AstraZeneca Exploring Options for COVID-19 Vaccine Business

By Alistair Smout and Pushkala Aripaka

The review of the future of the vaccine comes after a series of setbacks in its race to produce a shot for the world. Executives emphasised it was too early to say what the decision on the vaccine’s future would be.

AstraZeneca agreed to work with the University of Oxford on its COVID-19 shot last year despite having no prior vaccine experience, taking on the project with a pledge not to make a profit during the coronavirus pandemic.

While a $39 billion dollar deal to buy rare drug firm Alexion is much more integral to the company’s business strategy, the COVID-19 vaccine has quickly become the public face of the company’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A small group of people reporting into Mene (Pangalos, research chief) and myself are thinking about: is this a sustainable business?” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President and President of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit Ruud Dobber said, referring to the vaccines business.

“We need to have that discussion with our senior executive team, and then with the board of AstraZeneca. We are exploring different options, but it is far too early at this stage to conclude that (process).”

Dobber added that “before year-end, we will have more clarity”.

“Hopefully before the year ends, we will have a better view how to move forward in the next few years,” he said.

“If you ask me, is the vaccine business a sustainable business for AstraZeneca for the next five or 10 years, that big strategic question is under discussion.”

FAR TOO EARLY

AstraZeneca has been criticised by the European Union for its supply of shots, and is being sued by the bloc. The vaccine has also faced age restrictions due to rare clots linked to the vaccine and its application for U.S. approval is longer than expected.

Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said he had no regrets over getting involved in COVID-19 vaccines as the company has made an “enormous difference”.

It has delivered one billion doses around the world globally and is celebrated by the British government as a national success story of the pandemic.

Dobber said that AstraZeneca’s “number one commitment” was to deliver hundreds of millions of vaccine doses that were covered by current contracts.

“It’s not a distraction,” he said.

He added that the company would keep its pledge to deliver a broadly available and accessible vaccine. Soriot has said that the vaccine will always be kept affordable for low-income countries, even when the company moves away from a no-profit model.

Results released on Thursday showed sales of the vaccine in the second quarter more than tripled to $894 million from the first three months of the year.

But, unlike for rivals including Pfizer, it remains a drag on earnings overall, and Dobber said that if the vaccine business were to be sustainable, the company would have to stop making a loss on it.

“It doesn’t mean that moving forward we will not make a bit of profit,” Dobber said. “It’s not sustainable to do it without profits, but it’s too early now to speculate about that.”

(Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely, Josephine Mason and Jan Harvey)

Stronger Pound Weighs on FTSE 100 as June Inflation Jumps

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index slid 0.3%, with travel stocks down nearly 0.7%. Retailers Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline, and Diageo were among the top drags as the pound rose after inflation jumped to its highest in almost three years.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index fell 0.4%, with Cineworld being the top loser.

British inflation rose further above the Bank of England’s target in June at 2.5%, up from 2.1% in May, led by higher prices for food, fuel, second-hand cars, clothing, and footwear, official data showed on Wednesday.

That pushed UK’s benchmark 10-year bond yields up by five basis points, but the central bank’s comments that said the spike is likely to be transitory helped curb further losses.

“We’re still stuck in an inflationary limbo, where we can’t tell if rising prices are a statistical blip, or a more concerning and permanent feature of the global economic recovery,” said Laith Khalaf, a financial analyst at AJ Bell.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 has gained nearly 10% so far this year, supported by cheap interest rates, but its pace of growth has slowed since June to trade range-bound near the 7,100 level as higher COVID-19 cases and inflation weighed on investor mood.

Among stocks, AstraZeneca lost 0.7% and was the top drag on the FTSE 100. UK’s competition regulator cleared its $39 billion buyout of U.S.-based Alexion.

Barratt Developments gained 1.3% after it forecast 2021 profit to be marginally above the top end of market expectations.

Snack food firm SSP Group tumbled 2.7% on its chief executive officer’s plans to step down from his role at the end of 2021 to join a private equity-backed business.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Uttaresh.V)

 

Mining, Healthcare Stocks Boost FTSE 100 as Economy Strengthens

The blue-chip index rose 0.3%, with precious metal miners and base metal miners jumping 2% and 1.4%, respectively.

Pharmaceutical stocks also rose, with AstraZeneca leading the gains.

The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index advanced 0.3%.

The UK economy in April was a record 27.6% larger than 12 months before, official data showed, an increase that reflects recent reopening and the scale of disruption to everyday life early in the COVID-19 pandemic. In April alone, output rose by 2.3%, marking the fastest growth since July.

Among other stocks, Sanne Group jumped 11.5% as the asset management services provider said it was in talks with Cinven after the private-equity firm made a sweetened offer of 875 pence per share to buy the company.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

(Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

 

Uk Competition Regulator Looking Into $39 Billion Astrazeneca-Alexion Deal

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said on Tuesday it was inviting comments from any interested party on the deal to help its assessment, setting a deadline of June 3 for any submissions.

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, also a major COVID-19 vaccine producer, agreed to buy Alexion in December in its largest ever deal in a bet on rare-disease and immunology drugs and to diversify away from its fast-growing cancer business.

