Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 1, 2022

Pfizer vaccine proved less effective against Omicron infections among small children, Disney halts movie releases in Russia, and more

1

Pfizer vaccine less effective against Omicron among small children

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is significantly less effective in preventing infection in children ages 5 to 11 than in adolescents and adults, although it still prevents severe illness, according to data collected by New York State health officials. The study found that vaccine effectiveness in preventing infection fell during the Omicron surge from 66 percent to 51 percent among children aged 12 to 17, and from 68 percent to 12 percent in children aged 5 to 11, who got a smaller dose. The results of the study, which was conducted during the wave driven by the Omicron variant, came as New York City prepares to lift its mask mandate in schools.

2

Disney suspends theatrical releases of its films in Russia

Disney on Monday became the first major film studio to announce that it was pausing the theatrical release of its movies in Russia "given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis." The policy includes the new Pixar animated film Turning Red, which was set to debut next week, and, depending on how long it lasts, could cover May's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, June's Lightyear, and July's Thor: Love and Thunder. Other studios reportedly are considering similar suspensions. "If the U.S. and its allies want to cut off Russia from the rest of the world, then how would we go ahead and release our movies there?" one studio executive said to The Hollywood Reporter.

3

Ukraine receives Starlink internet terminals from Elon Musk

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said Monday that his government had received Starlink internet terminals sent by Elon Musk to help Ukraine maintain internet access as it fights a Russian invasion. Musk's private rocket company SpaceX has deployed thousands of Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit, establishing a network over the last three years to beam high-speed internet service to users from more than 100 miles up. The service can work in parts of the world with limited conventional internet infrastructure. Since Russia invaded last Thursday, Ukraine has experienced internet disruptions, so Fedorov asked Musk to send Starlink terminals.

4

Stock futures fall as Russia's Ukraine invasion stokes volatility

U.S. stock futures fell early Tuesday as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued to fuel market volatility ahead of the start of March trading. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by 0.5 percent at 6:30 a.m. ET. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were down by 0.6 percent. The major U.S. averages were mixed on Monday. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 0.5 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.4 percent. The market turmoil came as governments around the world imposed harsh sanctions against Russia, sending the ruble crashing. Ukrainian forces have put up unexpectedly strong resistance, holding the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other cities.

5

Shell ditches investments in Russia

Shell announced that it was dumping its oil ventures in Russia and its involvement in the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The news that Shell was dumping its joint gas ventures with Russian state energy giant Gazprom came a day after BP abandoned its Russia investments. "We are shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine, which we deplore, resulting from a senseless act of military aggression which threatens European security," Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said in a statement. The corporate moves came as sanctions imposed by governments around the world have caused the Russian currency, the ruble, to plunge by 30 percent against the dollar, and prompted ordinary Russians to line up at banks as they braced for higher prices. 

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