J&J asks for EUA for its one-dose vaccine, Russian researchers report positive result for Sputnik V, COVID, Pentagon swings into action and other COVID-19 vaccine events

February 6, 2021
Peter Wehrwein

Johnson & Johnson formally requested an emergency use authorization for its one-dose vaccine, AstraZeneca reports data that show its vaccine is protective against the B.1.1.7 variant and other COVID-19 vaccine news last week.

J &J seeking EUA for its one-dose vaccine

In the biggest news of the week, Johnson & Johnson announced in a press release on Thursday (Feb. 4) that it had submitted an application to the FDA formally requesting an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its single-dose vaccine. The FDA announced later the same day that its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee would meet on February 26 to discuss the request.

If the FDA approves the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as expected, the vaccine would be the third that the FDA has OK’d. Johnson & Johnson’s press release says the company expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.

Johnson & Johnson reported results last week that show its vaccine is less effective (66% effective overall) than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that the FDA had previously OK’d and are currently available.But the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses compared with Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s one.

AstraZeneca vaccine found to be protective against the UK variant

One worry clouding the future of the COVID-19 vaccines is whether they will be protective against the growing number of variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Those worries might have been assuaged somewhat on Friday (Feb. 5) with the publication of a preprint in Lancet that shows that the vaccine developed by the AstraZeneca and Oxford University is effective against the UK variant, which is more contagious and possibly more deadly than the variant that has been responsible for most of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. so far.

The results reported by researchers show that the AstraZeneca vaccine was 74.6% effective against the UK variant, also known as the B.1.1.7 variant, and 84% effective against non-UK variants (statistically, those are similar results because of the confidence intervals around the findings). The researchers also reported that the vaccine may help curb transmission because their findings show it that reduces viral load and “duration of shedding.” The study is based on tests of 326 upper airway swabs collected from 256 study volunteers.

As a preprint, the study findings have not gone through peer-review, so they may not be as reliable as those that have been fully vetted.

Russian vaccine looks to be effective, safe — and cheap

Russia has been criticized for rushing its vaccine research. But on Tuesday (Feb. 2), the results reported for its Gam-COVID-Vac, also known as the Sputnik V vaccine, showed that it is safe and efficacious.

“It’s Time to Trust China’s and Russia’s Vaccines,” was the headline on New York Times opinion piece on Friday (Feb. 5) co-authored by an Indian public health activist and a Malaysian public interest lawyer.

The positive results handed “Moscow a geopolitical coup and a potential slice of the multibillion-dollar vaccine market as it seeks to promote the Covid-19 shot abroad and curb the pandemic at home,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

The Sputnik V results, reported in Lancet, showed that 16 of the 14, 964 study participants in the vaccine group were confirmed by PCR tests to have COVID-19 compared to 62 of the 4,902 in the placebo group, which works out to efficacy proportion of 91.6%. Severe adverse events were rare in both the vaccine group (.3%) and the placebo group (.4%).

Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine, although these efficacy and safety result were for the 21 days after the first dose. The researchers at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology said the study was not designed to test a one-dose version of Sputnik V but they said a study of a one-dose regiment was underway.

Gam-COVID-Vac is already in wide use in Russia, and the researchers said in the Lancet paper that 2 million doses have already been administered. The Gamaleya website says one dose is priced at less than $10.

36,819, 212 doses administered and counting: COVID vaccine trackers are keeping tabs on the shots

Many COVID case and death trackers got launched last year. The one maintained by Johns Hopkins emerged as one of the most authoritative sources of information about ups and downs of the pandemic.

Now COVID-19 vaccine trackers are popping up. Hopkins has a pretty basic one that shows doses administered by state and the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated (as of this yesterday morning, every state was in the low single digits.

The CDC’s tracker has more information and shows doses administered on per 100,000 population basis, which makes state-by-state comparison. The CDC map shows that more than 20 states have rates of 11,000 doses administered per 100,000 population. Missouri, Idaho and Mississippi have the lowest rate, according to the CDC map this morning.

Bloomberg’s COVID vaccine tracker does some nice math and shows the percentage of a state’s supply that has been administered, which might be interpreted as a metric of how well state programs are being run once they have vaccine in hand. Leading the way on the percentage-of-supply-delivered metric are North Dakota (95.9%), West Virginia (89.5%) and New Mexico (87.7%)

Pentagon swings into vaccin-action

The Pentagon is preparing to deploy more than 1,100 troops to five vaccination centers, the Associated Press reported yesterday (Feb. 5).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Pentagon to supply as many as 10,000 service members to staff 100 centers, the news service said, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the initial five teams. s.

The acting FEMA administrator told reporters that two vaccination sites that will be “predominantly” federally run will open in California on February 16, one at California State University, Los Angeles, and the other in Oakland.

White people are getting vaccinated at sites in Black neighborhoods

Several news outlet reported this week that White people are lining up to get vaccinated at sites set up in predominately Black neighborhoods.

“Suddenly our clinic was full of white people,” George Jones, the head of Bread for the City medical clinic in Washington, D.C., told the New York Times. “We’d never had that before. We serve people who are disproportionately African-American.”

The Boston Globe reported that state and local officials heralded the opening of a vaccination site at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in the Roxbury section of the city as “as a step toward fixing the gulf in inoculation rates between white residents and their Black and Latino counterparts.” But the people who the first appointments were overwhelmingly white and from affluent areas, the newspaper reported.