Statins may slightly lower COVID-19 death risk; using a different vaccine as booster may offer more protection

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

Statins may protect slightly against COVID-19 death

Widely-used statin drugs for lowering cholesterol may be linked to a slightly lower risk of dying from COVID-19, new data suggest. Researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden reviewed the medical records of nearly 1 million residents of Stockholm over the age of 45 between March and November 2020, roughly 18% of whom had been prescribed a statin, such as Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Merck & Co’s Zocor (simvastatin). The people prescribed statins had more risk factors for poor COVID-19 outcomes: they were older, more often male, had more medical conditions, lower education levels and less disposable income. After taking all that into account, statin users were still 12% less likely to have died of COVID-19 during the study period, according to a report published on Thursday in PLOS Medicine. The researchers did not compare outcomes in people who actually got infected with the virus, however. And they only had data on prescriptions – not on whether patients took the medicine as prescribed. A formal clinical trial would be needed to confirm the findings. Still, they conclude, their data “suggest that statin treatment may have a modest preventive therapeutic effect on COVID-19 mortality.”

Boosting with a different vaccine is safe, may be better

People who got Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine as a first shot had a stronger immune response when boosted with vaccines from either Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE or Moderna Inc, according to a study run by the National Institutes of Health. The trial, which included more than 450 adults who received initial shots from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or J&J, also showed that “mixing and matching” booster shots using different vaccine technology is safe in adults, the researchers reported in a paper posted on medRxiv on Wednesday ahead of peer review. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) while J&J’s uses viral vector technology. The trial looked at a total of nine combinations of initial shots and boosters. Using different types of shots as boosters generally produced a comparable or higher antibody response than using the same type, the researchers reported. Mixing booster doses “may offer immunological advantages to optimize the breadth and longevity of protection achieved with currently available vaccines,” they said.

Old age alone does not predict COVID-19 mortality risk

Older patients are known to be at higher risk for poor outcomes after infection with the coronavirus, but among those hospitalized with COVID-19, other characteristics help predict who is likely to do poorly, new data suggest. In a review of data on 4,783 people age 65 and older who were hospitalized for COVID-19 early in the pandemic, researchers at Northwell Health hospitals in New York found that age itself did not independently predict whether a patient was more likely to die. Instead, they reported on Thursday in BMC Geriatrics, more important predictors of death for elderly patients were factors such as how independent they were before the infection, how sick they were when they arrived at the hospital, and their pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, lung disease and dementia. The researchers noted that in facilities forced to ration care or facing resource shortages, some guidelines use advanced age as a reason to deny care. “Our findings support the American Geriatrics Society position statement indicating age alone should never be used to make decisions regarding resource allocation under conditions of resource scarcity,” the researchers said. “Although age is still an important factor in the overall risk of COVID-19 mortality… a comprehensive approach that accounts for the above factors is essential in preventing ageism.”

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Canada’s healthcare system ‘very fragile’, even as coronavirus recedes – official

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Healthcare systems across Canada are still very fragile from efforts needed to fight COVID-19, even as signs suggest a fourth wave is starting to recede, a top medical official said on Friday.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said it was important for health workers to get vaccinated and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

“Everybody’s exhausted. And if health care workers have to go into quarantine for example, after exposure, the system simply isn’t going to be sustainable,” she told a briefing. “Our health systems are still very fragile.”

Official data show that as of Oct. 8, 81% of Canadians aged 12 and over have received two shots against COVID-19.

That said, COVID-19 is still posing serious problems in the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which lifted most restrictions in July only to see cases soar.

“Surveillance data from this week indicates that although the virus continues to surge and present ongoing challenges in several areas … overall we’re observing a decline in COVID-19 disease activity nationally,” Tam said.

She also urged Canadians to get their annual shots against the flu, which is worst in the winter months.

“This is definitely not the year to have influenza wreak havoc,” she said.

Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, on Friday began to allow residents to download proof of vaccination on to their devices as a QR code, as well as an application that will allow businesses to verify it.

While businesses such as restaurants and arenas have been required to ask for proof of vaccination since Sept. 22, this took the form of PDFs, which critics noted were easy to edit.

(Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. prepares to resume Trump ‘Remain in Mexico’ asylum policy in November

By Mica Rosenberg

(Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to restart by mid-November a program begun under his predecessor Donald Trump that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings after a federal court deemed the termination of the program unjustified, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The administration, however, is planning to make another attempt to rescind the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly called the “Remain in Mexico” policy, even as it takes steps to comply with the August ruling by Texas-based U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the officials said.

