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The United Kingdom on Wednesday become the first country to approve the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. The shot is cheaper and easier to distribute than alternatives, and is expected to play a crucial role in boosting the global economy next year.
AstraZeneca said the first doses were being released Wednesday, and that vaccinations will begin early in the New Year. The rollout comes amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom.
“This regimen was shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, with no severe cases and no hospitalisations more than 14 days after the second dose,” AstraZeneca said.
Why is this vaccine so important to the global economy?
AstraZeneca has promised to supply hundreds of millions of doses to low- and middle-income countries, and to deliver the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis to those nations in perpetuity.
The vaccine is significantly cheaper than others that have been approved, and far easier to transport and distribute than its rivals. Unlike the vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer, the AstraZeneca offering does not need to be stored at super-cold temperatures.
They’re making loads of doses: AstraZeneca says it’s working with partners, including the Serum Institute of India, to build manufacturing capacity of up to 3 billion doses in 2021 on a rolling basis.
For comparison: Pfizer expects to produce as many as 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. Moderna said last month that it’s on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses next year.
The world’s richest countries have already reserved much of the capacity offered by Pfizer and Moderna. That makes the AstraZeneca vaccine even more important to developing economies.
Take India, for example. Asia’s third-largest economy has not ordered the vaccines sold by Pfizer and Moderna, but is expected to receive hundreds of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca shot.
“The efficacy of the Oxford vaccine is … the most encouraging sign yet that India has a route to ending its Covid-19 epidemic and the social distancing that continues to weigh on the economy,” analysts at Capital Economics wrote in a recent research note.
India, which is one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, could approve the AstraZeneca vaccine as early as Wednesday, according to media reports. Doses are being made in the country by the Serum Institute of India.
One caveat: The team developing the AstraZeneca vaccine previously said it had an “an average efficacy of 70%,” with one dosing regimen showing an efficacy of 90%. That’s not quite as good as Pfizer and Moderna.
Sears is dying a quiet, invisible death
Sears has made it through another holiday shopping season. Just barely.
Once the United States’ leading retailer up through the 1980s, the company that now owns the Sears and Kmart chains emerged from bankruptcy less than two years ago. It avoided another trip to bankruptcy court this year as the Covid-19 pandemic forced some rival chains out of business.
But avoiding bankruptcy is not a sign of health, reports my CNN Business colleague Chris Isidore. The company has made little effort to reinvigorate stores, grow sales or turn its failing business around.
The collapse of the commercial real estate market may be another reason the company hasn’t gone out of business this year. Sears would probably find few — if any — suitable offers for its assets.
“Everything is up for grabs. But of course, there is no market for department stores,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University and a former Sears executive. “They are, for all intent and purposes, done.”
With no viable exit-strategy, both Sears and Kmart are slowly, quietly dying. They’re closing stores where possible and listing virtually all of other locations with commercial real estate brokers.
How this might end: Once the commercial real estate market improves, and new tenants can be found for their remaining stores, Sears will be under more pressure to close down the chains, according to the experts.
“Sears is biding its time until the market is more conducive,” said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst at research firm GlobalData.
Career moves to make in 2021
If 2020 left you feeling like all you did was tread water at work, let’s make reigniting your career the goal for the new year.
My CNN Business colleague Kathryn Vasel spoke with experts to get their best career resolutions for next year. Here’s what they had to say:
Think big, plan small: It’s fine to want to make huge changes to your career, but break the goal into smaller steps. Hitting the smaller goals will motivate you and keep you on track.
Jump-start your networking game: Love it or hate it, networking is important to career success. Look for virtual events to meet people in your current field (or your dream profession). To help make the process less awkward, one expert recommended having a 30-second elevator pitch ready, as well as some go-to questions to ask new people.
Reestablish boundaries: Many of us have at least a few more months of working at home, so let’s take the time to reestablish work-life boundaries. Set boundaries with your employer, family and (ahem) yourself by being clear about when you’re on and off the clock.
The European Union and China are expected to announce they’ve reached an investment deal that addresses issues such as market access.
Also today: The US Energy Information Administration releases a report on crude oil inventories at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: Jobless claims data will give investors one last read on the US labor market in 2020.