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

  • 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.


Japan pauses domestic travel push in two cities as COVID-19 spreads

Updated 52 min 12 sec ago

Japan pauses domestic travel push in two cities as COVID-19 spreads

  • Critics of the program had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside

TOKYO: Japan paused its domestic “Go To Travel” promotion campaign in two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 infections, a government minister said on Tuesday, a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s plan to help prop up regional economies.
Critics of the program had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside.
“We have agreed to temporarily exclude trips destined for the cities of Sapporo and Hokkaido from the travel campaign,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Tuesday.
“Although we have tried to balance both economic revitalization as well as virus containment, we have made this decision at the local governors’ request,” Nishimura told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Suga and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba.
Akaba said the two cities would initially be excluded until Dec. 15, during which time no new reservations could be made under the program, which offers discounts on fares and hotels.
Suga said on Saturday the government would suspend new reservations under the program for trips to hard-hit areas.
The western city of Osaka reported 171 new cases on Monday after seeing a record 286 cases the previous day, a city official said.
Sapporo in the north reported 140 daily cases on Monday, below a record 197 cases reported on Thursday last week, a city official said.
The capital of Tokyo has seen new daily infections soar past 500 and serious cases reached 51 on Tuesday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters that there was a rise in infections among older residents, including cases where people had contracted the virus while eating out and brought it home to their relatives.