AstraZeneca Plc reported a slightly lower efficacy rate for its COVID-19 vaccine after the results of an American clinical trial were criticized as outdated, raising further questions over the embattled shot and potentially delaying its approval in the U.S.
The vaccine was 76 per cent effective at protecting volunteers against the coronavirus, the U.K. drugmaker said in a statement on Thursday. That compares with an earlier estimate of 79%, which was based on data gathered through Feb. 17.
The latest twist created another layer of uncertainty for a product already facing dwindling support in Europe following months of confusion and missteps. Although the vaccine is still expected to play a crucial role in curbing the global pandemic as governments around the world have ordered millions of doses, the repeated blunders risk further eroding public confidence in the immunization.
“The difference between 76 per cent and 79 per cent is a rounding error, probably just a handful of cases,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, where she leads a research team that studies viruses. “But it’s so important for us to be completely transparent and accurate because we are building public trust.”
The findings were based on 190 symptomatic cases that developed among the 32,449 volunteers who participated in the trial, which includes 49 cases that weren’t counted as part of the initial analysis. The company didn’t disclose how many of those infections occurred in the group that received the vaccine and how many in the one administered a placebo.
There are another 14 people with probable or possible infections, so the total number of cases may still change — which may cause the overall efficacy rate to adjust again.
Astra shares were little changed in London trading. The Cambridge, England-based company emphasized that the marginal changes in protection rate did not detract from the vaccine’s overall efficacy.
“The primary analysis is consistent with our previously released interim analysis, and confirms that our COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in adults,” said Mene Pangalos, the company’s executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals research and development.
“We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. and preparing for the roll-out of millions of doses across America,” he said.
Some of Astra’s challenges reflect the unprecedented urgency of COVID-19 vaccine development, in which years-long processes have been compressed into several months.
“The problem with AstraZeneca is that they have had a couple of black eyes,” said Cannon. “I don’t think it’s malicious, it just reflects trying to get a vaccine out in the middle of a pandemic.”
In an unusual move earlier this week, a group of experts working with the company on the safety of its U.S. clinical trial contacted government agencies late on Monday to express concern about data that AstraZeneca made public just hours earlier. The company responded by saying it would soon release fresh estimates.
The vaccine developed with the University of Oxford was 100% effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations.
Older volunteers got the most benefit from the shot, with 85% of those aged 65 and over protected against symptomatic COVID. That finding is particularly important as it shows the vaccine benefits those most at risk from the virus, said Paul Griffin, director of infectious diseases at Mater Health Services and associate professor of medicine at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
The U.S. trial data was seen as important because earlier research conducted in the U.K. and Brazil sowed confusion by producing two different efficacy readings. Plus, those tests failed to include enough elderly people to establish efficacy for that crucial patient group.
“Getting that message out to the community has been challenging, when other vaccines have had a much more simple message,” Griffin said. “Having a lot more complex one — with lots of different facets being released at different times — also has confused people. It has made some people apprehensive.”
–With assistance from Dong Lyu.
Canadian Business During the Pandemic
In 2019 the world was hit by the covid 19 pandemic and ever since then people have been suffering in different ways. Usually, economies and businesses have changed the way they work and do business. Most of which are going towards online and automation.
The people most effected by this are the laymen that used to work hard labors to make money for there families. But other then them it has been hard for most business to make such switch. Those of whom got on the online/ e commerce band wagon quickly were out of trouble and into the safe zone but not everyone is mace for the high-speed online world and are thus suffering.
More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research. You can only imagine how many families these businesses were feeding, not to mention the impact the economy and the GDP is going to bear.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said one in six, or about 181,000, Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down. The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.
An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic. Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work. A staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.
Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses that are considering closing.
“We are not headed in the right direction, and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,”
He said in a statement.
“The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose, and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.”
In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.
The new sad research shows that this year has been horrible for the Canadian businesses.
“The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.
She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.
“There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams,”
“Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.”
The whole world has suffered a lot from the pandemic and the Canadian economy has been no stranger to it. We can only pray that the world gets rid of this pandemic quickly and everything become as it used to be. Although I think it is about time, we start setting new norms.
Shopify shares edge up after falling on executive departures
By Chavi Mehta
(Reuters) -Shopify Inc shares edged higher on Thursday, recovering partially from the previous day’s fall, with analysts saying the news of planned senior executive departures may have limited impact due to the company’s deep talent pool.
Chief Executive Officer Tobi Lutke said in a blog post on Wednesday the company’s chief talent officer, chief legal officer and chief technology officer will all leave their roles.
“We remain confident it (Shopify) can continue to execute at a high level, despite the departures,” Tom Forte, analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co said, pointing to the company’s “deep bench of talented executives.”
Shopify, which provides infrastructure for online stores, has seen its valuation soar in the past year as many businesses went virtual during the COVID-19 lockdowns, turning it into Canada‘s most valuable company.
Shopify declined to comment further on Lutke’s statement suggesting current company leaders would step in to fill the three roles. After chief product officer Craig Miller left in September, Lutke took on the role in addition to CEO.
The Ottawa-based company is Canada‘s biggest homegrown tech success story, founded in 2006 and supporting over 1 million businesses globally, according to the company.
Jonathan Kees, analyst at Summit Insights Group, called the timing of the departures “a little alarming” but said the specific roles make it less concerning, given that the executives leaving are “more back-office roles.”
Lutke said each one of them had their individual reasons to leave, without giving details.
“I am willing to give Tobi’s explanation the benefit of the doubt,” Kees added.
Toronto-listed shares of Shopify were up 3.5% at C$1526.41 on Thursday, giving it a market value of C$188 billion ($150 billion). It ended down 5.1% on Wednesday.
“While we would refer to the departure of three high-level executives as ‘significant,’ we would not refer to it as a ‘brain drain,'” Forte added.
($1 = 1.2541 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Dan Grebler)
Almost half of Shopify’s top execs to depart company: CEO
By Moira Warburton
(Reuters) – Three of e-commerce platform Shopify’s seven top executives will be leaving the company in the coming months, chief executive officer and founder of Canada‘s most valuable company Tobi Lutke said in a blog post on Wednesday.
The company’s chief talent officer, chief legal officer and chief technology officer will all transition out of their roles, Lutke said, adding that they have been “spectacular and deserve to take a bow.”
“Each one of them has their individual reasons but what was unanimous with all three was that this was the best for them and the best for Shopify,” he said.
The trio follow the departure of Craig Miller, chief product officer, in September. Lutke took on the role in addition to CEO.
Shopify, which provides infrastructure for online stores, has seen its valuation soar in the last year as many businesses went virtual during COVID-19 lockdowns. It has a market cap valuation of C$182.7 billion ($146 billion), above Canada‘s top lender Royal Bank of Canada.
It is Canada‘s biggest homegrown tech success story, founded in 2006 and supporting over 1 million businesses globally, according to the company.
“We have a phenomenally strong bench of leaders who will now step up into larger roles,” Lutke said, but did not name replacements.
Shopify said in February revenue growth would slow this year as vaccine rollouts encourage people to return to stores and warned it does not expect 2020’s near doubling of gross merchandise volume, an industry metric to measure transaction volumes, to repeat this year.
Chief talent officer, Brittany Forsyth, was the 22nd employee hired at Shopify and has been with the company for 11 years. She said on Twitter that post-Shopify she would be focusing on Backbone Angels, an all-female collective of angel investors she co-founded in March.
Shopify shares fell 5.1% while the benchmark Canadian share index ended marginally down.
($1 = 1.2515 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
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