Today’s Read: 4 minutes
Yesterday was a big day in disease prevention. President-elect Biden named his coronavirus task force. (Where are the nurses?) Pfizer released preliminary data on its coronavirus vaccine candidate, and HIV-prevention may have a new pre-exposure prophylaxis coming.
Not a bad day. Hope today is spectacular.
First, the coronavirus vaccine
Yesterday morning Pfizer and BioNTech announced that early analysis of their Phase III coronavirus vaccine trials was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease. Pfizer plans to ask the FDA for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine later this month. By the end of the year, the company plans to be able to manufacture enough doses to immunize 15 million to 20 million people, which is about 5% of the U.S. population.
So while these are preliminary findings of a trial that is ongoing and while we don’t yet know whether the vaccine blocked mainly mild cases or prevented severe infections too, it reveals the possible future of coronavirus vaccines. According to STAT, there are four reasons why Pfizer’s announcement is good news for Covid-19 vaccine development.
- It signals the likelihood of multiple successful coronavirus vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine targets the spike protein that allows the virus to attach to cells and initiate infection, so does all the vaccines being developed under the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program, as well as those being developed globally under the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
- It signals that mRNA vaccine technology could be viable. Both Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA vaccine production technology that is relatively new and somewhat unproven. There is no mRNA vaccine on the market. It holds promise to allow for quick vaccine design and production, and until it delivers, it will just be a promise.
- It could boost public confidence in coronavirus vaccines. The FDA set the relatively low bar when it said it would accept a vaccine that reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by 50%. Pfizer’s announcement of 90% effectiveness is more than most thought possible. This could help convince the public that it is worth getting vaccinated after public opinion polls show that about 50% would consider getting the first-generation vaccine.
- It makes it worth the trouble. While Pfizer’s vaccine will probably be the first, it will definitely be the hardest vaccine to use. Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures, which will limit its availability. Moderna’s vaccine also has an ultra-cold temperature requirement for shipping and handling, but not to the same degree as the Pfizer vaccine. At 90% efficiency, if it holds up, the extra effort should be worth it.
Next, HIV prophylaxis
Yesterday the WHO released results of a HIV Prevention Trials Network study that examined the safety and efficacy of the long-acting injectable antiretroviral drug cabotegravir for pre-exposure prophylaxis in HIV-uninfected women. This interim analysis found that an every-other-month injectable treatment was 89% more effective in preventing infection among women than the Truvada pill, which must be taken daily and is the current standard of care.
If cabotegravir gets regulatory approval, it could be a game-changer where women continue to experience high HIV incidence. A long-acting injectable formulation has the potential to improve preventative effects without the same adherence burden as relying on a daily oral regimen and would likely increase adoption among women.
Embrace “joy triggers”
Joy triggers is a concept coined by Arianna Huffington that describes simple ways to instantly feel more content and joyous. During times of stress or when you feel overwhelmed, it’s even more important to seek these items out. They can be as simple as your sleeping kitty or flowers blooming on the sidewalk near your house—really whatever makes you smile.
We suggest you take it a step further and snap a photo of your joy triggers with your phone. This way you can reflect on your joy triggers when you need them most.
ONE BIG NUMBER
The occurrence of cardiovascular disease in black people with lupus compared to non-blacks, according to research presented at ACR Convergence, the American College Rheumatology’s annual meeting. What’s more: they also experience a disproportionate amount of high stroke-related events surrounding their lupus diagnosis.
In honor of disease prevention, here’s a bird that acts like a snake to scare off predators.