COVID SCIENCE-Delta variant doubles risk of hospitalization; Novavax vaccine highly effective in large trial

By Nancy Lapid
June 14 (Reuters) - Below is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Delta variant doubles the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization
The delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, can double the risk of hospitalization in COVID-19 patients compared to the alpha variant first discovered in the UK, a study from Scotland suggests. Researchers looked at 19,543 COVID-19 cases and 377 hospitalizations in 5.4 million people, including 7,723 cases and 134 hospitalizations in patients with the Delta variant, who tended to be younger and wealthier. The risk of COVID-19 hospitalization was about twice as high for the Delta variant compared to the Alpha variant, with the risk being particularly increased in those with five or more conditions known to contribute to more severe conditions the researchers reported in The Lancet on Monday. They found that two doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's and AstraZeneca vaccines still offered strong protection, although not as strong as protection against the alpha variant. Two weeks after the second dose, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was found to offer 79% protection against infection from the Delta variant compared to 92% against the Alpha variant. With AstraZeneca's vaccine, there was 60% protection against Delta compared to 73% for Alpha. Since this was an observational study, more research is needed to confirm the results, the research team said. (https://bit.ly/3xinW5K)
Novavax vaccine highly effective in North American study
Novavax Inc said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective in a large, late-stage clinical trial, including against a wide variety of coronavirus variants, which once approved is another potential weapon against the disease. In the study of nearly 30,000 volunteers in the United States and Mexico, the two-shot vaccine was 100% effective in preventing infection from the original version of the coronavirus, the company said. It was more than 93% effective against the prevalent variants of the virus that were of concern among scientists and public health officials. The alpha variant first identified in the UK was the predominant variant in the US while the study was being conducted, the company said. The vaccine was 91% effective in volunteers at high risk of severe infection and 100% effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19. Novavax said the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with side effects similar to existing COVID-19 vaccines. The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is a more conventional vaccine than those currently available. It contains an updated version of the virus' spike protein, which cannot cause disease but can trigger the immune system directly. The company said the results are on track to apply for emergency clearance in the U.S. and elsewhere in the third quarter of 2021. (https://reut.rs/3iEvUlw)
Tetanus, diphtheria boosters related to less severe COVID-19
Older people who have had a booster vaccination for diphtheria or tetanus in the past 10 years may have a lower risk of severe COVID-19, according to a new study. Using a large UK registry, the researchers looked back on 10-year vaccination protocols from 103,409 participants, with a mean age of 71 years. They saw a trend towards a lower risk of a positive COVID-19 test in people who had received a tetanus or diphtheria booster shot during the study period, although the difference was small and may have been a matter of chance. However, there was a statistically significant association between the booster injections and the likelihood of severe COVID-19. After considering age, gender, underlying respiratory disease, and socioeconomic status, the likelihood of developing severe COVID-19 was 64% lower in those who received the diphtheria booster and 50% lower in those who received the tetanus booster , according to a published report on medRxiv on the Saturday before the peer review. The study does not prove cause and effect. If there is some effect from the boosters, it could be that they protect against severe COVID-19 symptoms by stimulating the immune system, the authors suggest. "The possibility that these vaccinations can affect the severity of COVID-19 warrants follow-up investigations," they conclude. (https://bit.ly/2SBSVLg)
Open https://tmsnrt.rs/3c7R3Bl in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Carl O'Donnell, and Alistair Smout; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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