Japan commits US$165 mln to WHO's global coronavirus vaccine programme

Wednesday, 2020-09-16 09:51:26
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The COVAX programme has set a Sept. 18 deadline for contributions.
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Japan said on Tuesday (September 15) it has committed JPY17.2 billion (US$165 million) in funds for its participation in the World Health Organization's COVID-19 vaccine programme.

The programme, known as COVAX, is aimed at helping buy and fairly distribute vaccination shots against the novel coronavirus around the world. But some countries which have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join.

The funds are part of a JPY1.64 trillion reserve intended to bolster the government's response to the virus, a government document showed.

Japan has also pursued independent arrangements with global pharmaceutical companies to secure vaccines, with the government pledging to have enough supply for the whole population by the first half of 2021.

The COVAX programme has set a Sept. 18 deadline for contributions.

* Brazil's health regulator Anvisa on Tuesday authorized AstraZeneca PLC to test its COVID-19 vaccine on an additional 5,000 volunteers in the country for clinical Phase III trials, the Sao Paulo university coordinating the test said. The increase, in addition to 5,000 volunteers already recruited and being vaccinated, will help provide more solid results on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the Federal University of Sao Paulo said in a statement.

It said volunteers over the age of 18 were being sought in the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Rio Grande do Sul, at opposite ends of Brazil. Anvisa has waived the age limit that was 69 years previously, so older volunteers can be vaccinated.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University, paused global trials temporarily last week after an unexplained illness in a participant in Britain.

The vaccination of volunteers resumed on Monday in Brazil, where, so far, 4,600 people had received the first of two doses in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador in the northeastern state of Bahia, where a hospital is conducting the tests.

Brazil has the third-worst coronavirus outbreak in the world after the United States and India, and has become a sought-after testing ground for COVID-19 vaccines under development in Britain, China and Russia.

Phase III clinical trials of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 will be conducted in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Parana, which has plans to produce the vaccine for Brazil and other Latin American countries.

Phase III clinical trials of a vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd are under way in the state of Sao Paulo, whose governor said last week it may be available to Brazilians as early as December.

Some 9,000 Brazilian volunteers are participating in the Sinovac vaccine trials, which are being conducted by the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo city and 11 other locations, including the capital Brasilia.

* Some volunteers have quit Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine trial in Spain after news of side effects in a participant in AstraZeneca's trial, the Spanish programme's lead investigator told Reuters on Tuesday.

The investigator, Alberto Borobia, said there were enough reserve volunteers for the trial to continue as normal, however.

"Many have called to ask us some more detail about the risk of the vaccine, whether what happened with that vaccine had anything to do with the one we are studying, these types of questions," Borobia said.

He did not say how many people had dropped out.

AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trials were placed on hold worldwide on Sept. 6 after a serious side effect was reported in one volunteer in Britain.

Trials resumed in Britain and Brazil on Monday following the green light from British regulators but remain on hold in the United States.

Johnson & Johnson's Belgian Janssen unit began Phase II trials of its COVID-19 vaccine on 190 people in Spain on Monday with those tests due to conclude on Sept. 22.

Trials are also being carried out in the Netherlands and Germany, taking the total number of participants in all three countries to 550.

Johnson & Johnson was one of nine companies to commit last week to uphold scientific standards in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine amid rising concerns that safety and efficacy standards might slip in the rush to halt the pandemic.

Phase II trials are designed to test which dose and schedule of a vaccine generates the most antibodies while Phase III tests the vaccine's efficacy. Borobia said Phase II was scheduled to run for 14 to 16 months.