FS-ISAC Coronavirus Update, March 25, 2021
AstraZeneca reiterated on Wednesday that its Covid-19 vaccine was very effective at preventing the disease, based on more recent data than was included when the company announced the interim results of its US clinical trial on Monday.
- The company said its vaccine was 76% effective at preventing symptomatic illness citing a new analysis of up-to-date results, slightly lower than the 79% efficacy number announced earlier this week.
- AstraZeneca reiterated that the shot, developed with Oxford University, was 100% effective against severe or critical forms of the disease, and that it showed 86% efficacy in adults 65 years and older.
- The latest trial data, which has yet to be reviewed by independent researchers or regulators, was based on 190 infections and 32,449 participants in the US, Chile and Peru, while the earlier interim data was based on 141 infections through February 17.
- AstraZeneca also said Wednesday that the vaccine was “well tolerated” among participants and that no safety concerns were identified.
- Mene Pangalos, executive vice president for biopharmaceuticals research for the company, said in a statement that “The primary analysis is consistent with our previously released interim analysis, and confirms that our COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in adults, including those aged 65 years and over,” adding “We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the US and preparing for the rollout of millions of doses across America."
- When it unveiled its interim results on Monday, health officials said that AstraZeneca ignored dozens of recently confirmed cases that had cropped up in trial volunteers before mid-February, and in a letter to the company and federal officials, the independent monitoring board that was helping oversee the clinical trial issued an unusual reprimand for appearing to cherry-pick data to make the vaccine appear more effective.
- It was not clear why the monitoring board’s projection turned out to be lower than the figure in AstraZeneca’s complete results, and the latest numbers could still change because there are still 14 possible cases that have not yet classified as actual cases.
- The data glitch may delay the vaccine’s ability to win US regulatory clearance, though it’ll likely still play a crucial role in halting the pandemic.
- The updated 76% efficacy rate compares with rates of about 95% for vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
- The US surpassed 30 million coronavirus cases Wednesday afternoon, once again reaching a dubious milestone much faster than any other country, with cases trending higher in 30 out of 50 states compared with the previous week.
- Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday the latest Covid-19 data in the US has her worried, warning about “the apparent stall we are seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic," and adding that the agency is “watching these numbers very closely."
- Governors and public health officials in more than 40 states have said they will meet or beat President Biden’s goal of making every adult eligible for a vaccine by May 1, and at least 30 states plan to start universal eligibility in March or April.
- A month ago, the US seven-day average of vaccinations was about 1.5 million, with about 1 million fewer doses being administered per day, according to a CNN analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, but in less than two months, the pace of vaccination has doubled.
- More new research suggests that vaccines are effective in preventing Covid-19 in the real world, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said during a White House virtual briefing on Wednesday, explaining that "Right now, as the weeks go by, we see more and more that not only are these vaccines efficacious but in the community they are extremely effective in preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2."
- Cases of people who developed Covid-19 after vaccination are "expected" and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking that data as more people get vaccinated, an agency official said Tuesday, adding that it’s important to study and genetically sequence “breakthrough” infections amid concerns that new variants might evade the immune protection offered by vaccines.
- The antiviral drug remdesivir shortens the duration of illness even among non-White patients, who have a higher risk of severe disease, doctors reported Wednesday in a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, adding to evidence the drug can relieve the burden of coronavirus illness, even if it’s not a cure.
- White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that AstraZeneca will likely release a modified statement regarding its Covid-19 vaccine after the accuracy of the company’s clinical trials results were thrown into question earlier this week.
- Reports of extremely rare blood clots should not deter governments from distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to their citizens, according to the World Health Organization’s Chief Scientists Soumya Swaminathan Wednesday, who said the vaccine’s reputation is being hit in public perception due to news coverage and “This is what happens when science is played out on the front pages of newspapers and television channels,”
- People with Covid-19 symptoms will need to be tested for Covid-19 well into the future, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy director Michael Osterholm said Wednesday, explaining “We’re going to need to test people who have potentially clinically compatible symptoms with Covid-19 forever,”
- A six-week decline in global Covid-19 deaths has stalled, while cases have continued to rise for the fourth consecutive week, the World Health Organization reported late Tuesday, citing figures received Sunday, with Brazil, the US, India, France, and Italy having the highest numbers of new cases, and regions in Europe and the Americas accounting for nearly 80% of all cases and deaths.
- Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Wednesday that about three-quarters of students in the US are back to some form of in-person learning, commending the work of local districts on reopening during the National Safe School Reopening Summit on Wednesday, with more than 45% of elementary and middle schools offering in-person school daily, and about 75% of schools having some form of in-person learning, like a hybrid method, according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
- President Biden announced the release of $81 billion in funding from the Covid-19 relief bill for school re-openings Wednesday, part of the administration’s efforts toward getting the majority of schools opened in his first 100 days in office and addressing inequity caused by the pandemic, calling on states to take the next steps, saying, “I need states to move quickly to get these resources down to the school districts and put them to work,” and also reiterated his message that “help is here.”
