The coronavirus continues to surprise. It is mutating at a much faster than expected rate . . . and likely because not enough people are taking precautions.
Now some scientists are worried this will become a deadly game of cat and mouse. The “game” will be played between the virus and vaccine developers.
just mere weeks after the first vaccine approvals. Yet already, mutations in
the virus have forced scientists to tweak their vaccine formulas if the shots
prove less effective.
Regulators, too, are now forced to change their game plan. They must consider how to fast-track new vaccine approvals. Many will likely use seasonal flu shot policies as a model.
like BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna are best
positioned to respond to mutations. Their mRNA technology enables the companies
to plug in adjusted genetic code in response to any changes in the virus.
Paul Duprex, director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, described how this works: He said the “beauty” of mRNA is that it uses “people as factories” to make the protein needed to trigger the immune response.
The real time-consuming part of this cat-and-mouse game will be manufacturing.
For the mRNA vaccines, it’s estimated that the entire process until the new shots were in people’s arms would take three to six months.
But for other types of Covid vaccines, it would take longer.
It would likely take six to eight months for the adenovirus vector vaccines like Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. And it could take up to nine months for protein-based vaccines like those developed by Novavax and Sanofi/GSK.
I suspect we will be playing this “game” for a long time. Annual Covid shots could become routine.
The Big News
We Need Rapid Covid Tests Now
Rapid Covid-19 tests that trade away a degree of reliability for speed could be a valuable public-health tool. Researchers in San Francisco tested about 3,300 people for SARS-CoV-2 with a rapid test and the gold-standard PCR test. The rapid test, BinaxNOW, detected 89% of the 237 people who tested positive with PCR. And it detected all of those who had high levels of the virus. The rapid results came back in about an hour.
Pfizer to Raise Vaccine Production
BioNTech and Pfizer plan to supply an additional 500 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine this year. This is largely thanks to a new factory in Germany. The companies had originally pledged to make 1.5 billion doses in 2021. They now intend to provide as many as 2 billion. These projections now far outpace those of Moderna. It said it will produce between 600 million and 1 billion doses of its vaccine in 2021.
Novavax Execs Sell Vaccine Stock
Top Novavax executives are not waiting to see how well their Covid-19 vaccine works before cashing in on the vaccine stock. CEO Stanley Erck and three top lieutenants have sold roughly $46 million of the vaccine stock since the start of last year. Erck cashed out $8.7 million in the vaccine stock over the course of 2020. He had sold $2.2 million in the previous five years.
FDA Gets Tough on Drug Approvals
One change brought on by the pandemic is that FDA advisory committee meetings to review drugs are rarer and tougher. Over the past year, half of new drug applications taken to advisory committees were recommended for regulatory approval. This compares with 78% in 2019 and a rate of more than 80% in three of the four previous years. And the number of applications reviewed by advisory committees for novel drugs or new indications for existing medicines fell to 20 last year. This compared with 23 in 2019 and 30 in 2018.
San Diego Gorillas Infected With Covid
Eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus. These are the first known cases among such primates in the United States and possibly the world. It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus. Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas, who are congested and coughing.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 90,988,272 Infected Worldwide
- 1,947,499 Deaths
- 22,619,053 Infected in the U.S.
- 376,283 Deaths in the U.S.
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U.S. stock futures today are higher after a down day on Monday. The S&P 500 closed 0.66% lower at a whisker under 3,800.
The dollar held its recent gains, with the dollar index above 90. This is a strong headwind for stocks.
The dollar strength comes from Fed officials talking up tapering of bond purchases by the end of the year. Several Fed officials have suggested that mass vaccinations and expansionary fiscal policy could see the FOMC start to discuss reducing its $120 billion-a-month asset purchase program.
I suspect this will be another case where the Fed talks, but that’s it. As soon as the stock market reacts to the downside, it will come in again with a flood of liquidity.
Stock investors are still navigating the choppy waters between economic reopening stocks and Covid winners.The rotation-recovery trade will not be a straight line up.
However, global indices do remain at or close to record highs. And the same sectors (EVs, etc.) continue to show strength.
And the #1 biotech to buy now is going public. Shares could surge 454% after its huge IPO.
Yours in Health & Wealth,