The Six Vaccine Alternatives That Europe Is Considering Against The Coronavirus

The path to vaccination against the coronavirus is promising, but uncertain: no drug has yet proven efficacy and safety in large numbers of people (known as phase 3), but several are close to achieving it. The European Union is in very advanced talks with five companies, after announcing on Wednesday a preliminary agreement with the consortium formed by BioNTech and Pfizer to acquire at least 200 million doses when it is ready. But it has only closed the contract with one: AstraZeneca, which this Wednesday has temporarily suspended its tests due to an adverse effect that it will have to study.

“It was part of the planned script. Detecting these types of situations is part of a well-designed clinical trial that guarantees that the final medicine will be safe ”, explains César Hernández, head of the department of medicines for human use at the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Precisely for this reason agreements are finalized with several companies, because it is not known which one will get the vaccine, or which one will do it first.

In total, the preliminary agreements of the European Commission – which will distribute doses proportionally to the population of its partners – include the purchase of 1,205 million doses of these six experimental vaccines against covid: 300 million from the candidate from Oxford and AstraZeneca ; another 300 million from that developed by the French multinational Sanofi and the British GSK; 225 million of the prototype of the German biotechnology company Curevac; 200 million from the option of the American company Johnson & Johnson, the 200 already mentioned from BioNTech and Pfizer and 80 million doses from the also American Moderna.

“Predictably, all of them will reach the signing of the agreement, as happened with Oxford, it is a similar negotiation with all of them, in which an advance purchase of a volume of doses and a delivery plan is established according to manufacturing capacities. of the companies, ”Hernández explains.

Being in the midst of the trials phase, it is impossible to unequivocally close dates. According to this head of AEMPS, the first doses of all of them are scheduled between the end of this year and the middle of the next. AstraZeneca estimated that theirs would be ready by December 2020, but the stop in rehearsals may delay this date. “It can be hours, days or weeks until an independent scientific committee is able to find out what the adverse effect was due to,” adds Hernández.

Of the 179 experimental vaccines against covid -34 of them with human trials- , eight prototypes are already in phase 3. The most advanced was precisely that of the University of Oxford, with promising results in a first trial with a thousand people published in July. British researchers are conducting the latest tests with 50,000 people in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the US At this same stage are Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer, Chinese Fosun Pharma and Cansino Biologics and a Russian-made.

The mission of the AEMPS, is to provide Public Health with a portfolio of vaccines that have demonstrated quality, safety and efficacy. Depending on the results of the trials, protocols will be established to vaccinate the population. Although Fernando Simón, director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, said on Monday that the first would be health and vulnerable population, it all depends on the characteristics of the final drug (or drugs). It could be the case that in the tests with thousands of subjects (in phase 3) adverse effects were detected in people with certain pathologies or of specific ages that would prevent them from being vaccinated.


As Schools Reopen, Spain Sees Highest Spike In New Cases Of Second Covid-19 Wave

The beginning of the school year in Spain has coincided with the worst coronavirus figures of the second wave of the pandemic. According to data released Monday by the Spanish Health Ministry, the total number of Covid-19 cases has risen to 525,000, meaning that infections spiked again last week, with nearly 9,000 new daily cases.

The 14-day cumulative incidence of the virus, which is the parameter most commonly used to compare the epidemiological situation in each country, has risen at the same speed and is now at 230 cases per 100,000 people. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Spain has the highest incidence in Western Europe and almost double that of France, which is second on the list.

“We have a situation that is very similar to what we have been observing in previous weeks,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, at a government press conference on Monday.

Simón argued that the spike in cases is partly due to the fact that more infections are being tracked and detected. “PCR tests are being done where there is the greatest possibility of transmission,” he explained. The health official did, however, recognize that the positivity rate – the percentage of tests that come back positive – “is higher than we would like.” According to the Health Ministry, this rate has reached 11% in Spain.

“The trend is rising on a national level, but with significant differences between the regions,” said Simón. A few weeks ago, Aragón and Catalonia had among the worst coronavirus figures in the country, but now these regions have some of the best numbers in data points such as hospital admissions. But in other regions, such as Murcia, Andalusia, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, the incidence of the virus has continued to rise, even though these areas started from a better epidemiological situation.

Joan Ramon Villalbí, from the Spanish Association of Public Health and Health Administration (SESPAS), highlights other differences between Spain’s 17 regions. “If we compare the number of positive cases with the number of hospitalizations, we see that the number of admissions is especially low in the Basque Country, and in contrast, especially high in regions like Galicia, Castilla y León and Murcia. This appears to indicate that the former is managing to detect almost all cases, even asymptomatic ones, while in the others the chains of contagion are escaping them,” the expert explains.


US To Maintain 25% Tariffs On Spanish Cheese, Wine And Other Products

The United States government announced on Wednesday that it will maintain tariffs imposed on exports from the European Union last year – a decision that will affect Spanish cheese, wine, olive oil and pork products.

The US introduced the duties on October 18, 2019, after winning a dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over illegal subsidies given to aircraft maker Airbus more than 15 years ago.

In 2004, the US argued that the French, Spanish, British and German governments had handed out loans to Airbus at interest rates well below market standards. The WTO ruled in favor of the US and decided that, as compensation for the damage caused to the US aviation industry, Washington could impose as much as $7.5 billion (€6.34 billion) worth of European exports. The decision principally affected products from Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain.

