Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug
The arm jab takes effect immediately and could protect people against transmission of the coronavirus for six months to a year. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug
  • Jab could be used to protect those who cannot be given vaccines, scientists say

LONDON: An alternative anti-coronavirus jab aimed at protecting those who cannot receive vaccines will enter major trials this weekend.

The drug is made by AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that worked with Oxford University in the UK to develop a general vaccine.

The alternative injection was developed using antibodies produced by a single coronavirus patient in the US.

The arm jab takes effect immediately and could protect people against transmission for six months to a year.

If trials prove successful, it could be used to safeguard those who cannot be administered vaccines because of their health.

An initial 1,000 people will be administered the drug in the UK this weekend, while 4,000 others from around the world will take part in the trials soon after. The trials will use a placebo test system to determine the usefulness of the drug.

Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said the antibody drug would be “almost like a passive vaccination.”

He added: “Now that’s important because obviously there’s going to be a significant number of people, even in a world where vaccines are highly effective, that will not respond to vaccines, or in fact will not take vaccines, and so having monoclonal antibodies as potential therapeutics I think is also important.”

Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said hundreds of thousands of people might not benefit from a vaccine because they do not have a working immune system.

“It’s crucial that we leave no one behind as we move closer to finding both a vaccine and developing more treatments for COVID-19,” she added.

“We particularly need to ensure those who cannot be given a vaccine, such as people who are immuno-compromised, have alternatives available that will help protect them.”

But the jab is expensive and difficult to produce on a large scale, so it will likely be targeted at specific at-risk groups in countries worldwide.

AstraZeneca said the jab can also protect care-home residents in case of a small-scale coronavirus outbreak.

The preventative efficacy of the drug will be tested in a second trial on individuals in the US and the UK.


Taiwan quarantines 5,000 after hospital coronavirus cluster

Taiwan quarantines 5,000 after hospital coronavirus cluster
Updated 22 min 47 sec ago

Taiwan quarantines 5,000 after hospital coronavirus cluster

Taiwan quarantines 5,000 after hospital coronavirus cluster
  • Taiwan is on higher alert after the latest domestic cluster

TAIPEI, Taiwan: Health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.
Officials said on Monday that they have not been able to identify how the husband and wife became infected after a brief hospital stay in the Taoyuan General Hospital, located in the city of Taoyuan just outside Taiwan’s capital city. The man had stayed at the hospital for three days for health problems unrelated to COVID-19, while his wife looked after him.
Those asked to quarantine include patients who were discharged from the hospital between Jan. 6-19, and their caregivers.
Taiwan is on higher alert after the latest domestic cluster, which has now seen 15 cases from the hospital in Taoyuan.
Taiwan has been applauded for its swift and sustained efforts to contain COVID-19, with just seven deaths and fewer than 900 confirmed cases, despite its close proximity to China, where the pandemic began.