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COVID-19 vaccination lessons from Canada's largest-ever mass immunization effort – CTV News

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TORONTO —
In the fall of 2009, Canada launched its largest-ever vaccination campaign to protect against an outbreak of influenza A, or H1N1, with varying degrees of success. There were delays in production, supply shortages, and difficulties administering the new vaccine.

According to Statistics Canada, by April 2010, the majority of Canadians (59 per cent or 16.5 million people) had not been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, which was also known as the “swine flu.”

The government agency said that a total of 428 Canadians died from H1N1 and thousands more were infected. Worldwide, there were more than 18,000 deaths from the virus. 

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There were a number of reasons why there were delays in the rollout of the vaccine in Canada – timing being a key one – as the H1N1 virus spread in the spring of 2009 and the vaccine wasn’t ready until months later, in the fall, when health-care providers were trying to administer seasonal flu shots.

Earl Brown, a virologist and a former member of Canada’s H1N1 Pandemic Vaccine Task Group, added that manufacturers were also preoccupied with creating a vaccine for avian influenza H5N1, or the “bird flu,” when they were forced to suddenly turn their attention to the new swine flu outbreak.

“It was a real rush because they wanted the vaccine for the winter, which they got, so that the pandemic started in the spring and then they had the vaccine for the fall,” he told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview from Ottawa on Thursday.

While Canada’s ambitious vaccination program for H1N1 may have had some hiccups along the way, the experience may provide some valuable lessons for the administration of future vaccines, such as those already in the works to combat against COVID-19.

MANUFACTURING

During the H1N1 pandemic, the federal government was criticized for relying on only one domestic vaccine supplier, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), to manufacture the vaccine.

Brown said countries often prefer to produce their own vaccines domestically, in case there are border closures or what he called “vaccine nationalism.” However, the dependence on only one supplier comes with its own risks because any disruptions or interruptions in the production line can cripple the whole’s country’s supply.

In the case of GSK, Brown said there were difficulties bottling the vaccine at their Quebec plant, which caused delays.

An internal review of the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada’s response to the H1N1 pandemic addressed the government’s use of a sole vaccine supplier. The review stated that, at the time, there was only one manufacturer “interested in establishing sufficient domestic capacity to manufacture enough vaccine to inoculate the entire population in the event of an influenza pandemic.”

 Brown said that Canada’s manufacturing capacity for vaccines is actually quite limited.

“We really don’t have the vaccine companies to do the work here in Canada, we could do some of it, but then you’re restricting yourself too on that,” he said. “We require somewhat international companies.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said the Canadian government has taken a proactive approach and has already secured contracts with at least four vaccine makers in the U.S. to distribute their product once it’s developed and approved by Health Canada.

“The resources being what they are, you really don’t want to restrict yourself just to the one Canadian resource, you have to reach out more, it’s just the facts of the matter,” he said.

DISTRIBUTION

The rollout of the H1N1 vaccine in the fall of 2009 was not without problems as some provinces and territories experienced long waits to receive the vaccine or were not able to inoculate people due to a lack of manpower in the health-care sector.

In the internal review of the government’s response, they noted there were delays in the beginning of the vaccine campaign due to several factors. 

They included Canada’s limited vaccine manufacturing capacity, which meant the seasonal flu vaccine had to be completed first, before work could begin on one for H1N1. The review also said production was briefly interrupted when GSK had to develop a separate vaccine for pregnant women in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.

Due to the production delays, provinces and territories faced some initial shortages and were asked to prioritize the administration of the vaccine to segments of the population most at risk, such as health-care workers, seniors, pregnant women, children, and those vulnerable to complications. That resulted in some confusion, according to the review.

In preparation for a vaccine for the coronavirus, Brown said the Canadian government has already been pre-ordering supplies, such as vials and syringes, and working on logistics to store and transport the vaccine once it is ready.

“You have to be ready to get, store, distribute that vaccine and so that is something the public health addresses and they will have to be ready to achieve that,” he said.

Brown said it’s a considerable undertaking with respect to Canada’s population of more than 35 million people.

“Not everyone will want a vaccine, not everyone will get it, but in broad numbers, 35 million vaccines would be needed or 20 million, and then if you need two doses, that’s double that,” he said. 

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India’s Adani Group loses $48bn in stocks over fraud claims

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Hindenburg Research claimed Adani Group had committed ‘brazen’ corporate fraud but Adani Group dismissed the report.