Cambridge, UK-based AstraZeneca’s shareholders approved the proposal at a general meeting earlier this month.

The United States has cleared the deal, as have other countries including Canada, Brazil and Russia.

“The commencement of the UK CMA’s formal review is another important step towards closing of the proposed acquisition, which we continue to expect will be in the third quarter of 2021,” a representative for AstraZeneca said.

Alexion did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s best-selling drug Soliris is used against a range of rare immune-disorders including paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), which causes anaemia and blood clots.

AstraZeneca hopes an improved version of the drug has even larger market potential. It expects to boost growth by introducing Alexion’s rare-disease medicines to China and other emerging markets.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath, Kirsten Donovna)

Oxford Biomedica Lifts Outlook as AstraZeneca Ramps Up Vaccine Output

Shares of the cell therapy firm, which has an agreement to mass-produce AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, rose 6.2% in early trading.

Oxford Biomedica raised its forecast for cumulative revenues from AstraZeneca by end-2021 to more than 100 million pounds ($141.82 million) from more than 50 million pounds earlier. The company did not provide any other details on its deal.

Liberum analysts said the increased supply deal was a “huge endorsement” of Oxford Biomedica’s capabilities, and that a further extension from AstraZeneca feels “increasingly likely”.

AstraZeneca has had a bruising start to the year as it struggled with vaccine production and faced a legal battle after cutting deliveries to Europe.

Oxford Biomedica was spun off in 1995 from the University of Oxford, which developed the COVID-19 vaccine before licensing it to AstraZeneca in April 2020.

The company, which signed the 18-month supply deal with AstraZeneca in September 2020, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for a comment.

($1 = 0.7051 pounds)

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

EU Sues AstraZeneca over Delayed Deliveries of COVID-19 Vaccine

AstraZeneca said in response that the legal action by the EU was without merit and pledged to defend itself strongly in court.

“AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” AstraZeneca said in a statement on Monday.

Under the contract, the Anglo-Swedish company had committed to making its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver 180 million vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of this year, for a total of 300 million in the period from December to June.

But AstraZeneca said in a statement on March 12 it would aim to deliver only one-third of that by the end of June, of which about 70 million in the second quarter. A week after that, the Commission sent a legal letter to the company in the first step of a formal procedure to resolve disputes.

“The Commission has started last Friday a legal action against AstraZeneca,” the EU spokesman told a news conference, noting all 27 EU states backed the move.

“Some terms of the contract have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses,” the spokesman said, explaining what triggered the move.

Under the contract, the case will need to be resolved by Belgian courts.

“We want to make sure there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to and which have been promised on the basis of the contract,” the spokesman said.

“Every vaccine dose counts,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter, announcing the legal proceedings against AstraZeneca.

Germany, France and Hungary were among EU states that were initially reticent to sue the company, diplomats said, but eventually they supported the move.

The EU wants AstraZeneca to deliver the promised 300 million doses, but in a further sign of its irritation towards the company, it has already forgone another 100 million shots that it had an option to buy under the contract signed in August.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Marine Strauss; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bernadette Baum)

Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Tech Maker Vaccitech Targets $613 Million Valuation in U.S. IPO

The company, which has development programs for conditions including hepatitis B, prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, has raised $216 million to date from Gilead Sciences, Sequoia Capital China and Oxford Sciences Innovation among others.

The UK-based company, spun out of Jenner Institute at the Oxford University in 2016, said it plans to list its American Depositary Shares (ADS) on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “VACC”.

It said it was offering 6.5 million ADSs, each representing one ordinary share, priced between $16 and $18 each. At the top end of the range, the IPO would rake in $117 million for Vaccitech.

The company intends to use proceeds from the offering to fund its ongoing clinical programs and its early-stage research and development.

Morgan Stanley, Jefferies, Barclays, William Blair and H.C. Wainwright & Co are the underwriters for the offering.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Stocks Mixed After Inflation Exceeds Analyst Expectations

Inflation Rate Increased By 2.6% In March

The U.S. has just released Inflation Rate and Core Inflation Rate reports. The reports indicated that Inflation Rate increased by 2.6% year-over-year in March compared to analyst consensus which called for growth of 2.5%. Core Inflation Rate increased by 1.6% year-over-year compared to analyst consensus of 1.5%.

Inflation is moving higher on a year-over-year basis as prices were weak during the acute phase of the coronavirus crisis a year ago. Inflation looks more calm on a month-over-month basis although it also exceeded analyst expectations. Inflation Rate grew by 0.6% month-over-month in March compared to analyst consensus of 0.5%, while Core Inflation Rate increased by 0.3%.

S&P 500 futures are swinging between gains and losses in premarket trading after the release of inflation reports. Meanwhile, Treasury yields failed to gain additional upside momentum after reports indicated that inflation exceeded analyst expectations.

U.S. Recommends Pausing The Use Of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Shares of Johnson & Johnson found themselves under pressure in premarket trading after U.S. health agencies called for a temporary pause of the use of the company’s coronavirus vaccine.

The problems of Johnson & Johnson are similar to AstraZeneca‘s problems. In rare cases, recipients of the vaccine developed blood clots.