The possible reinstatement of MPP – even on a short-term basis – would add to a confusing mix of U.S. policies in place at the Mexican border, where crossings into the United States have reached 20-year highs in recent months. The administration said it can only move forward if Mexico agrees. Officials from both countries said they are discussing the matter.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it has expressed a “number of concerns” over MPP to U.S. officials, particularly around due process, legal certainty, access to legal aid and the safety of migrants. A senior Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “there is no decision at this point” about the program’s restart.

Trump, a Republican known for hardline immigration policies, created the MPP policy in 2019, arguing that many asylum claims were fraudulent and applicants allowed into the United States might end up staying illegally if they skipped court hearings. Biden, a Democrat, ended the policy soon after taking office in January as part of his pledge to take a more humane approach to border issues.

Immigration advocates have said the program exposed migrants to violence and kidnappings in dangerous border cities where people camped out for months or years in shelters or on the street waiting for U.S. asylum hearings.

Biden in March said that “I make no apology” for ending MPP, a policy he described as sending people to the “edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat.”

After the Republican-led states of Texas and Missouri sued Biden over his decision to end the program, Kacsmaryk ruled in August that it must be reinstated. The U.S. Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump, subsequently let Kacsmaryk’s ruling stand, rejecting a bid by Biden’s administration to block it.

The administration has said it will comply with Kacsmaryk’s ruling “in good faith” while continuing its appeal in the case. The administration also plans to issue a fresh memo to terminate the program in the hopes it will resolve any legal concerns surrounding the previous one, officials said.

“Re-implementation is not something that the administration has wanted to do,” a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a call with reporters. “But in the interim we are under this obligation of the court.”

In a court filing late on Thursday the administration said that “although MPP is not yet operational,” they are taking all the steps necessary to re-implement it by next month.

Those steps include preparing courts, some housed in tents, near the border where asylum hearings could be held. The administration said in the filing that these facilities will take about 30 days to build, costing approximately $14.1 million to erect and $10.5 million per month to operate.

The filing said the aim is for MPP to span the entire Southwestern border, which the government deemed preferable to it operating only in certain areas.

At the same time, Biden has left in place another policy that Trump implemented in March 2020 early in the COVID-19 pandemic that allows for most migrants caught crossing the border to be rapidly expelled for public health reasons, with no type of asylum screening. One DHS official said that policy will continue.

Mexico has also expressed its concern over this policy, known as Title 42, which the foreign ministry said incentivizes repeat crossings and puts migrants at risk.

In a win for Mexico on a separate front, the United States said this week it will lift restrictions at its legal ports of entry for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending curbs on nonessential travelers during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Will Dunham and Jonathan Oatis)

Desperate British pig farmers tell Johnson: Ease immigration rules

By Kate Holton

DRIFFIELD, England (Reuters) – Two sisters running a pig farm in northeast England have a message for Prime Minister Boris Johnson: lift strict immigration rules for butchers or risk seeing the pork sector collapse under the weight of overly fattened animals.

Farmers across Britain say a combination of Brexit and COVID-19 have sparked an exodus of east European workers from abattoirs and meat processors, leaving pigs to back up in barns and fields across the country.

As the pigs gain weight from the extra time spent on the farm, eating food that has also jumped in price, they risk passing the size threshold at which abattoirs impose financial penalties because they have become harder to handle.

While some have started culling pigs, others like Kate Morgan and Vicky Scott are desperately trying to keep theirs until they can go for slaughter, but they warned that tensions were running high and many farmers were quitting the job.

“The pressure is like pressure we’ve never had before, emotionally it’s absolutely draining, financially it’s crippling,” Scott told Reuters over the squeals and grunts of a couple of hundred pigs. “We’re in a fairly bad place right now.”

Industries across Britain have warned in recent months that they are struggling to maintain operations after European workers returned home in the summer, with gaps being felt on farms, in factories and throughout the freight sector.

The problem has hit pig farming hard. Making little profit at the best of times, it is now losing money on every pig sold and the National Farmers Union warned two weeks ago that up to 150,000 pigs could be culled.

TECHNOLOGY AND WAGE HIKES

Morgan and Scott say a 25% capacity cut by their abattoir has left some 5,000 pigs in the towering barns that stand out on the open, flat fields of east Yorkshire. While talking to Reuters they received news of another abattoir cancellation.

Morgan said they were doing everything they could to avoid a cull but that the pressure was building. “We are juggling everything, trying to put pigs where maybe they shouldn’t be just so that we don’t get to that situation,” she said.

