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Muslims worry whether Covid-19 vaccines are halal as they may contain pork products – OpIndia

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There are concerns among Muslim countries around the world regarding Coronavirus vaccines as pork-derived gelatin is widely used as a stabilizer in vaccines to ensure that they remain safe and effective during storage and transport, Associated Press has reported.

Spokespersons for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have said that pork products are not an ingredient of their Coronavirus vaccines. But circumstances are such, as a consequence of million dollar pre-existing deals and limited supply, that certain Muslim countries such as Indonesia will receive vaccines that are not yet certified to be gelatin free.

Aversion towards vaccines by the Muslim community due to their being ‘haram’ or containing pork products is not a new phenomenon. In 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the highest clerical body in the country that issues halal certificates, declared that measles and rubella vaccines were “haram” because of the pork-derived gelatin.

The result? “Measles cases subsequently spiked, giving Indonesia the third-highest rate of measles in the world,” said Rachel Howard of Research Partnership. “Public communication regarding the halal status, price, quality and distribution must be well-prepared,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo had said in October.

Sinovac Biotech, one of the Chinese manufacturers of the Coronavirus vaccines, and other Chinese companies Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics refused to respond to AP’s queries about the ingredients of their vaccines. They already secured deals worth millions with Muslim countries around the world. Pakistan is conducting clinical trials of the CanSino Biologics vaccine, the trials are in late stage.

But there is still debate among Islamic scholars regarding whether a vaccine containing a pork-derived product could be halal after all. “There’s a difference of opinion amongst Islamic scholars as to whether you take something like pork gelatin and make it undergo a rigorous chemical transformation,” Dr. Salman Waqar, general secretary at the British Islamic Medical Association, said. “Is that still considered to be religiously impure for you to take?”

As we had reported earlier, the highest Muslim body in Indonesia is expected to issue a halal certificate for the experimental Coronavirus vaccine developed by China based Sinovac Biotech. The Indonesian Ulema Council Halal Product Guarantee Agency and Institute for the Assessment of Food, Drugs and Cosmetics had completed its study and a fatwa and halal certification is expected soon, Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy had told the media.

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'We love this stock': GameStop effect spreads as calls for probe build – CTV News

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The battle between small-time traders and hedge funds that has shaken U.S. and European stock markets moved into Asia on Thursday, with surges in several Australian companies joining a list of social-media hyped moves that have cost financial institutions billions of dollars.

Heavily shorted Australian shares, including Webjet and Tassal Group, climbed more than 5% even as Sydney’s benchmark ASX 200 index fell 2%.

In New York, GameStop, the video game chain at the heart of the slugfest between Wall Street and Main Street, added another 37% in early trading after a two-week, 1,700% surge that has hammered fund investors who were betting the stock would fall.

Driven by an army of individual traders who work through online brokerage apps like Robinhood.com and discuss stocks on anonymous social media messaging boards, the dramatic jump in the stock price of companies including GameStop, BlackBerry Ltd and AMC Corp drew more calls for regulatory scrutiny from commentators.

“The frenzy raises all sorts of questions with respect to possible market manipulation,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at retail broker CMC Markets U.K.

“It is already illegal for institutions to coordinate in the manner currently being seen in moving prices on these stocks, raising questions about the legality of what is currently taking place right now on these forums.”

The short squeeze – where traders have to abandon loss-making “short” bets on a stock falling because it has instead risen – also fuelled a 2% slide in the benchmark S&P 500 on Wednesday as investors sold other assets to cover their losses.

Futures tracking the main New York index were down another 0.6% on Thursday.

Reddit discussion threads were again humming with chatter about the stocks on Thursday as membership of the trader-focused group WallStreetBets raced past 4 million.

In one discussion, thousands of participants responded “We love this stock” to a post that called for more buying of GameStop and cast retail traders as Iron Man against a hedge fund Thanos in a nod to the superhero movie “Avengers: Endgame.”

BlackBerry and Nokia, however, slipped more than 5% in premarket trading after recording hefty gains this week and derivatives positioning pointed to a greater rise in the number of orders betting GameStop would fall.

“The idea that this is about hedge fund short-sellers transferring funds to a mass of ordinary retail buyers is a compelling story,” said Paul Donovan, chief economist of UBS Global Wealth Management.

“But it is also a story that is unlikely to hold true beyond the brief period of the frenzy.”

GAME ON

The war began last week when famed short seller Andrew Left of Citron Capital bet against GameStop and was met with a barrage of retail traders betting the other way. He said on Wednesday he had abandoned the bet.

Regarded by market professionals as “dumb money,” the pack of traders, some of them former bankers working for themselves, have become an increasingly powerful force worth 20% of equity orders last year, data from Swiss bank UBS showed.

The only-way-is-up nature of stock markets over the past decade, fuelled by a constant flow of newly created money from major central banks, has also made it less risky to bet on shares rising.

The U.S. Federal Reserve kept those taps firmly open at its latest meeting on Wednesday.

