Moderna Vaccine, 'Third Wave', Rapid Home Test: COVID-19 Global Highlights

Medscape, Univadis, & MediQuality Staff

November 20, 2020

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

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective at preventing COVID-19. Preliminary results from non-clinical studies and early clinical studies in adults suggest the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies and T-cells.

South Australia has enforced a 6-day 'circuit-breaker' lockdown to stop the spread of a recent 'highly-contagious' COVID-19 outbreak. The state had 35 active cases as of Wednesday 18 November, several of them from a single cluster in Adelaide.

Domenico Arcuri, special commissioner for COVID-19 at the Italian Ministry of Health announced the main guidelines of his plan to deliver the vaccine as soon as available. The first supply will go to hospitals and retirement homes, highly affected by the pandemic. The second supply will be delivered using drive-through stations, following a strict priority list that is still under discussion with epidemiologists and ethicists. Vulnerable people, such as elderly people and those with long-term health conditions will be vaccinated first.

Amidst speculation of a potential 'third-wave', Japan is registering more than 2000 daily cases of COVID-19. Tokyo reported a record 493 infections on Wednesday 18 November, surpassing the previous daily high seen in August 2020.

The Belgian Government announced a plan to treat at least 70% of the country's population with the future COVID-19 vaccines. It will not be compulsory and it will be free for everyone living in the country. Approximately 1 in 6 Belgians said they do not want to be vaccinated, according to a recent survey. Belgium has a population of 11.5 million and has registered almost 540,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 14,000 deaths, making it one of Europe's hardest-hit countries.

The World Health Organisation Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, said this week that currently one person is dying every 17 seconds in the European Region from COVID-19.

Spain might have started to flatten its second wave curve with a stabilisation in the number of infections, "even decline". Despite this trend, Spain has reached a new peak of daily deaths during the second wave, 435, and has exceeded 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Government has announced a tax cut on face masks from 21% to 4% and is planning to do the same with hand gels. The Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) has authorised the first phase 3 clinical trial for the vaccine against COVID-19 from Johnson & Johnson in nine Spanish hospitals.

The United States surpassed another milestone this week, with more than 250,000 deaths since the pandemic began last spring. As case counts continue to rise, state and local governments imposed  new restrictions , including mask mandates and closure of restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, a survey of nurses found that personal protective equipment is still in short supply and one doctor told Medscape he's worried about what will happen to resources if too many regions of the country "flash" at the same time.

On a positive note, the FDA issued an emergency use authorisation for the first at-home rapid COVID-19 diagnostic test, and Pfizer launched  a pilot delivery programme in four US states for its COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer also reported more complete data for its vaccine, now saying it is 95% effective, which is similar to the 94.5% efficacy Moderna reported for its vaccine a few days earlier.

While the number of hospital admissions for COVID-19 is steadily decreasing in Francethe intensive care units remain under pressure, and the mental health of the population is deteriorating. "The mental health of the French worsened again between late September and early November," said Jérôme Salomon, Director General of Health. Mental health of healthcare professionals is also strongly affected as 63% of French physicians in a recent Medscape survey reported that COVID has worsened their burnout symptoms. 

On a more positive note, a patient affected by coronavirus received a double lung transplant for the first time in France after the near-total destruction of both lungs.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson went back into self-isolation after he was 'pinged' by England's Test and Trace service telling him he had been in contact with someone who'd tested positive for COVID-19. He said it was right to follow the rules even though he was "bursting with antibodies" having recovered from the disease earlier in the year.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine produced an "encouraging" immune response, according to phase 2 data on 560 healthy adults published in  The Lancet. It was also safe and well tolerated, the research team reported. Study lead author Professor Andrew Pollard commented: "Immune responses from vaccines are often lessened in older adults because the immune system gradually deteriorates with age, which also leaves older adults more susceptible to infections. As a result, it is crucial that COVID-19 vaccines are tested in this group who are also a priority group for immunisation."

COVID-19 immunity in Sweden is likely to be lower than previously estimated, according to epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who devised the country's herd immunity strategy and lockdown avoidance. Daily deaths from COVID-19 rose to their highest level in months this week.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.



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