While these cases are extremely rare, the negative headlines may decrease people’s confidence in vaccination in general, so Johnson & Johnson’s problems may serve as a bearish catalyst for the market.

Euro Area Economic Sentiment Declines

Today, EU reported that Euro Area ZEW Economic Sentiment Index decreased from 74 in March to 66.3 in April. Analysts expected that it would grow to 77. In Germany, Economic Sentiment Index declined from 76.6 to 70.7 compared to analyst consensus of 79.

The reports indicated that European businesses have started to feel the pressure from the third wave of the virus. At the same time, it should be noted that ZEW Economic Sentiment Index remains at high levels.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

What is next for US stock market and dollar?

SP500 index is now up more than +9% year-to-date, while the Dow is up +9.5% and the Nasdaq is up more than +7%. Bulls remain committed to their outlook for an economic boom, all of which is underpinned by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s continued easy monetary policies.

Fundamental analysis

Federal Reserve and monetary policy

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated last week that the Fed would continue to remain extremely accommodative until the economy has further recovered. Speaking during an IMF event, Powell pointed out that while parts of the economy are recovering strongly, “there’s a very large group of people who are not.”

The Fed Chair acknowledged the better than expected job gains in March and said the Fed would consider a string of similar monthly gains to progress. Also, Powell again pointed to the weak labor market participation rate as a disinflationary force that will keep temporary price spikes under control. What Powell seems more concerned about is the ongoing pandemic and rising infections across many parts of the world, noting that the “world economy” can’t return to normal until the virus is under control everywhere.

Vaccination

Keep in mind, many of our largest U.S. businesses get +40% or more of their revenue from the global economies. Obviously, it is going to take more widespread vaccination and better efforts in other countries to orchestrate a global recovery. The U.S. remains one of the leaders in vaccinations but there might be a little hiccup the next week or two, as Johnson & Johnson has run into some manufacturing snafus. The CDC said -85% fewer doses of the company’s vaccine will be shipped to states next week, though they did not provide a reason.

Around 15 million J&J doses had to be destroyed because of an ingredient mix up at a factory late last month. Traders are also keeping an eye on developments surrounding AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine which has been suspended in several country’s due to a possible link to blood clots. Unfortunately, the AstraZeneca drug is the dominant vaccine in use across the globe because of its lower cost and easier distribution. Most advanced economy countries that are using AstraZeneca’s drug also have vaccine supplies from other drug makers but the suspension will still mean a slowdown for vaccine rollouts in many parts of Europe and Asia.

AstraZeneca’s safety issues could mean no vaccine supplies at all for some developing countries where it’s the only option. An underlying concern is that these compounding safety issues, shot suspensions, and other hiccups could lead to an overall “crisis of confidence” in vaccine campaigns, meaning fewer people getting inoculated and delaying the global end to the pandemic.

News and data to watch

Next week brings the Consumer Price Index on Tuesday; Import/Export Prices and the Fed’s Beige Book on Wednesday; Empire State Manufacturing, Retail Sales, Industrial Production, Business Inventories, and the NAHB Housing Market Index on Thursday; and Housing Starts on Friday.

The main focus next week will likely be on Q1 earnings, with the season “unofficially” kicking off with results from big Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo on Wednesday, followed by Bank of America, Citigroup, and U.S. Bancorp on Thursday.

SP500 technical analysis

sp500 technical analysis

So far SP500 futures still didn’t break above Gann’s resistance. Yet the weekly closing looks very strong. But we can consider longs at this stage only if this resistance turns into support. In that case, 4250 is the natural magnet. However, I am a bit skeptical it may happen.

I like to trade SP500 when Advance Decline Line and cycles give the same signal. At the moment, it is better to pay attention to commodities. There are few markets ready for big moves. At the same time, SP500 cycles turned to the downside, while ADL is very bullish. If we will see a divergence in ADL in coming week or two, I will look for a sell signal. But at the moment, nothing is clear yet.

Dollar Index (DXY) technical analysis

dollar forecast

Overall, the Federal Reserve policy remains bearish for American currency in the long run. But we don’t have a strong fundamental setup to establish swing trades. So, I want you to pay attention to the smaller time frame. The dollar index (DXY) respects 4h MA50 and MA200 quite well. So, we can take advantage of that.

If the price breaks and sustains under 91.90, the price will reach 91.5 and 91 in extension. On the other hand, breaching the 4h MA50, the dollar will target the 93 – 93.5 zone.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Sterling Stems Losses Versus Dollar, After Hard Profit-Taking Knock

By Tom Wilson

The pound slumped 0.6% to a one-week low against the dollar and around 1% against the euro on Wednesday as investors took cash off the table after a strong first quarter for the British currency.

But by 0847 GMT on Thursday, sterling was flat against the dollar at $1.3725, according to Yahoo! Finance, having touched its lowest this month a day earlier.

Against the euro, it traded down slightly at 86.42 pence per euro, according to Yahoo! Finance, after its worst day against the single currency in five weeks.

