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Russia rebuffs claim of stealing AZ jab formula from UK


Russia’s Sputnik jab uses similar technology to the AstraZeneca-Oxford designed vaccine….reports Asian Lite News

Russia has rebuffed accusations that its spies stole the “blueprint” for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and used it to create its own Sputnik V jab.

It’s “scientific nonsense”, the head of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund), was quoted as saying.

This week, British security services alleged that Russian spies stole and hacked UK’s Covid vaccine data, according to a report in The Sun. Several other reports alleged that UK security services told British ministers they had solid proof against Russia.

However, RDIF called it “fake” and a “blatant lie”, the report said.

“There is no merit [to these claims] and we’re very clear about this,” Kirill Dmitriev was quoted as saying to CNBC on Wednesday.

“This report is complete scientific nonsense, it has zero merit and frankly it’s a lie,” he added.

Russia’s Sputnik jab uses similar technology to the AstraZeneca-Oxford designed vaccine.

The security teams are sure it was copied and it is understood the data was stolen by a foreign agent in person, the newspaper claimed.

Last year, spies blamed Russian president Vladimir Putin, saying they were “more than 95 per cent” sure that Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted British, American and Canadian bodies developing a Covid vaccine, it added.

Dmitriev called the report “nonsense from anonymous sources” and said the accusations were part of a “smear campaign against Sputnik V because some politicians don’t like Russia and because some big pharma companies, who are afraid of the success of Sputnik V, continue to attack Sputnik V and Sputnik Light (its one-dose booster shot) from day one, so we’re used to these attacks”, he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe.”

He added that the country wants to partner other vaccine producers and is ready for a joint clinical trial taking place with AstraZeneca (to determine if mixed Covid vaccine doses work, the report said.

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‘Pfizer, AZ vax antibodies may drop 50% in 3 months’

The researchers highlighted that although the clinical implications of waning antibody levels are not yet clear, some decline was expected and current research shows that vaccines remain effective against severe disease…reports Asian Lite News.

Total antibody levels produced by both Pfizer and AstraZeneca appear to start declining from as early as six weeks after two vaccine doses and can reduce by more than 50 per cent over 10 weeks, according to a new study stressing the need for booster doses.

The study, led by researchers of the University College London, showed that the waning effect of the vaccine doses were consistent across all groups of people regardless of age, chronic illnesses or sex.

Published as a research letter in The Lancet, the study included data from over 600 people and showed antibody levels are substantially higher following two doses of the Pfizer vaccine than after two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.

AstraZeneca vaccine

They are also much higher in those with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The researchers highlighted that although the clinical implications of waning antibody levels are not yet clear, some decline was expected and current research shows that vaccines remain effective against severe disease.

For Pfizer, antibody levels reduced from a median of 7506 U/mL at 21-41 days, to 3320 U/mL at 70 or more days. For AstraZeneca, antibody levels reduced from a median of 1201 U/mL at 0-20 days to 190 U/mL (67-644) at 70 or more days.

“The levels of antibody following both doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine were initially very high, which is likely to be an important part of why they are so protective against severe Covid-19,” said Maddie Shrotri from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics.

“However, we found these levels dropped substantially over the course of two to three months. If they carry on dropping at this rate, we are concerned that the protective effects of the vaccines may also begin to wear off, particularly against new variants; but we cannot yet predict how soon that might happen,” she added.

The findings support recommendations from the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) that adults who are clinically vulnerable, those aged 70 years or over, and all residents of care homes for older adults should be prioritised for booster doses.

“In addition, those who were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, including most care home residents, are likely to have much lower antibody levels than those vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, so this may also need to be considered when deciding who should be prioritised when boosters are rolled out,” said Professor Rob Aldridge from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics.

However, the study included only a small sample size and different people will have different levels of immunity depending on the virus neutralizing ability of their antibodies as well as their T-cell responses.

Thus, additional research is important to establish if there is an antibody level threshold needed for protection against severe disease, the researchers noted.

