Pfizer pushes for 3rd shot as variant leads to global epidemics
WASHINGTON: Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Thursday that they would seek authorization for a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to boost its effectiveness, as the Delta variant has caused devastating epidemics in Asia and Africa, and cases have again increased in Europe and the United States.
As the pandemic grew in intensity, Japan banned fans from most Olympic events and placed Tokyo under a viral state of emergency throughout the Games.
The decision comes just two weeks before the opening ceremony.
Delta has been the most infectious strain of the virus since the start of the global pandemic in early 2020.
Originally detected in India months ago, it has spread rapidly and is now accelerating epidemics, even in countries with high vaccination rates.
This led the World Health Organization to warn the world was at a “perilous point” as the official global death toll surpassed four million.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect a third dose to be effective against the Delta strain and will seek clearance in the United States, Europe and other regions in the coming weeks.
Initial data from an ongoing trial showed that a third injection pushed antibody levels five to 10 times higher against the original coronavirus strain and the beta variant, first found in South Africa. South, compared to the first two doses alone, according to a statement.
The companies said they expected similar results for Delta, but added that they were also developing a Delta-specific vaccine against the strain.
The statement came after Japan, where the strain currently accounts for around 30% of cases, on Thursday banned spectators from the Olympic venues in Tokyo, where most competitions will take place.
Earlier, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the capital would be in a state of emergency for the duration of the Games, until August 22, although much more flexible than the closures seen in other parts of the world such as the ‘Australia.
In Australia, the government has said it will ship 300,000 doses of the vaccine to Sydney, the country’s largest city – in its third week of lockdown – struggling to bring an outbreak of Delta under control.
– “The worst to come” for Africa: WHO –
South Korea, once seen as a model for coronavirus response with Australia, reported nearly 1,300 new infections on Thursday, the highest since the start of the pandemic.
Elsewhere in Asia, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City has been stranded. The threat of the virus has also forced organizers to postpone the Southeast Asian Games scheduled to take place in Vietnam.
Indonesia has become a global Covid-19 hotspot, with death rates increased tenfold in one month to more than 1,000 on Wednesday.
Hospitals in the vast archipelago of 270 million people have been pushed to the brink by the flood of coronavirus cases.
The out-of-control virus wave has led to a race for ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug backed by major politicians and social media influences as a “miracle cure” despite little evidence and health warnings.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, which has the second highest Covid-19 death toll in the world after the United States, authorities said the variant was spreading rapidly in the country’s most populous state, Sao Paulo.
And in Africa, the WHO has warned that the worst is yet to come after the most disastrous week in its history of pandemics.
“The third rapid wave continues to gain momentum and gain ground,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Tunisian authorities said the country’s health system had “collapsed” under the weight of the pandemic, calling the situation “catastrophic”.
– ‘Pericious’ –
The WHO has said more than four million people have died from Covid-19, but warned that figure was likely an underestimate.
The head of the UN body, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned rich countries against complacency and warned that the world was at a “perilous” point.
Delta is making itself felt even in places where vaccination campaigns have been robust.
France on Thursday advised its citizens not to travel to Spain and Portugal due to a spike in cases caused by Delta.
In Russia, where Delta has driven the death rate to pandemic heights among a population hesitant to vaccinate, Moscow police have launched criminal investigations to crack down on false vaccination certificates.