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Coronavirus update: US hits 1M shots per day average as scientists eye second generation COVID-19 vaccines

Anjalee Khemlani
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
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Scientists are studying booster shots and/or new vaccines that can protect against the evolving virus or specific strains as coronavirus variants spread around the globe.

To that end, Open Orphan (ORPH.L), which the U.K. government contracted in October to design human challenge trials (which intentionally infect volunteers in order to determine a vaccine’s effectiveness) is awaiting regulatory approval for trials that could help expedite the second generation of vaccines.

Executive chairman Cathal Friel, in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Finance Wednesday, said the company is already ramping up in London with the renovation of a coffee shop to use as a screening center for volunteers, as well as preparing an abandoned hotel to be a quarantine clinic for the trials.

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“Hotels are closed, coffee shops are closed ... so it’s a great use, it’s a great value,” Friel said, noting that the additional capacity of 27 beds from the converted hotel adds to the current 24-bed quarantine clinic Open Orphan already has.

The company is eyeing summer to begin such trials, pending regulatory approval. By that time, a good portion of the world will already be well into first-generation vaccinations — especially in the U.K., which is a leader in vaccinations, resulting in a slowing spread of the virus.

“If half the world has been vaccinated, how will you test second-generation vaccinations? We replicate what takes a year in the wild, and reduce it to six weeks,” Friel said.

Companies like Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) have indicated they are working on new vaccines or boosters to address variants, while Novavax (NVAX) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) provided the first clinical insight — though data is still unpublished— into vaccine efficacies when pitted against the new variants.

To date, three of the most concerning variants have been found in the U.S. A majority of the more than 540 cases detected are of the U.K. strain (B.1.1.7), with a handful of the South African (B.1.351) and Brazilian (P.1) strains detected. The latter two are the most concerning for vaccine efficacy.

Two young women wearing face masks wait at a subway station in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Two young women wearing face masks wait at a subway station in Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Double-masking and increased vaccinations

As the more transmissible B.1.1.7 strain continues to spread, scientists are looking into double-masking as a better method of protection.

Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focused on providing guidance soon.

“The CDC is actively looking at this question. More data will be forthcoming from the CDC with regard to the double-masking,” Walensky said during a briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there isn’t currently enough data to support the method, but that existing guidelines are already not being followed.

“Right now, we don’t have complete, full compliance throughout the country of the fundamental public health measures that are necessary to prevent the spread,” Fauci said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has hit a new milestone of administering an average of 1 million vaccinations per day, making President Joe Biden’s goal of 100 million in 100 days achievable, according to Response Team coordinator Jeff Zients.

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