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US FDA set to clear third COVID shot for immunocompromised people – Aljazeera.com

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Transplant patients and others with weak immune systems often don’t get adequate responses to their first vaccine course and are at the top of the list for getting potential COVID-19 boosters, health officials say.

By Bloomberg

U.S. drug regulators are set to clear a third dose of Covid vaccines for people with weak immune systems as a new study showed the benefits of an extra shot in transplant patients.

A third dose of Moderna Inc.’s vaccine significantly raised antibody levels against the coronavirus in transplant patients, according to a comparison of an extra shot to a placebo in people with weak immune systems. The Food and Drug Administration is set to amend clearances as soon as Thursday for vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer Inc. to allow extra doses for people with compromised immune systems, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Transplant patients and others with weak immune systems often don’t get adequate responses to their first vaccine course and are at the top of the list for getting potential Covid-19 boosters. An advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to discuss booster shots for immune compromised people this Friday.

The FDA is closely monitoring data on studies of additional doses in immunocompromised people, according to an email from the agency that said it would share more information in the near future.

The new study of 120 transplant patients looked at the effects of a third dose that was given two months after the second. A month after the third shot, 55% of those who got it developed antibody levels likely to provide significant protection.

Among patients who got a placebo shot, rather than the third dose, just 18% showed the desired antibody levels, researchers at University Health Network in Toronto found. The findings from the Ajmera Transplant Centre at the network in Toronto were released Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“I am pretty excited about the results,” said Atul Humar, a study author and chief of transplant medicine at Toronto General Hospital, one of several University of Toronto-affiliated hospitals in the network. “It is a slam dunk.”

The results have been shared both with Canadian regulars and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he said. Moderna had no role in the study.

Higher Quantity

The Toronto researchers began the study after noticing that transplant patients who had gotten two vaccine doses still kept getting sick with Covid, according to Humar. They picked the Moderna vaccine for the three-dose study because it uses a higher quantity of messenger RNA than a similar mRNA shot from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

Counts of protective T-cells, another key immune fighter, were also higher in patients who got the real third dose rather than a placebo. The extra shot wasn’t associated with any cases of organ rejection, and typical side effects from Covid shots were only slightly more common after the third dose versus placebo. The study was too small to assess whether the third shot prevented people from becoming ill with Covid.

“At this juncture, the benefit of third-dose vaccination, at least with the mRNA-1273 vaccine, appears to outweigh the risks,” two editors of the New England Journal concluded in an editorial accompanying the study.

Bone marrow transplant patients and cancer patients on chemotherapy are also considered to have highly suppressed immune systems, Humar said.

NBC News reported the news of the FDA’s plan to clear the shots earlier Wednesday.

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Inflation: Half of Canadians' finances worse than last year – CTV News

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As inflation rates soar to the highest they’ve been in Canada in forty years, nearly half of Canadians say that right now, they’re doing worse financially than they were at this time last year.

A further third say they expect things to get even worse in the coming year, the largest number of people to answer this way in more than a decade.

The numbers come from a new Angus Reid Institute (ARI) survey released Friday, which surveyed more than 5,000 Canadian adults between June 7 and June 13 on their financial standing and struggles.

The results shed light on the plight Canadians are facing coast to coast.

Currently, inflation is at a staggering 7.7 per cent higher than last year, according to Statistics Canada. The inflation rate hasn’t been this high since 1983, the year that Canada Day replaced Dominion Day.

TRENDING DOWN

The percentage of Canadians answering that they are worse off financially now than a year ago has been increasing steadily over the last few years. In 2018, only 29 per cent of Canadians said they were doing worse than the previous year. That number climbed to 32 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, then to 45 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

It’s now the highest that it has been since ARI started tracking this specific question in 2010.

At the same time, the number of Canadians who said they were doing the same as a year ago plummeted, going from 54 per cent in 2018, to 44 per cent in 2020, to 36 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

Interestingly, the percentage of Canadians who say they are doing better than the previous year jumped to 23 per cent in 2020, after years of hovering around 13-14 per cent. That number is now at 17 per cent.

When these results are broken down into the household income of the respondents, those who are in the upper echelons of income, making more than $200,000 annually, were much more likely to report that they were doing better than last year financially, at 26 per cent, and the least likely to report that they were doing worse, at 30 per cent.

On the other end of the scale, those making less than $25,000 per year were more likely to say they were worse off this year, at 51 per cent, and less likely to say they were doing better than last year, at 15 per cent — underlining how the rich are hurt less by shifts such as inflation, and the poor keep getting poorer as rising costs hit their wallets.

