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Research Roundup: Antiviral drug shows promise, WHO authorizes Sinovac vaccine, and COVAX raises additional funds, doses
In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.
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An experimental oral antiviral drug showed promise as a potential treatment for COVID-19 after demonstrating an ability to prevent the virus from replicating, according to study results from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The drug, TEMPOL, was tested in an experiment of cell cultures with live viruses and was able to impair an enzyme the virus needs to make copies of itself inside human cells, which could limit the severity of the disease. An oral drug to prevent virus replication would be an important tool, as additional effective and accessible COVID-19 treatments are still needed, according to the NIH statement. NIH researchers said they plan to conduct additional preliminary studies and will seek opportunities to evaluate the drug in a clinical study.
The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Sinovac-CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Tuesday after evaluating its safety, efficacy, and quality. Other COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized by WHO include those developed by Sinopharm, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca. The emergency use paves the way for countries around the world to approve and import the vaccine for distribution quickly, according to the WHO press release, in addition to being a prerequisite for use by the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility. WHO also noted that the easy storage requirements of the vaccine make it suitable for use in low-resource settings.
The COVAX advance market commitment (AMC) initiative raised US$2.4 billion to fund COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries, in addition to 54 million vaccine donations, during a COVAX AMC virtual summit on Wednesday. This brings the total pledged to the COVAX AMC to $9.6 billion. The summit, hosted by the government of Japan and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, brought in donations from nearly 40 governments, the private sector, and foundations that will be used to secure 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for AMC-participating countries. The vaccines will be delivered in 2021 and early 2022 and will cover close to 30 percent of the adult population against COVID-19 in the 91 participating countries.