Shares of Asia’s richest man Gautam Adani’s business empire plunged, leading to losses of $48bn after a US investment firm claimed it had committed “brazen” corporate fraud.

Seven listed companies of the Adani conglomerate lost a combined $48bn in market capitalisation after Hindenburg Research flagged concerns in a January 24 report about debt levels and the use of tax havens.

Adani who was the world’s third-richest person at the start of the week is now ranked number seven on Forbes’ billionaires tracker after a $22.6bn hit to his fortune in Friday’s trade.

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Adani Enterprises, the group’s flagship company, plunged nearly 20 percent over the day’s trading in Mumbai, briefly triggering an automatic trading halt, before recovering slightly to close 18.52 percent lower.

Five other group companies hit their own stock exchange circuit breakers, with shares in Adani Total Gas, Adani Green Energy and Adani Transmission falling 20 percent apiece.

“Obviously, this is panic-selling,” JM Financials equity research chief Ashish Chaturmohta told AFP, adding that traders were creating new short-sell positions to protect earlier bullish bets on Adani stocks.

Hindenburg Research said in its report that Adani Group had used undisclosed related-party transactions and earnings manipulation to “maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency” of its listed business units.

Adani Group dismissed the report as baseless and that it was the victim of a “maliciously mischievous” reputational attack by Hindenburg.

Legal chief Jatin Jalundhwala said Adani was exploring considering taking legal action against the New York-based research advisory in US and Indian courts.

Hindenburg responded that Adani had ducked the issues its research had raised and instead resorted to “bluster and threats”.

“If Adani is serious, it should also file suit in the US,” the firm said in a statement. “We have a long list of documents we would demand in a legal discovery process.”

Adani, with a net worth of $96.6bn, is considered a close supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s main opposition Congress party has often accused Adani, and other billionaires, of getting favourable policy treatment from Modi’s administration, allegations the billionaire has denied.

The Adani Group was established in 1988, beginning with commodities trading. The conglomerate’s business interests now extend from ports and airports to mining and renewable power.

The report said a pattern of “government leniency towards the group” stretching back decades had left investors, journalists, citizens and politicians unwilling to challenge the group’s conduct “for fear of reprisal”.

“The signal is that because the Adanis are very close to the powers that be today, therefore nobody would challenge them,” economist Arun Kumar told AFP.

“Those who earlier criticised Adani, those who tried to do some investigation, Adani’s launched big [legal] cases against them, so they have scared off a lot of people,” he added.

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Rapidly cooling housing market helps to quell Canadian inflation

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Housing costs, and Canada’s unique way of capturing them in inflation, suggest that consumer price gains may slow rapidly in coming months.

As the largest expense for most households, shelter makes up 30 per cent of Canada’s consumer price index — a similar proportion to the U.S. But unlike its southern neighbor, Canada’s inflation metrics capture these costs in a way that’s more sensitive to changes in interest rates and home prices.

That means Canadian inflation measures are influenced by both the rise in mortgage costs as the Bank of Canada aggressively raises rates and by the resulting slowdown in the housing market.

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While inflation was still 6.3 per cent in December, price pressures in Canada are expected to lose momentum thanks to base effects and continued cooling in the Canadian real estate market, which features shorter-duration mortgages than the U.S. and a higher share of variable-rate home loans.

Those differences are one reason economists say the Bank of Canada — which said this week it intends to pause its tightening campaign — won’t have to raise borrowing costs as high as the Federal Reserve.

“One way Canada actually stands out from a lot of other countries is that when the Bank of Canada raises interest rates, there’s a temporary boost to inflation because of this mortgage interest rate effect,” Stephen Brown, an economist at Capital Economics, said by phone.

CROSS-BORDER DIFFERENCES

The U.S. calculates housing inflation using owners’ equivalent rent, or the price a property owner would have to pay to rent to live there. Canada calculates it through a formula that includes mortgage interest, replacement cost, property taxes and maintenance.

Shelter has been a major driver of Canadian inflation in recent months, and was up 7 per cent in December. The mortgage interest and rent sub-indexes saw year-over-year jumps of 18 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively.

But with rates now on hold, Brown expects mortgage interest costs to peak before dropping sharply in the second half of this year. Other inflation inputs, such as commissions on home sales, are already easing.

His forecast is for increases in the shelter component of CPI to fall to 3.5 per cent by June and to 1.5 per cent by December. With energy, food and goods prices also expected to fall sharply, Brown said the Bank of Canada may be “underestimating how quickly overall inflation will decline.”