ALSO READ-‘Pfizer, AZ jabs highly effective against Delta variant’

READ MORE-Single dose of Pfizer, AZ offers 60% protection

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AZ tests booster jab to counter Beta variant


The study aims to enroll 2,250 participants from the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Poland to build immunity against the Beta Covid variant…reports Asian Lite News.

British-Swedish biopharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has in partnership with the University of Oxford rolled out human trials for booster shots against Beta Covid variant.

The booster shot, named AZD2816, will be administered to individuals who have previously been fully vaccinated with two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine/Vaxzervia or an mRNA vaccine, at least three months after their last injection.

In non-vaccinated individuals, AZD2816 will be given as two doses, four or twelve weeks apart, or given as a second dose following a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine/Vaxzervia –four weeks apart, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

AZD2816 has been designed using the same adenoviral vector platform as AstraZeneca vaccine/ Vaxzervia, with minor genetic alterations to the spike protein based on the Beta (B1351) variant, first identified in South Africa.

The study aims to enroll 2,250 participants from the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Poland to build immunity against the Beta Covid variant.

“Testing booster doses of existing vaccines and new variant vaccines is important to ensure we are best prepared to stay ahead of the pandemic coronavirus, should their use be needed,” said Professor Sir Andrew J. Pollard, chief investigator and director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, in the statement.

Initial data from the trial is expected later this year and, once available, will be submitted to regulators for assessment as a next-generation booster vaccine and through an expedited regulatory pathway, the company said.

“The Beta variant vaccine contains 10 changes across the spike protein, many of which are also seen in other variants of concern, and which lead to effects such as, reduced ability of antibodies induced against the original virus to block cell entry (K417N, E484K, N501Y), increased infectivity compared to the original virus (D614G); reduced sensitivity of neutralising antibodies to the original virus (L452R),” the company said.

Besides these minor modifications, the two AZD2816 and AstraZeneca vaccine/ Vaxzervia vaccines are the same, it noted.

In May, the UK launched a clinical trial that aimed to assess the efficacy of a third ‘booster’ dose of seven different Covid-19 vaccines — Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac — on patients immune responses.

It costs 19.3 million pound and is being funded by the UK government and led by the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that there is currently no data to support that a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot is needed for the general population. But, an extra dose may be needed for more-vulnerable groups, such as older adults or organ transplant patients.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are investigating a third dose of Covid vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson is studying the need for a second dose to raise protection against the virus, the report said.

The US NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, or NIAID, is also conducting a clinical trial to understand whether a third shot of a Moderna vaccine could be given after a person initially received two shots of Pfizer, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson, the report added

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‘Pfizer, AZ jabs highly effective against Delta variant’

These are comparable with vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation from the Alpha (B117) variant: 96 per cent after two doses with Pfizer vaccine and 92 per cent after two doses from AstraZeneca vaccines…reports Asian Lite News.

Two doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the Delta (B16172) variant, according to new analysis from Public Health England (PHE).

The analysis suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

These are comparable with vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation from the Alpha (B117) variant: 96 per cent after two doses with Pfizer vaccine and 92 per cent after two doses from AstraZeneca vaccines.

The new analysis included 14,019 cases of the Delta variant, 166 of whom were hospitalised between 12 April and 4 June, looking at emergency hospital admissions in England. The results have been posted as a preprint. Preprints are yet to be peer-reviewed.

“This evidence of the effectiveness of two doses against variants shows just how crucial it is to get your second jab. If you have had your first dose but haven’t booked your second yet — please do so. It will help save lives and boost us on the road to recovery,” said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, in a statement.

“These hugely important findings confirm that the vaccines offer significant protection against hospitalisation from the Delta variant. The vaccines are the most important tool we have against Covid-19. Thousands of lives have already been saved because of them. It is absolutely vital to get both doses as soon as they are offered to you, to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants,” added Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE.

A study by PHE in May showed that three weeks after the first dose of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine provided only 33 per cent protection against the Delta variant, while it offered 50 per cent effectiveness against the Alpha variant.

