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Moderna vaccine trial contractors fail to enroll enough minorities: sources

Tony Potts, a 69-year-old retiree living in Ormond Beach, receives his first injection as a participant in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sponsored by Moderna at Accel Research Sites on August 4, 2020 in DeLand, Florida.

Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Private contractors hired by Moderna to recruit volunteers for its coronavirus vaccine trial failed to enroll enough Black, Latino and Native American participants to determine how well the vaccine works in these populations, company executives and vaccine researchers told Reuters.

To make up for the shortfall, Moderna slowed enrollment of its late-stage trial and instructed research centers to focus on increasing participation among minority volunteers, the company said. The effort is being bolstered by academic researchers who have longstanding relationships with organizations in Black and other minority communities.

Five investigators working on the Moderna trial said in interviews that commercial site investigators quickly filled a large portion of the 30,000-person study with mostly white volunteers.

But Covid-19 infects Blacks in the United States at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, and they are twice as likely to die from the virus, according to a report by the National Urban League and other studies.

And communities of color count prominently among healthcare workers and populations at high risk of Covid-19 complications, making them among the first likely to be eligible for a new vaccine, experts said.

Dr. Paul Evans, chief executive of Velocity Clinical Research in Durham, North Carolina, whose company was hired to test the Moderna vaccine at five sites, said efforts to enroll volunteers from diverse backgrounds to provide proper population balance is “notoriously difficult” in any clinical trial.

“If there’s a problem with recruiting minorities, and there is, you can’t fix that overnight,” he said.

Black Americans made up only about 7% of the trial as of Sept. 17. That should be closer to 13% to reflect the actual U.S. population.

During the last two weeks of September, Moderna said it increased the proportion of Black enrollment, but declined to provide details.

Increased trial participation could help address distrust between communities of color and the medical industry after years of underrepresentation in pharmaceutical research, historical horror stories of medical experimentation without consent, and socioeconomic and health access inequities, vaccine experts and public health officials say.

One-fourth of Moderna’s 100 trial sites are run by academic centers that are part of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Covid-19 Prevention Trials Network (CoVPN), while the rest are largely commercial subcontractors. A contract research organization called PPD was hired by Moderna to oversee the trial sites.

“We are essentially making up” for the commercial sites, said one CoVPN investigator not authorized to speak publicly.

Dr. Larry Corey, co-leader of CoVPN, said the NIH has invested in clinical trial sites with outreach programs staffed by doctors and nurses with ties to minority communities.

“That’s not something that is part of the business model of commercial research organizations,” Corey said.

Moderna is one of the furthest

After concerning early Covid symptoms, Trump faces critical days ahead, sources say

President Donald Trump is “doing very well” after his first night at Walter Reed Medical Center where he is being treated for the coronavirus, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said Saturday.

But a White House aide, who refused to include their name, told members of the White House press pool that the president’s condition may been more serious than the physicians suggested. The pool is a small group of reporters who travel with the president on behalf of all the news outlets who cover the White House.

“The President’s vitals over last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” the aide said in a statement to the press pool that but not directly to NBC News. “We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

A source familiar with the President’s condition said some of the same to NBC News on Saturday: “Some the President’s vitals signs Friday morning were early indicators of the potential for progression beyond mild illness.”

The assessment was a stark contrast to Conley’s assessment.

The president has been fever free for 24 hours; is not currently receiving supplemental oxygen and has normal organ function, Conley said, adding he is “cautiously optimistic.”

It was unclear whether the aide or the president’s physician had more update information.

Trump broke an extended silence on Twitter on Saturday, writing to praise medical professionals, adding, “With their help, I am feeling well!”

Conley declined to predict when Trump might discharged. He will be on a five-day course of an experimental drug treatment, the doctors said.

The doctors said Trump had a cough, nasal congestion, and fatigue on Thursday, symptoms that have since begun improving and resolving. They also suggested he received an antibody treatment on Thursday morning.

Trump told his doctors, “I feel like I could walk out of here today,” the doctors said.

The White House also tried to clear up confusion set off from the briefing over when Trump became ill.

Standing outside Walter Reed, the president’s doctors said he was “72 hours into the diagnosis,” even though Trump had only announced his positive coronavirus test late Thursday evening, after attending a fundraiser in New Jersey. Another doctor treating the president, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, said had been treated “48 hours” ago — Thursday morning — with antibodies.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news about the president’s health

But a White House official later disputed the timeline, saying Trump had been diagnosed Thursday night and that the doctors meant Trump was on “day 3” not a full 72 hours in on his diagnosis.

The official also said that the antibody treatment was given later Thursday night, not a full 48 hours ago.

On Saturday afternoon, Conley issued a statement through the White House saying Trump had been diagnosed on Thursday night, and given the antibody treatment on Friday.

