by The Defender Staff, Childrens Health Defense:
The Defender’s COVID NewsWatch provides a roundup of the latest headlines related to the SARS CoV-2 virus, including its origins and COVID vaccines.
Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults Don’t Plan on Getting COVID Boosters Soon — Poll
Around two-thirds of adults in the United States do not plan to get updated COVID-19 booster shots soon, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a health policy nonprofit organization.
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The Pfizer/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc. (MRNA.O) shots, updated to target more recently circulating Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus as well as the original strain, were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last month.
Around 18% said they would wait and see whether they would get the new booster shot, while 10% said they would only get it if it was required. Around 12% of adults surveyed said they would definitely not get the shot, while 27% said they were not eligible because they were not fully vaccinated.
Pfizer CEO Pulls out of Testifying to EU Parliament COVID Panel
Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla has pulled out of an appointment to testify before the European Parliament’s special committee on COVID-19, at which he was expected to face tough questions on how secretive vaccine deals were struck.
The decision follows an audit report into the EU’s vaccine procurement strategy published earlier in the month that raised new questions about contact between Bourla and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that preceded a multibillion-euro vaccine contract.
The head of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant, the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, was scheduled to appear before the panel on Oct. 10. The committee is meeting with key officials involved in the EU’s vaccine procurement process to draw lessons on how to respond to future pandemics. Other pharmaceutical executives have addressed the committee, including the CEO of Moderna and senior officials from AstraZeneca and Sanofi.
Already in 2021, the New York Times reported on the seemingly-cozy relationship between Bourla and von der Leyen, with the two exchanging text messages in the run-up to the deal.
Contacted by POLITICO, a spokesperson for Pfizer said the company’s president of international development markets, Janine Small, would attend the committee hearing.
University of Washington Vaccinates Humans Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
Two hundred genetically modified mosquitoes with an experimental malaria vaccine packed inside a Chinese food takeout-style box inoculated 26 participants in a University of Washington study last month.
As reported by The Counter Signal, each participant placed their arms in the box to receive three to five jabs over 30-day intervals during the clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“We use the mosquitoes like they’re 1,000 small flying syringes,” Dr. Sean Murphy, physician and scientist at the university, told NPR. Murphy, who also serves as the lead author on a Science Translational Medicine paper that details the vaccine trials, said the study would not be used to vaccinate millions of people. Instead, the team crafted the bloodsuckers because formulating a parasite delivered with a needle takes up too much time and money.
Carolina Reid, a volunteer, was one of the participants who came down with malaria. “My whole forearm swelled and blistered,” Carolina Reid, volunteer, told NPR. “My family was laughing, asking like, ‘why are you subjecting yourself to this?’” Reid, who joined the trial in 2018, pocketed a $4,100 payment for participating in the study.
New Nasal Spray Vaccines Might Reduce COVID Infections, but the Money Is Still Missing
Even as Americans roll up their sleeves for updated fall boosters, new variants with the potential to evade immunity are spreading in parts of Europe and Asia, renewing calls among some experts for next-generation vaccines that can truly conquer the virus.
Dozens of academic labs and biotech firms, including Moderna, are working on nasal vaccines. A few countries, including India, recently approved them. Prominent researchers are calling for a coordinated effort to accelerate their development in the United States. And the White House is asking Congress for $8 billion to develop intranasal vaccines and other COVID shots that could protect us from future variants of the coronavirus.
Yet despite the bullish excitement for the needleless approach, the future of the vaccines is clouded by a flurry of questions; most crucially, how safe and effective they are in humans.
“None of these vaccines have been tested to prove that they can prevent transmission or infection,” said Karin Bok, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s not clear how we’re going to get that done, and at the very least, it is going to take a couple of years to get there.”
Pharma-Funded FDA Gets Drugs out Faster, but Some Work Only ‘Marginally’ and Most Are Pricey
Dr. Steven-Huy Han, a UCLA liver specialist, has prescribed Ocaliva to a handful of patients, although he’s not sure it helps. “I have no idea if the drug will make them better,” he said. “It could take 10, 20 or 30 years to know.”
Ocaliva came to market through an FDA review process created 30 years ago called accelerated approval, which allows pharmaceutical companies to license promising treatments without proving they are effective. It has become a common path to market — accounting for 14 of the 50 approvals of novel drugs in 2021 compared with four among 59 in 2018, for example.
The FDA’s accelerated approval is usually based on a “surrogate marker” of effectiveness — evidence of lower viral loads for HIV, for example, or shrinking tumors for cancer. Debate rages over the validity of some of these stand-ins, and some of the drugs.
Impatience — among drug companies, investors, patients and politicians — created the user fee agreements and accelerated-approval pathway, and that impatience, for profits and cures, fuels both programs.
Around 3.2 Million Americans Received Updated COVID Boosters Last Week — CDC
The CDC said a total of 7.6 million Americans had received the shot as of Sept. 28, the first four weeks the booster has been available. This is up from 4.4. million people who received the shot as of Sept. 21.
The 7.6 million figure represents only 3.5% of the 215.5 million people in the United States aged 12 or older who are eligible to receive the shots because they have completed their primary vaccination series.
Unlike Flu, COVID Attacks DNA in the Heart: New Research
The finding gives researchers clues about exactly how severe COVID-19 is affecting the body, and also a potential way to detect who will be seriously affected by the disease in the future.
The work was an international collaboration led by researchers from Australia, with Dr. Arutha Kulasinghe from the University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute and Ning Liu from Victoria’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research co-lead authors.
Kulasinghe said the research is only a preliminary step because the sample size was so small — the hearts of just seven COVID-19 patients from Brazil were studied for the paper, along with hearts from people who had died from influenza and a control group.