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European Union aims to tighten its control of vaccine shipments – The Globe and Mail

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Priority patients wait to receive the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine as they attend the NHS Nightingale North East hospital on Jan. 26, 2021 in Sunderland, England.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The European Union plans to exert more control over the export of COVID-19 vaccines as part of a growing row with drug makers that threatens to disrupt vaccination programs in several countries including Canada.

The EU said Tuesday that it’s finalizing a proposal that will require pharmaceutical companies to register their vaccine exports from the bloc. The plan is expected to come into force later this week and it could lead to restrictions on exports.

The move is the latest twist in a dispute between EU officials and AstraZeneca over delays in shipments of the company’s vaccine, which has been developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford. However, any export-control measure would affect vaccine production by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which also have manufacturing facilities in Europe. Moderna’s vaccine is manufactured outside of the EU but final processing and distribution takes place within the bloc.

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All of Canada’s supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines comes from the companies’ European sites. Canada has yet to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is made in several locations including Belgium. The federal government has purchased 20 million doses, if it’s authorized by Health Canada, and shipments are expected to start in the second quarter of 2021.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau batted away any suggestion that the EU threats would affect vaccine shipments to Canada.

Mr. Trudeau said he spoke with executives at Pfizer and Moderna who assured him “that we are very much continuing to be on track for receiving our full doses of vaccines in the timelines provided.”

“It was very, very clear that the Canadian contracts that have been signed and the delivery schedule laid out will be respected,” he added.

Canada has purchased 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which is made at a facility in Switzerland, according to Paul Monlezun, a spokesperson for Moderna. After initial production in Switzerland, which is not an EU member, the vaccine is bottled and packaged in Spain and shipped to Canada through Belgium.

The 40 million doses that Canada has bought from Pfizer are expected to come from the company’s Belgian plant.

A statement from Pfizer Canada said it’s critical that governments don’t impose export restrictions or other trade barriers on the vaccines. “We look forward to receiving further details on the EU proposal and assessing its impact on patients,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou said Tuesday.

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The EU’s action highlights the mounting tension over lagging vaccine production. AstraZeneca and Pfizer have both announced production slowdowns in recent weeks, leaving many countries scrambling to meet vaccination targets.

Pfizer said recently that it was remodelling its plant in Belgium in order to nearly double its production to two billion doses this year. The company said the refurbishment would affect some shipments until mid-February, but it added that the allocation of doses to Canada and other countries “will balance out” by the end of March. Canada was hit particularly hard by the slowdown and received no Pfizer doses this week, and is only expecting 79,000 doses next week. Updated numbers for the rest of February have not yet been released.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved by EU regulators this week and health officials were counting on 80 million doses this quarter. However, last Friday, AstraZeneca said that because of production issues in Europe it would only be able to supply 31 million doses.

That enraged EU officials who have accused AstraZeneca of failing to properly explain the delay. “This new schedule is not acceptable to the European Union,” said Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. The EU “wants to know exactly which doses have been produced by AstraZeneca and where exactly so far and if or to whom they have been delivered.”

The EU and AstraZeneca will hold further talks on Wednesday to try to resolve the issue, but EU officials have made it clear they will be taking a tough line. The new regulations don’t amount to an export ban, but they will force drug makers to provide details about how many doses they manufacture in the EU and where they are shipped.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn wants the EU to go further and restrict exports altogether. “This is not about EU first; this is about Europe’s fair share,” he said.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also indicated that the EU expects a return for its investment in vaccines. “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen said in a speech at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”

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gas prices reach new high | CTV News – CTV News Toronto

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Gas prices have reached yet another new record after rising six cents per litre overnight.

As of midnight the average price of a litre of fuel across the Greater Toronto Area is now 208.9 cents per litre, according to Canadians for Affordable Energy President Dan McTeague.

The latest jump means that gas prices have now risen 11 cents per litre since Friday, with no real relief in sight due to supply shortages brought about by Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and the international sanctions that have been imposed a result.

“When you look at the fundamentals, supply and demand for diesel and for gasoline going into the summer driving season, not only is it low or critically low and that is one of the main reasons why prices are going up but the second factor is the Canadian dollar,” McTeague told CP24 last week. “It continues to show weakness despite the fact that in the old good old days when oil was $100 a barrel we would be on par with the U.S. dollar. The fact that we’re not is costing you 33 cents a litre.”

Gas prices have risen by about 60 per cent since last May, when drivers were paying around $1.30 per litre to fill up.

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Musk says Twitter legal team told him he violated an NDA – The Globe and Mail

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives on the red carpet for the Axel Springer media award in Berlin on Dec. 1, 2020.Hannibal Hanschke/The Associated Press

Elon Musk on Saturday tweeted that Twitter Inc.’s legal team accused him of violating a non-disclosure agreement by revealing that the sample size for the social media platform’s checks on automated users was 100.

“Twitter legal just called to complain that I violated their NDA by revealing the bot check sample size is 100!” tweeted Mr. Musk, chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc.

Mr. Musk on Friday tweeted that his US$44-billion cash deal to take the company private was “temporarily on hold” while he awaited data on the proportion of its fake accounts.

He said his team would test “a random sample of 100 followers” on Twitter to identify the bots. His response to a question prompted Twitter’s accusation.

When a user asked Mr. Musk to “elaborate on process of filtering bot accounts,” he replied “I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that is what Twitter uses to calculate <5% fake/spam/duplicate.”

