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Clear link between AstraZeneca and rare blood clots in brain, EMA vaccine chief says – National Post

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‘In my opinion, we can now say it,’ said Marco Cavaleri, chair of the vaccine evaluation team at the European Medicines Agency

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There is a link between AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and very rare blood clots in the brain but the possible causes are still unknown, a senior official for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in an interview published on Tuesday.

“In my opinion we can now say it, it is clear that there is an association with the vaccine. However, we still do not know what causes this reaction,” Marco Cavaleri, chair of the vaccine evaluation team at the EMA, told Italian daily Il Messaggero when asked about the possible relation between the AstraZeneca shot and cases of brain blood clots.

Cavaleri added that the EMA would say there is a link although the regulator would not likely be in a position this week to give an indication regarding the age of individuals to whom the AstraZeneca shot should be given.

He did not provide evidence to support his comments.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment. It has said previously its studies have found no higher risk of clots because of the vaccine.

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The regulator has consistently said the benefits outweigh the risks as it investigates 44 reports of an extremely rare brain clotting ailment known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) out of 9.2 million people in the European Economic Area who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The World Health Organization has also backed the vaccine.

The EMA said last week that its review had at present not identified any specific risk factors, such as age, gender or a previous medical history of clotting disorders, for these very rare events. A causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and further analysis is continuing, the agency said.

A high proportion among the reported cases affected young and middle-aged women but that did not lead EMA to conclude this cohort was particularly at risk from AstraZeneca’s shot.

The EMA is expected to give an update of its investigation on Wednesday.

Some countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, have suspending the use of the vaccine in younger people while the investigations continue.

Scientists are exploring several possibilities that might explain the extremely rare brain blood clots that occurred in individuals in the days and weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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European investigators have put forward one theory that the vaccine triggers an unusual antibody in some rare cases; others are trying to understand whether the cases are linked with birth control pills.

But many scientists say there is no definitive evidence and it is not clear whether or why AstraZeneca’s vaccine would cause an issue not shared by other vaccines that target a similar part of the coronavirus.

In a separate interview, Armando Genazzani, a member of the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP), told La Stampa daily that it was “plausible” that the blood clots were correlated to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Some countries limit AstraZeneca vaccine use amid concern over blood clots

Some countries are restricting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 while others have resumed inoculations, as investigations into reports of rare, and sometimes severe, blood clots continue.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said the benefits outweigh the risks, but are monitoring the situation.

AstraZeneca said in March its vaccine was 76% effective in preventing symptomatic infections in a U.S. trial, and that studies did not indicate higher risks of clotting.

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VACCINE BEING USED, WITH OR WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS

AUSTRALIA:

Will continue its inoculation program with the shot despite a blood clotting case reported on April 2, health officials said on April 3.

AUSTRIA:

Resumed use.

BULGARIA:

Resumed inoculations from March 19.

CYPRUS:

Cyprus resumed inoculations on March 19.

CANADA:

To pause offering vaccine to people aged under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender.

FRANCE:

Approved resumed use of the vaccine on March 19, but said it should only be given to people aged 55 and over.

FINLAND:

Resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 29, but will only give it to people aged 65 and over.

GEORGIA:

Has limited the use of the vaccine after a nurse died of anaphylactic shock, and vaccinations will continue only in full-fledged medical centres, news agency TASS reported on March 19.

GERMANY:

From March 31, Germany limited use of the shot to people over 60 and high-priority groups, following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder. On April 1, Germany’s vaccine commission recommended that people under 60 who have had a first shot of AstraZeneca’s vaccine should receive a different product for their second dose.

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ICELAND:

Resumed use on March 25 after suspending it on March 11.

INDONESIA:

Resumed using the vaccine on March 22 but warned against the use of the vaccine in people with a low blood platelet count.

IRELAND:

Resumed use after EMA recommendation.

ITALY:

Resumed use on March 19, and Italians who decline to be inoculated with it will be given an alternative later.

LATVIA:

Said would restart administering the shots from March 19.

LITHUANIA:

Restarted use on March 19.

NETHERLANDS:

Currently using the vaccine only for over 60s, either at a doctors’ surgery or by a doctor at nursing homes.

NORTH MACEDONIA:

Health Minister Venko Filipce said on March 31 that AstraZeneca shots would be limited to people aged over 60 as a precautionary measure.

ROMANIA:

Resumed use after the EMA assessment after temporarily stopping vaccinating people with one batch of the vaccine on March 11.

SOUTH KOREA:

President Moon Jae-in received the vaccine on March 23 ahead of an overseas trip, as the country inoculates senior citizens and health workers.

SPAIN:

Spain said on March 30 it would use the vaccine for people aged 55-65, and a day later said it would extend the vaccination to essential workers aged over 65.

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SWEDEN:

Resumed use of the vaccine on March 25 for people aged 65 and older, but restrictions are in place for Swedes under 65.

THAILAND:

Began use on March 15, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha the first to be inoculated, after delaying rollout the week before.

USE SUSPENDED

CAMEROON:

Suspended administration of the vaccine it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines sharing scheme COVAX, the health ministry said.

DENMARK:

Will prolong its suspension of the shot by three weeks pending further investigations after its two-week pause ended on March 25. A local survey indicated that one in three Danes would decline to get the shot.

NORWAY:

Norway will delay a decision over the use of the vaccine, authorities said on March 26, with a decision expected by April 15.

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Canadian National challenges Canadian Pacific with $33.7 billion Kansas City bid

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By Shreyasee Raj

(Reuters) -Canadian National said on Tuesday it had offered to buy Kansas City Southern railroad for about $33.7 billion, and shares of U.S. company soared as investors anticipated a potential bidding war with Canadian Pacific.

