Merck Setback for Covid Treatment; 2 Billion Doses: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) — Global production of Covid-19 vaccines surpassed 1 billion doses this week and will likely reach 2 billion in a little more than a month, according to a forecast from research company Airfinity Ltd. Merck & Co. halted development of two experimental drugs for patients hospitalized with Covid-19.The occupancy rate in Germany’s intensive-care units rose to 88% on Wednesday, the highest in more than a year. “The situation is getting dramatically worse,” said Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, a public health agency. The risk of blood clots among those who’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19 is higher than among those who’ve received vaccines against the disease, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.India reported more than 200,000 new infections on Thursday — its highest one-day surge since the pandemic broke out. A senior official in Japan’s ruling party indicated that canceling the Tokyo Olympics was an option as cases in the city rose to the highest in more than two months.Key Developments:Global Tracker: Cases pass 138 million; deaths exceed 2.97 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 832 million shots given worldwidePfizer, BioNTech to Boost EU Vaccine Supply This Quarter: ChartBlood clots, anaphylaxis and other vaccine fears: QuickTakeA missed opportunity saw China fall behind on Covid vaccinesWhich vaccine is best, and other questions answered (Video)Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.Iran Agrees to Import 60 Million Sputnik Shots (8:31 a.m. NY)Iran signed an agreement with Russia to import 60 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, according to Tehran’s ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali. The vaccines will be delivered between May and December, state-run IRNA cited Jalali as saying. Iran had previously received 520,000 doses of the Sputnik jab.The country, which has a population of 84 million, has so far vaccinated about 365,000 people, with more than 100,000 having received both doses, according to the Health Ministry. Iran has recorded about 2.1 million cases since the start of the pandemic and 65,680 have died, according to official figures.Thailand Mulls Alcohol Curbs, Shutting Schools (8:25 a.m. NY)Thailand is considering a ban on sales of alcohol at all restaurants to stem the spread of Covid-19 after new daily cases jumped to a record, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Schools and universities would also be closed for in-person teaching.German State Leader Rules Out Sputnik Purchase (8 a.m.)The leader of Germany’s most populous state ruled out negotiating a deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, and criticized other regions for doing so.North Rhine-Westphalia Premier Armin Laschet said Russia had been slow in providing data on the vaccine, which is why the European Medicines Agency has yet to recommend its use.“It’s not acceptable to start a race between individual federal states over a vaccine that hasn’t even been approved yet,” Laschet told lawmakers in the NRW regional parliament. He is currently vying with Bavaria Premier Markus Soeder for the right to run as chancellor candidate for Angela Merkel’s conservatives.CureVac’s mRNA Covid Vaccine Coming Just on Time (7:49 a.m. NY)CureVac NV is some five months behind the front-runner messenger RNA vaccines against Covid-19. But after the industry’s recent setbacks, that’s starting to look like good timing.The German company will unveil clinical trial results soon and has said it should be able to secure approval in the European Union by the end of the second quarter — and possibly as early as next month.Vaccine Woes Threaten Sub-Saharan Africa (7:03 a.m. NY)New waves of Covid-19 infections could derail the economic recovery in sub-Saharan Africa, which is already forecast to lag the rest of the world this year amid limited access to vaccines, the International Monetary Fund warned.In its regional economic outlook released on Thursday, the IMF said growth projections are subject to “greater-than-usual uncertainty” given the risks of further Covid-19 shocks in the continent, which relies on a World Health Organization-led initiative to provide vaccines, known as Covax.Risk of Clots Higher With Covid Than Vaccine (6:49 a.m. NY)The risk of blood clots among those who’ve been diagnosed with Covid-19 is higher than among those who’ve received vaccines against the disease, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.Covid patients saw a clot risk of 39 in a million. That compared with four in a million in mRNA vaccines like those developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SEor Moderna Inc., and five in a million people after AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine. Though the analyses for the three vaccines are based on different data sets, making comparisons difficult, the study suggests that the risk of a clot among those with the disease is about eight to 10 times higher than after vaccination.Merck Setback Limits Study of Covid Pill (6:46 a.m. NY)Merck & Co. halted development of two experimental drugs for patients hospitalized with Covid-19 and began a final trial of one of them, its highly anticipated antiviral pill, for people