Tag Archives: data

SpaceX Encrypts Falcon 9 Telemetry After Amateur Radio Operators Download Data

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SpaceX doesn’t operate like a traditional aerospace company. For one, the CEO is usually hamming it up on Twitter during launches and providing details that would usually go in a press release. SpaceX also live streams almost all of its launches, even the prototypes that have an unfortunate tendency to blow up lately. It wasn’t even encrypting the Falcon 9 telemetry feed… until now. Unfortunately, some digging by amateur radio tinkerers seems to have convinced SpaceX to step up its security

It all started a few weeks ago when several Redditors managed to lock onto the 2232.5 MHz telemetry downlink from a Falcon 9 upper stage. Right away, they were able to pull out a few interesting plaintext snippets from the unencrypted feed. With a little more work, the radio enthusiasts were able to capture some amazing images from the spacecraft’s cameras.

After that discovery was public, other SpaceX fans tried to grab some data from the Starship during its prototype tests. However, SpaceX had chosen to encrypt that data. Even with the right wireless equipment, the decoded signal was just noise. Now, it appears the same thing is happening with the Falcon 9. When attempting to pull data from the most recent Falcon 9 launch, the original signal snoopers discovered it had also been encrypted. A series of tweets from SpaceX engineers suggest the decoding of the telemetry signal was the reason for the change. 

Images from the unencrypted feed, via Redditor /u/derekcz.

Naturally, the amateur radio community is upset about the move. The general feeling among these groups is that SpaceX didn’t need to encrypt the signal because they weren’t doing anything wrong. This is true, but even the original decoders have to admit there could be bad actors who intend to misuse the rocket’s telemetry. I’d also wager someone at SpaceX panicked about the possibility sensitive proprietary data could leak out through its telemetry feed. SpaceX has national security contracts as well, and the government most likely wouldn’t appreciate seeing its secret assets on a decoded telemetry feed. 

There’s a growing sentiment among amateur radio operators that the new generation of spacecraft and satellites will be off-limits to civilians. Many of those involved in analyzing the telemetry signal have expressed disappointment that SpaceX would lock them out, but this could be par for the course going forward.

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Steam Data Shows Ampere GPUs Barely Trickling Into Market

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As the GPU shortage continues, what constitutes “success” is being rapidly recast. Several publications have recently run stories claiming that an uptick in Ampere GPU deployments according to the Steam Hardware Survey constitutes evidence that these cards are making their way to gamers and that miners aren’t soaking up all the demand. This is factually true, inasmuch as cryptocurrency mining isn’t literally consuming every single GPU. When evaluated in a historical context, however, the current SHS doesn’t support an optimistic narrative about Ampere availability.

The RTX 3070 gained 0.17 percent market share from February 2021 to March 2021. That’s the most market share any GPU gained last month. But according to past Steam data, a single GPU topping out at 0.17 percent adoption isn’t very good at all.

I’ve surveyed several multiple data points in the SHS over the past two years. In November 2019, no fewer than nine GPUs gained more than 0.17 percent market share. The RTX 2060 picked up 0.42 percent that month, for example. In February 2020, before the pandemic hit, the GTX 1660 Ti and GTX 1650 gained 0.34 percent and 0.51 percent share, respectively, with other cards above 0.17 percent. Even in March 2020, with the pandemic gearing up, cards like the RTX 2060 (0.51 percent), RTX 2070 (0.31 percent), and RTX 2070 Super (0.28 percent) saw stronger growth than what’s being reported for Ampere today.

Steam has only included data on the RTX 3070 for two months, but the RTX 3080 has been included for longer. The trend is not encouraging:

Market share data above is for the period November 2020 – March 2021. Look at what happened to the RTX 3080’s adoption rate after December. We see gaming market share more than double in a single month. Thereafter, the growth rate falls off a cliff. It took the RTX 3080 a single month to grow by 2.08x, then a further three months to grow by 1.77x. In an ordinary year, this might reflect nothing more than seasonality, but this isn’t an ordinary year. There are still a lot of would-be Ampere gamers waiting for prices to fall.

This is reflected in how the numbers for all the other cards stop moving. Anyone with a GTX 1070 Ti, RTX 2080 Super, or RTX 2080 is a potential RTX 3070 customer (the 2080 Ti is a bit too high to really see the RTX 3070 as a replacement card). In November and December, the percent of users with each of these cards bounces around. From January forward, the percentages have been nearly static. RTX 2080 Ti customers aren’t upgrading to RTX 3090’s. RTX 2080 and 2080 Super owners clearly aren’t upgrading to Ampere. The Pascal gamers that Nvidia said it was explicitly targeting with this launch remain largely wedded to their hardware. The GTX 1060 has dropped 1.14 percent since November and the 1050 Ti has dropped about 0.5 percent. The RTX 1070 is 0.36 percent less common now than in November 2020. The GTX 1080 has dropped even less.

