A patient receives a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot at a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Michigan, on Sept. 29, 2021.
Emily Elconin | Reuters
The CDC’s independent panel of vaccine scientists unanimously endorsed Pfizer and Moderna’s boosters for all adults, one of the final regulatory steps before the U.S. can officially start distributing the doses.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the shots. The Food and Drug Administration authorized both company’s vaccine boosters for everyone 18 and over earlier on Friday, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to clear the doses soon after.
The panel’s recommendation would open up eligibility to everyone 18 and over in the U.S., but the group more strongly endorsed shots for older Americans by saying everyone 50 and over should get a booster. It previously said people over 65 and some other high-risk people should get a third shot.
Once Walensky signs off, tens of millions of Americans who’ve received their two initial shots at least six months ago will be eligible to get a third shot as soon as early as this weekend.
“As a clinician deep in the clinical trenches, I am really glad that we have clarity and streamlining of the recommendation so that all Americans can understand the vaccines that are recommended for them at this time,” committee member Dr. Camille Kotton said after the vote.
Pfizer said its booster dose was 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection in people who had no evidence of prior infection in a clinical trial of 10,000 participants 16 years and older, according to Dr. John Perez, vice president of the company’s vaccine clinical research program. Moderna didn’t submit its efficacy data for its booster, telling the panel it was still gathering the data.
While more than 195 million people are fully vaccinated in the US., Covid cases are rising in some areas as the effectiveness of the vaccines falls over time, the CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver told the panel.
“Overall protection remains high for severe disease and hospitalization and waning (effectiveness) appears to be less pronounced for the Moderna vaccine compared to Pfizer,” Oliver said. However, she said evidence suggests there is a higher risk for a rare heart condition called myocarditis following Moderna’s shots compared with Pfizer, she said.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s CDC and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said the current guidelines are confusing and generate more work for state and local health officials who have to determine who’s eligible or not. The group wants the CDC to distribute the shots to everyone 18 and older to streamline the eligibility process, he said.
“Such a move has the benefit of easing pressure on state health department immunization program staff, who are now fielding a high volume of booster eligibility questions,” he told the panel.
Side effects from both Pfizer and Moderna’s third shots were mild in the overwhelming majority of study participants, including pain at the injection site, headaches, fever and chills, according to the data.
Moderna found the side effects from its booster doses were comparable to those experienced by patients after the initial two-dose series, including headaches, fatigue and muscle aches and pains.
However, the company is still gathering safety data as its clinical trial of more than 15,000 participants is ongoing, according to Rituparna Das, who presented on behalf of Moderna during the meeting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a study presented Friday, found 54 preliminary cases of myocarditis and myopericarditis among nearly 26 million Pfizer and Moderna booster doses, or about 2.1 cases per 1 million shots administered. However, only 12 of those reported cases were attributed to the vaccines so far while 38 are under review and four were ruled out.
Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericardits is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. When the two conditions occur together, they are called myopericarditis.
The CDC also found that people reported fewer side effects of any kind from Pfizer and Moderna boosters than from the primary two-dose series.
The CDC advisory panel originally declined in September to endorse Pfizer’s boosters for the broader public, supporting instead a scaled back distribution plan for elderly Americans and people who face a high risk from Covid infection due to underlying health conditions.
At that time, experts on the panel said available safety data, based on research from 306 individuals who received boosters, was too limited to make a determination about the risks posed by rare side effects such as myocarditis.
The panel endorsed Moderna’s boosters for elderly Americans and people with underlying health conditions in October as well as Johnson & Johnson boosters for everyone age 18 and over.
Broadly administering booster doses is a controversial topic in public health. The World Health Organization has repeatedly criticized wealthy nations for rolling out third shots at a time when people in poorer nations have very limited access to vaccines.
Booster doses have also been somewhat contentious in the U.S., with some experts questioning whether now is the time to start rolling out third shots when more than 60 million Americans still haven’t received their first dose.
However, state officials from California to Maine had already started rolling out boosters for all adults before the CDC’s recommendation on Friday.
Many vaccinated Americans want an extra layer of protection as data increasingly shows that vaccine effectiveness against infection declines overtime. Public health experts expect an increase in infection as Americans head indoors to escape the winter cold and gather with families over the holidays.
Booster doses could help reduce transmission by helping to prevent breakthrough infections in people who are already vaccinated.
European Central Bank heads into pivotal meeting with omicron infections rising
Christine Lagarde, president of the ECB, speaks at the Bank’s press conference in Frankfurt, Germany.
Boris Roessler | picture alliance | Getty Images
With inflation surging and the omicron Covid variant expected to spread through the region, the European Central Bank has the unenviable task of presenting its policy outlook for 2022 on Thursday.
The rise in the cost of living for the euro area (the 19 nations that share the euro) reached a record high of 4.9% in November, while omicron looks likely to become the dominant coronavirus strain with some European economies already locked down due to the delta variant.
“The sharp rise in infections and inflation and the emergence of the new Omicron variant has complicated the picture to an extent that the Governing Council may need more time to decide on all the details of adjusting its non-conventional policy tool,” said Dirk Schumacher, an ECB watcher with Natixis, in a recent research note.
The institution led by Christine Lagarde developed a new bond-buying program in the wake of the coronavirus in March 2020 to support the euro zone. The PEPP is due to end in March 2022 with a potential total envelope of 1.85 trillion euros ($2.19 trillion).
