Don’t look for herd immunity any time soon.
That’s the word from the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan.
“Even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” Swaminathan said. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”
Most scientists estimate that a vaccination rate of about 70% is needed for herd immunity. That is where entire populations are protected against a disease.
But some scientists fear – and I agree – that the extremely infectious nature of Covid-19 will require a significantly higher number.
We may need 80% to 85% to get to herd immunity. Vaccine hesitancy is high in our country. So, herd immunity may be more difficult to reach than imagined.
So, it may be the same old thing for a while. . . . .
At a media briefing on Monday, Swaminathan said it was critical countries’ populations maintain strict social distancing and other measures like masks for the foreseeable future.
The Big News
U.S. to Expand Vaccine Access
The federal government will release more Covid-19 doses that have been held in reserve. HHS Secretary Alex Azar urged states to open up vaccination to everyone over 65 and with underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid-19. This is per the new guidance from the CDC. So far, more than 25 million doses have been distributed nationally. But only 9 million doses have been given.
Blood Plasma Dose Lowers Risk of Severe Covid
An early dose of blood plasma
from recovered people cuts the risk of severe Covid in those at high risk.
Researchers treated people who were over age 75 or had pre-existing conditions
with antibody-laden blood, within 72 hours of symptom onset. Severe COVID
developed at about half the rate in the study participants who received plasma
compared with that in the placebo group.
U.S. Travel Restrictions
Before boarding flights, all international passengers headed to the United States will first need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test. This is a new federal policy going into effect on Jan. 26. All air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to get a test for current infection within the three days before flight departure. Also, they must provide written documentation of test results or proof of having recovered from Covid-19.
Goldman Sachs Vaccine Forecast
Goldman Sachs forecasts that about one-quarter of Americans will have received their first shot by April 1. Then it expects 50% of Americans to be vaccinated by June 1. And 75% by mid-autumn. This coming vaccination speedup would be good news. But Goldman may be too optimistic about vaccine hesitancy.
U.S. Hospitals Under Pressure
The virus is spreading so rapidly that U.S. hospitals are struggling to keep up. About 130,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid symptoms. That is more than double the number just two months ago. The strain on hospitals raises the possibility that many patients will not receive the best available care.
The Coronavirus Numbers
The U.S. recorded more than 4,400 Covid-19 deaths yesterday. Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 91,700,280 Infected Worldwide
- 1,964,764 Deaths
- 22,848,707 Infected in the U.S.
- 380,821 Deaths in the U.S.
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The Fed is well aware of the obstacles our economy faces because of the virus. That’s why its tough policy talk lasted all of one day.
The “taper talk” of Monday is gone. Tapering is the gradual reversal of a quantitative easing policy.
James Bullard, the St Louis Fed president, says the FOMC is not even close to redoing the 2013 taper exercise. And Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said any debate about tapering was “a little while away.”
Please note that Fed Vice-Chairman Richard Clarida spoke last week about maintaining asset purchases at the current level through the whole of 2021.
Reflationary pressures continue. The U.S. 10-year rate is up close to 1.2%. And the 2/10 Treasury yield curve steepened to its widest since May 2017.
Stock markets are coming off record highs and the recent sideways move reflects a degree of uncertainty. Investors are trying pick their way through the minefield of the virus, vaccines, economic stimulus, reflation and an upcoming earnings season.
But as long as the Fed remains friendly – thanks to the virus – conditions remain positive.
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Yours in Health & Wealth,