Monday, May 3, 2021 | Kaiser Health News

Vaccine Patent Rights Targeted By White House, WTO, Brazil

Sen. Bernie Sanders said the matter is a “moral” responsibility for the U.S. to waive key covid patents. Brazil’s senate, meanwhile, passed a bill allowing a temporary ban on patents for medications that could be used to fight the virus.

US To Launch Trade Talks On COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The U.S. top trade negotiator will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being more widely distributed worldwide, two White House officials said Sunday. The White House has been under pressure from lawmakers at home and governments abroad to join an effort to waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to produce their own generic versions of the shots to vaccinate their populations. (Superville, 5/2)

The Week:
Sanders: Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patents Both Practical And ‘Moral’ Responsibility For U.S.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said it’s not only a “moral responsibility” for the United States to help vaccinate the rest of the world — including India which is experiencing a devastating surge — against COVID-19. It’s “also in our own self-interest,” Sanders argued, because otherwise “this pandemic … is going to come back and bite us at one point or another.” To avoid that, he told NBC News’ Chuck Todd, “we should deal with this issue through the World Trade Organization of protecting the intellectual property rights of the drug companies.” In other words, Sanders wants to waive patents so poorer countries can produce their own vaccines, rather than relying only on excess supply from wealthier nations. (5/2)

What To Know About The Growing Debate Over COVID-19 Vaccine Patents And Equity

The ability of wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom to place huge orders for vaccines before companies had even proved their efficacy has attracted critics since the earliest months of the pandemic ― and the results they warned about are playing out now. Wealthy countries are at the front of the vaccine supply line and have essentially cleared the shelves: High-income and upper-middle-income countries have secured more than 6 billion vaccine doses, according to data provided to the journal Nature by the Duke University Global Health Innovation Center. Two major manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, are also American companies, giving the U.S. a leg up. (Boboltz, 5/2)

In related news about patents —

Los Angeles Times:
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Refused To Join WHO’s C-TAP For Vaccines. Now The India Surge Is Causing Crisis

Pfizer and Moderna — backed by the Trump administration — were concerned about protecting the trade secrets of their mRNA technology and refused to participate. As a result, the job of manufacturing vaccine for much of the world fell largely on a single producer in India, the Serum Institute, a central manufacturer for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca. Now facing its own COVID-19 catastrophe, India has all but halted its vaccine exports, leaving dozens of mostly poor countries it supplies in the lurch — a problem that experts said could have easily been avoided had vaccine makers signed on to C-TAP. (Baumgaertner, 4/30)

Brazilian Senate Votes To Suspend Patents In A Bid To Boost Vaccine Access

After a year of politicking, the Brazilian senate passed a bill that would permit the government to temporarily suspend any and all patents for medical products that could be used to fight Covid-19, as well as any future public health emergency declared by Brazilian authorities or the World Health Organization. Any license would be valid only for the duration of such an emergency. The legislation now goes to the lower house of Congress, although it remains unclear if it will have the same level of support. (Silverman, 4/30)

Vaccines Are Being Wasted; Pfizer Will Send Smaller Shipments To Help

As reports note that CVS and Walgreens are having “the lion’s share” of wasted covid vaccines, Pfizer has said that by the end of May it will be shipping smaller packages to reduce unused doses.

Pfizer To Offer Smaller Shipments Of COVID Vaccine 

Pfizer will begin distributing smaller packages of COVID-19 vaccine to states by the end of May to reduce potential waste. As public demand for vaccine teeters, health officials see smaller clinical settings as the next step in vaccinating Americans who haven’t sought out a shot already. (Fernandez, 5/3)

CVS And Walgreens Have Wasted More Vaccine Doses Than Most States Combined 

Two national pharmacy chains that the federal government entrusted to inoculate people against covid-19 account for the lion’s share of wasted vaccine doses, according to government data obtained by KHN. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 182,874 wasted doses as of late March, three months into the country’s effort to vaccinate the masses against the coronavirus. Of those, CVS was responsible for nearly half, and Walgreens for 21%, or nearly 128,500 wasted shots combined. (Eaton and Pradhan, 5/3)

In other updates on the vaccine rollout —

There’s Not Just One Kind Of Coronavirus Vaccine Hesitancy 

Around 10% of Americans aren’t very eager to get the vaccine, but they’re not really hesitant either — they’re just waiting to get it until they get around to it, according to new Harris polling. Making vaccination more convenient will be a big part of the difficult process of getting more shots in arms, now that many of the most eager Americans have gotten their shots. (Owens, 5/3)

The Washington Post:
Low Police Vaccination Rates Pose Public Safety Concerns 

Police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines. But their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, according to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies. The reluctance of police to get the shots threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say. (Stanley-Becker, 5/2)

Bangor Daily News:
Maine Makes Quick Shift To Walk-In COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments

More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccination sites in Maine will offer doses without appointments next week in a rapid and marked shift from scarce doses and few appointments to little issue getting a shot as the vaccine effort continues. The prevalence of walk-ins is striking because of how quickly it was adopted. Just over two weeks ago, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah gingerly discussed the possibility of appointment-free clinics, warning they could come with logistical hurdles to ensure doses would not be wasted. (Andrews and Piper, 5/3)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philly’s Vaccination Effort Reaches Out To Another Community: The Deaf

