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Archive for June 24th, 2020

China says Kovrig, Spavor may be freed if Canada ends Meng Wanzhou case – Globalnews.ca

June 24th, 2020

China has explicitly tied the fate of two detained Canadians to the release of Meng Wanzhou, joining the growing calls for Ottawa to intervene in the Huawei executive’s extradition.

In a media briefing Wednesday, Zhao Lijian, the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, cited comments made by Michael Kovrig’s wife to the CBC and Reuters saying Canada’s justice minister has the power to end Meng’s extradition to the United States “at any point.”

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” Zhao said, referring to Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have now been detained for over 550 days.

Read more: Prominent Canadians call on Trudeau to end Meng Wanzhou case to free 2 Michaels

Kovrig‘s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, cited a legal opinion written by Brian Greenspan, a Toronto lawyer well-versed in extradition proceedings. Nadjibulla joined a group of prominent Canadians, many with previous federal government experience, in seeking the opinion.

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In the legal opinion — dated May 22, 2020 and addressed to Attorney General David Lametti — Greenspan said the justice minister can legally intervene in the case before it hits his desk, saying that “discretion” is “expressly codified” in the Extradition Act.

3:25Can Canada end Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case?

Can Canada end Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case?

Greenspan argues that intervening and ending the extradition case preserves Canada’s judicial independence and is consistent with the rule of law, which Zhao said China agrees with.

“This shows that the Canadian government can actually handle this incident in a just manner according to Canadian law,” Zhao said.

“Once again we urge the Canadian side to earnestly respect the spirit of rule of law, treat China’s solemn position and concerns seriously, stop political manipulation, immediately release Ms. Meng and ensure her safe return to China.”

Read more: Feds could abandon Meng Wanzhou’s case now if they wanted to: ex-minister, lawyer

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Meng is fighting extradition to the United States, where American authorities have charged her and her company with multiple counts related to allegedly skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing corporate secrets. She was arrested in Vancouver in December 2018 at the request of the Americans, and has been kept under house arrest in the city ever since.

Just days after Meng’s arrest, Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on what the country said were “suspicions” of stealing state secrets. The two men were not formally charged with espionage until last week, setting the stage for a formal trial with a high likelihood of conviction and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

2:18Trudeau refuses to do prisoner swap for two Michaels

Trudeau refuses to do prisoner swap for two Michaels

China has repeatedly denied that Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions were in retaliation for Meng’s arrest, an argument that has recently been dismissed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others in his cabinet.

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Ottawa has also dismissed Beijing’s claims that Meng’s arrest was a “political incident,” as Zhao called it Wednesday, insisting the case is consistent with Canadian law while also honouring the request of the U.S.

1:47Treasury Board President says government not intervening in Meng Wanzhou case ‘to defend Canada’s reputation’ of judicial independence

Treasury Board President says government not intervening in Meng Wanzhou case ‘to defend Canada’s reputation’ of judicial independence

China’s comments came as a letter signed by a group of former Canadian officials, including those who sought Greenspan’s legal opinion, urged Trudeau to end Meng’s extradition case in order to seek Kovrig and Spavor’s return to Canada.

The letter also argues doing so would strengthen Canada’s foreign policy stance toward China, particularly concerning Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong and Huawei’s attempts to introduce a 5G network in North America.

Read more: Senators call on Trudeau to sanction Chinese officials over human rights violations

In a statement Wednesday, Lametti’s office argued that the extradition process “ensures that individual rights are protected and that those sought for extradition are afforded due process before the courts, while honouring our international treaty obligations.

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“We are well aware of the laws and processes governing this important regime,” it said, adding it would not be appropriate to comment further on a case before the courts.

Nadjibulla and the group behind the letter have also raised concerns about the conditions Kovrig and Spavor are being detained in, which they say increase the likelihood of the men contracting COVID-19. Reports say Kovrig and Spavor are being held in detention facilities with 24-hour lighting and are being denied visits from lawyers and consular officials.

