Three-quarters of eligible Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and some are now able to receive an additional booster shot. But the virus still poses a great threat to more than 70 million eligible people who remain unvaccinated.
“The most vulnerable are those unvaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.
The CDC on Friday approved a third shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to an expanded group of Americans.
“Starting today, if you are six months out from your last dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible for a booster if you fall into one of three high-risk groups,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said during a briefing.
“Number one: You are 65 or older. Number two: You have a medical condition that puts you at high risk of severe illness with COVID and these conditions include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease and others. And Number three: You work or live in a setting where you are at high risk of exposure to Covid. This includes health care workers, teachers, those living in shelters or prisons and grocery store workers,” Murthy said.
Boosters have not yet been endorsed for the two other vaccines offered in the U.S. — those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Health officials are working to determine next steps for recipients of those vaccines.
The Food and Drug Administration “is working with Moderna and J&J to get and process their data as quickly as possible with the goal of making booster recommendations for Moderna and J&J recipients in the coming weeks,” Murthy said.
Walensky acknowledged that even with more Americans becoming eligible for Pfizer boosters, the country must ramp up initial vaccination numbers for the pandemic to subside.
“I want to be clear: We will not boost our way out of this pandemic,” she said Friday.
The U.S. has fully vaccinated more than 55 per cent of all residents as of Friday, CDC data shows, while 75 per cent of the vaccine-eligible received at least one dose of inoculation.
A recent CNN analysis showed the average rate of COVID-19 deaths in the 10 least vaccinated states was more than four times higher over the past week than the rate in the 10 most vaccinated states.
CDC vaccine advisers had recommended that Pfizer booster shots should be made available for people over 65 and those with health risks — stopping short of expanding that threshold to include those who may be disproportionally exposed to the virus at their jobs. But Walensky moved to account for the occupational exposure group in her guidance.
“Some people really voted … with enthusiasm to say our health care workers, our frontline workers, people who were vaccinated early, people who work in congregate settings, in correctional facilities, grocery workers, really do merit the vaccine,” Walensky told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday. “The question wasn’t ‘yes or no,’ the question was ‘wait or do now,'” she added.
Ultimately, the decision for boosters was about “providing rather than withholding access” and the need to protect society as a whole, Walensky said.
PFIZER BOOSTERS ARE READY NOW
The boosters are already available, with CVS Health announcing Friday that nearly 6,000 of its locations started offering appointments for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Those who choose to go for the booster shot will be asked to “self-attest to their eligibility” outlined by public health officials, CVS said. They also must be recipients of Pfizer’s initial two doses.
In California, Los Angeles County on Friday also began offering the booster shots to its residents who show proof of vaccination and affirm their eligibility, the county’s public health department said in a news release.
MANY SCHOOLS CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAKS, STUDY FINDS
The headaches facing school officials and parents were underlined in a study released Friday on the impact so far of the pandemic on in-person learning.
About 1,800 schools closed between August 1 and September 17 because Covid-19 cases were detected, which affected the education and well-being of 933,000 students, according to the CDC study.
Nearly 60,000 teachers in 44 states were also affected by closures, and the number of closures was highest in the South, the study found.
Examining data from 8,700 districts nationwide, the CDC study found that “the largest number of districts with full remote learning (14) were in the West Census Region, followed by the South (11). Seven Midwest and two Northeast districts offered full remote learning.”
The study noted that the timing of return to school may be a factor in school closures because the schools in the South returned earlier in August than other parts of the country– which typically start in late August or early September.
COVID-19 outbreaks forced 300 Tennessee schools to close, the study shows, noting that was the most in the nation– followed by Georgia, Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina.
The CDC recommends that people in schools wear masks even if they’re vaccinated as well as screen testing and physical distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
P&G to increase prices further as commodity, freight costs bite
Procter & Gamble Co said on Tuesday it will raise prices of some of its grooming, oral and skin care products in the U.S. to counter higher commodity and freight costs that are expected to take a bigger bite out of its earnings this year.
Shares of the company, which reported lower quarterly earnings, while maintaining its full-year forecasts, were down 2.2% at $139.24.
The latest price increases are in addition to the mid to high single-digit percentage price hikes earlier this year on P&G’s products including Pampers diapers and Always sanitary pads.