The B16172 variant was first discovered in India and is one of three related strains. It was declared as a variant of global concern last month by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha strain identified in the UK.

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‘AstraZeneca jab authorised for all age-groups’

The EU has also authorised Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s mRNA based Covid-19 vaccines…reports Asian Lite News.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine remains authorised for all populations, European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said.

The clarification camme after Italian newspaper La Stampa earlier quoted Marco Cavaleri, head of the EMA’s vaccine strategy, recommending a stop to administration of AstraZeneca’s Covid shots in Europe to people aged over 60 and younger age groups, amid fears over very rare blood clotting.

“Misinformation is making the rounds today. This is the situation: Benefit/risk balance of AstraZeneca #Covid19 vaccine is positive and it remains authorised for all populations,” the EMA said in a tweet on Sunday.

Cavaleri was also quoted by the newspaper advising the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine preferentially for the over-60s.

The European Union has approved AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for all populations aged 18 and above. However, both viral vector-based jabs have been marred by various reports of rare blood clots.

The EU has also authorised Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s RNA based Covid-19 vaccines.
Asked by the newspaper whether it would be better to stop using AstraZeneca for all age groups, Cavaleri had said: “Yes, and it is an option that many countries, such as France and Germany, are considering in the light of the increased availability of mRNA vaccines.”

“However, incidents were very rare after the first dose. It is true that there is less data on the second dose, but in the United Kingdom it (the vaccination programme) is going well,” he added.

On June 11, Italy restricted the use of AstraZeneca doses to those aged 60 years and above, after a teenager who had received the shot died from a rare form of blood clotting.

In March, the two-dose vaccine was briefly halted by many European countries, including Italy, over concerns about the rare blood clotting problems.

But, its usage was resumed in April, after the EMA said its benefits outweighed any risks.

ALSO READ-Japan approves Moderna, AstraZeneca jabs

READ MORE-EU sues AstraZeneca for contract breach

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EU sues AstraZeneca for contract breach

The EU seeks big fines issued to AstraZeneca over an alleged breach of a contract concluded last summer…reports Asian Lite News

An ongoing spat between the European Union (EU) and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over the latter’s alleged contract breach over the distribution of Covid vaccines is being decided at a Brussels court.

The EU seeks big fines issued to AstraZeneca over an alleged breach of a contract concluded last summer, in which supplies of Covid-19 vaccines that were promised to all 27 member states failed to deliver, reports Xinhua news agency.

During an emergency hearing on Wednesday, the EU accused AstraZeneca of postponing deliveries so the company could service the UK and other countries.

If the company is found guilty, it will be forced to take certain measures to make up for delays in manufacturing and supplying vaccine doses to the bloc.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen
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Specifically, the EU has claimed that the terms agreed in the contract have not been respected, and AstraZeneca failed to implement a viable strategy to ensure supplies of the vaccine were delivered on time in full.

According to the EU, AstraZeneca delivered only 30 million doses to the bloc in the first quarter of 2021, despite promising 300 million doses throughout this year

EU’s lawyer Rafael Jafferali told the Brussels court that AstraZeneca expects to deliver the total number of contracted doses by the end of December, but added that “with a six-month delay, it’s obviously a failure”.

The debates will continue on June 4 at 2 p.m.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this week that half of EU adults would have received their first dose of the vaccine this week, as 300 million doses are delivered, and 245 million doses administered.

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Japan approves Moderna, AstraZeneca jabs

Japan is already using the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer…reports Asian Lite News

A Japanese government panel of experts approved two Covid-19 vaccines developed by US drug maker Moderna Inc. and the UK-based AstraZeneca Plc, with the Health Ministry expected to formaliae the approval of the use of the two jabs on Friday.

The expected approval, based on the expert panel’s assessment of Japan’s own clinical trials of the vaccines as well as those from overseas and the efficacy of the vaccines against Covid-19, will bring the number of jabs available in the country to three, reports Xinhua news agency.