5:08China detained Kovrig, Spavor in ‘political decision’ over Meng arrest, Trudeau says

China detained Kovrig, Spavor in ‘political decision’ over Meng arrest, Trudeau says

Zhao pushed back on Nadjibulla’s concerns Wednesday, saying Kovrig’s health and safety are being ensured and he was recently allowed to speak with his family, “for which he expressed gratefulness.”

“The case is being handled by competent authorities in accordance with law, and Kovrig’s legitimate rights are fully guaranteed,” he said.

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Zhao did not mention Spavor by name, only saying “detainees” are being protected from the novel coronavirus.

“As to consular visits, they will be resumed once the epidemic situation gets better,” he said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Study Raises Concerns for Pregnant Women With the Coronavirus – The New York Times

June 24th, 2020

Pregnant women infected with the coronavirus are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator than are infected women who are not pregnant, according to a new government analysis.

Pregnant women are known to be particularly susceptible to other respiratory infections, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained from the start of the pandemic that the virus does not seem to “affect pregnant people differently than others.”

The increased risk for intensive care and mechanical ventilation worried experts. But the new study did not include one pivotal detail: whether pregnant women were hospitalized because of labor and delivery. That may have significantly inflated the numbers, so it is unclear whether the analysis reflects a true increase in risk of hospitalization.

Admission for delivery represents 25 percent of all hospitalizations in the United States, said Dr. Neel Shah, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard University. Even at earlier stages of pregnancy, doctors err on the side of being overly cautious when treating pregnant women — whether they have the coronavirus or not.

“There’s quite clearly a different threshold for hospitalizing pregnant people and nonpregnant people,” he said. “The question is whether it also reflects something about their illness, and that’s something we don’t really know.”

The results are to be published on Thursday by the C.D.C.; government researchers presented the data to a federal immunization committee on Wednesday. (The slides were posted online on Wednesday afternoon but taken down later in the day.)

The analysis, the largest of its type so far, is based on data from women with confirmed infections of the coronavirus as reported to the C.D.C. by 50 states and Washington, from Jan. 22 to June 7.

The report includes information on 8,207 pregnant women between ages 15 to 44, who were compared to 83,205 women in the same age bracket who were not pregnant.

More than 31 percent of the pregnant women were hospitalized, compared with about 6 percent of women who were not pregnant. Pregnant women were more likely to be admitted to the I.C.U. (1.5 percent versus 0.9 percent) and to require mechanical ventilation (0.5 percent versus 0.3 percent).

These proportions are small, Dr. Shah noted, and the 10-fold difference in the number of pregnant and nonpregnant women in the analysis makes it difficult to compare their risks.

In a separate analysis by Covid-Net of women hospitalized with the coronavirus, C.D.C. researchers noted that “the risk of I.C.U. and mechanical ventilation was lower among pregnant compared to nonpregnant women.” Covid-Net analyzes data from hospitalizations in the network’s surveillance area in 14 states.

Despite the ambiguities, some experts said the new data suggests at the very least that pregnant women with the coronavirus should be carefully monitored.

If many of the pregnant women were hospitalized for labor and delivery, the proportion of women who were hospitalized for only coronavirus infection and became severely ill — those advancing to the I.C.U. or ventilation — would be even higher, said Dr. Denise Jamieson, head of the Covid-19 task force at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“I think the bottom line is this: These findings suggest that compared to nonpregnant women, pregnant women are more likely to have severe Covid,” she said.

Pregnancy transforms the body’s biology, ramping up metabolism, blood flow, lung capacity and heart rate. It also suppresses a woman’s immune system to accommodate the fetus — a circumstance that can increase her susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like influenza.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Because of this heightened risk, scientists have been closely monitoring pregnancy outcomes in various coronavirus studies. So far, few studies have indicated a significant risk for pregnant women or for their children. Infections in newborns have been exceedingly rare.

Still, as the pandemic has progressed, prenatal care has been severely disrupted, Dr. Shah said, and women are being hospitalized for conditions that might have been caught and treated much earlier.

“Things that might have happened in an office setting are happening in a hospital triage setting,” he said.

