COVID19: New vaccine is reason to be cheerful

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Cyprus scientists are encouraged by the latest discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine having an efficiency rate of 94.5%, the highest so far in immunity against the virus.

Pharmaceutical Moderna pioneering in messenger RNA Therapeutics, announced it has produced a highly effective vaccine.

Another positive factor is the claim it can be stored at less extreme temperatures, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which makes transport logistics less daunting.

The Pfizer vaccine, also with high efficiency, provides a logistics problem, as their vaccine needs to be stored at temperatures of -80 degrees Celsius.

Moderna claims that their vaccine can be stored, and thus transferred, in regular freezing storage equipment.

“This difference makes us more optimistic about the future, as the material used in the method of employing the virus itself is extremely unstable and survives only at minus 80 degrees Celsius,” Epidemiologist Dr Leondios Kostrikis told website Philenews.

“However, according to the latest news, Moderna has found a way to store the material in normal refrigerating conditions”.

He argued that this is good news for an island like Cyprus that has hotter temperatures.

Kostrikis said Moderna and Pfizer, employ state-of-the-art technologies with what experts’ call “messenger RNA” and not the virus itself in an inactive form, as other companies do.

He expressed grave concern over the spread of the virus being facilitated by the concentration of large numbers of people either at testing points or demonstrations against the lockdown measures.

Asked about an island-wide free rapid testing program, to help health authorities identify the extent to which the virus has spread in the community, Dr Kostrikis said that it is too soon to come to any conclusions.

He said for these tests to bear results they will need to be carried out in great numbers.

“50-100,000 need to be done in Cyprus to come to safe conclusions.”

The program was launched on Monday and out of the 4,151 rapid tests carried out on the first day, 50 returned positive.

Those infected were told to self-isolate, to be followed by a PCR test to confirm the result.

More than half, or 27 cases were identified in Limassol, 14 in Larnaca, 5 in Famagusta district, 3 in Paphos and one in Polis Chrysochous.

The testing scheme is to carried out islandwide, but the current focus is on COVID hotspots Paphos and Limassol.

Paphos along with Limassol have been declared as centres of COVID-19 as according to the latest epidemiological data, Limassol’s 14-day cumulative notification rate on 8 November had risen to 516.9 per 100,000, as did Paphos at 226.4.

The 14-day cumulative notification rate for Famagusta is also dangerously rising at 178.4. Nicosia’s rate stands at 102.7 and Larnaca’s at 117.7.

The ‘safe’ benchmark according to the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) is 150 per 100,000.

According to health officials, rapid antigen tests are highly reliable with an efficiency rate of 92% to 98% and the results are ready within 15 minutes.

Cyprus health authorities announced 107 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 on Monday, the third day with a steady drop in new infections following the 207 on Friday.

Cyprus tally of COVID-19 cases is now 7,285.