One reason why the RTX 3070 looks good is Steam didn’t add the GPU to its tracking until it had hit 1.12 percent. If we actually had the month-by-month report, however, I’m betting we’d see exactly the same thing as with the RTX 3080 — an initial jolt, followed by slow growth for such an attractively positioned high-end part. The RTX 3060 Ti entered the SHS at 0.27 percent in January and has risen to just 0.38 percent three months later.

In aggregate, the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070’s market share is growing on par with how the RTX 2080 and 2070 performed back in 2019. At MSRP, Ampere is everything Turing wasn’t. It offers ray tracing performance we feel more comfortable recommending and much stronger AI and gaming performance. It’s also much less expensive (theoretically) than the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 were at launch back in 2018. In this context, a 0.17 percent rise in the number of RTX 3070 GPUs in-market isn’t a ray of hope. It’s a demonstration of how bad the market continues to be.

As of this writing, anyone who needs a replacement GPU should consider AMD’s R9 290 and R9 290X the best options for a reasonably priced card. We continue to keep an eye on this situation and it continues to offer the best price/performance ratio outside of getting lucky. RDNA2 GPUs are not contemplated in the story above because Steam has not yet added these cards to its database. It can take Valve months to update the database with new cards, however, and it does not add them at a consistent market share level. By all accounts, however, AMD availability is poor.

It is not clear if these shortages are being driven mostly by cryptocurrency-related demand, by low yields, or by a mixture of both. We may get some better data on that point when Nvidia eventually gives Q1 results, but that won’t happen for another couple of months. Several GPU manufacturers have implied they can’t get sufficient GPU inventory, but cryptocurrency demand is also a known impact right now.

We don’t typically refer to the SHS for hardware information because of doubts about its accuracy. But to the extent we can rely on this data to show us anything, what it shows is not positive. Four to five cards with a >0.17 percent rise might constitute some positive sign that we’re headed back towards normal. A single GPU just illustrates how far we’ve got to go.

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New data shows COVID-19 pandemic now ‘completely out of control’ in Ontario, key scientific adviser says

A new briefing note from a panel of science experts advising the Ontario government on COVID-19 shows a province at a tipping point.

Variants that are more deadly are circulating widely, new daily infections have reached the same number at the height of the second wave, and the number of people hospitalized is now more than 20 per cent higher than at the start of the last provincewide lockdown, states an analysis from Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table published on Monday night.

“Right now in Ontario, the pandemic is completely out of control,” Dr. Peter Juni, the table’s scientific director and a professor of medicine and epidemiology with the University of Toronto, said in an interview prior to the briefing note’s publication.

That stark assessment follows weeks of warnings from medical professionals in Ontario over rising case counts and fast-spreading variants. It comes the same day B.C. announced it will be implementing a three-week “circuit breaker”-style lockdown, with sweeping new restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, group fitness and worship services.

Juni said for Ontario, there is now “no way out” of the dire scenario that’s set to unfold over the next few weeks without a widespread lockdown as well — coupled with other measures, including the province providing paid sick leave to essential workers, encouraging Ontarians to avoid movement between regions, and ensuring residents have access to lower-risk outdoor activities. 

“There is no such thing as winning this race with just vaccinations,” Juni stressed. “That’s impossible.”

WATCH | 60% higher risk of death from coronavirus variants, new Ont. data says:

Coronavirus variants double the risk of someone being admitted to intensive care — and increase the risk of death by roughly 60 per cent, according to a new analysis of recent Ontario data. 2:36

Variants now 67% of Ontario infections

The table’s latest analysis, first reported by CBC News on Friday, shows new variants of concern now account for 67 per cent of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in Ontario.

Compared with the early strain that circulated, the variants — which are primarily B117, the variant first identified in the U.K. — are proving to cause more severe illness.

The briefing note outlines that the variants are associated with a more than 60 per cent increased risk of hospitalization, a doubled risk of admission to intensive care, and a 56 per cent increased risk of death. 

By March 28, the daily number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in Ontario also “reached the daily number of cases observed near the height of the second wave, at the start of the province-wide lockdown,” on Dec. 26, 2020, the note reads.

Toronto-based geriatrician Dr. Nathan Stall, a member of the science table, said Ontario is “repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again.”

“We continually fail to protect the most vulnerable,” he continued. “First it was long-term care, now it’s community-dwelling older adults [and] essential workers.”

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is now 21 per cent higher than at the start of the province-wide lockdown, while ICU occupancy is 28 per cent higher. The percentage of COVID-19 patients in ICUs who are younger than 60 is about 50 per cent higher.

“We’re seeing this shift of who’s in the hospital and who’s in the ICU right now … that’s worrying,” said University of Toronto epidemiologist and researcher Ashleigh Tuite, the lead author on the briefing note.

Emergency and critical care physicians have also highlighted that trend, noting anecdotally in recent weeks that patients appeared to be showing up to hospitals both younger and more seriously ill than during the first two waves of the pandemic in Ontario.

The good news, according to Stall, is that the once-raging fire in long-term care has been nearly extinguished. But he warned younger, unvaccinated adults remain at risk of falling ill.

“There are a lot of susceptible individuals,” he said.

