Coronavirus: Major late-stage vaccine trial paused; drugmakers pledge to prioritize safety

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Nine drugmakers working on coronavirus vaccines publicly pledged on Tuesday to prioritize safety and uphold rigorous scientific standards as concerns mount of political pressure to bring a vaccine to market before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election. The pledge sought to "ensure public confidence" by committing to only apply for regulatory authorization when enough data has been collected from a large phase three trial. Three vaccine manufacturers have now entered phase three trials. 

Here are some of the biggest developments Tuesday:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 27.5 million
  • Global deaths: At least 897,833
  • U.S. cases: More than 6.32 million
  • U.S. deaths: At least 189,680

UK health minister defends AstraZeneca's decision to halt vaccine trial

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear on the Andrew Marr show.
Aaron Chown | PA Images via Getty Images

The late-stage clinical trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, have been put on hold due to safety concerns. 

U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock defended the move, saying it does "not necessarily" constitute a setback. "It depends on what they find when they do the investigation," he told Sky News. 

AstraZeneca has said the pause was a "routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials." The company added it would seek to expedite the review to "minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline."

The outcome of vaccine trials is being closely watched around the world, with the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine thought to be one of the leading contenders. — Sam Meredith

Pandemic spurs rise in food prices, hitting food security

Rising food prices are threatening food security as the pandemic rages on.

In China, the Bureau of Statistics said the country's food prices rose 11.2% from a year ago in August. Pork prices remained elevated, rising 52.6% from a year ago due to the African swine fever outbreak which has decimated China's hog herds.

That comes after the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently reported that global food prices in August hit their highest levels since February, marking the third straight month of price increases.

While there is no pressing food shortage, farms have been roiled due to movement restrictions that have upended supply chains. — Huileng Tan

South Korea's small retailers are struggling. Companies helping them go out of business are busier than ever

South Korea has one of the world's highest proportion of self-employed people — about 25% of the job market — which makes the country very susceptible to economic downturns, Reuters reported.

To slow down a second wave of coronavirus infections, South Korea has reimposed tough social distancing rules that have slowed down retail traffic, affecting many of the small businesses, according to the news wire. Citing data from Korea Statistics, Reuters reported that small businesses are failing at a rate not seen since the global financial crisis. 

Liquidation businesses on the other hand, which help other companies go out of business, are booming at the moment. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

AstraZeneca announces ‘routine’ safety pause in vaccine trial

AstraZeneca's stock fell in after-hours trading after the drugmaker said its late-stage trial for a potential Covid-19 vaccine had been put on hold due to safety concerns.

A company spokesperson told CNBC that the hold was "a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials." The company is trying to expedite the review to "minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline," the spokesperson said.

AstraZeneca began its trial late last month and is one of three companies currently in late-stage testing for a potential vaccine. In July, the company released results from an early-stage trial, which showed the vaccine to be well-tolerated with no serious adverse events. Fatigue and headache were the most commonly reported. Other common side effects included pain at the injection site, muscle ache, chills and a fever.  –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

The U.S. economy could be set to surge next year, finance expert says

Investors must understand long history of market volatility: Collaborative Fund's Morgan Housel
Investors must understand long history of market volatility: Collaborative Fund's Morgan Housel

The U.S. economy, in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, could be ready for a surge next year that resembles the post-World War II expansion, according to behavioral finance expert Morgan Housel

The former columnist at The Wall Street Journal, appearing on CNBC's "The Exchange," pointed to the large amount of government stimulus, along with pent-up consumer demand after months of everyday life being disrupted. 

"You put those two things together, and if we were to get a vaccine in the coming weeks, the coming months, going into early 2021, put all those factors together and what 2021 could look like is something most analogous to the end of World War II," said Housel, who is now a partner at venture capital firm The Collaborative Fund.

He stressed, however, that this was not his "baseline scenario." But, he added, "there's so much pessimism of what's going on, justified pessimism, that I think we underestimate how good 2021 could be going forward." - Kevin Stankiewicz

Dr. Fauci says it’s ‘unlikely’ a vaccine will be ready by Nov. 3

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said it's "unlikely" a coronavirus vaccine will be ready before Election Day on Nov. 3.

The comment is at odds with President Donald Trump's estimation. Trump suggested at a press conference Monday that a vaccine could be ready for distribution before the U.S. election.

In recent weeks, infectious disease experts and scientists have said they worry the vaccine approval process in the U.S. could be motivated by politics, not science. The CDC has asked governors and health departments to prepare to distribute a vaccine as soon as Nov. 1, just two days before the federal elections.

Fauci reiterated that the vaccine trial results will also be reviewed by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, an independent group of medical experts who observe patient safety and treatment data. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

The majority of young adults now live with mom and dad

For the first time ever, more than half of all young adults in the U.S. now live with their parents.

As of July, 52% of 18- to 34-year-olds were living in their parents' home, up from 47% in February, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. That surpasses the previous high hit during the Great Depression, when 48% of young adults lived with their parents.

Although the coronavirus crisis has taken a significant toll on all Americans, those just starting out have been particularly hard hit. 

In less than six months, the share of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither enrolled in school nor employed more than doubled due to Covid-19 and the economic downturn that followed, according to the Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.

The share of young adults living with their parents jumped across the board for men and women, all racial and ethnic groups and in every geographical region, Pew found. —Jessica Dickler

New York schools will be issued daily Covid-19 report card, governor says

Every K-12 school in New York will be issued a daily Covid-19 report card this fall that the New York State Department of Health will make publicly available, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

"If I'm going to make a decision to send my children back to school, I'm going to be darn sure that the plan is smart, they can do the plan and then I want to know if they're actually implementing the plan," Cuomo said.

