The approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine will speed up Manitoba’s timeline for vaccinating all eligible age groups, but how much of an impact it has remains to be seen, says the head of the provincial government’s vaccine implementation task force.
“This is great news for our timeline and really does push us closer to our high-supply scenario” for future vaccination rollout, Dr. Joss Reimer said during a media briefing Friday.
Health Canada announced earlier Friday it had approved the vaccine developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca, clearing the way for millions more doses of vaccine to come into the country.
Manitoba is basing its vaccine eligibility for members of the general public on age, starting with the oldest Manitobans and gradually working down.
The vaccine task force has released two separate timelines for when it expects to immunize each age group, under low- and high-supply scenarios.
Under the low-supply scenario — which assumed using only the previously approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines — the province estimated it would complete vaccinations by the end of November.
Under the high-supply scenario, which assumed a third vaccine would become available, the province could complete vaccinations by the end of August.
WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer says Health Canada approval of AstraZeneca is ‘great news’:
Easier storage, lower efficacy rate
AstraZeneca’s vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at the exceptionally low temperatures required for Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines.
The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 C for at least six months, which means it can be administered in a wider range of settings, such as physicians’ offices and pharmacies.
Health Canada regulators have determined the new vaccine to be 62 per cent effective at preventing infection, which is less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
However, the shot is 100 per cent effective in preventing the severe outcomes of COVID-19 — including serious illness, hospitalizations and death — the regulators said.
“I think that’s the most important factor, is it kept people out of the ICU, and it kept people off of ventilators,” said virologist Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba.
The availability of multiple vaccines raises the possibility people might be reluctant to take one if they know it has a lower efficacy rating, which poses challenges for public health messaging, he said.
“The most important factor right now for us [is] it’s keeping people out of the hospital, and as well trying to curb transmission. The AZ vaccine actually looks really good in both of those regards.”
Dose numbers still unknown
It’s too soon to know how much the AstraZeneca approval will alter Manitoba’s vaccination timeline, because no one knows yet how many doses the province will actually get.
“This is only good news as far as how long it will take to reach all Manitobans,” Reimer said.
“The more options we have and the more convenient it is for people to receive a vaccine, the more Manitobans will be able to receive it before the end of summer.”
The province is in the process of determining who will be eligible to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health officials are waiting for the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations to release its recommendations.
Some countries in Europe have limited use of the vaccine to people under the age of 65, even though the World Health Organization says the product is effective for all age groups.
Health Canada said clinical trial results “were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older,” but was comfortable approving the vaccine due to experience in places its already been used.
WATCH | Health Canada’s Dr. Supriya Sharma outlines efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine:
“If it ends up being that we stick to a younger age cohort [for AstraZeneca in Manitoba], then we’ll have to make some decisions about who is highest risk in the younger age cohort,” Reimer said.
Like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca’s requires two shots. Health Canada has recommended the second dose be administered four to 12 weeks after the first.
Reimer said Manitoba will look at the results of the trials and decide whether to continue with the current process of administering second doses within three to four weeks, or stretching that time period in order to get more first doses to Manitobans.
Around 500 physicians and pharmacies have applied to administer vaccines once a suitable candidate becomes available, and about 250 of those are approved and ready to go, Reimer said.
Doctors Manitoba issued a statement welcoming the approval of the new vaccine.
“This approval means Manitobans are one step closer to getting the vaccine from their doctor, a trusted medical professional who knows their health situation best,” president Dr. Cory Baillie said in the statement.
It’s possible that AstraZeneca could be considered as part of a door-to-door vaccination campaign, to reach people who are unable to leave their home, but who don’t live in a personal care home or other facility targeted by mobile immunization teams, she said.
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | Feb. 26, 2021:
Canada posts surprise $3.2B trade surplus in June as oil exports surge – CBC.ca
Canada’s trade surplus swung to its widest point since 2008 in June as exports of products like oil surged while imports shrank.
Statistics Canada reported Thursday that exports surged by 8.7 per cent to $53.8 billion. Energy led the way with exports rising by 22 per cent to $11.3 billion. That’s the largest amount since March of 2019.
Cars and car parts were also up, by 14.9 per cent, as were metal and non-metallic minerals, which rose by 12.7 per cent.
All in all, Canada exported $4.3 billion more goods and services to the world in June than it did the previous month. That’s the biggest monthly increase on record, if 2020’s volatile numbers are stripped out.
While Canada was shipping more goods and services to the rest of the world, it was also buying less.
Imports fell one per cent to $50.5 billion as consumer goods fell by 3.7 per cent.