This week’s turmoil caught the attention of the White House, with U.S. President Joe Biden’s economic team — including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on her first full day on the job on Wednesday — “monitoring the situation.”

Massachusetts state regulator William Galvin called on NYSE to suspend trading in GameStop for 30 days to allow a cooling-off period.

“The prospect of intervention here is clearly high, but this will just galvanize the (WallStreetBets) community as it just brings home the feeling of inequality in financial markets,” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“It’s fine to prop up zombie companies through Fed actions but if retail follows a path that greatly distorts asset prices by targeting short sellers, then this gets shut down.”

Reddit said on Wednesday that it had not been contacted by authorities over the surges.

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani, Nikhil Nainan and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and April Joyner in New York; and Thyagaraju Adinarayan in London Writing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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What’s behind the EU-AstraZeneca vaccine row? – Al Jazeera English

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The European Union and AstraZeneca are engaged in a bitter row over the United Kingdom-based pharmaceutical giant’s supply of coronavirus vaccines to the bloc.

The dispute began last week when AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, said it would cut supplies to the EU in the first quarter of this year, citing production issues.

Crisis talks between the pair on Wednesday failed to achieve a breakthrough, prompting fears the argument over how many doses the EU will receive could continue.

The EU contract with AstraZeneca is an advance purchase agreement for the supply of at least 300 million doses, delivered in stages, provided the vaccine is approved as safe and effective.

The dispute has raised concerns about the international competition for limited supplies of the shots, which are hoped to ease the COVID-19 pandemic.

What caused the EU and AstraZeneca row?

Last week, AstraZeneca, which partnered with the UK’s Oxford University to develop its vaccine, said it would cut supplies to the EU in the first quarter of this year, blaming production issues at European manufacturing plants.

An EU official said that meant the 27-member bloc would receive 60 percent fewer doses than initially agreed, down from 80 million to 31 million doses overall in the first three months of 2021.

The news came as a body blow to the EU, which has been slow in rolling out vaccines compared with some other regions and countries, especially the UK, a former member state.

The bloc has signed deals for six different vaccines, but so far its medicines regulators have only authorised the use of two – by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to greenlight the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.

What has each side said?

Following Wednesday’s talks, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said there was still a “continued lack of clarity” from AstraZeneca on the delivery schedule and called on the company to detail how it would supply the bloc with reserved vaccine doses.

“We will work with the company to find solutions and deliver vaccines rapidly for EU citizens,” she said in a post on Twitter.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said after the meeting that the company was committed to “coordination”.

But Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, rejected the EU’s assertion that the company was failing to honour its delivery commitments.

Soriot said vaccine delivery figures set out in AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU were just targets.

“Our contract is not a contractual commitment, it’s a best effort,’’ Soriot told Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday. “Basically, we said we’re going to try our best, but we can’t guarantee we’re going to succeed.”

Soriot also told reporters that vaccines meant for the EU were produced in four plants in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

But European Commission officials said on Wednesday that the bloc’s contract with AstraZeneca stipulated that the company had also committed to providing vaccines from two factories in the UK.

The EU’s contract with AstraZeneca is confidential and cannot be released without the agreement of both sides. The bloc has asked the company for permission to release the contract.

How will the argument be resolved?

As of yet, it is unclear how the dispute will be settled.

The EU’s Kyriakides said on Wednesday that AstraZeneca must “live up to its contractual, societal and moral obligations” and deliver the vaccine in the quantities, and by the deadlines, originally set out by their agreement.

Kyriakides added that the firm should divert stock from its UK facilities if it it is unable to meet commitments from factories in the EU.

But a senior UK government minister said on Thursday the country’s supply of vaccines from AstraZeneca must not be interrupted.

“It is the case that the supplies which have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue,” the Conservative Party’s Michael Gove told the BBC. “Absolutely, there will be no interruption to that.”

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Ontario extends 2nd dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 35 days due to delays – CityNews Toronto

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The province’s top doctor has once again revised the timing of when people can get the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a memo sent to hospital CEOs and Medical Officers of Health on Wednesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has recommended extending the dosing interval for the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to 35 days and no more than 42 days.

Previously, the province sent out guidance that the second shot be given anytime between 21 and 42 days after the first dose was administered.

The recommendation applies to everyone outside of long-term care settings, essential caregivers and staff, and First Nations elder care homes, where the second doses are set to be administered between 21 and 27 days later.

“We recognize that this allocation reduction will have significant impact on the current level of vaccine delivery across the province,” Williams said in the memo.

“The extended dosage interval is a direct response to the temporarily reduced vaccine availability from the federal government and uncertainty regarding the stability of supply in the near-term.”

Williams points out that there are no scheduled deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine this week and just over 26,000 doses expected the first week of February. The province says it has yet to receive information on how many doses are to be delivered for the weeks of Feb. 8 and 15th.

Pfizer has advised Canada, and other countries, that delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine would be impacted for several weeks due to work to expand its European manufacturing facility.

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