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Britain first to approve Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, rollout starts Monday – The Globe and Mail

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AstraZeneca’s logo is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration taken November 9, 2020.

DADO RUVIC/Reuters

British regulators have approved a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca which scientists say will massively boost efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike the vaccines currently in use — made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna — the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in regular refrigerators and it has been priced far lower. Scientists say that will make it easier to distribute the vaccine to doctors’ offices, seniors’ homes and throughout developing countries. AstraZeneca said it will produce three billion doses on a not-for-profit basis throughout the pandemic. The company added on Wednesday that it could soon start producing two million doses per week.

The British government has bet heavily on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and ordered 100 million doses, enough to cover 50 million people since it requires two doses. The first batch is set to arrive in the country this week and inoculations will begin on Monday. Initial doses will be given to as many people as possible with the second dose coming up to 12 weeks later.

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The approval was “truly fantastic news, and a triumph for British science,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter Wednesday. “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”

The U.K. has already vaccinated around 800,000 people with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine. But that vaccine must be stored at -70C while the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug can be kept in fridges at between 2-8C. It also costs around $5 per dose compared to $26 for the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine and $43 for Moderna’s.

The approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency comes at a critical moment in the U.K. The country has been struggling with a rampant surge in COVID-19 infections which scientists believe could be linked to more contagious variant of the virus that has emerged in recent weeks. That variant has spread to dozens of countries, including Canada, despite bans on British travellers.

The number of daily cases in Britain hit record high of more than 53,000 on Tuesday and hospital admissions have reached levels not seen since the pandemic began last March. Much of the country has been put under near total lockdown and on Wednesday Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce further restrictions.

“The regulator’s assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. “Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been in development since last January. It uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees but is harmless to humans. Once modified with the genetic sequencing of the spike protein found in COVID-19, the vaccine prompts the human immune system to react.

That’s different from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines which involve messenger RNA, or genetic coding that instructs the vaccinated person’s cells to produce the viral protein, or antigen. That gives the immune system a preview of what the real virus will look like, without causing illness, and it can build defences.

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Approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has taken longer than the other two vaccines because of complications in the testing process.

Initially the vaccine was supposed to be administered in two full doses, like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. However, a mistake in the early trials saw only half a dose administered at first followed by a full second dose. That combination proved to be more effective, yielding 90 per cent protection as opposed to 62 per cent for the two-full doses. By contrast the two other vaccines showed 95 per cent efficacy during trials.

The MHRA has approved the two-full dose regime of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and said that further data from the trials showed that it was 70 per cent effective after the initial dose. It was 80 per cent effective after the second dose, the agency added on Wednesday.

Prof. Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the MHRA’s Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group, said that an analysis of data from the half-dose, full-dose combination found that the results had not been borne out.

June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said data showed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was effective 21 days after the first dose. She added that initial doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech offered enough protection that the second doses could be administered up to three months later.

“The public and everyone who’s listening can be absolutely confident that the scientific rigour of our assessment has been as we would normally do it according to guidelines and standards,” said Dr. Raine. “These are difficult times for so many of us. But vaccines such as this one have the potential to save many lives and will see us come through.”

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Dr. Pirmohamed also said the MHRA was not recommending mixing the vaccines — for example giving an initial dose of one vaccine and a second dose of another — but that studies were underway to see if that would be possible in future.

Public health officials and scientists said approving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was a critical moment in the pandemic. “At a time when we see the pandemic accelerating beyond our control, a rapid, efficient vaccination programme with good population coverage is our only way out,” said Daniel Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London. “With two vaccines now in the roll-out and very substantially more doses, it starts to look realistic that this could be achievable by the spring or early summer.”