Ontario boosting hospital capacity

Stall said the analysis should be sobering, for both decision-makers in the Ontario government and the public — though he acknowledged the mixture of pandemic fatigue and vaccine euphoria facing many residents may make it hard to comprehend what’s in store in the weeks ahead.

So will Ontario follow B.C.’s lead and implement a large-scale lockdown? Or a stay-at-home order like the province was under after cases kept spiking following the heightened restrictions put in place last December?

Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said health officials will continue to “review the data and trends” but did not share any plans for future restrictions.

She also noted the province’s hospital investments, including up to $ 125 million to expand critical care capacity. Work is happening to add over 500 critical care and high intensity medicine beds to hospitals in areas with high rates of transmission, she said, plus two potential field hospitals, one that could be available in early April at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, with early site work happening in Hamilton as well.

“Ontario Health and the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Table continue to work with our hospitals to transfer patients from hospitals who are at capacity to others sites to ensure no capacity goes untapped,” she continued.

Experts who are ringing alarms warn boosting capacity and shuffling patients around won’t stop people from falling ill in the first place.

“We should not hope for miracles,” Juni said. “They’re not coming … vaccines will work much better when we start to control the growth we have now, otherwise the force of infection will be too high.”

‘Significant delays’ until impact is clear

According to the briefing note, “there will be significant delays until the full burden to the health-care system becomes apparent,” because the increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization, ICU admission and death after infection is most pronounced 14 to 28 days after diagnosis.

Other non-COVID-19 procedures and appointments could be delayed, Stall noted, adding to a sky-high backlog that’s been prompting concerns over delayed treatments and missed diagnoses for the last year. 

Now, much of what’s to come is already set-in-stone, Juni warned. But he stressed a light at the end of the tunnel does remain — and there’s still a chance to prevent future deaths through a combination of policy and individual action.

For the government, he said, that should mean a complete lockdown of all indoor spaces, given the higher transmission risk. For Ontarians, he stressed the need for strict adherence to public health precautions while relying on the warming weather to spend time outside, where the risks of getting infected are lower.

“It’s important now that everybody just wakes up and comes out of denial,” Juni said.

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Health Canada says AstraZeneca shot is safe as U.S. questions vaccine’s clinical trial data

Health Canada said today Canadians should not be concerned about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine — even as a U.S. regulatory body raises concerns about the company’s clinical trial results.

Marc Berthiaume, the director of the bureau of medical science at Health Canada, said the issues flagged Monday by a U.S. federal health agency relate to the product’s published efficacy rate, not to whether it’s safe to use.

Berthiaume said Health Canada’s decision to authorize the product was not based on any of the clinical trial information U.S. authorities are now probing. He said Canada based its approval largely on data that emerged from AstraZeneca trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil, and on studies published in countries where the shot has been in use for some time.

“I think it would be alarmist to suggest that the results of additional clinical testing could lead to a change in the approval status of AstraZeneca here in Canada,” Berthiaume said.

“The additional information that was collected in the U.S. will be sent to Health Canada in the coming weeks. If there’s a need to readjust, then we’ll do that with Canadians later.”

Millions of people have received the AstraZeneca shot worldwide, including more than 17 million in Britain and the European Union — almost all without serious side effects.

Health Canada ‘concerned’ about vaccine hesitancy  

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said U.S. questions about the efficacy rate change nothing for Canadians at this point. She conceded the barrage of headlines about the AstraZeneca shot are “something of a concern to us” because they could make some Canadians reluctant to take vaccines.

“We’ve said this many times before — that even the most effective vaccine only works if people trust it and agree to receive it,” she said.

“It’s like any other reputation. Once there’s some doubt that creeps into that reputation, it’s that much more difficult to gain that back. The press and the concerns around the AstraZeneca vaccine don’t help.”

WATCH: Health Canada says federal recommendations on AstraZeneca vaccine are not changing 

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says federal recommendations on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are not changing at this point in time. 1:40

In a statement released last night, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the U.S. said the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), which keeps an eye on clinical trials, found “outdated information” may have been reported by the company when it released some information yesterday.

The agency said the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant may have released information that gives an “incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” the agency said — without stating what sort of data may have been  included improperly.

The statement came only hours after AstraZeneca released the results of its U.S.-based phase three clinical trials, which began last August and wrapped up earlier this month. Phase three is the point in a clinical trial when a vaccine maker gathers more information about safety and effectiveness and studies the effect of different doses on various groups.

The company said its COVID-19 vaccine had a 79 per cent efficacy rate for preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and was 100 per cent effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. Investigators said the vaccine was effective for adults of all ages, including older people — something which previous studies in other countries had failed to establish.

The product has not yet been authorized for use in the U.S.

Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the NIAID, said the monitoring board was surprised by the the better-than-expected efficacy results published by AstraZeneca.

“They got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them and with a copy to me, saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit, and wanted them to straighten it out,” Fauci said.

The board members pegged the vaccine’s efficacy at between 69 per cent 74 per cent — up to 10 points lower than what AstraZeneca itself reported — and said the company’s decision to issue a press release with better results served to erode public trust.

