Researchers say a longer follow-up is required to understand the effect of one shot to inform second dose delay policy.
A new study on healthcare workers in Israel has found that one shot of a two-dose vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech is 85 percent effective, heightening the debate over the possibility of spacing out doses.
The Lancet medical journal published on Thursday the results of the study based on more than 9,000 health care workers from the Sheba Medical Center, an Israeli research hospital, showing a drop by 85 percent of staff presenting COVID-19 symptoms after a period of 15 to 28 days after the first dose.
The overall reduction of infections, including asymptomatic cases detected by testing, was 75 percent.
The reductions of infections “provide support of delaying the second dose in countries facing vaccine shortages and scarce resources, so as to allow higher population coverage with a single dose,” read the report.
However, it added that a longer follow-up is required to assess the long-term effect of a single shot to “inform a second dose delay policy”.
Sheba epidemiologist Gili Regev-Yochay cautioned that the cohort studied at the hospital was “mostly young and healthy”.
Unlike Pfizer-BioNTech’s own clinical trial, “we don’t have many (staff) here aged over 65,” she told reporters. But she also noted that the Sheba study took place during a surge in COVID-19 infections in Israel, which flooded hospitals with new cases.
Pfizer declined to comment on the data, saying in a statement it was doing its own analysis of “the vaccine’s real-world effectiveness in several locations worldwide, including Israel”.
Pfizer said it hopes to use Israeli data to look at the potential of the vaccine to protect against COVID-19 arising from emerging variants. Israel has become a real-world test laboratory since it has signed an agreement with Pfizer, promising to share vast troves of medical data with the international drug giant in exchange for the continued flow of its vaccine.
The Israeli study comes a day after Canadian researchers suggested that the second Pfizer-BioNTech dose be delayed given the high level of protection from the first shot in order to increase the number of people getting vaccinated.
Their research showed efficacy of 92.6 percent after the first dose, based on an analysis of the documents submitted by the drugmaker from its late-stage human trials to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December.
The results from the Sheba Medical Center add to another laboratory study in Israel at the Rambam Health Care Campus where 91 percent of 1,800 health workers reportedly developed antibodies 21 days after receiving the first dose and before getting the second one.
The FDA said in December data from those trials showed that the vaccine began conferring some protection to recipients before they received the second shot, but more data would be needed to assess the potential of a single-dose shot.
Pfizer has said alternative dosing regimens of the vaccine have not been evaluated yet and that the decision resided with health authorities.
Inflation debate: Famous 'Big Short' investor signals risk as Fed's Powell downplays concerns – Kitco NEWS
(Kitco News) As the Federal Reserve once again downplays inflation concerns, some major market players, including “Big Short” investor Michael Burry, are signaling just the opposite.
During his two-day testimony before Congress, Powell reiterated that central banks have learned how to keep inflation under control and that high inflation is “not a problem for this time.”
Powell pointed out that even though inflation may be volatile over the next few months, the effects won’t be “large or persistent.”
He added that inflation has been low for the last 25 years, and that it was not about to change. “We don’t see how a burst of fiscal support changes those inflation dynamics,” Powell said.
— Kitco NEWS (@KitcoNewsNOW) February 23, 2021
Powell even said that central banks have to unlearn the relationship with the money supply, noting that the growth of M2 doesn’t have a relationship with economic growth anymore.
When asked to elaborate on some leading inflation indicators, Powell noted that inflation dynamics evolve over time and don’t change overnight.
“Inflation is something I remember well. We’ve been in a low inflationary mode. And we have guidance telling markets when tapering will begin or when we will start raising rates,” he said.
Powell added that supply chain issues matter for inflation only when they are permanently challenged. “If there is a shortage of cars, prices will go up, but that doesn’t cause inflation. Inflation is something that happens year on year,” Powell said on Wednesday.
‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry
These comments are in contrast to the alarm being sounded on Wall Street. The latest heavyweight to join the conversation was Michael Burry — the investor who was profiled in Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short” book about the mortgage crisis and who now runs Scion Asset Management.
Burry sent out a warning into the Twitterverse, warning investors to brace for inflation, as he pointed to a boom in demand due to the fiscal stimulus being injected into the economy.
“The U.S. government is inviting inflation with its MMT-tinged policies. Brisk Debt/GDP, M2 increases while retail sales, PMI stage V recovery. Trillions more stimulus & re-opening to boost demand as employee and supply chain costs skyrocket,” Burry tweeted on Saturday.
Burry is known for spotting the mortgage crisis ahead of time and making a fortune against the U.S. housing bubble. He became famous after his portrayal in the book and movie “The Big Short.” In 2019, Burry has invested in GameStop, well before the retail frenzy took over the stock, making millions.
The Scion Asset Management chief also quoted the book by Jens O. Parsson titled “Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations.”
