A new study shows that the UK variant is 64% more deadly than earlier variants.
The research on the UK variant B.1.1.7 by epidemiologists from the universities of Exeter and Bristol was published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday.
Researchers have 95% confidence that the increased lethality of the UK variant is somewhere between 32% and 104% higher than previous strains.
Transmission studies suggest that UK variant is about 50% more infectious than its predecessors.
B.1.1.7 is now responsible for 98% of Covid-19 cases in the UK. It is also replacing older variants in many other countries. For example, the UK variant now accounts for 40% of cases in the U.S. and is spreading rapidly.
Keep in mind though that, so far, there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines are much less effective against B.1.1.7. That is of more concern for the variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.
These findings on the UK variant B.1.1.7 are just another reason to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The Big News
Government Relaxes Nursing Home Visiting Guidelines
There is another sign of normalcy resuming. Federal health officials on Wednesday substantially relaxed the government’s guidelines for family and friends to see nursing home residents in person. The government said that vaccinations and a slowing of coronavirus infections in nursing homes warranted restoring indoor visits in most situations.
Vaccine Makers Begin Modifying Vaccines
Drug makers are crafting Covid-19 vaccines that would target more than one strain of the virus. They hope to strengthen the immunization campaign against the virus as it evolves. Researchers at Moderna and Novavax and the University of Oxford are designing the shots, known as multivalent vaccines. The goal is to protect not only against the form of the virus commonly circulating globally, but also potentially contagious strains that have emerged or might in the future.
Biden Authorizes Purchase of More JNJ Vaccines
President Biden is directing the federal government to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 single-shot vaccine. The move was announced Wednesday. The White House said it could help the country vaccinate children. Or, if necessary, it could help reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants of the virus. In other words, it is buying flexibility.
GSK to Ask FDA for Antibodies Treatment Approval
GlaxoSmithKline plans to apply for emergency use authorization in the U.S. and elsewhere for its experimental Covid-19 antibody treatment. This comes after an interim analysis of clinical trial results showed an 85% reduction in hospitalization and death among patients. GSK (with its partner Vir Biotechnology) also said a separate in vitro study suggested the therapy remained effective against virus variants.
Lilly Antibodies Reduces Covid Deaths 87%
Eli Lilly reported that its combination antibody therapy to fight Covid-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 87%. Lilly studied the effects in more than 750 high-risk patients. This is the second large late-stage study to show that combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, is effective at treating mild to moderate cases of Covid-19. The previous study published in January used a higher dose of the drugs. This combination reduced risk of hospitalization by 70%.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Thursday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 118,129,308 Infected Worldwide
- 319,562,744 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,621,986 Deaths
- 29,155,046 Infected in the U.S.
- 95,721,290 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 529,267 Deaths in the U.S.
+$475 million. That’s how much Wall Street plans to invest in this new EV battery stock. Hedge funds. Pension funds. Silicon Valley billionaires. Even trillion-dollar sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East. Go here for urgent details.
Relative calm in bond markets is helping to boost sentiment in stocks. Stocks had an OK day on Wednesday. And U.S. stock futures are solidly higher this morning.
Yesterday’s 10-year Treasury auction was a little soft. But not enough to really worry the stock market. There was enough demand to let the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury retreat a little. The yield is back under 1.5%, the lowest since March 4. The 30-year Treasury auction is today.
I was correct about the central banks starting a counterattack against the bond markets shorts. This morning, Europe’s central bank said it would speed up its asset purchases to deal with a jump in interest rates.
Positive news spotted in Bloomberg yesterday . . . the percentage of NYSE-listed shares at 52-week highs has climbed to 21%. That’s the highest level since December 2016.
This broadening out of the rally to value and cyclical stocks shows the markets’ underlying strength.
Yours in Health & Wealth,