Remember when I said “we’ll see if anything else happens” in last week’s article on AstraZeneca’s issues? Well, I accept full responsibility for manifesting the chaos that happened earlier this week and I promise I won’t tempt fate again this time around. If you’re confused, as I certainly was, here’s just what the hell happened.
On Monday, AstraZeneca released results from their Phase 3 trials in the United States, and they looked good: 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease, 100% efficacy against hospitalizations and deaths. This was certainly a welcome result for the company which is continuing to grapple with fallout from rare cases of blood clots that have been reported in some people after they got the vaccine, and gears started to turn to get EUA approval in the United States. (Even though, again, the U.S. just promised most of their supply to Canada and Mexico. Everyone wants FDA clout, I guess.)
But on Tuesday, officials started to question the results. The results released on Monday had looked better than more recent results released elsewhere, one of which showed an overall efficacy of around 60%. Also, as Dr. Eric Topol pointed out, the data were fairly incomplete:
Independent reviewers from the data and safety monitoring board sent “a harsh note” to AstraZeneca, according to Anthony Fauci, and sure enough, it soon became clear that AstraZeneca had released outdated (better) numbers instead of the real results from the trial, obfuscating how efficacious the vaccine actually was in the U.S. trial.
After all this, on Wednesday morning, AstraZeneca released the updated overall efficacy number: 76%. All that drama over docking three percentage points. (Though they did also complete the dataset, thus satisfying Dr. Topol and saving them more of his very pointed tweets. Thank you Dr. Topol.)
Dr. Ashish Jha sums it up pretty well:
But Roxanne Khamsi sums it up even better:
We’ll see if anything el—nope, I promised I wouldn’t.
- there might be a link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and those blood clots after allThis week, authorities had enough data to posit a possible connection between blood clots known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The EMA has now advised, as of April 7, that “that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria (formerly COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).” They are still recommending its use given the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s another blow to the vaccine that held much of the world’s hopes in inoculating the entire population. A mechanism by which the vaccine is causing these thromboses has not been discovered.
- CDC says 80% of teachers and childcare workers are vaccinated, fails to provide more specificsThis past Tuesday, April 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a press release that I found heartening, yet confusing. “Nearly 80 percent of teachers, school staff, and childcare workers receive at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine,” the release proclaims. These vaccinations include “more than 2 million” people in these professions who received doses through the federal retail pharmacy program and “5-6 million” vaccinated through state programs, all of whom received shots before the end of March.
- COVID source shout-out: New York expands eligibilityThis week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced two major expansions for vaccine eligibility. State residents age 30 and older became eligible starting on March 30, and residents age 16 and older became eligible starting on April 6. This expansion allowed two of my favorite vaccine communicators to get their shots!
- Pfizer for the whole pfamilyGood news for people with kids: this week, Pfizer and BioNTech released results for their trial involving adolescents aged 12-15. In the trial, no participants who received the vaccine contracted symptomatic COVID-19 out of a total of 2,260 participants, marking an efficacy rate of 100%.