Evidence for reduced antibody protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants

Testing and vaccination – these are the pillars on which humanity is trying to get a grip on the Coronavirus pandemic. Although it is taking longer than many had expected, it is believed that it is only a matter of time before we are all vaccinated and thus protected. However, time is also working for the virus, which has now mutated several times, with variants B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom, B.1.351 from South Africa and P.1 from Brazil spreading rapidly. These viruses have mutations in the so-called spike protein, the structure on the surface of the virus that is responsible for attachment to host cells. At the same time, the spike protein is also the major target of the immune response. Antibodies generated in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection or vaccination bind to the spike protein, thereby blocking the virus. A team led by Markus Hoffmann and Stefan Pöhlmann of the German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research and Jan Münch of the Ulm University Medical Centre has found that the SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.351 and P.1 are no longer inhibited by an antibody used for COVID-19 therapy. In addition, these variants are less efficiently inhibited by antibodies from recovered patients and vaccinated individuals. Thus, convalescence from COVID-19 as well as vaccination may offer only incomplete protection against these mutant viruses (Cell).

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Investigational AstraZeneca vaccine prevents COVID-19

Press Release:

Results from a large clinical trial in the United States and South America indicate that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, is well-tolerated and protects against symptomatic COVID-19 disease, including severe disease or hospitalization. The independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) overseeing the trial identified no safety concerns related to the vaccine. The United Kingdom-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca developed the vaccine and led the trial as regulatory sponsor.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, provided funding support for the trial through the federal COVID-19 response.

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Allergists offer reassurance regarding potential allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines

News Release:

BOSTON – Reports of possible allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both recently approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have raised public concern. A team of experts led by allergists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has now examined all relevant information to offer reassurance that the vaccines can be administered safely even to people with food or medication allergies. The group’s review is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

In response to accounts of potential allergic reactions in some people following COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, that country’s medical regulatory agency advised that individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to a medicine or food should avoid COVID-19 vaccination. After closer review of the data related to allergic reactions, however, the FDA recommended that the vaccines be withheld only from individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to any component of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that all patients be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination by staff who can identify and manage such reactions. The U.S. agencies do not recommend that people with food or medication allergies avoid vaccination.

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Long-lasting COVID immunity gives real hope for the long-term protection of vaccines

Press release:

Australian researchers have revealed – for the first time – that people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus have immune memory to protect against reinfection for at least eight months.

The research is the strongest evidence for the likelihood that vaccines against the virus, SARS-CoV-2, will work for long periods.  Previously, many studies have shown that the first wave of antibodies to coronavirus wane after the first few months, raising concerns that people may lose immunity quickly.  This new work allays these concerns.

The study is the result of a multi-centre collaboration led by Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, from the Monash University Department of Immunology and Pathology, with the Alfred Research Alliance between Monash University, The Alfred hospital and the Burnet Institute, and published today in the prestigious journal, Science Immunology. The publication reveals the discovery that specific cells within the immune system called memory B cells, “remembers” infection by the virus, and if challenged again, through re-exposure to the virus, triggers a protective immune response through rapid production of protective antibodies.

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New online COVID-19 mortality risk calculator could help determine who should get vaccines first

Calculator generates mortality risk estimates for individuals and communities based on sociodemographic info and medical history

Press release:

A new online calculator for estimating individual and community-level risk of dying from COVID-19 has been developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers who developed the calculator expect it to be useful to public health authorities for assessing mortality risks in different communities, and for prioritizing certain groups for vaccination as COVID-19 vaccines become available.

The algorithm underlying the calculator uses information from existing large studies to estimate risk of COVID-19 mortality for individuals based on age, gender, sociodemographic factors and a variety of different health conditions. The risk estimates apply to individuals in the general population who are currently uninfected, and captures factors associated with both risk of future infection and complications after infection.

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