Parents will be able to search online for an array of information on their school districts, including how many positive cases they're reporting, the number of students on site, the percentage of students and staff testing positive as well as the number of tests administered by the school, he said. 

"I think this will give parents confidence, teachers confidence, they'll know on a day-to-day basis exactly what is happening. They won't be reliant on communication from the school district, from the principal, from anyone else," Cuomo said at a press briefing. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Hong Kong company develops air purifier that eliminates over 99.9% of coronavirus

Air purifier that kills 99.9% of coronavirus sees huge order increase
Air purifier that kills 99.9% of coronavirus sees huge order increase

Aurabeat, a Hong Kong company, has developed an air purifier that can eliminate over 99.9% of coronavirus. The FDA-certified device cleans air up to 3.4 times per hour while trapping bacteria and viruses.

CEO Phil Yuen says Aurabeat has seen a major increase in global demand since launching the air purifier, especially from universities, hospitals and government agencies. 

Yuen believes the device can serve as a complementary solution to indoor Covid-19 safeguards like mask-wearing and social distancing. He says the purifier can also add protection in home environments where residents are less likely to wear masks.

The EPA says that air filtration alone is not enough to prevent coronavirus spread. However, when used alongside other health precautions, air cleaning can help protect individuals indoors. —Hannah Miao

Labor Day draws more air travelers, but summer was a dud for airlines

Late-summer getaways aren't enough to turn airlines' fortunes around but the uptick in travelers over Labor Day is welcome news for carriers.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 968,673 people on Friday, the highest since March 16, agency data show. During the Friday-through-Monday Labor Day weekend, close to 3.3 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints, down nearly 60% from the holiday weekend in 2019. That's a significant improvement from the depths of the coronavirus crisis in April when passenger volume was off by more than 95%.

Summer was a struggle for carriers. From Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, which comprises what is generally the busiest and most lucrative time of year for airlines, the TSA screened 65 million people, down nearly 76% from the 269 million it screened on the same dates last year.

Airlines are now grappling with a slower fall season and a dearth of business travel. They're trying to entice travelers to buy seats with new, more flexible policies compared with the stricter rigid ticket rules before the pandemic. —Leslie Josephs

Mitch McConnell calls for vote on 'targeted' aid bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Senate Republicans aim to vote on their next coronavirus stimulus bill as soon as this week.

It is unclear how exactly what the bill will include and how much it will resemble the developing $500 billion proposal CNBC reported on last month. At the time, Republicans considered including expanded unemployment insurance and new small business loans, among other provisions, in their plan. 

McConnell said the package the Senate plans to vote on will be "targeted" and address the economy, education and health care. It likely will not become law, as Democrats already announced their opposition to the plan as news outlets reported details of it. 

Democrats and the Trump administration have made little progress toward a coronavirus aid plan since talks between the sides collapsed last month. —Jacob Pramuk

Pfizer CEO says people who don’t take vaccine will become ‘weak link’

Albert Bourla, chief executive officer of Pfizer pharmaceutical company, arrives to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people who don't take the Covid-19 vaccine will become a "weak link" that allows the pandemic to continue.

Two-thirds of U.S. voters say they won't get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it becomes available, according to a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll. Medical experts say fear due to the pandemic and confusing communication from the Trump administration on vaccine development has exacerbated vaccine skepticism in the U.S.

Earlier Tuesday, a group of drugmakers, including Pfizer, made a pledge to "uphold the integrity of the scientific process" as they work toward potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first Covid-19 vaccines.

Bourla said Pfizer would only request authorization from the Food and Drug Administration after data shows that its vaccine is safe and effective. He said he understands the public's concerns about vaccines, which are being developed in record time. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Nasdaq falls more than 3% as tech plunges once again

U.S. stocks fell sharply at the open as technology shares were under pressure following their worst sell-off in more than five months last week, reports CNBC's Fred Imbert, Yun Li and Eustance Huang. 

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 400 points, or more than 1%. The S&P 500 slid 1.9%. —Melodie Warner 

California, Texas, Florida lead in reporting new cases

World must be 'ready' when the next pandemic comes, WHO warns

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus R speaks at a daily briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
Chen Junxia | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The World Health Organization's director-general stressed that the world must be better prepared for future pandemics, and called on countries to invest more in public health.

"This will not be the last pandemic," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference Monday, "but when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready, more ready than it was this time."

Too many countries had neglected their basic public health systems in recent years, he said, as he called on governments to "invest in public health as an investment in a healthier and safer future." —Holly Ellyatt

Nine biopharma companies make safety pledge

Nine biopharma CEOs pledge to make safety the main focus in Covid-19 vaccine development
Nine biopharma CEOs pledge to make safety the main focus in vaccine development

Nine of the top drugmakers in the U.S. and Europe pledged to prioritize safety and science as they hurry to bring a vaccine against the coronavirus to market.

The companies, which include Moderna, PfizerGlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, pledged not to apply for regulatory authorization until there is adequate data from a large phase three clinical trial.

The pledge comes as scientists and public health specialists express concern that the Trump administration is exerting pressure on regulators, especially the Food and Drug Administration, to authorize a vaccine before the Nov. 3 presidential election. The companies pledged to follow established guidance from regulatory agencies such as the FDA.

"We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which COVID-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved," the pledge says. —Will Feuer

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