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COVID-19 vaccine is 90-percent effective: Pfizer and BioNTech – Al Jazeera English

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Pfizer Inc says its experimental COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90-percent effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered the world’s economy, and upended daily life.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek US authorisation this month for emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85.

If authorised, the number of doses will initially be limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection. However, the news provides hope that other COVID-19 vaccines in development may also prove effective.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

For Pfizer to seek US authorisation for emergency use of its vaccine, it will need two months of safety data from about half the study’s 44,000 participants, which is expected late this month.

The MSCI index of world stock markets hit a record high following the announcement. Pfizer shares were indicated 6 percent higher in New York, while BioNTech’s US stock leapt 18 percent.

“I’m near ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, said in an interview. “This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”

1.3 billion doses

Pfizer and BioNTech have a $1.95bn contract with the US government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year. They have also reached supply agreements with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.

To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would be effective. They now expect to produce up to 50 million doses, or enough to protect 25 million people this year.

Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.

The US pharmaceutical giant said the interim analysis was conducted after 94 participants in the trial developed COVID-19, examining how many of them had received the vaccine versus a placebo.

The company did not break down exactly how many of those who fell ill received the vaccine. Still, more than 90 percent effectiveness implies that no more than eight of the 94 people who caught COVID-19 had been given the vaccine, which was administered in two shots about three weeks apart.

The efficacy rate is well above the 50-percent effectiveness required by the US Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.

To confirm the efficacy rate, Pfizer said it would continue the trial until there are 164 COVID-19 cases among participants. Given the recent spike in US infection rates, that number could be reached by early December, Gruber said.

The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.

Global race
The global race for a vaccine has seen wealthier countries forge multibillion-dollar supply deals with drugmakers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, raising questions over when middle income and poorer nations will get access to inoculations.

The US’s quest for a vaccine has been the Trump administration’s central response to the pandemic. The US has the world’s highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 10 million infections and more than 237,000 fatalities.

President Donald Trump repeatedly assured the public that his administration would likely identify a successful vaccine in time for the presidential election, held last Tuesday. On Saturday, Democratic rival Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Vaccines are seen as essential tools to help end the health crisis that has shuttered businesses and left millions out of work. Millions of children whose schools were closed in March remain in remote learning programmes.

Dozens of drugmakers and research groups around the globe have been racing to develop vaccines against COVID-19, which on Sunday exceeded 50 million infections since the new coronavirus was first recorded late last year in China.

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BMO, CIBC extend work from home to April as Canada cases surge – BNN

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Signage is displayed outside the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in the financial district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Canadian stocks declined with global markets, as authorities struggled to keep the coronavirus from spreading more widely outside China. However, investors flocking to safe havens such as gold offset the sell-off in Canada's stock market.

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases is derailing Canadian banks’ plans to bring employees back to offices, with one lender even asking some workers who had already returned to go back home.

Canada is now facing about 5,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, prompting provinces and cities including Toronto — home to the country’s five biggest banks — to implement new restrictions to limit the virus spread. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently returned to working from home in an attempt to set a national tone of caution.

Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce are extending work-from-home plans for some employees until at least April. Toronto-Dominion Bank hasn’t set a firm date for a return, but said in a memo last week that most people working from home won’t come back “until at least the spring.”

Royal Bank of Canada even encouraged employees who had gone back to offices to return to working from home as of Nov. 16, according to a memo from Chief Human Resources Officer Helena Gottschling. Canada’s second-largest lender by assets said it will continue pre-screening and requiring masks and distancing for those who can’t work remotely.

“For those in critical roles that cannot be done from home and who are working on premises today, please continue to work on site,” Gottschling said in the Nov. 12 memo. “Our ongoing protocols will continue to protect employees’ health and safety in the workplace.”

The bank hasn’t set a firm time for employees to return. Royal Bank also delayed plans to have employees retrieve personal items from work sites in and around Toronto until further notice.

Bank of Nova Scotia also hasn’t set a specific time for office employees to return because of “uncertainty around how the COVID-19 pandemic will unfold in the coming months,” according to a spokesman. Canada’s third-biggest bank said workers will receive at least four weeks notice before being asked to return.

Bank of Montreal doesn’t “foresee any broad-based changes for employees who are currently working from home any sooner than April 2021, unless a specific business need exists,” the company said in an emailed statement. The country’s fourth-largest lender previously said workers would remain out of the office until the end of this year. The bank will give employees 30 days notice before asking them to return.

Most CIBC employees who are already working off-site will continue to do so until at least April, Sandy Sharman, the executive who oversees human resources, said Wednesday in a memo to staff. The bank originally advised employees they’d be working from home until at least the end of the year.

CIBC, Canada’s fifth-largest lender, said it will give workers at least four-weeks’ notice before asking them back, Sharman said in the memo. The bank had planned to start relocating employees to its freshly built new headquarters at CIBC Square by the end of the year.

“With the majority of our team members working from home seamlessly, we have the flexibility to align our decisions and timing around our long-term real estate plans, including CIBC Square, and the guidance we receive from local governments and public health authorities,” she said.

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Ontario to release updated COVID-19 projections after locking down Toronto, Peel – CityNews Toronto

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Ontario health officials are expected to release new COVID-19 projections on Thursday.

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending the province’s two biggest virus hot spots — Toronto and Peel Region — into lockdown earlier this week.

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent.

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was “slightly optimistic.”

Premier Doug Ford announced he would lower thresholds for imposing stricter COVID-19 measures under the province’s colour-coded restrictions system the following day.

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Ontario to release updated COVID-19 projections after locking down Toronto, Peel – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, November 26, 2020 6:03AM EST


Last Updated Thursday, November 26, 2020 7:05AM EST

TORONTO – Ontario health officials are expected to release new COVID-19 projections today.

It will be the first time they have released such data since sending the province’s two biggest virus hot spots — Toronto and Peel Region — into lockdown earlier this week.

Two weeks ago, the province unveiled modelling that showed Ontario could see as many as 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December unless steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus.

It said the province would reach 2,500 new daily cases by that time if the growth rate was at three per cent, or 6,500 if the growth rate was at five per cent.

At the time, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, said a five per cent growth rate was “slightly optimistic.”

Premier Doug Ford announced he would lower thresholds for imposing stricter COVID-19 measures under the province’s colour-coded restrictions system the following day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.

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