New local COVID cases prompt measures in China; Valneva reports promising vaccine findings

In the latest global COVID-19 developments, clusters of new local cases prompted lockdowns in a few northern areas, and France-based Valneva reported positive results for its vaccine when compared to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

China tracks more local flare-ups

China's National Health Commission today reported nine new local cases, the most since late September when the country battled flare-ups in a handful of cities in Fujian province. Five of the local cases are from Xian in Shaanxi province, and two are from Inner Mongolia region.

Officials ordered a lockdown for the Inner Mongolia city of Erenhot, which has reported four local cases since Oct 13, according to Reuters. Officials also sealed off Ejina Banner, also in Inner Mongolia, after five local cases were reported over the past few days, all involving people who had recent contact with two patients in Xian.

The country is among a few in the world that have taken a "zero COVID" approach to fighting the virus.

Valneva vaccine results, next steps

In other global COVID developments, Valneva yesterday reported that in phase 3 clinical trials, its inactivated adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine candidate showed superior neutralizing antibody levels when compared to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is an adenovirus vector product.

In a press release, the company said the vaccine prompted broad T-cell responses and was well tolerated, especially when compared to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The phase 3 trial included 4,012 adults ages 18 and older across 26 trial sites in the United Kingdom. The vaccine is administered in two doses given 4 weeks apart.

Occurrence of COVID-19 cases were similar between the two groups, and no severe infections were reported in any of the patients.

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva's chief executive office, said in a statement that the findings confirm the advantages seen with inactivated whole-virus vaccines. "We are committed to bringing our differentiated vaccine candidate to licensure as quickly as possible and continue to believe that we will be able to make an important contribution to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic."

Valneva is currently conducting a clinical trial in adults age 56 and older in New Zealand and will soon start recruiting volunteers for a trial in adolescents, as well as a study to explore the vaccine's performance as a booster.

More global headlines

  • Romania today reported a record daily high for COVID-19 cases and deaths, with nearly 19,000 cases along with 574 deaths, according to the Associated Press, which said only 34% of adults are vaccinated, the second lowest level in Europe.

  • A draft document detailing the goals over the next year for the World Health Organization (WHO) ACT Accelerator includes antivirals for mild-to-moderate disease for as little as $10 per course, according to an exclusive from Reuters. The program is designed to ease equal access to drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines, and the antivirals could include Merck's molnupiravir, which some experts have feared would not be accessible to developing countries.

  • A WHO advisory group is expected to consider India's homegrown vaccine Covaxin for emergency listing next week, but officials have asked for more information and have signaled that they won't "cut corners" before recommending the shot. Sources told Reuters that India has delayed committing doses to COVAX, the global program for COVID-19 vaccine equity, given that it recently resumed vaccine sports.

  • The global total today climbed to 241,409,360 cases, along with 4,910,191 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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