Pakistan posts 14 more Covid cases
NIH data shows daily tests at 4,414, positivity ratio at 0.32%: Experts vote to harmonize Covid-19 vaccines in United States
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Pakistan has detected 14 more Covid-19 infections with no fatality during the last 24 hours (Thursday), showed the figures released by the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Friday morning, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
According to the NIH data, the death toll in the country remained the same at 30,640 whereas the number of total infections now rose to 1,576,235 after adding the 14 new cases.
During the last 24 hours (Thursday), 4,414 tests were conducted throughout Pakistan whereas the positivity ratio stood at 0.32 percent. The number of patients in critical care stood at 10.
COVID-19 Statistics 27 January 2023— NIH Pakistan (@NIH_Pakistan) January 27, 2023
Total Tests in Last 24 Hours: 4,414
Positive Cases: 14
Positivity %: 0.32%
Patients on Critical Care: 10
Experts vote to harmonize Covid-19 vaccines in the United States
A panel of independent experts that advises the US Food and Drug Administration on its vaccine decisions voted unanimously Thursday to update all Covid-19 vaccines so they contain the same ingredients as the two-strain shots that are now used as booster doses.
The vote means young children and others who haven’t been vaccinated may soon be eligible to receive two-strain vaccines that more closely match the circulating viruses as their primary series.
The FDA must sign off on the committee’s recommendation, which it is likely to do, before it goes into effect.
Currently, the US offers two types of Covid-19 vaccines. The first shots people get – also called the primary series – contain a single set of instructions that teach the immune system to fight off the original version of the virus, which emerged in 2019.
This index strain is no longer circulating. It was overrun months ago by an ever-evolving parade of new variants.
Last year, in consultation with its advisers, the FDA decided that it was time to update the vaccines. These two-strain, or bivalent, shots contain two sets of instructions; one set reminds the immune system about the original version of the coronavirus, and the second set teaches the immune system to recognize and fight off Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which emerged in the US last year.
People who have had their primary series – nearly 70% of all Americans – were advised to get the new two-strain booster late last year in an effort to upgrade their protection against the latest variants.
The advisory committee heard testimony and data suggesting that the complexity of having two types of Covid-19 vaccines and schedules for different age groups may be one of the reasons for low vaccine uptake in the US.
Currently, only about two-thirds of Americans have had the full primary series of shots. Only 15% of the population has gotten an updated bivalent booster.
Data presented to the committee shows that Covid-19 hospitalizations have been rising for children under the age of 2 over the past year, as Omicron and its many subvariants have circulated. Only 5% of this age group, which is eligible for Covid-19 vaccination at 6 months of age, has been fully vaccinated. Ninety percent of children under the age of 4 are still unvaccinated.
“The most concerning data point that I saw this whole day was that extremely low vaccination coverage in 6 months to 2 years of age and also 2 years to 4 years of age,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders. “We have to do much, much better.”
Cohn says that having a single vaccine against Covid-19 in the US for both primary and booster doses would go a long way toward making the process less complicated and would help get more children vaccinated.
Others feel that convenience is important but also stressed that data supported the switch.
“This isn’t only a convenience thing, to increase the number of people who are vaccinated, which I agree with my colleagues is extremely important for all the evidence that was related, but I also think moving towards the strains that are circulating is very important, so I would also say the science supports this move,” said Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University.
Many others on the committee were similarly satisfied after seeing new data on the vaccine effectiveness of the bivalent boosters, which are cutting the risk of getting sick, being hospitalized or dying from a Covid-19 infection.
“I’m totally convinced that the bivalent vaccine is beneficial as a primary series and as a booster series. Furthermore, the updated vaccine safety data are really encouraging so far,” said Dr. David Kim, director of the the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program, in public discussion after the vote.
Making yearly updates to Covid-19 vaccines
Thursday’s vote is part of a larger plan by the FDA to simplify and improve the way Covid-19 vaccines are given in the US.
The agency has proposed a plan to convene its vaccine advisers – called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC – each year in May or June to assess whether the instructions in the Covid-19 vaccines should be changed to more closely match circulating strains of the virus.
The time frame was chosen to give manufacturers about three months to redesign their shots and get new doses to pharmacies in time for fall.
“The object, of course – before anyone says anything – is not to chase variants. None of us think that’s realistic,” said Jerry Weir, director of the Division of Viral Products in the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review.
“But I think our experience so far, with the bivalent vaccines that we have, does indicate that we can continue to make improvements to the vaccine, and that would be the goal of these meetings,” Weir said.
In discussions after the vote, committee members were supportive of this plan but pointed out many of the things we still don’t understand about Covid-19 and vaccination that are likely to complicate the task of updating the vaccines.
For example, we now seem to have Covid-19 surges in the summer as well as the winter, noted Dr. Michael Nelson, an allergist and immunologist at the University of Virginia. Are the surges related? And if so, is fall the best time to being a vaccination campaign?–CNN