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Novavax, Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine was 96 percent effective in preventing cases caused by the original version of the coronavirus in a late-stage trial conducted in the United Kingdom (U.K.), the company said March 11, moving it a step closer to regulatory approval.

The vaccine was also about 86 percent effective in protecting against the more contagious virus variant first discovered and now prevalent in the U.K. It was only around 55 percent effective in a separate, smaller trial in South Africa where volunteers were primarily exposed to another newer, more contagious variant that is widely circulating there and spreading around the world.

In both trials, the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing serious illness and death. Results from the final analysis of the U.K. trial were largely in line with interim data released in January, which also showed the Novavax shot to be 96 percent effective against the original version of the coronavirus and around 86 percent effective against the U.K. variant.

The company expects to use the data to submit for regulatory authorization in various countries. It is not clear when it will seek U.S. authorization or if regulators will require it to complete an ongoing trial in the U.S.

New data suggests that COVID-19 vaccines can prevent transmission of the coronavirus, in addition to protecting against symptomatic disease. An absence of clear data on transmission has led health authorities to recommend vaccinated people be careful around unvaccinated people, particularly those at risk for severe COVID-19 infections.

“It looks like 90 percent reduction in asymptomatic transmission so that’s really good,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The promising news comes after President Joe Biden announced he was ordering all states, territories and tribes to make all adults eligible to “get in line” for their vaccines by May 1. If Americans “do our part” in the coming weeks, he said, friends and families will be able to join together in small groups in time for the Fourth of July.

Also in the news:

– The U.S. on Friday reported administering its 100 millionth COVID-19 vaccine as the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 300 million global shots have been given.

– The number of people seeking help to quit smoking plummeted 27 percent last year as the public grappled with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report says.

– During his prime-time address, President Biden denounced violent attacks against Asian Americans, which have risen markedly during the pandemic. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop,” Biden said.

– Nearly one in five Americans say they lost a relative or close friend to COVID-19, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows. The numbers were considerably higher for Black (30 percent) and Hispanic (29 percent) respondents, yet another example of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on minority groups.

– The U.S. is once again reporting less than one COVID-19 death per minute, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The U.S. also reported less than 400,000 new infections in the week ending March 10, a level not seen since mid-October.

– The few remaining COVID-19 restrictions in Oklahoma were to be rescinded March 12 as Gov. Kevin Stitt announced there would be no more limits on public gatherings or indoor sporting events and that a mask mandate in state buildings would be lifted.

– One day after the Duke’s men’s basketball team exited the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program, the University of Virginia also left the tournament after a positive test.

The U.S. has over 29.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 532,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 118.8 million cases and 2.63 million deaths. More than 133 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 101 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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