Is THIS Better Than a Mask?

AstraZeneca vaccine

AstraZeneca revealed details of its large coronavirus vaccine trials on Saturday. This followed similar steps from both Moderna and Pfizer.

Scientists have been concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccine trials. That was due to the company’s refusal to provide details about serious neurological illnesses in two female participants. Both women received its experimental AstraZeneca vaccine in Britain.

AstraZeneca’s 111-page protocol stated that its goal is a vaccine with 50% effectiveness. That is the minimum threshold that the FDA has set in its coronavirus vaccine guidance.

Keep in mind, a vaccine with 50% effectiveness offers less protection that a good mask does.

Here is the part in the protocol that frightens epidemiologists. . . . .

The plan says that a safety board will perform an early analysis after there have been just 75 cases!  

If the AstraZeneca vaccine is 50% effective at that point, it might be possible for the company to stop the trial early. Then it will apply for emergency use authorization from the government.

In allowing only one interim analysis, AstraZeneca’s plan is actually more rigorous than the others. Both Moderna (2) and Pfizer (4) are doing more interim analyses.  

There is a problem with looking at the data too many times after a small number of cases. It increases the odds of finding an appearance of safety and efficacy that might not hold up.

Stopping trials early will also increase the risk of missing rare side effects. This could be significant once the vaccine is given to millions of people.

All three trials have a problematic feature.

All three count relatively mild cases of Covid-19 when measuring efficacy. This leaves open the question whether the vaccine prevents moderate or severe illness. 

In effect, these three vaccine trials are emphasizing speed instead of safety and efficacy.

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The Big News

Long-Haul Flights Are High-Risk

Long-haul flights have the potential to cause widespread transmission of Covid-19. A team of Vietnamese  researchers analyzed data from a Hanoi-to-London flight in March that created a cluster of cases. The research paper was published by the CDC. The findings suggest that a symptomatic passenger spread the virus to 12 other passengers in business class.  Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk.”

CDC Reverses Its Stance on Testing

Under heavy criticism, the CDC reversed its stance on Covid testing. The prior advice said people who have had close contact with someone infected with coronavirus did not need to get tested unless they had symptoms. That recommendation came from political appointees in the Trump administration. They had skipped the CDC’s usual, rigorous scientific review. Now, the CDC has gone back to science and tells such people to get tested.

New Program to Research Animal-to-Human Diseases

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it was investing $17 million this year and $82 million over five years. This will fund research groups that will partner with 28 other countries to investigate pathogens that can jump from wildlife to humans (zoonotic diseases). The goal is to detect the next pandemic pathogen before it infects humans.       

Coronavirus Likes It Hot

A recent French study found that the coronavirus could replicate in animal cells after it was exposed to a temperature of 60°C (140°F) for an hour. The massive summer outbreaks also suggests that high temperatures do not slow the spread of the virus.

New Zealand Probes Unusually Long Covid Incubation Period

New Zealand health officials are investigating a worrisome case of Covid-19. A returnee from India developed symptoms and tested positive for Covid-19 after 21 days. Most  people who are infected with Covid-19 become ill within 14 days. This case is another example of the tricky nature of the virus and how little scientists still know about it.

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The Coronavirus Numbers

U.S. daily coronavirus cases has again climbed over 50,000.

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

  • 31,084,007 Infected Worldwide
  • 961,066 Deaths
  • 6,812,332 Infected in the U.S.
  • 199,513 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

I want to re-visit one item. . . . .

The finding that long-haul flights have the potential to cause widespread transmission of Covid-19.

New research concluded that seating proximity to someone with the coronavirus was strongly associated with increased infection risk.  

The aviation industry maintains the risk for in-flight transmission is low.

But science says different. The authors of the study said, “We conclude that the risk for on-board transmission … during long flights is real and has the potential to cause Covid-19 clusters of substantial size.”

If I owned any travel-related stock, I would say bye-bye to it . . . at least for the foreseeable future.

That is what investors in Europe did today. Travel stocks, along with banks, were heavy losers.

As the colder weather hits, coronavirus cases will spike again.

This, along with politics, will negatively affect market sentiment.

I would rather accumulate shares in growth companies, including those coming public now.

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Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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