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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

March 7, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness among children ages 5 to 11 wanes over time but continues to protect against the most severe outcomes, according to new real-world evidence released last week. Analysis from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarizing data from ten states, suggested that while vaccine effectiveness faded during omicron and generally decreases relative to the time since vaccination, the vaccine was protective against hospitalization and death in 5-to-17-year-olds, even after omicron emerged. A preprint study by the New York State Department of Health, also published last week, showed a substantial decline in protection among the younger age group in the state, including a significant decline in protection against hospitalizations. The new data comes amid developments involving vaccines for children under 5, which the US Food and Drug Administration plans to wait to review until data on third doses is available.

The Biden administration plans to share government-backed COVID-19 technology with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help bolster access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries. The technologies, developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would be licensed to the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool as well as sublicensed through the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool. Details on which technologies would be made available through the deal are still being determined, but the policy is not intended to apply to vaccines and therapeutics in the US market developed by private companies. Sharing NIH-devised technologies is meant to allow other countries to replicate the manufacturing process and therefore more quickly boost the global stockpile of pandemic supplies.

On Wednesday, a WHO panel backed the use of Merck & Co., Inc.’s COVID-19 antiviral pill for high-risk patients. The recommendation, based on new data from six clinical trials involving 4,796 patients, conditionally endorses the pill, molnupiravir, for use among patients with non-severe disease who are at high risk of hospitalization. This could include immunocompromised individuals, the unvaccinated, older people, and those with chronic diseases. No recommendation has been made for use of the pill among patients with severe or critical illness, as there is no trial data for the group. The WHO panel is also preparing recommendations for Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, Paxlovid.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.