She urged Johnson to ease post-Brexit immigration rules and allow European butchers to enter Britain without needing to first pass a comprehensive English language test, a requirement that the industry says is putting off workers.

The pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears. Johnson has said businesses need to wean themselves off the “drug” of cheap migrant labor and invest in technology and higher salaries to recruit enough British workers.

He has provoked the ire of farmers in recent weeks by quipping, variously, that bacon sandwiches come from dead pigs and that animals are bred on farms to be slaughtered.

“Have you ever had a bacon sandwich?” Johnson asked a Times Radio journalist when questioned about a possible pig cull. “Those pigs, when you ate them, were not alive.”

Scott says their farm has ploughed money into technology and retained staff by frequently hiking wages. The problem lies in abattoirs and meat processors where butchers are often more efficient than machines. The sisters note that higher wages in the sector would also lead to higher food prices.

Short term, Scott says a relaxation of visa rules is the only solution to get the industry straight. “Hopefully the government are listening to us now,” she said. “It’s critical, it’s very time critical and we need them to do something, now.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

WHO says it may be ‘last chance’ to find COVID origins

By Stephanie Nebehay and Pushkala Aripaka

GENEVA (Reuters) -The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday its newly formed advisory group on dangerous pathogens may be “our last chance” to determine the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and called for cooperation from China.

The first human cases of COVID-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. China has repeatedly dismissed theories that the virus leaked from one of its laboratories and has said no more visits are needed.

A WHO-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan earlier this year with Chinese scientists, and said in a joint report in March that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal but further research was needed.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the investigation was hampered by a dearth of raw data pertaining to the first days of the outbreak’s spread and has called for lab audits.

The WHO on Wednesday named the 26 proposed members of its Scientific Advisory Group on the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO). They include Marion Koopmans, Thea Fischer, Hung Nguyen and Chinese animal health expert Yang Yungui, who took part in the joint investigation in Wuhan.

DOZENS OF STUDIES NEEDED

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, voiced hope that there would be further WHO-led international missions to China which would engage the country’s cooperation.

She told a news conference that “more than three dozen recommended studies” still needed to be carried out to determine how the virus crossed from the animal species to humans.

Reported Chinese tests for antibodies present in Wuhan residents in 2019 will be “absolutely critical” to understanding the virus’s origins, van Kerkhove said.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, said the new panel may be the last chance to establish the origin of SARS-CoV-2, “a virus that has stopped our whole world”.

The WHO was seeking to “take a step back, create an environment where we can again look at the scientific issues,” he said.

Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told a separate news conference the conclusions of the joint study were “quite clear,” adding that as international teams had been sent to China twice already, “it is time to send teams to other places.”

“I do believe that if we are going to continue with the scientific research I think it should be a joint effort based on science not by the intelligence agencies,” Chen said. “So if we are going to talk about anything, we are doing the whole business with the framework of SAGO”.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

New York must allow religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandate, judge rules

By Tom Hals and Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that New York state cannot impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on healthcare workers without allowing their employers to consider religious exemption requests.

U.S. District Judge David Hurd in Albany, New York, ruled that the state’s workplace vaccination requirement conflicted with healthcare workers’ federally protected right to seek religious accommodations from their employers.

The ruling provides a test case as vaccine mandate opponents gear up to fight plans by President Joe Biden’s administration to extend COVID-19 inoculation requirements to tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans.

Vaccines have become highly politicized in the United States, where only 66% of Americans are vaccinated, well short of the initial goals of the Biden administration.

Seventeen healthcare workers opposed to the mandate sued, saying the requirement violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution and a federal civil rights law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.

Hurd agreed, saying the state’s order “clearly” conflicted with their right to seek religious accommodations.

“The court rightly recognized that yesterday’s ‘front line heroes’ in dealing with COVID cannot suddenly be treated as disease-carrying villains and kicked to the curb by the command of a state health bureaucracy,” said Christopher Ferrara, a lawyer for the workers at the conservative Thomas More Society.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, vowed in a statement to fight the decision, saying her “responsibility as governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that.”

At least 24 states have imposed vaccine requirements on workers, usually in healthcare.

New York’s Department of Health on Aug. 26 ordered healthcare professionals to be vaccinated by Sept. 27 and the order did not allow for the customary religious exemptions.

Hurd issued a temporary restraining order on Sept. 14 in favor of the workers while he considered whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Peter Cooney)

“There will be things that people can’t get,” at Christmas, White House warns

By Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -White House officials, scrambling to relieve global supply bottlenecks choking U.S. ports, highways and railways, warn Americans may face higher prices and some empty shelves this Christmas season.