“Germany [the US] started by not paying adequately for its war [on COVID and the GFC fallout] out of the sacrifices of its people – taxes – but covered its deficits with war loans [Treasuries] and issues of new paper Reichsmarks [dollars]. ‘#doomedtorepeat,” Burry tweeted.
“#History is not useless,” said another tweet. “This text explores the 1970s American #inflation, which is more relevant today than one might think.”
Burry went on to say that in an inflationary crisis, the government would try to crush assets like gold and bitcoin.
“Prepare for inflation. Re-opening & stimulus are on the way. Pre-Covid it took $3 debt to create $1 GDP, and it is worse now. In an inflationary crisis, governments will move to squash competitors in the currency arena. BTC. Gold.”
Burry is short bitcoin at the moment, tweeting that the “long-term future is tenuous for decentralized crypto in a world of legally violent, heartless centralized governments with lifeblood interests in monopolies on currencies.”
Since then, Burry, under the hashtag @michaeljburry, has deleted all of his tweets, emptying his account completely.
Before 2021 even started, many analysts were worried about the threat of inflation. Here’s what some major players have said recently.
Signs of inflation are already here, JPMorgan said in a note last week, adding that higher prices will trigger a new commodity supercycle.
“The tide on yields and inflation is turning,” JPMorgan said. “We believe that the new commodity upswing, and in particular oil up cycle, has started.”
Goldman Sachs noted that inflation fears are driving some parts of the market but warned that the likely inflationary surge this year will be due to the base effects when weaker inflationary months are phased out from annual measures.
“Many investors believe the spending boost will lead to higher inflation and interest rates, which would reduce the value of equity duration and increase the importance of near-term growth,” said Goldman Sachs strategists. “Historically, inflation has boosted nominal S&P 500 revenues, but weighed on profit margins as companies struggled to lift prices at the same pace as rising input costs.”
As the economy improves, inflation fears are growing, according to Citigroup.
“Lead indicators suggest that an inflation scare may be in the making,” Citigroup Inc.’s chief U.S. equity strategist Tobias Levkovich. “Companies with price flexibility should come out as winners.”
Inflation means that we don’t “have the wind at our back anymore.”
“We’ve had a long 35 to 40 years of rate decline that has been a big support behind fixed-income investing, a big support behind equity multiples expanding, and so for those of us that live and breathe investing, it’s been a wind at our back for a long time,” said Blackstoneglobal head of credit Dwight Scott. “I don’t think we have the wind at our back anymore, but we don’t have the wind in our face yet. This is what the conversation on inflation is really about.”
Inflation is a big risk to the markets, according to Vanguard.
“The big risk in the market really is inflation, whether it is transitory or whether it is something more deep rooted,” said Vanguard head of investment-grade credit Arvind Narayanan. “There’s just a tremendous amount of stimulus in the marketplace, both monetary and fiscal, that favor economic growth.”
Fed chief downplays inflation concerns connected with stimulus – CNN
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- Fed chief downplays inflation concerns connected with stimulus CNN
- LIVE: Fed Chair Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on monetary policy Yahoo Finance
- Stocks Edge Higher as Powell Talks Up Stimulus: Markets Wrap Yahoo Canada Finance
- Fed Chairman Powell Helps the Stock Market But Won’t Discuss Deficit Bloomberg
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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
COVID-19 vaccine makers told the United States Congress on Tuesday to expect a big jump in the delivery of doses over the coming month, and the companies insist they will be able to provide enough for most Americans to get inoculated by summer.
By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up sharply from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.
“We do believe we’re on track,” Moderna president Stephen Hoge said, outlining ways the company has ramped up production. “We think we’re at a very good spot.”
That’s not counting a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, that’s expected to get a green light from regulators soon. The Biden administration said Tuesday that it expects about two million doses of that vaccine to be shipped in the first week, but the company told lawmakers it should provide enough of the single-dose option for 20 million people by the end of March.
Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.
Two other manufacturers, Novavax and AstraZeneca, have vaccines in the pipeline and anticipate eventually adding to those totals.
Asked pointedly if they face shortages of raw materials, equipment or funding that would throw off those schedules, all of the manufacturers expressed confidence that they had enough supplies and had already addressed some of the early bottlenecks in production.
“At this point I can confirm we are not seeing any shortages of raw materials,” said Pfizer’s John Young.
U.S. vaccination campaign ramping up
The hearing by a House subcommittee came as U.S. vaccinations continue to accelerate after a sluggish start and recent disruptions caused by winter weather. More than 44 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and about 1.4 million per day got a first or second dose over the past seven days, according to the CDC.
But state health officials say demand for inoculations still vastly outstrips the limited weekly shipments provided by the federal government.
“The most pressing challenge now is the lack of supply of vaccine doses,” Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, said as she opened the hearing. “Some of the companies here today are still short of the number of doses they promised to initially deliver when they last testified before this subcommittee in July.”