“We told the company they better get back with the DSMB and make sure the correct data get put into a press release.”

In response to the blowback, AstraZeneca said the efficacy numbers it released yesterday were current as of February 17 — a month before the clinical trial was actually completed. In a statement, the company said it would “immediately engage with the independent data safety monitoring board” and provide the U.S. regulator with “the results of the primary analysis within 48 hours.”

This is just the latest public communications issue the company has faced over the last three months.

Earlier this year, a number of European countries halted vaccinations in response to questions about the product’s efficacy in people over the age of 65, only to restart them after new evidence emerged.

After Health Canada approved the shot for all adults, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended the product be used only on people under the age of 65, citing a dearth of clinical trial data on the vaccine’s effectiveness in older people.

NACI changed course last week after reviewing three “real-world studies,” saying the two-dose viral vector vaccine can and should be used on seniors.

The European Medicines Agency has also had to assure European Union member countries that the product is safe to use after reports of post-vaccine blood clots in a very small number of patients.

The agency concluded that the benefits of protecting against COVID-19 — which itself results in clotting problems — outweigh the risks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has said it’s “possible” the vaccine may be associated with “very rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia” — a condition associated with very low levels of blood platelets. Health Canada has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

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AstraZeneca says U.S. trial data shows 79% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection against disease and complete protection against hospitalization and death across all age groups in a late-stage U.S. study, the company announced Monday.

AstraZeneca said its experts also identified no safety concerns related to the vaccine, including a rare blood clot that was identified in Europe. Scientists found no increased risk of clots among the more than 20,000 people who got at least one dose of the shot, which was developed with Oxford University.

Although AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorized for use in more than 50 countries, including Canada, it has not yet been given the green light in the U.S. The U.S. study comprised more than 30,000 volunteers, of whom two-thirds were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine had a 79 per cent efficacy rate at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and was 100 per cent effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. Investigators said the vaccine was effective across adults of all ages, including older people — which previous studies in other countries had failed to establish.

“These findings reconfirm previous results observed,” said Ann Falsey of the University of Rochester School of Medicine, who helped lead the trial. “It’s exciting to see similar efficacy results in people over 65 for the first time.”

Julian Tang, a virologist at the university of Leicester who was unconnected to the study, described it as “good news” for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The earlier U.K., Brazil, South Africa trials had a more variable and inconsistent design and it was thought that the U.S. FDA would never approve the use of the AZ vaccine on this basis, but now the U.S. clinical trial has confirmed the efficacy of this vaccine in their own clinical trials,” he said.

The early findings from the U.S. study are just one set of information AstraZeneca must submit to the Food and Drug Administration. An FDA advisory committee will publicly debate the evidence behind the shots before the agency decides whether to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Study may clear up questions about product

Scientists have been awaiting results of the U.S. study in hopes it will clear up some of the confusion about just how well the shots really work.

Britain first authorized the vaccine based on partial results from testing in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa that suggested the shots were about 70 per cent effective. But those results were clouded by a manufacturing mistake that led some participants to get just a half dose in their first shot — an error the researchers didn’t immediately acknowledge.

Then came more questions about how well the vaccine protected older adults and how long to wait before the second dose. Some European countries including Germany, France and Belgium initially withheld the shot from older adults and only reversed their decisions after new data suggested it is offering seniors protection.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine development was rocky in the U.S., too. Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration suspended the company’s study in 30,000 Americans for an unusual six weeks, as frustrated regulators sought information about some neurologic complaints reported in Britain; ultimately, there was no evidence the vaccine was to blame.

Last week, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, temporarily suspended their use of the AstraZeneca shot after reports it was linked to blood clots. On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency concluded after an investigation that the vaccine did not raise the overall risk of blood clots, but could not rule out that it was connected to two very rare types of clots.

France, Germany, Italy and other countries subsequently resumed their use of the shot on Friday, with senior politicians rolling up their sleeves to show the vaccine was safe.

WATCH | Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the rare risks:

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the rare risks. 1:53

French Prime MInister Jean Castex, 55, received his first dose of the AstraZeneca jab last week live on TV, as did 56-year-old British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dubé, 64, also got a dose of the vaccine last week. 

Health Canada said in a release last week that based on an assessment of the available data, it believed that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

“As the vaccine rollout continues in Canada, Health Canada will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely,” the agency said.

1 of 3 ‘viral vector’ vaccines

The U.S recently agreed to send 1.5 million doses to Canada and another 2.5 million doses to Mexico. When those vaccines will arrive in Canada wasn’t immediately clear, but it could be this week, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

AstraZeneca said Monday it would continue to analyze the U.S. data in preparation for submitting it to the FDA in the coming weeks. It said the data would also soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is what scientists call a “viral vector” vaccine. The shots are made with a harmless virus, a cold virus that normally infects chimpanzees. It acts like a Trojan horse to carry the spike protein’s genetic material into the body, which in turn produces some harmless protein. That primes the immune system to fight if the real virus comes along.

Two other companies, Johnson & Johnson and China’s CanSino Biologics, make COVID-19 vaccines using the same technology but using different cold viruses.