“I incorrectly used the term ‘seventy-two hours’ instead of ‘day three’ and

EXCLUSIVE-FDA widens U.S. safety inquiry into AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine -sources

By Marisa Taylor and Dan Levine

WASHINGTON, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has broadened its investigation of a serious illness in AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine study and will look at data from earlier trials of similar vaccines developed by the same scientists, three sources familiar with the details told Reuters.

AstraZeneca’s large, late-stage U.S. trial has remained on hold since Sept. 6, after a study participant in Britain fell ill with what was believed to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

The widened scope of the FDA probe raises the likelihood of additional delays for what has been one of the most advanced COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development. The requested data was expected to arrive this week, after which the FDA would need time to analyze it, two of the sources said.

Effective vaccines are seen as essential to help end a pandemic that has killed more than one million people worldwide.

The administration of President Donald Trump has pledged $1.2 billion to support development of the AstraZeneca vaccine and secure 300 million doses for the United States. Other leading companies in the U.S. vaccine race include Pfizer Inc , Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson.

Regulators in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa have allowed AstraZeneca to resume its clinical trials there.

The FDA, however, wants to determine whether similar side effects emerged in trials of other vaccines designed by AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine partner, researchers at Oxford University, the sources said. That does not mean the agency believes there were safety issues associated with any of these vaccines, they added.

“It just shows that the FDA is being thorough,” said one of the sources.

Further complicating the situation is that the data requested by FDA is in a different format than what the U.S. regulator requires, two of the sources said.

The FDA declined to comment on discussions involving an experimental product. Oxford did not respond to requests for comment. AstraZeneca, in a statement, said: “We are continuing to work with the FDA to facilitate review of the information needed to make a decision regarding resumption of the US trial.”

VIRAL VECTOR

All of the vaccines it wants to review use a modified adenovirus as vectors to safely deliver genetic material from the target illnesses – flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and other diseases – into the body to stimulate an immune system response to fight future infection.

While other vaccine developers have used human adenoviruses for such vaccines, the Oxford researchers chose an adenovirus found in chimpanzees. They felt this would reduce the likelihood that an individual’s immune system would attack the vector virus due to prior exposure rather than the intended target.

Reuters reviewed six research papers that detailed safety data of vaccines using the engineered chimpanzee adenovirus called ChAdOx1 for diseases including tuberculosis, prostate cancer and influenza.

In one of those trials, one serious adverse event cited by researchers was deemed unrelated to the vaccine.

The

Exclusive: FDA widens U.S. safety inquiry into AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine – sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has broadened its investigation of a serious illness in AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine study and will look at data from earlier trials of similar vaccines developed by the same scientists, three sources familiar with the details told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A test tube labelled with the Vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

AstraZeneca’s large, late-stage U.S. trial has remained on hold since Sept. 6, after a study participant in Britain fell ill with what was believed to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

The widened scope of the FDA probe raises the likelihood of additional delays for what has been one of the most advanced COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development. The requested data was expected to arrive this week, after which the FDA would need time to analyze it, two of the sources said.

Effective vaccines are seen as essential to help end a pandemic that has killed more than one million people worldwide.

The administration of President Donald Trump has pledged $1.2 billion to support development of the AstraZeneca vaccine and secure 300 million doses for the United States. Other leading companies in the U.S. vaccine race include Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson.

Regulators in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa have allowed AstraZeneca to resume its clinical trials there.

The FDA, however, wants to determine whether similar side effects emerged in trials of other vaccines designed by AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine partner, researchers at Oxford University, the sources said. That does not mean the agency believes there were safety issues associated with any of these vaccines, they added.

“It just shows that the FDA is being thorough,” said one of the sources.

Further complicating the situation is that the data requested by FDA is in a different format than what the U.S. regulator requires, two of the sources said.

The FDA declined to comment on discussions involving an experimental product. Oxford did not respond to requests for comment. AstraZeneca, in a statement, said: “We are continuing to work with the FDA to facilitate review of the information needed to make a decision regarding resumption of the US trial.”

VIRAL VECTOR

All of the vaccines it wants to review use a modified adenovirus as vectors to safely deliver genetic material from the target illnesses – flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and other diseases – into the body to stimulate an immune system response to fight future infection.

While other vaccine developers have used human adenoviruses for such vaccines, the Oxford researchers chose an adenovirus found in chimpanzees. They felt this would reduce the likelihood that an individual’s immune system would attack the vector virus due to prior exposure rather than the intended target.

Reuters reviewed six research papers that detailed safety data of vaccines using the engineered chimpanzee adenovirus called ChAdOx1 for diseases including tuberculosis, prostate cancer and

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