Despite their effectiveness, vaccines like the one from Pfizer are not a “magic bullet.” They will not end the coronavirus pandemic single-handedly.
This is the lesson learned from a country that doesn’t often make the headlines – Chile.
The country got access to tens of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines. And its government has been inoculating its residents faster than any other country in the Americas. Over a third of its population has received at least one shot.
That’s why many thought Chile’s population was poised to be among the first in the world to reach herd immunity.
However, the Chilean government made one crucial mistake. Since the vaccination drive was going so well, it reopened the country. That gave Chileans a false sense of security. Mask wearing, etc. was forgotten.
You can guess the rest. Chile is now experiencing a sharp spike in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths that is overloading its health care system.
The surge in cases prompted a new set of strict lockdown measures that will last for weeks. Chile’s nearly 14 million people now face restricted mobility again.
As quickly as the U.S. is also opening up, Chile may be offering a preview of what is coming. Let’s hope not. But it is why CDC director Rochelle Walensky said she had a feeling of “impending doom.”
The Big News
Pfizer, BioNTech Raise 2021 Vaccine Goal to 2.5 Billion Doses
BioNTech said Tuesday that it and Pfizer will boost manufacturing capacity of their Covid-19 vaccine to 2.5 billion doses by the end of 2021. Pfizer previously said the partners would likely produce between 2.3 billion and 2.4 billion doses in 2021. BioNTech also projected sales of nearly $11.7 billion from the vaccines this year.
Covid Variants and Your Pets
We know the new variants are more contagious to humans. And now two recent studies show that Covid-19 variants are more contagious to our pets than the original strain. More hosts means more opportunity for the virus to mutate even more often. We need a way to rapidly detect new strains emerging from humans and other host species.
T-Cells and Variants
T-cells look to be our most potent weapon in the fight against the virus. A study by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) showed that T-cell response to COVID-19 in individuals infected with the initial viral variants appears to fully recognize the major new variants identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil. T-cell responses remained intact and could recognize virtually all mutations in the variants studied.
How to Make Indoors Safe Again
The WHO released a long-awaited road map to better ventilation for indoor spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19 a month ago. But governments are failing to provide the guidance or resources that will make rooms safer, say aerosol scientists. Building engineers note that redoing indoor spaces is not easy because we don’t know exactly how much we need to do. A short-term solution might be to install inexpensive CO2 monitors. These can provide a rough measure of whether or not ventilation is adequate.
Humanigen’s Experimental Covid Drug
Humanigen (HGEN) reported its experimental drug reduced the risk of hospitalized Covid-19 patients being put on ventilators. It said it would ask the FDA to authorize emergency use based on the results. Its stock rose 86% on the news. But whether or not the drug becomes a new tool to help patients with severe Covid-19 may depend on data and details that Humanigen has not shared. This includes data from 33 trial subjects who were in the 517-patient study but were not included in the efficacy analysis.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 128,313,256 Infected Worldwide
- 565,579,092 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,805,892 Deaths
- 30,394,188 Infected in the U.S.
- 147,602,345 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 550,998 Deaths in the U.S.
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What do the markets look like three months into 2021?
It’s been a decent start to the year despite some gyrations. The S&P 500 is over 5% higher, while the small-cap Russell 2000 has rallied over 11%. Hit by rising bond yields, the Nasdaq Composite has risen by just 1%, while the Nasdaq 100 is flat so far this year.
The selloff in bonds continues. The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.77% – its highest level since January. And the spread between the 2-year and 10-year Treasury notes is at its widest since 2015.
The rise in the 10-year yield over this quarter is poised to be the sharpest upwards move since 1994, according to Deutsche Bank.
All market eyes today will be focused on President Biden. He is expected to reveal broad economic recovery proposals centered on infrastructure. Analysts expect the plan to have a multi-trillion price tag. This follows the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill already passed by Congress.
Yours in Health & Wealth,