ECONOMY

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

Vaccination programs are rolling out across Asia this week, from Hong Kong to South Korea. Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, U.S. regulators said, a milestone toward giving Americans the first shot to work in a single dose.

The shot made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was overwhelmingly effective against the virus in a study, confirming earlier reports and prompting experts to say that immunizations can end the pandemic.

China donated 200,000 more doses to Zimbabwe, while Ghana received the first batch of vaccines shipped through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative.

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 112.5 million; deaths pass 2.49 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 218 million shots given worldwide
  • Can a Vaccinated Person Still Spread the Coronavirus?: QuickTake
  • Cautious Asian nations finally fire starting gun on vaccination
  • Storm stymies vaccinations in 10 U.S. states more than a week later
  • AstraZeneca hopes data gets its vaccine back on track
  • EU speeds vaccine drive after early flubs leave bloc behind

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

106 Million Does for Mexico (10:32 a.m. HK)

Mexico expects to receive 106 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus by the end of May, according to the Health Ministry. More than 41 million of these are from AstraZeneca and 24 million are of Sputnik V. Separately, Mexico posted a daily rise of 1,006 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 182,815, the ministry said.

Japan Maps Out Vaccinations (9:22 a.m. HK)

Japan said it will begin vaccinating people age 65 and over with the Pfizer/BioNTech shot starting April 12, after the nation kicked off its inoculation drive last week. It aims to vaccinate and observe around 40,000 healthcare workers before expanding coverage. About 17,900 people had received the first dose of the vaccine as of Thursday. Supply may limit doses initially, with the country expected to receive its third shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on March 1.

New Strain in New York (8:40 a.m. HK)

A new variant of the virus, containing a mutation that may help it get past the immune system, is spreading in New York, according a report in the New York Times. The B.1.526 variant was first found in samples collected in November, according to the report, which cited researchers from Caltech and Columbia University.

Digital Vaccination Certificates (7:55 a.m. HK)

Everyone in Singapore who has received a Covid-19 vaccination will be given a physical vaccination card noting their personal details, vaccine brand and date of vaccinations, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

Separately, Malaysia Airlines Bhd. said it will introduce a Digital Travel Health Pass to be integrated with the airline’s mobile app. Passengers will be able to make appointments with medical partners for a Covid-19 RT-PCR test or include their vaccination certificates on their phones.

Philippines Vaccine Supply Crunch (7:48 a.m. HK)

The Philippines is offering to pay more to get earlier coronavirus vaccine deliveries, hoping to avert a supply crunch this quarter as the bulk of its orders this year will only come in the second half.

Only 5.1 million of the 161 million doses expected for the year will arrive in the country this quarter, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. The first shipments will be Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccines donated by China, as well as those from the COVAX Facility, which supplies shots to poor nations. These will be followed by 24.1 million shots in the second quarter.

Pfizer-BioNTech Shot ‘Gives Us Hope’ (5:10 p.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine was overwhelmingly effective against the virus in a study that followed nearly 1.2 million people in Israel, results that public-health experts said show that immunizations could end the pandemic.

Two doses of the vaccine prevented 94% of Covid-19 cases in 596,618 people vaccinated between Dec. 20 and Feb. 1, about one-quarter of whom were over the age of 60, a study shows.

“This is the kind of vaccine that gives us hope that herd immunity may be possible,” said Raina MacIntyre, a professor of biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who wasn’t involved with the study.

Moderna Has Plan of Attack for Variants (4:35 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. is planning to study multiple approaches to vaccine booster shots that could protect against emerging coronavirus variants, while gearing up to produce more doses of its shots this year and next.

Moderna said it had completed manufacturing doses of a new version of the vaccine modified to target the South Africa strain, and shipped it to researchers for clinical study. In addition, the company is testing a third dose of its existing vaccine in a clinical study, and plans to test a booster that will combine the South Africa-specific vaccine and its existing shot.

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

Moderna Loses $12 Billion in Value (3:30 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. lost $12 billion of market value in the past three days as investors brace themselves for the company’s earnings report on Thursday. It will be the first since its coronavirus vaccine received an emergency authorization in December.

The fourth-quarter report report is expected to give a first look at sales and 2021 guidance for the Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273. Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison was the outlier on Wall Street when he forecast sales could reach $19 billion this year. Four other analysts surveyed by Bloomberg see it being closer to $7.4 billion. Harrison’s estimate is based on a projection that roughly 850 million shots will be distributed in 2021.

