April 02, 2021

COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Preventing the Next Pandemic

A recent study of one of the two mRNA-based vaccines revealed positive news on how long the vaccine will effectively prevent against COVID-19 infection. The pandemic has also revealed societal weaknesses that, if addressed, could help mitigate the spread of respiratory infections and potentially prevent future pandemics. President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan includes funding to address these weaknesses.

COVID-19 Vaccine Offers Lasting Protection

Phase 3 clinical trials of one of the two mRNA-based vaccines proved it provides lasting protection, even six months after the second dose is administered, and is effective against the more contagious South African variant.

$2.25 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal

President Biden released the American Jobs Plan earlier this week, a $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal which includes $30 billion over the next four years to help prevent the next pandemic. The funds would be directed to the Strategic National Stockpile, development of testing and therapies for emerging diseases, prototype vaccines, and improved technology for faster vaccine production.

COVID-19: Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. in 2020

In this week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, COVID-19 trailed only heart disease and cancer as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020. With 375,000 lives lost in 2020 and with 150,000 more since the start of the year, COVID-19 is currently the number one cause of death in the United States for 2021.

More Doses per Vial Approved

Since earlier this year, a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer has been requesting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow them to put additional doses of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine in each vial. This week, FDA approved the company to put up to 15 doses in each vial, up from the 10 dose vials they have been making.

Vaccine 100% Effective in 12- to 15-Year-Olds

Preliminary data from a U.S. clinical study of over 2200 individuals ranging from 12 to 15 years old has demonstrated that there were no cases of COVID-19 in any of the children vaccinated with the mRNA-based vaccine compared to the placebo group. In addition, researchers noted a robust antibody response to the vaccine and similar side effects as seen in adults. It is expected the company will seek emergency use authorization in the U.S. and Europe in the next several weeks. Other vaccine manufacturers are conducting similar trials in children with all companies planning to eventually test as young as six months old.

COVID-19 Reveals Gaps in Preventing Spread of Respiratory Contagions

Before COVID-19, most commonly known infections were spread by insect bites or by direct contact with contaminated foods, surfaces or liquids. SARS-CoV-2 challenged many previous dogmas, including assumptions about predominant transmission pathways. By now, no expert would dispute that airborne transmission — such as in droplets and invisible-to-the-naked-eye aerosols — is the main way the SARS-CoV-2 virus gets around and continues to create “hot spots” with high infection rates. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its comprehensive guidance for ways to improve indoor air ventilation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted tools and resources related to indoor air quality in the context of COVID-19 and maintains a frequently asked questions page on the subject.

Complete vaccination of the entire population against SARS-CoV-2 is the most effective way to end the pandemic, although in practice, vaccinations may fall short of the 100% coverage. And washing frequently-touched surfaces and hands is still necessary to combat both SARS-CoV-2 and other contagions. However, controlling the biological quality of the indoor air (and decontaminating the air as appropriate) will be critical to making schools, public transport, places of worship, community centers, gyms, concert halls and restaurants safe again to use as in pre-pandemic times.

Upgrading approaches to indoor air quality is necessary also because other “new” respiratory pathogens are likely to emerge in the future since there is a vast reservoir of potentially pathogenic organisms in nature. These pathogens are constantly evolving against various selection pressures, including changing animal habitats and human-animal interactions. As a result, “successful” versions of respiratory viruses will continue to appear and, in the absence of robust defenses, will be able to widen their reach throughout the human population. For more on this issue, see the following:

From devastating diseases of the past, societies have learned the vital importance of routine access to clean water and hygienic handling of foods, and have passed laws and invested in infrastructures to enable and ensure implementation of those public health defenses. This past year has revealed weak spots and gaps in the current system, and today we can appreciate that additional defenses — such as mechanisms to ensure that the indoor air is safe to breathe — are required to keep the public healthy and economies booming.

Evidence to Date Points to Animal Sources for SARS-CoV-2

An official WHO report, as well as a recent original research article in Science and an editorial in Nature have concluded that all currently available data point to animals as the original hosts of SARS-CoV-2, strengthening the similar conclusions which were based on genetic analysis of the virus conducted in 2020. WHO itself, as well as independent researchers and many countries have emphasized the need for further studies.

More COVID-19 Insights

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Additional Resources

Global COVID-19-Related Patent Office Status and Deadline Extension Updates
Information regarding the status of each foreign patent office and the availability of extensions of time in each jurisdiction.

Government Actions: COVID-19
Tracking executive orders, legislation, and other government actions related to COVID-19 by state and major locality across the U.S.

Tracking Fraud Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tracking federal and state law enforcement and regulatory actions taken against bad actors who have exploited the COVID-19 emergency to defraud consumers and payers.

Faegre Drinker’s Coronavirus Resource Center is available to help you understand and assess the legal, regulatory and commercial implications of COVID-19.

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