The new price hikes are not being implemented broadly, but marked for specific items such as razors and in some sub-categories, CFO Andre Schulten said on a media call. U.S. retailers are aware of the new sticker prices, he added.
Global supply chains are under strain due to factors such as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Asia and labor shortages in the United States, leading to a surge in raw material prices that is also squeezing profits at Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser.
On Tuesday, P&G raised its commodity and freight costs impact for this fiscal year to $2.3 billion from $1.9 billion.
Schulten blamed the price hikes on warehousing and raw material costs, adding that diesel and energy prices were also trending higher.
“We do not anticipate any easing in these commodity cost pressures, he added.
The Gillette maker said the additional expenses will shave off 90 cents from its full-year earnings per share, compared with a previous forecast of a hit of 70 cents.
P&G kept its full-year forecast for earnings per share growth in the 3% to 6% range and net sales between 2% and 4%, banking on price hikes and higher demand for premium products to help offset the increase in costs.
“We expect pricing to be a larger contributor to sales growth in coming quarters as more of our price increases become effective,” Schulten said.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)
Britain strikes green investment partnership with Bill Gates
Bill Gates is working with the British government to invest and bring down the cost of new greener technologies to help countries hit net-zero emission targets by 2050.
Speaking at a Global Investment Summit alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Gates said investment was needed to further develop new technologies that were currently too expensive for the consumer market.
Gates said he would work with the UK to identify which projects should be backed, and that he expected at least one of the projects to be ready to scale up in the next five years.
“We will scale those up and bring down that cost, so we’ll get these to the same place we are today with solar and onshore wind, and so they can be scaled up to reduce emissions,” he said.
Johnson’s government said the 400 million pound ($552 million) partnership would supercharge green tech investment across the country, including in areas such as green hydrogen, long-term energy storage, sustainable aviation fuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, made the commitment through his Breakthrough Energy Catalyst which brings together a coalition of private investors who want to back innovation to tackle climate change.
Britain has already pledged at least 200 million pounds to the development of new UK projects, and investors and businesses in the Gates project will match that sum.
($1 = 0.7251 pounds)
(Reporting by William James; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Alistair Smout)
First U.S. futures-based bitcoin ETF begins trading, bitcoin nears record
The first U.S. bitcoin futures-based exchange-traded fund began trading on Tuesday, sending bitcoin to a six-month high and within striking distance of its all-time peak, as traders bet the ETF could boost investment flows into cryptocurrencies.
The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF began trading on Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s NYSE Arca on Tuesday under the ticker BITO after being greenlighted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bitcoin futures have been overseen by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for four years and ETFs – securities that track an asset and can be bought or sold on a stock exchange – are regulated by the SEC, offering some level of investor protection, SEC chair, Gary Gensler, said on Tuesday.
“Yet it’s still a highly speculative asset class and investors should understand that underneath, there is the same volatility and speculation,” he told CNBC.
Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, touched $63,337.54 after the listing, its highest since mid-April and near its record of $64,895.22.
Known throughout its 13-year life for its volatility, bitcoin has risen by some 40% this month on hopes the advent of bitcoin ETFs – of which several are in the works – will see billions of dollars managed by pension funds and other large investors flow into the sector.
The BITO ETF was last at $40.95, up slightly from its $40.88 open.
“It has traded tightly, within a penny of fair value pretty much all morning, so it’s part of the ecosystem,” said Dave Nadig, chief investment officer and director of research at ETF Trends.
The ETF had traded around $500 million worth, notionally, by late morning, which is “about what we would expect for a media-darling first launch in the space,” he said.
Much of BITO’s initial volume appeared to be from retail investors, as there were only four block trades, above 10,000 shares, all morning, Nadig said.
Nasdaq Inc on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and Grayscale, the world’s largest digital currency manager, plans to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into a spot bitcoin ETF, the company confirmed.
Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck and Valkyrie are among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.
The SEC has yet to approve a spot bitcoin ETF.
Bitcoin futures were up 2.21% at $63,035.
(Reporting by John McCrank in New York, Tom Wilson in London; additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Katanga Johnson in Washington; Editing by Kim Coghill, Jason Neely and Andrea Ricci)
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