Vaccine Disparities Raise Alarm as Covid Variants Multiply

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Vaccine Disparities Raise Alarm as Covid Variants Multiply” – below is their description.

    Global gaps in access to Covid-19 vaccines are raising concerns that the continued spread of the coronavirus will breed more dangerous versions of the pathogen, weakening medical weapons and further crippling economies.

    In a race to catch up with emerging coronavirus variants, wealthy countries are already benefiting from potent vaccines. While the U.S., Britain and European Union have given citizens about 24 million doses so far — more than half of the shots administered globally — vast numbers of countries have yet to begin their campaigns.

    Disparities in immunity pose a threat to both have and have-not states. Giving the coronavirus an opportunity to advance and generate new mutants would have significant economic and public-health consequences, adding to the pain as the death toll surpasses 2 million.

    “We cannot leave parts of the world without access to vaccines because it’s just going to come back to us,” said Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at health research foundation Wellcome. “That puts everyone around the world at risk.”

    Countries are relying on effective immunizations to save lives and revive businesses. The World Bank’s projection for 4% growth this year depends on widespread deployment of vaccines. Surging Covid cases and a delay to the delivery of inoculations, however, could limit expansion to just 1.6%.

    High-income countries have secured 85% of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine and all of Moderna Inc.’s, according to London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd. Much of the world will be counting on U.K. drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc, whose vaccine is cheaper and easier to distribute, along with other manufacturers such as China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

    Read More: Africa Left With Few Options for Vaccines, South Africa Says

    At least 49 higher-income countries are rolling out Covid vaccines, compared with one lowest-income nation reporting the first 25 doses, according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Not 25 million. Not 25,000. Just 25,” he said at a meeting Monday. A growing number of countries are stepping up their own supply deals, in addition to participating in a global collaboration known as Covax.

    Future Mutants

    Urgency is increasing as the pandemic extends into a second year. New variants that surfaced in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil appear to spread significantly faster than earlier versions. Just in the past month, a “new dimension of risk has opened up for the world,” said Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s vaccines business.

    Reducing deaths and illnesses has been seen as the main driver of delivering vaccines rapidly, said Venkayya, who worked in the George W. Bush administration to develop a U.S. pandemic flu plan and directed vaccine delivery for the Gates Foundation.

    “We now understand it’s also very, very important to control transmission,” he said, “not just to protect those most vulnerable populations, but also to reduce the evolutionary risk associated with this virus.”

    While there’s no evidence to suggest the current crop of vaccines are ineffective against those variants, future mutants may be less responsive, Wellcome’s Weller said.

    Drugmakers say they could tweak their shots to counter new variants within weeks if needed. The likelihood that such adaptations will be necessary has increased, Venkayya said.

    “The longer the virus is allowed to continue in different parts of the world where we don’t have a vaccine,” said Anna Marriott, health policy adviser at the anti-poverty group Oxfam, “the greater the danger of new variants that could be more aggressive, more virulent or transmissible.”

    Covid shots have been tested for their ability to prevent symptoms, not transmission. Still, their performance in clinical trials gives an indication of how effective they might be against spread.

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    AstraZeneca plc/AB (LON: AZN) is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company with its headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom and Södertälje, Sweden. Its R&D is concentrated in Cambridge in United Kingdom, Södertälje in Sweden, and Maryland and Toronto in North America.

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    Brazil is the largest country in both South America and Latin America.

    Its capital is Brasília, and its most populous city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states and the Federal District. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas, as well as the most populous Roman Catholic-majority country.

    Its Amazon basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats. Brazil is classified as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank and a newly industrialized country.

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    Symptoms of coronavirus

    The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

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    Moderna is an American biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that focuses on drug discovery, drug development, and vaccine technologies based exclusively on messenger RNA.

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