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China OKs 1st homegrown vaccine as COVID-19 surges globally – World News – Castanet.net

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China authorized its first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine for general use Thursday, adding another shot that could see wide use in poorer countries as the virus surges back around the globe.

The Sinopharm vaccine had already been given to groups such as health care professionals and essential workers under emergency-use guidelines as part of China’s program to inoculate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday in February. But the go-ahead should allow it to be supplied more broadly at home and moves Beijing closer to being able to ship it abroad. It comes one day after British regulators authorized AstraZeneca’s inexpensive and easy-to-handle vaccine.

Both shots have been closely watched by developing countries, many of which have been unable to secure the Pfizer and Moderna doses being snapped up by rich nations. Pakistan’s science minister said Thursday that his government will buy 1.2 million doses of a Sinopharm shot, two days after its death toll topped 10,000.

The greenlight came a day after the state-owned company announced that preliminary data from last-stage trials had shown it to be 79.3% effective. That announcement did not detail the size of the control group, how many people were vaccinated and at what point the efficacy rate was reached after injection, and experts have cautioned that trial data needs to be shared.

Officials have said the vaccine standards were developed in “close co-operation” with the World Health Organization. Securing WHO’s so-called pre-qualification could go some way toward assuring the rest of the world about the quality of Chinese vaccines, which already face a reputation problem back home. It would also open the path for the shots to be distributed in the global vaccine consortium, COVAX, and potentially in countries that don’t have their own regulatory agencies.

China is eager to ship its vaccines globally, driven by a desire to repair the damage to its image caused by the pandemic that started a year ago in the central city of Wuhan.

Technically, China granted conditional approval for the vaccine, meaning that research is still ongoing, and the company will be required to submit follow-up data as well as reports of any adverse effects after the vaccine is sold on the market, Chen Shifei, the deputy commissioner of the National Medical Products Administration, told a news conference. Final proof of its effectiveness will depend on publication of more data.

Sinopharm, which has another shot under development, is one of at least five Chinese developers that are in a global race to create vaccines for the disease that has killed more than 1.8 million people. While the Pfizer and Moderna shots have been greeted with much fanfare in the West, those shots must be stored at ultra-cold or freezer temperatures, complicating distribution.

The Sinopharm vaccine, like the AstraZeneca one, could be easier for countries around the world to handle since they can be stored at normal fridge temperatures.

Both shots, as well as Russia’s Sputnik, are expected to be supply much of the developing world. That means the cost will also be important. AstraZeneca is expected to cost about $2.50 a dose, while Russia has said its doses will be priced at $10 for the global market. Pfizer’s vaccine costs about $20, while Moderna’s is $15 to $25, based on agreements with the U.S. government.

Chinese officials declined to name a particular price and gave conflicting statements about it. One official said it would be affordable for the Chinese public, but another jumped in to clarify that it will be free. President Xi Jinping had previously vowed to donate a Chinese-made vaccine as a public good to the world.

The Sinopharm shot is already under mass production, though officials did not answer questions about current capacity. It has already been approved in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and is slated for use next in Morocco.

Other countries have also been buying doses of another Chinese vaccine candidate, made by Sinovac Biotech. Turkey received shipments this week of 3 million doses, and Indonesia and Brazil have also purchased it.

Belarus and Argentina both launched mass vaccinations Wednesday using Russia’s vaccine, and Guinea has begun giving it to government officials.

In addition to the emergency vaccinations already underway in China, the country plans to start vaccinating high-risk population, such as seniors as well as people with existing chronic illnesses. Officials did not say what percentage of the population they will vaccinate in China.

“This is very exciting that there is another vaccine and one that can be distributed in locations that don’t have the cold chain,” said Ashley St. John, an immunologist at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. “But at the same time we have to temper the excitement. We have to understand the long term efficacy, effect on transmission and effect on severe disease.”

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TD Bank CFO Ahmed to head securities unit, move seen as CEO succession play

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TD Bank Group on Thursday named Chief Financial Officer Riaz Ahmed chief executive of its securities unit and head of wholesale banking, a move some investors interpreted as a sign he will succeed CEO Bharat Masrani.

For Ahmed, 58, the change marks a return to his TD roots. He began his career at the bank in 1996 as an investment banker in the securities division, following which he served as its CFO and chief administrative officer. He has been part of TD Bank‘s executive team for nine years, and CFO for over five.

“Cross-training in the capital markets role … increases the likelihood of (Ahmed) succeeding Masrani when he retires, but I doubt it would be soon, as that would create unnecessary turnover atop TD Securities,” said Brian Madden, portfolio manager at Goodreid Investment Counsel.

“Maybe Masrani announces his retirement next year (or the following) and leaves early in 2023” or 2024.

Masrani’s compensation arrangements anticipated his retirement in 2020, TD said in its 2019 shareholders meeting proxy circular. But he was granted stock options worth C$1.9 million ($1.5 million), vesting in five years, on the condition that he remain available to serve as CEO throughout that period.

Ahmed replaces Bob Dorrance, who will retire on Sept. 1 after about 16 years at the bank, Canada’s second-biggest lender by market value said in a statement.

When asked about TD’s succession plans, a spokesperson said: “Today we are celebrating Bob Dorrance’s incredible career and accomplishments, and the appointment of top executives to critical, leadership roles.”

At a time when diversity, particularly in executive and board ranks, has come under increased scrutiny, Ahmed’s appointment as CEO would mean TD, the only one of Canada’s six biggest lenders to have a non-Caucasian at its helm, would retain that aspect.

Ahmed’s appointment comes after TD’s wholesale banking unit recorded an 8% revenue decline in the second quarter from a year ago, contributing to the bank’s overall underperformance versus some rivals.

Kelvin Tran, currently executive vice president for enterprise finance, will replace Ahmed as finance chief.

Dorrance, who has headed TD Securities since 2005, will stay on as chairman of TD Securities and serve as special adviser to Masrani.

TD shares were flat at C$87.12 on Thursday afternoon, compared with a 0.2% gain in the Toronto stock index. The shares are up 21% this year, versus a 15% gain in the benchmark.

($1 = 1.2303 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in BengaluruEditing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis)

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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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