Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of January 4, 2021.
New year, new vaccine. India announced the approval of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and will soon begin inoculations with the vaccine candidate, which was made in partnership with the University of Oxford. Approval in India follows authorization in the United Kingdom last week. Unlike Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, which need to be kept at very low temperatures, AstraZeneca’s can be transported with normal refrigeration, and are cheaper to produce. Astra-Zenaca has promised 3 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, more than any other manufacturer. The company has also vowed that it won’t make a profit off of its vaccine during the pandemic.
- The takeaway: Since AstraZeneca’s vaccine doesn’t need to be stored at special temperatures, it’s considered a good option for developing countries, such as India. However, AstraZeneca’s vaccine has demonstrated 70% efficacy, while Pfizer’s and Moderna’s have both proven roughly 95% efficacy. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored at -4℉ while Pfizer’s must be kept at -94℉. While all three vaccines require two doses, they differ in makeup. Astrazeneca’s vaccine relies on an inactive form of the coronavirus, whereas Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use mRNA proteins. So far, the U.S. has approved Pfizer and Moderna’s options for emergency use.
Alphabet spells union: More than 200 engineers at the search and web advertising engine giant have formed a union. Called the Alphabet Workers Union, the group aims to advance issues of activism at the company, specifically related to how Alphabet’s technology is used, and by whom. Issues, according to union members, include the use by repressive governments, hate groups, and the U.S. Department of Defense of the company’s artificial intelligence and advertising platform.
- The takeaway: Unions have historically had trouble gaining a foothold in Silicon Valley, where workers have shunned them, according to reports, partly because unions try to advance more general issues of worker pay and workplace conditions, rather than activism. But in recent years, activist groups have become more popular at companies including Salesforce and Pinterest, where workers have been vocal about issues of workplace harassment, pay inequity, and the need for more diversity.
On the D-list. Three prominent Chinese telecom companies will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), after an executive order signed by President Trump in November, 2020, seeking to limit the influence of companies affiliated with the Chinese military, according to reports. China Mobile, China Telecom Corp, and China Unicom Hong Kong will be removed from the exchange beginning January 7, 2021. You can learn more about delisting here.
- The takeaway: The telecoms join a list of nearly two dozen other companies, including the smartphone maker and info tech company Huawei, that are similarly banned to U.S investors. China has said it will take steps to protect its companies, and to potentially respond in kind.
Microsoft’s big hack attack. Microsoft said that it was one of the victims of a cyberattack thought to be orchestrated by state-sponsored Russian hackers. Hackers reportedly viewed Microsoft’s source code which is used to build its computer programs. Microsoft previously denied that it had been included in the attack. In December, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that hackers had compromised federal government systems, as well as those used by hundreds of companies in the private sector of the U.S.
- The takeaway: This announcement potentially widens the scope of what’s considered to be one of the most significant cyberattacks in recent U.S. history to include corporate espionage. Hackers reportedly accessed a back door to a widely-used network maintenance software produced by tech company SolarWinds, using access networks of government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Nuclear Security Administration as well prominent private companies including Deloitte, Cisco, Intel, and more.
Find out what we covered in our last Scan from 2020.