Coronavirus live news: US launches $3.2bn virus treatment program; England opens vaccines to all adults
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern gets Pfizer vaccine; England opens vaccines to all over 18s from Friday; new US program will focus on development of antiviral pills
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The United States is devoting $3.2bn to speed development of antiviral pills to treat Covid-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics.
AP: The new program will invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for Covid but also would work to come up with treatments for other viruses, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. He announced the investment Thursday at a White House briefing.
“There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have pandemic potential,” he said, including Ebola, dengue, West Nile and Middle East respiratory syndrome.
But he added, “vaccines clearly remain the centerpiece of our arsenal.
The U.S. has approved one antiviral drug, remdesivir, specifically for Covid, and allowed emergency use of three antibody therapies that help the immune system fight the virus. But all the drugs have to given by IV at hospitals or medical clinics, and demand has been low due to these logistical hurdles.
Health experts have increasingly called for a convenient pill that patients could take themselves when symptoms first appear. Some drugmakers are testing such medications, but initial results aren’t expected for several more months. The new funds will speed those tests and support private sector research, development and manufacturing.
The health service in England will open up Covid vaccinations to everyone aged over 18 on Friday, a big step towards the government’s target of giving every adult who wants a vaccine a first shot in the next month, Reuters reports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pushed back the full re-opening of England from lockdown until July 19 because of a rise in cases, but also accelerated his vaccination plans, pledging to give every adult a first dose by the same date.
“Offering all adults a jab less than 200 days after the programme launched is one of our country*s greatest collective achievements, saving over 14,000 lives so far,” he said, referring to Public Health England estimates of the impact of the vaccine rollout.
Britain has given a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 42 million people, almost 80% of adults, while well over a half have received both shots.
Health authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each run their own vaccination campaigns. Wales and Northern Ireland have already made vaccines available to any adult, while Scotland is offering them to anyone over 30.
Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are being rolled out across the United Kingdom, although officials have said that people under 40 should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s shot after it was linked to rare blood clots.