Research Roundup: Combined COVID-19/flu vaccines, new COVAX supply forecast, and pandemic-related setbacks
Moderna and Novavax are both developing vaccines for combined protection against COVID-19 and the flu, the companies announced last week. Moderna is working on a single-dose vaccine that combines a booster dose of its authorized COVID-19 and a booster of its furthest along experimental flu shot. Novavax has launched an early-stage trial for a combined flu and COVID-19 vaccine composed of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, not yet authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration, and its influenza shot NanoFlu, along with an adjuvant or vaccine booster. The Novavax trial will be conducted in Australia among 640 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 70 who have been previously infected with COVID-19 or given an authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least eight weeks prior to the study. Results are expected in the first half of 2022.
The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility’s global vaccine deliveries will fall almost 30 percent below its original target of distributing 2 billion doses in 2021, the initiative’s leaders estimate. The new supply forecast predicts another 1.1 billion doses will be made available this year, in addition to the 330 million already released for delivery before the end of August, for an estimated total of 1.4 billion vaccine deliveries by the end of 2021. The shortfall is the result of a variety of factors, including restrictions on exports from the Serum Institute of India, problems increasing manufacturing at vaccine facilities, and lags in regulatory approval, according to COVAX leaders. Under the most likely forecast, COVAX would reach 2 billion available doses between January and February of 2022.
COVID-19 has set back the fight against other global health challenges like HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria, according to a report released by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Compared to 2019, the number of people tested and treated for TB fell by about 18 percent in 2020—and the number of people treated for extensively drug-resistant TB by 37 percent. The number of people who sought testing for HIV declined by 22 percent, and those opting for HIV prevention services fell by 12 percent. However, the report also noted the adoption of innovations, from dispensing multi-month supplies of TB and HIV drugs to using digital tools to monitor TB treatment, adopted by health agencies and ministries around the world, which will hopefully outlast the pandemic.