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to act on a cruise industry request to lift its no-sail order Wednesday, saying current rules will stay in effect until November after the Cruise Lines International Association had asked the Biden administration to lift the order by early July, saying that timeline “is in line with President Biden’s forecast for when the United States will be ‘closer to normal.’”
- Americans have lost $382 million to fraud linked to the Covid pandemic, according to Federal Trade Commission data, with more than 217,000 people filing a related fraud report for scams targeting stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, Covid vaccines and virus cures that have proliferated over the past year, as complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau increased 54% last year relative to 2019, due largely to the pandemic.
- Attorneys general for 12 US states on Wednesday accused Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc of doing too little to stop people from using their platforms to spread false information that coronavirus vaccines are unsafe.
Vaccine Rollout - US
- Almost 130.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the US, according to data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 77% of the 169,223,125 doses delivered and nearly 2.3 million more doses reported administered since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day.
- About 26% of the population - almost 85.5 million people - have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 14% of the population - more than 46 million people – are fully vaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today shows, with a third of adults and about 70% of seniors having received at least one dose of vaccine.
- Five US states have expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 16 and older, and at least 20 more plan to do so by the end of April.
- As more states expand vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older in the general population, local health officials are growing concerned that demand may become more of a challenge than supply, something that could happen within the next four to six weeks, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said Wednesday morning.
- President Biden is expected to announce his new vaccination goal tomorrow, according to two sources familiar with the plans after last week hinting he could double his original goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which he cleared long before that date, and in recent days, Biden has consulted with his advisers and health experts on what a new, realistic goal would be.
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky touted the “substantial progress” toward vaccinating the nation’s educators Wednesday as the Biden administration’s deadline to get school staff vaccinated by the end of the month approaches, saying there were more than 1.3 million educators, staff and childcare workers who have received shots, about 566,000 just in the last week.
- Indiana expects to hit a major milestone of one million vaccinations today, and as of Tuesday night, nearly 19% of eligible residents had been fully vaccinated, with 32% of the state’s population having received at least one dose.
US Restrictions & Schools
- Ohio's Republican-controlled Legislature voted Wednesday to limit Governor Mike DeWine's authority to issue public health orders in a state that has recorded more than 1 million cases, and by votes of 23-10 in the Senate and 62-35 in the House legislators overturned DeWine's veto of a bill that will give them more power to reject his moves.
- Anchorage, Alaska, will now allow people who are fully vaccinated to not have to wear masks at work when they are in their own workspace away from the public and unvaccinated colleagues, under an updated emergency order that took effect Tuesday.
- The District of Columbia’s National Park Service announced it will be “limiting all vehicular and pedestrian access” around the Tidal Basin during the period in which most of the famed pink- and white-petaled trees are blossoming.
- California state prisons will resume limited in-person visits with inmates April 10, more than a year after they were halted because of the pandemic.
Economy and Business
- A team of Canadian researchers who brought together some of that country’s largest businesses to scale up a rapid coronavirus testing program is now trying to replicate its success in the US, with the aim of reviving the economy and getting thousands of Americans back to work, and the organizers of the new program, called the U.S. Rapid Action Consortium, are expected to announce this week they are trying to recruit 12 companies to screen asymptomatic employees with rapid antigen tests on a routine basis.
- The Small Business Administration said Wednesday that, starting April 6, small businesses and nonprofits can apply for up to 24 months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $500,000 through the SBA’s Covid-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, an increase from the previous six months of economic injury with a maximum loan amount of $150,000.
- Business travel volumes aren’t likely to get back to 2019 levels before 2024 “at the earliest,” Moody’s Investors Service said today, with up to 30% of business travel possibly replaced by alternatives such as virtual meetings.
- American Airlines said today it had terminated its $7.5 billion government CARES Act loan from the Treasury Department after drawing down just $550 million, paying that amount back.
- JetBlue Airways is calling back more flight attendants, cutting their unpaid leaves of absence short, as travel demand rises more than expected, with the New York-based carrier telling attendants on January-through-June leaves that they must report for training on May 22 if they haven’t completed federal requirements while they were out.
- Nissan is furloughing all employees in its industrial complex in Resende between March 26 and April 9, according to an emailed statement from Nissan Brasil, with production expected to resume April 12, a move aimed to ensure employees’ safety and adapt the company to the current situation while guaranteeing business continuity, the Japanese automaker said.
- Pope Francis has ordered cardinals to take a 10 percent pay cut and reduced the salaries of most other clerics working in the Vatican in order to save jobs of employees as the pandemic has hit the Holy See's income.