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Covid boosters: Who needs them and how do they help? – BBC News

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President Joe Biden received his Covid booster shot last month

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A panel advising the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting to debate the need for additional doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The meetings on Thursday and Friday come one month after the FDA authorised Pfizer booster jabs for some Americans, including those over 65 or at higher risk of severe illness and who work in frontline jobs.

Prior to the FDA’s decision, an advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended that only those above 65 and immunocompromised people between 50 and 64 receive boosters.

The Biden administration and the pharmaceutical companies involved have all offered broad support for boosters.

While the approval meant that tens of millions of US residents became eligible for a third jab, Americans across the country remain confused about boosters, who needs them and how they help.

Here’s what we know so far.

What’s the status of each vaccine?

Pfizer

Numbers: To date, more than 103 million US residents have been fully vaccinated with two Pfizer doses, while approximately 7 million have received boosters.

Efficacy: Data shows that a full dosage of the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective in preventing hospital admission. CDC data released in mid-September shows that the vaccine’s effectiveness falls to 77% after 120 days.

Company Claim About Booster: Pfizer has been supportive of the need for boosters, with CEO Albert Bourla telling reporters that studies have shown that the vaccine’s effectiveness steadily declines to about 84% for vaccinated people four to six months after receiving their second dose.

FDA Ruling: Pfizer boosters have been approved for older adults and 50 to 64 year olds with medical conditions, as well as adults with underlying medical conditions or those who live and work in high-risk settings.

Moderna

Numbers: To date, more than 69 million people have been fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, with about 1.5 million people having received Moderna booster jabs.

Efficacy: New data shows that Moderna’s vaccine was about 93% effective at reducing the risk of being admitted to hospital with Covid-19. It stays about 92% effective after 120 days.

Company Claim About Booster: Last month, Moderna said that a half-dose booster jab would boost antibodies to a higher point than the initial two shots and believes a booster will be necessary “prior to the winter season”. Currently, Moderna boosters have only been approved for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients or transplant recipients.

FDA Ruling: The FDA has yet to decide on the safety and effectiveness of the Moderna booster shot.

Johnson & Johnson

Numbers: Nearly 15 million US residents have received a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, which is administered in one dose. CDC data shows that only about 9,800 people have so far received J&J boosters.

Efficacy: Research shows that the J&J vaccine is 71% effective in preventing the need for hospital care. After just 28 days, the vaccine’s effectiveness falls to 68%.

Company Claim About Booster: Like Moderna, J&J has submitted a request for emergency use authorisation for its booster jab. In late September, the company said that research shows that a booster provides a 12-fold increase in antibodies and continued to climb to 12-fold higher four weeks later.

FDA Ruling: The FDA has yet to decide on the safety and effectiveness of the Moderna booster shot.

What Americans are saying

Tens of millions of Americans are eligible for a booster shot

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A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that a vast majority – 76% – of Americans that have been partially or fully vaccinated want a booster jab.

Many Americans, however, say they are confused about who can receive the boosters and what the benefits are.

“Of course, I’m confused. On one day the White House said that they’d give boosters to everyone. It turns out only some people can get them. I still don’t know who decides,” said Virginia resident David Williams. “It seems to me there’s been a lot of contradictions.”

Others have reported being confused by the difference between the term “booster” and “third jab” and whether they mean the same thing or not.

Doctors typically use the term “booster” when referencing additional doses being given after the protection provided by the original vaccine begins to decrease. A third dose, on the other hand, typically refers to additional doses being given to immunocompromised people. Over the course of the pandemic, however, the terms have been used interchangeably in many instances.

“I wasn’t confused until recently when I began seeing the language of ‘third or booster’,” said Nevada resident Doris Rueda. “I think so many people think they are one and the same, but I think knowing there is a difference is important, especially [if one has] immunocompromised relatives.”

Greg Samuel, who lives in Washington DC, said that while he isn’t confused about boosters, he doesn’t expect a smooth roll-out process.

“The guidance I have received from my healthcare provider has been decent,” he said. “I think most people will know how this game works after the first go-round, but since that system was a huge disaster…I expect another disaster rollout to follow.”

