The New South African Virus

Forget about the U.K. virus variant. The more dangerous variant is the South African virus.

The mutation in the South African virus is called E484K. It changes the “receptor binding domain.” This is a key part of the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells. It is also has other importance. It is where neutralizing antibodies induced by infection or vaccination bind to the virus.

A non-peer reviewed study about the South African virus from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was a bit scary.

It found that “emerging lineages in South Africa and Brazil carrying the E484K mutation will have greatly reduced susceptibility to neutralization by the . . . serum antibodies of some individuals”.

This backed up other studies on the South African virus.

Let me put this into layman’s terms. . . . .

This mutation in the South African virus has spike proteins that are so misshapen that antibodies may NOT recognize it. That could make vaccines much less effective.

And the South African virus variation seems to have more of an affinity for younger people, according to new data. That’s why scientists are so scared.

The main takeaway message: We should stop playing around with this virus. We are letting it spread freely while we debate masks, vaccines, etc.

That will lead to more and more mutations . . . and possibly, variants that will not be very pleasant.

The Big News

Vaccines Coming to Your Local Pharmacy

The government is accelerating a plan to offer coronavirus shots in pharmacies. Within the next two weeks, Operation Warp Speed estimates 3,000 to 6,000 pharmacies could start giving shots. Officials said in November that they would work with major pharmacy chains and community pharmacies to distribute vaccines. But they had not laid out a timetable.

Covid Vaccination Hurdles

The nation’s health IT infrastructure is not prepared for the Covid-19 vaccination rollout. A new piece in Harvard Business Review paints a worrisome picture. Only 60% of U.S. adults are registered on existing immunization information systems, with large variations among states. And only one in three clinicians who administer vaccines submit records to these registries.

China Turns Away WHO

The World Health Organization sent a team to China to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 virus. But team members were turned away at China’s doorstep. This came after official approvals had been given. One member of the team was turned back after arriving in Beijing. Another was not allowed to board his connecting flight. Eight other team members were told to delay their departures altogether.

CVS to Serve Skilled Nursing Facilities

CVS Health said it plans to give the first dose of Covid-19 vaccines in roughly 8,000 skilled-nursing facilities in 49 states by Jan. 25. The program allows residents and employees  to get one of the two authorized Covid-19 vaccines. Both groups are  at a high risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Rare Vaccine Allergic Reaction

Federal health officials say that a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis from the Pfizer/BioNTech was a “rare outcome.” Of the nearly two million Americans who received the vaccine during a 10-day stretch last month, only 21 people experienced the reaction. That is a typical percentage for most vaccines.

The Coronavirus Numbers

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

  • 87,323,709 Infected Worldwide
  • 1,885,869 Deaths
  • 21,306,424 Infected in the U.S.
  • 361,297 Deaths in the U.S.

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What’s Next

The world watched in amazement yesterday at the “embarrassing” mob attack in our nation’s capital.

But investors appear to be looking past the chaos. They have confidence in our underlying institutions. So, they are focusing on the possibility of additional stimulus under a Democratic White House and Congress.

Yesterday’s market showed proof. The Dow Jones industrials ended the day at a record high; it climbed 438 points, or 1.4%. The S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 3,748. It had  an intra-day high at 3,783.

Value and small stocks led the way. The Russell 200 closed almost 4% higher. This came off the back of the reflation-rotation boost from the Democrat win in Georgia. 

Banks, materials and energy shares led gains on the S&P 500. Investors switched into these long-unloved “value” sectors that are sensitive to economic growth prospects.

The market consensus is that Democratic control of both houses of Congress means stimulus and infrastructure spending.

The market expects that we will get an infrastructure bill with a price tag of between $1 trillion and $3 trillion later this year.

Two interesting side bars:  copper climbed to its highest level since 2013, above $8,000 a ton. Biden’s plans for a green stimulus is raising hopes that more copper will be used in electric vehicle charging and wind turbines.

Also, London’s FTSE 100 – which has many of the world’s biggest mining and energy companies in it – has had the best start to a year, ever.

Meanwhile, the  #1  biotech to buy now is going public. And shares could surge 454% after its huge IPO.

Yours in Health & Wealth,

Tony Daltorio

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