CDC Finds Covid Vaccines Highly Effective In Real Life — Even After Just One Dose


Topline

Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines are almost 95% effective after two shots and over 80% effective after just one shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study of vaccinated healthcare workers released Friday, offering what the CDC calls “the most compelling evidence to date” vaccines work well enough that immunized people don’t need to wear masks.

Key Facts

Compiled earlier this year as part of an ongoing study, the CDC’s data looked at nearly 1,900 healthcare workers from around the country, comparing those who took Pfizer or Moderna’s two-shot coronavirus vaccine to those who were unvaccinated.

The vaccines were 94% effective at stopping symptomatic Covid-19 cases in those who had received two doses and were at least a week past their second shot.

Effectiveness sat at a still-strong 82% for healthcare workers who only had the protection of a single vaccine dose, which the study defined as those two weeks removed from their first shot but less than a week removed from their second.

Surprising Fact

The study comes one day after the CDC said it’s safe for fully vaccinated Americans to stop wearing masks and physically distance in most cases, a landmark recommendation for a country rocked by more than a year of on-and-off Covid-19 restrictions. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday’s study was “pivotal” in her agency’s decision to loosen its coronavirus recommendations, after months of encouraging vaccinated people to continue wearing masks indoors and avoiding crowded spaces.

Crucial Quote

“This report provided the most compelling evidence to date that Covid-19 vaccines were performing as expected in the real world,” Walensky said in a statement.

Key Background

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines logged efficacy rates above 90% in clinical trials last year, making public health officials optimistic that widespread vaccination could help break the Covid-19 pandemic’s back. Experts have held out for more concrete real-world data since then, and results are promising so far: Studies from heavily vaccinated countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel suggest Pfizer’s vaccine holds up in real life, including against some new coronavirus variants. Vaccines have also been credited with helping to push down U.S. and U.K. coronavirus cases and nearly wipe out new infections in Israel.

Contra

The study’s 82% single-dose effectiveness rate is slightly higher than the rates seen in some other trials, the authors said. This could be due to participants’ ages, according to the CDC: Patients in the CDC study had a median age in the mid-30s, and very few were over the age of 65. Also, it’s unclear how long the vaccines remain effective after just one dose.

Big Number

46.8%. That’s the share of Americans who received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, the vast majority of whom took Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine, according to CDC data released Friday. Some 36.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

Further Reading

CDC Says Vaccinated People Can Largely Stop Wearing Masks Indoors And Social Distancing (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says timeline on vaccines and international travel is not certain


Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not saying when all Australians will be vaccinated or when international borders will open again, 24 hours after his Treasurer handed down the government’s pandemic budget.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30, Mr Morrison said Tuesday’s federal budget was not dependent on the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 

“There is a general assumption [in the budget] of a vaccination program [which is] likely to be in place by the end of this year,” Mr Morrison said.

“That will not have a material impact on what’s in this budget, and it would be a mistake to think it did.”

The government had initially set a target of delivering a first dose to anyone in Australia that wanted it by the end of October. 

But Australia’s vaccine rollout has been hampered by supply issues and by concerns over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-50s.

The budget includes $1.9 billion for Australia’s vaccination strategy over five years but does not set any firm targets. 

Under questioning from Labor in Parliament earlier on Wednesday, Mr Morrison did not say when all Australians would be immunised by either.

“That [the budget assumption] is not a policy statement nor is it a policy commitment,” he said.

The budget assumes borders will remain closed until the middle of 2022, aside from certain exemptions. 

A “gradual return of temporary and permanent migrants” is expected from mid-2022, with the potential for international students to travel sooner.

The budget also left the door open for more bubble arrangements like the one Australia shares with New Zealand, but said quarantine caps would operate “with the exception of passengers from safe travel zones”.

Mr Morrison said he could not guarantee Australians would be able to return home without quarantine after 2022.

“It’s impossible for me to make those sorts of predictions in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,” he said.

“I can fully understand why people want greater certainty, but I can only provide the certainty that’s available.”

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More COVID-19 vaccines could be developed in SA


Much needed Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to better protect Australians from COVID-19 could be developed in South Australia.

A locally advanced manufacturing facility in Thebarton, in Adelaide’s inner west, has the capacity to mass produce the mRNA vaccines within 12 months.

