Verizon Delays Office Return; Pfizer Booster Data: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —

New York City’s museums and cultural institutions will require visitors and staff to be vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. New York state mandated that all health-care workers must have at least their first dose of a Covid vaccine by Sept. 27.

Hopes that the world will ever to reach herd immunity against Covid-19 are fading. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE submitted early-stage data to U.S. regulators showing that a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine led to higher levels of protective antibodies when given eight to nine months after the initial regimen.

In Asia, Hong Kong added the U.S. and 14 other locations to its list of high-risk places, Vietnam’s biggest city extended its lockdown, while Macau and Malaysia said they’ll be rolling back social-distancing curbs. Singapore ordered Facebook Inc. to correct posts suggesting that a three-year-old child had died of Covid-19.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 207.4 million; deaths pass 4.36 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 4.7 billion doses administered
  • World may never reach herd immunity
  • Deadly Covid-linked condition in kids poised for a comeback
  • Delta Placing Australia’s Covid-Zero Strategy at Breaking Point
  • Understanding the debate over booster shots: QuickTake
  • Charting the rich-poor divide in vaccinations worldwide

Verizon Delays Return to Office (1 p.m. NY)

Verizon Communications Inc. said it’s delaying its return to office for two months to Nov. 1. Previously, employees were told to start coming into the office on a hybrid basis after Labor Day on Sept. 7.

The New York-based telecom, which has been encouraging employees to wear masks and get vaccinated, is considering whether to make the shots mandatory for all employees but didn’t give a timeframe for when it might address the issue again.

D.C. Requires Shots for Health-Care Workers (12:50 p.m. NY)

All health-care workers in the District of Columbia must have received at least the first dose of Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson shot by Sept. 30, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Pfizer Submits Third-Dose Data to FDA (11:35 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said they have submitted Phase 1 trial data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine. The companies said in a statement that people who received a third dose of their mRNA vaccine showed “a favorable safety profile and robust immune responses.”

Pfizer Taps Bond Market for Vaccine Expenses (10:55 a.m. NY)

Pfizer Inc. is tapping the U.S. investment-grade market with a sustainability bond that will help fund Covid-19 vaccine expenses, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The note, due in 2031, may yield 0.75 percentage points above Treasuries, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the details are private.

Proceeds from the sale are marked for research and development expenses and the manufacturing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The New York-based pharmaceutical company sees the vaccine bringing in $33.5 billion of revenue this year, which would make it one of the top-selling medicines ever.

NYC to Require Vaccines for Museums, Zoos (10:05 a.m. NY)

New York City plans to require visitors to its museums and other cultural institutions to be vaccinated, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified city official.

The policy will require that visitors and employees at the city’s museums, concert halls, aquariums and zoos be vaccinated, the newspaper said. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to make the announcement at his briefing Monday morning.

Interpol Warns on Fake Vaccine Offers (10:05 a.m. NY)

Interpol said it’s issued a worldwide alert over organized crime groups attempting to defraud governments with fake offers to sell Covid-19 vaccines.

The global law-enforcement agency said the warning follows some 60 cases in 40 countries around the world where individuals in health ministries and hospitals have received offers for vaccines approved for distribution in their country.

“Usually claiming to represent a vaccine manufacturer or a government agency facilitating the distribution of vaccines, the scammers are targeting both professional and personal email accounts of potential buyers, as well as making contact via phone,” Lyon, France-based Interpol said.

Indonesia Extends Curbs, Eases Some Limits (10 a.m. NY)

More cities on Java and Bali islands will be allowed to reopen shopping malls for people who are vaccinated with capacity limits, as the government extends virus curbs until Aug. 23.

Indonesia will also allow some export-oriented companies to operate with 100% workforce on site using two shifts and strict health protocol, in a bid to find a way to reopen the economy without worsening its coronavirus outbreak. That program will involve 390,000 workers.

The government is preparing roadmaps to reopen other sectors, including education and tourism, as it gears up to live with the virus for a few more years. It will focus on accelerating vaccination, stepping up testing and tracing, while enforcing mask mandates. Indonesia aims to administer 100 million total vaccine doses as of the end of the month, from 83 million so far.

J&J to Require Shots for All U.S. Staff (8:27 a.m. NY)

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson said it will require all U.S.-based employees and contractors to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 effective Oct. 4. J&J has more than 40,000 employees across the U.S., many of whom have been critical to the development of a single-dose coronavirus vaccine. J&J added that individuals with medical conditions or other reasons not to be vaccinated will be able to seek accommodations.

