This week of March 20, 2022, we look at new findings about Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, the latest push in Europe, and how we might reach an endemic COVID-19 scenario.
The Philippines has continued to see a drop in infections, with the number of cases remaining below 1,000 for more than two weeks now. Meanwhile, Metro Manila and 47 other areas have been placed under Alert Level 1 or the “new normal” until the end of March.
About 60% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Here’s what we’re looking at this week of March 20, 2022:
Single-shot vaccine durability
More and more data is emerging to suggest that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine prevents infection and disease just as well as the two-dose mRNA vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer. The scientists say that although more studies are needed, the results show that the J&J photo deserves closer examination.
- Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that as of January 22, 2022, an unvaccinated person was 3.2 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who had received the J&J vaccine. Meanwhile, unvaccinated people were also 2.8 times more likely to be infected than those who were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and 2.4 times more likely to be infected than those who were fully vaccinated with the vaccine. by Pifizer.
- Based on these findings so far, the J&J vaccine appeared to be “more protective against infection than the two alternatives”, reported the New York Times.
- With regard to boosters, the three vaccines had about the same effectiveness against the infection.
- While more data is needed to confirm the results, it underscores that the world is still figuring out what the “best” vaccine regimen might be. J&J had initially suffered from the perception that it was a “less” protective vaccine compared to major mRNA vaccines.
- Dr. Larry Corey, a vaccine development expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the Times“This vaccine platform may have surprising features that we hadn’t anticipated” and the CDC data “is interesting, provocative, and we should spend more time understanding it.”
- The J&J snap uses an adenovirus platform, which Corey described as having “much longer durability than almost any other platform we’ve worked with.”
- Scientists also have other guesses: J&J’s vaccine may produce antibodies that decline more slowly than other vaccines, or those antibodies produced may become more sophisticated over time.
- But other experts say more data – like a person’s infection history and conditions – is needed to get a clearer picture.
- In the meantime, this data can reassure those who have received J&J’s vaccine about the levels of protection they have against COVID-19. And, in the near future, more data confirming these findings would make the single-dose, easier-to-store vaccine an attractive option for middle- and low-income countries like the Philippines.
The last push
In Europe, coronavirus cases are on the rise again in all countries, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, among others, after the region lifted most pandemic restrictions in February. and March. The rise in infections has other countries like the United States fearing that the downward trend in cases may reverse in the coming weeks, although a subvariant that appears to be driving the figures is already in the Philippines.
- Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization (WHO), told a recent press conference that some of the factors behind the rise in cases were the lifting of restrictions, misinformation and resistance to vaccines, and BA. 2 – a sub-variant known as “stealth Omicron”.
- Power surges in the region are not causing an increase in hospitalizations at this time. The initial data also showed no difference in hospitalizations for BA.2 compared to BA.1, the original Omicron variant.
- Current vaccines still work against Omicron and its subvariant, as do proven health measures, such as observing physical distancing, good ventilation, and washing hands.
- In January, health officials said BA.1 and BA.2 had already been detected in the Philippines. In fact, at the time, the BA.2 sub-variant turned out to be the predominant variant in most regions.
- BA.1 was predominant among returning Filipinos and was found in only eight regions.
- This is the latest reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and countries, including the Philippines, must stay prepared and plan for the worst outcomes.
Path to an endemic scenario
As more and more countries seek to “live with the virus”, we have all heard a version of how COVID-19 will become endemic in the future. But what exactly does this mean and how do you get there?
- Although the transition to the “endemic” phase of COVID-19 involves certain evolutionary processes of the virus, there are also systemic changes that must be made by the government in order for the Philippines to be ready to face the virus in the years to come. to come.
- “We cannot rely on the evolution of the virus to a milder form to emerge from the pandemic. Instead, we must accelerate the building of an immune wall against the virus and do it fairly,” epidemiologist Dr John Wong wrote on Rappler. Must read piece here.
- Experts from public health research firm EpiMetrics explained on Rappler that there are also levels of endemicity – including “elimination”, “cohabitation” and “conflagration” – the outcome of which will depend on the measures. public health that we will take now and in the coming months.
- Elimination is the ideal scenario, and also the most difficult to achieve. Here the virus cancontinue to exist in the physical environment, but will struggle to cause debilitating illness relevant to the general population, as evidenced by near-zero symptomatic infections and even severe illness.
- Cohabitation would be when there are “rare reinfections, rare vaccine breakthroughs and negligible secondary transmission in the face of the most viral variants”.
- Conflagration occurs when the virus “moderately infects and kills members of the population and may eventually give rise to other variants that can cause further outbreaks.”
- The most effective way to end the pandemic – or the emergency phase of the crisis – would still be to vaccinate the elderly, who account for 70% of deaths. About 2.6 million elderly Filipinos are still unprotected against the virus.
- On the road to endemicity, masks should always be in place until high vaccination levels are achieved and life-saving treatments like oral antivirals should be widely available.
Pause on Sputnik V endorsement
The WHO was forced to delay its assessment of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine created difficulties in the body’s approval process.
- WHO Deputy Director-General Dr Mariângela Simão said previously scheduled inspections and flight bookings were among the details affected by the ongoing fighting which spilled over into its fourth week.
- A new schedule has not been decided and will be established “as soon as possible”. Until then, Sputnik V is not yet on the WHO’s emergency use list for COVID-19 vaccines.
- More than 70 countries, including the Philippines, have approved the Russian vaccine for emergency use. But Russians and others who have received the vaccine have reported some difficulty getting it recognized for entry into Europe and the United States.
- Placing the vaccine on the WHO Emergency Use List will allow it to be used in the COVAX Global Immunization Program and more easily recognized by countries for travel. This last factor is important for a country like the Philippines, which has millions of overseas Filipino workers.
In case you missed it: We’ve been living under a pandemic for two years now, quarantine restrictions have changed the way we function day to day, and a virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mite has sickened nearly 4 million Filipinos and killed more than 57,000.
As the government seeks to transition to a “new normal”, Rappler reviews some of the major changes that have taken place due to COVID-19, as well as the lasting effects the virus may have in the months to come. More in this story: