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Pfizer CEO says company will know if vaccine works by end of October

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Washington — Albert Bourla, the head of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which is among the companies developing a coronavirus vaccine, said Sunday there is a “good chance” the company will know whether its vaccine works by the end of October.

In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Bourla said it’s not yet known whether Americans will be able to receive a coronavirus vaccine before 2021, as issuance of a license depends on federal regulators. But studies from Pfizer indicate “we have a good chance that we will know if the product works by the end of October.”

Still, Bourla said Pfizer is preparing for approval from the federal government and distribution of a vaccine before the end of the year.

“We started already manufacturing and we have already manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses, so just in case we have a good study readout, conclusive and FDA, plus the advisory committee feels comfortable that we will be ready,” he said.

Pfizer, which has partnered with BioNtech on its coronavirus vaccine, has begun enrolling 30,000 people in its phase three vaccine trial but is looking to expand its enrollment to 44,000. Bourla said the decision to increase the number of participants stems from its desire to expand to more vulnerable populations.

“We go to younger people. Right now, the study recruits from 18 to 85. Now we will go to 16 years old,” he said. “Also, we will go to people with special conditions, chronic conditions like HIV patients, but also we will try to use it to increase the diversity of the population.”

While Pfizer is one of several companies currently enrolling participants in its phase three vaccine trial, it is the only U.S.-based pharmaceutical company that has rejected federal dollars for its vaccine candidate.

Bourla acknowledged that if its coronavirus vaccine fails, Pfizer will absorb the financial hit. But he said he decided not to accept government funding for vaccine development to shield the pharmaceutical giant from politics.

“I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy,” he said. “When you get money from someone that always comes with strings. They want to see how we are going to progress, what type of moves you are going to do. They want reports. I didn’t want to have any of that. I wanted them — basically I gave them an open checkbook so that they can worry only about scientific challenges, not anything else. And also, I wanted to keep Pfizer out of politics.”

While Bourla stopped short of predicting when Americans may be able to receive a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and a member of Pfizer’s board of directors, has stressed he does not believe a vaccine will be widely available until 2021.

“This is likely to be a very staged market entry,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “I think that’s what people should expect. But for most people, they will not have access to a vaccine until 2021. I think maybe the first quarter of 2021, probably the first half of 2021. And that’s assuming that these vaccines are demonstrated to be safe and effective in these large trials.”

If any population in the U.S. is to receive a coronavirus vaccine this year, Gottlieb predicted it will be those who are at a high risk of becoming very sick from the virus or frontline workers who are at a high risk of contracting it.

“What we’re going to be doing is targeting the vaccine to select groups of people who are at very high risk of a bad outcome from COVID to try to reduce their risk,” he said. “But it’s not going to be used to achieve broad-based immunity, at least in 2020, perhaps in 2021.”

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Official COVID-19 death toll probably underestimates true total – WHO

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World Health Organisation

GENEVA: The official global toll of deaths from COVID-19 probably underestimates the true total – suggesting it could be over a million already, a World Health Organization official said on Monday.

“If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a briefing in Geneva.

“When you count anything, you can’t count it perfectly but I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID,” he said.

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15 MLAs test Covid positive in Odisha

BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the party will form a committee of MLAs, MPs and leading farmers’ leaders to study the provisions of the farm Bills recently passed in Parliament.

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Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar, Sep 28: At least 15 MLAs including Deputy Speaker Rajanikant Singh and three ministers have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the monsoon session of the Odisha Legislative Assembly starting on Tuesday, official sources said on Monday.

The MLAs underwent Covid-19 test on two days at the Assembly premises, ahead of the commencement of the Assembly session.

“I have been tested positive for COVID-19 and have been admitted in SUM Covid Hospital, Bhubaneswar. I request each and everyone who have come in close contact with me in recent few days to get themselves tested. Jai Jagannath,” tweeted Deputy Speaker Singh.

Ministers Samir Ranjan Dash, Padmini Dian and Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi tested positive for coronavirus during the test drive at the Assembly premises, said the official.

Besides the MLAs, their PSO and drivers, Assembly staff and journalists, had undergone RT-PCR test.

The monsoon session of the Odisha Assembly is scheduled to begin from Tuesday and will culminate on October 7.

Meanwhile, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress held their legislature party meetings to discuss their strategies for the monsoon session.

BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the party will form a committee of MLAs, MPs and leading farmers’ leaders to study the provisions of the farm Bills recently passed in Parliament.

“In both houses of Parliament, BJD raised its concerns regarding protection of farmers’ interest in the farmers’ Bills and suggested for close scrutiny by Parliamentary Committee. The party will form a Committee of MLAs, MPs and leading farmer’s leaders to study the provisions. I would like to assure the farmers that their welfare will be paramount in any of our interventions,” said Patnaik.

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Delhi records over 40 coronavirus deaths for second day on the trot

The national capital reported 42 COVID-19 fatalities on Sunday, taking the number of deaths to 5,235, while 3,292 fresh cases pushed the infection tally to 2,71,114.

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Arvind Kejriwal Delhi

New Delhi: The national capital reported 42 COVID-19 fatalities on Sunday, taking the number of deaths to 5,235, while 3,292 fresh cases pushed the infection tally to 2,71,114.

This is the second day in a trot when the city reported more than 40 coronavirus deaths.

On Saturday, authorities had reported 46 fatalities, which was the highest in a day since July 16, when the city reported 58 deaths.

The cumulative COVID-19 case count rose to 2,71,114 on Sunday with 3,292 more people contracting the viral disease.

The 42 fatalities pushed the death toll to 5,235.

The capital reported 3,372 cases on Saturday, 3,827 on Friday, 3,834 on Thursday, 3,714 on Wednesday, and 3,816 on Tuesday.

Of the total cases reported in Delhi so far, 2,36,651 have either recovered, been discharged or migrated out.

As many as 51,416 tests were conducted on Saturday to detect COVID-19 infection, of which 11,414 were RTPCR/CBNAAT/TrueNat tests and 40,002 rapid antigen tests.

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