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First COVID-19 vaccine could be delivered to distribution points as early as end of December, Fortin says – CBC.ca

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Federal officials today explained how they plan to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.

The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get a shot in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.

One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures – well below those that a standard commercial refrigerator can offer.

The Pfizer product, which is expected to get the green light from Health Canada as early as this month, needs to be kept at approximately -80 degrees Celsius to remain stable. The Moderna product, another vaccine that uses groundbreaking messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, must be kept at -20 degrees Celsius.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading vaccination logistics and operations at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada. While the country is facing unprecedented “logistical complexities,” he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the commander of Canada’s military pandemic response. (Radio Canada)

He said the national operations centre isn’t waiting for Health Canada’s sign-off to begin preparations. The Pfizer product will be delivered by that company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points as early as the end of the month.

The federal government already has secured the cold storage required for this product. All of the provinces have indicated where the Pfizer-specific fridges should be placed and 14 distribution points nationwide will be ready to receive the vaccine starting on Dec. 14, Fortin said.

Eventually, there will be 205 “points of issue” locations across the country where health care professionals can administer the vaccine, the general said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.

Fortin said at least one “dry run” has been executed so far, with more planned in the days ahead, to ensure things run smoothly once this vaccine hits our shores from manufacturing hubs in the U.S. and abroad. These practice runs will ensure officials are comfortable with what Fortin called the “very unique requirements” of this vaccine.

Fortin said he’s actively planning for multiple worst-case scenarios, such as bad weather, cyber attacks and fires at distribution hubs.

“We’re very much executing a whole-of-nation approach. The size and scope and scale of this problem is unprecedented and there’s a number of factors at play,” he said. “I like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe, so we are certain to be ready when it comes in January.”

The general said his team is in daily contact with Pfizer and the company is “comfortable” with the plan that Canada has crafted. Pfizer has said it won’t ship product to a country that isn’t ready to receive a vaccine that is so temperature-sensitive.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday that the regulatory review of Pfizer’s vaccine is “progressing really well” and her department has the “majority of information” it needs from the company to certify that it’s safe and effective.

In an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics, Sharma said the final approval could come in the next 7 to 10 days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to decide on an emergency use authorization (EUA) for that shot and Sharma said Canada is following a similar timeline.

Canada has placed orders with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 20 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, with options for millions more in the months to follow.

The company has reported its vaccine was 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 among clinical trial participants who had no evidence of prior infection.

Preparing for the worst

The Moderna vaccine, which is expected to secure regulatory approvals after the Pfizer product, will be imported into Canada by the federal government, largely through private shipping companies. Ottawa will in turn divide up the product for the provinces and territories.

The government is now finalizing “end mile” contracts with logistics firms — the companies that will transport the Moderna vaccines to centres where Canadians can go for a shot.

On Monday, the Massachusetts-based company applied to the FDA for its EUA for the American marketplace.

Data from the company’s final clinical trial are encouraging, demonstrating the vaccine is 94.1 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said the federal government is now refining who is best suited to get an early dose of a vaccine — early guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggests seniors in long-term care homes and frontline health care workers will be among the first to get a shot.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pushing the federal government for more details on its vaccine rollout plan. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his party’s health critic Michelle Rempel Garner held a news conference this morning to discuss an opposition day motion that will call on the government to release its plan by Dec. 16.

O’Toole accused the government of failing to provide Canadians with a plan and a timeframe for vaccine distribution.

“Without a concrete timeline for vaccines, businesses won’t have the confidence to reinvest in their operations and rehire Canadians who have been laid off during the pandemic,” he said.

“Without a reliable timeline, or details, provinces have the impossible task of establishing complex supply chains with no lead time.”

The motion calls for a status update on:

  • How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians.
  • The date on which each vaccine type will be first deployed in Canada and the rate of vaccinations anticipated by month.
  • Any planned federal guidance with respect to the deployment of the vaccine by priority group, such as front-line health workers and seniors.
  • The plan to distribute the vaccine to Indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.

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Barrick Gold profit beats expectations as copper, gold prices surge

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Barrick Gold Corp reported a 78% jump in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, beating analyst expectations thanks to rising gold and copper prices, and said it was on track to meet annual forecasts.

Production in the second half is expected to be higher than the first, the gold miner said, thanks in part to the ramp-up of underground mining at the Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania and higher expected grades at Lumwana in Zambia.

Barrick’s first-quarter gold production fell to 1.10 million from 1.25 million ounces due partly to lower grades at its Pueblo Viejo mine in Dominican Republic.