Among unvaccinated Americans, a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71% believe boosters are a sign that vaccines are not working.

“I do not see a need for boosters if the vaccine doesn’t work like it’s supposed to,” said Jenson Bland, a 21-year-old unvaccinated resident of Georgia. “I only see it as a money-maker.”

What scientists are saying

Elderly and immunocompromised Americans have been recommended to get the booster shot

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Dr Priscilla Hanudel, a Los Angeles-based emergency doctor, told the BBC she isn’t surprised that people are confused.

“There’s so many different steps in the process. I think it can be a little hard for people to understand until final approvals are in,” she said.

Currently, Dr Hanudel recommends that immunocompromised people “definitely” receive an additional dose of the vaccine. She believes that it is likely that boosters will be authorised for the general public as immunity wanes.

“I think it’s going to look similar to the flu shot once a year,” she said. “Whether that’s a booster or thought of as just another annual shot, I think it’s going to happen forever for everyone eventually.”

Julia Raifman, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who tracks Covid-19 policies, said that the debate over boosters is a sign that the US needs to “reset” pandemic policymaking.

“Strong, clear, well thought out and vetted messages from national leaders is key to communicating in a crisis,” she said. “We didn’t see a well-developed policy decision with boosters or with the May guidance that people remove masks. In both cases it really undercut public health.”

Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician and professor at the University of California San Francisco, said that while she believes that immunocompromised people and at-risk frontline workers should get additional jabs, other vaccine doses should be sent abroad to countries with low vaccination rates.

“There’s a moral and ethical obligation. We’ve had these vaccines for 10 months and we managed to only get 4% in the hands of low-income countries,” she said.

The World Health Organization has called on wealthier nations to hold off on widespread rollouts of booster shots until vaccination rates go up in lesser developed countries. In September, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “really not right” to give boosters to “healthy populations”.

Dr Gandhi added: “From a public health perspective, no one is safe from the emergence of other variants unless we get transmission down worldwide.”

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Pandemic opens doors to switch jobs in Japan, but pay not rising much

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The  Covid-19 pandemic has unexpectedly helped Japan’s nursing homes and  Information Technology companies overcome years of labour shortages, as job cuts at restaurants and hotels have prompted workers to look for new careers.

This newfound job mobility marks a shift in a country whose rigid labour practices are partially blamed for a long term decline in productivity.

But it is too soon to say whether the change will ultimately lead to higher wages, which are desperately needed to revive demand and growth in an economy that is still struggling to break free from decades of deflation.

For now, the job-hoppers tend to trade one low-paying career for another.

Toshiki Kurimata, who used to make 2.8 million yen ($25,000) a year as a masseur, quit after 12 years as the pandemic caused a sharp drop in customers. Now he works at a nursing care centre and is taking classes to become a registered caregiver.

With that qualification, he expects to earn around 3.3 million yen – an increase of about 18%. The even bigger attraction, he says, is job stability.

“I like working in nursing care and it’s stable,” Kurimata said. “There aren’t age limits on the work and you can find work even if, like me, you are inexperienced.”

Experts aren’t sure whether the job-switching will remain limited to certain industries or become a broader trend.

It is also uncertain whether job switching will continue once the pandemic dies down, although anecdotal evidence suggests people will keep leaving food-service jobs for nursing and IT.

Japan expects to have a shortage of 690,000 care workers by 2040, a tough gap to fill given the rapidly ageing population.

LOW-INCOME

OECD data put Japan’s hourly labour productivity at $47.9, making it about 60% of the United States’ level, the worst among the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies, and 21st

among the 37 OECD members as of 2019.

And the prospect of people being stuck in low income jobs poses a big challenge for Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has pledged to bring more wealth to households via higher wages.

“COVID-19 fallouts are pushing low-paid workers into even harder situations with little, or no, increase in pay,” said Hisashi Yamada, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

Hospitality businesses have laid off workers, with the number of employees falling to 3.9 million in 2020 from the prior year’s 4.2 million, labour ministry data shows.

By contrast, the medical and health industry saw employees hitting 8.6 million, up 200,000 from 2019. The IT sector hired 2.4 million employees, up 100,000 from 2019.

