Herewith a couple of items of pandemic news you may have missed: Who is helping whom with manufacturing? And the impact of US export bans in support of Pfizer on vaccine production elsewhere. Plus news briefs and a frippery.
US export bans will impact world vaccine production
The head of India’s Serum Institute, the largest vaccine manufacturer (by volume) in the world, is warning that US-centric moves by the current administration could hamstring vaccine manufacture in other parts of the world.
In January the Biden administration put in place export restrictions aimed at helping Pfizer to manufacture its vaccine for use (initially) in this country. These include restrictions on the export of materials such as bags and filters. These moves threaten the Serum Institute’s ability to produce vaccines for AstraZeneca and Novavax, according to its CEO, who spoke yesterday to a World Bank panel. (The Institute has already delivered 90 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to 51 countries.) At the same event, the WHO’s chief scientist warned about looming worldwide shortages of glass, plastic, vials, and stoppers.
The Serum Institute’s warning reminds us how much more international thinking — and cooperation — is needed to get the whole world out of this pandemic. The US and other Western countries have embarked on a “West first, rest of world sometime” program for vaccine distribution; and clearly this attitude extends into manufacturing as well. Such vaccine nationalism will not benefit anyone or any country. It will end up costing us all dearly in treasure and in lives.
Novartis helping to manufacture CureVac
We have been mentioning piecemeal when vaccine makers sign up their rivals to help with production. The latest hookup is Novartis lending its production facilities to CureVac.
The supply chain landscape is getting sufficiently complicated that a diagram may help. It will be updated as new manufacturing arrangements come into force.
This illustration (click for a larger version) captures only some of the vaccine makers who are leading the pack (including several that have not notched any regulatory approvals), and the large-scale pharma competitors with whom they have inked deals for help with manufacturing. The entire picture of the interlinked supply chains of these players, and of the far more numerous suppliers to whom they have delegated some portion of their manufacturing tasks, is well beyond the scope of this blog. Fierce Pharma has a special report covering more of this ground.
- Nursing home cases & deaths declined — Cases fell by 82% between December last year and February of this year, at a time when case loads were rising uncontrolled in much of the rest of the country. Authorities credit early access to vaccinations in these settings.
- Covid gets in your eyes — A study of Covid-19 patients in hard-hit Italy early in the pandemic found that 57% of them (52 of 91) had detectable amounts of SARS-CoV-2 protein on the surface of their eyes. Interestingly, 59% of the study’s uninfected controls (10 of 17) also displayed ocular SARS-CoV-2, even though none could be detected from nasopharyngeal samples. The study was not set up to determine whether the conjunctival swabs contained infectious virus. (It would be good to know how many of the positive / negative patients wore glasses; the researchers do not mention this.) Here is the paper in JAMA.
As your reward for getting this far: the frippery is a reminder that the Germans have a word for it. During the course of the pandemic that language has added over 1,200 new Covid-era terms, according to the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. In a normal year it would have been more like 200. Some examples (as in the illustration at top left): Impfneid (envy of the vaccinated), Balkonsänger (balcony singer), Maskentrottel (mask idiot), Hamsteritis (the urge to stockpile food), and overzoomed (self-evident). Here is the full list in German.