Dr. Jamieson pointed to a recent study of pregnant women at New York City hospitals who were asymptomatic at admission. Of the 241 women who tested positive for the coronavirus in that study, 48 did not have symptoms at first but then became severely ill.

The study also found that women with more severe symptoms were more likely to give birth prematurely.

“All this information points to the importance of being vigilant when it comes to monitoring pregnant women,” Dr. Jamieson said. “They’re not at as great a risk as, for example, older people, or people with other underlying medical conditions. But they do seem to be at some increased risk.”

The data suggests that hospitals should aim to test all pregnant women for the coronavirus, regardless of symptoms, she added. The new analysis also has implications for a coronavirus vaccine, whenever one becomes available.

“How strongly are we going to counsel pregnant women about the benefits of vaccines?” Dr. Jamieson wondered.

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Cluster of COVID-19 cases in southern Minnesota tied to reopened bars – Minneapolis Star Tribune

June 24th, 2020

A cluster of COVID-19 cases tied to young adults drinking at southern Minnesota bars has raised concerns for state health officials, though it’s unclear whether the infections will cause more hospitalizations and deaths.

While young adults are less likely to suffer severe cases, they could be the catalysts for a second wave of COVID-19 in Minnesota and the spreading of the infectious disease to people at greater risk, said Kris Ehresmann, state infectious disease director.

“As people are out, you know, enjoying a bit of freedom that we have now, [we want to make sure] that they’re cognizant of the fact that they could be a risk factor for someone else,” Ehresmann said. “Even though they may not be at risk for complications, they can still get COVID just as easily as anyone else and as a result they can spread it to others inadvertently.”

Some of the roughly 100 young adults infected during visits to bars on June 12 and 13 — the first weekend they reopened — work in child care. Others work in health care facilities and with people at greater risk of severe COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported five more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total for the pandemic to 1,397 — with 1,102 occurring in long-term care facilities.

The state also reported a total of 33,763 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a slight uptick this week in hospitalizations — with 340 people admitted due to their infections and 160 needing intensive care.

Daily case growth has ebbed in Minnesota this month, with the 304 cases reported on Wednesday being below the peak of 847 cases reported on May 23. This occurred despite the limited reopening in June of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, salons and entertainment venues, and the mass protests and riots following the police killing of George Floyd that could have spread the virus.

Blue Earth County is among the counties affected by transmission in bars of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Activity nearly doubled there from 142 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths at the start of this month to 265 cases and two deaths as of Wednesday.

Free testing at four community sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul ended on Wednesday, with partial results showing a negligible impact of the protest activities on COVID-19 case growth. Roughly 1.5% of 7,706 tests from the first two weeks at these sites turned up positive for the virus.

The results did reveal a disparity in the spread of the virus, though. The positivity rate for white people at these test sites was only .2%, compared to 1.3% among black people, 5% among Asians, and 7.4% among Latinos.

Minorities only made up 40% of the tests but 90% of the positive cases identified at these sites. They probably weren’t infected during the protests, Ehresmann said, but many work in lower-wage jobs that don’t present work-from-home options and increase their infection risks.

“We need to make sure we are making testing available to our populations of color and Indigenous populations,” Ehresmann said.

Death estimate lowered

The recent influx of younger people with COVID-19 might not lead to more deaths, unless those people spread the virus to others at greater risk. Minnesotans 70 and older make up 12% of known cases and 82% of deaths, whereas Minnesotans 40 and younger make up 66% of known cases but 2% of deaths.

A report on Wednesday from the CDC highlighted how young people spread the virus, noting infections of 60 of 183 students from the University of Texas who were tested for COVID-19 after spring break travels to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.

One-fifth of the students who tested positive had no symptoms, which is a concern because it means they were carrying and potentially spreading the virus without knowing it.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) on Wednesday reduced its COVID-19 estimate for Minnesota from 3,191 deaths to 1,797 by Oct. 1.

The reduction occurred because growth in cases and deaths slowed more than expected in the past week, said Dr. Theo Vos, a professor of health metrics science at IHME in Washington state. “That of course is a good thing, and bucks the pattern that we unfortunately see in quite a few other states in the South and West.”

