Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, February 27, 2021 3:01PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 27, 2021 3:13PM EST
TORONTO – While it’s tempting to compare various aspects of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine to others, several experts cautioned against focusing on data that is not comparable and the danger of underrating the product’s ability to curb hospitalizations and deaths.
Health Canada’s long-awaited announcement Friday that a third vaccine would soon be deployed came just as the provinces faced heightened scrutiny over regional immunization plans that vary by timeline, age eligibility and priority groups.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the boost to Canada’s pandemic arsenal would mean “more people vaccinated, and sooner,” and would be key to helping contain spread.
Nevertheless, Health Canada chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma acknowledged questions over how the public should evaluate trial results that show AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 62 per cent in preventing symptomatic cases. That’s compared to the 95 per cent efficacy of the country’s two other approved vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But Sharma stressed that all three have been shown to prevent 100 per cent of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19.
“Each vaccine has unique characteristics and Health Canada’s review has confirmed that the benefits of the viral vector-based vaccine, as with the other authorized vaccines, outweigh their potential risks,” Sharma said.
Several medical experts including Dr. Stephen Hwang say Canadians do not have the luxury to pick-and-choose as long as COVID-19 cases continue to rage in several hot spots and strain health-care systems.
With multiple COVID-19 projections warning of a variant-fuelled third wave without tighter suppression measures, any tool that can slow the pandemic should be embraced, he argued.
“It would be important for people to be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is first available in their community to them, rather than trying to hold out for a specific vaccine,” advised Hwang, who treats COVID-19 patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
Still, Toronto resident Maria Brum couldn’t help but question whether AstraZeneca was safe for her 79-year-old mother.
The vaccine was not tested on people over the age of 65. Health Canada, however, says real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups, promising an update on efficacy in the age group as more data comes in.
“I personally would take that one out as an option for my mom,” said Brum, who is her mother’s main caregiver.
“Maybe I am wrong but, I don’t know, I don’t see that it’s more useful. I’d like to see one that has a higher percentage of (efficacy).”
As for herself, Brum said she has allergies that she believes may put her at greater risk of adverse reactions and so she is unsure whether she can take any vaccine.
But she’d like the option of choosing, if possible, even while acknowledging that limited supply could make that unlikely.
“As a Canadian, I would like to see us all have choices, regardless of age, gender, or ability,” says Brum.
“I’m going to wait where I can have more choices.”
Such hesitancy could pose public health challenges to Canada reaching the vaccination coverage needed to build protective immunity against COVID-19, said Hwang.
He noted that Germany has seen a reported preference among some for the vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech with Pfizer, as well as a misconception that the AstraZeneca vaccine is inferior because of a lower efficacy rate.
Hwang says efficacy between vaccines cannot be compared because each involved completely different trials at different time periods, in different countries, with different volunteers of different age groups and varying trial design.
“Until we have direct comparison studies where we give people one vaccine versus another and directly compare, it’s very difficult to know for sure how it’s going to pan out,” he says.
Then there’s the fact Canada’s initial AstraZeneca doses will be made at the Serum Institute of India, which dubs its version CoviShield, while later packages will be produced at the drug giant’s own manufacturing facilities.
Hwang acknowledges that could invite further scrutiny but says the Pune, India-based biotech firm has a “strong track record of producing vaccines.”
Sharma also stressed the similarities between the two shots Friday.
“For all intents and purposes they’re the same vaccine,” said Sharma.
“There are some slight differences in terms of manufacturing and the places that they are manufactured are different. The analogy is a bit like the recipe – so the recipe for the vaccine is the same, but they’re manufactured in different kitchens.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.
Pfizer sells $7.8 billion in Covid shots in the second quarter, raises 2021 guidance on vaccine sales – CNBC
Pfizer said Wednesday it sold $7.8 billion in Covid-19 shots in the second quarter and raised its 2021 sales forecast for the vaccine to $33.5 billion from $26 billion, as the delta variant spreads and scientists debate whether people will need booster shots.
The company’s second-quarter financial results also beat Wall Street expectations on earnings and revenue. Here’s how Pfizer did compared with what Wall Street expected, according to average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:
- Adjusted earnings per share: $1.07 per share vs. 97 cents per share expected
- Revenue: $18.98 billion vs. $18.74 billion forecast
Pfizer expects an adjusted pretax profit in the high 20% range of revenue for the vaccine.
