Issue

JNJ Vaccine Trial: Disappointing Results

The news this morning from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) on the one-shot JNJ vaccine was very disappointing.

Johnson & Johnson said the JNJ vaccine had an overall 66% efficacy rate at preventing moderate and severe Covid-19. The rate for preventing severe Covid alone was 85%. The data was from the company’s global trials of the one-dose Covid vaccine.

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines, the JNJ vaccine uses an adenovirus to deliver genes that produce those same viral proteins.

The JNJ shot showed an efficacy rate of 72% in the U.S. and 66% in Latin America. And to highlight how tough the South African variant is, in South Africa, the JNJ vaccine’s efficacy rate was only 57%.

In case you missed it . . .

On Thursday, health authorities in South Carolina identified the first two U.S. cases of Covid-19 caused by the South African variant. Neither person had a history of travel to countries where the variant has been confirmed. And there was no connection between the two people.

Johnson & Johnson will file for emergency use authorization with the FDA. It will likely get approval since no safety concerns were reported.

This vaccine does have certain advantages. It is a simple one-shot vaccine. It does not require ultra-cold temperatures for transportation and storage. And it can be kept at normal fridge temperatures of between 35F and 46F for three months . . . or kept stable for two years at a temperature of -4F.
 
There is no denying the JNJ results were a disappointment. But a vaccine that prevents the most serious outcomes, such as hospitalization and death, is still valuable.

The Big News

New York Undercounted Covid Deaths

New York had undercounted coronavirus-related deaths of state nursing home residents by the thousands, New York State attorney general, Letitia James, reported on Thursday morning. Hours later, Health Department officials made public new data that added more than 3,800 deaths to their tally. James’s report suggested the state’s previous tally could be off by as much as 50%.

Germany Says AstraZeneca Vaccine Not Effective for People Over 65

The independent commission advising the German government on vaccination policy recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine not be used for people aged over 65. A statement by Germany’s main public health agency said there was “insufficient data currently available to ascertain how effective the vaccination is above 65 years.” That’s why the commission recommended that the vaccine only be used on people aged between 18 and 64.

How the Virus Tricks the Body Into Attacking Itself

A number of new studies suggest another Covid consequence. The infection can cause the production of antibodies that mistakenly attack a person’s own tissues instead of the virus. The latest study said that so-called autoantibodies can persist months after the infection has resolved. This could cause irreparable harm. And it may explain some of the lingering symptoms in people who have recovered from Covid-19.

Novartis to Aid in Vaccine Production

Novartis is in talks to help produce Covid-19 vaccines and treatments made by other companies. The company is “in conversations with a range of different players,” said Novartis chief executive officer Vas Narasimhan. He added that an agreement is possible in the coming days or weeks. “We have production capacity across our network that we’re willing to make available,” he said. It could be used for everything from monoclonal antibodies to vaccine production.

More Companies to Help in U.S. Vaccine Shipments

U.S. pharmaceutical distributors are talking to federal officials about increasing the number of companies shipping Covid-19 vaccines. This will be part of a Biden administration push to speed inoculations. The Trump administration signed an exclusive deal with McKesson. Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen have made proposals to take on distribution.

The Coronavirus Numbers

Here are the numbers from Friday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:

  • 101,562,751 Infected Worldwide
  • 2,193,403 Deaths
  • 25,768,826 Infected in the U.S.
  • 433,213 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

The market this morning is indicated lower. Sentiment was already negative because of the Reddit shenanigans. The vaccine news from JNJ only added to the negative feeling. The rise in the volatility index (VIX) signals growing unease.

Watch the FAANGs today. German finance minister Olaf Scholz said a global tax on tech giants was now “highly likely.” This followed a call with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. She had backed the move in her Senate confirmation hearing last week. 

Bank of America this morning calls for a 10% correction in stocks in the coming months. I suspect a test of 3,500 on the S&P 500 is possible.

Beyond this, the backdrop for stocks should be quite positive as vaccines kick in and the economic recovery takes off (hopefully). 

Finally, here is another example of the crazy new world of finance we are now in. Bitcoin jumped about $4,000 after Elon Musk added #Bitcoin to his Twitter profile.

It’s fair to say that the regulators are struggling to cope with the pace of change in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, Wall Street plans to invest $475 million in this new EV battery stock. Go here for urgent details.

Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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