The AstraZeneca shot has become a key tool in European countries’ efforts to boost their sluggish vaccine rollouts. It is also a pillar of a UN-backed project known as COVAX that aims to get COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

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Health Canada received more Johnson & Johnson data on same day as U.S. approval

Health Canada on Saturday received additional data required to inform its decision on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine — the same day the shot was approved in the United States.

“We were waiting on some manufacturing data, and that came in yesterday. So we’re starting to look at that,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“It’s really difficult to predict exactly when we might make a final decision because it really depends on that data. But we’re looking at … the next couple of weeks.”

The data received on Saturday is what health regulators need to ensure that “every dose of the vaccine that comes off the production lines meets quality standards,” Sharma wrote in an email to CBC News.

The approval timeline depends on that information, but it also depends on whether regulators need to discuss any questions that arise with the manufacturer. Work that happens in the final stages of review — including finalizing a risk-management plan for monitoring the vaccine after authorization — must also be completed.

The two-week approval target takes those steps into consideration but doesn’t account for unexpected issues that could crop up, Sharma said.

The government authorized the use of a third vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, on Friday.

WATCH | Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval could come in the next couple of weeks:

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said the agency is waiting on manufacturer data to make a determination on Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, but contingent on that data, approval could come in the next few weeks. 9:23

Single-dose shot makes for easier rollout

In a global trial, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday, was found to be 66 per cent effective at staving off moderate to severe illness and was 85 per cent effective at preventing the most serious outcomes. 

Canada has ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, with options for up to 28 million more. 

The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get.– Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma

“In terms of the committee meeting that the FDA had, we had observers there as well, so all of that helps make for a more efficient review,” Sharma told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

While the vaccine was approved as a one-shot regimen, the company is also testing the efficacy of administering two doses of its product.

“If a vaccine is only only dose, then that makes it easier for administration. You don’t have to do the followup to record people and track them down to get the second dose,” Sharma told Barton. “So all of that helps, but what really helps the most is getting as many vaccines authorized and get that supply in as quickly as possible.”

Not a question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vaccines

Now that more vaccines are earning approvals, Sharma said a “narrative” has emerged where people assume one shot confers better protection than another.

Efficacy, she said, simply means determining whether “something does what it’s supposed to do.” As far as COVID-19 vaccines are concerned, that means comparing one group of people who receive the shot against another group of people who didn’t and contrasting the number of cases in both groups.

“When we look across all the vaccines, the major five that are under review and authorized, if you look at that subsection that matters most — severe disease, hospitalizations, dying of COVID-19 — all of these vaccines are equally protective,” Sharma explained.

The chief medical adviser cautioned against pitting one shot against another, something she said can only happen in a “head-to-head” trial, which would see two vaccines being tested together in the same trial.

“The best vaccine for an individual is [the] one that you can get. That’s pretty simple,” she said.

“For people who are sitting back and waiting for another vaccine, I would say the longer, and the more people, who do that, the more we’re all going to be sitting at home if we’re lucky to have a home.”

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service. 

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COVID-19 vaccination linked to lower hospitalization risk in real-world data from Scotland

Scotland’s vaccination drive appears to be markedly reducing the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19, suggesting that both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots are highly effective in preventing severe infections, preliminary study findings showed on Monday.

Results of the study, which covered the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million people, showed that by the fourth week after the initial dose, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were found to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future,” said Aziz Sheikh, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute who co-led the study.

Sheik cautioned at a media briefing that the results are preliminary data, yet to be peer-reviewed by independent scientists, but added: “I am very encouraged. We now have national evidence … that vaccination provides protection against COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

Vaccination results

He said he expected other countries using the same two vaccines and a similar strategy — such as England and Wales for example —  would see a similar positive impact in reducing the number of people being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Data for the vaccines’ effect in Scotland was gathered between Dec. 8 and Feb. 15. Researchers said that during this period, 1.14 million vaccines were administered and 21 per cent of Scotland’s population had received a first dose.

Among those aged 80 years and over —  one of the highest risk groups for COVID-19 —  vaccination was associated with an 81 per cent reduction in hospitalization risk in the fourth week, when the results for both vaccines were combined.

Jim McMenamin, Public Health Scotland’s COVID-19 incident director, said the findings are particularly important “as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines.”

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Incomplete national data makes it hard to assess exactly how far along Canada is on vaccination

Officials in Canada’s most populous province are not submitting key COVID-19 data to the federal government’s health agency, making it difficult to get a clear, national picture of how the first phase of the country’s vaccination program is progressing.

Since Dec. 19, provinces and territories have been reporting the number of people vaccinated in three target populations that are top priority groups in the first phase: adults living in group settings, adults over the age of 80 and health workers.

The data is gathered by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and published once a week on its vaccine coverage website — with one key exception.

“Data for Ontario are not included,” reads a disclaimer on the PHAC site.

The reason given is that the province’s data is “not broken down by key population groups.”

In an email in response to CBC’s request for more information, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health said the ministry is working with PHAC to provide more data in “the near future.”

