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“Expert” Narratives Are Collapsing

"Expert" Narratives Are Collapsing

Authored by Ian Miller via ‘Unmasked’ Substack,

The house of cards continues to fall apart…

General…

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"Expert" Narratives Are Collapsing

Authored by Ian Miller via 'Unmasked' Substack,

The house of cards continues to fall apart...

General mask mandates for most of the country have all but ended.

Outside of a few fanatical true believers like Los Angeles County and entertainment industry events like Comic-Con, almost no one is still mandating masks to go about daily life.

What they are doing however, is forcing masks back onto children in schools.

Perhaps the most indefensible “intervention” during the pandemic, school masking has confusingly become the most prominent reoccurring mandate across the country.

While it has seemed like this inexcusable policy would mostly be limited to far left areas, the most recent announcement comes from a much more surprising city; Louisville, Kentucky.

Starting Monday, July 25th, Louisville schools are now requiring masking at all facility locations and on buses:

Louisville joins San Diego schools, who also announced a mandate of their own recently.

Incredibly, that mandate was defended by a local official who claimed that students who can’t or don’t want to wear masks should just not come to school:

This is despite the overwhelming amount of data and evidence that’s accumulated over the past several years that school masking is completely ineffective. Not to mention the tremendous learning loss from virtual schooling and missed in person education that Whitehurst-Payne ignores.

Just recently, a study on school masking was released comparing two school districts in North Dakota during the fall and winter of 2021-2022.

The Fargo district had a mask mandate in effect starting when school returned in August, while their neighboring schools in the West Fargo district did not.

The results were nearly identical, with Fargo (in black) having a higher peak than their maskless neighbors:

The study authors even attempted to get compliance rates, which based on their conversations, showed that roughly 5% or less of students in the non-mandate schools were masking, compared to 95+% in the mandate district.

Many more studies and comparisons show the same results.

After the school mask mandates were lifted in Virginia, cases fell dramatically, and comparisons of states without and without school mask mandates showed case rates were higher overall in the forced masking locations:

There is simply no justification for continuing to mandate masks in schools.

While it’s unsurprising that cities in California or New York or Illinois will inevitably bring back mandates to assuage their own fears, it’s disturbing that a city in a red state like Kentucky would also return to forced masking.

Parents in these areas might have assumed that their children would be spared from this ineffective, destructive policy. But Louisville shows once again that the commitment to anti-science appeals to authority is possible anywhere.

Once again, Ron DeSantis has shown that he is head and shoulders above most politicians, correctly realizing that banning school masking is the only way to ensure that kids aren’t forced to placate delusional adults.

Mandates Aren’t Working

Even now, well after mask mandates have been completely disproven as a potential “intervention” against the spread of COVID, many parts of the world remain committed to this ineffective policy.

A new report from the Daily Mail highlights how comparisons of Australia to New Zealand and Singapore indicate, yet again, that mandates and mask wearing does not reduce COVID cases.

New Zealand continues to have a strict mask mandate that covers nearly all indoor settings, yet cases there continue to rise and are now among the highest in the world, after adjusting for population:

Similarly, Singapore has experienced a rapid increase in COVID cases and other metrics, despite maintaining a mask mandate with exceptionally high compliance and vaccination rates.

Even more embarrassingly, Singapore was specifically singled out as a supposed success story by Jerome Adams, the former U.S. Surgeon General.

Adams claimed on Twitter earlier in 2022 that the city “controlled surges” with “masking and mitigation:”

Meanwhile, Australia currently has nearly identical case rates, despite lifting many mask mandates and seeing significantly lower compliance percentages:

This is the exact opposite of what was predicted by many supposed “experts” and major media outlets.

No matter how often they’re proven wrong, they continually return to the inaccurate assumption that lifting mask mandates will lead to inevitable disaster.

Conversely, Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s chief COVID coordinator, claimed in a recent interview in support of LA’s upcoming mask mandate, that wearing masks “really will make a difference:”

“CDC has very clear guidance on this as well through their COVID community levels. And the CDC recommendation is that when you’re in a high zone, that sort of orange zone, you know, people wearing masks indoors is really important, and it really will make a difference.”

