Russia rejects coronavirus vaccine criticism; UK now in recession

Russia rejects criticism of its vaccine, saying it’s ‘information warfare’

Russia has rebuffed international criticism and skepticism surrounding its coronavirus vaccine, saying that it’s safe and that it works.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko reportedly said Wednesday that allegations that the vaccine was unsafe were groundless and driven by competition, while Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF, which is backing the vaccine, said U.S. criticism of the vaccine showed bias.

“It (the announcement) really divided the world into those countries that think it’s great news … and some of the U.S. media and some U.S. people that engage in major information warfare on the Russian vaccine,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Wednesday. — Holly Ellyatt

UK economy contracted 20.4% in the second quarter

Cyclists ride along The Mall near Buckingham Palace in central London on May 16, 2020.

JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. economy contracted by 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, compared to the previous three months, as coronavirus-induced lockdowns hit economic activity, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday.

The second-quarter plunge is the worst on record and follows a 2.2% contraction in the first quarter. Analysts had expected a fall of 20.5%, according to a Reuters poll.  Two consecutive periods of contraction mean the British economy is now in a technical recession.

Services, construction and production all saw record quarterly falls, particularly in the sectors most exposed to government restrictions, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

“The economy began to bounce back in June with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and housebuilding continuing to recover,” ONS Deputy National Statistical for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow said. “Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck.” — Elliot Smith

Russia’s Putin is going after ‘big wins’ with vaccine, says expert

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to score a “domestic win” with a coronavirus vaccine is at “high risk of backfiring,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a senior vice president at think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Like many experts skeptical of Russia’s vaccine, Morrison questioned the country’s intention to market the drug before conducting more extensive trials. He added that the vaccine rollout could backfire on Putin if the drug has any adverse impact.

“This is a case of Russia cutting corners for big gains, big wins domestically and — they hope — internationally,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday.

Putin on Tuesday claimed that Russia has registered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine. That announcement attracted skepticism from scientists and public health experts. —Yen Nee Lee

New Zealand delays election process as new cluster prompts Auckland lockdown

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media regarding the latest case of COVID-19 coronavirus infections, breaking a 102-day run of no local transmissions, at the parliament in Auckland on August 12, 2020.

Marty Melville | AFP | Getty Images

New Zealand delayed its general election process as the country reported its first cases on Tuesday after 102 days without local transmission.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was suspending the dissolution of parliament that would pave the way for an election that was scheduled on Sept. 19. There’s been no decision made on delaying the actual poll, she said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The new cluster within a family in Auckland prompted a lockdown in the city of Auckland. Health officials are now urgently tracing the source of the new cluster. 

Officials are probing the possibility that cases were imported by freight. “We are very confident we didn’t have any community transmission for a very long period,” said Ashley Bloomfield, Director General of Health. “We know the virus can survive within refrigerated environments for quite some time.”

Authorities are performing tests at a store in Auckland where a man from the infected family worked. —Huileng Tan

Trump announces U.S. deal with Moderna to buy 100 million doses of the company’s vaccine

President Donald Trump announced at an evening White House press briefing that the U.S. has struck a deal with Moderna for 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The company separately said the deal is worth $1.53 billion and will give the federal government the option to purchase up to 400 million additional doses. 

The U.S. government’s deal with Moderna for its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273, which is in late-stage human trials, follows similar agreements it’s made with other pharmaceutical giants as part of Operation Warp Speed. 

“We are investing in the development and manufacture of the top six vaccine candidates to ensure rapid delivery. The military is ready to go, they’re ready to deliver a vaccine to Americans as soon as one is fully approved by the FDA and we’re very close to that approval,” Trump said at the White House. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

Big Ten and Pac-12 postpone fall sports, including football

Two of the Power 5 college athletic conferences have made it official: They are postponing fall sports.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 both announced the postponement of all sports for the fall season due to ongoing risks with the coronavirus, a move that includes football.

“As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a press release announcing the decision.

The Big Ten said it will consider playing fall sports in the spring and the Pac-12 said “when conditions improve” it would weigh a return to competition after Jan. 1. —Chris Eudaily

Florida reports record single-day jump in deaths

Florida reported 276 new deaths caused by the coronavirus on Tuesday, the most deaths reported in a single day by the state since the pandemic began. 

Florida is one of the hardest-hit states in the country by the coronavirus, but daily new cases have appeared to decline in recent days. Epidemiologists, however, warn that it’s too soon to establish any kind of strong trend and say that testing has fallen even faster than new cases.