The lack of a surge in cases due to the Floyd protests in Minneapolis and St. Paul supports the theory that people are at less risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 when outdoors.

Health officials worried despite the lower risks of outdoor transmission because the protesters had been singing and chanting while packed together, and gasping and coughing when tear gas was used to disperse crowds.

The lack of a significant uptick in cases related to the protests was surprising to Dr. Bill Roberts, a professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota, but will help inform understanding about transmission risks and the environments that are safer than others.

“The safest position is outdoors along with a good breeze, and the least safe is a small room packed with people with someone who is breathing the disease on you,” he said. “In between, there’s got to be a tipping point where it’s safer to be than not to be. I think we’ll start to learn that over time.”

The lower outdoor risk partly informs the latest decision by Gov. Tim Walz and state health authorities to permit more outdoor youth sports activities.

State guidance allowed full practices and scrimmage starting Wednesday, and games against opponents from other communities in two weeks. Indoor sports can resume July 1.

Ehresmann said wind and outdoor airflow can diffuse the virus, reducing exposure risks.

A study last week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases also found that sunlight could make a difference.

It simulated the decay of aerosolized droplets carrying the virus and found it would take six minutes under summer sun, 19 minutes under fall/winter sunshine levels, and 125 minutes without sunlight.

Ehresmann said she hoped people would consider this protective benefit when congregating this summer, and that bars could steer crowds of people outdoors when possible.

People should also take precautions such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing, she added.

“I realize it’s difficult to consume adult beverages wearing a mask,” she said, “but please then social distance and make sure you that you are cognizant of the risk of COVID transmission in a group setting.”

 

Uncategorized

Former Intel engineer says Skylake problems were turning point for Apple’s ARM Mac transition – 9to5Mac

June 24th, 2020

Disney delays reopening Disneyland and other California theme parks – MarketWatch

June 24th, 2020

The Walt Disney Co. DIS, -3.87% is delaying the reopening of its California theme parks, including Disneyland, which had been scheduled to start reopening July 17. “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,” Disney said in a statement late Wednesday. It did not give a new reopening date, but said the state of California does not plan to update its guidelines on theme parks until after July 4. “Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date,” the company said. Disney still must negotiate with its unions before reopening, but union members have been critical of the company’s “rapid timetable” to reopen, especially considering the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Southern California.

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Apple packs iOS 14 with new accessibility features, like AirPods Pro audio tweaks – CNET

June 24th, 2020

As sexual abuse allegations flood in, the world of video games faces a reckoning – SFGate

June 24th, 2020

U.S. hits highest single day of coronavirus cases at 36,358, breaking April record – CNBC

June 24th, 2020

A Sun Tran employee offers free masks to passengers to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the downtown bus station in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., June 20, 2020.

Cheney Orr | Reuters

The U.S. broke its record for the highest coronavirus cases recorded in a single day, with 36,358 new positives reported on Wednesday, according to a tally by NBC News.

Wednesday’s cases top the previous highest day count from April 26 — the first peak of the pandemic in the U.S. — by 73 cases, according to NBC News tracking data. The World Health Organization saw its single-day record on Sunday with more 183,000 cases worldwide.

Health experts told NBC News on Monday that the resurgence in cases in Southern and Western states can be traced back to Memorial Day, when many officials began loosening lockdowns and reopening businesses.

More from NBC News:

Meanwhile, the Northeast region have seen significant decreases in cases as authorities in the area have maintained policies around social distancing and wearing face masks.

Visitors who travel from U.S. hotspots who arrive in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be asked to quarantine for two weeks, the governors of those states announced Wednesday.

Unfortunately, as many states struggle to contain the virus after prematurely loosening restrictions, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by patients.

In Florida, where more than 109,000 cases have been reported, capacity for adult intensive care units is only 21 percent, according to state data updated on Wednesday. Arizona has only 12 percent of its ICU beds available, the state health department reported Tuesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised California’s response to the pandemic and likened the battle against the coronavirus to a social justice crusade.

“Californians have risen to the occasion on social issues so well in the past, you’ve been the leaders in the country on those things,” Fauci told the Sacramento Press Club on Wednesday.

