Shot Hailed as Super Effective; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update
A healthcare worker draws a dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid-19. (Photographer: Peter Boer/Bloomberg)

Shot Hailed as Super Effective; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

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

About 1 in 5 states are still trying to regain momentum in the Covid-19 vaccination push, more than a week after winter weather upended the U.S. vaccination push. Virginia is lifting its overnight curfew.

Ghana received the first batch of vaccines shipped through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative, as the West African country prepares to kick off an inoculation campaign. China donated 200,000 more doses to Zimbabwe, while Ukraine and Malaysia began immunizations.

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Shot Hailed as Super Effective; J&J Gets Big Win: Virus Update

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.

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

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.

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.

Virginia to Lift Overnight Curfew (11:50 a.m. NY)

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he’ll loosen some coronavirus restrictions, including lifting the stay-at-home curfew and extending hours of alcohol sales until midnight. The new rules go into effect March 1.

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

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.

Bulgaria to Reopen Bars Despite Rise in Cases (10:30 a.m. NY)

Bulgaria plans to reopen bars and restaurants with reduced capacity March 1, the health ministry said in a statement. The easing of restrictions comes despite the rising number of daily coronavirus cases, which on Monday reached the highest number since Jan. 5.

The EU country with the lowest share of vaccinated population will also allow conferences and will reopen borders for organized tourism visits.

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.

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.

Germany to Set Up Task Force (9:54 a.m. NY)

Germany will set up a government task force to monitor vaccine production, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday. The panel will support efforts to deliver doses to all citizens willing to be vaccinated and work closely with manufacturers in the event of supply bottlenecks.

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.

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.

Mozambique to Receive First Vaccines (8:04 a.m. NY)

Mozambique will receive its first Covid-19 vaccines Wednesday, from China’s state-owned Sinopharm, to be administered to health workers. The donation of 200,000 doses will be received at an airbase in Maputo, the capital, the office of Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário said.

South Africa Vaccine Funds (7:09 a.m. NY)

South Africa’s National Treasury set aside funds to provide free coronavirus vaccines to all those who need them, as the nation races to bring the pandemic under control.

An allocation of 10.3 billion rand ($708 million) has been made to buy and dispense the shots through March 2024, the Treasury said Wednesday in its annual budget statement. A further 9 billion rand could be allocated if needed, it said.

Ukraine Starts Virus Jabs (6:51 a.m. NY)

Ukraine, the biggest European country yet to start vaccinations against the coronavirus, administered its first shot on Wednesday.

Yevhen Horenko, an emergency doctor in Cherkasy in central Ukraine, received an AstraZeneca vaccine, along with nine other people, according to the Health Ministry. The government plans to inoculate about 370,000 people, mainly doctors and nurses, in the first round of immunization.

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