with milder disease after getting mixed results about the medicine’s benefits.The pill known as molnupiravir reduced virus levels in patients during a mid-stage study but didn’t show a meaningful benefit in preventing hospitalizations and deaths, the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company said in a statement. It decided to discontinue its development for the sickest patients, those hospitalized with the infection, after the trial showed it was unlikely to help them.Vaccine Production Approaches 2 Billion Doses (6:37 a.m. NY)After Covid-19 vaccine production surpassed 1 billion doses this week, the world could produce the next billion in a little more than a month, according to a forecast from Airfinity Ltd., the London-based research company.At the same time, a delay to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could push European Union efforts to vaccinate three-quarters of its population back to December, from the end of September, Airfinity estimates. J&J’s vaccine is under scrutiny because of a rare clotting disorder arising in a small number of patients, similar to one seen with AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine.German Hospitals Near Breaking Point (5:39 p.m. HK)Germany’s health-care system is getting stretched to the brink, with many hospitals overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and rising case numbers pointing to tougher days ahead.The occupancy rate in intensive-care units rose to 88% on Wednesday, the highest in more than a year. Some hospitals need to “significantly reduce” elective procedures and relocate stable patients to other parts of the country to cope, said Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute public health agency.“The situation is getting dramatically worse,” Wieler said at a press conference Thursday as Germany reported 31,117 new cases, the most since mid-January.Malawi to Destroy 16,440 Expired Vaccines (4:49 p.m. HK)Malawi will destroy 16,440 doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine after they expired, Ministry of Health spokesman Joshua Malango said. The expired vaccines form part of a shipment of 102,000 doses donated by the African Union and had just three weeks until expiry when they were delivered.Billionaire Sends Oxygen for Indian Covid Fight (4:43 p.m. HK)Billionaire Mukesh Ambani is diverting oxygen produced at his refineries to help India battle a savage coronavirus outbreak that’s paralyzed the commercial capital as daily new infections spike by a record.Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd., which operates the world’s biggest refining complex in western India, has started supplying oxygen from Jamnagar to Maharashtra at no cost, according to a company official, who asked not to be identified due to internal policy. The western state will get 100 tons of the gas from Reliance, Eknath Shinde, urban development minister, said in a tweet.Greece to Lift Quarantine Status for Visitors (4:09 p.m. HK)Greece plans to lift a seven-day compulsory quarantine for visitors from the European Union and five other countries including the U.S. and U.K. as of next week, according to a person familiar with the matter.The April 19 move is part of a gradual re-opening of a tourism sector that’s one of the country’s most important, said the person, who asked not to be named as the decision hasn’t been announced. The industry accounts for about a fifth of the Greek economy and more than a quarter of jobs.Japan Official Opens Door to Canceling Olympics (4 p.m. HK)A senior official in Japan’s ruling party indicated canceling the Tokyo Olympics was an option as the country struggles with a surge in coronavirus cases less than 100 days before the Games are due to begin.Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that if it was determined to be impossible to hold the Olympics, they would have to be canceled, in an interview with TV broadcaster TBS that was released Thursday.Ireland Still on Track to Ease Restrictions (3:54 p.m.)Ireland is “on track to ease restrictions as planned on May 4,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told RTE Radio. The country is still scheduled to give a first dose of vaccine to 80% of adults by the end of June, he said.Tokyo Governor Mulls State of Emergency (2:35 p.m. HK)Coronavirus cases in Tokyo rose to the highest in more than two months as the city struggles to contain the latest surge, with just 99 days to go before the city is set to host the Olympic Games.Tokyo posted 729 cases on Thursday, a 34% increase from the same day last week, and the most in a single day since Feb. 4, when the city was under a state of emergency. Governor Yuriko Koike said that if measures imposed on Monday failed to stop the spread, she would have to consider requesting another emergency declaration.Earlier, a senior official in Japan’s ruling party indicated that canceling the Olympics was an option, according to a media report. Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said that if it was determined to be impossible to hold the Games, they would have to be canceled, according to local newswire Jiji.On Thursday, Taro Kono, Japan’s vaccine czar and administrative reform minister, signaled the possibility of holding the Olympics without spectators, according to Kyodo.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.