It seems like booster shots against the mutating coronavirus are in our future.
That’s what the head of Britain’s effort to sequence the virus’s genomes, Sharon Peacock, believes.
The reason is simple. The ongoing mutations of the coronavirus make the virus more transmissible and better able to evade human immunity.
The novel coronavirus mutates around once every two weeks. That is slower than influenza or HIV. But it is fast enough to require tweaks to vaccines.
Peacock says the most dangerous of the variants is the South African version. She said, “It is more transmissible, but it also has a change in a gene mutation, which we refer to as E484K, which is associated with reduced immunity – so our immunity is reduced against that virus.”
However, Peacock said she is confident that effective booster shots will be developed quickly and rolled out to the population.
So, get ready for an annual coronavirus shot in addition to a yearly flu shot.
The Big News
Covid Vaccine Success
The vaccination push for older people and those in nursing homes is a major success. Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are in rapid decline among these groups in the past few weeks. In the two months through the end of February, cases among nursing home residents dropped 96%, while deaths fell 87%.
Pfizer to Raise Vaccine Price
Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio told shareholders the company is looking at a “significant opportunity” to raise the price of its Covid-19 vaccine. This news comes via a transcript of the virtual Barclays Global Healthcare Conference last week. He noted Pfizer could raise the vaccine price when the virus becomes endemic. After the pandemic is defeated and “normal market conditions” arrive, the vaccine price will rise. There is a “significant opportunity … from a pricing perspective,” he said.
Coronavirus Reinfections Rare
The vast majority of people who recover from Covid-19 remain shielded from the virus for at least six months. This is what researchers reported on Wednesday in a large study from Denmark. Prior infection with the coronavirus reduced the chances of a second bout by about 80% in people under 65. But it is reduced only by about half in those older than 65. That shows the need for vaccination of those over 65.
Covid-Sniffing Dogs Being Trained
Thai sniffer dogs (Labrador Retrievers) trained to detect COVID-19 in human sweat proved nearly 95% accurate during training. Within a minute, the dogs went through 60 samples. Chile, Finland and India are other countries that have also launched efforts to get sniffer dogs to detect the virus. And a German veterinary clinic said last month its sniffer dogs had achieved 94% detection accuracy in human saliva. These dogs could be used to identify coronavirus infections at busy transport hubs within seconds.
JNJ Vaccine Production Expansion
Catalent (CTLT), a contract drug manufacturer, is planning a major expansion of its Covid-19 vaccine production in Europe. This will enable it to make more doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Catalent will bring online a second J&J vaccine production line at its plant in Anagni, Italy, during the fourth quarter. The expansion has the potential to double the plant’s output of Covid-19 vaccines and should help boost Covid-19 vaccine supplies in Europe.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Thursday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 121,319,246 Infected Worldwide
- 400,507,336 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,682,660 Deaths
- 29,608,162 Infected in the U.S.
- 113,037,627 U.S. Vaccine Doses Administered
- 538,093 Deaths in the U.S.
Fed chairman Jerome Powell was more dovish than expected yesterday. He said the Fed would stick to its guns to let the economy run as hot as it needs to achieve full employment.
That led to fresh records for Wall Street, a weaker U.S. dollar, higher Treasury yields, and volatility being crushed.
Longer dated Treasury bonds moved a lot as Powell said the Fed would look past inflation overshooting. U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have shot up to 1.73%, while the 30-year is at its highest yield in almost two years close to 2.5%. Spreads are at their highest in over five years.
This has pressured U.S. stock futures again, led by tech. Nasdaq 100 futures are down 1.6%.
Yours in Health & Wealth,