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Denmark, Sweden press pause on Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for younger age groups – Globalnews.ca

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Sweden and Denmark said on Wednesday they are pausing the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for younger age groups after reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects.

The Swedish health agency said it would pause using the shot for people born in 1991 and later as data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among youths and young adults that had been vaccinated. Those conditions involve an inflammation of the heart or its lining.

“The connection is especially clear when it comes to Moderna’s vaccine Spikevax, especially after the second dose,” the health agency said, adding the risk of being affected was very small.

Read more:
Moderna asks Health Canada to approve COVID-19 vaccine booster shot

Shares of Moderna fell 4.9 per cent, or $16.08, to $316.11 in afternoon trading.

A Moderna spokesperson said in an email the company was aware of the decisions by regulators in Denmark and Sweden to pause the use of its vaccine in younger individuals because of the rare risk of myocarditis and or pericarditis.

“These are typically mild cases and individuals tend to recover within a short time following standard treatment and rest. The risk of myocarditis is substantially increased for those who contract COVID-19, and vaccination is the best way to protect against this.”

According to one U.S. study that has yet to undergo peer review young males under 20 are up to six times more likely to develop myocarditis after contracting COVID-19 than those who have been vaccinated.


Click to play video: 'Moderna asks Health Canada to approve COVID-19 vaccine booster shot'



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Moderna asks Health Canada to approve COVID-19 vaccine booster shot


Moderna asks Health Canada to approve COVID-19 vaccine booster shot

Denmark said that, while it used the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as its main option for people aged 12-17 years, it had decided to pause giving the Moderna vaccine to people below 18 according to a “precautionary principle.”

“In the preliminary data … there is a suspicion of an increased risk of heart inflammation, when vaccinated with Moderna,” the Danish Health Authority said in a statement.

It referred to data from a yet unpublished Nordic study, which would now be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for further assessment. Final data was expected within a month, it added.

Sweden and Denmark said they now recommended the Comirnaty vaccine, from Pfizer/BioNTech, instead.

Read more:
Cases of heart inflammation higher after Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: Health Canada

The Danish Health Authority said it had made the decision even as “heart inflammation is an extremely rare side effect that often has a mild course and goes away on its own.”

The EMA’s safety committee concluded in July that inflammatory heart conditions can occur in very rare cases following vaccination with Comirnaty or Spikevax, more often in younger men after the second dose.

The benefits of shots based on so-called mRNA technology used by both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, regulators in the United States, EU and the World Health Organization have said.

Data suggests reported cases of rare heart inflammation are relatively higher after Moderna’s vaccine compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech shots, Canadian health officials said last week.


Click to play video: 'Inside Moderna and its fight to stay ahead of the virus'



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Inside Moderna and its fight to stay ahead of the virus


Inside Moderna and its fight to stay ahead of the virus

Moderna has applied for Health Canada’s approval of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that its booster is necessary to combat the spread of the Delta variant.

On Wednesday however, the Ontario government issued a preferential recommendation of Pfizer’s vaccine over Moderna’s for those aged 18 to 24 due to a what they claim is a very low incidence of cardio issues in some younger people.

Although both vaccines are based on mRNA technology, the Pfizer shot contains 30 micrograms of vaccine per dose compared with 100 micrograms in the Moderna vaccine.

Data from one of two U.S. vaccine safety monitoring databases has also suggested that Moderna’s vaccine may carry a higher risk of myocarditis among young people.

Read more:
Moderna to take on COVID-19, flu with single booster vaccine

The vaccine is not approved for people under age 18 in the United States.

Norway already recommends the Cominarty vaccine to minors and said on Wednesday that it was reiterating this.

“Men under the age of 30 should also consider choosing Cominarty when they get vaccinated,” Geir Bukholm, head of infection control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said in a statement.

A Finnish health official said Finland expected to publish a decision on Thursday.

The EMA approved the use of Comirnaty in May, while Spikevax was given the nod for children over 12 in July.

— With files from Global News’ Jessica Patton, Leslie Young, Carolyn Jarvis and Emerald Bensadoun

© 2021 Reuters

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Dollar set for another week of losses even as Fed tapering looms

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The dollar was heading for a second week of declines on Friday as sentiment stayed tilted towards riskier assets, while an intervention by the Australian central bank put a halt to the Aussie dollar’s recent surge.

The dollar index was last at 93.733, little changed in Asian hours but off 0.24% on the week, as it continues its fall from a 12-month high of 94.565 hit in earlier this month.

It had managed to stem losses on Thursday, bouncing on better U.S. jobs and housing data, but the rally petered out on Friday morning in Asia, where risk sentiment was boosted news that beleaguered developer China Evergrande Group has supplied funds to pay interest on a U.S. dollar bond, averting a default.

But traders are still trying to assess whether the dollar has scope to fall further, or if this is a temporary blip on a march higher.

“People are wondering whether we are at an inflection point, as the dollar has been weakening and that doesn’t really fit with the broader narrative that global growth is cooling and the Fed is on the path to tapering, which should be supportive for the dollar,” said Paul Mackel, global head of FX research at HSBC.

On Friday, benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields were at 1.6872%, slightly off from Thursday’s multi-month high of 1.7%, as markets continue to prepare themselves for an announcement by the Federal Reserve that it will start to wind down its massive bond buying programme, which is widely expected for November.

Mackel said part of the reason for the dollar’s weakness had been strong performances by currencies from most commodity exporting countries.

These were quieter on Friday, however, as traders took profits, analysts said, and energy prices softened.

Brent crude, which had risen above $86 dollars a barrel on Thursday, continued its tumble and was last at $84.10.

The Australian dollar was at $0.7475, off Thursday’s three-month top, as the boost to the China-exposed currency from Evergrande’s news was outweighed by action from the Reserve Bank of Australia to stem a bond sell off, as well as the pause in energy price rises.

The RBA said on Friday it had stepped in to defend its yield target for the first time in eight months, spending A$1 billion ($750 million) to dampen an aggressive bonds sell-off as traders have bet on inflation pulling forward rate hikes.

Also affected by energy prices, the Canadian dollar slipped to C$1.2352 per U.S. dollar, off Thursday’s C$1.2287, a level last seen in June.

The British pound paused for breath at $1.3798, off a month peak hit earlier in the week, to which it had been carried by growing expectations of an interest rate hike to combat rising inflationary pressures.

The euro was little changed at $1.1627, while the yen wobbled within sight of its multi-year lows, with one dollar worth 114.01 yen, compared with 114.69 earlier in the week, a four-year low.

China’s yuan eased against the dollar on Friday after the FX regulator warned of possible action if the currency market is hit by greater volatility following its recent rally. But the yuan still looked set for the biggest weekly gain since May.

Bitcoin was at $63,928, a little off Wednesday’s all-time high of $67,016

 

(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)

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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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