Jha never has to face a follow up question asking him why mask wearing indoors is currently not working in other countries, if it’s “really important” and “will make a difference.”

There’s simply uncritical acceptance that what he says is fact, because he is the one saying it. Data, science and evidence are unnecessary when it comes to authorities repeating inaccurate talking points.

Even an Australian infectious disease professor succinctly explained how important imposing a new mask mandates is to slowing the spread: “It doesn’t matter.”

Hospitals Are Finally Admitting That Virtually No One is There For COVID

Los Angeles continues to do its best to take the crown of most anti-science city in America.

Recently the head of LA Public Health announced that the city would return to mask mandates if the region remains in the CDC’s arbitrary “high transmission” zone for two weeks.

Of course, in their announcement, no one pointed out that Los Angeles has made a substantial contribution to the evidence base proving that mask mandates do not work.

Los Angles officials continue to pretend that they can control the spread of the virus through indefinite restrictions.

But what’s worse is that despite the rising case and hospitalization rates used to justify endless mandates, a major LA medical system recently posted a video detailing how little COVID currently impacts their hospitals.

During their remarks, it emerged that “Only 10% of COVID positive admissions are admitted due to COVID.”

Meaning that if there are 100 hospitalized COVID “patients,” only 10 are there to be treated for it and 90 are there for other medical issues and just so happen to test positive.

Even more extraordinary is that they admitted that “virtually none of them go to the ICU,” and “they are not intubated…we have not seen one of those since February:”

As noted by Phil Kerpen, the video does not appear on any of the LA+USC Medical Center feeds, perhaps in an attempt to avoid creating doubt about the necessity of the upcoming mask mandate.

Beyond the implications, that COVID is no longer causing a significant threat to hospitals in the nation’s second largest city, this story provides yet another example of hypocrisy from Gavin Newsom.

Newsom recently released and promoted a political ad claiming that he’s creating a climate of “freedom” in California as opposed to Ron DeSantis in Florida.

Except when asked whether or not he supported Los Angeles potentially imposing a mask mandate two and a half years into the pandemic, Newsom deflected and refused to answer directly.

Somehow in Newsom’s mind, “freedom” doesn’t mean the ability to walk around without a mask, well after their efficacy has been disproven.

It’s not surprising that LA is likely returning to mask mandates despite the lack of severe impacts on hospitals from COVID. When the director of public health, who is not a doctor, makes nearly $500,000 per year to impose destructive, anti-science policies, it’s clear that no amount of data matters to city officials.

Young Kids Aren’t Getting Vaccinated

It’s now been a month and a half since the FDA inexcusably authorized the mRNA vaccines for children aged 6 months to 5 years old.

The decision, based on efficacy estimates that would have failed the standard set by the FDA to authorize the vaccines for adults, was greeted with acclaim by COVID fanatics and dismay by evidence based experts.

In fact, many top employees at the regulatory body and other public health agencies have quit in protest, believing that the authorization was politically motivated.

The rush to push the mRNA shots on young children was bewildering for several reasons.

COVID vaccines were initially authorized on an emergency use basis; except with the risks of severe illness so remarkably low amongst young kids, there is no real emergency for this age group.

Not to mention the lack of long term safety data, especially considering the now established risks of myocarditis. There’s also the fact that the vaccines were based on the original variant, which essentially no longer exists.

Discussions have already begun about updating the vaccines for the Omicron variant and mutations will continue indefinitely. Why rush to authorize the shots when they’re already out of date?

It seems that most parents across the country agree with these flaws.

According to recent data, only 2% of children under 5 across the country have been vaccinated for COVID.

That is an utter disaster for the Biden administration and the public health agencies they control.

They pushed the FDA to rush these vaccines out, and they’ve been overwhelmingly rejected.

While the report provides several excuses such as parents being used to getting their young kids vaccinated during visits to the pediatrician, this is the most widely publicized virus on earth. If parents really believed these shots were necessary or “safe and effective” for children, they would be making appointments at government run vaccination sites.

Instead, despite the Biden administration’s best efforts, most have correctly realized that there is no demonstrable benefit for this age group and not an insignificant amount of risk.

