Discussions have begun to identify priority groups for initial vaccination against covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those discussions, involving federal health officials and outside experts, are based on planning developed during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The highest priority would go to health-care and essential workers and high-risk populations. This proposed group would also include older adults, residents of long-term-care facilities and people with underlying medical conditions.
As officials and experts race to stop the pandemic, they are grappling with the fraught nature of establishing vaccination priorities. Clinical trials of at least two experimental vaccines have shown encouraging results and this week moved into final-stage testing for safety and effectiveness in 30,000 participants. U.S. officials have said that if a vaccine is shown to be effective, the first doses could be available by the end of the year.
The decision-making will take place over the next few months and is certain to be controversial, experts said. Officials and experts must address a host of issues, including how much consideration should be given to race and ethnicity because of the disproportionate effect of covid-19 on communities of color. Aside from doctors and nurses, will cafeteria workers and cleaning staff at hospitals be considered essential personnel? What about teachers who keep schools running so parents and others can go back to work?
“This is going to be controversial and not everybody’s going to like the answer,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, referring to the process of establishing priorities. He spoke last week at the kickoff meeting of a committee of experts helping with planning. “There will be many people who feel that they should have been at the top of the list, and not everybody can be.”
That committee of experts is developing a framework to help the federal advisory panel and the CDC set final vaccination priorities. The experts are from an independent advisory group, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and from the National Academy of Medicine. The panel, which is supposed to have an initial draft ready by the end of August and a final version by the end of September, was formed at the request of the directors of NIH and CDC.
The overview of proposed priority groups laid out by the federal advisory panel includes subsets within those that should get the highest consideration. At the top of the list: an estimated 12 million critical health-care and other workers. The first doses would go to a subset described as the “highest-risk medical, national security and other essential workers” needed to protect health-care infrastructure and critical societal functions, according to presentations and discussions at the June meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
But what’s at stake goes beyond allocation of the first shots. The process of identifying priority groups is a chance for health officials and scientists to adjust sometimes-unrealistic expectations about when a vaccine is likely to be available.
It is also an opportunity to reset public trust in government and institutions at a time when “there is a profound sense of people feeling they are not being protected by the people and institutions that are supposed to protect them,” said Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She co-chaired a working group that recently released a report on covid-19 vaccination.
“We have a socially, politically and racially fragmented society that is under the stress of a disease that causes illness and death. And we’ve seen an uneven — I’m being polite — response to it,” Schoch-Spana said. “If there was ever a time when public perception of fairness and justness was important, that would be now.”
Top federal officials need to make sure the public is hearing a clear and consistent message and show the government is able to keep its promises, Schoch-Spana said. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, there were overly optimistic projections of vaccine supply during the second wave of the disease in October, when demand was high. By the time an adequate supply of vaccine arrived, demand had fallen.
In addition to essential workers and those most affected by health disparities, Collins said a priority list should include the military and locations where the virus is most active. He said the committee should consider giving priority to volunteers in vaccine clinical trials who received a placebo instead of a vaccine dose.
“I think probably we owe them as a consequence of their participation in the trial some special priority in terms of access to the vaccine if it’s proven to be successful,” Collins said.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the discussion about priority groups focused on essential workers, including health-care personnel. At the next meeting in August, the committee is planning to review considerations for other high-risk groups, including people in long-term care facilities.
Workers at greatest risk for exposure to infectious diseases fall into six categories, according to a presentation by Sarah Mbaeyi, a medical officer at CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases:
· Health-care support (home health aides and medical assistants)
· Health-care practitioners (doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists)
· Protective service (police officers and firefighters)
· Personal care and service (child-care workers, barbers and fitness trainers)
· Community support (social workers, probation officers and health educators)
· Education, training and library (K-12 teachers and librarians)
People of color are more likely to work in jobs deemed essential or with increased risk of disease exposure, she said.
She also provided greater detail about risks facing health-care personnel. The CDC uses a broad definition that includes people not involved in direct patient care: clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, maintenance, engineering and facilities management, administrative billing, and volunteer personnel.
Citing a recent study of risk for severe covid-19 illness among health-care personnel, Mbaeyi said 39 percent have a high-risk medical condition or are older than 65. Those who work in support roles, such as medical assistants or home health aides, or others with less than a bachelor’s degree, have the highest rates of underlying conditions. These groups in general, she said, also have a higher proportion of workers who are African American, Latinx, uninsured or have lower incomes.