“This category was weighed down by a decline in clothing, footwear and accessories, which Statcan noted was in part due to restrictions in some parts of the country and port disruptions in Asia related to COVID-19 outbreaks,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said.
Imports of cars and car parts, meanwhile, fell by 3.8 per cent.
One type of good that Canada imported a lot more of, however, was vaccines. Imports of vaccines rose by 74.5 per cent in the month to $745 million. That’s 21 times higher than the amount of vaccines that Canada was importing the same month a year ago, before the country’s COVID-19 vaccination effort ramped up.
U.S. exports surge even more
Almost all of Canada’s trade surplus came from dealings with the U.S.
Canada posted a surplus of $8.3 billion with the U.S. for the month. With the rest of the world, however, Canada continues to have a trade deficit, although that deficit shrank to $5.1 billion, resulting in a total trade surplus of $3.2 billion.
“Canada’s merchandise trade balance has posted surpluses in four of the first six months of the year, boosted by strong demand arising from U.S. re-openings and the rise in commodity prices,” Bank of Montreal economist Shelley Kaushik said.
“Looking ahead, expect imports to recover as the economy reopens, while still-strong energy prices and U.S. growth should continue to support exports.”
COVID-19 booster shot might be needed by winter, Moderna says as study continues – Global News
Moderna Inc. said on Thursday its COVID-19 shot was about 93 per cent effective through six months after the second dose, showing hardly any change from the 94 per cent efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.
However, it said it still expects booster shots to be necessary ahead of the winter season as antibody levels are expected to wane. It and rival Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have been advocating a third shot to maintain a high level of protection against COVID-19.
During a second-quarter earnings call, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that the company would not produce more than the 800 million to 1 billion doses of the vaccine that it has targeted this year.
White House says U.S. prepared to provide COVID-19 boosters if needed
“We are now capacity constrained for 2021, and we are not taking any more orders for 2021 delivery,” he said.
Moderna shares fell 3.6 per cent to around $403.87 in pre-market trading after closing at $419.05 on Wednesday.
The Moderna data compares favorably to that released by Pfizer and BioNTech last week in which they said their vaccine’s efficacy waned around six per cent every two months, declining to around 84 per cent six months after the second shot.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
“Our COVID-19 vaccine is showing durable efficacy of 93 per cent through six months, but recognize that the Delta variant is a significant new threat so we must remain vigilant,” Bancel said.
The comment comes as public health officials across the world debate whether additional doses are safe, effective and necessary even as they grapple with the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Pfizer is planning to seek authorization for a third shot later this month, and some countries like Israel have begun or plan to start administering a booster shot to older or vulnerable people.
Separately, Moderna said its studies of three different booster candidates induced robust antibody responses against variants, including the Gamma, Beta and Delta variants.
It said neutralizing antibody levels following the boost approached those observed after the second shot.
For this year, Moderna has signed vaccine contracts worth $20 billion in sales. It has agreements for $12 billion in 2022, with options for another roughly $8 billion in sales and expects to produce between 2 billion and 3 billion doses next year.
The company, however, has not been able to keep pace with the much larger Pfizer, which expects to manufacture as many as 3 billion doses this year and 2021 sales to top $33.5 billion.
Moderna’s vaccine was authorized for emergency use in adults in the United States in December and has since been cleared for emergency or conditional use in adults in more than 50 countries.
The company expects to finish its submission for full approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month.
It posted second-quarter sales of $4.4 billion, slightly above expectations of $4.2 billion drawn from 10 analysts polled by Refinitiv. Its COVID-19 shot is the firm’s first authorized product and sales were just $67 million a year earlier.
Moderna earned $2.78 billion, or $6.46 a share, beating quarterly expectations of $5.96 a share.
(Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by Kirsten Donovan, Edwina Gibbs and Arun Koyyur)
© 2021 Reuters
U.S. President Biden seeks to boost fuel economy to thwart Trump rollback – CTV News
The Biden administration wants automakers to raise gas mileage and cut tailpipe pollution between now and model year 2026, and it has won a voluntary commitment Thursday from the industry that electric vehicles will comprise up to half of U.S. sales by the end of the decade.
The moves are big steps toward U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge to cut emissions and battle climate change as he pushes a history-making shift in the U.S. from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles. They also reflect a delicate balance to gain both industry and union support for the environmental effort, with the future promise of new jobs and billions in new federal investments in electric vehicles.
The administration on Thursday announced there would be new mileage and anti-pollution standards from the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, part of Biden’s goal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. It said the auto industry had agreed to a target that 40% to 50% of new vehicle sales be electric by 2030.