The seven-day average of daily new cases has dropped by 38% compared with two weeks ago, according to CNBC’s analysis of data compiled by Hopkins, but testing has declined as well. The state was running roughly  54,000 tests per day two weeks ago, but that has dropped by about 46% to just over 37,000 as of Aug. 10, based on data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer project founded by journalists at the Atlantic magazine. —Will Feuer

Bars could reopen in Texas if situation improves, governor says

Texas bars may be able to reopen after ordered to shutter in June if the state’s able to better contain the coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press briefing. 

Abbott said that if the state returned to a low level of hospitalizations and a positivity rate, the percentage of total tests returning positive, “well below” 10% for a “prolonged” period of time, “then bars may be allowed to return.” He said reopening bars in Texas would also depend on business owners following health guidelines set forth by the state, such as prohibiting customers from moving around once inside and enforcing social distancing practices.

Abbott warned, however, that the state has “to be vigilant right now” and that the coronavirus has “not left the state of Texas,” though there have been some signs of improvement. Texas’ positivity rate remains near 21%, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services

“One of the things we can do to assist them would be to try to get their businesses up and running, and one of the best things we can do to achieve that is by everybody working collaboratively to slow the spread of Covid-19,” Abbott told reporters. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

New York Comic Con heads to YouTube

New York Comic Con won’t take place at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan this year. The annual pop culture event produced by ReedPop will be held virtually in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

ReedPop has partnered with YouTube to livestream panels from Oct. 8-11. This is similar to San Diego Comic Con, which held virtual sessions last month.

Last year, more than 200,000 tickets were sold for New York Comic Con. Typically, the show, which takes place over the course of four days, brings in more than $100 million to New York, as attendees pay for hotel rooms, take public transportation and dine at restaurants all around New York City. —Sarah Whitten

WHO regional director warns the Americas remain ‘under the grip’ of coronavirus

Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization regional director for the Americas, said that the Americas’ expanding number of coronavirus cases show the region remains “under the grip of Covid-19.” The Americas have been reporting more than 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 daily with the U.S. making up more than half of the case load, she said. 

PAHO has identified worrisome spikes in cases in countries that were once able to suppress their outbreaks, such as Colombia and Argentina, as well as an expansion in cases in Central America, she said. Etienne pointed to the Dominican Republic as an increasingly troubling area. It’s reporting more cases than all other island nations in the Caribbean, she said. 

The pandemic is also threatening the region’s ability to suppress other communicable diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis, Etienne warned. More than 80% of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are reporting challenges in delivering tuberculosis treatments. 

“If patients skip doses or interrupt their treatment, a manageable condition can quickly turn into an active infection that threatens not only the patient but also their family and close acquaintances,” Etienne said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Scientists worry whether Russia’s vaccine is safe and effective

Scientists and public health officials are skeptical about Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s claim that the country’s potential vaccine for the coronavirus “works quite effectively,” saying that the vaccine still needs phase three testing to determine whether it’s safe or effective.

“Phase three trials are critical” for drug and vaccine development, said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Would I be confident about the safety and effectiveness without a phase three? Absolutely not.” 

To be sure, Russia has “phenomenal” scientists and is a powerhouse when it comes to many aspects of science, said infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch. Although he has “no doubts” Russia can create a safe and effective vaccine, Bogoch said he was still skeptical.

The vaccine also appears to face a tough hurdle winning approval from the WHO before the international health organization will recommend it to other nations. “You cannot use a vaccine or drugs or medicines without following through all of these stages, having complied with all of these stages,”  Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of WHO’s Pan American Health Organization, said at a press conference. –Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

Gottlieb, Azar cautious on Russia’s coronavirus vaccine

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that he’s concerned about the efficacy and safety of Russia’s vaccine cited by President Vladimir Putin as the world’s first registered vaccine to prevent Covid-19. 

“I wouldn’t take it, certainly not outside a clinical trial right now” where patients are closely monitored, Gottlieb said. He stressed that Russia’s progress on developing a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus has not outpaced the United States.

“They’ve cleared the equivalent, really, of a Phase 1 clinical trial in terms of putting it in 100 to maybe as many as 300 patients so it needs to be evaluated in a large-scale clinical trial,” said Gottlieb. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on ABC’s “Good Morning America” reiterated that two of the six leading Covid-19 vaccines in the U.S. are in Phase 3 clinical trials, which are important for showing safety and efficacy for any vaccine candidate.

“Well, the point is not to be first with a vaccine, the point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world,” Azar told GMA. “We need transparent data, and it’s got to be Phase 3 data that shows that a vaccine is safe and effective.” — Noah Higgins-Dunn

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic-testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina.

Boeing’s order drought continues and airplane cancellations pile up

Boeing customers, mostly aircraft leasing firms, cancelled 43 planes in July, the sixth month in a row that the manufacturer reported more lost orders than new sales. The Chicago-based company had no new orders in the month.

