Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, March 23, 2022 8:30AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 23, 2022 2:39PM EDT
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine works in babies, toddlers and preschoolers, the company announced Wednesday – a development that could pave the way for the littlest kids to be vaccinated by summer if regulators agree.
Moderna said that in the coming weeks it would ask regulators in the U.S. and Europe to authorize two small-dose shots for youngsters under 6. The company also is seeking to have larger doses cleared for older children and teens in the U.S.
The announcement is positive news for parents who have anxiously awaited protection for younger tots and been continuously disappointed by setbacks and confusion over which shots might work and when. The nation’s 18 million children under 5 are the only age group not yet eligible for vaccination.
Moderna says early study results show tots develop high levels of virus-fighting antibodies from shots containing a quarter of the dose given to adults. Once Moderna submits its full data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have to determine if that important marker means the youngsters are as protected against severe illness as adults.
“The vaccine provides the same level of protection against COVID in young kids as it does in adults. We think that’s good news,” Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, told The Associated Press.
But that key antibody finding isn’t the whole story. COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective against the super-contagious omicron mutant – in people of any age – and Moderna’s study found the same trend. There were no severe illnesses during the trial but the vaccine was only about 44% effective at preventing milder infections in babies up to age 2, and nearly 38% effective in the preschoolers.
“Not a home run” but the shots still could be helpful for the youngest children, said Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, a former FDA vaccine chief. Goodman said the high antibody levels seen in the study “should translate into higher efficacy against severe infections.”
Some parents say even a little protection would be better than leaving their youngest children unvaccinated.
“I don’t care if it’s even 15 or 20%,” said Lauren Felitti of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Her 4-year-old son Aiden, who’s at extra risk because of a heart condition, was hospitalized for eight days with COVID-19 and she’s anxious to vaccinate him to lessen the chance of a reinfection.
“It was very scary,” Felitti said. “If there’s a chance that I’m able to keep him protected, even if it’s a small chance, then I’m all for it.”
Competitor Pfizer currently offers kid-size doses for school-age children and full-strength shots for those 12 and older. And the company is testing even smaller doses for children under 5 but had to add a third shot to its study when two didn’t prove strong enough. Those results are expected by early April.
If the FDA eventually authorizes vaccinations for little kids from either company, there still would be another hurdle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends who should get them – and Goodman said there may be debate about shots for higher-risk children or everyone under 5.
Vaccinating the littlest “has been somewhat of a moving target over the last couple of months,” Dr. Bill Muller of Northwestern University, who is helping study Moderna’s pediatric doses, said in an interview before the company released its findings. “There’s still, I think, a lingering urgency to try to get that done as soon as possible.”
While COVID-19 generally isn’t as dangerous to youngsters as to adults, some do become severely ill. The CDC says about 400 children younger than 5 have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic’s start. The omicron variant hit children especially hard, with those under 5 hospitalized at higher rates than at the peak of the previous delta surge.
The younger the child, the smaller the dose being tested. Moderna enrolled about 6,900 kids under 6 – including babies as young as 6 months – in a study of the 25-microgram doses.
While the study wasn’t large enough to detect very rare side effects, Moderna said the small doses were safe and that mild fevers, like those associated with other common pediatric vaccines, were the main reaction.
Hudson Diener, 3, only briefly cried when getting test doses at Stony Brook Medicine in Commack, New York. His parents welcomed the study results and hope to learn that Hudson received the vaccine and not dummy shots.
“We are really hoping to get the answer we’re looking for soon so we can take a deep breath,” said Hudson’s mom, Ilana Diener. Wednesday’s news should “hopefully be a step closer for his age group to be eligible for the vaccine very soon.”
Boosters have proved crucial for adults to fight omicron and Moderna currently is testing those doses for children as well – either a third shot of the original vaccine or an extra dose that combines protection against the original virus and the omicron variant.
Parents may find it confusing that Moderna is seeking to vaccinate the youngest children before it’s cleared to vaccinate teens. While other countries already have allowed Moderna’s shots to be used in children as young as 6, the U.S. has limited its vaccine to adults.
The FDA hasn’t ruled on Moderna’s earlier request to expand its shots to 12- to 17-year-olds because of concern about a very rare side effect. Heart inflammation sometimes occurs in teens and young adults, mostly males, after receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Moderna is getting extra scrutiny because its shots are a far higher dose than Pfizer’s.
The company said Wednesday that, armed with additional evidence, it is updating its FDA application for teen shots and requesting a green light for 6- to 11-year-olds, too. Hoge said he’s optimistic the company will be able to offer its vaccine “across all age groups in the United States by the summer.”
Moderna says its original adult dose – two 100-microgram shots – is safe and effective in 12- to 17-year-olds. For elementary school-age kids, it’s using half the adult dose.
About 1.5 million adolescents have used the Moderna vaccine in other countries, “and so far we’ve seen very reassuring safety from that experience,” Hoge said.
The heart risk also seems linked to puberty, and regulators in Canada, Europe and elsewhere recently expanded Moderna vaccinations to kids as young as 6.
“That concern has not been seen in the younger children,” said Northwestern’s Muller.
AP video journalist Emma H. Tobin in New York City and reporter Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.
