The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is coming to the U.S. soon. Based on trial results, however, the Oxford vaccine seems to be the worst in an outstanding batch of vaccines developed.
Yet even the Oxford vaccine was found to protect people from serious illness and death. And also substantially slows the transmission of the virus.
This was seen when researchers measured the impact of the Oxford vaccine on transmission. They swabbed participants every week, seeking to detect signs of the virus. If there is no virus present, even if someone is infected, it cannot be spread. Scientists found a 67% reduction in positive swabs among those vaccinated with the Oxford vaccine.
The results were detailed by Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers. Their research has not been peer-reviewed. I’m sure other researchers will pore over the data with interest.
Oxford and AstraZeneca researchers also found that a single dose of the Oxford vaccine was 76% effective at preventing Covid-19. The data measured the three months after the first shot was given. This time period did not include an initial three-week period needed for protection to take effect.
This next piece of data was surprising. The Oxford vaccine actually appeared to be more effective when the time gap between the two shots was longer than the originally intended four-week gap.
Among trial participants who got two standard-strength doses at least three months apart, the vaccine was 82% effective. This compared to 55% effective when the doses were given less than six weeks apart.
These encouraging results lends support to the strategy deployed by the U.K. and other countries. That is to provide as many first doses of vaccines as possible . . . and then give the second dose when supply catches up with demand.
Here in the U.S., the FDA has yet to approve the Oxford vaccine. It is waiting on data from a clinical trial that enrolled about 30,000 participants. Results from that study are expected later this month.
The study is expected to give AstraZeneca enough safety data to allow it to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA in early March.
The U.S. has agreed to buy 300 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This will be another tool in our medical toolbox to fight the virus.
The Big News
Pfizer’s Vaccine Revenue Boost
Pfizer said on Tuesday it expects to generate $15 billion, or about 25% of its total revenue this year, from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine co-developed with BioNTech. Sales from the vaccine – on track to be the company’s top product this year – could top $15 billion if the company signs more supply contracts. Pfizer aims to make two billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.
Russia’s Vaccine Success
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine showed high efficacy and
safety levels in a peer-reviewed study. The findings, from a preliminary
analysis of a large-scale clinical trial published in The Lancet, demonstrated
91.6% efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19. It offered complete protection
against severe cases. There were no serious side effects. And similar safety
and efficacy was found in older adults.
We Need More Covid Drugs
Nearly a year into the pandemic. Yet, doctors have few drugs to fight the virus. Operation Warp Speed put $18.5 million into vaccines. That strategy did result in at least five effective products at record-shattering speed. But its investment in Covid drug therapies was far smaller, about $8.2 billion. Most of this amount went to just a few candidates, such as monoclonal antibodies. That left studies of other drugs underfunded and poorly organized.
Almost all people previously infected with Covid-19 have high levels of antibodies for at least six months. These antibodies likely protects them from the disease, according to a study by UK Biobank. Among participants who had tested positive for Covid-19, 99% retained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 for three months. After six months, 88% still had them.
A major holiday is approaching: Super Bowl Sunday. There is reason to worry that it will turn into Superspreader Sunday. Polls show that nearly 30% of adults will be attending a gathering at someone’s home or watch the game at a restaurant or a bar. If anything, this weekend may be more dangerous than most holidays. Super Bowl parties are usually indoors and involve multiple households. This year’s game is also happening when contagious new variants of the virus have begun to spread.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 103,972,191 Infected Worldwide
- 2,255,496 Deaths
- 26,436,594 Infected in the U.S.
- 446,901 Deaths in the U.S.
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Yesterday was a strong day for the market. The S&P 500 rose 1.4% while the small-cap Russell 2000 rose 1.2%. S&P 500 futures are now up 5% since Sunday night’s low point.
Tech led the way yesterday. Today will be a repeat, thanks to Alphabet and Amazon smashing expectations.
Amazon posted $125.56 billion in sales. Earnings per share beat expectations at more than $14 vs. $7 analysts predicted.. Guidance for the next quarter suggests a slowdown but the company still operating at +33% to +40% year-on-year. Cloud revenues rose 28%, but this was a little short of forecasts. Jeff Bezos will still be pulling strings, even he is “stepping down.”
Alphabet had another exceptionally strong quarter. Shares surged over 7% after hours following its results. It delivered EPS of $22.30 vs. $15.90 expected on revenues of $56.9 billion vs. $53 billion expected. Core advertising remains strong and shows pandemic trends are supportive of digital advertising. YouTube ad revenue rose 46%. The company underlined the increasing part this division plays in driving sales.
Yours in Health & Wealth,