Starting mid-March 2021, India has become the epicenter of COVID-19 as a second wave of infections devastated the country. India reported 50 percent of global cases and 30 percent of global COVID-19 deaths, and an alarming rate of over 400,000 daily new cases at the height of the wave in early May 2021.
Multiple COVID-19 genetic variants have been detected since the initial SARS-CoV-2 strain was found in China, the most significant of which are classified by the WHO as variants of concern or variants of interest, depending on their attributes and risk level.
The G20 met today in Rome for a Global Health Summit and vaccine equity was at the top of the agenda. According to Reuters, the resulting “Rome Declaration” calls for voluntary licensing and technology transfers to increase production of Covid-19 vaccines globally. The declaration also reportedly mentioned the important role of the ACT-Accelerator (of which COVAX is one pillar) but did not commit to funding it (the ACT-Accelerator still needs $19 billion to reach its goal).
Manufacturing projections for Covid-19 vaccines seem to shift on a near-weekly basis. We are not even halfway into 2021 and already we have seen adjustments, both up and down, across all vaccine makers.
The US threw its weight into the ring on the side of the TRIPS waiver this week, surprising many. There is still a long road ahead for the waiver, which much be agreed through discussion and consensus. With vocal opponents (including Germany), this is unlikely to happen before December. But if it does go through and intellectual property (IP) protections are waived, will it make a difference?
There is a lot of ground to cover this week. The pandemic continues to rage throughout the world, with countries in South Asia and Latin America battling the worst surges. India has set new world records for daily infections and deaths, while eschewing a nation-wide lockdown and struggling to implement a mass vaccination campaign with limited supply.
Launched as a global cross-organization collaboration only one month after the pandemic was declared, COVAX was built to facilitate global equity in the pandemic response. As COVAX passes the one-year mark this month, there are some early lessons and insights that can inform its further development and help us prepare for future crises.
COVID-19 vaccines across the world have been produced and authorized for use with record speed. So far, 13 vaccines have received either limited or full regulatory approval. It’s important to note that the safety of the vaccines is continuously monitored even after limited and full regulatory approvals are granted.
A promising new vaccine candidate is getting a flurry of attention this week, even in a very crowded landscape that includes 11 vaccines on the market and 50+ more in Phase 2 or 3 trials. The newcomer NDV-HXP-S vaccine, developed through collaborations between researchers at University of Texas at Austin, PATH, and Mount Sinai, among others, is a mouthful to say but the name captures the two reasons people are excited about it.
The global imbalance in Covid-19 vaccines is often framed in terms of wealthy versus poor countries. While it can be summed that way (wealthy countries do have the majority of doses, while low-income countries have almost none), this overlooks the experience of upper-middle income countries (UMICs), such as Brazil, Indonesia, and China.