ING analysts wrote that sterling’s pullback was “exaggerated,” adding that they “remain constructive on the currency”, citing Britain’s relatively fast coronavirus vaccine programme.

Expectations of an economic rebound in Britain, spurred by rapid COVID-19 vaccinations, helped sterling to record its best quarter since 2015 versus the euro.

Diminishing expectations that the Bank of England will push interest rates to negative territory have also helped.

Britain has surged ahead of the rest of Europe in the race to inoculate its population, with almost half of its citizens receiving a first dose. But supply issues from its main Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have slowed progress in recent days.

(Reporting by Tom Wilson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Germany to Discuss AstraZeneca COVID Shots After Blood Clot Reports

By Patricia Weiss and Caroline Copley

Health Minister Jens Spahn will talk with his regional counterparts at 1800 CET (1600 GMT), a ministry spokesman said.

The meeting follows further reports by Germany’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), of cases of blood clots known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT).

Germany’s vaccine committee, known as STIKO, will recommend using the Anglo-Swedish shot only in people over 60, the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper reported citing a draft decision by STIKO.

PEI said it had registered 31 cases of CSVT, which resulted in nine deaths, out of some 2.7 million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. With the exception of two cases, all reports involved women aged between 20 and 63.

It did not comment on the possible consequences and only said it was actively working with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). EU regulators plan to issue an updated recommendation on the AstraZeneca shot next week.

Several German states, including Berlin and Brandenburg, as well as the city of Munich, said they would stop giving the shot to people under 60.

State hospital groups Charite and Vivantes suspended vaccinations in female staff aged under 55, citing further cases of CSVT.

“Although no complications have occurred at the Charite after vaccinations with AstraZeneca, the Charite wants to take precautionary action here and wait for final assessments,” a spokeswoman said.

Because use of the vaccine in Germany was initially limited to those under 65, the shot has been administered among younger women, particularly medical staff and teachers.

Many European countries briefly stopped using the Anglo-Swedish firm’s vaccine earlier this month while investigating rare cases of blood clots.

Both the EMA and the World Health Organization said this month the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweighed the risks.

An EMA review covering 20 million people who took the AstraZeneca shot in Britain and the European Economic Area found seven cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels and 18 cases of CVST.

AstraZeneca says its vaccine is safe and effective, citing extensive trial data. Millions of doses have been safely administered around the world.

Nearly all countries have since resumed use of the vaccine. But France broke with guidance from the EMA and said on March 19 it should only be given to people aged 55 or older. France said the decision was based on evidence that the clotting affected younger people.

Canadian Health Officials said on Monday they would stop offering AstraZeneca’s shot to people under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender.

Some 19,000 people work at the Charite hospitals and 17,000 at Vivantes, which operates clinics as well as care homes.

Tagesspiegel, which first reported the decision, said that around two thirds of staff at Charite have been vaccinated so far, and 70% of those workers have received one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder criticised the “back and forth” around the vaccine, saying all recommendations showed that the danger of severe illness from the coronavirus outweighed any side-effects linked to the shot.

“At some point we have to be able to administer it freely and say, ‘he who wants it and he who dares should be able to get it’,” he said.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley and Patricia Weiss; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Oil Bears Reign Despite Blockage at Suez Canal

At press time, the British-based contract Brent crude futures lost over 1% to trade at $63 a barrel after jumping substantially yesterday.

Sequel to the Suez Canal blockage, oil prices had lately been under immense selling pressures as the black viscous hydrocarbon lost about 5% in value, breaching below $65 a barrel on fears about tighter COVID-19 curbs in key emerged markets and of late the suspension of vaccine usage in Western Europe.

Also recent revelation from a U.S health regulator points that AstraZeneca vaccine could have included outdated information in its data, stunned oil traders in staying long relatively.

Such macros altered the bulls’ run momentarily and sharply reversed yesterday’s gain on news of the blockage in the Suez Canal, potentially obstructing oil tankers carrying about 13 million barrels of oil.

Consequently, recent price actions reveal oil traders are reacting more to demand risks rather than supply dynamics even as oil vessels carrying Russian, Saudi, Omani and US crude wait on, meaning it could be just a matter of few weeks for Brent crude bears to test the $60 support levels.

The soaring value in the U.S dollar in recent times further compounds the precarious situation oil bulls are currently in, as recent data from the U.S dollar index reveal investors presently prefer to hold the safe-haven currency, rather than holding riskier assets like commodities.

In line with broader market sentiments, oil bulls are under siege as Covid-19 concerns batter hard on oil prices, OPEC+ April 1 meeting might see a rollover of their current supply curbs into May.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Science vs Skeptics: Some in France Struggle to Trust in AstraZeneca Shot

By Caroline Pailliez

“Some say the vaccine leads to thrombosis, that it’s rare but that it can happen,” the 59-year-old nursery minder said. “I’d rather hold out.”

Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca shot have been safely administered around the world and the EU’s medicines watchdog has reaffirmed it safe for all ages, prompting most of the states which briefly halted it to resume giving the jab.

Breaking from this guidance however, France’s health regulator said only those over 55 should for now receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Becker said she would not hesitate to get vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech shot or Moderna’s vaccine. But France is not offering either to her age group.

