What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

·3-min read
COVID-19 vaccination in San Jose

(Reuters) - Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Pfizer vaccine found 94% effective in real world

The first big real-world study of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing COVID-19, in a potentially landmark moment for countries desperate to end lockdowns and reopen economies. The research in Israel - two months into one of the world's fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data - showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much.

The study of about 1.2 million people also showed a single shot was 57% effective in protecting against symptomatic infections after two weeks, according to the data published and peer-reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

Singapore's first Chinese vaccines arrive ahead of approval

Singapore received its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine made by China's Sinovac Biotech on Tuesday, its health ministry said, although the shot is still awaiting approval for use in the city-state. Singapore is the only wealthy country considering the use of Sinovac's vaccine, which has been found to have an efficacy rate ranging from about 50% to 90% in studies.

Singapore has been reporting very few new local coronavirus cases over the last few months. Only 29 people have died from the disease in Singapore, according to its health ministry.

Tokyo 2020 organisers warn against big gatherings during torch relay

The Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee said on Thursday they are asking spectators for the upcoming torch relay to support by clapping, and will broadcast the event live to avoid gatherings.

The torch relay, which will begin on March 25, could be suspended over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic if big gatherings are spotted on streets during the event, Yukihiko Nunomura, senior executive at Tokyo 2020, told a media briefing.

Moderna developing booster shot for new coronavirus variants

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it is working with U.S. government scientists to study an experimental booster shot that targets a concerning new variant of the coronavirus, and has raised its global COVID-19 vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses.

Moderna is experimenting with several potential ways to combat new variants of the virus, including an additional booster shot that targets the variant now prevalent in South Africa and spreading globally, a combined booster shot that mixes its current COVID-19 vaccine with the experimental shot, and an extra booster shot on top of its current two-dose vaccine, the company said.

Some common-cold antibodies might help fight COVID-19

Antibodies to two coronaviruses that cause common colds might help the body fend off severe illness from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a small preliminary study in Germany suggests.

Of the 19 patients who needed intensive care in a group of 60 with COVID-19, all had significantly lower levels of antibodies to two seasonal coronaviruses, HCoV OC43 and HCoV HKU1, which the authors said are more closely related to the COVID-19 virus compared to the other human coronaviruses. The observation does not prove these antibodies are responsible, the researchers said, but they recommended further studies to validate the finding.

(Reporting by Karishma Singh; Editing by Stephen Coates)