Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 17, 2021

European regulators say AstraZeneca vaccine's benefits outweigh risks, Uber agrees to classify British drivers as workers, and more

1

European regulators say 'no indication' AstraZeneca vaccine caused clots

European Union drug regulators on Tuesday said there was "no indication" AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine causes blood clots, despite decisions by a growing number of the region's governments to suspend use of the shots pending further research. As Sweden became the latest government to halt use of the vaccine, the European Medicines Agency urged the region's leaders to resume use of the vaccine to help fight the pandemic as thousands of people in Europe continue to die daily, with many scientists warning more vulnerable people will die from delaying vaccinations than from rare side effects. "We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risk of the side effects," said Emer Cooke, the head of the agency.

2

Uber to reclassify 70,000 U.K. drivers as workers

Uber said Tuesday that it would reclassify more than 70,000 drivers in Britain as workers entitled to a minimum wage and benefits, rather than lower-cost, self-employed freelancers. The decision came after the ride-hailing service successfully fought calls to treat drivers as employees for years as part of an effort to keep its costs down. Uber previously argued that it was merely a technology platform, with its app connecting riders to independent drivers. Tuesday's announcement marked the first time the company had agreed to change the classification. The move came after the British Supreme Court ruled last month that Uber drivers should enjoy more protections. The court's ruling was praised by labor activists as a victory that would benefit people working for Uber and Lyft, as well as food-delivery companies like DoorDash and Grubhub.

3

Moderna starts testing COVID-19 vaccine on children

Moderna announced Tuesday it has started conducting a study of its COVID-19 vaccine in children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years. The company expects to enroll 6,750 healthy participants under 12 in the United States and Canada for the study, which will "help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said. Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted last month there should be enough data "to be able to say that elementary school children will be able to be vaccinated" by the first quarter of 2022, and he also said that high school kids should be able to get vaccinated "sometime this fall."

4

Stocks little changed ahead of Fed statement

U.S. stock index futures held steady early Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's statement at the close of a two-day policy meeting later in the day. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by less than 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the S&P 500 were down by less than 0.1 percent. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell by 0.3 percent. Federal Reserve officials are expected to say they expect hiring and inflation to rise faster than they predicted in December as the recovery picks up steam, but that they remain committed to keeping interest rates near zero and buying bonds to boost an economy damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

5

Virginia becomes 4th state to prohibit testing cosmetics on animals

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday signed a state law prohibiting cosmetic animal testing, making the state the fourth to ban the practice. Virginia's new law also bans sales of cosmetics that have been tested on animals for profit anywhere. California became the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics in 2018. Nevada and Illinois followed in 2019. "This fantastic news illustrates a growing momentum in efforts to end unnecessary testing on animals in the United States and around the world for products like shampoos, mascara, and lipstick," The Humane Society of the United States said in an online post. Several other states are considering similar laws. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents Northern Virginia suburbs, announced in a tweet that he would be reintroducing a bill seeking to stop animal testing nationwide.

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