The coronavirus variants look as if they will be an ongoing problem.
The latest evidence came from a study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results from a lab study using an engineered virus were disappointing.
It showed that the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine appears to be significantly less effective against the South African virus variant.
The vaccine still works against the strain known as 501Y.V2. But it produced only a third of the antibodies that it did for the original virus.
Similar results have been seen with the other vaccines as well.
In clinical trials in South Africa, both Johnson & Johnson and Novavax found their vaccines were less effective against the variant. And in a lab study, Moderna found its vaccine only produced one-sixth of the antibodies in response to the 501Y.V2 variant than it did to the original virus.
Of course, it is hard to draw firm conclusions from lab experiments. No one really knows how the vaccines will work on the coronavirus variants in humans until more real-life data is accumulated.
Luckily, Pfizer and BioNTech are not sitting by idly.
They are making investments and talking to regulators. This is so they can quickly seek authorization for an updated vaccine or a booster shot. This will happen “once a strain that significantly reduces protection from the vaccine is identified.” Other vaccine makers, including Novavax and Moderna, are already preparing for clinical trials of a reformulated vaccine or a booster shot.
I suspect the future will hold annual booster shots against the virus for all of us.
The Big News
U.S. Life Expectancy Drops
Life expectancy in the United States fell by a full year in the first six months of 2020. This is the first full picture of the pandemic’s effect on American life spans, which dropped to 77.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. That was the largest drop since World War II.
7 U.S. Coronavirus Variants With the Same Mutation
Researchers say they discovered 7 coronavirus variants grown right here in the U.S. What is concerning is that the variants seem to be evolving in the same direction. The study, posted Sunday, said viruses all shared a mutation that changed the 677th amino acid. It is believed that mutation makes them more contagious. The study was co-authored by Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport.
Variants Could Be 8 Times More Infectious
Scientists found that a specific mutation in the SARSCoV2 spike protein causes the virus to be up to eight times more infectious. The viral spike mutation-D614G-increases infection in multiple human cell types. The mutation is present in all major variants: UK, Brazilian & S. African. The mutation is likely to be found in the U.S. coronavirus variants as well.
Pandemic Sales Boost Nestle
Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, posted its highest sales growth in five years. The pandemic prompted consumers to spend more on pet care and dietary supplements. Nestlé organic sales growth rose 3.6% for 2020. That is thanks to robust sales of Purina pet care products and supplements sold by its health science division. The largest contributor to growth was Purina, which surged 10.2%.
Global Debt Surges Amid Pandemic
Global debt surged by more than $24 trillion in 2020. That was the biggest annual increase on record. It occurred as governments around the world borrowed heavily to fund pandemic responses and companies piled on new debt to build cash buffers and protect themselves from the economic downturn.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Thursday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 110,002,089 Infected Worldwide
- 188,489,541 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,432,607 Deaths
- 27,827,801 Infected in the U.S.
- 56,281,827 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 490,717 Deaths in the U.S.
Tesla shares surged 743% in 2020. And everyone is suddenly BUYING the stock. However, some of the smartest investors are SELLING Tesla. And they’re buying electric vehicle Pre-IPOs instead. Go here for details – before Feb. 28.
People have wondered: What could possibly slow Wall Street’s bull run?
How about an economic recovery?
The drop in U.S. government bond prices in the opening weeks of 2021 poses a major threat to Wall Street’s record run.
Slim yields on Treasury bonds have provided a key support for stocks since the shock of the coronavirus outbreak last year.
But now, yields have moved higher. The 10-year Treasury benchmark yield briefly touched 1.3% this week. This is up from a little above 0.9% at the start of the year.
Already, February is shaping up to provide one of the biggest monthly increases in yields since 2018.
If the economy continues to recover and yields rise more, it gets tougher for stocks to move higher.
Yours in Health & Wealth,