The US Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency authorization for the use of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s coronavirus antibody therapy — an experimental treatment given to President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
The FDA said Saturday that the therapy should be administered to patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19. This includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.
The treatment is part of a class of drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, which are manufactured copies of antibodies created by the human body to fight infections.
Regeneron’s REGEN-COV2 “antibody cocktail” is designed so that the two antibodies seek out and bind to the coronavirus’ spike protein to prevent it from entering healthy human cells.
The company said it expects to have doses of treatment ready for about 80,000 patients by the end of this month, followed by enough for half a million patients by the end of January.
The Group of Twenty, or G20 nations, emphasized the need for global access to coronavirus vaccines during the group‘s virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
“Although we are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics tools for COVID-19, we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all people,” said Saudi King Salman, the host of the summit.
Leaders from across the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, outgoing US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others, participated remotely in the two-day gathering that saw them pop up in windows on a large screen.
According to the organizers, there is still a $4.5 billion (€3.8 billion) funding shortfall for COVID vaccines. G20 nations have, so far, contributed over $21 billion to combat the coronavirus. The group has also injected $11 trillion to “safeguard” the world economy impacted severely by the pandemic.
Germany’s November lockdown, often called “lockdown light,” aimed at taming the coronavirus spread should be extended into December, according to Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Söder.
“Everything suggests that the current restrictions [on interpersonal contacts] must be extended for a while beyond November 30,” said Scholz.
“In any case for two or three weeks,” added Söder.
The comments came ahead of further pandemic crisis talks next week involving Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of Germany’s 16 states, which in the country’s federal system are tasked with implementing measures.
On Sunday, Germany reported 14,022 new coronavirus cases and 138 new deaths.
American biotech company Moderna will charge governments between $25 and $37 for every dose of its coronavirus vaccine, depending on the size of the order, the company’s CEO Stephane Bancel told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
“Nothing is signed yet, but we’re close to a deal with the EU [European] Commission. We want to deliver to Europe and are in constructive talks,” he said, as the European Union looked to secure millions of doses for a price below $25 per dose.
The company has joined the league of vaccine frontrunners after late-stage clinical data showed that its experimental shot was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19.
England’s coronavirus lockdown will end as scheduled on December 2, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office. This will mark a return to regional restrictions following the stabilization of coronavirus infections.
After the November 5 lockdown ends, England will return to a three-tiered system of localized restrictions.
The government is also expected to announce a 3 billion pounds (€3.36 billion, $3.98 billion, ) one-year package to support the state-run National Health Service in tackling the pandemic.
The United States reached a new high of 12 million coronavirus infections on Saturday, just six days after the country crossed 11 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The daily increase in infections is fast approaching 200,000, just weeks after the US hit 100,000 new infections in a day for the first time. The US has the highest number of coronavirus fatalities in the world, with over 255,000 people dead.
South Korea has reported over 300 new infections for the fifth day in a row, with 330 cases reported at the end of Saturday. Officials have warned that stricter restrictions may be imposed if the upward trend does not subside.
An official from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the country was at “a critical juncture,” and the inability to reduce the daily infections could result in stricter social distancing regulations going forward.
Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed plans for an air travel bubble between both cities as the number of infections in the latter act as a “sober reminder” of risks to public health.
“For any scheme to be successful, they must fulfill the condition of securing public health, and also make sure that both sides would be comfortable and feel safe about the scheme,” said Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau.
“In light of the situation in Hong Kong, I think it’s the responsible way to put this back for a while, and then sort of relaunch it at a suitable juncture.”
The Chinese territory reported 43 new infections on Saturday, delaying the travel bubble’s inaugural flight, which was set to take off on Sunday. The plans may be delayed by at least two weeks now.
see/mm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)