Adjusted profit surged 78% to $507 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $285 million a year earlier, and Barrick announced a 9 cent per share quarterly dividend.

Stronger prices helped boost Barrick’s revenue from its copper mines in Chile, Saudi Arabia and Zambia by 31% from the fourth quarter. Overall earnings per share were $0.29, ahead of analysts’ estimate of $0.27.

“We expect a positive stock reaction to the earnings beat and strong cash flow,” said Credit Suisse analysts.

POTENTIAL FOR SOUTH AFRICA MERGER

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow, who has championed mergers across the gold industry, said he backed the idea of South Africa-listed miners Goldfields and AngloGold Ashanti combining.

Speculation has been swirling around the two companies and Sibanye-Stillwater, whose CEO Neal Froneman floated the idea of a three-way merger in March.

“I’m a South African, and this country has such a great mining history and it would be great to see a real gold business come out of the many failed discussions that we’ve seen,” said Bristow.

Goldfields declined to comment. In a statement, AngloGold Ashanti said it was focused on delivering on its growth plan to unlock value from its portfolio of gold assets.

Bristow also said he had met with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new mines minister and other officials and was continuing to work on getting $900 million belonging to its Kibali mine joint venture out of the country.

“We have a solution, it just needs to be sanctioned by the appropriate authorities which haven’t been around for a while,” he said, referring to a recent government overhaul by President Felix Tshisekedi.

(Reporting by Helen Reid in Johannesburg and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Bernadette Baum)

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Loblaw gets quarterly sales, profit boost from online demand surge

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Retailer Loblaw Cos Ltd beat market estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Wednesday, as its online sales more than doubled on soaring demand from homebound buyers for groceries and other essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns and other virus-related restrictions in Canada, including reduced store capacity, during the first three months of the year pushed consumers to stockpile groceries and other essential items.

Loblaw, one of the biggest retailers in Canada, said that the momentum from the first quarter has continued into the current quarter, adding that it expects to exceed its own full-year profit expectations.

However, the company has warned that its food retail unit, which saw a surge last year at the peak of stockpiling, would not be as robust in the current quarter. In the first month of the ongoing quarter, food same-store sales have declined slightly, Loblaw said.

For the second quarter, the company expects to incur pandemic-related costs of about $65 million to $75 million, compared with $282 million a year earlier.

Net earnings available to its common shareholders rose to C$313 million, or 90 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended March 27 from C$240 million, or 66 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the retailer earned C$1.13 per share, beating the average analysts’ estimate of 87 Canadian cents per share.

Its revenue rose to C$11.87 billion ($9.67 billion) in the first quarter from C$11.80 billion a year earlier, surpassing analysts’ estimate of C$11.72 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

($1 = 1.2277 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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Bombardier in talks to amend bondholders’ agreement after breach claim on asset sales

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(Reuters) – Bombardier on Monday contested a bondholder’s claims that its recent sales of non-core assets breach the terms of certain notes, and said it would seek bondholders’ consent to amend terms on eight bond issues.

Bombardier has emerged as a pure play business jet maker after divesting assets including the sale of its transportation business to Alstom, which it completed in January, to pay down debt and boost earnings.

The company said it launched consent solicitations with respect to outstanding senior notes or debentures, following the claims by the unnamed bondholder that the asset sales constitute a breach of certain covenants under the indenture governing the 2034 notes.

Bombardier said in a statement these claims are without merit and it has not breached any covenant, adding that after evaluating various options it had determined requesting bondholders to amend the terms of the bonds was the most “expedient and efficient path” to maintain value and protect itself and its stakeholders.

If the amendments are approved, Bombardier will make a consent payment of $1.25 per $1,000 principal amount for applicable series of notes, and C$1.25 per C$1,000 principal of Canadian dollar-denominated 7.35% debentures due 2026, the statement said.

Bombardier also flagged early first-quarter revenue that would beat analysts’ estimates, as rising vaccinations encourage wealthy travelers to return to flying.

Bombardier reports earnings on Thursday.

The jet maker said it expects first-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) from continuing operations of $123 million, above analysts’ average estimate of $89 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company expects business jet revenue to rise by 18% to $1.3 billion in the first quarter, from a year ago, beating Wall Street’s estimate of $1.18 billion.

Bombardier stock closed up 3.3%.

While deliveries are roughly the same, Bombardier’s product composition is shifting toward its flagship Global 7500 jets, a revenue driver.

Bombardier said it remains on track to deliver between 110-120 business aircraft in 2021. The company’s full-year deliveries fell 20% to 114 jets in 2020.

 

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Karishma Singh)

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