FDA Prepares to Approve Best Vaccine Yet

News on the J&J vaccine and its effectiveness takes center stage this morning.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was found to provide strong protection against severe disease and death from Covid-19, the FDA reported on its website.

And, the J&J vaccine may reduce the spread of the virus by vaccinated people, the report said.

The J&J vaccine had a 72% overall efficacy rate in the U.S. and was 64% effective in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant has emerged. The efficacy in South Africa was seven points higher than earlier data released by the company.

The vaccine also showed 86% efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 in the U.S. And 82% against severe disease in South Africa, the report said.

That means that a vaccinated person has a far lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19. That’s true even if someone gets the more dangerous South African variant.

The J&J vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures for at least three months. This makes its distribution much easier than those made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Both of those vaccines require two doses and must be stored at extremely low temperatures.

The FDA could authorize the J&J vaccine as early as Saturday. This depends on a vote of its vaccine advisory panel on Friday. It meets then to discusses the newly released documents.

The Big News

Vaccine Production Ramping Up

Vaccine manufacturers continue to ramp up production. The White House said Tuesday that weekly shipments of vaccines to states would rise by one million doses to 14.5 million. The increase was the fifth boost in distribution in five weeks. That means vaccine shipments have nearly doubled  in the past month.

Vaccines Sharply Cut Hospitalizations in Israel

Here is an illustration of what Covid vaccines can accomplish. Only 3.5 out of every 100,000 people vaccinated in Israel were later hospitalized with Covid symptoms. During a typical flu season in the U.S., by comparison, roughly 150 out of every 100,000 people are hospitalized with flu symptoms.

New U.S. Variant Found in Infected Baby

A baby infected with the Covid virus is puzzling Washington, D.C. doctors. They measured the infant’s viral load and were surprised:  It was 51,418 times the median of other pediatric Covid patients. When the child’s virus was sequenced, they found a virus variant never seen before.

Anti-Inflammatory Drug Reduces Covid Deaths

A new clinical trial found the Actemra anti-inflammatory drug can help reduce the risk of death in people hospitalized with Covid-19. This has rekindled hopes about a medicine that many doctors had abandoned after earlier clinical-trial failures. Preliminary results of a U.K. study of more than 4,000 hospitalized patients showed that people who received the drug plus steroids had a 20% lower risk of death after 28 days compared with patients who received steroids and standard care only.

J&J: Vaccines for 20 Million Americans by March-End

Johnson & Johnson plans to have enough doses of its one-shot vaccine for more than 20 million Americans by the end of March. That is, if its vaccine is authorized by the FDA. An FDA advisory committee meets Friday to consider the application. An emergency authorization (EUA) could come soon after.

The Coronavirus Numbers

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

  • 112,205,251 Infected Worldwide
  • 216,167,799 Vaccines Given Globally
  • 2,487,497 Deaths
  • 28,261,619 Infected in the U.S.
  • 65,032,083 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
  • 502,681 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 both reversed heavy early losses on Tuesday to close higher.

Soothing words from Fed chair Jay Powell seemed to turn the tide. He eased concerns about rising inflation expectations and bond yields.

Powell said that inflation remains “soft.” This helped cool the rise in yields and yield curves flattened a bit from their multi-year highs. Cyclicals led by energy and financials were the main drivers of the gains, with tech suffering.

Was it tech turmoil or turnaround Tuesday?

The Nasdaq 100 plunged over 3% at one point, breaking under its 50-day simple moving average (SMA). It tested the Jan. 15 low at 12,758, as a tech selloff intensified with Tesla shares suffering a double-digit percentage fall in early trade.

Tesla finished down a modest 2% as Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest – one of Tesla’s biggest backers – bought another $120 million in stock. This put a floor under the market – for now.

The ARKK Innovation ETF finished 3% lower while the Nasdaq 100 managed to finish only 0.5% lower. So, it did close above the 50-day SMA and the January support level held.

In an interesting note, famed tech investor Softbank is said to be planning to invest billions in biotech stocks. This didn’t seem to help the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index yesterday. It closed down 1.5% on the day.

Meanwhile, some of the smartest investors are SELLING Tesla and buying electric vehicle Pre-IPOs instead. Go here for details – before Feb. 28.

Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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