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Pandemic total passes 19 million, vaccine capacity ramps up for lower income countries



The global COVID-19 total passed 19 million cases today, and in a major vaccine development, two global health groups announced a collaboration with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to ramp up capacity to make up to 100 million vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.

Today the global total climbed to 19,176,642, and 716,400 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Vaccine capped at $3 per dose

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, today announced that it and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will collaborate to provide SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker, with financial support to increase vaccine capacity now, so that production can begin as soon as a vaccine is approved. The funding includes $150 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The doses could be produced as early as the first half of 2021.

Seth Berkley, MD, Gavi’s chief executive officer, said in a statement that the world’s vulnerable countries are too often left at the back of the line for new drugs, diagnostic tests, and vaccines. “With COVID-19 vaccines we want things to be different. If only the wealthiest countries in the world are protected, then international trade, commerce and society as a whole will continue to be hit hard as the pandemic continues to rage across the globe,” he said.

SSI would gear up to make candidate vaccines from Astra Zeneca and Novavax if they are licensed and receive World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification. The institute has capped the vaccine price at $3 per dose, with support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The development is part of the COVAX Facility, a collaboration between the WHO, Gavi, and CEPI to share the risks of vaccine development, invest in manufacturing, and pool purchasing power to deliver vaccines equally among all countries. The advance marketing commitment part of the COVAX Facility provides vaccine purchase funding for 92 low- and middle-income countries.

Bill Gates said in the statement that researchers are making good progress on developing safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19, and that making sure everyone has access to them will take tremendous manufacturing capacity and a global distribution network. “This collaboration gives the world some of both: the power of India’s manufacturing sector and Gavi’s supply chain. It’s just a start,” Gates said.

Africa passes 1 million mark, more European countries report rises

Africa today passed the 1 million case mark, and Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, who leads the WHO’s African regional office, said that as the virus moves beyond major cities to rural areas, the WHO is supporting efforts to decentralize testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment.

Cases in the region rose 13% last week, down from an 18% increase the previous week. Ten countries account for 89% of all cases, and South Africa is the hardest hit, accounting for roughly half of Africa’s cases.

Elsewhere, more European countries reported flare-ups and have reimposed some restrictions or are considering them. Malta today reported its highest single-day total since March and announced a ban on mass gatherings and a requirement to wear masks in public, Reuters reported. Ukraine reported a daily high of 1,453 cases yesterday, part of a steady increase, as its health ministry urged the public to follow safety measures. Poland today reported a record-high 809 cases, most of them located near big cities. The country has tightened restrictions on hot spot counties, but the health ministry has ruled out another national lockdown.

In other global developments:

  • Germany and France have stepped away from WHO reform talks underway among G7 countries, due to attempts by the United States to lead the negotiations, which would result in a roadmap of a sweeping overhaul to be released in September, Reuters said in an excusive report that cited three unnamed officials. A senior official involved in the talks said some countries chafed at getting an outline from a country that has already announced that it was leaving the WHO.
  • An Air India Express flight bringing repatriated citizen back from Dubai crashed after skidding off a runway in Kerala state, killing at least 16 people. The plane was chartered by the Indian government and had 190 people on board, according to CNN.
  • Hong Kong announced a universal voluntary testing program, designed to help slow the spread of its third wave. The city’s chief executive said the program will start in 2 weeks and will allow anyone who wants a test to be tested.
  • Takeda announced today that is has signed an agreement with Novavax to produce the company’s recombinant adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine for Japan. The company is receiving support from Japan’s government to scale up manufacturing capacity, which is expected to produce more than 250 million doses a year.

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