In fact, the Esperanza site, at Fourth and Bristol Streets, and the Convention Center site in Center City both have American Sign Language interpreters every day they are open, said Charlie Elison, a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the clinics in partnership with the city and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. On average, the sites vaccinate about five to 10 people daily who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, Elison said. But for the last few weeks, FEMA, the city’s Department of Public Health, SEPTA, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had promoted Saturday as a day at Esperanza dedicated to those who are deaf or have hearing loss, with more ASL and Certified Deaf Interpreters on hand. (Shaw, 5/1)

As Vaccine Demand Slows, Political Differences Go On Display In California Counties 

Demand for covid vaccines is slowing across most of California, but as traffic at vaccination sites eases, the vaccination rates across the state are showing wide disparities. In Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, nearly 67% of residents 16 and older have had at least one dose as of Wednesday, compared with about 43% in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles. Statewide, about 58% of eligible residents have received at least one dose. (Almendrala, 5/3)

Also —

The Hill:
Gottlieb Predicts 10M Kids Would Get Inoculated Before Fall If Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine Is Authorized 

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer’s board of directors, on Sunday predicted that 10 million kids would be vaccinated against the coronavirus before fall if the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use on younger teens. … “I’m hopeful the FDA is going to authorize that in a very short time period,” he said. (Oshin, 5/2)

Second Pfizer Covid Vaccine Needed For Full Inoculation, UK Study Shows

People who haven’t fought off Covid-19 before are still vulnerable to infection from variants after getting the first dose of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine, underscoring the need for fast and full inoculation regimens, according to a U.K. study published Friday. Among those who previously had mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid, the protection was “significantly enhanced” after a single dose against the variants first seen in the U.K. and South Africa, researchers said in the study, published Friday in the journal Science. (Loh, 4/30)

Boston Globe:
U.S. Government Has Invested $6 Billion In Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine

The federal government has now invested about $6 billion in the Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna, the Cambridge, Mass., biotech that few outside the scientific and investment worlds had heard of a couple of years ago. Moderna said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday that under a change in its government contract on April 18, it will receive as much as $236 million in additional reimbursement for costs associated with its late-stage vaccine trial on about 30,000 volunteers, including safety monitoring. (Saltzman, 4/30)

The Atlantic:
Pfizer Gang And The Sadness Of Vaccine Culture

Weirder still, one vaccine in particular—from Pfizer—has somehow become the cool vaccine, as well as the vaccine for the rich and stylish. Slate’s Heather Schwedel recently discussed the “Pfizer superiority complex” at length. As one source told her: “One of my cousins got Moderna, and I was like, ‘That’s OK. We need a strong middle class.’” On Twitter, the vaccinated are changing their usernames to reflect their new personal identities: There are Pfizer Princesses and Pfizer Floozies and Pfizer Pfairies and at least one Portrait of a Lady on Pfizer. “Pfizer is what was available when I signed up,” Jagger Blaec, a 33-year-old podcast host told me, “but it’s no coincidence every baddie I know has Pfizer and not Moderna.” Isn’t it a coincidence, though? (Tiffany, 4/30)

Anxiety, Not The Actual Shot, Caused Dozens Of Reactions To J&J Vaccine

The CDC investigated a total of 64 incidents out of 8,624 doses administered by five mass vaccination sites across five different states. Among those, there were 17 instances of syncope, or fainting.

The Hill:
CDC: Dozens Of Adverse Reactions Caused By Anxiety, Not Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that dozens of Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients experienced adverse physical reactions because of anxiety and not the vaccine itself, according to a report published Friday. The agency investigated clusters of anxiety-related events, with a total 64 incidents out of 8,624 doses administered, reported to the CDC by five mass vaccination sites across five different states. (Coleman, 4/30)

Fox News:
Fainting After Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccination 164 Times More Common Than Post-Flu Shot: CDC

Prior to reports of rare but serious blood clotting with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, federal health authorities were investigating dozens of anxiety-related events and fainting episodes in vaccine recipients, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In early April, four of out five mass vaccination sites across different states temporarily shuttered while the CDC analyzed 64 anxiety-related events, including 17 instances of syncope, or fainting among some 8,600 vaccine recipients. None of the reports were classified as serious, the agency said. (Rivas, 5/1)

Victims Of Rare Vaccine Injury Wait To See If U.S. Fund Will Pay

High school senior Emma Burkey received her “one and done” Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on March 20, and within two weeks was in an induced coma following seizures and clotting in her brain. She’s making a slow recovery, having recently been transfered from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, and the first round of bills totaled $513,000. The 18-year-old’s family friends in the Las Vegas area started a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses from the very rare vaccine reaction. (Decker, 5/3)

Detecting Rare Blood Clots Was A Win, But US Vaccine Safety System Still Has Gaps

The quick detection of an ultra-rare blood clotting reaction in some covid-19 vaccine recipients showed the power of a federal warning system for vaccine safety issues, but experts worry that blind spots in the program could hamper detection of other unexpected side effects. Before the pandemic began, the Food and Drug Administration had scaled back a program it used successfully to track adverse events during and after the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and the agency is still ramping up its replacement, said Dr. Robert Chen, scientific director of the Brighton Collaboration, a nonprofit global vaccine safety network. (JoNel Aleccia, 5/3)

And an analysis found few injuries from nasal swabs —

Report Details Rare Injuries From Nasopharyngeal COVID-19 Swabbing

Risk of complication from COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab tests is low (1.24 per 100,000 people), according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. The researchers found 8 instances among 2,899 patients admitted to Helsinki University’s otorhinolaryngology emergency department from Mar 1 to Sep 30, 2020; 643,284 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests occurred during this time. Of the patients, seven were female, and mean age was 39.5 years. Four experienced severe nosebleeds, and four had broken swabs. None were positive for COVID-19. (4/30)