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Russia approves second virus vaccine after early trials

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MOSCOW —
Russian authorities have given regulatory approval to a second coronavirus vaccine after early-stage studies, two months after a similar move prompted widespread criticism from scientists both at home and abroad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement on Wednesday, during a televised meeting with government officials.

“We now need to increase production of the first vaccine and the second vaccine,” Putin said, adding that the priority was to supply the Russian market with the vaccines.

The peptide-based, two-shot vaccine, EpiVacCorona, was developed by the Vector Institute in Siberia and tested among 100 volunteers in early-stage, placebo-controlled human trials, which lasted more than two months and were completed two weeks ago. The volunteers were between 18 and 60 years old.

The scientists have yet to publish the results of the study. In comments to the media, scientists developing the vaccine said that it produced enough antibodies to protect the person who had it from the virus and that the immunity it creates could last for up to six months.

An advanced study involving tens of thousands of volunteers that is necessary to establish safety and effectiveness of the vaccine was scheduled to start in November or December.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who said earlier this week she took part in the early trials as a volunteer, said Wednesday that 40,000 people will take part in the advance studies of EpiVacCorona. It remained unclear whether the vaccine would be offered for a wider use while the trials are still ongoing.

Russia’s first vaccine, Sputnik V, was developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute and approved by the government on Aug. 11, after early trials among 76 volunteers were completed. Just like on Wednesday, Putin personally broke the news on national television and said one of his daughters had already been vaccinated, experienced slight side effects and developed antibodies.

As Russia boasted about being the first in the world to approve a vaccine, experts said that in line with established scientific protocol, much broader studies among tens of thousands of people were needed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine before it is given widely.

Russian health authorities announced advanced trials of Sputnik V among 40,000 volunteers two weeks after it received government approval. Officials also said that vaccination of risk groups, such as doctors and teachers, will be carried out in parallel to the studies.

Golikova said Wednesday that 13,000 volunteers have so far enrolled in the studies of the Sputnik V vaccine.

The international criticism didn’t stop Russia from promoting Sputnik V abroad. Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the effort, said last month that the fund already has agreements with Mexico, India and Brazil, which ordered a total of 200 million doses, and dozens of other countries are interested in getting the vaccine.

Speaking at this year’s UN General Assembly, Putin offered to provide the Sputnik-V vaccine to UN staff for free. He described the offer as a response to popular demand: “Some colleagues from the UN have asked about this, and we will not remain indifferent to them.”

Russia has the world’s fourth largest coronavirus caseload with over 1.3 million infections. It has also reported over 23,000 deaths.

The outbreak in the country appeared to slow down in the summer, but the number of new infections started to grow rapidly last month. Over the past 11 days, Russian health officials have been reporting over 10,000 new cases every day. They registered a record number of 14,231 new cases on Wednesday.

Source:- CTV News

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Cathay Pacific to cut 5,900 jobs, end Cathay Dragon brand due to pandemic – Reuters

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost HK$2.2 billion ($283.9 million).

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

“The actions we have announced today, however unpalatable, are absolutely necessary to bring cash burn down to more sustainable levels,” Cathay Chairman Patrick Healy told reporters.

Cathay shares jumped almost 7% during early trading and closed 2.3% higher, with broker Jefferies saying the announcement removed a key overhang on the stock.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd have already announced similarly large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.

Cathay, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review.

The airline said it was bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by HK$500 million a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.

“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.

Cathay will postpone the delivery of its 21 Boeing Co 777-9 jets on order beyond 2025, Healy said.

EXIT THE DRAGON

The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand, though in this case 2,500 Cathay Dragon pilots and cabin crew will lose their jobs.

Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Plans to merge Cathay Dragon into Cathay’s main brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told Reuters in May.

Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes in Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

Healy said there would be “substantial savings” from combining Cathay Dragon’s narrowbody fleet with Cathay Pacific’s longhaul fleet and focusing on marketing of a single premium brand.

In the short-term, the closure of the Cathay Dragon brand will result in it being unable to carry cargo to Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka, and it will only send dedicated freighters to Xiamen, Chengdu and Hanoi, it told cargo customers in a memo, indicating the routes were cut for now.

Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.

In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1% compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6%.

Cathay shares have fallen 41% since the start of January.

The airline’s share register is dominated by Swire Pacific Ltd, Air China Ltd, Qatar Airways and the Hong Kong government, with only a 12% free float.

Reporting by Jamie Freed; Additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates and Louise Heavens

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways slashes jobs, kills Dragon – Aljazeera.com

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost 2.2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($283.9m), it told the stock exchange.

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions or 24 percent of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang said in a statement.

“The future remains highly uncertain and it is clear that recovery is slow,” Cathay said in Wednesday’s statement. “The management team has concluded that the most optimistic scenario it can responsibly adopt is one in which, for the year 2021, the company will be operating at well under 50 percent of the passenger capacity it operated in 2019.”

