The White House is at it again . . . putting politics ahead of science.
Top White House officials – including chief of staff Mark Meadows – are blocking guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine.
They are objecting to a provision that would almost certainly guarantee that no coronavirus vaccines could be authorized before the election on Nov. 3.
The main sticking point is that volunteers who have participated in vaccine clinical trials be followed for a median of two months after the final dose before any authorization is granted.
This two-month period is far less than normal for a typical vaccine. And yet, White House officials are still unhappy.
Facing a White House blockade, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking other avenues to ensure that coronavirus vaccines meet normal safety and efficacy guidelines.
One measure involves sharing the standards with an outside advisory committee of experts. This committee is supposed to meet publicly before any coronavirus vaccines are authorized for emergency use.
The FDA’s hope is that the committee will enforce the guidelines, regardless of what the White House says or does.
Here’s why the vaccine guidelines are so important . . .
By refusing to allow the FDA to release the coronavirus vaccine, the White House is undercutting the government’s effort to reassure the public that any vaccine will be safe and effective.
It is likely few Americans would get a vaccine that was largely untested and unproven. That means getting herd immunity via a vaccine becomes impossible.
The good news is that most makers of coronavirus vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, have publicly said that they will follow the agency’s recommendations, regardless of the White House’s actions.
The Big News
Covid Death Toll Higher Than Reported
Over the past several months, far more people have died from Covid-19 than thought. If one looks at “excess deaths” compared to previous years, the numbers are grim. These numbers likely include people who died at home before reaching a hospital. These numbers undermine the notion that many people who have died from the virus may soon have died anyway. Here in the U.S., through Sept. 19, the number of excess deaths is nearly 80,000 higher than the total counted Covid deaths.
Covid Is a Killer
A casual glance at the morbidity numbers from the CDC are a real eye-opener. Only cancer and heart disease will kill more Americans this year than Covid. Already, the virus has killed more than twice as many Americans as either strokes or Alzheimer’s disease. And the virus has killed about four times as many as diabetes . . . and more than eight times as many as either gun violence or vehicle accidents.
Covid Outbreaks Soaring Again in the U.S.
The number of new Covid cases per day in the U.S. has risen more than 25% since mid-September. Bloomberg reports, “Covid-19 is spreading again across most of the U.S., hammering rural America and smaller cities.” The outbreak connected to the White House is responsible for about 30 known cases so far. That is more than the average daily number of new cases recently in all of Australia.
Paris Bars to Close
The French government ordered the closure of bars and cafés in Paris for two weeks beginning today. The government declared the city and its nearest suburbs to be zones of “maximum alert” for coronavirus infections. About 3,500 new coronavirus cases are recorded daily in the Paris area. The area now has more than 200 active infection “clusters.”
Neanderthal Genes Raise Risk of Serious Covid
A gene segment that raises the risk of severe COVID-19 was inherited from Neanderthals. Among the current human population, the segment is carried more commonly in certain parts of the world. It is carried by around 50% of people of South Asian ancestry and 16% of people with European backgrounds. Geneticists believe these genes may have protected the Neanderthals against some other infectious diseases that are not around today. But now they are a major weakness against Covid.
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The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers on Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 35,527,480 Infected Worldwide
- 1,044,882 Deaths
- 7,459,102 Infected in the U.S.
- 210,196 Deaths in the U.S.
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The S&P 500 rose 1.8% yesterday to close at the high of the day above the 3,400 level.
However, the intra-day high at 3,428 from Sept. 16 remains the top of the channel that bulls will look to take out.
Election risk still remains. Vix futures (a measure of expected volatility) for October were at $30.86 compared with November’s $32.23.
Big tech stocks are in the spotlight too.
A Democrat-led House panel will call for an effective breakup of tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet. This comes after a long anti-trust investigation by the panel led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline.
If approved and legislation is enacted, it would be the most significant antitrust action taken since President Teddy Roosevelt’s era.
Given that the FAANGs have been leading the market charge higher, any action on a breakup (or threat of it) will drag on market sentiment.
One final market note – the U.S. dollar continues to weaken.
That should continue to support the price of gold as it closes in on the $1920 level again.
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Yours in Health & Wealth,