Japan is already using the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The country’s vaccine rollout has come under fire for lagging well behind the pace in other advanced countries, with Japan’s inoculation campaign the slowest among OECD nations and allowing its current fourth wave of infections to spread largely unabated, informed sources have said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to ramp up inoculations to 1 million shots a day and finish vaccinating the elderly by the end of July.

Japan began inoculating its elderly population of about 36 million in mid-April, but multiple municipalities have said they expect to miss the government’s end-of-July deadline, due to a lack of healthcare workers available to administer the shots.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has said a team to be launched within his Cabinet Secretariat will come up with ways to provide certification and permit people who have been vaccinated to travel overseas.

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B’desh govt nod for emergency use of Russian vaccine

The decision came days after Dhaka suspended the first dosing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on a supply crunch…reports Asian Lite News.

The Bangladeshi government has approved the import and use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19.

Major General Mahbubur Rahman, Director General of the country’s Drug Administration, made the announcement on Tuesday, the Xinhua news agency reported.

AstraZeneca vaccine

The decision came days after Dhaka suspended the first dosing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on a supply crunch.

“We’ve given permission for the emergency use of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine,” Rahman told journalists.

Amid uncertainty over timely arrival of the next Covid-19 vaccine shipment from India, the Bangladeshi government halted administering first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine across the country from Monday.

Nearly 6 million people have so far received the first dose of the vaccine in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on January 28 virtually inaugurated the country’s Covid-19 vaccination drive.



The Bangladeshi government on Monday announced that it decided to extend the ongoing lockdown which began on April 14 for another week.

Bangladesh recorded 112 deaths from Covid-19 on April 19, its highest daily toll from the pandemic, the government said.

On Tuesday, the country’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) reported 3,031 new cases of Covid-19 and 78 new deaths, bringing the number of total cases to 751,659 and the total death toll to 11,228.

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AstraZeneca denies EU claims

The company said that it expects to deliver 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with its forecast….reports Asian Lite News

British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca on Monday denied having breached its contract to supply the European Union with 300 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.

“AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court,” the company said in a written statement published shortly after the EU executive branch announced that it was taking legal action against AstraZeneca over alleged breaches of its Covid-19 vaccine supply contract, the dpa news agency reported.

“We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” the statement added.

A health worker looks at a vial of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination centre

The company said that it expects to deliver 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with its forecast.

“Vaccines are difficult to manufacture, as evidenced by the supply challenges several companies are facing in Europe and around the world,” AstraZeneca said.

Earlier in the day, the spokesperson of the European Commission, Stefan De Keersmaecker, had said: “The company (AstraZeneca) has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract.”

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Denmark halts AstraZeneca rollout

Denmark first suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11, citing “very rare but severe side effects” discovered during the jab’s safety monitoring….reports Asian Lite News

Denmark has decided to entirely cease administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health authority confirmed.

“Based on the scientific findings, our overall assessment is there is a real risk of severe side effects associated with using the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca. We have, therefore, decided to remove the vaccine from our vaccination program,” Xinhua news agency quoted Soren Brostrom, director general of the Danish Health Authority, as saying to the media on Wednesday.

In a statement, the authority also claimed that the pandemic was “currently under control” in Denmark, adding that this had contributed to the decision.

Denmark first suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11, citing “very rare but severe side effects” discovered during the jab’s safety monitoring.

AstraZeneca vaccine
Also read:UK confirms 7 blood clot deaths linked to AstraZeneca

Denmark’s decision on Wednesday came in the wake of the European Medical Agency’s (EMA) recent verdict that “the benefits of using the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive it”.

The Danish Health Authority agrees with the EMA’s general findings, Brostrom said, adding that “in the midst of an epidemic, it has been a difficult decision to continue our vaccination program without an effective and readily available vaccine against Covid-19”.

However, the authority referred to further comments by the EMA that the “use of the vaccine during vaccination campaigns at the national level should also consider the pandemic situation and vaccine availability in each individual country”.

“We are basically in agreement with the EMA’s assessment regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. That is why it is important to emphasize that it is still an approved vaccine,” said Brostrom.

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