One committee member, Paul Hunter, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, offered this summary: “If I was looking at the data correctly, if you’re a middle-aged-to-older African American female medical assistant with diabetes and hypertension, it looks to me like you’re on top of the list to get the vaccine.”
Consideration of race or ethnicity as a criteria for vaccine prioritization has drawn considerable discussion.
At the June meeting, Jose Romero, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute who chairs the CDC immunization committee, spoke of Black, Latinx and Native American communities hit hard by the coronavirus. The covid-19 death toll is twice as high among people of color younger than 65 as for White Americans, according to a recent CDC report.
“If we fail to address this issue of racial and ethnic groups as a high risk in prioritization, whatever comes out of our group will be looked at very suspiciously and with a lot of reservation,” he said.
Another committee member, Sharon Frey, an infectious-disease specialist at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, agreed that it was important to include racial and ethnic groups in a high-priority group. Consideration should be given to the urban poor and working poor who often have other underlying medical conditions, live in crowded homes and can’t take off work “because they have to bring money home to feed their families,” Frey said.
Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday that racial and ethnic disparities have long existed in routine immunization coverage for adults, with much lower vaccination rates among Blacks and Hispanics.
“The current social situation likely exacerbates the issues that surround this lower vaccine coverage,” she said. “As we start planning for immunization with covid, we need to be mindful that this is a starting place, and we need to take seriously that we need novel and more robust strategies to increase uptake of the covid vaccine once it becomes available.”
Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss has increased the price target of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) from $245 to $249. These are the details.
Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss has increased the price target of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) from $245 to $249. And Weiss also kept an “Overweight” rating on Microsoft’s shares following the fiscal first-quarter report.
Weiss pointed out that the first quarter results showcased an acceleration in commercial bookings and solid growth in Commercial Cloud. Plus he raised his FY 21 EPS estimates after the earnings were announced.
Fiscal First-Quarter Results
Earlier this week, Microsoft reported revenue of $37.15 billion compared to analyst expectations at under $36 billion for the first fiscal quarter. And Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said that the company is expecting between $39.5 and $40.4 billion for the fiscal second quarter. Hood noted that there will likely be software business demand for Windows licensing revenue.
For the quarter, revenue increased 12% on an annualized basis — which is down from 13% growth in the previous quarter. And revenue for commercial PCs dropped 22% due to the end of Windows 7 support and the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Azure public cloud for hosting applications and websites increased by 48%. Analysts were expecting less than 45%.
And the Microsoft Intelligent Cloud unit — which features Azure, Enterprise Services, GitHub, and server products like SQL Server and Windows Server — generated $12.99 billion in revenue, up 20% year-over-year.
The Productivity and Business Processes unit — which includes Dynamics, LinkedIn, and Office — brought in $12.32 billion in revenue. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted during the call that Teams (part of the Office 365 productivity app bundle) is now seeing over 115 million daily active users, up from 75 million in April.
Microsoft’s revenue from the More Personal Computing unit — which includes search ads, Surface, Windows, and Xbox –hit $11.85 billion, up 6% year-over-year.
Even though Microsoft beat the estimates for the quarter, the stock price is trading down about 5.26% due to a broader market selloff and the guidance for the next quarter being slightly below average estimates. Analysts were expecting more than $40.4 billion for the next quarter as the company launches its next-generation video game consoles.
Plus, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 are also back down to their lowest price
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Through Sunday, November 1st, Best Buy is giving shoppers another sliver of time to get in on some deals ahead of Black Friday later in the month. Most of these are repeats from the retailer’s Black Friday kickoff event that went up against Prime Day, though a few are newcomers. We’ll be keeping you posted on all of the latest Black Friday deals throughout the month, no matter where they’re coming from or when they actually drop, so stay tuned.
If you’re hunting for a 4K TV with fantastic picture quality and contrast, the highlight deal is on Vizio’s brand-new 65-inch OLED TV. It normally costs $2,000, but it’s $500 off until the sale ends on Sunday. This model should be on your shortlist if you need a new TV that has HDMI 2.1, which will help you get the most out of your PS5 or Xbox Series X consoles.
There’s another good deal on an OLED TV. LG’s 55-inch CX OLED TV was originally listed for $1,800, but it’s $1,400 right now at Best Buy as well as other retailers like Amazon.