Only one in five Canadians said they expected things to improve a year from now, while a third anticipated things to get even worse.

“Residents in Saskatchewan voice the most pessimism and least optimism on this question,” the report stated.

COST OF LIVING IS EXORBITANT FOR MANY

Concerns about the cost of simply living is the one that consumes the time and energy of most Canadians, with food, housing and bills driving a huge amount of financial worries across the country.

When asked what the top provincial issues were, with respondents being able to choose up to three options, “cost of living/inflation” was overwhelmingly the most popular selection, with 63 per cent of respondents selecting it as a major issue.

Health care and housing affordability took second and third place at 52 per cent and 31 per cent respectively, with climate change and the environment coming in at fourth with 26 per cent.

“Some regions of the country are under more economic stress than others,” the report stated. “In Atlantic Canada, the cost of living was already higher than most other parts of the country last year. And Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have experienced higher rates of inflation than other provinces, alongside Manitoba and British Columbia.”

When it comes to the country as a whole, more than half of those who rented said that it’s difficult to afford their rent.

For homeowners, monthly mortgage payments are on the rise after a series of interest rate increase by the Bank of Canada. One quarter of Canadians with a mortgage say prices have already gone up, while another half said they anticipate a price jump. Two thirds say that if their payments increased by $300 a month, they might not be able to afford it anymore.

“The challenge for many, as pandemic-era supports are removed, and some struggle with repayment of the CERB they received, is to avoid debt creation,” the report stated, noting that many Canadians are already struggling with debt.

Two in five Canadians said they had credit card debt.

Of those who scored high on the ARI Economic Stress Index and were classified as “struggling” on that index, 62 per cent had credit card debt, and three-in-five of this group said it would take them more than a year to pay it off.

The Economic Stress Index, created in January, looks at core costs related to quality of life, such as debt, housing and household food costs, as well as the respondents’ anxieties and assessments of their own finances, to map out who is having a harder time.

There are four categories: struggling, uncomfortable, comfortable, and thriving. The proportion of those who are “thriving” has dropped six points since May, while the number of those who “struggling” has risen three points in that time period. Some good news is that 29 per cent of Canadians fit into the “comfortable” category compared to 26 per cent in May.

“A majority in each of the Atlantic provinces fall under the Struggling or Uncomfortable categories,” the report stated, with 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador falling into one of these two categories.

Across the country, in most provinces, more than half of the respondents fell into the one of the bottom two categories, with 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador, 59 per cent in Alberta, 62 per cent in Saskatchewan, 57 per cent in Manitoba, 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 54 per cent in Ontario. Prince Edward Island was not included in the survey.

“Only in Quebec (61 per cent) and B.C. (52 per cent) do more than half fall into the top two categories on the ESI,” the report stated. “Notably, by Statistic Canada’s CPI, those provinces have the lowest cost of living of any province in the country.”

The province with the single highest percentage of Canadian respondents deemed to be “thriving” was Quebec, with a whopping 30 per cent.

Just over 75 per cent of Canadians said their province had done a poor job of handling inflation.

Around one in three Canadians said their costs due to purchasing gas had increased, while just under half stated that those costs had gone down for them because they were consciously avoiding driving and seeking out other forms of transportation to save money.

FOOD PRICES LEAVING SOME HUNGRY

The report noted that inflation affects some goods more harshly than others.

“Food inflation was 10 per cent in May, higher than the 7.7 per cent inflation rate overall,” the report said.

Just over half of Canadians surveyed reported struggling to make the grocery bill each month, with the report noting that this is seven points higher than last October.

And the lower your tax bracket, the harder it is to put food on the table. Seven out of ten Canadians making less than $25,000 a year said it is difficult to feed themselves and their family, while at least one third of all incomes reported finding it hard to budget for food.

One B.C. resident told The Canadian Press that her grocery bill has more than doubled. Food Banks Canada are concerned that more and more children — who make up a third of those who rely on food banks — could be going hungry this summer as school ends and access to school-based food programs is cut off.

Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called out MPs for laughing in the House of Commons after he spoke about Canadians being unable to afford groceries. In a video Singh posted of the incident, laughter can be heard after he states that one in four Canadians are going hungry.

“I just mentioned that Canadians are hungry and I hear laughter in the chambers,” Singh said after the Speaker asked him to repeat himself. “They should be ashamed of themselves. Absolutely ashamed.” He stated on social media that those who were laughing were Conservative MPs.

TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Amid rising inflation, the Bank of Canada is meant to keep the impact on Canadians to a minimum through policy adjustments, but Canadian trust in this institution is split, according to the survey. While 46 per cent said they trusted the Bank of Canada, 41 per cent said they did not.

When the political leanings of survey respondents were taken into account, the results became more stark: Past supporters of the Conservative party and the People’s Party of Canada were less likely to trust the Bank of Canada, with 59 per cent and 86 per cent indicating this respectively.

The Bank of Canada has admitted that it made missteps, and is now playing catch-up as Canada’s economy overheats.

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Disney, other companies vow to cover employees' out-of-state abortions – CBC News

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The Walt Disney Co., publishing giant Conde Nast and the investment firm JPMorgan Chase were among the major American companies that pledged on Friday to cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state abortions, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade

The ruling did away with the constitutional protection of abortion, leaving the matter to individual states, 13 of which were poised to immediately ban the procedure. 

Florida, home to Walt Disney World, currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks. Disney’s employee benefits will cover costs for those who need to travel to get health-care, including abortions, a company spokesman said Friday. The company, which recently sparred with state lawmakers over the contentious “Don’t say gay” bill, had previously declined to comment on a potential overturn.

Other major media companies — Sony, Paramount, Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix — also said they will reimburse travel expenses for out-of-state abortions.

Airbnb, Dick’s Sporting GoodsPatagonia made similar pledges. The Gap, in a statement, noted its employee benefits cover abortion and other family planning services, but did not specify travel expenses. 

Top executives at other companies — Meta’s outgoing COO Sheryl Sandberg, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman — condemned the ruling as a step back for women’s rights. 

“Business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law,” Stoppelman wrote in a statement.

Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of the dating app Bumble, said her company will continue supporting reproductive rights by donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. OkCupid encouraged people to contact their elected representatives, in a post on Instagram.

Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Starbucks and Microsoft have all previously said that they would also cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state health-care. 

In September, Uber said it would cover legal fees for any drivers sued for dropping people off at abortion clinics. That same month, Salesforce offered to help Texas employees relocate, after that state, together with Mississippi, passed “heartbeat bills,” effectively banning early-pregnancy abortions.

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Stock markets end week on high note, after weeks of declines – CBC News

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Stocks racked up more gains on Wall Street Friday, as the S&P 500 had its best day in two years and just its second week of increases in the last 12 to provide a bit of relief from the market’s brutal sell-off this year.

The benchmark index rose 3.1 per cent, with technology and banks leading the broad rally. The S&P 500 notched a 6.4 per cent gain for the week, erasing the brutal loss it took a week earlier, though it’s still close to 20 per cent below its record set early this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.7 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended 3.3 per cent higher. Both indexes also posted a weekly gain that more than made up for their losses last week.

Stocks rallied this week as investors speculate the Federal Reserve may not have to be as aggressive about raising interest rates as earlier thought as it fights to control inflation.

The gains are a reprieve from Wall Street’s tumble through most of the year, caused by the Fed’s and other central banks’ slamming into reverse the monetary support put into markets through the pandemic. In hopes of beating down punishingly high inflation, central banks have raised interest rates and made other moves that hurt prices for investments and threaten to slow the economy enough to cause a recession. Many economists predict further moves.

“It has been a good week,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “It’s rare. At least in 2022, we’ve had only a couple of weeks where we ended up net positive. It looks pretty similar to what we saw right around the end of May, and that one of course fizzled out.”

The S&P 500 rose 116.01 points to 3,911.74. The Dow climbed 823.32 points to 31,500.68. The Nasdaq rose 375.43 points to 11,607.62.

Consumer sentiment at record low

Parts of the U.S. economy are still red-hot, particularly the jobs market, but some discouraging signals have emerged recently.

A report on Friday confirmed sentiment among consumers sank to its lowest point since the University of Michigan began keeping records, hurt in particular by high inflation.

Another lowlight this week suggested the U.S. manufacturing and services sectors aren’t as strong as economists thought.

Such weakening data raise worries about the strength of the economy. But they also can be good for financial markets, as paradoxical as that may seem.

They could mean less consumer demand fuelling inflation, which would ultimately mean the Federal Reserve doesn’t have to raise rates so aggressively. And interest rates drive trading for everything from stocks to cryptocurrencies.

“We have seen a cooling off in a lot of areas, certainly. Gasoline purchases are down, housing prices appear to be cooling across the board,” Frederick said. “To me all of this speaks to the fact what the Fed is doing now appears to at least be having some impact. Now, whether or not it’s sufficient to bring inflation down, I don’t think we know yet.”

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