For more than 35 years, the 4600 sqm plant was previously used for microbial fermentation by American pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Hospira.

The initiative would run in partnership with biotech giant BioCina, the University of Adelaide and the SA Health and Medical Research Institute.

The Commonwealth will need to approve the plan for it to go ahead.

BioCina purchased the Pfizer biologics manufacturing plant last August.

Its CEO Ian Wisenberg said it was the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia and the only one approved by the US-FDA.

Between the three parties involved, he said the state had the needed elements to begin production “in the short term”.

“We have a state-of-the-art facility that, with reasonable financial support from government to add key capabilities and expand capacity, can within months be producing key ‘ingredients’ of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to address the current global shortage,” Mr Wisenberg said.

The University of Adelaide’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton Middelberg said SA would play a key role in accelerating the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Premier Steven Marshall said he spoke with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt about the facility but could not say if the federal government would invest in the project.

He said he believed the proposal — introduced about four weeks ago — was a “great opportunity” for local jobs as well as ensuring the nation had effective capability to manufacture vaccinations in future.

“I’m hopeful the federal government will look favourably at working with us to scale up this opportunity,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’d be naive to think this (a global pandemic) wouldn’t happen again in future so having these capabilities, so that we’re not dependant on vaccines coming from overseas, would be very helpful going forward.”

Last month, the Victorian government announced it would fund $50 million into mRNA COVID-19 vaccine production to kickstart domestic manufacturing.

At the time, acting Premier James Merlino said it would take at least a year for the vaccines to be made.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the announcement and said the Commonwealth would look into what support they could offer.

Australia currently only has the ability to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically, with 50 million doses to be produced by CSL in Melbourne.

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Michael Rowland and Norman Swan got AstraZeneca vaccines. Here’s what happened



It started with some friendly breakfast TV banter.Norman Swan was on for his regular spot when, as has often been the case in recent months, the conversation turned to the vaccine rollout.I mentioned I had happily booked my first AstraZeneca shot now the program was open to over-50s.Norman said he happened to be travelling to Melbourne the next day and, instead of a coffee date, we should get vaccinated together.”Sure,” I said, thinking he was probably in such high demand the idea wouldn't go anywhere.As soon as he was out of the studio, Norman was enthusiastically texting about making arrangements, and some on-air spitballing quickly became reality.An absurdly straightforward process The queue moves quickly to get into the centre.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)We met the next morning outside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of the city's mass vaccination hubs.At the risk of inflaming Sydney-Melbourne rivalries, this is something my Sydney colleague can't yet do.Sydney's first vaccination hub, at Olympic Park in Homebush, doesn't open until next week.Until then, people have to rely on their GPs and small medical clinics to get their shots.  People wait in physically distanced chairs for their turn in the vaccination booth.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)It was a beautiful autumn day.Norman surveyed the scene and I am sure I detected a look of envy.It was quite a liberating day for both of us, particularly for Norman, who has spent all of his working hours over the past year helping explain the pandemic and the various vaccines to an anxious public.He has been a valuable source of advice and comfort for audiences across a range of ABC programs, and those who've subscribed to the wildly popular Coronacast podcast.Can I wait for Pfizer? Vaccine questions answeredAs more Australians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations we put your questions to the senior medical adviser for the Victorian vaccine rollout.Read moreThe selfie requests in the time I was with him bear this out.I asked Norman how he felt as we walked through the Convention Centre's doors.”Look, I'm excited to get it, actually. I just want that security of protection. And we've all got to get in there and do it,” he said.”It's playing your part, it helps yourself, it helps your family and the evidence is that it reduces infection rates, so it's going to reduce infection in the community.”Once inside, the process was almost absurdly straightforward. After giving their details, including their Medicare number, the pair were reminded they were getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)The mid-morning queues weren't that long, so people were ushered into the vaccination booths at a steady clip. You can either make a booking, or just turn up.The first step was registering our names and Medicare details with health officials, who asked the standard questions about whether you're feeling well.They reminded us that, as over 50s, it is the AstraZeneca vaccine we are receiving. No problem at all.Over in seconds The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination is now available to anyone over the age of 50.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Then it was into another queue for a turn with a vaccination nurse.I landed with Chris, who works for the Royal Melbourne Hospital and was thrilled to be playing her part in the vaccination effort.In fact, all of the medical professionals I came across were delightful and fully committed to this massive public health project. Vaccine nurse Chris talks Michael Rowland through the process of receiving his shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris asked detailed questions about my medical history, including whether I have suffered blood clots, and, importantly, how I go with needles.After all the build-up, the actual vaccination was a bit of an anticlimax. It was over in seconds. The discussions with the nurse take longer than the process of receiving the shot itself.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Chris set about explaining some of the possible side effects.These include pain in the injection arm, tiredness, headaches as well as fever and chills.These normally don't appear until a day after the vaccination. The side effects are usually mild and disappear within one or two days. The nurse asks questions to ensure Dr Swan is medically suited to receiving the shot.(ABC News: Ryan Smith)Read more about Australia's vaccine rollout:How serious are the risks of blood clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine?Why is the Astrazeneca vaccine approved for over 50s?A very rare and more serious side effect is blood clotting, with symptoms mostly starting between four and 20 days after the vaccination.As a precaution, everyone had to wait on site for 15 minutes after their dose, and there was a general mood of optimism and determination among those proudly waving their vaccination certificates.A random opinion poll produced some common answers:”I actually think it's important for the community. I think it's necessary for all of us to do it.””I think we all need to get vaccinated. We all need to do the right thing and together we can beat this pandemic.””The sooner we can get through this the better and things can get back to normal and start travelling again. I am sick of it, really, so let's get the ball rolling.”To be honest, I'm pretty sick of it too. It is only through all of us playing our small role in getting vaccinated that we can regain some of the pleasures that we lost once the pandemic struck.Hopefully the small amount of “vaccine hesitancy” will dissipate further once the rollout picks up speed, as it is now showing signs of doing.And if it takes Dr Norman Swan to accompany you personally to your vaccination appointment, I have his number.What you need to know about coronavirus:The symptomsThe number of cases in AustraliaTracking Australia's vaccine rolloutGlobal cases, deaths and testing ratesPosted YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 6:51pm, updated YesterdayWedWednesday 5 MayMay 2021 at 11:03pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppRelated StoriesBrett Sutton gets his first COVID jab as mass vaccination centres open across VictoriaBrenda was in tears as she got her COVID vaccine as hubs open to all Australians over 50More on:MelbourneHealthCOVID-19Vaccines and Immunity