Vizio’s 65-inch OLED TV first hit shelves earlier in October, but it’s already $500 off at Best Buy. You can snag one now for $1,500, which is a very aggressive price.
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite streaming device is seeing its first big discount at Best Buy. It costs $30 at Amazon, but you can pick it up now for $18. Amazon claims this model has the “most processing power” of streaming devices at this price point.
The Amazon Echo Show 5 is $45 at Best Buy, matching the Prime Day deal that we saw a few weeks ago. It’s similar in design and functionality to the larger Echo Show 8, just in a smaller package that can fit on a nightstand.
If you want a more simple smart clock than a feature-packed smart display, Lenovo’s new Smart Clock Essential is down to $25 (usually $50). It has traditional segmented LEDs instead of a color touchscreen, and it features the Google Assistant.
Sony’s latest flagship wireless headphones, the WH-1000XM4, are back down to their Prime Day price of $278. This marks the lowest price we’ve seen, and it’s a great deal if you want best-in-class noise-canceling performance, along with excellent sound quality and long battery life.
Lenovo’s Chromebook Flex 3 is $179, which is $100 of its usual price. This model has an 11.6-inch display, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, so it’s not the most capable option on the market — though, this is a low price.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asia’s stock markets fell on Thursday, but without the panic selling seen in Europe and the United States, while U.S. futures jumped as investors tried to get a grip on fears that fresh lockdowns could derail a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6%, with the heaviest drops in Australia, down 1.6%, and South Korea, down 1%.
Japan’s Nikkei fell just 0.3%, Chinese blue chips rose 0.5% and the yuan led a gentle bounce in Asian currencies against the greenback.
That was a far cry from the biggest falls on Wall Street and in Europe in months on Wednesday, highlighting Asia’s emergence from a pandemic that has the rest of the world still mired.
Traders lifted S&P 500 futures 1% with the mood, and on hopes that spiking volatility might mean a swift rebound. European futures rose half a percent and FTSE futures rose 0.3%.
“Asia is not really partaking in this second or third wave story because it’s got its COVID largely under control,” said Rob Carnell, chief economist in Asia at Dutch bank ING.
“As a result, domestic economies look reasonable.”
As if to illustrate, Taiwan, which boasts Asia’s best-performing currency, marked its 200th straight day without local transmission on Thursday, while France and Germany prepared for lockdowns and as the virus sweeps across the U.S. Midwest.
Oil also steadied on Thursday, with Brent futures up 0.2% at $39.20 a barrel, after dropping 5% on Wednesday. [O/R][AUD/]
Still, for the week so far the commodity, often regarded as a proxy for global energy demand and growth, is down 6.2% and world stocks down 4.7%, as the pandemic worsens and a U.S. election looms.
“Until yesterday the market was travelling with the hope the improvement of health care services in dealing with the pandemic would prevent the introduction of severe lockdowns,” National Australia Bank FX strategist Rodrigo Catril said in a note.
“At least in Europe, this dynamic has now changed … the question now is whether U.S. states will follow.”
Economic data and a European Central Bank meeting are the main focus later on Thursday, with gathering uncertainty about Tuesday’s U.S. election also keeping investors on edge.
The Bank of Japan made no changes to monetary policy settings, as expected, though trimmed its growth forecasts to reflect sluggish service spending during summer.
Investors expect the European Central Bank to similarly hold off on new measures, but to instead hint at action in December, which is likely to keep a lid on the euro.
The common currency hit a 10-day low on the dollar and a hundred-day low on the yen on Wednesday, before recovering slightly. It last bought $1.1752.
German unemployment and inflation data, European confidence surveys and advance U.S. GDP figures will also be closely watched – with the U.S. figure likely to show record growth, but still leave the economy behind where it began 2020.
“Any disappointment in these numbers may have a magnified market impact, given the current weakness,” said CMC Markets’ Sydney-based strategist, Michael McCarthy.
Investors are also increasingly wary of a contested U.S. election result that could unleash a wave of risk-asset selling.
Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” the Cboe Volatility Index surged on Wednesday to its highest level since June and implied currency volatility indicates that a wild ride is expected.
The U.S. bond market, however, was somnolent as investors looked past polling day and figured huge government borrowing for coronavirus relief spending will happen no matter who wins.
Benchmark U.S. 10-year yields rose overnight and added about half a basis point on Thursday to 0.7877%.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore. Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington; Editing by Lincoln Feast.