At least three COVID-19 vaccine companiesare gearing up to have their products hit the market soon; Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca. Moderna has even shot out in front, approaching US and UK authorities to use their vaccine for emergent treatments. While Trinidad and Tobagostandsfirmly as part of the COVAX facility, which will ensure that the country is given the best-suited vaccine for our conditions, local expertsare examining the differences among the vaccines likely to come our way. Professor Christine Carrington, who works in molecular genetics and virology at the University of the West Indies, explained that whilethe Moderna and Pfizer offerings have similar traits, the Astra Zeneca vaccine has key differences. Moderna and Pfizer are both mRNA vaccines.These consist ofstrands of genetic material with a coating that stops the body from rejecting it. These vaccines don’t contain thewholeCOVID-19 virus. Instead, they help touse its genetic material andprovide a forcefield to protect the patient from the virus. “You can use just a small piece of the genetic material from thedisease-causingvirus; not the whole genome of the virus, just the part with the protein that will trigger the immune response. When this genetic material is delivered into the cell, the cell will produce the protein and the immune response is triggered,” explained Carrington. The mRNA vaccines don’t alter other genetic material or impact the body’s functions. It also never enters the nucleus of the cells in the bodyand therefore, doesn’t replicate. While it’s a new wave in the technology for vaccine creation, most experts agree that these vaccineswill be safedespite the pace in development. AstraZeneca, on the other hand,is a viral vector vaccine. It also doesn’t cause the disease to manifest, but it does enter the nucleus of the body’s cells. AstraZeneca’s offering is also cheaper and easier to store. It can be kept in a refrigerator between four to eight degreesCelsius. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will require temperatures of –20 or –80 degrees.Moderna, in particular, provides special refrigerators for storage. The mRNA vaccines arepricier, but they are quick and relatively easy to develop. According to Professor Carrington, some of these details are still subject to change, but it won’t be long before at leastoneof them hits the market. “None of these candidate vaccines has completed their phase three trials so we have to wait for that to be completed to get the full data but it’s going to happen very soon, I expect.The results are, so far, immensely encouraging since there have been no significant side effects in the tens of thousands of people in the trials and they do appear to be giving good protection,” she said. Trinidad and Tobago's government has already begun putting measures in place to facilitate the arrival of a vaccine, with healthcare and front line workers being first on the list for vaccination.

While COVID-19 has significantly impacted the region’s HIV/AIDS efforts, countries that have managed to keep up the fight are being praised. In his World AIDS Day address, Dr Rosmond Adams, Director ofPANCAP (Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS) said public health practitioners across the region have utilised strategic collaborations to respond to COVID-19 and protect the gains made in the HIV response. He said in Belize,Enrique Romero,Executive Director, National AIDS Commission (NAC) used his alliances with social workers, adherence counselors from the Ministry of Health (Belize), Peer Navigators, NAC District Committees and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to conduct a Needs Assessment of People Living with HIV. “The assessment revealed that many People Living with HIV were desperately in need of food items to remain adherent to their medication. Enrique jumped into action, and within a few days, he worked tirelessly with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation (Belize) to expedite assistance to these individuals through the Government of Belize’s “Food Assistance Programme”,” said Adams. He said the loss of employment, lack of essential living support and depleting nutritional supplies are some of the main issues that undermine adherence to HIV medication and COVID-19 has exacerbated these circumstances. He said in Jamaica,Kandasi Levermore, Executive Director of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), responded to the needs of her clients by soliciting donations and writing proposals for small grants to provide clients with nutritional support, care packages, sanitisation items and financial support for transportation to attend clinic visits. “Such action in the face of so many adversities may have saved many lives and protected the gains made in the Region’s HIV response,” said Dr Adams. He also cited another example in Barbados whereDrNastassia Rambarranand her team from Equals Barbados arranged for delivery of multi-month medication supplies, provided care via telemedicine and donated food hampers sourced from donations and an external grant. “COVID-19 has thrown our National HIV Programmes and Civil Society into circumstances that demanded their best. I am humbled and inspired by the response of our Public Health Practitioners and Civil Society leaders. I have only highlighted a few of the best practices that have emerged from the Region, but there are many more success stories to share,” he said. “This World AIDS Day, I urge our Partners to share their stories and celebrate the success of maintaining the Region’s HIV response in the face of COVID-19. Our Region has responded to the global Pandemic with cooperation, unity and innovation, which ensured the continuity of HIV services and better health outcomes for People Living with HIV.” Dr Adams said that despite the challenges of 2020, our region can amplify the HIV response and fulfil the mandate of the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) of a Caribbean free of AIDS and new HIV infections, in which all people are happier, healthier, productive, safe and respected. He said the pandemic has also shown our ability to be innovative as countries in the Region are now embracing innovations such as HIV self-testing, multi-month dispensing of ARVs and the use of digital technology to offer services virtually. The theme of World AIDS Day 2020 is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility”.