J&J is “committed to following the science and to taking appropriate measures to support the health and well-being of our employees and contractors, as well as to uphold our responsibilities to the communities in which we live and work,” the company said in an emailed statement. “As Covid-19 continues to devastate families and cause untold hardship, the data shows getting vaccinated is critical to helping end the pandemic.”

EU Evaluates Roche’s RoActemra (7:51 a.m. NY)

The European Union drug regulator is evaluating Roche Holding AG’s anti-inflammatory medicine RoActemra, with a view to extending its use to include treatment of hospitalized adult patients with severe Covid-19 who are already receiving treatment with corticosteroids and require extra oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Glaxo, CureVac Second mRNA Shot Promising (7 a.m. NY)

Early studies show that a second-generation messenger RNA Covid-19 shot from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and CureVac NV looks more promising than the German vaccine-maker’s first attempt. It showed a better immune response in cynomolgus macaques in a pre-clinical challenge study, the drugmakers said Monday.

Higher levels of neutralizing antibodies from the newer version were also shown against variants including beta and delta. Late-stage trials of CureVac’s original vaccine showed 48% efficacy, a blow to the drugmaker earlier this year. The company has said the shot provides full protection against hospitalization and death for those under the age of 60.

Indonesia’s New Cases Lowest Since June (6:19 a.m. NY)

The country reported 17,384 confirmed infections on Monday, the least since June 23. One in five people tested were found to have the virus, a sign of insufficient testing. Indonesia continues to top the world’s tally of daily deaths, with 1,245 fatalities reported on Monday.

The government said it stopped using the number of deaths in formulating its pandemic policy because reporting delays mean the current situation isn’t reflected. As the number of cases and deaths ease in the most populated island of Java, the highly infectious delta variant is spreading across the outer islands, which have less-equipped health-care systems and lower vaccination coverage.

Thailand Extends Restrictions in Hotspots (5:05 p.m. HK)

Thailand extended the closure of non-essential businesses and movement controls in its virus hotspots, including in Bangkok, until the Covid outbreak shows clear signs of easing. The near-lockdown measures in 29 provinces will stay at least until Aug. 31, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

German Advisory Body Backs Child Vaccinations (5:03 p.m. HK)

Germany’s national vaccination advisory body recommended Monday that all 12- to 17-year-olds get vaccinated against Covid-19. The benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risk of very rare side effects, vaccine commission STIKO said in a statement. The move aligns the authority with official policy. The government has been offering vaccinations to youngsters since the beginning of August.

Iran to Import Some Moderna, Pfizer Shots (3:50 p.m. HK)

Iran lifted a ban on importing vaccines branded as Modern Inc. and Pfizer Inc. but produced by drugmakers outside the U.S. or the U.K., the country’s Food and Drug Administration said in a statement, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had banned the import of Covid-19 shots made by American and British companies in January.

Hong Kong Adds U.S. to ‘High-Risk’ List (3:07 p.m. HK)

The government recategorized 15 overseas places including the U.S. and France to “high-risk” areas from “medium-risk,” according to a statement Monday. Quarantine requirements for people arriving from those places will be tightened starting Aug. 20. Australia was moved to “medium-risk” from “low-risk.”

Thai mRNA Vaccine Shows Promise (2:27 p.m. HK)

Thailand’s first homegrown Covid-19 vaccine, which deploys similar technology to that used by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc., has yielded “promising” results from its first phase of human trials, according to its head researcher. The vaccine, called ChulaCOV-19, can induce high levels of both B cell and T cell responses, Kiat Ruxrungtham, head researcher at Chulalongkorn University’s Center of Excellence in Vaccine Research and Development, said during a briefing on Monday.

Separately, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will face a no-confidence vote in parliament as opposition parties and pro-democracy groups ratchet up pressure on a government struggling to contain one of the worst outbreaks in the region. The opposition parties submitted a motion for censure debates and no-confidence votes on Monday against Prayuth and five other ministers, including Deputy Premier Anutin Charnvirakul, who heads the health ministry. The parliament may take up the votes later this month or early September, according to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

BNP Asks Traders to Return to Office: Les Echos (1:30 p.m.)

BNP Paribas requested traders to almost fully return to the office from October, Les Echos reported on Monday, without saying where it got the information from. Work from home for traders will be occasionally allowed, but only one day a month and to make sure trading operations can still be handled remotely.

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