The approval of a fourth vaccine in Canada should not give Canadians the green light to hold off on getting inoculated in order to wait for other doses with higher efficacy rates, medical experts say.
That attitude will end up lengthening the time it takes to get the pandemic under control, said Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“If people start to do that, they actually prevent Canadians from moving slowly back to normal,” he said.
On Friday, Health Canada approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is the fourth vaccine approved along with shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.
Different efficacy rates
Each vaccine has a different efficacy rate. Vaccine efficacy refers to the percentage reduction of disease in a vaccinated group of people compared to an unvaccinated group, under ideal conditions.
Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna both have been determined by Health Canada to have efficacy rates of around 95 per cent. AstraZeneca-Oxford has an efficacy rate of 62 per cent while Johnson & Johnson has an efficacy rate of 66.9 per cent.
Despite different efficacies, trials have shown that those who did become infected after getting vaccinated experienced only mild illness, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont.
Of the thousands of participants in trials for the vaccines, not a single person who received a shot died or was hospitalized from COVID-19, he told The Canadian Press.
WATCH | CBC’s The National. Why experts say take the vaccine you’re offered:
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said debates over efficacy are going to be part of the challenge of getting people vaccinated.
“I think there is obviously something we have to deal with here,” he said.
Some of that could have been sparked by confusion over the messaging of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended against using that vaccine in people aged 65 and older “due to limited information” on its efficacy in that age group.
In Europe, French and German officials are reversing their initial hesitancy about AstraZeneca and are now urging people to take the vaccine. There are reports that many in Germany have declined the AstraZeneca shot over concerns it may not work as well as others.
Detroit turned down Johnson & Johnson
In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan last week turned down 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying he favoured shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now.
WATCH | Dr. Sharma addresses vaccine hesitancy:
Juni said long-term care homes are the only settings where it makes sense to use the highest efficacy vaccines, as residents are at extreme risk.
For most people, “there is no such thing as a bad vaccine,” he said.
Juni compared the differences in efficacy to high octane versus low octane gas. Most engines, he said, just need gas.
“But obviously in the situation we’re in right now, if you actually are about to run out of gas, you just take whatever is coming that actually works.”
Waiting for a preferred vaccine is just too risky, Chagla said. “You don’t want to be that person with zero per cent protection going into COVID-19 when you could be someone with at least 60 to 70 per cent protection, if not higher.”
‘Just take it’
“You would rather start the clock with some protection rather than no protection,” Chagla said.
Given the opportunity to get vaccinated, he offered some blunt advice: “Just take it.”
WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:
Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at University Health Network in Toronto, said for those concerned about different efficacy rates, it’s important to know it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison because the clinical trials of vaccines were carried out differently.
Chakrabarti said the timing of the trials may have impacted efficacy. Pfizer and Moderna tested their products when the COVID burden was relatively lower in parts of the world. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, meanwhile, had their trials later when more transmissible coronavirus variants were spreading at a rapid pace.
What shouldn’t be lost, Hota said, is the overall goal of getting vaccinated which is to protect the most vulnerable from getting COVID-19 and to get us out of this pandemic.
That means, with the vaccine rollout being such a massive undertaking including: vaccine availability, vaccine prioritization schemes and vaccine registries, vaccine preference should not be a consideration.
“[If] you have to deal with people wanting to make decisions based on preference. It’s just, first of all, not justifiable … but really not feasible,” Hota said.
She said people jabbed with higher efficacy vaccines are less likely to suffer from mild symptoms if they were to be infected, and on an individual level, if you don’t want to get sick at all, “that might be a better decision for you.”
“On a public health sort of population level, I would be very disappointed if people felt that was OK and it wasn’t going to cause any harm because we do need to get to a point to immunize as many people as quickly as possible to make gains in managing the pandemic itself.”
Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said on Friday that vaccination with a vaccine with 66 per cent efficacy does not mean a person will have a 34 per cent chance of contracting COVID-19.
“While each of the vaccines Health Canada has authorized has different efficacy numbers, the reality is that you will have a greatly reduced chance of getting COVID-19 with any of the … vaccines that have been authorized,” Sharma said.
She drove home that point earlier this week, telling CBC’s The National that her message to Canadians is that when it’s their turn, “you roll up your sleeve” and “take the vaccine that’s offered to you.
“And that will help all of us bring down the COVID-19 numbers across Canada, which is the most important thing that we’re trying to do.”