Each time the “experts” and their political bosses roll out another supposed “intervention” with the implication that this will finally be the one to prevent the spread of COVID, they get less uptake.

Booster shots have not been as widely adopted as the original series. The second boosters will be even less popular.

Now parents have shown little to no interest in early childhood vaccinations.

This is the only way to ensure COVID does not become a permanent feature of discussion; showing those in charge that no one is listening to them anymore.

For years, the media, “experts” and politicians have created narratives that mask mandates don't work in the US because of lack of compliance. They’ve defended the need for school masking and that parents were desperate to get their kids vaccinated. Or they’ve claimed that COVID was the cause for the overwhelming majority of hospitalizations.

All of these continue to be disproven.

Hospitals are finally acknowledging that COVID is not the cause for many of the COVID designated hospitalizations. School masking has been disproven by continued high quality research. International locations with high compliance are not controlling the virus with mandates.

Unfortunately we’ve seen a lot of this before.

It’s been clear for years that they were hopelessly incorrect, and yet they’ve continued to push for indefinite mandates and refused to admit mistakes.

Narrative collapse is but a small hindrance, easily dismissed as criticism from unqualified detractors.

But with the fall and winter rapidly approaching, it’s important to continue to dismantle their arguments and head off upcoming potential policy “interventions” before they start.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Thu, 07/28/2022 - 06:30

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Russia’s energy war: Putin’s unpredictable actions and looming sanctions could further disrupt oil and gas markets

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not hesitated to use energy as a weapon. An expert on global energy markets analyzes what could come next.

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The new Baltic Pipe natural gas pipeline connects Norwegian natural gas fields in the North Sea with Denmark and Poland, offering an alternative to Russian gas. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russia’s effort to conscript 300,000 reservists to counter Ukraine’s military advances in Kharkiv has drawn a lot of attention from military and political analysts. But there’s also a potential energy angle. Energy conflicts between Russia and Europe are escalating and likely could worsen as winter approaches.

One might assume that energy workers, who provide fuel and export revenue that Russia desperately needs, are too valuable to the war effort to be conscripted. So far, banking and information technology workers have received an official nod to stay in their jobs.

The situation for oil and gas workers is murkier, including swirling bits of Russian media disinformation about whether the sector will or won’t be targeted for mobilization. Either way, I expect Russia’s oil and gas operations to be destabilized by the next phase of the war.

The explosions in September 2022 that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines from Russia to Europe, and that may have been sabotage, are just the latest developments in this complex and unstable arena. As an analyst of global energy policy, I expect that more energy cutoffs could be in the cards – either directly ordered by the Kremlin to escalate economic pressure on European governments or as a result of new sabotage, or even because shortages of specialized equipment and trained Russian manpower lead to accidents or stoppages.

Dwindling natural gas flows

Russia has significantly reduced natural gas shipments to Europe in an effort to pressure European nations who are siding with Ukraine. In May 2022, the state-owned energy company Gazprom closed a key pipeline that runs through Belarus and Poland.

In June, the company reduced shipments to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has a capacity of 170 million cubic meters per day, to only 40 million cubic meters per day. A few months later, Gazprom announced that Nord Stream 1 needed repairs and shut it down completely. Now U.S. and European leaders charge that Russia deliberately damaged the pipeline to further disrupt European energy supplies. The timing of the pipeline explosion coincided with the start up of a major new natural gas pipeline from Norway to Poland.

Russia has very limited alternative export infrastructure that can move Siberian natural gas to other customers, like China, so most of the gas it would normally be selling to Europe cannot be shifted to other markets. Natural gas wells in Siberia may need to be taken out of production, or shut in, in energy-speak, which could free up workers for conscription.

European dependence on Russian oil and gas evolved over decades. Now, reducing it is posing hard choices for EU countries.

Restricting Russian oil profits

Russia’s call-up of reservists also includes workers from companies specifically focused on oil. This has led some seasoned analysts to question whether supply disruptions might spread to oil, either by accident or on purpose.

