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Covid live updates: China’s vaccine is just 50% effective; scammers offer vaccine doses for bitcoin – CNBC

Dollar General offers extra pay to encourage Covid vaccines

An employee arranges merchandise at a Dollar General store in Arvada, Colorado.

Rick Wilking | Reuters

Dollar General will offer four hours of pay to workers who get a Covid-19 vaccine, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The discount retailer, which has about 157,000 employees, will also provide paid time off to anyone who experiences adverse reactions to the shots. The vaccine-incentive program won’t have a material impact on the company’s finances, a spokesman said to The Journal.

Dollar General was deemed an essential retailer and saw higher sales as shoppers restocked their pantries more frequently during the pandemic. The company also launched a new store concept and accelerated plans to open more locations.

—Melodie Warner 

U.S. stocks open flat amid political uncertainty

U.S. stocks opened flat as the market digests the latest inflation data, political uncertainty and a still-raging pandemic, reports CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Pippa Stevens.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 31 points, or 0.1%. The S&P 500 hovered just above the flatline and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.2%.

—Melodie Warner 

NJ governor says state will soon expand vaccine eligibility to everyone over 65

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told CNBC Wednesday the state will soon expand vaccine eligibility to everyone over 65, in line with new CDC guidelines to speed up the country’s vaccine rollout.

New Jersey will make that change within the next couple of days, Murphy said. Neighboring New York state made a similar announcement Tuesday.

“We were actually getting there on our own,” Murphy said on “Squawk Box.” “We had hospitals saying, ‘Listen, we want to open up to beyond just our health care workers.’ We were already working toward that objective, and the CDC’s blessing, the incoming Biden administration support for this — all of those converge. And we’re going to take that step shortly.”

—Sara Salinas

The latest on U.S. hospitalization numbers

U.S. hospitalizations are showing the earliest signs of a plateau, hovering around 130,000 patients for a few days after a months-long dramatic rise. Health systems continue to be overwhelmed by that volume, while also trying to balance a vaccine rollout.

—Sara Salinas

Target will shut stores Thanksgiving Day 2021, after closing them during pandemic

The pandemic is already shaking up next holiday season. Target said Wednesday that its stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day of 2021 after it opted to keep them closed during the health crisis.

Other retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy and Kohl’s, also kept their stores closed this past Thanksgiving — but have not yet announced plans for the 2021 holiday. They also tried to thin crowds over the peak shopping season by kicking off sales as early as October and moving more deals online.

The new cadence of the holidays didn’t hurt Target’s sales. Comparable sales grew by 17.2% in November and December as digital sales more than doubled. Family sleepwear sets, gingerbread house kits and Christmas tree ornaments were among the top sellers as people spent a cozy holiday at home during the pandemic.

—Melissa Repko

Scammers claim to sell Covid-19 vaccines on the dark web in return for bitcoin

Cybersecurity firm Check Point has uncovered a number of people on the so-called dark web claiming to sell Covid-19 vaccines.

The vendors were asking for payments in bitcoin but did not deliver the goods. Listings for vaccines had price tags as high as $1,000 worth of bitcoins.

A number of listings also appeared to contradict official medical guidance on doses. 

Check Point said the number of coronavirus vaccine ads on the dark web has surged since the last time they checked in December. The spike could be the result of growing excitement and lengthening waits around vaccines.

“We believe this is because of a spike in demand from individuals who don’t wish to wait weeks or months to receive their vaccination from their countries’ governments,” the company said in a blog post.

—Arjun Kharpal

Brazilian trial finds China’s Sinovac vaccine to be 50.4% effective

A volunteer receives the first test of the China’s Sinovac coronavirus potential vaccine from a healthcare worker as Sao Paulo’s Governor Joao Doria looks on amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Hospital das Clinicas, in Sao Paulo, Brazil July 21, 2020.

Sao Paulo State Government/Handout via REUTERS

Brazil’s Butantan Institute said the coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech was just 50% effective, according to multiple media reports.

That efficacy rate is lower than what the institute had earlier announced.

Butantan said last week the CoronaVac vaccine was 78% effective among volunteers with “mild” to “severe” infections, but on Tuesday said the overall efficacy rate fell to 50.4% after including “very mild” cases that did not require medical assistance, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, the trial results met the minimum 50% efficacy rate stipulated by Brazilian health regulator Anvisa for Covid vaccines. The regulator will meet Sunday to decide on whether to approve CoronaVac for emergency use, Reuters reports.

—Yen Nee Lee

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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