News on the AstraZeneca vaccine gave market sentiment another booster shot today.
AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) announced that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate appears “highly effective” in preventing infection.
Its partner in development is the U.K.’s Oxford University. The interim data was based on 131 Covid cases among the trial group.
The company said efficacy was as high as 90% when patients were given a half dose followed by a full dose a month apart.
However, the AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy fell to 62% when the patients received two full doses. That means its combined headline score was 70.4%.
Scientists speculate that the lower first dose may have primed the immune system in a way that made it more receptive to the second dose. But more research will be needed to confirm this.
But, for the moment, the fact is that the AstraZeneca vaccine fell well short of the 90%-plus efficacy reported by Pfizer and Moderna.
The AstraZeneca vaccine would be submitted for regulatory approval “immediately.” The results were better than the 50% effectiveness sought by both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approve new vaccines.
Even though this vaccine may be less effective than other vaccines, it has one big advantage: AstraZeneca’s vaccine only requires refrigeration. And it is also cheaper to produce.
That makes it more suitable for rollout in poorer countries.
AstraZeneca and manufacturing partners around the world – such as India’s Serum Institute – hope to make up to 3 billion doses next year.
The Big News
FDA Grants EUA to Regeneron Treatment
The FDA granted an emergency use authorization for the experimental antibody treatment to Regeneron. This was the Covid-19 treatment given to President Trump. It is a cocktail of two powerful antibodies. It has shown promise in early studies at keeping the infection at bay, especially in patients who get the drug early in the course of their disease. A similar treatment, made by Eli Lilly, was given emergency approval earlier this month.
Pandemic Drives Propane Shortage
Supplies of propane tanks are being depleted, with demand rising 75%. The reason is the pandemic driving entertainment outdoors. Demand for propane sold in retail-size cylinders is likely to reach about 500 million gallons this year, up from 284 million gallons in 2019. This is according to the Propane Education & Research Council, a group backed by vendors and producers of the fossil fuel. Two big suppliers of propane are UGI Corporation (NYSE: UGI) and Suburban Propane (NYSE: SPH).
Air Travel Over Thanksgiving
Air travel is on the rise this week, with over a million flights a day. This comes despite health officials’ warnings. Millions of Americans appear set to travel for Thanksgiving. Public health experts are urging people to stay home. But that plea is falling on deaf ears.
Aviation CEOs Call for More Testing
The CEOs of British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Airbus and easyJet ratcheted up pleas to countries to introduce pre-flight testing. Industry losses are still mounting following the collapse in passenger numbers. The CEOs also warned about the time it may take to meet the huge logistical challenge of immunizing large parts of the world’s population.
Bats and Covid
Researchers have found a close relative of the virus that causes Covid-19 in bats stored in a Cambodian freezer for 10 years. The virus, along with a second discovered in Japan, are the first known relatives of Sars-CoV-2 to be found outside China. The two Shamel’s horseshoe bats were captured in northern Cambodia in 2010. Strong evidence suggests that Sars-CoV-2 originated in horseshoe bats, but whether it passed directly from bats to people, or through an intermediate host, remains a mystery.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Monday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 58,751,191 Infected Worldwide
- 1,389,770 Deaths
- 12,249,528 Infected in the U.S.
- 256,798 Deaths in the U.S.
More vaccine news added to the positive market tone today.
The chief scientific adviser for “Operation Warp Speed” is Dr. Moncef Slaoui. He said over the weekend that the first Americans would be vaccinated in mid-December. These people will likely be front-line healthcare workers.
However, the current resurgence of the pandemic is hitting the economy now.
On Friday, JPMorgan forecast the U.S. economy will shrink in the first quarter of 2020.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is also worried. “We’ve got new cases at a record level, we’ve seen a number of states begin to reimpose limited activity restrictions, and people may lose confidence that it is safe to go out.”
Markets, though, are still anticipating better days ahead.
Look across the pond to Europe. It is home to lots of industrial stocks that need a good economy.
European stocks rose again this morning. The Stoxx 600 index was up 0.6% to its highest level since February.
This region-wide benchmark index has risen more than 14% so far in November. This puts it on course for its best month on record!
This should tell you the growth narrative is improving. Positive news about vaccine development has sparked hopes that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is on the horizon. And with that, life, the global economy, and markets can return to normal.
I’m sure all of us cannot wait for that moment.
Yours in Health & Wealth,