The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed above 177 million on Thursday, a day after disappointing news from CureVac, which said its vaccine was only 47% effective in a late-stage clinical trial.
The news sent CureVac shares down almost 50% as the vaccine, which uses the same messenger RNA technology as the vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE
and Moderna Inc.
looks far less effective than those shots, which have shown efficacy greater than 90% and been given to millions of people worldwide.
CureVac said the trial involved about 40,000 people in 10 countries and that preliminary data showed the vaccine candidate is a poor match against a “fast changing environment” of at least 29 COVID-19 variants, with the original coronavirus strain “almost completely absent.”
Moreover, initial scrutiny of the vaccine candidate’s efficacy showed it to be likely dependent on a person’s age and on which strain they contract, the company said. CureVac
is continuing toward a final analysis of some 80 additional cases, and the overall vaccine efficacy could change, it said.
“While we were hoping for a stronger interim outcome, we recognize that demonstrating high efficacy in this unprecedented broad diversity of variants is challenging,” Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas said in a statement. “In addition, the variant-rich environment underlines the importance of developing next-generation vaccines as new virus variants continue to emerge,” he said.
In other vaccine news, Australia recommended restricting use of the AstraZeneca
Health Minister Greg Hunt said concerns over possible links to blood clots meant Pfizer
was now “the preferred vaccine” for everyone under 60 years old. Australian authorities had already restricted the AstraZeneca shot to those over 50 in April, after several cases of severe blood clots were possibly linked to it.
The U.S. vaccine program, meanwhile, continues to slow, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker. The U.S. has fully vaccinated 146.5 million people, or 44.1% of the overall population, compared with 43.9% on Wednesday. So far, 175 million people, or 52.7% of the population, have received at least one shot of a two-shot regimen.
Among adults 18-years-and-older, 141.5 million people are fully vaccinated, accounting for 54.6% of that cohort compared with 54.4% on Wednesday. Among adults 65-years-and-older almost 42 million are fully vaccinated, equal to 76.6% of that group. Almost 48 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 86.9% of that population, unchanged from Wednesday.
The World Health Organization warned that infections in Africa are surging as a third wave sweeps across the continent, driven by more infectious variants. The number of new cases rose above 116,500 in the week ending June 13, according to WHO data, up from nearly 91,000 the previous week.
“The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action,” WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, told a virtual news conference.
Japan has ended a state of emergency imposed to contain the spread of COVID cases ahead of the Olympic Games in July, Reuters reported. Japan is planning to limit spectator numbers at big events amid worry that the Games could produce their own variant, if cases spread rapidly.
There was somber news from the U.K., which recorded 11,007 new COVID cases on Thursday, surpassing 11,000 for the first time in four months. The U.K. has been hit hard by the Delta variant, a highly infectious strain that was first detected in India and that is now accounting for most cases there.
Earlier this week, the U.K. government said it would delay reopening for another four weeks to give it time to vaccinate more people. Cases had been falling for some time amid a higher vaccine rate than neighboring countries. The U.K. has fully vaccinated 45.5% of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. That compares with just 20.2% of the Irish population and 22.7% of the French population.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness headed above 177 million on Thursday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while deaths climbed above 3.8 million.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases at 33.49 million, while deaths total 600,657.
India is second in total cases at 29.7 million and third by fatalities at 381,903, although those numbers are expected to be undercounted given a shortage of tests.
Brazil has the third-highest caseload at 17.6 million, according to JHU data, and is second in deaths at 493,693.
Mexico has fourth-highest death toll at 230,624 and 2.5 million cases.
The U.K. has 128,190 fatalities and 4.6 million cases, the highest number of deaths in Europe and fifth-highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,444 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.