Both the regulatory standards and the voluntary target will be included in an executive order that Biden plans to sign later Thursday.
The standards, which have to go through the regulatory process including public comments, would reverse fuel economy and anti-pollution rollbacks done under President Donald Trump. At that time, the increases were reduced to 1.5% annually through model year 2026.
Still, it remained to be seen how quickly consumers would be willing to embrace higher mileage, lower-emission vehicles over less fuel-efficient SUVs, currently the industry’s top seller. The 2030 EV targets ultimately are nonbinding, and the industry stressed that billions of dollars in electric-vehicle investments in legislation pending in Congress will be vital to meeting those goals.
Only 2.2% of new vehicle sales were fully electric vehicles through June, according to Edmunds.com estimates. That’s up from 1.4% at the same time last year.
The White House didn’t release information on the proposed annual mileage increases late Wednesday, but Dan Becker, director of the safe climate campaign for the Center for Biological Diversity, said an EPA official gave the numbers during a presentation on the plan.
The official said the standards would be 10% more stringent than the Trump rules for model year 2023, followed by 5% increases in each model year through 2026, according to Becker. That’s about a 25% increase over the four years.
Last week, The Associated Press and other news organizations reported that the Biden administration was discussing weaker mileage requirements with automakers, but they apparently have been strengthened. The change came after environmental groups complained publicly that they were too weak to address a serious problem.
Transportation is the single biggest U.S. contributor to climate change. Autos in the U.S. spewed 824 million tons (748 million metric tons) of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in 2019, about 14% of total U.S. emissions, according to the EPA.
The voluntary deal with automakers defines an electric vehicle as plug-in hybrids, fully electric vehicles and those powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Environmental groups said the administration should move faster.
“This proposal helps get us back on the road to cleaning up tailpipe pollution,” said Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But given how climate change has already turned our weather so violent, it’s clear that we need to dramatically accelerate progress.”
Scientists say human-caused global warming is increasing temperatures, raising sea levels and worsening wildfires, droughts, floods and storms globally.
“We urgently need to cut greenhouse gas pollution, and voluntary measures won’t cut it,” Becker said.
Several automakers already have announced similar electric vehicle sales goals to those in the deal with the government. Last week, for instance, Ford’s CEO said his company expects 40% of its global sales to be fully electric by 2030. General Motors has said it aspires to sell only electric passenger vehicles by 2035. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, also pledged over 40% electrified vehicles by 2030.
The Trump rollback of the Obama-era standards would require a projected 29 mpg in “real world” stop-and-start driving by 2026. It wasn’t clear what the real world mileage would be under the Biden standards. Under Obama administration rules, it would have increased to 37 mpg.
Automakers said they would work toward the 40% to 50% electric vehicle sales goal.
“You can count on Toyota to do our part,” said Ted Ogawa, the company’s North America CEO.
General Motors, Stellantis and Ford said in a joint statement that their recent electric-vehicle commitments show they want to lead the U.S. in the transition away from combustion vehicles.
They said the change is a “dramatic shift” from the U.S. market today, and can only happen with a policies that include incentives for electric vehicle purchases, adequate government funding for charging stations and money to expand electric vehicle manufacturing and the parts supply chain.
The United Auto Workers union, which has voiced concerns about being too hasty with an EV transition because of the potential impact on industry jobs, did not commit to endorsing a 40% to 50% EV target. But UAW said it stands behind the president to “support his ambition not just to grow electric vehicles but also our capacity to produce them domestically with good wages and benefits.”
Under a shift from internal combustion to electric power, jobs that now involve making pistons, fuel injectors and mufflers will be supplanted by the assembly of lithium-ion battery packs, electric motors and heavy-duty wiring harnesses.
Many of those components are now built overseas, such as China. Biden has made the development of a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain a key part of his plan to create more auto industry jobs.
“We are in a global competition for who gets to make the clean cars of the future, and President Biden’s leadership means that we’ll develop that manufacturing and those supply chains right here in America,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
In a bipartisan infrastructure bill awaiting Senate passage, there is US$7.5 billion allocated for grants to build charging stations, about half of what Biden originally proposed. He wanted $15 billion for 500,000 stations, plus money for tax credits and rebates to entice people into buying electric vehicles.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a large industry trade group, said it will work with the administration to reach zero carbon emissions from transportation. But it said the best opportunity for environmental benefits will come after 2026 as more electric vehicles are sold.
The industry, it said, will invest more than $300 billion in electrification by 2025, producing 130 electric models by 2026. Only about 50 are available today.
Associated Press writers Hope Yen and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report
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