Digicel Business announced that it has won a Cisco Partner Summit Award for the Caribbean region for the fourth year in a row. As a partner, Digicel Business delivers top value products to its enterprise and SME customers across 32 countries, and this year the company took home the award for ‘Partner of the Year’. Digicel Business offers solutions to meet the needs of businesses in a range of industries, including retail, hospitality, finance, security, energy, health, manufacturing and government agencies among others. Tom Carson, Digicel Group Chief Business Officer said: “We’re very proud to have been recognised by Cisco as its leading partner in the Caribbean. This valuable recognition acknowledges the superb technical and consulting skills of our talented resources across all our markets.” Tom continued; “A huge part of our focus is about delivering scalable, innovative and reliable solutions to our customers that will help them drive efficiency, operate securely and ultimately increase their bottom line. Cisco has been a trusted and longstanding partner and we look forward to enhancing our relationship even further, delivering even greater value to our customers with our joined-up solutions. At the end of the day, it’s all about being Better Together.” Pablo Gonzalez, Director, Partner Organization, CANSAC Region said: “Digicel’s recognition is a reflection of what both our teams have achieved working together towards a common goal. Digicel has won four years running, in various technology categories, and this is a testament to the hard work and quality of service that Digicel Business offers. We thank you and your market teams for the partnership and the support in helping us achieve our own goals.”

European Commission's Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom Michel Barnier walks from his hotel to the Conference Centre in London, Wednesday, November 11, 2020. With less than two months to go before the U.K. exits the EU's economic orbit, trade deal talks resume in London. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The British government told businesses on Tuesday to make sure they are ready for big changes when the UK makes its final Brexit break from the European Union in exactly a month. But with negotiations on a free-trade deal with the bloc stuck, firms say they still don't know key details of what those changes will be. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, said trade talks were “getting close to the wire.” “It’s certainly the case that there is a chance that we may not get a negotiation outcome, that’s why it’s important that businesses prepare for all eventualities,” he told ITV. The UK left the EU early this year but remained part of the 27-nation bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect January 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for an agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before the end of the year. Teams led by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British counterpart David Frost met through the weekend in London with no breakthrough. Talks are continuing, and UK officials have said this is the last week to strike a deal. The two sides remain stuck over key issues including the resolution of future disputes and “level playing field” provisions — the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU. The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe’s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the UK insists it must control access and quotas. Gove said EU demands on fishing were “not fair,” but EU nations such as France are reluctant to relinquish their access to British waters. Speaking from the French presidential palace after a meeting with Belgian Prime Minister on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that France won’t accept an agreement that “would not respect our interests in the long term.” Macron said France would be “extremely vigilant” on the “essential” issues of fair competition and fishing he said after meeting Belgium's prime minister in Paris. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo agreed that “an agreement is important but not at any price.” He said the EU and Britain were in the last moment of negotiations. “We may score a game-winning goal at the last minute,” he said. “It’s time to really see whether it’s possible to move forward and get a deal.” If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to UK-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU. The British government has launched a major information campaign, with billboards and advertisements warning that “time is running out” and telling businesses to get ready for change on January 1. But firms that trade with the EU say they still don’t know what conditions they will face in a month’s time. “There’s an awful lot I don’t feel ready for because I can’t get the answers from the government website,” said James Greenham, managing director of EMS Physio, which exports physiotherapy equipment. “You go on the government website and you get taken down various wormholes and then it ends in a dead-end,” he told the BBC. “There’s no information. The decision has yet to be taken.” Things will be smoother with a deal, which would remove quotas and tariffs on goods, though businesses still face new obstacles and red tape, including customs declarations and border checks. Gove said “more than 80 per cent of what business needs to do” would be the same whether or not there is an agreement. “But I very much want a deal and I believe that we can secure one,” he said.