Canadian Pacific had agreed a deal to acquire Kansas City Southern for about $25 billion last month. Either combination would create a North American railway spanning the United States, Mexico and Canada as supply chains recover from being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The acquisition interest in Kansas City Southern also follows the ratification of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement last year, that removed the threat of trade tensions which had escalated under former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kansas City said it would evaluate Canadian National’s offer. If it found it could lead to a better deal, Canadian Pacific will be given the opportunity to raise its bid.

Canadian National’s cash-and-stock offer, worth $325 per share, is at a 26.8% premium to Kansas City Southern’s offer as of Monday’s trading close.

“We are surprised by this move given the healthy valuation Canadian Pacific had already offered to Kansas City Southern shareholders,” Stephens analyst Justin Long wrote in a note to clients.

Kansas City Southern shares rose 15.8% to $297.12, indicating most investors deemed it unlikely the company would stick with Canadian Pacific’s offer.

One investor that took a different view is Chilton Investment Co, which has a less than 1% stake in Kansas City Southern. Citing regulatory hurdles, it said it preferred a deal with Canadian Pacific.

“There’s more overlap with Canadian National deal which makes it harder to get (regulatory) approval. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) doesn’t like overlap,” Chilton CEO Richard Chilton said.

Canadian National CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest said his network and that of Kansas City Southern are “highly complementary networks with limited overlap.” They only run parallel for 65 miles, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Kansas City Southern has domestic and international rail operations in North America, focused on the north-south freight corridor connecting commercial and industrial markets in the central United States with industrial cities in Mexico. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is Canada’s No. 2 railroad operator, behind Canadian National.

The STB updated its merger regulations in 2001 to introduce a requirement that Class I railways have to show a deal is in the public interest. Yet it provided an exemption to Kansas City Southern given its small size, potentially limiting the scrutiny that its acquisition will be subjected to.

Canadian Pacific agreed in its negotiations with Kansas City Southern to bear most of the risk of the deal not going through. It will buy Kansas City Southern shares and place them in an independent voting trust, insulating the acquisition target from its control until the STBLatest clears the deal. Were the STB to reject the combination, Canadian Pacific would have to sell the shares of Kansas City Southern, but the current Kansas City Southern shareholders would keep their proceeds.

Canadian National said it was willing to match these terms. It said its offer does not require approval from its own shareholders because of how much cash it has, eliminating a condition in Canadian Pacific’s offer.

Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, which is Canadian National’s biggest investor with a 14.25% stake, said it fully supports the combination.

A private equity consortium led by Blackstone Group Inc and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) made an unsuccessful offer last year to acquire Kansas City Southern. But it was Canadian Pacific’s announcement of a deal with Kansas City Southern that spurred Canadian National into action, as it raised the prospect of losing out to its rival, according to people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Anil D’Silva and David Gregorio)

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CEO shake-up at Canada’s Nutrien could pave way to M&A: shareholders

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By Rod Nickel and Maiya Keidan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – Investors expect the new chief executive of Canada‘s Nutrien Ltd to swing deals as part of a more aggressive growth strategy, after an abrupt shake-up at Canada‘s biggest agriculture company.

Nutrien, the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by capacity, surprised shareholders on Sunday by promoting its chairman, Mayo Schmidt, to CEO, replacing Chuck Magro, who had led the company since it formed from Agrium’s 2018 merger with Potash Corp.

Schmidt, raised on a Kansas farm, is best known for leading the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain cooperative’s acquisition of competitor Agricore United in 2007, creating Viterra Inc, one of Canada‘s biggest grain handlers. He subsequently bought Australia’s ABB Grain before leading the sale of Viterra to commodity trader Glencore PLC in 2012.

“Acceleration of M&A is a natural progression as we enter the next commodity supercycle,” said Michael Underhill, chief investment officer at Capital Innovations LLC, which owns Nutrien shares. “I would not bet against him.”

Nutrien shares were down 1.3% on Tuesday, after falling 3.5% on Monday. They have risen about 35% year over year, riding soaring corn prices, but gained only 2% since they began trading in 2018.

Some investors had grown uncertain about Nutrien’s growth strategy under Magro, said Mike Archibald, vice-president and portfolio manager at AGF Investments, which owns C$136 million ($109 million) worth of the company’s stock.

Archibald said now the strategy looks likely to shift to deals.

“The incoming CEO does have a history as a deal-maker so, to the extent he lives up to what he’s done in the past, we should expect sometime in the next 12 months that we’ll get something happening on the M&A front,” Archibald said.

POTENTIAL DEALS

Nutrien could try to acquire U.S. nitrogen fertilizer rival CF Industries, which has a $10-billion market capitalization, or accelerate the company’s roll-up of smaller farm retail stores, Archibald said. A CF spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Conversely, Schmidt could sell off the retail business to focus on fertilizer production, Archibald said.

Nutrien declined an interview request for Schmidt. A company spokeswoman said Schmidt’s plans include following the company’s climate change initiatives, which Magro unveiled this month.

Schmidt may also eye selling Nutrien’s phosphate fertilizer business, even though it recently got a boost from U.S. duties against Russian and Moroccan imports, said Brian Madden, senior vice-president at Goodreid Investment Counsel, a Nutrien shareholder.

The CEO change is positive, as Schmidt has an exceptional record of creating shareholder value, said Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson. He added that Nutrien could look to consolidate the nitrogen industry.

Schmidt would find it difficult to sell Nutrien itself, Madden said. There is no obvious domestic acquirer and the Canadian government rejected a foreign bid for Potash Corp in 2010.

“Schmidt has got cred in the ag world,” Madden said. But he added that abruptly changing chief executives is not how successions should occur at large companies.

 

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Maiya Keidan in Toronto; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canadian Business During the Pandemic

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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,”

Jones said.

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.

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