How the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug works

16/16

14/14

11/11

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19

vaccine can prevent up to 90 per cent of people

contracting coronavirus when it is administered as

a half dose followed by a full dose

at least one month apart

Spike

protein

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Virus

genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Antibodies

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are

required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford

Vaccine Trial; University of Oxford

16/16

14/14

11/11

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine

can prevent up to 90 per cent of people contracting

coronavirus when it is administered as a half dose

followed by a full dose at least one month apart

Spike

protein

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Virus

genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Antibodies

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are

required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford Vaccine Trial;

University of Oxford

18/18

16/16

13/13

The Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can prevent

up to 90 per cent of people contracting coronavirus when it is administered

as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart

Spike protein

Adenovirus:

Unable to

cause disease

Virus genome

Spike protein:

Gene is cut from

Sars-CoV-2 genome

Gene: Inserted into DNA

of adenovirus which acts

as vector in vaccine

Antibodies

Vaccine: Induces spike

protein antigen – triggers

antibody immune response

Human immune

system: Produces

antibodies against

spike proteins

Vaccine: Can be

stored in refrigerator

at 2-8°C. Two doses

of vaccine are required

graphic news, SOURCE: Reuters; Oxford Vaccine Trial; University of Oxford


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AIB agrees to life and pensions joint-venture with Canada Life

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Allied Irish Banks on Wednesday said it would form a joint venture with Canada life as it seeks to plug gaps in its life, savings and wealth products.

The joint venture will be equally owned by Canada Life, a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco Inc.

“The move to create this joint venture is aligned with AIB’s stated ambition to complete its customerproduct suite and diversify income,” AIB said in a statement.

“Through this strategic initiative AIB intends to offer customers a range of life protection, pensions, savings and investment options enhanced by integrated digital solutions withcontinued access to our qualified financial advisors.”

The Irish lender highlighted Canada Life’s “deep experience” of the Irish bancassurance market through Irish Life Assurance, which is also a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.

AIB currently operates under a tied agency distribution agreement with Irish Life, and will enter into a new distribution agreement with the new joint venture company.

Chief Executive Colin Hunt highlighted the need to plug gaps in AIB’s life, savings and wealth products when he set out the bank’s medium-term targets last December.

AIB expects its equity investment in the joint venture will be around 90 million euros ($107.51 million), equating to around 10bps of CET1.($1 = 0.8372 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Fahy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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Interac: Canada’s Latest Payment Solution Phenomenon

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Few can argue that digital payment methods aren’t central to modern-day society. In recent times, increasing numbers of payment solutions have come to the forefront, offering consumers more choice regarding their transaction preferences. Canada, in particular, has embraced a wide-ranging selection of secure, forward-thinking options. Of those available throughout the country, Interac has piqued the interests of local consumers the most. So, let’s look at why this payment solution is an especially popular option throughout Canada. 

Usable Across Various Markets 

It speaks volumes about Interac’s versatility in that it’s usable across a variety of different industries. Since being founded in 1984, the Canadian interbank network has become integral to numerous markets, including local air travel. Air Canada, which has been operating since 1937, has expanded their accepted payment methods, and now passengers can pay for their flights using Interac. According to the airline’s official website, the Interac Online service lets consumers pay for their tickets via the internet directly from their bank account. 

Not only that, but Interac is also available at Walmart. In November 2020, the two organizations partnered together to expand in-store and online payment options. Walmart has adapted well to the digital trend, with American Banker reporting that they’ve opened Interac Flash sale points throughout their stores. 


Source: Unsplash

Aside from the above, Interac has also taken the digital world by storm. Following its rapid rise to prominence, the solution has also altered the online casino industry, with platforms like Genesis Casino now accepting the transaction type. The provider, which features Interac Canadian casino options, uses the popular payment method to enhance transaction speeds of deposits and withdrawals, as well as security. Players can use Interac Online and Interac e-Transfer to make deposits or withdrawals from their desktops or mobiles as the platform is fully optimized. 

A Reflection of Modern-Day Society 

In recent times, Interac recorded a 55 percent increase in transactions between April and August 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, as per BNN Bloomberg. These figures somewhat reflect the current state of e-Commerce and modern consumerism. Following the rise of Interac and other payment methods, it’s now less troublesome for consumers to complete in-store and online purchases. 


Source: PxHere

There’s an ever-growing perception that land-based businesses need to adapt within the digital era and accept forward-thinking payment methods. According to Cision, Interac is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy, and a year-on-year increase in Interac Debit payments of 333 percent reflects that. Not only that, but Interac e-Transfer payments are growing at 52 percent each year. This Interac-oriented trend appears unlikely to fade over the coming years, with the network being selected as the country’s provider for a new real-time payment system, as per Lexology. 