Join us as experts answer some of your vaccine questions on a special CBC News National Town Hall on Tuesday, March 9. We’ll discuss the differences between vaccines, how vaccine passports work and where you might be in the queue. The special starts at 8 p.m. ET on CBC Gem and CBC News Network, and 10 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. NST) on CBC Television.
Wall Street’s plant-based love wilts
By Siddharth Cavale and Uday Sampath Kumar
(Reuters) – A cooling of the U.S. stock market’s taste for plant-based meat makers has raised doubts among some investors and analysts about Impossible Foods’ plans to achieve a $10 billion flotation.
Impossible is seeking to go public through an initial public offering or via a merger with a blank-check company within the next 12 months, sources told Reuters this month.
The market value of larger competitor Beyond Meat, however, has sunk from a peak of $14 billion to closer to $8.5 billion and is predicted by several brokerages to fall further.
Both firms carry expectations of being big players in a so-called faux meat market which some predict could be worth $85 billion a year by 2030 as dietary habits shift.
But with retail sales of some products sliding, four sectoral investors told Reuters that Beyond’s 420% rise in value since listing in September 2019 was now seen as overcooked.
“It’s pretty shocking when you see some of these valuations come out,” said Patrick Morris, whose Eat Beyond vehicle has invested in three Canada-listed plant-based ventures.
“The $10 billion for Impossible Foods, with Beyond Meat at $8 or $8.5 billion? The first reaction is that these valuations are coming from outer space,” added Morris, who said he is looking at investing in Impossible if it opens its books.
Some existing investors have told Impossible that it should aim to go public at a valuation below where Beyond is trading, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
Impossible declined to comment.
While the signs remain positive for plant-based food, COVID-19 has halted restaurant sales, and sector studies suggest that the industry has yet to convincingly win over shoppers.
Nevertheless, both Beyond and Impossible have signed deals with major restaurant and grocery chains and the U.S. industry as a whole grew by 44% last year during the pandemic.
Revenues at Beyond and some other producers are growing, but the rate of volume sales growth of fresh and fully cooked plant-based meat alternatives has been declining steadily at U.S. retail stores since July last year, NielsenIQ data shows.
Unit sales growth eased from 32.6% in the July to September period last year to 1% in January to March quarter of 2021, when compared to the same period a year ago, the data showed.
Beyond’s sales overall were still just $407 million last year, and its stock trades at nearly 21 times sales per share, according to Refinitiv data, versus 1.6 times and 1.9 times for Kellogg Co and Kraft Heinz, which last year had sales of $13.78 billion and $26.19 billion respectively.
“Food companies need to trade in a multiple that has some logic to it,” said Christopher Kerr, Chief Investment Officer at Unovis Asset Management, an early investor in Beyond Meat who cashed out and now holds stakes in Oatly and Zero Egg.
“The question is can they get to something that represents market valuation tied to revenues … right now we’re seeing some pretty premium valuations out there,” Kerr added.
Graphic: Beyond Meat market cap – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/jznpnandjvl/Beyond%20market%20cap.PNG
One reason for the valuation floated for Impossible is the boom in special-purpose acquisition deals and initial offerings that has seen big jumps for a range of start-ups at launch.
Brian Schaeffer, managing director of private equity trading platform InvestX, which allows investors to trade in pre-IPO companies, said Impossible had been one of the top five traded stocks on the platform since introducing it this year.
“The SPAC trend is super aggressive right now …so those kind of public valuations are being translated into interest on the private platforms,” Schaeffer added.
Some market debuts, however, have not gone as well.
British-based food delivery service Deliveroo flopped on its debut last month.
While Impossible does not publish sales numbers, some industry estimates give it a less than 4% share of the U.S. imitation meat industry, compared with Beyond Meat’s 25%.
Beyond has signed deals with McDonald’s, PepsiCo and KFC and Taco Bell owner Yum Brands while Impossible last year gave up on McDonald’s, citing its inability to supply on the required scale.
Impossible’s burgers and sausages are available at only 20,000 stores globally, versus Beyond’s 122,000 and it is still seeking regulatory approval in Europe and mainland China, where the genetically modified yeast it uses is banned.
“There is so much money (from SPACs) looking for so few places to go, because the space is so new,” Curt Albright, managing member of alternative protein investment firm Clear Current Capital said.
“Whether the valuations are too much or too little, that the market will figure out eventually.”