NYC Loses Two-Thirds of Arts Jobs: Report (3:10 p.m. NY)

New York City’s museums, sports arenas and entertainment venues are slowing coming back to life. But the sector has contracted dramatically under the pressure of the global pandemic, according to a report from the state Comptroller’s Office.

Jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation fell by 66% in 2020 from a year ago, the largest decline among the city’s economic sectors, erasing a decade of gains in what was one of New York’s most vibrant industries, the report said. The business district that includes Chelsea and midtown Manhattan was the hardest-hit area of the city, accounting for 46% of all jobs in the sector.

Colorado Beef Plant to Vaccinate Workers (1:35 p.m. NY)

A Colorado beef plant that was the site of a deadly coronavirus outbreak will soon distribute thousands of vaccine doses.

JBS USA’s facility in Greeley will offer vaccines for members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 and nonunion JBS workers on March 5-6, according to a statement Wednesday from the union. The plant will be shut on those days and workers choosing to be vaccinated will receive four hours of pay and $100, the company said in a statement.

Workers getting sick at the Greeley plant prompted its temporary shutdown in April. Eventually, 415 workers at the facility tested positive and six died, according to data compiled by the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

South Africa Finds 4,000 Reinfections (1:30 p.m. NY)

About 4,000 cases of reinfection with Covid-19 have been found in South Africa, Barry Schoub, the chair of the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said.

“This is probably to a large extent due to the variant” of the virus that was first identified in the country, he said on a webinar on Wednesday.

Portugal Sending Shots to Africa (12:33 p.m. NY)

Portugal plans to send about one million Covid-19 vaccine shots to a group of Portuguese-speaking African countries and the small island-nation of East Timor, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Portuguese-speaking African countries include Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe. The number of vaccine shots Portugal plans to send to these countries and East Timor account for 5% of the southern European nation’s coronavirus vaccine shots.

China Again Donates Vaccines to Zimbabwe (11 a.m. NY)

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

China will donate a second batch of 200,000 coronavirus vaccines to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, the Chinese ambassador to the southern African nation said Wednesday on Twitter following a virtual meeting with its President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe began its inoculation program on Feb. 18 using the donated Sinopharm vaccines, and by Tuesday had issued shots to 4,041 front-line workers. The country expects to take delivery of an additional 600,000 vaccines it bought from China early next month.

NYC Says Variant Level Remains Steady (10:40 a.m. NY)

New York City health officials said 6% of the city’s coronavirus cases are due to the U.K. variant, which is believed to be more contagious. The city said the level is “higher than they liked” but that the number has remained steady in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the city’s middle-school students will return to the classroom on Thursday, bringing New York one step closer to a semblance of normalcy since the pandemic shuttered many school buildings for nearly a year. Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t said when he’ll reopen high schools but said an announcement could come in a matter of weeks.

Czech Leader Warns of ‘Hellish Days’ (9:57 a.m. NY)

The Czech Republic is preparing to impose a stricter lockdown to prevent the collapse of its medical system as existing measures fail to contain one of the fastest-spreading and deadliest outbreaks in Europe.

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

Almost exactly a year after the first Covid-19 case appeared in the country, the crisis is worse than ever and the situation requires a tougher response, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. The cabinet will discuss more extreme rules to limit contact among people on Wednesday evening, he said.

Switzerland to Ease Lockdown (9 a.m. NY)

Switzerland will allow non-essential shops, museums and outdoor sporting facilities to reopen starting next month, the first of several steps to unwind social distancing restrictions to contain the pandemic.

With the Covid-19 case load falling, the government has faced pressure to allow businesses to reopen. Officials have urged caution, however, due to the spread of new strains of the coronavirus which are considered to be more transmissible.

J&J Shot Found Safe, Effective, by FDA Staff (8:22 a.m. NY)

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is safe and effective, FDA staff said before a review by external advisers. If cleared for use, it would be the first single-dose shot available.

Asia Starts Vaccination Programs; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

The vaccine was 72% effective in a U.S. clinical trial, FDA staff wrote in a document summarizing the company’s trial data. Agency officials prepared the document ahead of a meeting Friday where external advisers will make a non-binding recommendation as to whether the vaccine should be authorized.

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