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‘Jack up the stock’: Vaccine profit PR flusters scientists, inflates public expectations

Drugmakers generate headlines with early results on boosters, kid vaccines

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‘Jack up the stock’: Vaccine profit PR flusters scientists, inflates public expectations

Drugmakers are hailing great results with COVID-19 boosters and shots for school-age children, enthusing a pandemic-weary public and markets but flustering scientists who say it is important to look at real data before getting too optimistic.

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday reported that a second dose of its vaccine provided 94% protection against symptomatic disease. The announcement gave its shares on Wall Street a boost in early trading.

Pfizer announced Monday that its scientists found an effective dose for children ages 5 to 11, raising expectations of a child vaccine by Halloween, before outside experts study trial results or the Food and Drug Administration has its say.

“Pfizer & J&J touting new vaccine results without a large package of data. We’re seeing too much science by press release,” Lawrence Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University, tweeted Tuesday.

“Science by press release” has been a common refrain from scientists who have cheered advancements but worry that company statements create public expectations before the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention look at the data and determine whether it withstands scrutiny.

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More Than Half Million Healthcare Workers Quit Jobs In August

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More Than Half Million Healthcare Workers Quit Jobs In August

More than half a million healthcare workers quit their jobs in August amid a surge of Delta variant COVID-19 cases, according to a report from the Labor Department.

In a job openings and labor turnover survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Tuesday, data showed that in August the number of people who quit increased to 4.3 million — the highest on record since December 2000.

About 534,000 healthcare workers quit their jobs in August, up from about 404,000 during the same month in 2020.

The numbers suggest healthcare workers handed in their resignations in droves — fueling ongoing concerns of staffing shortages — as the highly contagious Delta variant caused COVID-19 hospitalizations to soar across the U.S. over the summer, Newsweek reported.

The number of people who quit also rose the most in the South and Midwest, the government said, the two regions with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in August, ABC News reported.

About 892,000 people quit their jobs in hotels, bars, and restaurants, up about 21% from July and almost twice as many as in August 2020. About 721,000 Americans quit retail jobs.

On Friday, the government said job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with only 194,000 jobs added, though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2%. Friday’s hiring figure is a net total, after quits, retirements, and layoffs are taken into account, ABC News reported.

Tuesday’s report showed hiring slowed in August, while the number of jobs available fell to 10.4 million, from a record high of 11.1 million in July. The largest decreases in job openings included healthcare and social assistance, the figures showed.

The data is not likely to have picked up the impact of vaccine mandates, Newsweek noted.

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FDA Authorizes First E-Cigarette, Cites Benefit For Smokers

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FDA Authorizes First E-Cigarette, Cites Benefit For Smokers

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized an electronic cigarette, saying the vaping device from R.J. Reynolds can help smokers cut back on conventional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. for more than a decade with minimal government oversight or research. Facing a court deadline, the FDA has been conducting a sweeping review of vaping products to determine which ones should be allowed to remain on the market.

The agency said in September it had rejected applications for more than a million e-cigarettes and related products, mainly due to their potential appeal to underage teens. But regulators delayed making decisions on most of the major vaping companies, including market leader Juul, which is still pending.

Tuesday’s decision only applies to Vuse’s Solo e-cigarette and its tobacco-flavored nicotine cartridges. The agency said data from the company showed the e-cigarette helped smokers significantly reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes.

While the products can now be legally sold in the U.S., the FDA stressed they are neither safe nor “FDA approved,” and that people who don’t smoke shouldn’t use them.

Launched in 2013, Vuse Solo is a rechargeable metallic device that’s shaped like a traditional cigarette. The FDA said it rejected 10 other requests from the company for other flavored products. The agency is still reviewing the company’s request to sell a menthol-flavored nicotine formula.

“Today’s authorizations are an important step toward ensuring all new tobacco products undergo the FDA’s robust, scientific premarket evaluation,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s tobacco center, in a statement.

“The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products – either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption.”

E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. around 2007 with the promise of providing smokers with a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. The devices heat a nicotine solution into a vapor that’s inhaled.

But there has been little rigorous study of whether e-cigarettes truly help smokers quit. And efforts by the FDA to begin vetting vaping products and their claims were repeatedly slowed by industry lobbying and competing political interests.

In recent years, the vaping market grew to include hundreds of companies selling an array of devices and nicotine solutions in various flavors and strengths. But the vast majority of the market is controlled by a few companies including Juul Labs, which is partially owned by Altria, and Vuse.

Vuse is the No. 2 vaping brand in the U.S. behind Juul, accounting for about a third of all retail sales. Its parent company R.J. Reynolds sells Newport, Camel and other leading cigarettes.

A company spokesperson said in a statement that the FDA decision confirms “that Vuse Solo products are appropriate for the protection of the public health, underscoring years of scientific study and research.”

The company said it is still awaiting an FDA decision on its more popular vaping device, Vuse Alto.

To stay on the market, companies must show that their products benefit public health. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use the products are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them.

Kenneth Warner, a tobacco expert at the University of Michigan’s school of public health, said the news was a positive step for reducing the harms of smoking. But he lamented that only a vaping device backed by a Big Tobacco company was able to win the FDA’s endorsement.

“The demands the FDA places on companies filing these applications are so extraordinary difficult to meet that only those with huge resources and personnel — in terms of scientists, lawyers, researchers — are able to file successfully,” said Warner.

He said smaller companies and vape shops should have a separate path to get their products authorized.

The FDA declared underage vaping an “epidemic” in 2018 and has taken a series of measures aimed at the small cartridge-based devices that first sparked the problem, including limiting their flavors to tobacco and menthol. Separately, Congress raised the purchase age for all tobacco and vaping products to 21.

Survey data collected earlier this year showed Vuse was the second-most popular e-cigarette brand among high schoolers who vape, preferred by 10%. Juul was the fourth-most popular e-cigarette, cited by less than 6%.

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Southwest CEO Blames Joe Biden For Airline’s Vaccine Mandate

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Southwest CEO Blames Joe Biden For Airline’s Vaccine Mandate

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly blamed President Joe Biden for the airline’s decision to go the route of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its staff, arguing the new rules for federal contractors put them in a bind. 

The federal contractor rule dates back to September 9, but Kelly’s answer was given in the context of a new Texas order from Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) that bans COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers in the state. Southwest Airlines is both a federal contractor and based in Dallas, Texas. 

“I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate,” Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday morning. “I’m not in favor of that, never have been. But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors, which covers all major airlines, have to have a vaccine mandate in place by December 8. So we’re working through that.”

Southwest, one of the four major airlines in the United States, had a turbulent weekend that was filled with cancellations, far more than any other major airline. Over the weekend, Southwest canceled more than 1,800 flights, and on Monday, the service interruptions continued, with more than 350 flights canceled. 

The company has denied the issues were attributable to vaccines mandates, and instead blamed the weather and air traffic control issues in Florida dating back to Friday — even though no other major airlines had such issues. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association made a similar denial. 

“I think people, again, that understand how airlines work, when you get behind, it just takes several days to catch up,” said Kelly. “The fact that we’re basically caught up yesterday and today supports the assertion that we’re making here. We were significantly behind on Friday, and it just takes several days to catch up.”

As of Tuesday morning at 12:00 p.m. EST, Southwest was no longer the leader in flight cancellations and had only canceled 89 flights, or 2% of its service, and delayed 394 flights, or 11% of its service, according to data from Flight Aware, a flight tracking service.

The turmoil comes after a similar episode in June when computer glitches caused Southwest Airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and delay 1,500 flights, as The Washington Post reported. 

Read more on Daily Wire

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