“This is an issue that really has social responsibility associated with it.”

Despite the praise from Fauci, California also saw its biggest single day coronavirus tally on Wednesday. An additional 7,149 reported cases brought the state’s total of confirmed cases to 190,222.

Gov. Gavin Newsom pleaded with Californians on Wednesday to continue using face coverings to try and halt the spread of the virus.

“You’re not invincible from COVID-19,” Newsom said. “Quite the contrary, this is a disease that easily spreads, very easily spreads.”

Uncategorized

Exclusive: Vaccine alliance finds manufacturing capacity for 4 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines – Reuters

June 24th, 2020

CHICAGO (Reuters) – An influential foundation focused on preparation and response to epidemics that is backing nine potential coronavirus vaccines has identified manufacturers with capacity to produce four billion doses a year, the group’s top manufacturing expert told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO – Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) plans to have two or three manufacturing plants for each vaccine, James Robinson, a longtime biopharma executive leading CEPI’S vast manufacturing push, said in an interview.

“Right now, we know we can do the two billion doses that we have as our kind of our minimum target” by the end of 2021, he said.

The group is planning for eight to 10 regional distribution sites “so that we don’t have to make everything centrally and try and ship it around the world,” he said.

Even with no existing approved vaccines, CEPI is already getting manufacturing and supply chains lined up in a quest to ensure coronavirus vaccines are distributed equitably around the globe.

The Oslo, Norway-based group is backed by 14 governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Britain’s Wellcome Trust.

CEPI has deployed up to $829 million so far in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine through partnerships with nine developers, with the hope that at least some will be successful.

They are Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (INO.O), the University of Queensland with CSL Ltd (CSL.AX), CureVac, Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) with U.S. government backing, Novavax Inc (NVAX.O), the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Clover Biopharmaceuticals, the University of Hong Kong, and a consortium led by Institut Pasteur and including the University of Pittsburgh and Themis Bioscience, which was recently purchased by Merck & Co (MRK.N).

Robinson said CEPI has taken initial steps toward securing manufacturing capacity with more than 200 biopharma or sterile vaccine production companies.

“Most people don’t believe that four billion is possible. I do,” he said.

Robinson, a manufacturing consultant who has worked at some of the world’s biggest vaccine companies including Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Merck, said his group has done “matchmaking” based on manufacturers’ capabilities and the specific needs of the various vaccines.

Effective vaccines are seen as critical to stopping a pandemic that has infected more than 9.3 million people and killed nearly 480,000 globally with little sign of letting up.

CEPI is taking care to ensure that the work to produce a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 does not sideline other critical vaccines. That has been a particular concern in less developed countries, Robinson said.

‘ALL HAS TO BE BUILT FROM SCRATCH’

Manufacturing capacity has been easier to locate for vaccine candidates that employ traditional technology. But three of the candidates CEPI is backing involve more complex mRNA- or DNA-based technology.

Since there has never been a licensed vaccine using those approaches, no network of contract manufacturers exists to support high-volume production, Robinson said.

“The capacity just isn’t there and it all has to be built from scratch,” he said.

Access to medical glass is another known bottleneck. To overcome it, CEPI has purchased enough glass vials for two billion doses and is considering purchasing more.

“We don’t want vials to be the reason we don’t have enough vaccine,” he said.

CEPI is keeping packaging products it chooses uniform, so it can fill vials and finish packaging for any of the vaccines, rather than tailoring them to individual products.

They have done the same with rubber stoppers that seal the vials and aluminum flip caps to cover them.

“Some companies are choosing not to use our network … and they’re also purchasing their own vials,” Robinson said. That will allow more capacity for smaller biotechs and university labs that do not have sophisticated supply chains.

One other massive challenge facing CEPI is the need to work with dozens, if not scores, of regulators globally.

“Each regulatory agency could ask for something different, so our job is a bit more complex,” Robinson said.

A CEPI regulatory working group has been looking into ways to try to standardize requirements to the extent possible, Robinson said. “But then each of the countries that receive the vaccine also need to license it.”

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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