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Exclusive: Novavax plans to ship COVID-19 vaccines to Europe from late 2021 – EU source


FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled
FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and sryinge are seen in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

May 3, 2021

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Novavax has told the European Union it plans to begin delivering its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc towards the end of this year, new guidance that could lead to a formal contract being signed as early as this week, an EU official told Reuters.

A deal would see Novavax supply a total of up to 200 million doses of the vaccine, providing the EU with booster shots to help contain the coronavirus and potentially guard against new variants, according to the official, who has direct knowledge of the discussions.

Novavax reached a preliminary deal with the bloc in December, but a final agreement has been delayed because the U.S. company has struggled to source some raw materials, Reuters reported in March.

The EU official, who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential, said Novavax still had production problems, but what had changed is that “now they have a delivery schedule”.

Novavax told the EU in meetings over the last two weeks that it planned to send the first small shipments towards the end of this year, with the bulk to be delivered in 2022, according to the official, who said the shots would complement a huge planned supply of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech.

A spokesman for the EU Commission, which co-leads talks with vaccine makers together with governments of the 27-nation bloc, declined to comment because the matter is confidential.

Novavax said its negotiations with the EU were continuing. It declined to comment about the deliveries timeline, production problems or whether a formal deal was imminent.

Regardless of a possible deal, the EU’s purchases remain conditional on the regulatory approval of the Novavax vaccine, which has been assessed under a rolling review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) since February.

The EMA has not set a date for its decision on the vaccine, which has not yet been approved anywhere in the world.

ALTERNATIVE TO PFIZER

The European Commission has repeatedly expressed confidence that it has secured enough doses to reach its goal of vaccinating at least 70% of its adult population by the end of July. The World Health Organization says about 70% of a population needs to be immunized to break transmission.

The EU is therefore now making plans for the coming years, to make sure the bloc will have enough boosters if they are needed to help keep COVID-19 in check and fight variants.