Mr. Musk tweeted during the early hours of Sunday that he is yet to see “any” analysis that shows that the social-media company has fake accounts less than 5 per cent.

He later said that, “There is some chance it might be over 90 per cent of daily active users.”

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As interest in electric vehicles soars, experts say they haven't quite hit the mainstream – CBC.ca

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When a friend told Seymore Applebaum about the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, he was intrigued.

Applebaum, who lives north of Toronto, was in the market for a new car. While safety features were top of mind, the high cost of gasoline couldn’t be ignored.

So in January, he traded in his sedan for a brand-new plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a vehicle that can run on both electricity and gasoline. Applebaum says he can travel almost 50 kilometres on battery power alone — more than enough to get around the city.

On a recent trip downtown, he recalled, “I drove about 45 kilometres … and the only thing I used was the electric motor and the electric battery that runs the car.”

“Normally, on a day like that, [it] would be comparable to $10, $15 of driving cost.”

Automotive industry analysts say rising gas prices have more consumers looking into electrified and electric vehicles (EVs). 

Gas prices have soared across the country in recent weeks. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average price for regular gasoline was just below $1.98 per litre as of Sunday afternoon. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Prices at the pump have soared across Canada in recent weeks. Estimates suggest Vancouver could see the country’s highest prices this weekend, potentially hitting $2.34 per litre for regular fuel. According to fuel price tracker GasBuddy, the national average as of Sunday afternoon was just below $1.98 per litre.

“Canadians are motivated by high fuel prices, but they truly believe this is the new normal,” said Peter Hatges, national automotive sector leader for KPMG in Canada, pointing a recent survey by the consulting group. 

“When consumers believe it or perceive it to be true, they’re going to modify their behaviour around what kind of vehicles they buy.”

Kevin Roberts, director of industry insights and analytics for U.S.-based online vehicle marketplace CarGurus, told Cross Country Checkup he has seen a similar trend. 

“As gas prices went up, interest in electric vehicles went up almost in lockstep with just a couple of days delay for both new and used vehicles,” he said.

But even as interest in electrified cars spikes, experts say too few options — and too high prices — mean they haven’t quite hit the mainstream.

Where consumers in North America favour larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks known for their utility, EVs tend to come in compact or sedan-style models. EV range — and the availability of chargers — are also considerations for many Canadians, said Hatges.

Availability of charging stations, and the range of EV models, are top of mind for Canadian drivers. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press)

Ramp up production

Big investments into electrification by major automotive makers, however, are beginning to bear fruit. 

A greater variety of models and sizes are coming onto the market in the coming years, the analysts say. Battery life is improving too, with several models able to travel more than 400 kilometres on a charge, according to manufacturer estimates.

“It’s absolutely a tipping point,” said Hatges. “I think there’s a confluence of factors that are pointing toward an alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

The big test for consumers will be whether manufacturers can cut prices enough to get customers in the showroom — and EVs on the road — said Grieg Mordue, associate professor and ArcelorMittal chair in advanced manufacturing policy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

WATCH | Questions about EVs answered: 

Your questions about electric vehicles answered

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If you are thinking about getting off gas and buying an electric vehicle, or EV, you probably have a few questions. We went for a drive with an expert, and got some answers.

While a handful of models start below $50,000, many run far north of that figure with some selling for over $100,000.

The sweet spot for Canadian buyers? Between $35,000 and $45,000, says Mordue. Key to hitting that price point is mass production, he added. 

“We need production in North America of vehicles at that level, and we need high-volume vehicles — not little, niche vehicles where they sell 10,000 or 15,000 of them a year — because that’s a lot of the vehicles that we have now, Tesla notwithstanding,” Mordue told Checkup.

In April, GM announced a $2-billion investment, with support from the Ontario and federal governments, which will see electric vehicles rolling off assembly lines in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ont., as early as this year.

Stellantis, which owns brands including Dodge and Jeep, is similarly investing billions into electrification at its Windsor and Brampton, Ont., plants.

Mordue cautions, however, that as plants begin producing electric models, it will take time for them to reach the existing output of gas-powered vehicles.

Seymore Applebaum says his recently purchased plug-in hybrid gives him the flexibility to take longer trips, but can run errands around the city without using any gasoline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Focus on fuel efficiency

While interest in EVs may be gearing up, Hatges predicts a shift for gas-powered vehicles too.

“I think you’ll see a strive to make cars lighter, more fuel efficient, even when it comes to electricity,” he said. “Heavy vehicles use more power to power themselves down the road, whether it’s electricity or fuel.”

And as long as gas prices stay high, the market could see a shift from SUVs and trucks — which consumers and manufacturers have favoured in recent years — to gas-sipping models.

“We have a fascination with pickup trucks and SUVs, North Americans do, and there’s a lot of them on the road now…. I don’t see that changing any time soon,” he said.

“But in the medium term or in the immediate term, will you see a shift or reconsideration of cars that are more fuel efficient? I think so. The price in the pump is very, very significant.”

Applebaum touted the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid, saying he doesn’t worry about range at all. And though his PHEV cost more than a comparable non-electrified model, trading in his previous vehicle combined with the fuel savings over three to four years made it affordable, he said.

With gas prices now higher than they were in January, “that’s even more true,” he told Checkup.

Now, he says friends are taking notice.

“They’re saying the next car they purchase will be an electric car.”


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Abby Plener.

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