One potential trigger is the Dec. 5, 2022, deadline for the start of phase six of European Union energy sanctions against Russia. Confusion about the package of restrictions and how they will relate to a cap on what buyers will pay for Russian crude oil has muted market volatility so far. But when the measures go into effect, they could initiate a new spike in oil prices.

Under this sanctions package, Europe will completely stop buying seaborne Russian crude oil. This step isn’t as damaging as it sounds, since many buyers in Europe have already shifted to alternative oil sources.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, it exported roughly 1.4 million barrels per day of crude oil to Europe by sea, divided between Black Sea and Baltic routes. In recent months, European purchases have fallen below 1 million barrels per day. But Russia has actually been able to increase total flows from Black Sea and Baltic ports by redirecting crude oil exports to China, India and Turkey.

Russia has limited access to tankers, insurance and other services associated with moving oil by ship. Until recently, it acquired such services mainly from Europe. The change means that customers like China, India and Turkey have to transfer some of their purchases of Russian oil at sea from Russian-owned or chartered ships to ships sailing under other nations’ flags, whose services might not be covered by the European bans. This process is common and not always illegal, but often is used to evade sanctions by obscuring where shipments from Russia are ending up.

To compensate for this costly process, Russia is discounting its exports by US$40 per barrel. Observers generally assume that whatever Russian crude oil European buyers relinquish this winter will gradually find alternative outlets.

Where is Russian oil going?

The U.S. and its European allies aim to discourage this increased outflow of Russian crude by further limiting Moscow’s access to maritime services, such as tanker chartering, insurance and pilots licensed and trained to handle oil tankers, for any crude oil exports to third parties outside of the G-7 who pay rates above the U.S.-EU price cap. In my view, it will be relatively easy to game this policy and obscure how much Russia’s customers are paying.

On Sept. 9, 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued new guidance for the Dec. 5 sanctions regime. The policy aims to limit the revenue Russia can earn from its oil while keeping it flowing. It requires that unless buyers of Russian oil can certify that oil cargoes were bought for reduced prices, they will be barred from obtaining European maritime services.

However, this new strategy seems to be failing even before it begins. Denmark is still making Danish pilots available to move tankers through its precarious straits, which are a vital conduit for shipments of Russian crude and refined products. Russia has also found oil tankers that aren’t subject to European oversight to move over a third of the volume that it needs transported, and it will likely obtain more.

Traders have been getting around these sorts of oil sanctions for decades. Tricks of the trade include blending banned oil into other kinds of oil, turning off ship transponders to avoid detection of ship-to-ship transfers, falsifying documentation and delivering oil into and then later out of major storage hubs in remote parts of the globe. This explains why markets have been sanguine about the looming European sanctions deadline.

One fuel at a time

But Russian President Vladimir Putin may have other ideas. Putin has already threatened a larger oil cutoff if the G-7 tries to impose its price cap, warning that Europe will be “as frozen as a wolf’s tail,” referencing a Russian fairy tale.

U.S. officials are counting on the idea that Russia won’t want to damage its oil fields by turning off the taps, which in some cases might create long-term field pressurization problems. In my view, this is poor logic for multiple reasons, including Putin’s proclivity to sacrifice Russia’s economic future for geopolitical goals.

A woman walks past a billboard reading: Stop buying fossil fuels. End the war.
Stand With Ukraine campaign coordinator Svitlana Romanko demonstrates in front of the European Parliament on Sept. 27, 2022. Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Russia managed to easily throttle back oil production when the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed world oil demand temporarily in 2020, and cutoffs of Russian natural gas exports to Europe have already greatly compromised Gazprom’s commercial future. Such actions show that commercial considerations are not a high priority in the Kremlin’s calculus.

How much oil would come off the market if Putin escalates his energy war? It’s an open question. Global oil demand has fallen sharply in recent months amid high prices and recessionary pressures. The potential loss of 1 million barrels per day of Russian crude oil shipments to Europe is unlikely to jack the price of oil back up the way it did initially in February 2022, when demand was still robust.

Speculators are betting that Putin will want to keep oil flowing to everyone else. China’s Russian crude imports surged as high as 2 million barrels per day following the Ukraine invasion, and India and Turkey are buying significant quantities.

