The good news is that stocks had their best November ever, and that Covid vaccines are on their way. The bad news is that top U.S. government officials disagree about who should get the vaccines first.
Leaders in the Trump administration are pressing for adults 65 years old and older to be given first access to the Covid vaccines.
However, that approach contradicts the position of a committee that advises the CDC on vaccine policy. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has signaled for months that it will recommend health care providers be at the front of the vaccination line.
My view is that healthcare workers should be first. Then all first responders as well as all “essential workers.” These include even people like your grocery store clerk that cannot work from home.
Then the elderly and people at risk. More than 100 million Americans have health conditions that put them at risk of developing severe disease if they get Covid-19, the CDC estimates. Then, finally, vaccinate the rest of the population.
The conflicting views among federal officials risks sending mixed signals to public health authorities at the state level. These are the people that will actually distribute the Covid vaccines.
The end result could be messy, with each state having its own rules.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting in an emergency session today. It’s expected to vote on a recommendation to put health care providers at the front of the line. The committee may also add residents of long-term care facilities to the vaccination priority schedule.
If this decision happens, it does make sense.
Vaccine supplies are limited for a few months. The U.S. expects to have enough Covid vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to vaccinate 20 million Americans in December and another 25 million in January.
The numbers add up – an estimated 21 million people work in health care in the country. Roughly 3 million people live in long-term care. The toll among long-term care residents has been very high — they account for 39% of the Covid deaths, according to CDC data.
The Big News
Breakthrough in AI for Drug Design
Researchers have made a huge advance in artificial-intelligence (AI) that could change drug design. DeepMind, a U.K. company is owned by Google offshoot made the news. DeepMind has made great strides in solving one of biology’s grandest challenges — determining a protein’s 3D shape from its amino-acid sequence. The breakthrough will transform biology and greatly aid in drugs design, including for Covid. Noted evolutionary biologist Andrei Lupas said this, “This will change medicine. It will change research. It will change bioengineering. It will change everything.”
California Healthcare System Collapse?
California’s ICUs could be overloaded by mid-December, and its hospitals could be dangerously close to full by Christmas, Gov. Gavin Newsom projected Monday. “If these trends continue, California will need to take drastic action,” Newsom said. He added that more severe restrictions, including full stay-at-home orders, could come within the next few days. On Sunday, California became the first state to record over 100,000 cases in a week.
Busiest Air Travel Day Since March
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 1.18 million passengers at airports Sunday. It was the busiest travel day since March 16. Health officials had advised Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving to slow the spread of coronavirus. The latest figures from the TSA marked the fifth day with more than 1 million passengers screened since mid-March.
Novavax Vaccine Trial to Start
Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX) said Monday it has pushed back the start of a U.S.-based, late-stage trial for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. It now expects the trial to begin in the coming weeks instead of November. It already has a late-stage UK trial underway. This is the second time Novavax has rescheduled the Phase 3 trial. It first flagged an October start because of issues in scaling up its manufacturing.
CDC to Shorten Covid Isolation
A new analysis of data found that people with Covid-19 are most infectious in the two days before symptoms appear and for the following five days. The CDC currently recommends that infected people isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the beginning of their illness. It is now considering shortening the recommended isolation period. It may issue new guidelines as early as next week.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 63,347,492 Infected Worldwide
- 1,470,456 Deaths
- 13,545,793 Infected in the U.S.
- 268,103 Deaths in the U.S.
Global stock markets enjoyed a spectacular November.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched its best month since 1987. The S&P 500 gained nearly 11% in November, its fourth-best month in 30 years
Japan’s Nikkei average jumped 15% in November. It had the biggest point gain since May 1990 and the third-largest monthly rise on record. The Euro Stoxx 600 index enjoyed its best month ever, or at least since records began in 1986.
Even the laggard markets joined in. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rallied over 12% for its best month 31 years. And the value rotation sent the Russell 2000 to its best month on record.
The stock market rally looks set to continue on the good news on Covid vaccines. That news continues to push real yields lower. The 10-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) yield is now down to minus 0.93%.
The move in real rates ought to be very supportive of gold. But it hasn’t been yet. After the seasonal selling through the end of November, some dip buying has emerged. Gold is up $32 an ounce this morning.
Let’s not forget about bitcoin, either. It set a new high on Monday, at just over $19,850. Its previous peak was three years ago.
This time though, its rise seems to be fueled by more than pure retail speculation. A growing number of institutional investors and companies are treating Bitcoin as an alternative asset, somewhat like gold.
Yours in Health & Wealth,