The supply crisis, driven in part by the global COVID-19 pandemic, not only threatens to dampen U.S. spending at a critical time, it also poses a political risk for U.S. President Joe Biden.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the economy continues to be the most important issue to Democrats and Republicans alike.

The White House has been trying to tackle inflation-inducing supply bottlenecks of everything from meat to semiconductors, and formed a task force in June that meets weekly and named a “bottleneck” czar to push private sector companies to ease snarls.

Biden himself plans to meet with senior officials on Wednesday to discuss efforts to relieve transportation bottlenecks before delivering a speech on the topic.

Supply chain woes are weighing on retail and transportation companies, which recently issued a series of downbeat earnings outlooks. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve last month predicted a 2021 inflation rate of 4.2%, well above its 2% target.

American consumers, unused to empty store shelves, may need to be flexible and patient, White House officials said.

“There will be things that people can’t get,” a senior White House official told Reuters, when asked about holiday shopping.

“At the same time, a lot of these goods are hopefully substitutable by other things … I don’t think there’s any real reason to be panicked, but we all feel the frustration and there’s a certain need for patience to help get through a relatively short period of time.”

Inflation is biting wages. Labor Department data shows that Americans made 0.9% less per hour on average in August than they did one year prior.

The White House argues inflation is a sign that their decision to provide historic support to small businesses and households, through $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief funding, worked.

U.S. consumer demand stayed strong, outpacing global rivals, and the Biden administration expects the overall economy to grow at 7.1%, as inflation reaches its highest levels since the 1980s.

“We recognize that it has pinched families who are trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy as we move into the later stages of the pandemic,” said a second senior White House official.

BOTTLENECK CZAR

In August, the White House tapped John Porcari, a veteran transportation official who served in the Obama administration as a new “envoy” to the nation’s ports, but he’s known as the bottleneck czar.

Porcari told Reuters the administration has worked to make sure various parts of the supply chain, such as ports and intermodal facilities, where freight is transferred from one form of transport to another, are in steady communication.

Now it is focused on getting ports and other transportation hubs to operate on a 24-hour schedule, taking advantage of off-peak hours to move more goods in the pipeline. California ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles have agreed to extended hours, and there are more to follow, he said in an interview Monday.

“We need to make better use of that off-peak capacity and that really is the current focus,” Porcari said.

The administration is also seeking to restore inactive rail yards for extra container capacity and create “pop-up” rail yards to increase capacity.

“It’s important to remember that the goods movement system is a private sector driven system,” he said. “There’s problems in every single part of that system. And, and they tend to compound each other.

“While the pandemic was an enormously disruptive force. I think it also laid bare what was an underlying reality, which was the system was strained before the pandemic.”

A NEW WAR ON CHRISTMAS

Republican strategists are seizing on possible Christmas shortages to bash Biden’s policies as inflationary, and thwart his attempt to push a multi-trillion dollar spending package through Congress in coming weeks.

A recent op-ed by Steve Cortes, a one-time advisor to former President Donald Trump, dubbed the upcoming holiday season “Biden’s Blue Christmas,” continuing in a long tradition of conservatives criticizing Democrats over celebrations around the Christian holiday.

Trump, considered the front-runner Republican candidate for president in 2024, blasted it out in a mass email through his political action committee, Save America.

Seth Weathers, a Republican strategist who ran Trump’s Georgia campaign in 2016 said they see local impact. “People here in Georgia are paying twice as much for items than they paid a year ago and they are blaming Biden. He’s in charge.”

A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed Biden is losing the public’s trust on the economy, with only 29% of public thinking the U.S. economy is in “good” or “excellent” condition, compared with 35% in April.

“President Biden could use a holiday season win,” Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy said. “A slowdown of holiday season deliveries and the financial strain that comes with it would be coal in the stocking for the Administration at the close of the first year in office.”

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Richard Pullin and Aurora Ellis)

U.S. FDA removes concessions on hand sanitizer production as supply recovers

(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday companies manufacturing certain alcohol-based hand sanitizers under its previous relaxed guidance must stop making these products by the end of the year as there is no longer a shortage.

The FDA had issued the temporary guidelines in March 2020 to address tight supply conditions for sanitizers, driven by a surge in demand for the products during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, the agency withdrew the guidance and said companies that have been manufacturing the sanitizers under the temporary guidelines should stop making the products effective Dec. 31.