Refined products like diesel fuel are due for further EU sanctions in February 2023. Russia supplies close to 40% of Europe’s diesel fuel at present, so that remains a significant economic lever.

The EU appears to know it must kick dependence on Russian energy completely, but its protected, one-product-at-a-time approach keeps Putin potentially in the driver’s seat. In the U.S., local diesel fuel prices are highly influenced by competition for seaborne cargoes from European buyers. So U.S. East Coast importers could also be in for a bumpy winter.

This article has been updated to reflect conflicting reports about the draft status of Russian oil and gas workers.

Amy Myers Jaffe does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Three reasons a weak pound is bad news for the environment

Financial turmoil will make it harder to invest in climate action on a massive scale.

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Dragon Claws / shutterstock

The day before new UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget plan for economic growth, a pound would buy you about $1.13. After financial markets rejected the plan, the pound suddenly sunk to around $1.07. Though it has since rallied thanks to major intervention from the Bank of England, the currency remains volatile and far below its value earlier this year.

A lot has been written about how this will affect people’s incomes, the housing market or overall political and economic conditions. But we want to look at why the weak pound is bad news for the UK’s natural environment and its ability to hit climate targets.

1. The low-carbon economy just became a lot more expensive

The fall in sterling’s value partly signals a loss in confidence in the value of UK assets following the unfunded tax commitments contained in the mini-budget. The government’s aim to achieve net zero by 2050 requires substantial public and private investment in energy technologies such as solar and wind as well as carbon storage, insulation and electric cars.

But the loss in investor confidence threatens to derail these investments, because firms may be unwilling to commit the substantial budgets required in an uncertain economic environment. The cost of these investments may also rise as a result of the falling pound because many of the materials and inputs needed for these technologies, such as batteries, are imported and a falling pound increases their prices.

Aerial view of wind farm with forest and fields in background
UK wind power relies on lots of imported parts. Richard Whitcombe / shutterstock

2. High interest rates may rule out large investment

To support the pound and to control inflation, interest rates are expected to rise further. The UK is already experiencing record levels of inflation, fuelled by pandemic-related spending and Russia’s war on Ukraine. Rising consumer prices developed into a full-blown cost of living crisis, with fuel and food poverty, financial hardship and the collapse of businesses looming large on this winter’s horizon.

While the anticipated increase in interest rates might ease the cost of living crisis, it also increases the cost of government borrowing at a time when we rapidly need to increase low-carbon investment for net zero by 2050. The government’s official climate change advisory committee estimates that an additional £4 billion to £6 billion of annual public spending will be needed by 2030.

Some of this money should be raised through carbon taxes. But in reality, at least for as long as the cost of living crisis is ongoing, if the government is serious about green investment it will have to borrow.

Rising interest rates will push up the cost of borrowing relentlessly and present a tough political choice that seemingly pits the environment against economic recovery. As any future incoming government will inherit these same rates, a falling pound threatens to make it much harder to take large-scale, rapid environmental action.

3. Imports will become pricier

In addition to increased supply prices for firms and rising borrowing costs, it will lead to a significant rise in import prices for consumers. Given the UK’s reliance on imports, this is likely to affect prices for food, clothing and manufactured goods.

At the consumer level, this will immediately impact marginal spending as necessary expenditures (housing, energy, basic food and so on) lower the budget available for products such as eco-friendly cleaning products, organic foods or ethically made clothes. Buying “greener” products typically cost a family of four around £2,000 a year.

Instead, people may have to rely on cheaper goods that also come with larger greenhouse gas footprints and wider impacts on the environment through pollution and increased waste. See this calculator for direct comparisons.

Of course, some spending changes will be positive for the environment, for example if people use their cars less or take fewer holidays abroad. However, high-income individuals who will benefit the most from the mini-budget tax cuts will be less affected by the falling pound and they tend to fly more, buy more things, and have multiple cars and bigger homes to heat.

This raises profound questions about inequality and injustice in UK society. Alongside increased fuel poverty and foodbank use, we will see an uptick in the purchasing power of the wealthiest.

