EU regulator clears tweaked versions of COVID vaccines
The European Medicines Agency has recommended the authorization of two coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc., tweaked to include protection against an early version of the omicron variant.
In a statement on Thursday, the EU drug regulator said the two messenger RNA boosters offered protection both against the original version of COVID-19 and the omicron subvariant BA.1, which has since been overtaken globally by later omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Nearly 80% of coronavirus cases worldwide are now being caused by omicron BA.5, according to the World Health Organization, AP reported.
The decision comes a day after the U.S. drug regulator cleared updated versions of COVID-19 vaccines incorporating protection against the later subvariants, after telling pharmaceuticals in June that any updated boosters must target the most recent versions of omicron.
The European Medicines Agency said adapted vaccines are expected “to help maintain optimal protection against COVID-19 as the virus evolves.” The regulator is also currently reviewing an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that aims to protect against the later BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants.
Scientists hope the new boosters will trigger a strong response from the immune system to prevent not just serious illness but perhaps milder infections also – much like the original vaccines did earlier in the pandemic, before super-contagious mutants emerged.
It’s unclear how well the updated boosters will work since experts are still gathering data. But there’s evidence that they are safe, so waiting for more study on their effectiveness would risk another mutation appearing before people are immunized.
Last month, British authorities cleared an updated version of the Moderna booster that included protection against omicron subvariant BA.1, saying the shots would be offered to people 50 and over beginning in September.
In Germany, health minister Karl Lauterbach said that inoculations with the new vaccines could start next week and that “now is the optimal time to close vaccination gaps for the fall.”
Globally, coronavirus cases and deaths have been dropping for weeks, but scientists expect a surge of hospitalizations and deaths with the coming onset of winter in the northern hemisphere.
COVID-19 in Iran: Nearly 900 new cases, 24 deaths recorded
The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that more than 890 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified across the country during the past 24 hours, adding that 24 patients have died in the same period of time, Fars News Agency reported.
“A sum of 891 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours,” the Iranian Health Ministry’s Public Relations Center said on Sunday, adding, “454 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span.”
The ministry’s public relations center said 611 people infected with COVID-19 are in critical condition.
China says 200 million treated, pandemic ‘decisively’ beaten
China says more than 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 since it lifted strict containment measures beginning in November.
With 800,000 of the most critically ill patients having recovered, China has “decisively beaten” the pandemic, according to notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping, AP reported.
China enforced some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions and still faces questions about the origins of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Heavy-handed enforcement prompted rare anti-government protests and took a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying that policies to control the outbreak had been “entirely correct.” The abrupt lifting in November and December of the “zero COVID” policy that had sought to eliminate all cases of the virus led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.
Case numbers have since peaked and life has largely returned to normal, although international travel in and out of China has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme,” Xinhua said.
The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” Xinhua said.
Study suggests people who had COVID-19 risk new-onset diabetes
A new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suggests that people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 could stand an increased risk for new-onset diabetes.
The study’s results, conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai “have confirmed that people who have had COVID-19 have an increased risk for new-onset diabetes — the most significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.”
“Our results validate early findings revealing a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after a COVID-19 infection and indicate that this risk has, unfortunately, persisted through the Omicron era,” said Dr. Alan Kwan, the author of the study and a cardiovascular physician at Cedars-Sinai.
“The research study helps us understand — and better prepare for — the post COVID-19 era of cardiovascular risk,” he said.
The study also suggests that the risk of Type 2 diabetes appears to be lower in those who had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their infection.
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