“In recent months, the supply of alcohol-based hand sanitizer from traditional suppliers has increased, and now, most consumers and healthcare personnel are no longer having difficulty obtaining these products,” the agency said.

Hand sanitizers manufactured before Dec. 31 or on that date and produced under the previous temporary guidelines must no longer be sold to wholesalers or retailers by March 31, 2022, the agency added.

The FDA said manufacturers that wish to continue making hand sanitizers after Dec. 31 must comply with the agency’s manufacturing requirements.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

Merck seeks first U.S. authorization for COVID-19 pill

(Reuters) -Merck & Co Inc said on Monday it has applied for U.S. emergency use authorization for its drug to treat mild-to-moderate patients of COVID-19, putting it on course to become the first oral antiviral medication for the disease.

An authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help change clinical management of COVID-19 as the pill can be taken at home.

The treatment, molnupiravir, cut the rate of hospitalization and death by 50% in a trial of mild-to-moderately ill patients who had at least one risk factor for the disease, according to data released earlier this month.

The interim efficacy data on the drug, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had heavily dented the shares of COVID-19 vaccine makers and set off a scramble among nations, including Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore, to sign a supply deal with Merck.

The drugmaker has a U.S. government contract to supply 1.7 million courses at a price of $700 per course. Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of 2021.

It has also agreed to license the drug to several India-based generic drugmakers, which are expected to supply the treatment to more than 100 low- and middle-income countries.

Gilead Sciences Inc’s infused antiviral remdesivir is generally given only once a patient is hospitalized.

Monoclonal antibody drugs from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Eli Lilly, which are typically infused as well, have so far seen only limited use due to the difficulty in administering them.

Merck’s shares opened roughly 1% higher before paring some gains to trade at $81.32.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

AstraZeneca antibody cocktail study shows success treating COVID-19

By Ludwig Burger, Yadarisa Shabong and Sachin Ravikumar

(Reuters) -AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail against COVID-19, which has proven to work as a preventative shot in the non-infected, was also shown to save lives and prevent severe disease when given as treatment within a week of first symptoms.

The drug, a combination of two antibodies called AZD7442, reduced the risk of severe COVID-19 or death by 50% in non-hospitalized patients who have had symptoms for seven days or less, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said on Monday.

The risk reduction was even better in patients who started therapy within just five days of initial symptoms, but AstraZeneca joins an already crowded field of medicines that were shown to prevent deterioration in patients with mild disease when given soon after diagnosis.

AstraZeneca executive Mene Pangalos said in a media call that the treatment results would mainly underscore the potential future use as a non-vaccine prevention.

“If and when this is approved it will be used in the treatment setting as well. But the real differentiator for this antibody is going to be in the prophylactic setting,” he said.

Similar therapies made with a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies are being developed by Regeneron, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline with partner Vir. These therapies are approved for emergency use in the United States for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

Regeneron’s therapy showed 72% protection against symptomatic infection in the first week, and 93% after that.

GSK-Vir’s showed a 79% reduction in the risk of hospitalization or death due to any cause, while Eli Lilly’s therapy showed a 70% reduction in viral load at day seven compared to a placebo.

Merck & Co Inc, in turn, is emphasizing the convenience of use of its anti-COVID-19 tablet, which cut the risk of having to got to hospital or of dying by 50% in a trial of early-stage patients who had at least one risk factor.

Merck, collaborating with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, on Monday applied for U.S. emergency clearance for the oral drug.

AstraZeneca, whose COVID-19 vaccine has been widely used across the globe, asked U.S. regulators last week to grant emergency use authorization for AZD7442 as a preventative shot.

As such, it is designed to protect people who do not have a strong enough immune response to vaccines, primarily those who have received organ transplants or who are in cancer care.

If full market clearance is obtained after any emergency approval the market could widen, for instance, to include crew and passengers of a cruise ship, said Pangalos.

“You can say the same for people who don’t want to be vaccinated but want an antibody,” he added.

AstraZeneca said it is submitting the new treatment data on AZD7442 to global health regulators.

The trial took place across 13 countries and involved more than 900 adult participants, 90% of whom suffered from conditions that made the particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, such as cancer and diabetes. One half receiving AZD7442 and the rest a placebo.

Full trial results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, AstraZeneca said.

AZD7442 contains laboratory-made antibodies designed to linger in the body for months to contain the virus in case of an infection. A vaccine, in contrast, relies on an intact immune system to develop targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells.

While Monday’s results cover the use of AZD7442 in non-hospitalized patients, a separate trial is also studying its use as a treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Kirsten Donovan and Alexander Smith)