Daria Litvinova, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, November 11, 2020 4:16PM EST
MOSCOW – Developers of Sputnik V, Russia’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, announced Wednesday that early, interim data from a large trial suggests the shot appears to be 92% effective.
The statement, which did not include detailed information about the trial, comes just two days after a similar one from Pfizer Inc., but is based on far fewer virus cases. Some experts suggest the data may have been rushed out in an effort to keep up with the worldwide race for a successful coronavirus vaccine.
Russia touted Sputnik V, a two-shot vaccine, as the world’s first to receive a government go-ahead after it was approved in early August without completing advanced testing. The move drew considerable criticism from experts who said data from tens of thousands of people were needed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine before it is given widely.
Russian officials announced advanced studies among 40,000 volunteers two weeks after it received government approval. On Wednesday, Russia’s Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled the effort announced that an analysis of the early data of the study showed that the vaccine “had an efficacy rate of 92%.”
The interim analysis looked at 20 confirmed coronavirus infections registered so far among over 16,000 volunteers who received both of the two shots of either the vaccine or the placebo, the Fund’s statement said. More than 20,000 trial participants have so far received just one shot.
Some outside experts deemed the results of the interim analysis promising and consistent with what the studies of the Pfizer vaccine showed, but questioned the timing of its release.
“Whilst encouraging, I worry that these data have been rushed out on the back of the Pfizer/BioNtech announcement earlier in the week. The Sputnik data are based on only 20 cases of COVID-19 in the trial participants, compared to more than 90 cases in the earlier trial,” Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement.
Ravindra Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, also pointed at a small number of virus cases. “They’ve calculated a 92% protection rate, but among 20 infections. That’s fairly small numbers. So we want to see the whole results eventually,” Gupta told The Associated Press.
The early Russian data released Wednesday didn’t break down how many volunteers received the vaccine and how many got dummy shots, but the 92% effectiveness rate indicates that nearly all infections must have occurred among those who received the placebo.
It remained unclear from the statement how coronavirus was diagnosed among the participants of the trial and whether all of them, including those showing no symptoms, were tested for the virus.
The release of “the interim results of the post-registration clinical trials that convincingly demonstrate Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy gives way to mass vaccination in Russia against COVID-19 in the coming weeks,” Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Moscow-based Gamaleya Insitute that developed the vaccine, was quoted as saying in the statement.
The announcement comes just two days after Pfizer sparked worldwide optimism by reporting that an early peek at its vaccine data suggests it is 90% effective – though Pfizer also did not provide a detailed look at its data. The Direct Investment Fund has not immediately responded to a request for comment whether the analysis was planned in advance or inspired by the Pfizer statement.
Ilya Yasny, head of scientific research at the Russian investment fund Inbio Ventures, pointed out to the AP that the efficacy rates may change once all 40,000 volunteers are given the shots. “How the numbers will change once all 40,000 people are given shots is unclear,” Yasny said. “I would say it is premature to draw conclusions from the analysis.”
According to the statement, as many as 10,000 people from “high-risk groups,” such as medical workers, have already been vaccinated outside of the trial, despite multiple expert warnings against wider use until all the tests are completed.
At the same time surveys show that many Russians are skeptical about the shots. According to a late August poll by the Levada Center, Russia’s top independent pollster, 54% of Russians were not prepared to take the widely publicized shots.
But neither the international criticism, nor the domestic skepticism stopped Russia from promoting Sputnik V abroad. In Wednesday’s statement, Russia’s Direct Investment Fund said that it had requests for more than 1.2 billion doses of the jab from over 50 countries, and existing contracts with international partners “enable the production of 500 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine outside Russia annually.”
Russia currently has the fifth largest coronavirus caseload in the world, with a total of over 1.8 million confirmed cases. The country has been swept by a resurgence of the outbreak since September, with daily new infections spiking to around 20,000 this week. The government’s coronavirus task force has registered a total of more than 31,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Moderna chairman says Canada near front of line for 20M vaccine doses – 680 News
The chairman of American vaccine maker Moderna says Canada is near the front of the line to receive 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it pre-ordered.
Noubar Afeyan offered that assessment today in an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live.
Afeyan’s remarks come as the Trudeau government has come under fire this past week for its ability to deliver a timely vaccine to Canadians.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made.
Afeyan was asked whether the fact that Canada committed to pre-purchase its doses before other jurisdictions means it will get its supply first.
Afeyan confirmed that was the case.
“The people who are willing to move early on with even less proof of the efficacy have assured the amount of supply they were willing to sign up to,” he said.
“In the case of Canada, that number is about 20 million doses. But the Canadian government, like others, have also reserved the ability to increase that amount. And those discussions are ongoing,” he added.