What’s next

Interest rate rises increase the cost of servicing government debt as well as the cost of new borrowing. One estimate says that the combined cost to government of the new tax cuts and higher cost of borrowing is around £250 billion. This substantial loss in government income reduces the budget available for climate change mitigation and improvements to infrastructure.

The government’s growth plan also seems to be based on an increased use of fossil fuels through technologies such as fracking. Given the scant evidence for absolutely decoupling economic growth from resource use, the opposition’s “green growth” proposal is also unlikely to decarbonise at the rate required to get to net zero by 2050 and avert catastrophic climate change.

Therefore, rather than increasing the energy and materials going into the economy for the sake of GDP growth, we would argue the UK needs an economic reorientation that questions the need of growth for its own sake and orients it instead towards social equality and ecological sustainability.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Covid-19 roundup: Swiss biotech halts in-patient PhII study; Houston-based vaccine and Chinese mRNA shot nab EUAs in Indonesia

Another Covid-19 study is hitting the breaks as a Swiss biotech is pausing its Phase II trial in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.
Kinarus Therapeutics…

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Another Covid-19 study is hitting the breaks as a Swiss biotech is pausing its Phase II trial in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

Kinarus Therapeutics announced on Friday that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) has reviewed the company’s Phase II study for its candidate KIN001 and has recommended that the study be stopped.

According to Kinarus, the DSMB stated that there was a low probability to show statistically significant results as the number of Covid-19 patients that are in the hospital is lower than at other points in the pandemic.

Thierry Fumeaux

“As many of our peers have learned since the beginning of the pandemic, it has become challenging to show the impact of therapeutic intervention at the current pandemic stage, given the disease characteristics in Covid-19 patients with severe disease. Moreover, there are also now relatively smaller numbers of patients that meet enrollment criteria, since fewer patients require hospitalization, in contrast to the situation earlier in the pandemic,” said Thierry Fumeaux, Kinarus CMO, in a statement.

Fumeaux continued to state that the drug will still be investigated in ambulatory Covid-19 patients who are not hospitalized, with the goal of reducing recovery time and the severity of the virus.

The KIN001 candidate is a combination of the small molecule inhibitor pamapimod and pioglitazone, which is currently used to treat type 2 diabetes.

The news has put a dampener on the company’s stock price $KNRS.SW, which is down 22% since opening on Friday.

Houston-developed vaccine and Chinese mRNA shot win EUAs in Indonesia

While Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA shots to counter Covid-19 have dominated supplies worldwide, a Chinese-based mRNA developer and IndoVac, a recombinant protein-based vaccine, was created and engineered in Houston, Texas by the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development  vaccine is finally ready to head to another nation.

Walvax and Suzhou Abogen’s mRNA vaccine, dubbed AWcorna, has been approved for emergency use for adults 18 and over by the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority.

Li Yunchun

“This is the first step, and we are hoping to see more families across the country and the rest of the globe protected, which is a shared goal for us all,” said Walvax Chairman Li Yunchun, in a statement.

According to Walvax, the vaccine is 83% effective against the “wild-type” of SARS-CoV-2 infection with the strength against the Omicron variants standing at around 71%. The shots are also not required to be stored in deep freeze conditions and can be put in storage at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Walvax and Abogen have been making progress on their mRNA vaccine for a while. Last year, Abogen received a massive amount of funding as it was moving the candidate forward.

However, while the candidate is moving forward overseas, it’s still finding itself stuck in regulatory approval in China. According to a report from BNN Bloomberg, China has not approved any mRNA vaccines for domestic usage.

Meanwhile, PT Bio Farma, the holding company for state-owned pharma companies in Indonesia, is prepping to make 20 million doses of the IndoVac COVID-19 vaccine this year and 100 million doses by 2024.

IndoVac’s primary series vaccines include nearly 80% of locally sourced content. Indonesia is seeking Halal Certification for the vaccine since no animal cells or products were used in the production of the vaccine. IndoVac successfully completed an audit from the Indonesian Ulema Council Food and Drug Analysis Agency, and the Halal Certification Agency of the Religious Affairs Ministry is expected to grant their approval soon.

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