In a statement released on Sunday, the chair of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force outlined a list of priority recipients for vaccination that included some health-care workers and adults aged 80 and over as “next priority” groups.

The ministry also provided some general estimates to CBC of its progress vaccinating some of the key populations so far. 

It said that as of Tuesday:

  • More than 63,800 long term care (LTC) residents have received at least one dose.
  • More than 33,900 retirement home (RH) residents have received at least one dose.
  • More than 42,700 LTC residents have received two doses
  • More than 17,600 RH residents have received two doses.

As of 8 p.m. ET Tuesday:

  • 176,279 doses were administered to health-care workers targeted for priority vaccination.
  • 84,385 doses were administered to LTC health-care workers.
  • 25,660 doses were administered to retirement home health-care workers.

Trudeau says Canada entering ‘big lift’ phase of vaccination

The latest PHAC numbers are from Feb. 6. But even with the time lag and the missing Ontario information, this data is one of the best measurements Canadians currently have of how the country is actually doing when it comes to vaccinating those first in line — as they try to predict when the general public will be able to get inoculated.

PHAC’s “health-care workers targeted for priority vaccination” category is progressing most quickly. A reported cumulative total of 397,154 people in that category have received at least one vaccine dose, representing 55.35 per cent of the priority group.

That group is followed by the “seniors in group living settings,” with a reported cumulative total of 149,305 people, or 52.74 per cent, having received at least one dose.

Finally, a reported 116,600 adults over the age of 80 have received at least one dose, which works out to 11.57 per cent.

Over the weekend, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidance on which groups will be prioritized in the second phase of COVID-19 immunization.

It recommends that health-care workers not included in the initial rollout, essential workers and people living and working in group settings such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters be prioritized.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, announced the update  on Twitter with upbeat hashtags and an invitation to Canadians to “rejoice” over a decline in COVID-19 activity.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a similarly hopeful tone when he spoke of a “big lift” phase of the vaccine rollout in coming weeks and reiterated his promise that every Canadian who wants a shot will get one by the end of September.

But with winter weather delaying vaccine shipments, a recent variant outbreak in Newfoundland and Labrador, and uncertainty around how prepared provinces are to ramp up vaccinations, it’s unclear how that promise will play out.

Provinces and territories decide

Ultimately, as PHAC stated in an email to CBC News, each province and territory is responsible for the “deployment and prioritization of the vaccination, via their public health authorities on the ground.”

The NACI guidelines are just that — a compass designed to help them navigate the ethical and logistical challenges involved with mass immunization.

Two months into the effort, fewer than one per cent of Canadians have been fully vaccinated.

To keep the federal government’s September deadline, Canada will need to administer more than 265,000 doses a day over the next 226 days to fully vaccinate 30 million people.

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CBC | Health News

China refused to provide WHO team with raw data on early COVID-19 cases: team member

The latest:

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a World Health Organization-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, one of the team’s investigators said, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.

The team had requested raw patient data on the 174 cases of COVID-19 that China had identified from the early phase of the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only provided with a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who is a member of the team.

Such raw data, known as “line listings,” would typically be anonymized but contain details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses and how their responses were analyze, he said.

“That’s standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” Dwyer said via video call from Sydney, where he is currently undergoing quarantine.

WATCH | Procurement minister updates Canadians on AstraZeneca vaccine supply:

Procurement Minister Anita Anand provides an update on Canada’s expected AstraZeneca vaccine supply. 3:00

Dwyer said that gaining access to the raw data was especially important since only half of the 174 cases had exposure to the Huanan market, the now-shuttered wholesale seafood centre in Wuhan where the virus was initially detected.

“That’s why we’ve persisted to ask for that,” he said. “Why that doesn’t happen, I couldn’t comment. Whether it’s political or time or it’s difficult.… But whether there are any other reasons why the data isn’t available, I don’t know. One would only speculate.”

While the Chinese authorities provided a lot of material, he said the issue of access to the raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report.

“The WHO people certainly felt that they had received much much more data than they had ever received in the previous year,” he said. “So that in itself is an advance.”

A summary of the team’s findings could be released as early as next week, the WHO said on Friday.

The WHO-led probe had been plagued by delay, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington, which accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticized the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

The team, which arrived in China in January and spent four weeks looking into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, was limited to visits organized by their Chinese hosts and prevented from contact with community members, due to health restrictions. The first two weeks were spent in hotel quarantine.

Dwyer said the work within the WHO team was harmonious but that there were “arguments” at times with their Chinese counterparts over the interpretation and significance of the data, which he described as “natural” in such probes.

“We might be having a talk about cold chain and they might be more firm about what the data shows than what we might have been, but that’s natural,” he said. “Whether there’s political pressure to have different opinions, I don’t know. There may well be, but it’s hard to know.”

Cold chain refers to the transport and trade of frozen food.

Beijing has sought to cast doubt on the notion that the coronavirus originated in China, pointing to imported frozen food as a conduit.

