A looming syringe shortage has health officials concerned. The world’s largest syringe maker, Becton Dickinson (NYSE: BDX), does not have the capacity to substantially increase U.S. supplies of specialty syringes . . . a least in the immediate future.
These syringes are needed to squeeze the sixth dose out of vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. And they also get an extra dose out of the Moderna vaccine vials.
This is crucial at a time of vaccine shortages. Getting that sixth dose stretches current supplies by 20%.
Becton Dickinson has contracted with the U.S. government to provide 286 million syringes for use with Covid-19 vaccines. This includes around 40 million “low dead space” specialty syringes.
The company says it has boosted overall production capacity by about 1 billion syringes for 2021. And most of the capacity is already allocated.
A new production line for syringes will be functional by July. But it was not designed to produce more “low dead space” syringes that are needed.
I suspect the Biden administration will ask them to add production lines for these specialty syringes. At the moment, these are as important as vaccines.
The Big News
The Slow Vaccine Rollout
President Biden said the U.S. government is nearing a deal with Pfizer and Moderna to increase its order of vaccine doses from 400 million to 600 million by the end of the summer. This may not quicken the current pace of vaccination for a few months, though. So far, 6% of the U.S. population has received a first vaccine dose and 1% has gotten both doses.
Sanofi to Aid in Pfizer Vaccine Production
Sanofi will help accelerate the production of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Europe. This will add millions of doses to the EU supply. Sanofi plans to start working on late-stage manufacturing of the vaccine in the summer, initially in its Frankfurt plant. The company would supply more than 125 million doses for the EU.
Lilly Antibody Cocktail Effective
Eli Lilly said that its combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, helped cut the risk of hospitalization and death in Covid-19 patients by 70%. The new news emerged in early data from a late-stage trial. Lilly has requested emergency use authorization for the combination. And it will move a new antibody therapy to human trials targeting the South African coronavirus variant.
Regeneron Antibodies Prevent Covid
Regeneron said its monoclonal antibody cocktail prevented Covid-19 in a clinical trial. The news mirrored a similar report from Lilly last week. The results were from the first 400 volunteers in the Regeneron study. It also appeared that infections in volunteers who received the antibody were less severe than in those who did not, the company said.
Microsoft Gets Boost From Pandemic
Microsoft enjoyed a triple benefit from the pandemic in the final quarter of 2020. This lifted its latest revenues and earnings far above expectations. In the Microsoft earnings news, the company said a boom in PC sales, surging demand for video gaming and increased usage of Microsoft’s cloud services combined to produce a 17% surge in revenue to $43.1 billion. The jump was above Wall Street expectations that the company’s growth rate would slow to below 10%. Along with the Microsoft earnings report, the big tech company also forecast revenue for the current quarter of $40.35 billion to $41.25 billion. At the midpoint of the range, that would represent another quarter of 17% growth, beating the 11% Wall Street forecast.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Global cases of Covid-19 have now surpassed 100 million. Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
100,371,303 Infected Worldwide
25,445,241 Infected in the U.S.
425,250 Deaths in the U.S.
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.
A robust Microsoft earnings report boosted shares in after-hours trading. The Microsoft earnings results further builds the case for a strong tech-led earnings rebound. Following the Microsoft earnings news, we expect earnings reports today from Tesla, Apple, Facebook and Boeing.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) convenes today for its first meeting of 2021. But nothing has really changed from the last meeting.
Vaccines and stimulus support a bullish case for recovery longer term. But near-term risks to the outlook are elevated. That’s due to the slow vaccine rollout and the spread of virus variants.
Expect the Fed to remain very dovish and hammer home its willingness to remain as easy as necessary for as long as required.
I doubt the Fed will even chance signaling it is thinking about taking its foot off the “liquidity pedal” for markets.
The rise in Covid cases is easing. But there is just not enough visibility yet about the pandemic for the Fed to sound anything other than cautious about the near-term outlook.
The Fed will also be mindful about scarring to the economy long term. This only cements the case for more accommodation now.
Yours in Health & Wealth,