Macklem’s rapid interest-rate hikes, to 4.5 per cent from an emergency pandemic low of 0.25 per cent in March, have dramatically cooled the real estate market. Prices have fallen more than 13 per cent since their peak last year. Higher mortgage costs are also squeezing some of the world’s most indebted households, forcing them to tighten their purse strings.

“The bank might be feeling like they’ve done enough on housing, and that the effect is going to unravel over the coming months,” said Rishi Mishra, an analyst at Futures First Canada Inc. “They don’t want to press down too hard, just because how large the exposure is to housing market in Canada.”

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Stock market news live updates: Stocks rally, Intel craters, as inflation data cools

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U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, after slipping earlier at the open, as investors weigh in on fresh economic data including consumer spending data, a closely watched measure by the Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 0.2%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) ticked up 0.08%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was up roughly 1%, closing out its best week since November.

The biggest mover on Friday were shares of Intel (INTC), which fell as much as 10% on Friday after the company’s bleak outlook disappointed.

Intel reported a quarterly earnings miss after the close Thursday, adjusted earnings per share coming in at $0.10 against the $0.19 expected by the Street. Revenue totaled $14.04 billion, below estimates for $14.5 billion.

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In the first quarter, Intel expects revenues to come in between $10.5-$11.5 billion, with losses totaling $0.80 per share. In delivering these results, CEO Pat Gelsinger cited “economic and market headwinds,” adding the company, “will continue to navigate the short-term challenges while striving to meet our long-term commitments.”

Elsewhere in markets, Tesla (TSLA) stock has become hot. The shares rose above 10% in Friday trading, eyeing its best week since May 10, 2013. The company’s latest earnings has prompted a boost for the shares. Separately, CEO Elon Musk is being investigated by US regulators in his role shaping the carmaker’s self-driving car claims, Bloomberg reported.

Lucid (LCID) stock surged Friday on reports that a Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund could be planning a takeover and buying shares the EV maker doesn’t already own.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note ticked up to 3.52% from 3.497% on Thursday. The dollar index was little changed. WTI crude oil sank 2% to trade at $79.41 a barrel.

U.S. core personal-consumption expenditures price index (PCE), excluding energy and food, rose 0.3% month-over-month, while the annual rate fell to a one-year low of 4.4% in December from 4.7% the prior month, in line with consensus forecasts.

Pending home sales increased 2.5% in December, ending a sixth month slide, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, consumers remain optimistic. The consumer sentiment index rose to 64.9, a slight increase from 64.6 reading two weeks ago, according to preliminary results from the University of Michigan’s consumer survey. Economists surveyed were expecting a reading of 64.6.

Stocks rallied on Thursday as investors digested other data that showed the U.S. economy ended the year on a solid foot despite higher interest rates and recessionary fears looming.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the sum of all goods and services – expanded at a 2.9% annual pace in the final quarter of 2022. For the full year, GDP grew 2.1%.

Durable-goods orders in December increased by 5.6% topping expectations for 2.4%, the sharpest gain since July 2020. Meanwhile, the resilience of the U.S. job market has been a major surprise. Initial jobless claims fell again to 187,000, the lowest level since April 2022.

“Markets deciphered a lot of mixed clues [on Thursday] and, after some cause for concerns, decided that it was easier to shrug it all off and drive equities to fresh 2023 highs,” Jim Reid and colleagues at Deutsche Bank wrote in an early morning note Friday morning. “Earnings also helped the mood, to be fair.”

Visa (V) shares were higher Friday after the company reported results late Thursday. Revenue increased to $7.94 billion compared to expectations of $7.69 billion. And adjusted earnings per share came in at $2.18 versus estimates of $2.00. The company announced that Ryan McInerney will be stepping in as chief executive officer starting February 1st.

Hasbro (HAS) also joined the wave of company layoffs announcing it will cut its workforce by 15 percent, or 1,000 employees, effective in the coming weeks. The move comes as the toymaker seeks to save around $250 million and $300 million annually by the end of 2025.

Also in stock moves, Chevron (CVX) shares were down after reporting fourth quarter profit of $6.4 billion, down from the $11.2 billion in the third quarter. Ahead of Friday’s report Chevron, announced it was hiking its dividend by 6% along with massive $75 billion share repurchase plan.

Shares of American Express (AXP) rose after the credit card company reported fourth quarter net income of $1.57 billion. On a per-share basis, it had a profit of $2.07. American Express expects full-year earnings to be $11 to $11.40 per share.

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