COVID-19 Global Update: Vaccines and Variants

Burnet Institute

07 May, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve rapidly across the world, Burnet’s Know-C19 Hub has compiled the most pressing global epidemiology, trends and snapshots in Volume 1 of its April 2021 Global Update.

As of 1 May 2021 the world had reached the milestone of administering one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses – to 570 million people.

Vaccine stickers

Image: One billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, the equivalent of 15 per cent of the world’s population

Key points from the April 2021, Volume 2 report

Vaccine comparison

  • The equivalent of 15 per cent of the world’s population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 39 per cent of vaccinations have been in the 27 wealthiest countries and a further 35 per cent in China and India.
  • The world’s poorest countries have received just 1.3 per cent of vaccine doses.
  • In Australia, the seven-day moving average of daily vaccinations has declined since the recommendation that people under 50 not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from 61,400 on 10 April to 46,300 on 30 April. At the current pace of roughly 324,000 doses a week, the 40 million doses needed to fully vaccinate Australia’s adult population will not be reached until late July 2023.
  • Reduction in daily new cases in UK, USA and Israel; all three countries have high vaccination coverage.
  • Analysis of COVID-19 vaccines, their efficacy against COVID-19 variants and reported side effects
  • Studies from Israel suggest the Pfizer vaccine is less effective against the B.1.351 (South African) variant, compared with the original coronavirus and the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant.
  • Current variants of concern of COVID-19 are B.1.1.7 (originally detected in the UK), B.1.351 (South Africa), P.1 (Brazil), B.1.427 and B.1.429 (California), and B.1.526 (New York) and B.1.617 (India).
  • B.1.1.7 variant is more infectious but does not cause more severe disease than the original strain, according to two new studies.
  • Two important mutations have been identified in the Indian B.1.617 variant; this variant has been detected in at least 10 other countries.
  • Research conducted by a Brazilian public health institute has found new mutations in the spike region of the virus that is used to enter and infect cells. Those changes could make the virus more resistant to vaccines with potentially grave implications for the severity of the outbreak in Latin America’s most populous nation.

B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 spread

Image: The B.1.1.7 variant, originally detected in the UK, has now been detected in 114 countries and territories.

Download the full report to read more.

Implications for the Australian COVID-19 Response

  • COVAX has achieved just two per cent of its target to deliver two billion vaccinations this year. The world’s poorest countries are at risk of being left behind.
  • The Valneva inactivated virus vaccine candidate has shown promising results in Phase ½ trials, and Phase 3 trials are underway. Australian authorities are negotiating purchase of the vaccine.
  • A study suggests the “double mutation” in the B.1.617 variant, which was first identified in India, may aid the virus in evading neutralising antibodies that both the vaccine and previous infection can produce, though this is still being investigated.

Read the full report here

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Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Heidi Drummer

Co-Program Director, Disease Elimination; Scientific Director, Burnet Diagnostics Initiative; Principal Investigator, Burnet Vaccine Initiative; Co-Head, Viral Entry and Vaccines Group




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