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COVID-19

Africa tries to end vaccine inequity by replicating its own

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — In a pair of Cape Town warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poorest people.

The energy in the gleaming labs matches the urgency of their mission to narrow vaccine disparities. By working to replicate Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, the scientists are effectively making an end run around an industry that has vastly prioritized rich countries over poor in both sales and manufacturing.

And they are doing it with unusual backing from the World Health Organization, which is coordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa along with a related supply chain for critical raw materials. It’s a last-resort effort to make doses for people going without, and the intellectual property implications are still murky.

“We are doing this for Africa at this moment, and that drives us,” said Emile Hendricks, a 22-year-old biotechnologist for Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, the company trying to reproduce the Moderna shot. “We can no longer rely on these big superpowers to come in and save us.”

Some experts see reverse engineering — recreating vaccines from fragments of publicly available information — as one of the few remaining ways to redress the power imbalances of the pandemic. Only 0.7% of vaccines have gone to low-income countries so far, while nearly half have gone to wealthy countries, according to an analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

That WHO, which relies upon the goodwill of wealthy countries and the pharmaceutical industry for its continued existence, is leading the attempt to reproduce a proprietary vaccine demonstrates the depths of the supply disparities.

The U.N.-backed effort to even out global vaccine distribution, known as COVAX, has failed to alleviate dire shortages in poor countries. Donated doses are coming in at a fraction of what is needed to fill the gap. Meanwhile, pressure for drug companies to share, including Biden administration demands on Moderna, has led nowhere.

Until now, WHO has never directly taken part in replicating a novel vaccine for current global use over the objections of the original developers. The Cape Town hub is intended to expand access to the novel messenger RNA technology that Moderna, as well as Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, used in their vaccines.

“This is the first time we’re doing it to this level, because of the urgency and also because of the novelty of this technology,” said Martin Friede, a WHO vaccine research coordinator who is helping direct the hub.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has described the world as “being held hostage” by Moderna and Pfizer, whose vaccines are considered the most effective against COVID-19. The novel mRNA process uses the genetic code for the spike protein of the coronavirus and is thought to trigger a better immune response than traditional vaccines.

Arguing that American taxpayers largely funded Moderna’s vaccine development, the Biden administration has insisted the company must expand production to help supply developing nations. The global shortfall through 2022 is estimated at 500 million and 4 billion doses, depending on how many other vaccines come on the market.

“The United States government has played a very substantial role in making Moderna the company it is,” said David Kessler, the head of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. program to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development.

Kessler would not say how far the administration would go in pressing the company. “They understand what we expect to happen,” he said.

Moderna has pledged to build a vaccine factory in Africa at some point in the future. But after pleading with drugmakers to share their recipes, raw materials and technological know-how, some poorer countries are done waiting.

Afrigen Managing Director Petro Terblanche said the Cape Town company is aiming to have a version of the Moderna vaccine ready for testing in people within a year and scaled up for commercial production not long after.

“We have a lot of competition coming from Big Pharma. They don’t want to see us succeed,” Terblanche said. “They are already starting to say that we don’t have the capability to do this. We are going to show them.”

If the team in South Africa succeeds in making a version of Moderna’s vaccine, the information will be publicly released for use by others, Terblanche said. Such sharing is closer to an approach U.S. President Joe Biden championed in the spring and the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes.

Commercial production is the point at which intellectual property could become an issue. Moderna has said it would not pursue legal action against a company for infringing on its vaccine rights, but neither has it offered to help companies that have volunteered to make its mRNA shot.

Chairman Noubar Afeyan said Moderna determined it would be better to expand production itself than to share technology and plans to deliver billions of additional doses next year.

“Within the next six to nine months, the most reliable way to make high-quality vaccines and in an efficient way is going to be if we make them,” Afeyan said.

Zoltan Kis, an expert in messenger RNA vaccines at Britain’s University of Sheffield, said reproducing Moderna’s vaccine is “doable” but the task would be far easier if the company shared its expertise. Kis estimated the process involves fewer than a dozen major steps. But certain procedures are tricky, such as sealing the fragile messenger RNA in lipid nanoparticles, he said.

“It’s like a very complicated cooking recipe,” he said. “Having the recipe would be very, very helpful, and it would also help if someone could show you how to do it.”

A U.N.-backed public health organization still hopes to persuade Moderna that its approach to providing vaccines for poorer countries misses the mark. Formed in 2010, the Medicines Patent Pool initially focused on convincing pharmaceutical companies to share patents for AIDS drugs.

“It’s not about outsiders helping Africa,” Executive Director Charles Gore said of the South Africa vaccine hub. “Africa wants to be empowered, and that’s what this is about.”

