Why Merck Quit Its Covid Vaccines

Covid vaccines

The spread of the virus variants in the U.S. seems to grow every day.

Yesterday, Minnesota’s health department said it had detected a virus variant found in Brazil. It was found in someone who recently traveled to Brazil.

I know there is a lot confusion out there about whether the Covid vaccines developed will work against these variants. The science isn’t settled on this, but here is the best of what we know. . . . .

Covid vaccines that produce very high amounts of virus-neutralizing antibodies (VNAs) – like those from Moderna and Pfizer  –  will protect against the variants.

But just not as well. That’s why these companies are working on a booster shot.

Some Covid vaccines, though,  produce low amounts of VNAs. Examples are ones that use the inactivated virus. The most notable of these come from Russia and China. These will likely offer little protection from the South African variant.

I have heard some great things about the single vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). So, stayed tuned. JNJ said this morning the data on its vaccine will be released next week and said the data would be “robust.”

By the way, JNJ released earnings this morning and they were darn good. 

The Big News

IMF Expects China and US to Recover Best From Covid

The IMF expects the U.S. and China to be by far the most successful at steering their economies through the pandemic. In its updated forecasts for the global economy, the IMF predicts that, by 2022, recoveries in the U.S. and China will leave their economies no more than 1.5% smaller than projected before the pandemic.

Merck Gives Up On Its Covid Vaccines

Merck said Monday it will stop developing both current formulations of its Covid vaccines. The company cited inadequate immune responses to the shots. It now will focus on two treatments it is developing for Covid-19. One is an antiviral medicine. The other is a medicine aimed at helping hospitalized patients by reducing the immune system’s over-response to the virus.

Israel Finds Single Dose Is Enough

A single shot of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine produces a robust antibody response within weeks. That’s according to Israeli data. At the Rambam Health Care Campus in northern Israel, 91% of the 1,800 doctors and nurses that received the Covid vaccines showed a major presence of antibodies 21 days after their first shot. This could help at a time of scarce global supplies of Covid vaccines.

More Covid Vaccines Coming?

Most of the neutralizing antibodies that researchers have studied target a region of the coronavirus’s spike protein called the receptor-binding domain (RBD). But previous research has identified neutralizing antibodies that act against other portions of spike — particularly a region called the N-terminal domain (NTD). Now, a study of the blood of people who had recovered from COVID-19 indicates that antibodies that recognize the NTD could be as potent at blocking infection as were antibodies that recognize the RBD.

Covid Death Undercounts

Tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths are going unreported in the U.S., according to new research. The study compared annual deaths in 2013 to 2018 to deaths in 2020. It found – in counties with more than 20 Covid deaths – an additional 88,142 excess deaths were not attributed to the virus. Overall, the true Covid-19 death toll is 31% higher than official figures, according to the study from the Boston University School of Public Health.

The Coronavirus Numbers

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

  • 99,802,069 Infected Worldwide
  • 2,142,650 Deaths
  • 25,298,405 Infected in the U.S.
  • 421,239 Deaths in the U.S.

The #1 EV Stock for 743% Profits (NOT Tesla)

Tesla shares surged 743% in 2020. And everyone is suddenly BUYING the stock. However, some of the smartest investors are SELLING Tesla. And they’re buying EV Pre-IPOs instead. Go here for details – before Feb. 28.

What’s Next

There was  a largely positive, though choppy, day on Wall Street yesterday. Tech stocks led by Apple dragged the broader market higher ahead of an expected strong earnings season for tech. Small caps were weaker, though.

President Biden’s stimulus plans may be watered down to appease Republicans. The president said he is open to narrowing eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus checks.

This should help the deal get through Congress, but the timing is becoming the issue. More delays in the vaccine rollout are not supportive of risk appetite, either.

So, despite a report indicating that global trade volumes have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the rotation-reopening plays are unwinding. Airline shares are down again this morning and the U.S. 10-year yields retreated to three-week lows.

The problem is that investors have loaded up heavily on the re-opening bets in the wake of the Covid vaccines announcements last November. So, concerns about the pace of the rollout of vaccines, the easing of restrictions and a return to normality could see a further unwind of this trade in the near-term.

Meanwhile, Wall Street plans to invest $475 million in this new EV battery stock. Go here for urgent details.

Yours in Health & Wealth,

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