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH  | See some of what experts had to say about Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling and hear what it might mean for people in the province:

Dr. Zain Chagla tells CBC News that reopening is fine provided the province can shut down again quickly, if there’s a jump in new cases. 3:37

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says people need to continue what they’ve been doing but with “even more diligence” to counter the more contagious variants that have been identified in several provinces.

Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Tam said that means keeping up “individual public health practices” to limit spread, protecting the vulnerable and allowing time for vaccination programs to expand.

WATCH | Tam on why provinces are not using COVID-19 rapid tests:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, responds to questions about why she thinks provinces are not using their supplies of COVID-19 rapid tests. 0:58 

As of Friday, eight provinces had reported more than 429 cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said.

There were also 28 recorded cases of the B1351 variant, which was first reported in South Africa, and one case of the P1 variant blamed for a surge of cases in Brazil. 

“At least three of these provinces are reporting evidence of community spread ” and variants have been “linked to outbreaks.”

The federal government on Friday announced it is stepping up its capacity to identify and track cases of COVID-19 variants of concern with a $ 53-million investment.

“Funding will expand upon existing public health networks to establish regional clinical and public health teams to quickly identify and characterize variants of concern,” a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

According to PHAC, the increased funding will “help rapidly scale up our surveillance, sequencing and research efforts.”

Starting Feb. 22, airline travellers landing in Canada will have to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said arriving passengers will need to take a COVID-19 test and book a government-approved hotel as they await results in the city in which they first arrive in Canada, either Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal.

WATCH | An infectious disease expert on new international travel measures:

CBC News Network’s Andrew Nichol’s speaks with Dr. Chakrabarti hours after the Canadian government announces new testing, and quarantine measures for all travellers coming into Canada. 6:29 

If the test result is negative, the traveller can leave for home or catch their connecting flight to their final destination. Those who test positive will be sent to another designated government quarantine facility.

The testing requirement is in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for returning non-essential travellers.

As of 6 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had reported 820,312 cases of COVID-19, with 36,945 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,162.

Ontario on Friday reported 1,076 cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 763, with 295 people in intensive care units.

The Ontario government on Friday issued a list of regions that will remain under a stay-at-home order while others transition into a colour-coded framework of restrictions, as of Feb. 16.

The only regions not transitioning out of the stay-at-home order on that date include Peel and York regions, Toronto and North Bay Parry Sound District.

In Quebec, health officials reported 984 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 25 additional deaths on Friday. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 849, with 137 people in intensive care units, according to an update published by the province on Friday.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while New Brunswick reported five new cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador is now battling a COVID-19 “variant of concern,” responsible for this week’s mass outbreak in the capital, according to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Effective immediately, the entire province is at Alert Level 5, with all but essential businesses closed, Fitzgerald announced Friday.

There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Thursday.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister announced a plan to procure a made-in-Canada vaccine that is in early trial stages.

The province on Friday reported 81 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. There are now 240 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, the government said in a release, down by four from Thursday, with 29 of those people in intensive care, down by three.

WATCH | Manitoba buys its own made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine:

Manitoba is the first province to buy its own COVID-19 vaccine rather than relying on the federal government. 1:53

Saskatchewan reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the respiratory illness on Friday. There are currently 182 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 23 of whom are in intensive care.

In Alberta, health officials reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 more deaths on Friday.

British Columbia reported 445 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Friday. 

Ahead of the Family Day long weekend, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry repeated her plea for British Columbians to stay local and stick to their households, in accordance with public health orders and advice.

Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday in the community in Arviat, while health officials in the Northwest Territories reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Yukon.

Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday morning, more than 108 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 60.5 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.

A COVID-19 vaccine shortage has forced California to temporarily close five mass vaccination sites, all in Los Angeles, including one at Dodger Stadium.

A temporarily closed COVID-19 vaccination site is seen at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Friday. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Over the past week, state health officials say they have received less than 20 per cent of the doses they need to maintain the sites.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would exhaust its supply of Moderna first doses — two are required for full immunization — forcing it to close drive-thru and walk-up vaccination sites Friday and Saturday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the sites closed even earlier than expected after running out of doses on Thursday.

They may not reopen until the city gets more supplies, perhaps next Tuesday or Wednesday. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue operating

California leads the United States in COVID-19 deaths, with more than 45,000, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen more than 27.3 million cases of COVID-19 and more han 480,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Vaccine supply constraints are slowing ambitious vaccination programs in the U.S., as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily in states including New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses. In-person schooling can resume safely with masks, physical distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Thursday predicted that it will be “open season” for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States by April as increased supply allows most people to get shots.

Speaking to NBC’s Today Show, the science adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden said the rate of vaccinations will greatly accelerate in the coming months.

Fauci said that “by the time we get to April,” it will be “open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” He cautioned it will take “several more months” to deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted the “overwhelming majority” of people in the U.S. could be vaccinated by the middle and end of the summer.

In Europe, Portugal is getting more help from its European Union partners to ease pressure on hospitals crunched by the pandemic, with France and Luxembourg the latest countries to offer medical workers.

The Portuguese health ministry said France is sending a doctor and three nurses, while Luxembourg is providing two doctors and two nurses. The health ministry said in a statement late Thursday the medics should arrive next week.

