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Pfizer Vaccine Results Leave Questions About Safety, Longevity

Covid-19 vaccine results from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE fueled optimism that the world will soon have a potential way out of the pandemic, yet experts cautioned that the shot still has many hurdles to clear.
Questions about production, distribution and, most importantly, the performance and capability of the shot itself still need to be answered, even if the numbers look highly promising, according to vaccine specialists. The Pfizer trial started less than four months ago, and how long the vaccine will confer protection and how many will benefit are almost complete unknowns for now.
“The key question still centers upon time,” said Michael Kinch, a drug development expert and associate vice chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis. “Will time tell us that the protection remains useful for the larger population?”
In a remarkable scientific feat -- achieved without funding from the U.S. vaccine accelerator known as Operation Warp Speed -- Pfizer and BioNTech produced positive results just over 11 months after the emergence of Covid-19 in China. An early analysis of data from the trial of more than 40,000 volunteers suggested the vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing the illness, the partners said Monday, the same day the U.S. surpassed 10 million total cases.
The companies’ statement “does not at all tell us about just what they’ve actually accomplished,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, during a radio interview Monday. “It’s really too early to put any definition to what this new vaccine research shows us.”
The headline number of 90% reduction in symptomatic cases says little about what kind of cases are being prevented. Detail on how well the vaccine works in the elderly and other vulnerable groups who most need protection is yet to come.
Vaccines like Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, a challenge that will need to be overcome if the vaccine is to be made broadly available, according to experts.
It’s also important to continue watching those who received the vaccine for years. The messenger RNA technology used in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has never been deployed in humans before.

A timely reminder that hurdles may still lie ahead..

China Vaccine Trial Halted in Brazil After Serious Adverse Event

The final-stage trial of a Chinese frontrunner vaccine candidate has been halted in Brazil due to a serious adverse event, the first time that any of the Asian nation’s rapidly developed Covid-19 shots have met with such a setback.
Testing of Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine, called Coronavac, has been halted in Brazil after an event that occurred on Oct. 29, said the Brazil Health Agency on Tuesday, without giving any further detail on what happened. The study is interrupted in accordance with regulations while the agency analyzes if the study should continue, it said.

Stimulus talks are back on the agenda.

Known side effects are a collective rolling of eyes and general loss of patience.

McConnell, Schumer Face Off on Stimulus as Senate Convenes

The U.S. Senate’s top Republican and Democrat faced off on Monday over the size of fiscal stimulus needed to support the economy, dimming any hopes for an immediate package as lawmakers reconvene following the election.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Congress should pass a limited stimulus bill by year-end, in the wake of positive data on a slide in unemployment and after encouraging news on a Covid-19 vaccine.
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer by contrast said Republicans “have proposed totally inadequate solutions” on Covid-19 relief.
For the moment, the American economic recovery has continued even with the expiration of fiscal support. The jobless rate fell by a percentage point, to 6.9% in October, data showed Friday.
“It turns out the news is a whole lot better” lately, McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I hope our Democratic colleagues will finally put aside their all-or-nothing obstruction and let the targeted pandemic relief -- targeted pandemic relief is what we need -- let it move forward.”
McConnell said that the Senate should pass relief in the post-election congressional session, which began Monday and is slated to end in mid-December.
“To be clear, our work is not finished. Too many Americans are still suffering economically,” he said.
Senators gave differing indications. Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby said about wrapping Covid-19 relief into spending bills: “There’s been talk about that, but we haven’t seen that. It might not be a bad idea if we can agree on stimulus.”
But Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said getting a stimulus deal in the lame duck session will be “hard.”
“Both sides are saying they want one but both sides are saying they only want the one they want,” he said.

All of which will take place whilst voting irregularities are addressed.

Barr urges probes of vote irregularities as Trump mounts legal assault

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors on Monday to look into “substantial” allegations of irregularities in last week’s election, prompting the top lawyer overseeing voter fraud investigations to resign in protest.
Barr told prosecutors that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for investigation and that his letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.
But he did say he was authorizing prosecutors to “pursue substantial allegations” of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots.
Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch, announced in an internal email that he was resigning from that post after he read “the new policy and its ramifications.”
Earlier on Monday, Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit to block Pennsylvania officials from certifying Biden’s victory in the battleground state.
It alleged the state’s mail-in voting system violated the U.S. Constitution by creating “an illegal two-tiered voting system” where voting in person was subject to more oversight than voting by mail.
It was filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and the boards of elections in Democratic-leaning counties that include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Boockvar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits since claiming the election results were flawed. Judges have tossed out lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia, and experts say Trump’s legal efforts have little chance of changing the election result.

China's inflation fails to perk up, defies broader recovery

China’s factory-gate prices fell at a sharper-than-expected pace in October, weighed by soft demand for fuel even as the country’s trade and manufacturing sectors staged impressive recoveries from their COVID-19 slump.
Consumer inflation was also soft, easing to an 11-year low as pork prices snapped a year-and-a-half of steep increases that were fuelled by critical shortages of the popular meat.
While the weaker price gauges largely reflect swings in volatile items, they also show upstream demand for industrial goods remains tepid overall in the world’s second-largest economy, despite signs of modest improvement in recent months.
The producer price index (PPI) fell 2.1% from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement on Tuesday, the same pace as in September and slightly more than a 2.0% decline tipped by the median forecast from a Reuters survey of analysts.
“We expect both CPI and PPI to be subdued in Q4,” said Zhaopeng Xing, markets economist at ANZ. “However, inflation will likely rebound after Q1 2021, thanks to the growing demand post the pandemic.”
“Consumer price inflation looks set to drop back further in the near-term as pork supply continues to recover from last year’s African swine fever outbreak,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, in a note after the data release.
“Policymakers are likely to look through the volatility in food prices and focus on the recovery in underlying inflation. As such, we don’t think low headline inflation will prevent the People’s Bank (of China) from raising interest rates next year.”

Japan PM Suga instructs cabinet to compile new stimulus package

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed his cabinet on Tuesday to compile a package of stimulus measures to revitalise an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s economy minister said.
Nishimura said the stimulus measures will focus on shifting to a “green” society, after the government pledged to cut greenhouse gases to zero by 2050 and realise a carbon-neutral society.
While Nishimura said the size of the new package had not been decided, ruling party lawmakers have called for between 10 trillion yen and 30 trillion yen ($95 billion to$286 billion) in new measures.
Nishimura highlighted the country’s negative output gap - which occurs when actual output is less than the economy’s full capacity - saying it stood at about 55 trillion yen, in second quarter.
Japan has already deployed a combined $2.2 trillion in two stimulus packages in response to the health crisis, including cash payments to households and small business loans. However, some analysts worry lavish spending could further strain the nation’s public finances, which are already the industrial world’s heaviest at more than twice the size of Japan’s$4.6 trillion economy.
“The additional budget should be spent on selected areas where necessary, rather than cash handouts to everyone that the government did previously,” said Yusuke Shimoda, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

Calendar highlights are the UK labour market data at 7AM and German ZEW.