Should We Worry About the Indian Coronavirus Variant?

coronavirus variants

Some fully vaccinated people in India have reportedly become infected with Covid-19. That has  concerned scientists and public health officials who are monitoring many coronavirus variants.

They are worried this means that the mutating virus poses a risk to global populations, despite vaccination campaigns.

The cases in India revolve around one of the new coronavirus variants first identified in India — B.1.617.2.

But I’m not overly worried about it. Here’s why . . .

India had administered 171.1 million vaccine doses by May 10. However, the vaccines given were a combination two vaccines. One was a locally produced version of the AstraZeneca shot and the other was the Covaxin shot developed by India’s Bharat Biotech.

The vaccines were NOT the mRNA vaccines that most Americans are getting.

Two research papers published this week did find that the Indian variants had “modestly reduced sensitivity” to the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

The studies found that antibodies were sevenfold less effective at neutralizing the coronavirus variants in comparison to the original Wuhan strain of coronavirus. That put the Indian coronavirus variants on par with the South African variant.

Both papers stressed, however, that vaccines demonstrated reasonable protection against the disease.

The Big News

Mixing Vaccines Not a Good Idea

Mixing Covid-19 vaccines increases the risk of unpleasant, short-term side-effects such as fatigue and fever. This was the finding of UK trial in which people received different shots for their first and second doses. Preliminary results from the study, run by Oxford university, were published in The Lancet. The study showed a downside to vaccine mixing that the researchers had not expected. However, the adverse reactions were short-lived.

Second-Generation Covid Vaccines Promising

CureVac and GlaxoSmithKline’s second-generation Covid-19 vaccine looks likely to protect well against virus variants. This is according to early data from an animal study. CureVac said that a pre-clinical study showed the mRNA vaccine tailored to the variants that emerged in South Africa, the UK and Denmark showed strong neutralizing antibodies in rats.

CDC Finds More Clotting Cases After J&J Vaccine

The CDC said on Wednesday it had found more cases of potentially life-threatening blood clotting among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. It said it sees a “plausible causal association.” The CDC said it  has now identified 28 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among the more than 8.7 million people who had received the J&J vaccine. TTS involves blood clots accompanied by a low level of platelets – the cells in the blood that help it to clot. So far, three of the 28 have died.

HIV Adds to Risk of Severe Covid  

People with HIV who become infected with coronavirus may be at higher risk for severe illness. Between August and October, researchers studied 955 people with HIV and 1,062 people without it. The rate of COVID-19 was 3.7% in people with HIV versus 7.4% in the HIV-negative group. The likelihood of severe COVID-19 was 5.52-fold higher in the HIV group, the research team reported in The Lancet HIV. Among those who had recovered from COVID-19, antibody levels were significantly lower in people with HIV. That raises concern that HIV infection might blunt people’s immune response to the virus – and to vaccines.

mRNA Vaccines Effective vs Indian Variant

Both of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are likely effective against the Indian version of coronavirus variants, according to lab experiments. Researchers exposed the variant known (B.1.617.1) to blood serum samples from 15 volunteers with antibodies induced by the Moderna vaccine, 10 volunteers with antibodies after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and 24 people with antibodies after recovering from Covid-19. In a paper published on Monday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review, the research team found the India variant to be 6.8-fold more resistant to antibody neutralization in an all three groups. Despite this, a majority of the sera from convalescent individuals and all sera from vaccinated individuals were still able to neutralize the B.1.617.1 variant.

The Coronavirus Numbers

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

  • 160,513,476 Infected Worldwide
  • 1,348,706,783 Vaccines Given Globally
  • 3,333,245 Deaths
  • 32,815,408 Infected in the U.S.
  • 264,680,844 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
  • 583,690 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

The stocks market continues to sing the inflation blues. And it’s not a tune that investors like.

Yesterday was another “sell everything” kind of day. Investors around the world were nursing losses.  Tesla Motors shares fell over 4% to move closer to the March low, with further losses indicated in the pre-market. ARK’s Innovation ETF fell almost 4% to notch a fresh six-month low.

CPI inflation rose to 4.2% last month, the strongest reading since 2008. The month-on-month increase in the core reading of 0.9% was the raciest since 1982.

Higher inflation readings are headwinds for stocks. Just look at the broad market trend of the last month as investors unloaded tech/growth/momentum stocks.

Right now, we are seeing higher yields, high volatility, a stronger dollar and risk assets being beaten down . . . although reflation plays outstripped growth/momentum, as you would expect from a rising inflationary environment.

If this is a repeat of the tech sell-off we saw in September, then a 10% to 15% decline from the highs could take NDX back to test the March low around 12,200, or another 5% roughly from where it closed last night. The 200-day SMA should prove a big support at 12,450. 

And Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that “Tesla has suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin.” He cited environmental concerns. Bitcoin immediately sold off 10%.

Meanwhile, three new tech companies could power self-driving EVs from Tesla Motors to Volkswagen, and even Toyota. Click here to discover these three hidden stocks.

Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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