Cathay’s announcement came a day after Hong Kong said its unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent for the July-September period, its highest level in almost 16 years, from 6.1 percent from June to August.

Devastating fallout

The coronavirus has had a devastating effect on aviation. As many as 46 million jobs are at risk, and airlines alone face about $420bn in lost revenue this year.

Singapore Airlines Ltd and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd have also announced large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.

Cathay was struggling with losses before the pandemic as anti-government protests in Hong Kong led to a sharp reduction in traffic last year and a change in management. The pandemic pushed the carrier into survival mode, forcing it to cut capacity and offer its staff voluntary no-pay leave.

The airline, which has stored about 40 percent of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

Cathay Pacific has stored about 40 percent of its aircraft outside Hong Kong [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

After receiving a $5bn rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in significant job losses.

The airline said it was bleeding between 1.5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($193.6m) to 2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($258m) of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by 500 million Hong Kong dollars ($64m) a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.

BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected a more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.

“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.

The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand.

Dragon’s end

Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong that deterred mainland travellers.

Low-cost regional carrier Cathay Dragon will cease operating immediately under Cathay Pacific’s cost-cutting plan [File: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg]

Plans to end the brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told the Reuters news agency in May.

Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes into Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.

“Now that Cathay has decided on staff count and the elimination of the Dragon brand it knows the size of the airline and the structure going forward and can complete its new fleet and network plan,” said Brendan Sobie, an independent aviation analyst.

Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.

In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1 percent compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6 percent.

Singapore and Hong Kong said on October 15 they planned to open their borders to one another for the first time in almost seven months, with quarantine replaced by coronavirus testing. The travel bubble could start with one flight per day according to Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau.

Cathay shares have fallen 43 percent since the start of January. In July, it reached an agreement with Airbus SE to delay the delivery of A350s and A321neos and said it was in advanced talks with Boeing Co about deferring its 777-9 orders.

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Scientists raise alarm over signs of vaccine 'hesitancy' – CTV News

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PARIS —
Scientists called for urgent action to improve public trust in immunization as research suggested sizeable minorities in some nations may be reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

With few effective treatments and no cure for the coronavirus, companies and governments are racing to develop vaccines in a bid to arrest the pandemic.

But there is increasing concern that “vaccine hesitancy” is also on the rise, with misinformation and mistrust colouring people’s acceptance of scientific advances.

In a new study published Tuesday in Nature Medicine, researchers in Spain, the U.S. and Britain surveyed 13,400 in 19 countries hit hard by COVID-19 and found that while 72 per cent said they would be immunized, 14 per cent would refuse and another 14 per cent would hesitate.

When extrapolated across whole populations this could amount to tens of millions of people who may avoid vaccination, the authors said.

“These findings should be a call to action for the international health community,” said co-author Heidi Larson, who runs the Vaccine Confidence Project at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“If we do not start building vaccine literacy and restoring public trust in science today, we cannot hope to contain this pandemic.”

Researchers found that people who had least faith in their governments were less likely to accept a vaccine — and even those who had been ill with the virus were not more likely to respond positively.

While in China 88 per cent of respondents said they would take “a proven, safe and effective vaccine”, the highest of all the countries surveyed, the proportion dipped to 75 per cent in the U.S. and was as low as 55 per cent in Russia.

“We found that the problem of vaccine hesitancy is strongly related with a lack of trust in government,” said study coordinator Jeffrey Lazarus, of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

When asked if they would accept an approved, safe vaccine recommended by their employer, only 32 per cent of respondents completely agreed.

Acceptance rates again varied widely by country, with China again having the most clearly positive responses (84 per cent either completely or somewhat agreed) and Russia with the least (27 per cent).

People were less likely to accept a vaccine if it was mandated by their employer, the authors said.

The study, released at the Union World Conference on Lung Health, found greater acceptance of vaccines among people earning more than US$32 a day.

They also found older people were more likely to accept a vaccine than those under 22.

TRUST BUILDING

In a new initiative launched Tuesday and supported by the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, scientists involved in vaccine development will appear in a series of videos on social media to help raise public confidence in their work.

The researchers and clinicians in the U.K., U.S., South Africa, India and Brazil will be posting under the hashtag #TeamHalo — a reference to the circle of global scientific endeavour — on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.

“I’m used to spending time pipetting samples and analysing data,” said Anna Blakney, a participating bioengineer who is part of the vaccine development team at Imperial College in London.

“TikTok is a new frontier for me but I’m enthusiastic about demystifying our work and making it accessible to the world.”

Earlier this month a study in the journal Royal Society Open Science found up to a third of people in some countries may believe coronavirus misinformation and in turn be less open to immunization.

And recent research from Cornell University found that U.S. President Donald Trump was the world’s biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation, because of his promotion of what the researchers termed “miracle cures”.

Meanwhile, the speed of development has caused concerns in some countries, with Russia’s announcement in August that it would begin roll-out of the Sputnik V vaccine before crucial phase 3 trials criticized as premature. 

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