Consumer Habits are Changing 

There can be no doubt that consumerism has changed drastically over the past decade. The popularity of Interac suggests that a cashless future may be on the horizon, with increasing numbers of shoppers enjoying the security of online payment methods. While it’s currently unclear if that will happen, Interac appears to be prevalent for the long run.

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Your Education and Certificates Need to Align the Job Requirements

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After your professional experience, your education/certifications (verified skills) will be the next section on your resume the reader will use to judge whether you go into the “to be interviewed” pile. 

Many job seekers apply to job postings knowing they don’t have the education/certification requirements. They believe their “experience” will compensate. With so many highly qualified job seekers now on the job market this is rarely the case. If your education/certifications align with the job requirements, the education section of your resume will play a critical part in setting you apart from all the “spray and pray” job seekers.

Suppose a job posting for a Director of Finance lists as a qualification “Canadian Accounting Designation (CPA).” You have a university degree and 15 years of experience managing a mid-size company’s finances, but no CPA—don’t bother applying. Job postings generate an influx of applicants. Undoubtedly there’ll be many applicants who possess a CPA applying. There’s also the employer’s ATS to consider, which likely has been programmed to scan for “CPA.”  

Education background information you should provide:

  • Degree/certification obtained 
  • School’s name
  • Location of school
  • Period of attendance
  • Relevant coursework
  • Honors, academic recognition, extracurricular activities, or organizations participation worth mentioning

When it comes to presenting your educational background keep your ego in check. You may have impressive education background; however, it may not be impressive for the job you’re vying for. Prioritize relevancy over perceived prestige.

Here’s my suggestion how to present your education/certificates (there’s no hard formatting rule):

BS Biomedical Science

University of Calgary, Calgary, AB — 09/1992 – 06/1996

Courses:

  • Principles of Human Genetics
  • Organismal Biology
  • Principles and Mechanisms of Pharmacology
  • Advanced Bioinformatics

PMP® Certification

Ryerson University Continuing Education, Toronto, ON — 10/2001 – 04/2003

Courses:

  • Planning and Scheduling
  • Leadership in Project Management
  • Project Cost and Procurement Management
  • Project Risk and Quality Management

As I’ve pointed out in previous columns— there’s no universal hiring methodology. No two hiring managers assess candidates the same way. Depending on the job requirements respective employers search for different things when it comes to a candidate’s education. Read the qualifications in the job posting carefully. Then present your education/credentials accordingly. Don’t hesitate to add/remove courses to better tie in your education towards the job. It’s for this reason I suggest you list courses, not just your degree/certification. Listing of courses is rarely done, doing so will give your resume a competitive advantage.

You’ll have noticed my examples indicated start and end dates. Many “career experts” advise against this. The thinking being dates, even just the graduation year, will give employer’s a sense of your age, which if your over 45 can hinder and prolong your job search. This advice is supposed to be a workaround to ageism. However, these same “career experts” unanimously agree employment dates (month/year) need to be indicated. To me, this is a mixed message.    

I believe in complete transparency from both sides of the hiring process. Full transparency ensures the likelihood of there being a solid fit for both parties. At some point, whether when the employer checks your digital footprint or interviews you, your interviewer will have a good indication of your age. Besides, not mentioning dates, which I call “obvious” information, is a red flag. 

If your age is a deal-breaker with an employer, they aren’t the employer for you. The job search advice I give most often: Seek employers who’ll most likely accept you, where you’ll feel you belong—look for your tribe.

Some professions, such as finance or healthcare, require specific certifications or degrees. In such cases, show you have the necessary “must-have” (a deal-breaker if you don’t) credentials by placing your education at the top of the page just below your contact information before your professional experience.

One last note: Often overlooked is education in progress. If relevant, this should be included in your resume. In this case, list pertinent courses and the month/year you intend to graduate.

Using suggestions in this and previous columns you are now able to create a resume that “WOWs.” Next week, I’m going to begin discussing cover letters. Yes, many hiring managers, like myself, do read cover letters, which have one purpose—to give the reader a reason to read your resume.

______________________________________________________________

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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