Operation Warp Speed continues to do most things right. I really like its latest move. . . . .
Pfizer/BioNTech will raise vaccine production for the U.S. by at least tens of millions of doses next year. It will do this in exchange for a government directive giving it better access to manufacturing supplies and raw materials.
The government will invoke the Defense Production Act. This could give the company better access to nine specialized products it needs in vaccine production.
Lack of raw materials has been a major problem for the companies producing mRNA vaccines.
The reason for the raw materials shortage is easy to spot. Covid testing kits and vaccines use some of the same materials. And with Covid cases soaring, lots of testing kits are being produced. That is diverting supplies away from the vaccine producers.
Critical ingredients for tests and vaccines are only made by a limited number of companies worldwide. One example in the U.S. is Codexis (NASDAQ: CDXS).
These companies are now cranking up vaccine production, so the shortage will eventually disappear. Using the Defense Production Act may add more companies into the supply chain.
The government is doubling its order of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech. It will bring the total purchase to 200 million doses for about $4 billion.
We hope they can get their hands on the raw materials needed ASAP. More vaccines cannot come soon enough.
The Big News
How the UK Found the Virus Mutation
Genetic sequencing of virus samples provides crucial information about how a virus is evolving. It answers if mutations are common, if new variants are emerging, how the virus is spreading from one place to another, and so forth. The new variant was detected in Britain because scientists there are doing the most sequencing in the world. Since Dec. 1, Britain has sequenced more than 3,700 coronavirus cases. The U.S. has sequenced fewer than 40 cases.
Covid Clues in Wastewater
Greece imposed a second coronavirus lockdown in early November. But chemists at a wastewater treatment plant had already concluded weeks earlier that restrictions would be necessary. How? They analyzed samples of sewage from Athens. Daily collections of wastewater were analyzed to determine the level of viral load. That allowed scientists to forecast the expected number of Covid infections in the region.
U.S. to Purchase Merck Covid Drug
The U.S. government signed a $356 million deal with Merck to support the development and manufacture of its potential drug for seriously ill Covid-19 patients. Merck acquired the potential drug as part of a $425 million deal to buy OncoImmune last month. The drug has performed well in a phase 3 trial. An interim analysis showed a 60% higher probability of improvement in treated patients, compared to those on placebo. The risk of death or respiratory failure was cut by half. If it receives regulatory approval, the government will buy 60,000 to 100,000 doses by June 2021.
Companies Ditch Offices
U.S. companies are dumping record volumes of office space into the sublease market. Not good news for the long-term health of office properties. The amount of sublease inventory in many U.S. markets is at or exceeding levels reached in the aftermath of both the dot-com bust and the 2008 financial crisis. The inventory will likely rise more. This means the damage to the office market from the pandemic may never be fully repaired.
Melbourne, Australia to Have a Normal Christmas
Melbourne, Australia endured a 112-day lockdown. But now, retailers, restaurants, pubs and cafés expect a busy Christmas. Victoria’s state government recently dropped requirements to wear face masks when dining and is allowing up to 30 people to visit private homes. In a symbolic moment for a nation hooked on cricket, the Boxing Day match between India and Australia will welcome 30,000 spectators. That will be the first time the Melbourne Cricket Ground has opened since March.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 77,471,325 Infected Worldwide
- 1,705,008 Deaths
- 18,043,397 Infected in the U.S.
- 319,466 Deaths in the U.S.
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Markets got a scare overnight after President Trump released a video. In it, the President hinted that he may veto the compromise Covid relief package agreed to by Congress.
However, stock futures have turned positive. It looks like Wall Street is assuming that either he won’t veto the bill . . . or that Congress will override any veto.
The markets have also calmed down about the virus mutation.
That is due to how the mRNA vaccine works. It is essentially a vaccine platform. You can, if necessary, pull out one piece of the vaccine and plug in another adjusted for the mutated virus.
And voila – you have a new vaccine. The head of BioNTech said yesterday the whole process would take about six weeks. And then, vaccine production for the new formula could begin.
It really is a new era in the fight against viruses.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Stay safe.
Yours in Health & Wealth,