Those in France who do not trust the Anglo-Swedish shot cite concerns about the speed of development and possible side effects. Remarks by President Emmanuel Macron in early February that it was “quasi-ineffective” for people of retirement age did little to reassure.

Macron later said he would have the AstraZeneca jab himself if offered it.

Regulators around the world have repeatedly said speed will not compromise safety and vaccine developers have said they will not cut corners in testing for safety and efficacy.

The quicker results have stemmed from conducting parallel trials that are usually done in sequence and can take years.

Trials for Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots have shown only temporary side-effects.

“We’re completely lost. We don’t know who to believe,” said Becker.

CORNERSTONE OF VACCINE STRATEGY

AstraZeneca says its vaccine is safe and effective. Citing phase 3 U.S. trial data on Monday, it said no increased risk of thrombosis had been identified.

Like other wealthy countries, France has made the AstraZeneca shot a pillar of its vaccine rollout. But its faltering campaign has been slowed by bureaucracy, public mistrust and Europe-wide supply delays.

With all the big vaccine makers experiencing production problems, France cannot afford for people to snub the AstraZeneca shot.

A government spokesman said on Tuesday the COVID-19 situation was worsening across the country. The number of patients in intensive care with the virus has risen to its highest this year.

New restrictions closing non-essential retail and limiting how far people can travel came into effect in Paris and some other regions last week and could be introduced elsewhere.

A YouGov poll published this week showed the suspensions had damaged confidence in the vaccine’s safety in France and elsewhere in Europe. In France, 61% of respondents considered the AstraZeneca shot unsafe compared with 43% in late February.

A French health ministry official said more time was needed to tell if the suspension had really hurt public confidence.

Doubts still linger in the mind of Chrystel Geoffrey, an administrative clerk in the town hall of Rueil Malmaison, a Paris suburb. Aged 41 and in good health, her turn for the vaccine won’t come until the summer.

“I still don’t know if I will accept AstraZeneca or not,” she said, adding that she would have not qualms receiving the Pfizer vaccine. “There hasn’t been the same negative or anxiety-inducing feedback surrounding that vaccine.”

General practitioner Anne Pailliez said she had not received any cancellations for the AstraZeneca shot, though limited supplies meant those who had come forward so far tended to be keen to get inoculated.

However, difficulties might arise when the target groups were widened further, she said.

“I see some patients grimace when we tell them they’ll have to have AstraZeneca,” she said. “Persuading them might be tricky.”

(Editing by Richard Lough and Alexandra Hudson)

AstraZeneca Says 29 Million COVID-19 Doses in Italy are for EU, Poorer Countries

By Michel Rose, Francesco Guarascio and Emilio Parodi

At the request of the European Commission, Italian security forces inspected a Catalent factory in Anagni, near Rome, at the weekend and found the store of vaccine doses, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa. An Italian official later confirmed the report of the inspection and said the doses were to be sent to Belgium.

A flurry of reactions to the report reflected the level of mistrust in the EU towards the Anglo-Swedish firm, which slashed its supply target to the EU by the end of June to 100 million from 300 million envisaged in its contract with the 27-nation bloc. The 29 million doses found would be enough to vaccinate 14.5 million people.

“A stock of almost 30 million doses has been identified near Rome during an inspection we put in place. It has now been seized,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “The EU won’t be the fall guy of vaccinations.”

EU lawmaker Peter Liese, from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the report left him speechless, and he urged AstraZeneca to clarify the situation.

Later on Wednesday, AstraZeneca said that most of the doses in the Catalent plant were for the EU, and the rest were for poorer countries supplied by the COVAX scheme co-led by the World Health Organization.

“There are no exports currently planned other than to COVAX countries. There are 13 million doses of vaccine waiting for quality control release to be dispatched to COVAX,” the company said.

The remaining 16 million will be shipped to Europe this month and in April, it said.

Mario Gargiulo, Regional Biologics President for Europe at Catalent, told Reuters that having 29 million doses in the Anagni factory was in line with normal procedure and that the company often had more there.

The European Commission declined to comment on the doses at the Anagni factory.

Earlier on Wednesday, UNICEF said on behalf of the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility that the projected deliveries of vaccines to all countries, including Vietnam, had to be delayed due to production delays.

HALIX

An EU official said some of the doses at the Catalent plant might come from a vaccine factory in the Netherlands run by AstraZeneca’s subcontractor Halix.

The Anagni plant is in charge of bottling AstraZeneca vaccines produced at the Halix factory and also at a plant in Belgium run by subcontractor Thermo Fisher Scientific.

AstraZeneca said that the factory also bottles doses received from outside the EU and to be shipped to COVAX countries.

Both vaccine-making factories in Belgium and the Netherlands are listed in the contract AstraZeneca signed with the EU in August as suppliers to the EU.

However, the Halix factory has not yet been approved in the EU, as AstraZeneca did not submit sufficient data to the EU drugs regulator. It has also not been approved in Britain.

Vaccines produced there cannot be used in the EU until that approval is received, which AstraZeneca and EU officials said they expected in the coming days.

