States Asking for Fraction of Their Vax Supply, Pfizer Seeking Full Approval, Biden Administration Favors Patent Waivers (PhRMA Doesn't), Jennifer Garner Talks Boosters With CDC Director on Instagram and Other COVID-19 Vaccine News This Week

States asking for small fraction of their vaccine allotments

Demand for the COVID-19 vaccines is waning, according to an Associated Press story today (May 8). “From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them,” the AP says. Examples include Wisconsin, which has asked for just 8% of the 162,680 doses it was entitled to next week, and Iowa,which has asked for 29% of its allocation.

Pfizer seeking full-fledged FDA approval…

Pfizer and its partner in developing its COVID-19 vaccine, BioNTech, announced early Friday (May 7) that they are seeking full FDA approval in people ages 16 and older.

The vaccine was the first to get the go ahead from the FDA on Dec. 11, 2020, but that was a provisional emergency use authorization.

“Pfizer executives have said that the emergency-use authorization limits what they can do to raise awareness about the benefits of the vaccine and instill confidence in its safety and effectiveness, amid hesitancy by many Americans,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The press release from the companies says they will submit data on a rolling basis and that the PDUFA date for an FDA will be set once that the Biologics License Application for the vaccine is finished and formally accepted by the FDA.

…and an EUA for young teens

The New York Times reported on Monday (May3) that the FDA is getting to approve an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine in adolescents, ages 12-15.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is scheduled to meet this coming Wednesday (May 12) starting at 11 a.m. The safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine in 12- 15-year-olds is the top item on the agenda.

Lower antibody levels among vaccinated transplant recipients

It remains an open question how much protection people with compromised immune systems get from the COVID-19 vaccines. Research findings reported in JAMA on Wednesday (May 5)showed that among solid organ (kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, multiorgan) transplant recipients, just 15% of the 658 participants in a study of transplant recipients had a measureable antibody response 21 days after the first dose of the vaccine. That increased to 57% after the second dose but that means a sizable minority don’t have an antibody response.

“Although no threshold has been established for protective immunity, antibody levels were well below that which has been observed in immunocompetent vaccines,” wrote Brian J. Boyarsky, M.D., Ph.D., and his Johns Hopkins colleagues, although as they acknowledge antibody levels aren’t necessarily the full story when it comes to immunity because memory B cell and T cells may also be a factor.

A second wave of vaccines may be on its way

CureVac, a small German biotech company, may announce results from late-stage results this week, the New York Times reported on Wednesday (May 5). Novavax, a company based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is ramping up for emergency use application in the next couple of weeks, according to the newspaper.

Other companies working on vaccines that might be part of this second wave include Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, who are cooperating on vaccine that has had some setbacks but could enter the approval process later this year, and Valneva, a French company.

Biden administration backs patent waivers; industry objects

On Wednesday (May 5), the first day of two-day meeting of the World Trade Organization, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the administration’s support of a patent waiver for the COVID-19. “The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” said her prepared statement.

Global public health experts and several governments (India, South Africa) say the patent waivers would ramp up the global supply of the vaccines and are critical to curbing the pandemic is medium- and low-income countries.

Not so, say vaccine makers and some governments (notably Germany), who see the waivers as undercutting private industry's response to the pandemic and the successful efforts at developing safe and effective vaccines quickly. PhRMA and its CEO, Stephen Ubel, issued a statement on Wednesday that said “this decision [by the Biden administration] will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”

BioPharma Drive pointed out that Tai's statement indicated support only for waiving patent rights on vaccines, not COVID-19 treatments or diagnostic tests.

It is far from certain, though, whether the waiver will ever come to pass. Members of the World Trade Organization would have to unanimously agree on the proposal.

HHS announces new coverage assistance fund

On Monday, HHS a new coverage assistance fund (CAF) that will pay providers for administrating vaccines to patients whose health plans don’t cover the shots or do so with patient cost sharing.

“On top of increasing reimbursement rates tied to administering the shots, we are closing the final payment gap that resulted as vaccines were administered to underinsured individuals. No healthcare provider should hesitate to deliver these critical vaccines to patients over reimbursement cost concerns,” the announcement said.

The CAF will compensate provider at the national Medicare rate, which is $28 for a single-dose vaccine (the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the currently the only single-dose vaccine available) and the $80 for the two-dose vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna’s).ps, the CAF will be compensating providers for eligible claims, at national Medicare rate

Jennifer Garner Instagram Live chats with Walensky about vaccine safety, boosters

Celebrities with large social media followings have become a prominent part of the public health messaging about the COVID-19 vaccine, so it made sense that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky joined Jennifer Garner and her 10.8 million followers for a live Instagram interview on Friday (May 7).

Garner talked about the safety of the vaccines for pregnant women and children (Walensky gave assurances that they are) and booster shots. Walensky said the research into boosters in case of waning immunity or the need for protection against variants is ongoing. If they are needed, she said, “the vision would be to do in the same way we do flu vaccine. We do that every season. We hope we don’t have to do that [vaccinate against COVID-19] every season but we are preparing in case we do.”