COVID Booster: Vaxzevria, refugees and omni-vaccines

Vaxzevria: harder to spell, easier to stamp, same stuff inside

The AstraZeneca vaccine has received a name change in Australia, going from “COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca” to “Vaxzevria”. This represents a change in branding around the specific vaccine, rather than the name of the company – it’ll still probably be referred to as “AstraZeneca’s vaccine” in common parlance. (For reference, the Pfizer vaccine’s official brand name is COMIRNATY, and Moderna’s is mRNA-1273.)

The name change is to bring the vaccine in line with other parts of the world: Vaxzevria was already used by European, UK and Canadian regulators, for instance.

In a statement on their website, AstraZeneca says: “Use of the Vaxzevria brand name should help simplify international travel for people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine…Vaxzevria produced at CSL in Australia, [showing it] is a valid vaccination for travel to Europe.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved the name change. “Importantly, this is the only change to the vaccine. All other aspects, such as manufacturing and quality control, are unchanged and align with the way the vaccine is produced in other jurisdictions,” reads a statement on the TGA website.

Watch the progression of COVID-19 in mice

US and Canadian researchers have released a video of the progression of COVID-19 in mice, both with and without the interference of antibodies.

The researchers used a technique called “live bioluminescence imaging” to track the progression of SARS-CoV-2 in mice that had been infected. Some of the mice had been treated with antibodies, at varying points during or before the infection process. Mice with antibodies did better, particularly those who had been treated earlier in the process or who had been given antibodies that could recruit certain immune cells to help fight the infection.

“For the first time, we were able to visualise the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 in a living animal in real time, and importantly, the sites at which antibodies need to exert effects to halt progression of infection,” says Priti Kumar, associate professor of infectious diseases at the Yale School of Medicine, US, and co-author of a paper describing the research, published in Immunity.

Mental health of refugees is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic

A survey of 656 Australian refugees and asylum seekers, taken in June 2020, has found that participants were more likely to be experiencing severe mental health symptoms as a result of the pandemic.

“We hypothesised refugee communities were particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health due to traumatic events they have experienced in the past and the challenges of the postmigration environment – but no one has studied this in the Australian context,” says Belinda Liddell, a researcher in psychology at the University of New South Wales, and lead author on a paper in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.

The researchers examined stressors from COVID-19, and indicators of mental health, finding a variety of links between the two.

“For instance, worry about being infected by COVID-19 – reported by 66.5 per cent of participants – was related to more severe PTSD symptoms and health anxiety symptoms. That’s not surprising, given these concerns reflect fear of being harmed or harming others with COVID-19,” says Lidell.

The researchers are currently collecting data for a follow-up study, to see how things have changed over the past year.

One vaccine for SARS, COVID and more?

Singaporean researchers have argued that it could be possible to make a vaccine that protects people from both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that caused the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak), and thus future coronaviruses too.

The researchers examined blood serum from survivors of severe SARS-CoV-1, who had been immunised with the Pfizer vaccine. They found broad-spectrum antibodies that could not only neutralise SARS and COVID-19 viruses in the lab, but other animal coronaviruses as well.

“A ‘dream’ vaccine would cover not only SARS-CoV-2 and its known variants of concern but also future variants of concern and other coronaviruses with known potential to cause severe human diseases in the future,” write the researchers in a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.

They believe that while further research is needed to clarify their results, such a vaccine is possible down the track.

Australian kids with COVID

Most of the Australian children who were hospitalised with COVID-19 in 2020 had mild forms of the illness, according to a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Children covid
Credit: Morsa Images / Getty

The researchers examined data from 16 Australian hospitals, 11 of which were in Victoria, looking at everyone under 18 years of age who had tested positive to SARS-CoV-2 and presented to hospital.

Out of 426 children who had presented to these hospitals, only 51 were admitted and 16 required medical interventions.

“Our data also indicate that children with SARS-CoV-2 infections present with symptoms similar to those of other common viral illnesses in children,” write the authors in their paper.

“There were few differences between the characteristics of hospitalised and non-hospitalised children, and many may have been admitted as a precautionary measure.”

The researchers stress that continued vigilance with COVID in children is important, particularly as the Delta variant spreads.

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