The pandemic has been especially painful for airlines and aircraft manufacturers as concerns about the virus continue to keep travelers off airplanes. Travel demand could take more than two years to recover, according to Boeing’s CEO and other industry executives.

This year through July, Boeing has net negative orders of 836 planes and its backlog stands at 4,496 planes down from 4,552 aircraft in June.

Boeing shares eased off the day’s highs after the sales report but were still up more than 3% on the day. —Leslie Josephs

Local health officials are leaving their posts as pandemic strains departments

At least 49 public health leaders at the state and local levels have resigned, retired or been fired since April, the Associated Press reports, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to strain departments. Those 49 officials span 23 states and represent an increase of 20 since June, when the AP and Kaiser Health News service started keeping track. 

Health officials cite a “frustrating and tiring and disheartening” few months combating the fast moving virus, as well as attacks and threats from members of the public who disagree with a states course of action. Some officials who left their posts cited family reasons or took jobs elsewhere in the field, and still others cited the politicization of mask-wearing and Covid-19 related shutdowns as contributing to their departures. —Sara Salinas

Main Street more confident in chances of survival during pandemic

Over 75% of the largest firms expect they can last more than a year given current conditions, but even a majority of the smallest companies are optimistic on survival chances.

CNBC|SurveyMonkey Q3 Small Business Survey

Despite resurging U.S. cases, 64% of small business owners on Main Street are confident their businesses will survive for a year or more under current conditions, according to the Q3 CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey. That’s nearly double the 34% that reported the same optimistic view when polled in April. More than 45% of those surveyed say they expect their company’s revenue to increase over the next 12 months.

According to small business experts like Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the turnaround in attitude is due to a confluence of factors.

“Small business owners have quickly learned that they can operate by using various models to meet the needs of customers in the Covid-19 economy,” Kerrigan said. “Moreover, consumers are highly supportive of small businesses in their local communities and that’s boosting confidence.” 

More companies on Main Street are leveraging technology to reduce operating costs and expand into new avenues of growth, whether it be developing a bigger online presence, building a digital direct-to-consumer marketing strategy or simply creating a new product line. —Lori Ioannou

S&P 500 inches closer to a record high

The S&P 500 rose at the open, putting it on the cusp of a fresh all-time high amid a rotation out of technology shares and into stocks that would benefit from the reopening of the economy and a vaccine, such as cruise lines and airlines, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Yun Li. 

The broader market index gained 0.5% and was within half a percent of reaching its Feb. 19 record of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 293 points, or 1.1%. However, the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.4%. —Melodie Warner 

Half of U.S. students will study virtually only this fall, study shows

A study by Burbio found a little more than half of U.S. elementary and high school students will attend school only virtually this fall, reports CNBC’s Steve Liesman

Burbio, which aggregates school and community calendars nationwide, found that 52% of students will only go to school virtually and 25% will attend every day. The remaining 19% will have some form of hybrid schooling, which combines online and in-person learning. Four percent of districts remain undecided.

The situation is fluid as education officials struggle with an unprecedented and wrenching decision amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Burbio sampled 1,200 of the nation’s 13,500 school districts, representing about 35% of the nation’s schools to arrive at its estimate. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.7. —Melodie Warner 

Companies eye turning ‘furloughs’ into permanent layoffs

As companies continue to cut costs in response to the economic downturn tied to the coronavirus pandemic, many are talking about turning “furloughs” into permanent layoffs, CNBC’s Bob Pisani reports. 

Companies are increasingly making initial cost-cutting measures, like reductions in travel and lower rent, more permanent. 

William Christopher Wellborn, the COO of Mohawk Industries, said “We have made permanent staffing reductions to reduce our fixed cost and align with current demand.” The CFO of Textron, another industrial, and the CEO of Stanley Black & Decker, both said temporary salaried layoffs have converted into permanent reductions. —Will Feuer

Russia becomes the first country to approve a vaccine, Putin says

Pictured in this video screen grab is a volunteer receiving a Russian-made polyvalent vector vaccine for COVID-19 as part of clinical trials at Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University.

Sechenov Medical University Pres | TASS | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia’s health authorities have approved what the country claims is the world’s first vaccine for the coronavirus.

“As far as I know, a vaccine against a new coronavirus infection has been registered this morning, for the first time in the world,” Putin said at a meeting with members of the government, news agency RIA Novosti reported.

“Although I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity and, I repeat, has passed all the necessary checks,” he said, adding that his own daughter had received the vaccine.

Russia has not yet published any results of its phase one and phase two clinical trials, which were carried out over less than two months, and is about to start phase three trials of the vaccine. As such, the long-term effects and safety of this possible vaccine currently remain unclear. —Holly Ellyatt

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