It is unclear why AstraZeneca did not seek earlier approval for the factory. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker declined to comment on that point.

Halix is also listed as a supplier for Britain, which is urging the EU to allow the shipment of doses produced there. Britain has so far exported no AstraZeneca vaccines to the EU, despite two UK plants being listed in the EU contract as suppliers for the bloc.

Halix said it started producing vaccines for the EU in December and has a capacity to produce about 5 million doses per month. The company declined to comment on how many vaccines it had already produced or on their destination.

(Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris, Emilio Parodi in Milan and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni in Rome, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Alistair Smout in London; editing by Louise Heavens and Hugh Lawson)

Why Shares Of AstraZeneca Are Down By 3% Today?

AstraZeneca Video 23.03.21.

AstraZeneca Stock Moves Lower As U.S. Health Officials Seek More Data On Its COVID-19 Vaccine

Shares of AstraZeneca found themselves under strong pressure after U.S. health officials criticised trial data that was published on Monday. The main concern of health officials was that the data was outdated.

According to AstraZeneca’s response, its press release used the data avalable through February 17. The company promised to work with U.S. health officials to address their concerns.

Previously, European countries paused the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on concerns about serious side effects which included blood clots. The World Health Organization stated that the benefits of the vaccine outweighted its risks and that it recommended that vaccinations continued. However, it is clear that public confidence in the vaccine has declined. In addition, problems of AstraZeneca vaccine may have hurt confidence in vaccination in general.

What’s Next For AstraZeneca?

AstraZeneca shares have been trending down since July 2020 when the stock reached its high at $64.94 on vaccine enthusiasm. The rollout of the vaccine was followed by various problems, and the latest criticism from U.S. health officials is just another problem for the company.

At current levels, AstraZeneca stock is trading at 15 forward P/E which is not cheap compared to the peer group. The company’s problems with the vaccine add to the pressure as they create negative headlines.

While AstraZeneca is a huge drug manufacturer whose sales are not limited to coronavirus vaccine, investors and traders should not understimate the impact of negative headlines on the price of the company’s shares.

Most likely, the stock will need an upside trend in company’s earnings estimates to move higher. At this point, nobody knows whether revenue from COVID-19 vaccines will be recurring, but AstraZeneca must solve existing problems before the market will start to evaluate the longer-term revenue potential of its coronavirus vaccine.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Stocks Retreat Amid Concerns About The Third Wave Of The Virus In Europe

Stocks And Commodities Are Under Pressure Amid Virus Fears

S&P 500 futures are losing ground in premarket trading amid concerns about new lockdowns in Europe and continued deterioration of relations between China and Western countries.

Germany announced that it will have to impose virus containment measures until April 18 as the country had to deal with the British variant of the virus which is more contagious. Europe’s problems with coronavirus will likely put pressure on the EU economy in the second quarter of 2021 which is bearish for global markets.

Meanwhile, China imposed sanctions on individuals and entities from the EU in retaliation for sanctions imposed on China’s officials for the situation in Xinjiang. These sanctions were the first ones imposed on China by EU in thirty years, so it’s a major development on the political front. It remains to be seen whether recent developments will have any practical implications but markets are concerned about worsening ties between China and the West.

Oil Dives Below The $60 Level On Concerns About Demand In Europe

WTI oil declined below the psychologically important $60 level and tested the support at $58.50 as traders reacted to Germany’s decision to extend lockdown measures until April 18.

At this point, it looks like recovery of international travel is still far away despite mass vaccination programs in developed countries which is bearish for oil.

Oil-related equities will find themselves under significant pressure at the start of today’s trading session as traders remain worried about Europe’s problems with coronavirus.

U.S. Says That AstraZeneca May Have Provided Outdated Data

Shares of AstraZeneca are down by more than 2% in premarket trading as U.S. stated that it was concerned that the company included outdated data in the information from its COVID-19 vaccine trial.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has recently suffered a PR blow as European countries paused its use on concerns about its safety. New concerns from the U.S. may further undermine public confidence in the vaccine and slow down mass vaccination programs which is bearish for markets.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

AstraZeneca U.S. Trial Data a Confidence Booster for COVID-19 Shot

By Josephine Mason and Ben Blanchard

The drugmaker said on Monday that trials in Chile, Peru and the United States found the vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University, was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and, crucially, posed no increased risk of blood clots. It intends to request U.S. emergency authorization in coming weeks.

More than a dozen European countries, including Germany and France, had halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month after some reports linked it to blood clots in a very small number of people. They have since resumed inoculation after a regional regulator said it was safe, but an opinion poll on Monday showed Europeans remained sceptical over its safety.

Hailed as a milestone in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic when it first emerged as a vaccine contender last year, the AstraZeneca shot has since been dogged by confusion over its efficacy, dosing regimen and possible side-effects as well as supply setbacks in Europe, where the company has been at the centre of a growing conflict between Brussels and London over so-called ‘vaccine nationalism’.

The latest data should help address some of those concerns, analysts said. Based on more than 32,000 people, the trial was larger and elderly volunteers featured more prominently than in previous trial results from the UK which had prompted some European countries to initially hold back using the AstraZeneca shot on older people.