The company now expects full-year earnings in the range of $3.95 to $4.05 per share. That’s up from its prior range of $3.55 to $3.65 per share. It expects revenue in the range of $78 billion to $80 billion, up from its previous estimate of $70.5 billion to $72.5 billion.
Shares of Pfizer dipped 0.4% in premarket trading.
“The second quarter was remarkable in a number of ways,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “Most visibly, the speed and efficiency of our efforts with BioNTech to help vaccinate the world against COVID-19 have been unprecedented, with now more than a billion doses of BNT162b2 having been delivered globally.”
Pfizer’s other business units also saw strong sales growth. Revenue from its oncology unit rose by 19% year over year to $3.1 billion. The company’s hospital unit generated $2.2 billion in revenue, up 21% from the prior year. Its internal medicine unit grew by 5% from a year ago to $2.4 billion.
Pfizer said earlier this month it was seeing signs of waning immunity induced by its Covid vaccine with German drugmaker BioNTech, and planned to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a booster dose. It also said it is developing a booster shot to target the delta variant.
In slides posted Wednesday alongside its earnings report, Pfizer said it could potentially file for an emergency use authorization for a booster dose with the FDA as early as August. It expects to begin clinical studies testing its delta variant vaccine in the same month.
It expects full approval for its two-dose vaccine by January 2022.
Pearson airport won’t sort arriving passengers based on COVID-19 vaccination status – CityNews Toronto
Canada’s largest airport is no longer splitting arriving international passengers into different customs lines based on their vaccination status.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport announced last week it may be sorting travellers arriving from the U.S. or other international locations into vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated queues.
But a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority says the practice has been discontinued as of Monday.
Beverly MacDonald says in a statement that the airport has determined separating vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated travellers into different customs lines “results in minimal operational efficiencies.”
She says entry requirements related to vaccination status will now be enforced once a passenger reaches a customs officer.
Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now able to forgo a 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada from abroad.
Fight over nickel assets heats up with BHP's $258m Noront bid – MINING.COM – MINING.com
Noront is recommending that shareholders accept the bid, which comes through BHP Lonsdale, a subsidiary that already owns 3.7% of the Canadian nickel producer.
“BHP has the financial strength, world-class mining expertise, and commitment to work in partnership with stakeholders to advance Eagle’s Nest and the Ring of Fire, which has the potential to deliver benefits to local communities, First Nations and, and Ontario for years to come,” Noront’s chief executive Alan Coutts said.
BHP is speeding up its push into future-facing commodities, including nickel, lithium and copper, which are poised to benefit from the green-energy transition.
Last week BHP sealed a nickel supply deal with Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and is expected to decide on the giant Jansen potash project in Canada next month.
“Noront represents a growth opportunity in a prospective nickel basin capable of delivering a scalable, new nickel-sulphide district,” the Melbourne, Australia-based mining giant said in the statement.
Wyloo Metals, which is Noront’s top shareholder with a 23% stake as of December, had in May offered C$0.315 per share for the stock it did not already hold in the company. Noront had adopted a poison pill strategy to stop the takeover.
BHP’s offer comes on the heels of its decision to move the exploration team headquarters to Toronto, Canada’s most populous city.
The company plans to almost double exploration spending for base metals within five years.
Noront owns the early-stage Eagle’s Nest nickel and copper deposit in the Ring of Fire of northern Ontario. It has been billed by Wyloo as the largest high-grade nickel discovery in Canada since the Voisey’s Bay nickel find in the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Eagle’s Nest is expected to begin commercial production in 2026 with the mine running initially for 11 years.
The mine’s start date has repeatedly been pushed back by Noront due to successive federal and provincial governments’ inability to consult and reach unanimous agreement with First Nations in the area.
Nickel production would need to increase nearly fourfold to meet expected demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, the company estimates. Likewise, copper output would also need to grow exponentially to meet demand from renewable power generation, battery storage, electric vehicles, charging stations and related grid infrastructure.
Tesla’s boss Elon Musk has expressed worries about a looming nickel shortage. He pleaded with miners last year to produce more nickel, promising a “giant contract” for supply produced efficiently and in an “environmentally sensitive way.”
The EV maker became involved in March in the development of the conflict-ridden New Caledonia nickel mine, as part of the company’s attempt to secure enough supply.
BHP’s offers coincides with Canada’s push to position the country as a hub for clean-tech metals.
The bid is conditional on the acceptance of shareholders that own more than 50% of Noront’s common shares, excluding the small stake that BHP already owns.
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