Issue

Pfizer Versus Moderna: Who Has the Best Vaccine

Moderna

There is more excellent news on Covid vaccines today: Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) said its Covid-19 vaccine had shown 94.5% efficacy in clinical trials.

The company’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, said the moment was “pivotal.” “This positive interim analysis from our phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent Covid-19 disease, including severe disease,” the Moderna CEO said.

This is the second very positive set of results for a potential coronavirus vaccine in the past eight days.

Last week, Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech said their vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective. It also uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Here is a very brief explanation of mRNA technology: The vaccines use a synthetic version of coronavirus genetic material, called messenger RNA or mRNA. This is to program a person’s cells to churn out many copies of a fragment of the virus. That fragment sets off alarms in our immune system and stimulates it to attack, if the real virus shows up.

Out of 30,000 participants in the clinical trials, 95 had been identified with confirmed cases of Covid-19. Among those infected, only five people had received the two-dose vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, while 90 had received a placebo.

Moderna said it intended to submit the vaccine for approval by the FDA “in the coming weeks.” This means there will be at least two emergency-approved vaccines before the end of the year. 

There are two things I really like about this news from Moderna.

First, the trial included many high-risk or elderly people. This gives scientists a confidence boost. The results are relevant in the people who are most at risk of Covid-19 and in most need of the vaccines.  

Second, the Moderna vaccine will be a bit easier to distribute than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Moderna says it expects the vaccine could be shipped and stored for up to six months at minus 4°F. Then it can remain stable, once thawed, for 30 days if refrigerated at between 35.6°F and 46.4°F.

In contrast, BioNTech-Pfizer have said their vaccine must be transported at minus 94°F. Then, it can survive in a normal fridge for only five days.

Moderna says it will have 20 million doses ready by the end of 2020. Pfizer had said it would have about 50 million does by year-end. Both vaccines require two shots. So, 20 million doses would be enough for 10 million people.

The Big News

U.S. Covid Death Toll Rising Swiftly

More than 1,000 Americans are dying of the coronavirus every day. Daily deaths have risen by 50% in the past month. By some estimates, the U.S. may soon be on track to reach or exceed the spring peak. That was when as many as 2,200 people were dying from the coronavirus every day. The infection rate continues to shatter records. On Friday, more than 181,000 new cases were reported across the country. It was only eight days earlier that the U.S. reported its first 100,000-case day.       

This Is What Exponential Growth Looks Like

The number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. has risen every day for more than a month. This is based on a seven-day rolling average. The daily average is now more than twice as high as it was during any point this past summer.         

Doctors Are Calling It Quits

Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic. This is according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation. About 8% of the doctors (about 16,000 practices) reported closing their offices in recent months. Another 4% said they planned to shutter within the next year.    

Another Vaccine Roadblock

Congress allocated $10 billion for drug companies to develop a coronavirus vaccine. But localities have received only a tiny fraction of that amount for training, record-keeping and other costs for vaccinating citizens. State and local officials are many billions of dollars short of what will be needed to carry out the federal government’s complex vaccine plans.                  

The CDC Reasserting Itself

A change in the CDC the past few weeks: It is ignoring the Trump administration and sticking closer to just the scientific evidence. And it has issued a number of assertive health bulletins. These include strict requirements for cruise lines, updating the science on coronavirus in children, re-evaluating the risk from airborne virus indoors, and new recommendations for labs investigating viral reinfections in patients.         

The Coronavirus Numbers

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

  • 54,495,858 Infected Worldwide
  • 1,318,884 Deaths
  • 11,038,998 Infected in the U.S.
  • 246,224 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

Stock markets added to their gains on Monday after Moderna revealed results of its vaccine trials. Havens such as government bonds and gold dipped a bit.

Hopes that a successful vaccine will significantly slow the spread of coronavirus within a few months has triggered a powerful market rotation.

Traders moved into economically sensitive sectors last week. And investors moved away from groups perceived as beneficiaries of the pandemic.

That trend is continuing on Monday. S&P 500 futures were up 1%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures were down about 0.3%.

Short-term-focused traders believe the visibility towards a return to “normality” is increasing. And the thinking goes that this visibility should provide more fuel to the reflation rally. The reflation trade means small caps, value stocks and cyclicals would be clear beneficiaries.

Markets were also boosted on Monday after 15 Asian nations signed one of the largest trade agreements in history. Countries signing the deal included China, Japan and Australia.

More signs that Asia’s economic recovery was well underway provided a further lift.

Japan’s economic output had rebounded more than expected in the third quarter, data showed. And China’s retail sales rose at the fastest pace in 2020, to above pre-pandemic levels.

I am looking for more great data coming out of Asia. I expect a period of above-trend economic growth in the coming quarters. That makes it a great place to invest now.   

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Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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