The Daily Dose: Experts weigh the dangers of COVID-19 infection vs missing routine vaccinations.

An international team of researchers have published the results of a study that compared the effects of COVID-19 deaths to deaths due to missing routine vaccinations in resource poor countries. As you’d expect, when taken in toto, the cumulative effect of missing immunization to preventable diseases presents more of a threat. According to the Lancet Global Health paper, “In the high-impact scenario, for every one excess COVID-19 death attributable to SARS-CoV-2 infections acquired during routine vaccination clinic visits, 84 (95% UI 14–267) deaths in children could be prevented by sustaining routine childhood immunisation in Africa. The benefit–risk ratio for the vaccinated children is 85 000 (4900–546 000), for their siblings (<20 years) is 75 000 (4400–483 000), for their parents or adult carers (aged 20–60 years) is 769 (148–2700), and for older adults (>60 years) is 96 (14–307).” It’s important to note that visits to clinics and hospitals can be done safely, using those much maligned strategies of social distancing, mask wearing, and proper hand hygiene.

The World Bank has thrown its questionable hat into the COVID-19 fray. Per Associated Press, “The World Bank has approved $12 billion in financing to help developing countries buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments, aiming to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people. The $12 billion “envelope” is part of a wider World Bank Group package of up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank said in a statement late Tuesday.” While attempts at spreading the benefits of COVID-19 are laudable, you’ve always got to ask what strings are attached when it comes to the World Bank.

There’s some welcome good news coming out of Brazil regarding scientific funding. Per Science, “The academic community in Brazil’s São Paulo state is breathing a sigh of relief after the state government has amended a controversial bill that threatened to cripple scientific research. But another dramatic cut is already looming. The bill, presented by the São Paulo government in August, authorized the state to seize the economic reserves of the three state universities and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), a state agency that funds fellowships and scientific projects.” While the respite may only prove temporary, at this point, with all the cuts being made to science funding around the world, we’ll take it.

In case you missed it yesterday, another COVID-19 clinical trial was temporarily halted due to an unexplained illness. Per Fierce Biotech, “Johnson & Johnson has put its late-stage COVID-19 vaccine study on hold because a patient has fallen ill. The pause comes just weeks after the company kicked off the 60,000-patient study and about a month after AstraZeneca suspended its own COVID-19 study for similar reasons.” This doesn’t mean that the trial was a failure. These things happen and are relatively common. The parties involved in the trial just need to step back and investigate what caused the illness. Follow the science, people.

Lastly, COVID-19 vaccine news from Asia. Laboratories continue to churn out potential vaccines. According to Asia Biotech, “Ascendo Biotechnology Company and Academia Sinica in Taiwan announced the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate in September. Named ASD25X-RBD, this new candidate has demonstrated potential as an effective vaccine in preclinical animal tests. ASD25X-RBD works by promoting the production of antibodies against the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 bound to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) cell receptor.” To date, it appears as if drug development is happening at a quicker pace in Asian countries like China and Russia. There are political reasons for that, however. Faster doesn’t always mean better. Just ask the turtle.

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