“It is clear this vaccine has very good efficacy (remember that 60% was, prior to any trials being started, regarded as a good target), and that this efficacy does not show a notable decline at older ages,” said Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

AstraZeneca shares were up over 1% in early London trading.

U.S. trials of rival vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are already being deployed in the United States, have showed efficacy rates of around 95%.

But the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is already widely used outside the United States, is seen as crucial to tackling the spread of COVID-19 across the globe because it is easier and cheaper to transport than rival shots.

“I have just finished getting the (AstraZeneca) injection, there is no pain at the injection site, and there is no soreness of the body,” Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters as the island launched its inoculation campaign on Monday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received his first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, saying he “did not feel a thing.”

And French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would take the AstraZeneca vaccine if that’s what was offered after previously being quoted as saying the shot was “quasi-ineffective”.

HEADWINDS

The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been granted a conditional marketing authorisation or emergency use in more than 50 countries, spanning four continents.

But it has yet to be approved in the United States, where President Joe Biden is stepping up the federal response to the pandemic by expanding testing, ramping up vaccinations and boosting production.

University of Oxford professor Sarah Gilbert told BBC radio that work to prepare a submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the United States will take a few weeks. A company spokesman said the filing would likely be in the first half of April.

The American trial results have not yet been reviewed by independent researchers.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine gets U.S. approval, it would be the fourth after Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

It uses a modified version of a chimpanzee common cold virus to teach the human body to make proteins from the novel coronavirus to generate an immune response and prevent infection.

Scepticism over the shot started last year when the British drugmaker and Oxford University published data with different efficacy readings due to a dosing measurement error. Later analysis suggested the dosing interval rather than the amount of dose administers was responsible for the difference.

Many Asian countries heavily rely on the AstraZeneca vaccine to end the pandemic, as the shot is being used in inoculation programmes in Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and India.

Some states in India, which has the highest coronavirus caseload after the United States and Brazil, are seeking to accelerate the vaccination drive, as the country reported its most COVID-19 cases and deaths in months on Monday.

As vaccine demand rises at home, top producer the Serum Institute of India has delayed further shipments of the AstraZeneca shot to Brazil, Britain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia..

In Europe, meanwhile, the European Union has threatened to block exports of COVID-19 vaccines to Britain to safeguard scarce doses for its own citizens, with Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen saying the epidemiological situation was worsening. [L1N2LJ0I4]

(Additional reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Muvija M in Bengaluru, Ludwig Berger in Frankfurt, Krishna Das in New Delhi, Colin Packham in Canberra, Stanley Widianto in Jakarta, Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Neil Jerome Morales in Manila and Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Miyoung Kim and Barbara Lewis; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Carmel Crimmins)

 

Keep Using AstraZeneca COVID Shots to Save Lives, WHO Tells Europe

Hans Kluge noted that Europe’s medicines regulators are investigating a small number of cases of blood clots in the region that have prompted around a dozen EU governments to suspend us of the AstraZeneca shot.

“As of now, we do not know whether some or all of the conditions have been caused by the vaccine or by other coincidental factors,” he said, adding: “At this point in time, however, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh its risks – and its use should continue, to save lives.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said so far said it has found no causal link between the vaccine and any clotting or blood coagulation reports.

Despite these reassurances, at least 13 EU member states, including Germany, France and Italy, have suspended use of the shot pending the outcome a fuller EMA investigation – expected to be completed on Thursday.

Kluge said gaining and maintaining public trust was “crucial”.

“We need to renew confidence, if it’s lost, to restore it – especially for AstraZeneca,” he said.

“Basically we do this by transparency, so communication from day one is very important,” he added. “Number two is showing empathy with the people. And number three is to be competent.”

AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and European Union with its vaccine had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland and Ludwig Burger, editing by Nick Macfie)

Political Role Under Fire in European AstraZeneca Vaccine Suspensions

By Douglas Busvine and Ludwig Burger

The role of Germany, and in particular Health Minister Jens Spahn, is in the spotlight after a chaotic round of telephone diplomacy at the start of the week ended with the EU’s biggest states agreeing to put AstraZeneca on hold.

Spahn says he acted on expert advice after Germany’s vaccine watchdog reported on what it described as a statistically significant number of cases of a rare brain blood clot.

AstraZeneca says it has found no evidence that the blood clots were caused by the vaccine. The World Health Organization called on countries not to delay lifesaving vaccine programmes.

Germany’s actions have been interpreted as political both at home and abroad, with opposition leaders calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel to sack Spahn. Officials in major European capitals have given mixed accounts over how the joint move to halt AstraZeneca came about.

The stop on AstraZeneca threatens to hobble Europe’s vaccination campaign just as a third wave of infection breaks over the continent, accelerated by more infectious variants.

The bloc has already lagged far behind the United States and former EU member Britain in vaccinating citizens. Hospitals are filling up again, and politicians in several European countries have been forced to consider fresh lockdowns, even as comparable rich countries prepare for normal life to return.

“We need this vaccine,” said Germany’s best-known virologist Christian Drosten, whose regular podcast is widely followed. He cited forecasts of a resurgence in infection by Easter that could endanger Germans over the age of 60 who are next in line for a shot.