As part of this strategy the EU has already pencilled a huge deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for the supply of up to 1.8 billion doses of their vaccine in 2022 and 2023, the largest contract ever signed worldwide with a maker of COVID-19 shots.

Novavax’s protein-based vaccine represents an “alternative or a complement” to the mRNA shot produced by Pfizer, the EU official said, although it will be available in much smaller amounts. Of the 200 million doses planned, half are optional and can be bought by the EU at a later date if desired.

“We will certainly add other potential vaccines, for example protein-based vaccines have also quite a potential,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in late April when she announced the deal with Pfizer was about to be signed.

French drugmaker Sanofi, in partnership with British firm GlaxoSmithKline, is also trying to produce a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine and has already signed a supply deal with the EU. But their trials suffered a setback in December, delaying development.

($1 = 0.8305 euros)

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Josephine Mason and Pravin Char)

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Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon rejects claims independent Scotland could not buy vaccines


Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims that an independent Scotland would not be able to procure coronavirus vaccines as “nonsense”.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the First Minister said coronavirus vaccines are not a “gift” from the UK Government to Scotland – but are rather procured on a joint four-nations basis with Westminster and the devolved nations.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The UK was still within the transition period when it procured the vaccine and that didn’t prevent it procuring the vaccine on a four-nations basis with England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the way we procure the flu vaccine every year.

“That was done, nothing would have prevented that happening had we still been in the European Union.

“And of course the delivery of the vaccination programme in Scotland is down to the sterling efforts and fantastic work of NHS Scotland vaccinators and teams across the country and they have my deep and everlasting appreciation for the fantastic work that they are doing.”

GMB presenter Sean Fletcher said the delivery of the vaccination in Scotland was also down to the “procurement of the UK Government getting those vaccines”.

However, Ms Sturgeon told him to “hold on”, before stressing procurement was on a four-nations basis.

READ MORE: IN FULL: All the MSPs standing down at the Holyrood election

She added: “We do it voluntarily on a four-nations basis. It’s not a gift from the UK Government to Scotland. We choose to pool our efforts in that way. We do it with the flu vaccine every year.

“Scotland could if it chose procure the vaccine separately – health is devolved – but we chose to do it on a four-nations basis because it makes sense and if Scotland was independent it may well be that we still chose to do that.

“So these arguments that we couldn’t do these things if we were independent, frankly, are nonsense and don’t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Nicola Sturgeon said she will ‘convince’ Scottish people to support Scottish independence, and hopes to win a majority in the upcoming Holyrood election.



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Harry and Meghan demand world leaders share vaccines to ‘restore faith in humanity’ amid calls for Joe Biden and Boris Johnson to give reserves to India – as couple prepare to join J.Lo and Selena Gomez at star-studded ‘VaxLive’ concert



Prince Harry and Meghan Markle today announced themselves ‘campaign chairs’ of an A-list event called ‘VaxLive’, where they will demand world leaders including Joe Biden and Boris Johnson ‘share’ vaccines’, especially with India.

‘Vax Live’: The Concert to Reunite the World, organised by Global Canada Citizen and hosted by star Selena Gomez, will be held virtually at the beginning of May, with the Sussexes saying it will ‘restore faith in humanity’ by celebrating the hope provided by vaccines. 

Harry, 35, and Meghan, 39, will be joined by an A-List line up, with appearances from the couple’s close friend Gayle King, as well as Ben Affleck, Chrissy Teigen, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Nomzamo Mbatha, Olivia Munn and Sean Penn. 

The announcement coincides with demands for President Biden to hand over all of America’s 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to India as part of a global drive to help fight the world’s most devastating coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, the US announced that 60 million doses of the so-far unapproved vaccine will be made available to send abroad, once the doses are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Downing Street today rejected a similar move today, with Boris Johnson’s Official Spokesman saying ‘we don’t have surplus doses’ and the focus will remain on the rollout of jabs in the UK.  

India is facing a second wave of the deadly virus, with a million new cases in just three days. For the past two weeks, medical facilities have been running out of oxygen and ICU beds, with some patients dying as they wait outside hospitals. 

