MediQuality.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate has been found to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in trial volunteers who were without evidence of prior infection, results from an interim analysis of a phase 3 study demonstrated. The results have not been peer reviewed.

This vaccine needs to be stored at -70C, which could cause logistical problems, especially in hotter countries.

Russia's health ministry responded to the Pfizer announcement by saying its Sputnik V vaccine is also over 90% effective.

Morocco is to become the first country in the world to launch a national vaccination campaign. King Mohammed VI said the vaccination campaign should cover all over-18s by the end of March.

Brazilian health authorities suspended a clinical trial of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine due to a serious adverse event.

Victoria, Australia, which was once a major COVID-19 hotspot, has recorded no new cases or deaths for the 12th consecutive day. CSL Limited, an Australian biotechnology firm began production of 30 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine earlier this week.

The Singapore Ministry of Health has announced that from December 1, any company or individual in Singapore who needs a PCR test will be able to get one from approved providers.  Breathonix, a spin-off company from the National University of Singapore said in a news release that its 60-second on-site COVID-19 breathalyser test was able to achieve at least 90% accuracy in a pilot clinical trial.

In Belgium, as COVID-19 hospital admissions continue to decrease slowly, pressure on intensive care remains, and the number of deaths is still rising sharply. The country remains in partial lockdown until mid-December. The decision about whether or not the country will order the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (which is already being mass-produced in Belgium) is likely to be made next week. Trials with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will resume on Thursday.

In Spain, deaths have reached their highest rate of the second wave but the incidence of new cases seems to be stabilising. The minister of health estimates that starting in 2021, 10 million people could receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. A SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome analysis by Spanish scientists has identified five large clades worldwide and revealed 62 independent introductions of the virus in the country.

Brazil reported 5,722,878 diagnoses and 163,078 deaths from coronavirus by 1 pm on Wednesday. The new case moving average is down 21% and deaths are down 24% in the last 7 days compared to 2 weeks ago. An attack by hackers caused problems for several states wanting to access the Ministry of Health data platform to update information about COVID-19. In a statement, the ministry said that "since the end of the afternoon on Tuesday, the platform has been stable and [we are] constantly monitoring its performance."

In Portugal, a 15-day state of emergency was announced on Monday. Among the measures to control the pandemic, the Council of Ministers banned use of public roads between 11 pm and 5 am on weekdays and from 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The measure applies exclusively to 121 municipalities with a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. Travel exceptions include professional and health reasons, helping vulnerable people, and walking dogs. The country recorded a total of 192,172 cases and 3103 deaths by 11 November.

In Italy, the Government announced new restrictive measures to contain the pandemic and an enlargement of the red zones where a 'light lockdown' is in place. According to official data from the Ministry of Health, there are now more than one million COVID-19 cases. An agreement with Pfizer to deliver 3.4 million doses of the new vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 was announced. 

A study conducted by a collaborative group of Italian cardiologists quantified the incidence of pulmonary embolism (PE) in 689 COVID-19 patients hospitalised in 13 Italian hospitals, 15.8% invasively ventilated, and 43.6% non-invasively ventilated. 52 (7.5%) had PE over 15 (9–24) days of follow-up. The relation between D-dimer concentrations and PE incidence was linear in the study which was published in Clinical Research in Cardiology.

In Germany, the Society of Virology said the measures currently in place to reduce the number of new infections are necessary and appropriate. In a statement it criticised the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) for calling for softer measures and implying there was a medical and scientific consensus for this.

A prospective study of COVID-19 patients in ICUs with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in France, Belgium and Switzerland confirmed that these patients faced more severe ARDS, and much longer lengths of hospital stays than non-COVID-19 patients with ARDS. The study was published in Intensive Care Medicine.



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