JOB TRAINING

Vocational training schools have benefited.

SAMURAI, which offers IT training, had 1.7 times more students enrolled as of April 2021 compared with a year earlier, as employees retrenched during the pandemic rushed to retrain.

Most IT jobs on offer for inexperienced workers are for programmers, on the lowest rung of the IT ladder, but they generally still pay more than can be earned in hospitality.

The average annual salary for employees at restaurants and nursing homes amounts to roughly 3 million yen, 30% less than an average Japanese workers’ salary, government data shows. IT programmers earn close to the national average.

“I saw how popular the IT sector was and thought I may land a stable job,” said Koki Shimizu, a 22-year-student at SAMURAI who lost his job as a chef and now is learning to program.

At Crie, which offers training in nursing care, classes that were only two-thirds full before the pandemic are now packed out.

The company’s head Takayuki Nakayama expects the uptrend to continue given steady job offers in the nursing care industry.

“It’s true wages are relatively low in the nursing-care industry. But many job-seekers want stability after seeing the damage inflicted on eateries and other service-sector firms.”

Retailers are also becoming alarmed over losing staff, as they are counting on a rebound in activity as Japan gradually eases COVID-19 restrictions.

Major Japanese pub chain operator Watami is scrambling to hire 100 mid-career staff this year – something it has not done for three years – and it reckons that eventually it may have to pay more.

“1,000 yen per hour may not be enough, 1,500 yen may be needed to attract workers in the future,” said the company’s chief executive Miki Watanabe.

For now, firms are wary of raising pay as the economy is still struggling in the wake of the pandemic.

($1 = 114.0100 yen)

 

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Leika Kihara, David Dolan & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Pfizer-BioNTech report high efficacy of COVID boosters in study – Al Jazeera English

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The companies say phase III trial data show booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine was 95.6 percent effective against the disease.

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have said data from a Phase III trial demonstrated high efficacy of a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine against the coronavirus, including the Delta variant.

They said a trial of 10,000 participants aged 16 or older showed 95.6 percent effectiveness against the disease, during a period when the Delta strain was prevalent.

The study also found that the booster shot had a favourable safety profile.

Pfizer had said its two-shot vaccine’s efficacy drops over time, citing a study that showed 84 percent effectiveness from a peak of 96 percent four months after a second dose. Some countries had already gone ahead with plans to give booster doses.

The drugmakers said the median time between the second dose and the booster shot or the placebo in the study was about 11 months, adding that there were only five cases of COVID-19 in the booster group, compared with 109 cases in the group which received the placebo shot.

“These results provide further evidence of the benefits of boosters as we aim to keep people well-protected against this disease,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

The median age of the participants was 53 years, with 55.5 percent of participants between 16 and 55 years, and 23.3 percent at 65 years or older.

The companies said they would submit detailed results of the trial for peer-reviewed publication to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency, and other regulatory agencies as soon as possible.

The US and European regulators have already authorised a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc for patients with compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the two-dose regimens.

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A bag of peanuts and $70M, please: B.C. woman recalls spur-of-the-moment decision to buy winning Lotto ticket – CBC.ca

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A Burnaby, B.C., woman who just won the largest Lotto Max draw in the province’s history says she made the decision to buy her winning ticket on the spur of the moment.

Christine Lauzon purchased the ticket for the Sept. 28 draw alongside a pack of peanuts at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Hastings Street in Burnaby, according to the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

“I just thought, ‘Why not buy a ticket?'” Lauzon said.

Lauzon said she has dreamed about winning Lotto Max from time to time, but never thought it would actually happen.

She said she checked her ticket at home, then shared the news with her roommate, and then her father.

“They were both so surprised and excited,” she recalled. “My dad … couldn’t keep a straight face.”

Lauzon said the experience has been surreal, but once her feet are back on the ground, her first priority is to connect with her financial advisor.

She said she plans to gift some of the prize to her immediate family.

“I can’t fully wrap my head around it all right now,” she said. “I am so excited for what is to come.”

Lauzon says she has a lot of ideas and causes that are close to her heart, and she will take her time before deciding how she will make an impact.

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