Europe's COVID-19 Mood is Gloomy, U.S. Passes the 100 million Mark, Novavax Reports Positive Results, and Other COVID-19 Vaccine News This Week

March 13, 2021
Peter Wehrwein

Not looking so good in Europe

Things are looking up in the U.S. as the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 and the number of people vaccinated climbs. Not so, in Europe

“A mood of gloom and frustration is settling on the continent, and governments are caught between their promises of progress and the bleak epidemiological reality,” the Wall Street Journal reported Friday (March 12).

101,128,005 vaccine doses administered and counting

The number of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 surpassed 100 million, according to data collected by the CDC and posted on the agency’s website on Friday (March 12). The CDC website said that 35,000,159 Americans (just over 10% of the population) had been fully vaccinated and that 65,965,305 (almost 20% of the population) had received at least one dose.

Novavax reports efficacy results against original, U.K., and South African variants

Novavax, the Gaithersburg, Maryland, biotech competing to be among the next wave of vaccine developers, reported efficacy results for its vaccine on Thursday (March 11).

The company put out a press release on Thursday that says a phase 3 trial conducted in the United Kingdom that included 15,000 adult participants showed that the vaccine is 96.4% efficacious mild, moderate, and severe disease caused by the original coronavirus and 86.3% efficacious against the U.K strain (B.1.1.7). Results from a separate phase 2b trial in South Africa showed 55.4% efficacy among HIV-negative study volunteers there when the country's namesake variant (B.1.351) was circulating.

The Novavax’s two-dose vaccine ferries selected proteins from the coronavirus into the body to trigger an immune response.

Biden sets May 1 as date that all adults will be eligible for the vaccine

“Tonight I am announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults, people 18 and over, eligible to vaccinated no later than May 1,” President Joe Biden said halfway through his 24-minute prime-time televised address on Thursday (March 11)

That announcement is a departure from the way vaccine eligibility has been working. The federal government has been in charge of distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but states have been setting their own eligibility rules.

There was some question whether the federal government has that power, but administration officials pretty much dismissed it out of hand, and there doesn’t seem to be much active controversy about the matter.

Biden held out hope that it would be safe to have small gatherings by Fourth of July.

European drug regulators give OK to continued administration of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as blood clots are investigated

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU’s version of the FDA, said on Thursday (March 11) that its safety committee was investigating a possible association between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and thromboembolic events but that “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.”

The EMA statement says the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than the number seen in the general population and that as of March 10, 30 cases of thromboembolic events had been reported among close to 5 million people vaccinated with Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Meanwhile, though, Danish health officials paused administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca after a person in Denmark died from a thromboembolic event after receiving the vaccine.

Columnist: Black, Latino communities wary of Johnson and Johnson vaccine

The one-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is less efficacious than the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The public health message is people shouldn’t be choosey about which vaccine they get and that J&J vaccine’s efficacy stats are still strong.But Erika Smith, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote about suspicion among Blacks and Latinos that the perceived-as-inferior J&J vaccine will be administered disproportionately in Black and Latino communities. 

“At issue are fears about the effectiveness the newest vaccine compared with offerings from Pfizer and Moderna, and suspicions that it will be sent primarily into poor Black and Latino neighborhoods where cases of COVID-19 have been the deadliest,” wrote Smith.