The US Department of Trade said on Wednesday that some changes will be made to the list of products subject to the tariffs: a selection of items from Greece and the United Kingdom will be removed, and replaced by products from France and Germany. But there will be no change to the list of Spanish goods.

The decision means that a number of Spanish exports, including preserves, cured sausages and cheeses, will continue to be subject to a 25% tariff. The 10% duty on civil aircraft will also be maintained.

“The EU and member states have not taken the actions necessary to come into compliance with WTO decisions,” said US trade representative Rovert Lighthizer, who added that the US was willing to continue to negotiate ways to resolve the Airbus dispute.

“The United States will begin a new process with the EU in an effort to reach an agreement that will remedy the conduct that harmed the US aviation industry and workers and will ensure a level playing field for US companies,” said Lighthizer in a press release. According to news agency Bloomberg, the US government has so far rejected four proposals from the EU on the issue.


Internal Affairs Points Out That Rajoy Knew About The Espionage Of Bárcenas

The Internal Affairs Unit of the National Police, in charge of the investigation of the so-called Operation Kitchen, points out in one of its reports the possibility that the former president of the Government Mariano Rajoy had “knowledge” of the parapolice network to snatch the ex-treasurer of the PP Luis Bárcenas compromising documents on the financing of the party and thus prevent them from reaching the National Court. The report – sent to Judge Manuel García-Castellón, investigator of the Villarejo case , but included in the summary of box b of the PP, which is being investigated by another magistrate, José de la Mata – echoes recordings seized from retired commissioner José Villarejo, leader of the plot of police corruption and in prison since 2017.

From these audios it is gathered, says Internal Affairs, that the illegal espionage operation against Bárcenas, in 2013 and 2014, was “coordinated” by the then Secretary of State for Security, Francisco Martínez, and had the “knowledge”, among others, the “Asturiano”. The Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office attributes this nickname to Mariano Rajoy in a recent report in which he asks Judge García-Castellón to accuse the former Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, in the Kitchen piece of the Villarejo case , to the former secretary general of the PP, Dolores de Cospedal, and her husband, Ignacio López del Hierro.

The police report, to which EL PAÍS has had access and based on Villarejo’s recordings, points out that, in addition to Rajoy, someone nicknamed “Largo” was aware of the undercover operation against Bárcenas, which the Prosecutor’s Office, in its report identifies like attorney Javier Iglesias. This lawyer, according to the documents seized from Villarejo, was able to act as a liaison with La Moncloa to inform Rajoy of the result of the espionage carried out, behind the judge’s back, by Bárcenas’ driver, Sergio Ríos, who was allegedly paid more than 53,000 euros in reserved funds for two years.

The Internal Affairs report indicates that, despite the fact that the high command of the so-called patriotic police tried to pass the Kitchen as an operation to discover where Bárcenas kept his hidden assets to inform the judicial authority, the truth is that the recordings reveal that it would be “an operation aimed at locating” “compromising documents and audio files for leaders of the Popular Party.” There is no record, the investigators write, that the documents seized in this operation, coordinated by Francisco Martínez (“with the knowledge of Asturiano and El Largo”) have been brought to justice.


Astrazeneca And Oxford Discontinue Trials Of Their Experimental Covid Vaccine

The road to a covid vaccine will not be a walk. British pharmaceutical AstraZeneca has interrupted clinical trials of its prototype, one of the most advanced in the world, after detecting “a potentially unexplained disease” in one of the volunteers who received the injection, according to a company spokesperson to the health information website Stat News . The experimental vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford together with AstraZeneca, was theoretically the first to be administered in Spain. The European Commission has an agreement with the multinational to buy 300 million doses and the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, affirmed on August 28 that the first would arrive at the end of December “if everything goes well and security has been guaranteed.”

A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca in Spain assures that the suspension is “a routine action that is carried out, while investigating what happened, whenever a potentially unexplained disease is observed” in one of the trials. “We are working to accelerate the review of this single case in order to minimize any potential impact on clinical study times,” he adds.

AstraZeneca and Oxford are conducting final trials of their experimental vaccine in the UK, Brazil and South Africa and had also started recruiting volunteers in the US, to an expected total of 50,000 participants worldwide. The affected person received a dose in the British trial and has transverse myelitis, according to The New York Times . This neurological disorder is rare – barely 300 cases are detected a year in the UK – and is caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Dozens of cases have been described in the scientific literature vaccine-linked transverse myelitis, such as hepatitis B or combined mumps, measles, and rubella. The disorder is also associated with viral infections and other causes, so it is not clear that the new case is related to the AstraZeneca injection.

Oxford’s experimental vaccine is made from a weakened version of an adenovirus from the common cold of chimpanzees . The virus is modified with genetic information from the new coronavirus to train the immune system of the vaccinated person without the risk of suffering from covid. The scientist Vicente Larraga, from the Margarita Salas Biological Research Center (CSIC), in Madrid, points out that the appearance of disorders such as transverse myelitis is “relatively normal” “in general with vaccines that use modified viruses as vehicles”. Larraga, father of a vaccine against leishmaniasis in dogs and of a candidate against covid, recalls the difficult road ahead for experimental vaccines: “Of the molecules that begin a preclinical phase [tests in cells and in animals] only one in 10,000 reaches phase IV.