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Uday Sampath Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Alexander Smith)
The Art of Finding Work
By Nick Kossovan
Interviews Are Modern Greek Tragedies
Odds are the person interviewing you has a similar story as mine—they developed their interviewing skills “on the job.” Executives and managers are thrust into the recruiting part of their job without first developing skills to evaluate talent.
Outside of human resources, those whose job requires them to assess and interview candidates get little to no training. I never received any formal training regarding how to interview and evaluate a candidate. Yet, I’ve interviewed 1,000’s throughout my career.
I admit I stumbled through my first 150 – 200 interviews. I developed my interviewing skills, a skill I knew would serve me well, on job candidates, which I now admit was unfair to them.
Hiring the right people who’ll fit with the position, team and company can’t be overstated. I keep British-American author Simon Sinek’s words top of mind, “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for the money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
Since finding work is seeking approval, I often think of interviews as conduits to modern Greek tragedies.
We spend much of our youth and adulthood seeking approval, trying to “fit in” with the right clothes, car, house, job, etc. We’re constantly aware we’re being judged—a cause of much of why we second-guess ourselves and the stress this causes.
- Am I good enough?
- Do I fit in?
You desperately want to hear, “We want you.”
WARNING: Three interview truths coming.
- When interviewing, everything goes into “the mix”—past hiring mistakes, bias, prejudices, commonalities.
- At the core of every hiring decision is gut feel.
- Likability is the most valuable currency a job seeker has, trumping education, skills, and experience.
When a candidate is sitting in front of me, I’m asking myself:
- Will this person fit in with the current team members and the company’s culture?
- Will this person be seen as a good hire by my boss and peers, and the team? (A bad hire = bad judgment, which is an X against my reputation.)
Acing an interview is extremely hard. Much of your success depends on whom you’re speaking to, and humans are the ultimate moving target. The best you can hope for is to stack the odds in your favour and hope your interviewer is in a good mood.
Keep top of mind: An interview is a sales meeting, and hiring is a business arrangement.
When interviewing, your job is to establish rapport (READ: connection), build trust and achieve the following goals of making the interviewer:
- Believe in you.
- See you as a fit.
You achieve these goals by:
- Clearly demonstrating what value you can bring to the employer. Connect how yourtrack record, which needs to be quantified; otherwise, it’s just your opinion, would be an asset to the employer.
- Presenting yourself as a problem solver. If you look at work holistically, you’ll realize every position within an organization exists to solve a problem(s). How can your experience and skills solve the problem(s) the position you applied to exists to solve?
- Asking good questions. By asking good questions, your interviewer will talk about their pain points. You can then explain (sell yourself) how you’d go about solving their pain point.
Three things worth noting and using as guidance when interviewing:
- An employer will hire you if they’re convinced you’ll bring more value than you cost, therefore offer as much value as possible.
- Problem solvers, those with a proven track record of solving their employer’s pain points, will always be in demand.
- People don’t have short attention spans. They have short interest spans. Make your interviewer interested in you!
There’s no blueprint to guarantee interview success. All you can do is stack the odds in your favour as much as possible. However, there’s one universal interview rule that’ll tip the odds in your favour: Always tell the person sitting across from you what they want to hear. When you develop the ability to read your interviewer and comfortably offer solutions to their pain points, you’ll have developed solid interviewing skills. Such skills will mitigate the number of Greek tragedies you’ll experience while job searching.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judge Rules to delay Huawei CFO’s extradition hearings
By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A Canada judge has agreed to delay Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s U.S. extradition hearings for three months, according to a ruling read in court on Wednesday, handing her defense team a win.
Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport on charges of bank fraud in the United States for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
Meng’s team had asked for more time to review additional documents that became available after HSBC and Huawei reached a settlement in Hong Kong. Extradition hearings were originally set to wrap up in May.
Defense attorney Richard Peck argued in court on Monday that they were requesting “a modest frame of time” to be able to read the documents and potentially file them as evidence in the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Lawyers representing the attorney general of Canada had fought the adjournment of hearings set to start on Monday, arguing that Meng’s team had been given more time than was usual in an extradition to make their case, and the contents of the documents were too redacted to be relied upon as significant to the case.
“The outstanding feature of this application is that it’s based on speculation,” prosecutor Robert Frater said on Monday.
But Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes disagreed, siding with the defense in granting an adjournment.
Her reasons will be read out on in court on April 28.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)
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