Ian Jones, a professor of virology at Britian’s Reading University, said the blood clot issue had “been picked up by politicians who don’t know one side of a virus from another”.

“It’s like falling dominoes. You just need one or two (countries) to state there’s a problem and suspend use, and then a whole lot of others will fall in place. I don’t think there have been any independent decisions,” he told Reuters.

A MATTER OF TRUST

Germany acted after its vaccine oversight body, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, found seven cases of a very rare cerebral vein clot among 1.6 million people given the AstraZeneca shot in the country, including three cases that were fatal.

The EU drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is investigating reports of around 30 cases of blood clots, bleeding and low platelet counts among the 5 million people in the EU that have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It will present its findings on Thursday, but meanwhile it has found no causal link to the vaccine, and says the shot’s benefits clearly outweigh any risks.

“We are worried that there may be an effect on the trust of the vaccines,” EMA head Emer Cooke told reporters. “But our job is to make sure that the products that we authorise are safe and can be trusted.”

AstraZeneca Plc said it had conducted a review covering more than 17 million people who had received its shots in the EU and Britain, and had found no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

Yet a narrow majority of Germans believe it was right for the government to suspend AstraZeneca, a Forsa opinion poll showed on Wednesday, with 54% backing Spahn’s decision and 39% saying it was excessive.

The willingness of Germans to be vaccinated against COVID, at 71%, meanwhile, has fallen by two percentage points since Forsa’s last poll on March 3. Were AstraZeneca to be reinstated, 63% would be willing to take it.

NO PRESSURE

Officials in European capitals gave conflicting accounts of a round of whirlwind diplomacy on Monday that led Italy, France and Spain to follow Germany in suspending the shot.

Sources said Merkel telephoned Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to brief him. One top Italian health official called Italy’s suspension a political decision not to part ways with Germany.

Italian sources said Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed by phone that the measure was temporary and precautionary.

A senior German government source denied that Berlin had exerted any pressure, noting that smaller EU member states such as Austria and Belgium had already raised the alarm.

“Nobody is being forced to do anything,” said the German source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That’s not how the EU works.”

Amid the European controversy, frustration over Spahn’s pandemic management has boiled over among Germany’s ruling conservatives, who have just suffered defeats in two regional elections. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) are languishing at one-year lows in polls ahead of a general election in September in which she will not seek a record fifth term.

Her successor as CDU chairman, Armin Laschet, a contender to run for chancellor, has criticised the AstraZeneca delay as “bad news”. Rival Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, has called for the shot to be made available to anyone who wants it.

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke in BERLIN, Giselda Vagnoni in ROME, Michel Rose in PARIS, Nathan Allen and Belen Carreno in MADRID and Kate Kelland in LONDON; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Peter Graff)

India Backs AstraZeneca shot as COVID-19 Cases Hit Three-Month High

By Neha Arora and Rama Venkat

The European Medicines Agency is investigating reports of 30 cases of unusual blood disorders out of 5 million recipients of the vaccine in the region.

Since starting the drive in mid-January, India has administered 36 million vaccine doses, which are mostly the AstraZeneca shots developed with Oxford University and locally known as Covishield.

“We have no signal of concern in this regard,” Vinod Kumar Paul, who heads a government committee on vaccines, told a news conference, adding that experts in India had looked into the issue.

“Covishield vaccination in the country will go on with full rigour.”

The World Health Organization has said it is assessing whether medical events such as blood clots are related to the vaccination and urged anyone offered a vaccine to take one. AstraZeneca has said a review of safety data has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

Paul said as infections had risen in the country since early February, hitting a three-month high on Wednesday, the government was looking at accelerating the vaccination drive that also uses a homegrown shot created by Bharat Biotech and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

The federal health ministry has so far distributed to states 75.4 million vaccine doses, less than half of which have been given to frontline workers, the elderly and people above 45 with health conditions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said quick action was needed to contain the surge, as the country’s infections tally hit 11.44 million, the third behind the United States and Brazil.

“We need to soon stop the emerging second peak of corona,” he said in a virtual meeting with state leaders, urging them to increase testing and strictly monitor mask-wearing. “We need to take quick, decisive steps.”

India’s cases jumped by 28,903 on Wednesday, the highest increase since Dec. 13. Deaths increased by 188, the highest in two months, to stand at 159,044.

Modi said states needed to proactively ensure infections did not increase in the countryside, where healthcare facilities would fall short. Rural India is home to two-thirds of the country’s 1.35 billion people.

The federal government has blamed crowding and a reluctance to wear masks for the spike, ruling out the virus mutations that have been a factor in Western countries.

The recent increase has been led by the western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s commercial capital of Mumbai.

Nearly 62% of infections in the past 24 hours and 46% of the deaths were reported by Maharashtra, which has ordered a lockdown in some districts and put curbs on cinemas, hotels and restaurants until end of the month.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

(Reporting by Neha Arora in NEW DELHI and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sethuraman N R, Sachin Ravikumar, Chandini Monnappa, Nigam Prusty and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Krishna N. Das)