2021 COVID-19 News: Moderna Pays out $1 Million for Security and More

CV Update_April 6_2021

News information is not all-inclusive and updates are published once a week on Tuesdays. 

Here's a look at some of the top COVID-19 news over the past week. 

Moderna: The success of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has certainly supported the company’s status as a unicorn for investors. In fact, Moderna’s mRNA vaccine has proven to be so successful, the company has been forced to use some of its finances to protect members of its leadership team. In a proxy filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company disclosed it has authorized more than $1 million in expenditures related to the home and personal security of some executives, in order to protect its intellectual property. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine authorization was a first for the company. Until December 2020, Moderna did not have a revenue driver like many of its rivals. Now, the company is poised to use its mRNA technology to join the ranks of some of the biggest vaccine developers in the world.

Some women report that the COVID-19 vaccines make their menstrual periods worse. They reported earlier periods, heavier flows and more painful cramps. A January article in Reproductive BioMedicine Online indicated that in one study 28% of patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases had changes to their menstrual cycle and 25% had changes to their menstrual volume.

Emergent’s Woes Continue

The woes are continuing for Emergent Biosolutions. Following a manufacturing snafu that caused the contamination of 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, U.S. officials are telling AstraZeneca to find another manufacturer for its vaccine. Emergent reportedly contaminated the J&J vaccine with ingredients that are used in the AstraZeneca vaccine. While the Biden administration told Johnson & Johnson to take over Emergent’s manufacturing, it’s now telling AstraZeneca to cut ties with the Maryland-based CDMO, Politico reported.

Vaccines and Pregnancy

Researchers are likely to soon confirm whether or not there are any safety concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccines and pregnant women. In a Twitter chat, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that there currently appear to be no concerns for now. Fauci’s comments echo the position of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fox News reported.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) are enlisting 600 unvaccinated people in the Bay Area to determine if sleep or stress can affect the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Activist groups, developing countries and some Congressional Democrats are lobbying President Biden to weaken intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines. The argument is that this would make it easier for poorer countries to develop the vaccines themselves rather than try to buy them from the companies that are manufacturing them. The manufacturers argue that it would provide significantly less incentives to produce boosters to fight the rising viral variants.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA)’s head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper that he believes there was a clear link between the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots. “In my opinion,” Cavaleri said, “we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine.” It’s not clear, however, what causes the blood clots. But Cavaleri may be one of only a few who believe the link is particularly clear. Statistics worldwide suggest there are 4.6 brain clots for every 1 million shots within a few weeks after vaccination. That’s generally higher than expected over a short period of time, experts note. According to Johns Hopkins, brain clots would normally affect about five people per 1 million over 12 months. The data is still not clear, even on which age groups, if any, are most affected. 

The University of Texas created a licensing plan for HexaPro that lets companies and laboratories in 80 low- and middle-income countries to use the protein in their vaccines without paying royalties. And researchers at PATH are working for ways to increase COVID-19 vaccine production, particularly so that poorer countries can make their own. HexaPro is a new modified coronavirus spike protein that appears to be more stable, potent and effective than the 2P spike protein that is used in most of the existing COVID-19 vaccines.

Although the jury is still out, a study out of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin suggests that the answer is yes for a few years, but may be unnecessary after a few years post-pandemic. The researchers compared the evolution of endemic common cold coronaviruses with influenza viruses. 

Several new reports, two by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), describe just how severely COVID-19 has affected mortality figures in the U.S., and around the world, as well as ripple effects that extended to other forms of death.

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