Shares take a breather after stellar month, China data upbeat – reuters.com
SYDNEY (Reuters) – World shares paused to assess a record-busting month on Monday as the prospect of a vaccine-driven economic recovery next year and yet more free money from central banks eclipsed immediate concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Helping sentiment was a survey showing factory activity in China handily beat forecasts in November, and the country’s central bank surprised with a helping of cheap loans. That left blue chips up 1.3% on the day and 7.4% for the month.
The rush to risk has also benefited oil and industrial commodities while undermining the safe-haven dollar and gold.
“November looks set to be an awesome month for equity investors with Europe leading the charge at a country/regional level,” said NAB analyst Rodrigo Catril.
Many European bourses are boasting their best month ever with France up 21% and Italy almost 26%. The MSCI measure of world stocks is up 13% for November so far, while the S&P 500 has climbed 11% to all-time peaks.
Early Monday, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.4%, to be up almost 11% for the month in its best performance since late 2011.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 eased 0.4%, but was still 15.4% higher on the month for the largest rise since 1994.
E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.4%, and EUROSTOXX 50 futures 0.6%.
“Markets are overbought and at risk of a short term pause,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.
“However, we are now in a seasonally strong time of year and investors are yet to fully discount the potential for a very strong recovery next year in growth and profits as stimulus combines with vaccines.”
Cyclical recovery shares including resources, industrials and financials were likely to be relative outperformers, he added.
The surge in stocks has put some competitive pressure on safe-haven bonds but much of that has been cushioned by expectations of more asset buying by central banks.
Sweden’s Riksbank surprised last week by expanding its bond purchase program and the European Central Bank is likely to follow in December.
DOLLAR IN DECLINE
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies to Congress on Tuesday amid speculation of further policy action at its next meeting in mid-December.
As a result U.S. 10-year yields are ending the month almost exactly where they started at 0.84%, a solid performance given the exuberance in equities.
The U.S. dollar has not been as lucky.
“The idea that a potential Treasury Secretary (Janet) Yellen and Fed chair Powell could work more closely to shape and coordinate super easy monetary policy and massive fiscal stimulus that could drive a rapid post pandemic recovery saw the dollar under pressure,” said Robert Rennie, head of financial market strategy at Westpac.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index was pinned at 91.771 having shed 2.4% for the month to lows last seen in mid-2018.
The euro has caught a tailwind from the relative outperformance of European stocks and climbed 2.7% for the month so far to reach $1.1967. A break of the September peak at $1.2011 would open the way to a 2018 top at $1.2555.
The dollar has even declined against the Japanese yen, a safe-haven of its own, losing 0.7% in November to reach 103.89 yen, though it remains well above key support at 103.16.
Sterling stood at $1.3334, having climbed steadily this month to its highest since September, as investors wagered a Brexit deal would be brokered even as the deadline for talks loomed ever larger.
One major casualty of the rush to risk has been gold, which was near a five-month trough at $1,771 an ounce having shed 5.6% so far in November.
Oil, in contrast, has benefited from the prospect of a demand revival should the vaccines allow travel and transport to resume next year. [O/R]
Some profit-taking set in early Monday ahead of an OPEC+ meeting to decide whether the producers’ group will extend large output cuts. Brent crude futures fell 52 cents to $47.66, while U.S. crude eased 60 cents to $44.93 a barrel.
Editing by Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore
Alberta reports 1,608 new cases of COVID-19, second highest number during pandemic – CBC.ca
Alberta reported 1,608 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths on Sunday.
The total number of active cases in Alberta grew to 15,692, according to the province. There are 435 people in the hospital and 95 in intensive care.
According to the province there is a “brief delay in a death being reported to Alberta Health or in a death being confirmed post-mortem as having COVID-19 as a contributing cause”.
The nine deaths brings the provincial total to 533. Five of which are linked to the outbreak at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre in Edmonton. They include a man and woman, both in their 80s who died on Nov. 25. They had underlying conditions along with COVID-19. A man in his 70s who died on Nov. 26 who also had underlying conditions. Another man and woman in their 90s who died on Nov. 27 also had one or more additional conditions.
The remaining deaths include a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Westlock Continuing Care Centre in North Zone. The province did not confirm if he had underlying conditions. Another man in his 90s in south zone who died on Nov. 28 also with underlying conditions.
Another man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Laurel Heights Retirement Residence in Edmonton Zone who died on Nov. 28, and a man in his 80s who died on Nov. 29 due to the outbreak at Clifton Manor in Calgary Zone. The province could not confirm underlying conditions for either.
A regional breakdown of cases as of Saturday shows the impact of COVID-19 in different parts of the province:
Calgary zone: 5,756 active cases
South zone: 642 active cases
Edmonton zone: 7,230 active cases
North zone: 857 active cases
Central zone: 1,101 active cases
Unknown: 106 active cases
The majority of people in the hospital and ICU are from the Edmonton zone. There are 222 people hospitalized in Edmonton and 50 in intensive care. In comparison, Calgary has 138 people in hospital and 33 in intensive care. The remaining zones’ hospitalizations are in double digits.
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