The German army sent eight doctors and 18 nurses earlier this month to help at a Lisbon hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care fell Thursday for the third straight day, but Portugal’s seven-day average of daily deaths remained the world’s highest, at 1.97 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A student gets a bag of food during a distribution organized by Linkee, a solidarity solution to food waste, in Paris on Thursday. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In Germany, the health minister said he will consider introducing penalties for people who jump the queue for coronavirus vaccines. Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that there had been several such reports in recent days and the government would discuss with parliament “whether sanctions in this area could make sense.”

Spahn had previously downplayed the issue of queue jumping, but persistent reports have surfaced of senior officials in hospitals and cities getting the vaccines before doctors and nurses. This week the Catholic bishop of Augsburg acknowledged receiving the vaccine, despite being far down the priority list.

Patient rights campaigners warned Spahn last year that Germany’s complicated vaccination system could open the door to corruption and queue jumping, but the ministry rebuffed repeated calls for criminal penalties.

In Africa, South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.

Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, local media reported, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday the country’s COVID-19 inoculation program will likely begin on Feb. 20, brought forward by the earlier receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than originally anticipated.

Australia’s second-largest city will begin its third lockdown as a results of a rapidly spreading COVID-19 cluster centred on hotel quarantine.

The five-day lockdown will be enforced across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital Melbourne, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced would be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport.

WATCH | Australia’s Victoria state enters a ‘short, sharp’ circuit-breaker lockdown:

It’s a necessary circuit breaker to limit further spread of COVID-19, officials said. A highly contagious strain, first reported in the U.K., was detected at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. 1:32

A population of 6.5 million people will be locked down from 11:59 p.m. until the same time on Wednesday because of a contagious variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people.

In the Americas, Mexico’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,677 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,474 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,968,566 cases and 171,234 deaths. The government said the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than reported levels.

In the Middle East, Israel began reopening its education system on Thursday after a more than six-week closure because of the surge in coronavirus infections.

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CBC | World News

Intel Sues Former Employee For Alleged Theft of Xeon Data

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Stealing data on your way out the door is a great way to guarantee consequences — a lesson that various individuals in Silicon Valley have had to learn the hard way. Despite occasional enthusiast rumor-mongering around the idea that Nvidia, AMD, or Intel would steal technology from each other, the practical impacts of such a finding in a court of law would outweigh any potential gain.

Intel has accused Dr. Varun Gupta of stealing trade secrets when he accepted a job with Microsoft as Principal for Strategic Planning in Cloud and AI. After a decade at Intel, Dr. Gupta had access to documents regarding processor pricing and product strategies. Intel alleges that he copied some 3900 documents on to a mixture of Seagate external drives and USB sticks, including files marked “Intel Confidential” and “Intel Top Secret.”

As an aside, files marked “Intel Confidential” aren’t always all that confidential, at Intel or anywhere else. “Intel Confidential” gets stamped on just about every press deck or product announcement that goes out to press prior to NDA. Obviously the restrictions matter, but “Confidential” is a pretty low bar on the secrecy totem pole. AMD and Nvidia follow similar labeling patterns. The theft of “Top Secret” documents carries a bit more weight.

Microsoft is now working on its own ARM CPU designs, but Gupta isn’t accused of stealing any information related to the physical design of Intel processors. Rather, Intel claims Gupta stole pricing and strategy documents in order to give Microsoft an edge “in head to head negotiations with Intel concerning customised product design and pricing for significant volumes of Xeon processors.”

Why Does Microsoft Need Xeon Pricing Information?

In its filing, Intel also claims that Gupta “used that confidential information and trade secrets to gain an unfair advantage over Intel in the negotiations concerning product specifications and pricing.”

This raises the question of why Intel is negotiating Xeon pricing with Microsoft in the first place, given that the software giant isn’t in the server construction business. Roughly a decade ago, major cloud companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon began to shift their server-buying strategies. Instead of relying solely on servers built by the likes of Dell and HPE, cloud compute companies began working directly with vendors to design and customize hardware. Secondary companies like Supermicro, Wistron, Foxconn, and Quanta began to play a more direct role in server sales, rather than merely building boxes for other companies.

The “ODM Direct” category now accounts for 28 percent of all server sales, larger than any other single vendor. The big-name brands still account for 52.71 percent of the market, but ODM Direct sales is growing rapidly. The reason why Intel is unhappy about Microsoft having access to this information is because, thanks to the ODM Direct market, Microsoft is probably making more decisions about the customization and pricing of the hardware in its servers than it was 10+ years ago, when companies were more likely to buy whatever HP and Dell were selling.

Intel and Microsoft conducted a forensic analysis of the data files, including when and how Gupta accessed them, claiming that he plugged the drives in 114 times between February 3, 2020 and July 23, 2020, and that he accessed specific documents, including a slide deck related to Intel’s engagement strategies and its product offerings for “Xeon customised processors.”

Gupta denies claims that he stole the information, while Intel wants a jury trial and damages of at least $ 75,000, along with payment of its legal fees.

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