It will eventually fall to Gore to try to resolve the intellectual property question. Work to recreate Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is protected as research, so a potential dispute would surround steps to sell a replicated version commercially, he said.

“It’s about persuading Moderna to work with us rather than using other methods,” Gore said.

He said the Medicines Patent Pool repeatedly tried but failed to convince Pfizer and BioNTech to even discuss sharing their formulas.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is among the members of Congress backing a bill that calls on the United States to invest more in making and distributing COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, said reverse engineering isn’t going to happen fast enough to keep the virus from mutating and spreading further.

“We need to show some hustle. We have to show a sense of urgency, and I’m not seeing that urgency,” he said. “Either we end this pandemic or we muddle our way through.”

Campaigners argue the meager amount of vaccines available to poorer countries through donations, COVAX and purchases suggests the Western-dominated pharmaceutical industry is broken.

“The enemy to these corporations is losing their potential profit down the line,” Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of the global health nonprofit Partners in Health, said. “The enemy isn’t the virus, the enemy isn’t suffering.”

Back in Cape Town, the promise of using mRNA technology against other diseases motivates the young scientists.

“The excitement is around learning how we harness mRNA technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine,” Caryn Fenner, Afrigen’s technical director, said. But more important, Fenner said, “is not only using the mRNA platform for COVID, but for beyond COVID.”

___

Cheng reported from London; Hinnant reported from Paris.

Lori Hinnant, Maria Cheng And Andrew Meldrum, The Associated Press

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COVID-19

The book that could spell the end of Anthony Fauci and the incredible push for vaccine mandates

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In the end, it all comes down to well meaning but twisted ambition, with a nice big helping of good old fashioned and really evil, greed.

At the beginning of this time we’ll forever simply call ‘covid’, we dutifully lined up in front of our neighbourhood Costco while the owners of small independently owned stores were forced to lock their doors and watch helplessly as the businesses they built over a lifetime of blood, sweat, and tears drifted away from them.  Over time, we’ve become accustomed to measures like masks and distancing rules, and regulations that allow 18,000 people to watch a hockey game (mostly without masks), or 100,000 people to watch a football game (entirely without masks), while the parents of grade 12 athletes can not come into a gym to watch their own children compete for a long prepared for championship title.

Today we wait to see which vaccine mandate will rock someone’s world next.  It’s become clear over the last several months of mandates that a good percentage of people (somewhere around 25%) feel they’re being forced into a vaccination they aren’t so sure about taking (they’re still not approved) and a further percentage of people (8 to 10%) will simply not agree to take an emergency ordered vaccine. I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong.  I’m just saying it clearly makes no sense.  I’m just saying..

Everyone I’ve talked to since covid has begun, and I mean EVERYONE has admitted in private conversation if not very publicly, that this restriction makes no sense, or that restriction is contradictory to another one.  EVERYONE admits the various restrictions, rules, and regulations our governments have used to respond to covid just don’t add up.  And for the few people who can’t bring themselves to admit it, even to a close friend.. just ask yourself how the “two weeks to flatten the curve” is going at the two year mark.

For me, the biggest mystery in an ocean of mysteries has been the complete lockdown on access to and information about medical therapies. Anyone who puts in the effort to look behind the curtain of attack articles, can see there are preventative treatments, early treatments, and now “long covid” treatments which are showing tremendous success.  As you can see at ivmmeta.com and ivmstatus.com, 0ver 25% of the world’s population has access to at least ONE of the effective treatments.  While millions of Canadians chuckle at unintelligent, simple people who take Ivermectin (horse paste they call it), those poor simple people in nations such as India and Japan have nearly eliminated covid. Here, all we hear is that vaccines are the ONLY answer.  Usually they say it’s “the best way” to fight covid.  They leave out the part where they’ve banned every other way of fighting covid. You can argue if you want about how widespread Ivermectin use is in India and Japan, but you can’t really argue with data.  Take a look at these graphs from worldometers.com and you’ll have to conclude something different is going on in countries where early treatment options aren’t always the butt of the latest woke-joke.

Sorry for the long lead-in.  If you stayed with it, here’s the reward.  There’s a new book out by best selling author and life long US Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  Yes, this is the son of THE Bobby Kennedy, and the nephew of President John F Kennedy.  If you’re one of the millions of ‘simple’ people like me who just can’t understand why we’re not even allowed to talk about actually treating covid, this book will set out an argument that makes it all finally come together.  That’s what The Real Anthony Fauci is all about.  Either this book is shedding a WORLD of lies, or it will put AN ENTIRELY NEW LIGHT on what is driving the forces behind covid-19 vaccine mandates.  If you have a bit of time, check out the video interview below with RFK Jr.  The allegations go well beyond disturbing and right to shocking.  It’s going to be interesting to see if this book will make a difference.  For me.  I don’t really care what happens to Dr. Fauci.  I just want politicians to show courage and stand up for the most vulnerable people.  It’s time to save lives by allowing Albertans, and Canadians to use some of the two dozen or so medical treatments which have emerged to fight covid in the last two years.

