News Scan for Jul 27, 2021

Republican COVID vaccine acceptance
COVID-19 prediction tools
Malaria mRNA vaccine project

Republicans COVID vaccine acceptance up 7% after party endorsements

Republicans' intended COVID-19 vaccine uptake rose 7% after watching and reading endorsements from elite Republican leaders versus those from Democrat leaders, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers surveyed 1,480 self-identified Republicans from Mar 17 to 24, splitting them into three groups. One group watched a 2-minute vaccine endorsement speech by former President Donald Trump and then read an essay on how Republicans contributed to vaccine development and distribution; another experienced a similar intervention, except with Democrats such as President Joe Biden. The control group received information on an unrelated topic (neck ties).

Unvaccinated Republicans exposed to the Republican endorsements reported a 7.0% higher vaccination intention versus those who saw the Democratic endorsements and a 5.7% higher intention than those in the control group. The surveys indicated this was largely because the respondents believed the politicians wanted them to get vaccinated (vs, for example, wanting the Republicans to get credit for their efforts in the COVID-19 vaccination program).

Some data indicated that there was backlash to the Democrat endorsements, especially among vaccinated Republicans. The researchers say this could be because the intent to vaccinate among unvaccinated Republicans was already low.

"These results demonstrate the relative advantage of cues from Republican elites—and the risks of messaging from Democrats currently in power—for promoting vaccination among the largest vaccine-hesitant subgroup in the United States," the authors write.
Jul 26 Proc Nat Acad Sci study


Early COVID-19 outcome prediction models may need recalibration

COVID-19 tools developed early in the pandemic to predict clinical outcomes may need some recalibration now, according to a research letter today in JAMA Network Open.

The researchers looked at the results of a predictive model originally validated in a study published Oct 30, 2020, and compared them with the model's ability to predict the outcomes of 2,892 COVID-19 patients at the same six healthcare facilities from Jun 7, 2020, to Jan 22, 2021. Of the patients, 4.4% needed intensive care unit admission, 2.4% needed mechanical ventilation, and 5.8% died.

The model's performance for predicting mortality had a 0.83 area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), which was slightly lower than the AUC from the original modeling period, which was 0.85. (AUC is a measurement of the test's usefulness, with 1 being a perfect test.) Positive predictive values (PPVs) and negative predictive values (NPVs) also changed, showing 0.22 and 0.98, respectively, when using a cutoff corresponding to the highest 20% of predicted risk derived in the training set; the previous results showed a PPV of 0.46 and an NPV of 0.97.

The researchers say the large drop in PPV for mortality may be due to the lesser association between mortality and mechanical ventilation over time.

Similar results were seen for the composite illness severity outcome, with a lower AUC (0.78 vs 0.81) and PPV (0.25 vs 0.55). NPV rose a bit, coming in at 0.95, compared with 0.91.

"Our results indicate that the population of individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 has shifted and the prevalence of the studied outcomes changed. However, they suggest that prediction models derived earlier in the pandemic may maintain discrimination after recalibration," the researchers conclude.
Jul 27 JAMA Netw Open study


BioNTech launches malaria vaccine development project

BioNTech, the German biotechnology company that teamed with Pfizer to produce one of the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, yesterday announced the launch of a project to develop a malaria vaccine using the same platform.

In a statement, it said its goal is to deliver a safe and highly effective mRNA vaccine with durable immunity to prevent malaria infections and deaths. It will assess multiple vaccine candidates that target known malaria targets, such as circumsporozoite protein and new antigens identified during preclinical studies. The first clinical trial is slated to start at the end of 2022.

The company said another goal is to ramp up sustainable vaccine production and supply solutions with African manufacturers with the capacity to make various mRNA vaccines, part of a broader effort to expand vaccine access to low- and middle-income countries.

BioNTech said it is developing vaccines against nine different infectious diseases, with clinical trials of a tuberculosis vaccine candidate expected to begin in 2022.
Jul 26 BioNTech press release

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