Covid live: no contingency measures for UK despite high deaths; Pfizer jab 93% effective in keeping children out of hospital

Good evening, Tom Ambrose here and I will be bringing you all the latest Covid news from the UK and around the world for the rest of this evening.

Let’s begin with the news that the South African drug regulator has rejected the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn’t able to answer.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, or SAHPRA, said in a statement that the request for Sputnik V to be authorised could “not be approved at this time,” referring to past failed HIV vaccines that used a similar technology.

A late-stage study published in the journal Lancet last year in more than 20,000 participants found that Sputnik V was safe and about 91% effective in preventing people from becoming severely ill with Covid, the Associated Press reported.

Sputnik V uses two types of harmless viruses known as adenoviruses to carry the spike protein into the body, which then primes the immune system to produce antibodies against Covid.

SAHPRA said concerns have been raised about the safety of Adenovirus Type 5, which is used in one of the Sputnik V doses. The other dose contains Adenovirus Type 26, which is also used by Johnson & Johnson.

South African officials pointed to two failed research studies testing an HIV vaccine also using Adenovirus Type 5, which found men who were vaccinated had a higher risk of being infected with HIV.

A worker holds a pack of the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) vaccine against COVID-19 stored in a cold room.

A worker holds a pack of the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) vaccine against COVID-19 stored in a cold room. Photograph: Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

The regulators said they had asked the Russian makers of Sputnik V to provide data proving the vaccine’s safety in a country with high rates of HIV but that “the applicant was not able to adequately address [their] request.”

Dr. Julian Tang, a virologist at Britain’s University of Leicester, was perplexed by the decision. “It’s a strange connection to make,” he said, explaining that while past concerns have been raised about using the particular virus vector in Sputnik V, much remains uncertain. “It’s not the vector that caused HIV so you can’t just blame it on that,” Tang said.