Scientists and public health experts are reaching a wide and jarring consensus: that herd immunity won’t be reached in the U.S. in the foreseeable future . . . and perhaps never.
One reason for that view on herd immunity is that the virus is mutating so quickly. New variants are spreading widely and easily in places like college campuses. That has pushed initial estimates for herd immunity from about 60% to 70% up to 80% to 85%.
But the main reason remains that too many Americans are hesitant to take the vaccine. Vaccinations are proceeding far too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon.
The end result will likely be a two-tiered America. One tier will be the vaccinated (like myself) that can resume normal activities with little risk.
The other will be spinning the roulette wheel and hope for the best. Hospitalizations and deaths will take their toll . . . although at a lower level for the U.S. than before vaccines were available.
The worry from the viewpoint of financial markets: after a strong quarter or two that the U.S. economy will slow again because of the virus. If it does, many stocks are vulnerable.
The Big News
Moderna Will Supply Covax With 500 Million Doses
Moderna has committed to supplying Covax with 500 million vaccine doses starting from the end of this year. Moderna will supply 34 million doses to the Covax program in the final quarter of 2021 at its “lowest tiered price.” The Gavi vaccine alliance will then have the option to purchase 466 million more doses in 2022. Covax was set up to supply vaccine doses to lower income countries.
Most U.S. Companies Will Require Proof of Covid Vaccination From Employees
A majority of US employers, 65%, plan to offer employees incentives to get vaccinated and 63% will require proof of vaccination. This is according to a survey from Arizona State University with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. The survey represents the responses of 957 facilities across 24 industry sectors in the U.S. Most of the respondents were businesses with 250 or more employees.
Overall, 44% will require all employees to get vaccinated, 31% will just encourage vaccinations and 14% will require some employees to get vaccinated. When it comes to consequences for failing to comply with company vaccination policy, 42% of businesses said the employee will not be allowed to return to the physical work environment, and 35% said disciplinary actions are on the table, up to and including possible termination.
100 Colleges Require Student Vaccinations
More than 100 U.S. colleges (mainly private) have said they will require students to receive coronavirus vaccines to attend in-person classes in the fall. Coronavirus cases have continued to climb steadily this spring at U.S. colleges and universities. More than 660,000 cases have been linked to the institutions since the pandemic’s start. About one-third of those cases have occurred since Jan. 1.
Pfizer Begins U.S. Vaccine Exports
A Pfizer shipment of Covid-19 vaccines to Mexico this week includes doses made in its U.S. plant. It was the first of what are expected to be ongoing exports of its shots from the U.S. The shipment – produced at its Kalamazoo, Michigan plant – marks the first time Pfizer has delivered abroad from U.S facilities. A Trump-era restriction on dose exports expired at the end of March. Pfizer has shipped more than 10 million doses to Mexico so far, becoming its largest supplier of Covid-19 vaccines.
AstraZeneca Struggles Continue
AstraZeneca has struggled to pull together the full data necessary to apply for U.S. approval of its Covid-19 shot. This further delays its efforts to secure a go-ahead from the FDA. The company said last month that it would apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine by mid-April. But it has recently told U.S. officials it might need until mid-May to finish its application for an FDA review.
The Coronavirus Numbers
More than 100 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That’s almost 40% of the nation’s adults. Here are the numbers from Monday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 152,933,322 Infected Worldwide
- 1,151,454,948 Vaccines Given Globally
- 3,204,107 Deaths
- 32,421,989 Infected in the U.S.
- 245,591,469 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 577,045 Deaths in the U.S.
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U.S. markets were poised for a higher start to the week. Futures tracking the S&P 500 were up about 0.4% while Nasdaq 100 futures was up 0.3%. Both benchmarks climbed to new records last week.
Investor sentiment has been buoyed by a strong revival in corporate earnings in the first quarter of 2021. S&P 500 companies so far have reported overall year-over-year growth of 53%, according to FactSet data. Of the 306 companies that have published quarterly figures, 268 have exceeded expectations.
Individual stock reactions to upbeat earnings have been muted. But signs of a strong recovery for many big U.S. businesses have helped support highly-valued stock prices.
Yours in Health & Wealth,