The Sussexes said in a statement today: ‘Over the past year, our world has experienced pain, loss and struggle – together. Now we need to recover and heal – together. We can’t leave anyone behind. 

‘We will all benefit, we will all be safer, when everyone everywhere has equal access to the vaccine. 

‘We must pursue equitable vaccine distribution, and in that, restore faith in our common humanity. This mission couldn’t be more critical or important.’  

A description of the concert online reads: ‘We are calling on world leaders to step up to make sure vaccines are accessible for all so we can end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere.’

It will also feature performances from the likes of Jennifer Lopez Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, J Balvin and H.E.R, leveraging the Sussexes wide network of celebrity friends. 

Global Citizen describes itself as a movement of ‘engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030’. 

Its website states: ‘Global Citizens learn about the systemic causes of extreme poverty, take action on those issues, and earn rewards for their actions — as part of a global community committed to lasting change.’

‘Their mission is to build a movement of 100M action-taking Global Citizens to help achieve our vision of ending extreme poverty by 2030.’ 

The Sussexes’ announcement today comes in the midst of intense debate about the West can help India and whether this should include sharing vaccines.  

With three jabs already approved and in-use in the United States – the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – there are already enough vaccines for all Americans. As a result, its stockpile of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to go unused.

Last week, some of India’s major newspapers accused the US of vaccine nationalism after a State Department spokesperson said the US needed its temporary export ban on vaccines because ‘not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.’

The Biden administration has also come under fire from Americans of Indian heritage, and from others around the world, who say Washington is ‘hoarding’ the British-developed vaccine that it is yet to approve as India – a country of almost 1.4 billion people – is overwhelmed by Covid-19.

‘We have to be strategic and responsible,’ said South Bay Congressman Ro Khanna, who argues the US should send its unused AstraZeneca vaccines to India.

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Olympians given early access to vaccines ahead of Tokyo Games


Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic team will go to Tokyo with the protection of vaccines after the Federal Government agreed to provide early access for athletes and officials ahead of the Tokyo Games.

After months of wrangling behind closed doors, national cabinet agreed on Tuesday to include all athletes and support staff under priority group 1b, granting them two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or for over 50s, the AstraZeneca vaccine.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll has said team vaccinations need to begin in May to ensure it was done in time for the Olympics.Credit:SMH

The move brings Australia into line with nations like New Zealand, the USA and Germany, who have already started the process of vaccinating their Olympians as they head to a Games in which it’s almost certain outbreaks will occur, even amid strict protocols put in place by organisers.

Around 2050 individuals have been identified as part of the plan, which had been slated to be discussed on Friday but has been addressed early in a move that will come as a huge relief to the Tokyo-bound contingent of athletes and officials.

“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” sports minister Richard Colbeck said.

“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”

MORE TO COME

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EU legal action over vaccines ‘without merit’: AstraZeneca


EU legal action taken against AstraZeneca over shortfalls in its delivery of Covid vaccines is “without merit”, the drugs giant said Monday.

EU legal action taken against AstraZeneca over shortfalls in its delivery of Covid vaccines is “without merit”, the drugs giant said Monday.

“We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement after the European Commission launched proceedings.

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AstraZeneca vaccines sent to Mexico from Baltimore plant safe – deputy health minister


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MEXICO CITY — Millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufactured at a U.S. plant that had a contamination issue and then shipped to Mexico are safe and have been approved by two regulators, Mexico’s deputy health minister said on Friday.

The doses were sent to Mexico as part of an agreement with the administration of President Joe Biden for 2.7 million shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to help supplement Mexico’s vaccination campaign amid global delays and shortages.

“They were produced in the Baltimore plant,” Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gatell wrote on Twitter. “The product is safe and of quality, it was evaluated by the FDA and (health regulator) COFEPRIS.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted production at the U.S. plant in Baltimore which produced the vaccines while it investigated an error that led to millions of doses being ruined last month.

Johnson & Johnson was put in charge of manufacturing at the plant in early April by the U.S. government after it disclosed the error in which ingredients from AstraZeneca’s shot, also produced at the plant at that time, contaminated a batch of the J&J vaccine.

The New York Times earlier reported that millions of vaccines made at the plant were sent to both Mexico and Canada.

Neither Mexico’s foreign ministry nor a local representative of AstraZeneca immediately responded to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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