Big banks raise prime lending rates to 6.7% after Bank of Canada hike
The central bank’s target for the overnight rate now sits at 4.5 per cent following a quarter-point hike on Wednesday.
The central bank’s policy rate sets borrowing rates for other lending institutions, which feeds into terms for Canadian consumer loans like mortgages.
After Wednesday’s decision, TD Bank, Scotiabank, BMO, RBC, CIBC and National Bank all raised their prime lending rate by 25 basis points to 6.7 per cent.
This marks the highest point for the prime lending rate in Canada since 2001, according to data from RateSpy.com.
Believing inflation is set to “decline significantly,” the Bank of Canada signalled Wednesday that it was ready for a pause after 425 basis points of hikes to its policy rate.
Home Depot investigation: Data shared without consent
Retailer Home Depot shared details from electronic receipts with Meta, which operates the Facebook social media platform, without the knowledge or consent of customers, the federal privacy watchdog has found.
In a report released Thursday, privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne said the data included encoded email addresses and in-store purchase information.
The commissioner’s investigation discovered that the information sent to Meta was used to see whether a customer had a Facebook account.
If they did have an account, Meta compared what the customer bought at Home Depot to advertisements sent over the platform to measure and report on the effectiveness of the ads.
Meta was also able to use the customer information for its own business purposes, including user profiling and targeted advertising, unrelated to Home Depot, the commissioner found.
It is unlikely that Home Depot customers would have expected their personal information to be shared with a social media platform simply because they opted for an electronic receipt, Dufresne said in a statement.
He reminded companies that they must obtain valid consent at the point of sale to engage in this type of activity.
“As businesses increasingly look to deliver services electronically, they must carefully consider any consequential uses of personal information, which may require additional consent.”
Home Depot told the privacy commissioner it relied on implied consent and that its privacy statement, available through its website and in print upon request at retail outlets, adequately explained the company’s use of information. The retailer also cited Facebook’s privacy statement.
The commissioner rejected Home Depot’s argument, saying the privacy statements were not readily available to customers at the checkout counter, adding shoppers would have no reason to seek them out.
“The explanations provided in its policies were ultimately insufficient to support meaningful consent,” Dufresne said.
He recommended that Home Depot stop disclosing the personal information of customers who request an electronic receipt to Meta until it is able to put in place measures to ensure valid consent.
Home Depot fully co-operated with the investigation, agreed to implement the recommendations and stopped sharing customer information with Meta in October, the commissioner said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.
Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.
Rent increased more than 18% last year for new tenants, new numbers show – CBC News
A surge in demand pushed Canada’s rental market to its tightest level in two decades last year, with the vacancy rate in purpose-built apartments dipping below two per cent and rent for new tenants going up by 18 per cent.
Those were some of the main takeaways from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s annual report on the state of Canada’s rental market.
The figures cited above were for purpose-built rental apartments, so they don’t include what’s happening in condos, or in apartments built out of occupied family homes.
For purpose-built rentals, the national vacancy rate fell to 1.9 per cent last year, its lowest level since 2001.
Booming demand for apartments pushed up the price to get one, too, with the average rent hitting $1,258 a month. That was up by 5.6 per cent from the previous year’s level, and roughly twice the annual average seen for the past 30 years.
But rent didn’t go up at the same pace for every unit.
Apartments where there was a change in tenants saw the rent go up by 18.9 per cent. Those where there was no change in tenancy saw rents go up by only 2.9 per cent, on average. “This reflects the fact that, once a tenant vacates a unit, landlords are generally free to increase asking rents to current market levels,” the CMHC said.
That gap was even more stark in two of Canada’s biggest cities, Toronto and Vancouver, where average rents for a unit that saw a tenant change went up by 29 and 24 per cent, respectively.
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Association, has spent more than a decade as a watchdog for the rental market in Toronto. He says the situation is as dire as he’s ever seen, with a surge in so-called “renovictions,” where landlords are eager to take advantage of higher market rents by evicting tenants and raising rents to someone new
“There’s an incentive for them to try to illegally evict people and raise the rent,” he told CBC News in an interview. He says he hears stories every day of people staying in unsuitable housing situations because of desperation. “They’re afraid that if they get kicked out of their current place for a new one, rent’s going to be like $1,000 higher.”
Things aren’t much better across the country in Vancouver, either. The vacancy rate fell to just 0.9 per cent, with the average price for a two-bedroom hitting $2,002 a month. That’s up by 5.7 per cent from last year, but it’s up by 24 per cent among units that have seen a tenancy change.
Some of those in the lower mainland’s rental market fear the system is irreparably broken.
Vinny Cid was working and living in Victoria, but when his job allowed him to work remotely in 2021, he made the decision to move home with his parents.
He, his sibling and his two parents share a rental home in Richmond, B.C. for $2,800 a month which suits their needs, but he says they are only able to get that because his parents have lived in the unit since 2016.
“The rental situation has devolved quickly,” he told CBC News in an interview Thursday. “I check rental listings almost daily, and something similar today would cost $4,000 or more.”
“It’s depressing to see how prices have spiraled out of control very quickly,” he said.
While his situation works for him for now, should his employment or needs change, he suspects he would have to leave the province, or even the country. And he says he worries for those who don’t have the income and family support he has.
“Everybody is being told to either improvise or get pushed out,” he said. “In terms of outlook, it doesn’t look good.”
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