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Both Pfizer and Moderna failed to meet delivery quotas for the initial doses of their vaccines late last year. That’s prompted Congress to scrutinize the companies’ plans for vaccine development and delivery, which they noted benefited from $16 billion in federal funding.
“A significant amount of American tax dollars were invested to be able to produce the vaccine immediately upon approval,” said Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, who questioned executives on why they were still unable to meet demand for the vaccines.
Nearly 14 per cent of Americans have received at least an initial dose of the two-shot regimen vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed focused most of its efforts on racing vaccines through research, development and manufacturing. But little planning or funding went to co-ordinating vaccination campaigns at the state and local levels. That effort is now picking up speed with plans for mass vaccination sites and an increasing supply distributed to chain pharmacies.
Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, questioned J&J vice-president Richard Nettles on why the company has fallen behind on the schedule outlined in its federal contract, which included delivering 12 million doses by late February.
Nettles said only that the company has faced “significant challenges” due to its “highly complex” manufacturing process. But he noted the company is partnering with drugmaker Sanofi to further expand production.
“This has been an unprecedented effort to scale up manufacturing for a vaccine against a disease that didn’t even exist more than a year ago,” Nettles told lawmakers.
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 852,276 cases of COVID-19, with 30,679 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,762.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The province, which reported 372 active cases, had five COVID-19 patients in hospital.
In Quebec, health officials reported 739 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 additional deaths linked to the pandemic. Hospitalizations stood at 680, with 120 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
Ontario reported 975 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 more deaths from the virus. Hospitalizations stood at 718, with 283 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and no additional deaths. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 126 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. Alberta, meanwhile, reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths.
In British Columbia, health officials reported 559 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death on Tuesday. The province is expected to start informing people over age 80 about their vaccinations for COVID-19 starting next week as the province prepares to open mass clinics while doing more in-depth testing for variants.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. is in a phase of “vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” but an age-based immunization plan will remain in place despite some calls to prioritize essential workers.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or Yukon. Health officials in the Northwest Territories reported two more cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying one was an “out-of-territory worker related to the Gahcho Kué Mine outbreak” and the other was an “out-of-territory seasonal worker in Yellowknife.”
Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
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As of early Wednesday morning, more than 112.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 63.3 million cases listed as recovered on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at well over 2.4 million.
In the Americas, the presidents of Mexico and Argentina pressed the United Nations and the world’s richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to vaccines.
Brazil has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine, though a dispute over a supply deal means it has none to start an immunization program with.
Colombia has approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
In Africa, South Africa’s government advisers had organized vaccines into three groups and those considered for “immediate use” were the Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna shots.
Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccines, delivered by UNICEF, arrived at Accra’s international airport early Wednesday and are part of the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines being sent by COVAX, an international co-operative program formed to make sure low- and middle-income countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea’s top infectious disease experts warned that vaccines will not bring the disease to a quick end and called for continued vigilance in physical distancing and mask wearing as the country prepares to give its first shots on Friday.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said Wednesday it would take a “considerably long time” before the mass vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.
The country aims to vaccinate more than 70 per cent of the population by November. But a safe return to a life without masks is highly unlikely this year, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, said Choi Won Suk, an infectious disease professor at the Korea University Ansan Hospital.
“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.
Jeong spoke as South Korea began transporting the first vaccines rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience is manufacturing the shots developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
The country will kick off the vaccination on Friday starting with residents and employees at long-term care facilities.
Separately, some 55,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals treating COVID-19 patients will begin receiving the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.
Thailand, meanwhile, received its first batch of vaccines, with inoculations set to begin in a few days.
— India will start inoculating people above 60, and those with underlying health problems above age 45 in the second phase of its massive vaccination drive from March 1.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar says the vaccinations will be done in 10,000 public and 20,000 private hospitals. Javadekar told reporters on Wednesday that vaccine shots in government hospitals will be free, but did not say how much it will cost in private hospitals.
India started inoculating health workers beginning on Jan. 16. The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. The government has authorized emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and a homegrown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech.
Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in some parts of India after months of a steady nationwide decline. In many cities, markets are bustling, roads are crowded and restaurants are nearly full. The country is reporting about 11,000 to 13,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000. in September.
In the Middle East, the World Bank threatened to suspend its multimillion-dollar financing for Lebanon’s vaccinations over politicians jumping the line.
In Europe, the Czech prime minister said the pandemic situation in his country, one of the hardest-hit in the European Union, is “extremely serious” and his government will have to impose more restrictions to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the measures are needed to prevent “a total catastrophe” in hospitals that have been coming close to their limits.
The government will decide those measures later Wednesday. Babis says they will be similar to those in place last spring, when the borders and schools were completely closed. He also mentioned possible restrictions to limit the movement of people.
Sweden is preparing new measures to try to curb a resurgence in cases.
European Union government leaders will agree to maintain curbs on non-essential travel within the EU despite the bloc’s executive asking six countries to ease border restrictions.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9 a.m. ET
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