The ECB has also kept its asset purchase program, known as APP, amid the pandemic which has a current monthly pace of 20 billion euros. The central bank has been using this program in combination with PEPP to sustain the 19-member economy.
Schumacher added that Natixis still expects an announcement that the PEPP program will end by March and “we expect a clear signal that the APP will be used in a more flexible way.”
A big focus of this week’s meeting will be the new staff projections for inflation and growth. They show whether the inflation target of 2% will be met over the medium term, which is ultimately ECB’s primary mandate.
“I see an inflation profile which looks like a hump. So it has clearly increased over the last three quarters and we know how painful it is,” Lagarde said at a Reuters conference on Dec. 3,
“And a hump eventually declines and this is what we project for 2022,” she added.
Another key question is how the ECB will bridge the end of the PEPP program at the end of March into a more flexible and potentially larger APP without provoking major market volatility and keeping financial conditions on “favourable” terms. The ECB is expected to stress the need for flexibility.
“Flexibility, in our view, means varying purchases depending on the inflation outlook and financing conditions, i.e. preserving the principle of ‘favourable financing conditions’ that characterises the PEPP,” Spyros Andreopoulos, a senior European economist at BNP Paribas, said in a note.
“This view has been supported by recent ECB rhetoric that has emphasised the need to maintain flexibility, as opposed to pre-committing to a fixed volume of purchases.”
UK inflation hits 10-year high ahead of key Bank of England meeting
Shoppers wearing protective face masks walk through the rain on Oxford Street in London on June 18, 2020, as some non-essential retailers reopen from their coronavirus shutdown.
Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON — U.K. inflation climbed to a 10-year high in November as consumer prices continued to soar ahead of the Bank of England‘s crunch monetary policy meeting on Thursday.
The Consumer Price Index rose by 5.1% in the 12 months to November, up from 4.2% in October, which was itself the steepest incline for a decade and more than double the central bank’s target.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 4.7% for November, and the Bank of England had projected that inflation would hit 5% in the spring of 2022 before moderating towards its 2% target in late 2023.
On a monthly basis, U.K. inflation rose 0.7% in November from October, above a Reuters poll for a 0.4% increase.
Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy, food, alcohol and tobacco prices, rose by 4% year-on-year against a Reuters forecast of 3.7%, and 0.5% month-on-month versus a 0.3% projection.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee meets Thursday to decide whether to tighten monetary policy, with inflation surging and the labor market remaining robust, but the rapid spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant has cast fresh uncertainty over the economic recovery in the short term.
The MPC defied market expectations in November by voting 7-2 to hold interest rates at their historic low of 0.1%, but analysts are split on whether it will pull the trigger on rate hikes on Thursday in light of the emergence of omicron.
“Unfortunately for consumers, peak inflation may still be a few months off. Today’s CPI data only serves to increase the pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates at its MPC meeting tomorrow,” said Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot.
“However, the Bank of England may well decide that discretion is the better part of valour and instead opt to wait until next year given the current uncertainty surrounding the impact of the Omicron variant on the economy, coupled with the risk that further restrictions may need to be introduced before long.”
Most Chinese companies could delist from US, says TCW Group
Budrul Chukrut | LightRocket | Getty Images
Chinese companies listed on Wall Street will likely to be cut off from U.S. capital markets in the next three years as tensions between Beijing and Washington persist, says one global asset management firm.
“I think for a lot of Chinese companies listed in U.S. markets, it’s essentially game over,” David Loevinger, managing director for emerging markets sovereign research at TCW Group, told CNBC Wednesday. “This is an issue that’s been hanging out there for 20 years — we haven’t been able to solve it.”
TCW Group had $265.8 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2021, according to the company’s website.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this month finalized rules to implement a law that would allow the market regulator to ban foreign companies listed in the U.S. from trading if their auditors do not comply with requests for information from American regulators.
The law was passed in 2020 after Chinese regulators repeatedly denied requests from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to inspect the audits of Chinese firms that list and trade in the United States.
Given the current level of distrust between the U.S. and Chinese governments, and with the bilateral relationship unlikely to improve anytime soon, there is “no way we are going to solve this in the next few years,” Loevinger said.
“So the reality is, I think, by 2024, most Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges are no longer going to be listed in the United States. Most are going to gravitate back to Hong Kong or Shanghai,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”
Less than six months after going public, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi said it will start delisting from the New York Stock Exchange, and make plans to list in Hong Kong instead.
When a company delists from an exchange like the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange, it loses access to a broad pool of buyers, sellers and intermediaries.
Chinese regulators were reportedly unhappy with Didi’s decision to list in the U.S. without first resolving outstanding cybersecurity concerns. Regulators told the firm’s executives to come up with a plan to delist from the U.S. due to concerns around data leakage, according to reports.
Beyond Didi, many of China’s top internet companies listed in the U.S. have already undertaken dual listings in Hong Kong. Some high-profile names include e-commerce giant Alibaba, its rival JD.com, search engine giant Baidu, gaming firm NetEase and social media giant Weibo.
“We have already hit the turning point,” Loevinger said, pointing to Didi’s delisting announcement. “I just don’t think China’s government is going to allow U.S. regulators to have unfettered access to internal auditing documents of Chinese companies.”
“And if U.S. regulators can’t get access to those documents, then they can’t protect U.S. markets from fraud,” he added.