The UK has become the first western country to license a vaccine against COVID-19, allowing for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2) to begin for those who are most at risk. The Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK has granted a temporary authorization for emergency use of the vaccine. This constitutes the first Emergency Use Authorization following a worldwide Phase 3 trial of a vaccine to help fight the pandemic. Pfizer and BioNTech are anticipating further regulatory decisions across the globe in the coming days and weeks and are ready to deliver vaccine doses following potential regulatory authorizations or approvals. The distribution of the vaccine in the UK will be prioritized according to the populations identified in guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). “Today’s Emergency Use Authorization in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer. “As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world. With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.” “The Emergency Use Authorization in the UK will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunized against COVID-19,” said Ugur Sahin, MD, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech. “ We believe that the roll-out of the vaccination program in the UK will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalized. Our aim is to bring a safe and effective vaccine upon approval to the people who need it. The data submitted to regulatory agencies around the world are the result of a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development program.” The MHRA’s decision is based on a rolling submission, including data from the Phase 3 clinical study, which demonstrated a vaccine efficacy rate of 95% (p<0.0001) in participants without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (first primary objective) and also in participants with and without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (second primary objective), in each case measured from 7 days after the second dose. The first primary objective analysis is based on 170 cases of COVID-19, as specified in the study protocol. Efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics, with an observed efficacy in adults age 65 and over of more than 94 per cent. In the trial, BNT162b2 was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns reported by the Data Monitoring Committee to date. Today’s decision also is based on a review of Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control (CMC) data for BNT162b2. In July 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech announced an agreement with the UK to supply 30 million doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA-based vaccine, once authorized for emergency use. That agreement was increased to 40 million doses in early October. The delivery of the 40 million doses will occur throughout 2020 and 2021, in stages, to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts. Now that the vaccine is authorized in the UK, the companies will take immediate action to begin the delivery of vaccine doses. The first doses are expected to arrive in the UK in the coming days, with complete delivery fulfilment expected in 2021. The companies have filed a request for Emergency Use Authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have submitted the final Conditional Marketing Authorization Application (CA) following rolling submissions with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and several other regulatory agencies around the world. Pfizer and BioNTech continue to work in collaboration with governments and Ministries of Health around the world that will distribute the vaccine, subject to country authorization or approval, to help ensure it can reach those most in need as quickly as possible. Based on current projections, Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s combined manufacturing network has the potential to supply globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021 (subject to manufacturing capacity and regulatory approval or authorization). Through its existing mRNA production sites in Mainz and Idar-Oberstein, Germany, BioNTech is able to produce mRNA for commercial supply after having already produced the vaccine candidate doses for the clinical trials. BioNTech will also increase its manufacturing capacity in 2021, once a third site in Germany will start manufacturing to provide further capacities for a global supply of the potential vaccine. Critical to distribution in the UK will be Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Puurs, Belgium, one of Pfizer’s largest sterile injectable sites. The Puurs site is being used primarily for European supply but will also serve as back up supply to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the US market. Pfizer has vast experience and expertise in cold-chain shipping and has an established infrastructure to supply the vaccine worldwide, including distribution hubs that can store vaccine doses for up to six months. The company’s distribution is built on a flexible just-in-time system that can ship the frozen vials quickly to designated points of vaccination at the time of need. So, this will minimize the need for long term storage anywhere. Vaccination in a pandemic situation is expected to be rapid, with high demand, and we do not expect that the product will need to be stored at any location for more than 30 days. To assure product quality, the companies have developed specially designed, temperature-controlled shippers for the BNT162b2 vaccine candidate, which can maintain recommended storage conditions (-70°C ±10°C) for extended periods of time without any additional equipment but dry ice. The shipper can maintain temperature for 10 days unopened which allows for transportation to markets globally. Once open, a vaccination center may use the specially designed shippers as a temporary storage solution to maintain the recommended storage conditions (-70°C ±10°C) up to 30 days with re-icing every five days in accordance with the handling instructions. Each shipper contains a GPS-enabled thermal sensor to track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once thawed, the vaccine vial can be stored for up to five days at refrigerated (2-8°C) conditions. BioNTech will hold the regulatory authorization in the UK and, if granted, in the US, the EU, Canada and other countries. Pfizer will have the commercialization right worldwide with the exception of China, Germany and Turkey.

The team at HSM welcomes 11 interns: Destiny Russell, Shyanne Stewart, Paris Jackson, Anabelle Bush, Johanna Dixon, Kevaughn Hutchinson, Latoya Frazer, Jaysie Allen, Christopher Herrera, Aliyanna Fisher and Christopher Myles.

The HSM Group is hosting 11 legal interns for the 2020/21 academic year in partnership with the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC). The team at HSM welcomes interns Destiny Russell, Shyanne Stewart, Paris Jackson, Anabelle Bush, Johanna Dixon, Kevaughn Hutchinson, Latoya Frazer, Jaysie Allen, Christopher Herrera, Aliyanna Fisher and Christopher Myles. HSM is a full-service law firm and corporate services provider, which offers students the ability to gain experiences across a wide-range of practices including immigration, debt collection, intellectual property, corporate services and even areas outside of law, such as finance and marketing. Typically the interns are recruited from the annual CIFEC Career Fair, but this event did not take place due to COVID-19. Instead the interviews were conducted using video conferencing. Natasha Whitelocke coordinated the CIFEC Internship Programme on behalf of HSM. Ms Whitelocke along with HSM’s Managing Partner, Huw Moses, carefully selected and paired interns with lawyers and experts at HSM. These personnel will monitor the student’s work and provide mentoring during the duration of the internship. As part of the CIFEC curriculum, the internship runs until April 2021 and each student attends work twice a week during school hours. When the programme ends, there may also be some opportunities for the students to attain a summer work placement at HSM. “We look forward to the programme each year and are thrilled to be able to participate again despite COVID-19. You can’t replace the hands-on experience the programme gives to the students,” said HSM Managing Partner, Huw Moses OBE. HSM has worked with the CIFEC programme since its formation and currently employs seven former CIFEC graduates full time.