Here’s the description of this book by Amazon

Pharma-funded mainstream media has convinced millions of Americans that Dr. Anthony Fauci is a hero. He is anything but.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony Fauci dispenses $6.1 billion in annual taxpayer-provided funding for scientific research, allowing him to dictate the subject, content, and outcome of scientific health research across the globe. Fauci uses the financial clout at his disposal to wield extraordinary influence over hospitals, universities, journals, and thousands of influential doctors and scientists—whose careers and institutions he has the power to ruin, advance, or reward.

During more than a year of painstaking and meticulous research, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. unearthed a shocking story that obliterates media spin on Dr. Fauci . . . and that will alarm every American—Democrat or Republican—who cares about democracy, our Constitution, and the future of our children’s health.

The Real Anthony Fauci reveals how “America’s Doctor” launched his career during the early AIDS crisis by partnering with pharmaceutical companies to sabotage safe and effective off-patent therapeutic treatments for AIDS. Fauci orchestrated fraudulent studies, and then pressured US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators into approving a deadly chemotherapy treatment he had good reason to know was worthless against AIDS. Fauci repeatedly violated federal laws to allow his Pharma partners to use impoverished and dark-skinned children as lab rats in deadly experiments with toxic AIDS and cancer chemotherapies.

In early 2000, Fauci shook hands with Bill Gates in the library of Gates’ $147 million Seattle mansion, cementing a partnership that would aim to control an increasingly profitable $60 billion global vaccine enterprise with unlimited growth potential. Through funding leverage and carefully cultivated personal relationships with heads of state and leading media and social media institutions, the Pharma-Fauci-Gates alliance exercises dominion over global health policy.

The Real Anthony Fauci details how Fauci, Gates, and their cohorts use their control of media outlets, scientific journals, key government and quasi-governmental agencies, global intelligence agencies, and influential scientists and physicians to flood the public with fearful propaganda about COVID-19 virulence and pathogenesis, and to muzzle debate and ruthlessly censor dissent.

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COVID-19

Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five to 11

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OTTAWA — Health Canada has approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 in Canada.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted a request for approval of a child-sized dose of its mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 on Oct. 18.

The companies say the results of their trials in children show comparable safety and efficacy to those recorded in a previous Pfizer-BioNTech study in people aged 16 to 25.

After a thorough review of the data, the department has determined the benefits of the vaccine for children between five and 11 years of age outweigh the risks, Health Canada said in a statement Friday.

“Overall this is very good news for adults and children alike,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, in reference to the growing number of COVID-19 cases among children during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

The vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children and no serious side-effects were identified, according to the regulator.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has suggested that two doses may be offered to children between five and 11 years of age, with at least eight weeks between doses.

“It is very important that we support children and their caregivers, and making informed decisions about COVID 19 vaccination, while respecting their choices and pace of decision-making,” said chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Pfizer-BioNTech has changed the formulation of the pediatric vaccine slightly, so new vaccines must be delivered to Canada before children can receive a shot.

Canada is expecting an accelerated delivery of 2.9 million child-sized doses, enough for a first dose for every child in the five to 11 age group.

In a statement Friday, Pfizer said the doses would be shipped “imminently.”

Provinces are poised and ready to start administrating doses as soon as they have them in hand.

Main side-effects for children associated with the vaccine are the same as those for slightly older vaccine recipients, though they were less common in kids, aside from redness and swelling at the injection site.

Health Canada will require Pfizer-BioNTech to continue to report on ongoing studies and real-world use to monitor any issues related to the vaccine in children.

“Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to closely monitor the safety of this vaccine, and will take action if any safety concerns are identified,” the statement read.

For now NACI suggests children wait at least 14 days before or after receiving another vaccine, such as the flu shot, to get the COVID-19 vaccine so that officials can more easily identify potential side-effects.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children on Oct. 29, and the United States has already vaccinated more than 2.5 million children.

Sharma said no safety issues have emerged during the U.S. rollout of the vaccine.

Health Canada is still reviewing Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six to 11 years of age.

The Canadian government is also expected to announce Friday an easing of measures taken to prevent importing new cases across the border.

Federal ministers are set to discuss the changes at 1 p.m.

They are expected to do away with the rule that requires travellers taking short trips to the U.S. to present a negative molecular COVID-19 test in order to get back into the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2021.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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