The U.S. will have enough coronavirus vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May, President Biden said Tuesday.
It’s thanks in part to an unusual vaccine production deal between two of the country’s largest drug makers.
Under terms of the vaccine production deal, Merck will manufacture doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine after receiving $269 million from BARDA (US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority). The funds will be used to adapt Merck’s manufacturing facilities to produce JNJ’s Covid-19 shots.
Merck will both produce the vaccine and fill vials for J&J.
This vaccine production deal makes a lot of sense. J&J is the world’s largest healthcare company. But it is not nearly as experienced in vaccines as Merck. And it does not have the same capabilities to produce vaccine at scale.
This is similar to the vaccine production deal Johnson & Johnson arranged with another large vaccine maker, Sanofi. It agreed to help boost supplies of the J&J vaccine in Europe. It announced last month it would use its capacity to fill vials for J&J.
President Biden also said he would use the Defense Production Act to speed up vaccine manufacturing by providing critical equipment and supplies.
One example of this are large, single-use plastic bags used in manufacturing vaccines. A shortage of the large sterile liners threatens to create a bottleneck in the vaccine rollout.
The Big News
One Vaccine Dose Stops Hospitalizations in People 80+
One dose of Covid-19 vaccines produced by BioNTech/Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca prevents hospitalizations in people over 80. This is according to interim data from a UK study at the University of Bristol. The researchers found that the effectiveness was almost identical, at 79.3% for the Pfizer shot and 80.4% for AstraZeneca.
U.S. States Reopening
Many states are lifting Covid restrictions. Texas and Mississippi both announced they would lift their mask mandates. This follows Iowa and Montana, which did so last month. Businesses in those states can now operate at full capacity.
FDA Authorizes At-Home Covid test
The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for a Covid-19 antigen test that can be performed at home. The QuickVue At-Home Covid-19 Test does not require the nasal swab sample to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Made by Quidel, the test is authorized for prescription home use by people 14 years and older, or those 8 and older with swabs collected by an adult. The test is approved for suspected Covid-19 infection within the first six days of symptom onset.
Lyft Stock Rises After Pandemic’s ‘Busiest Week’
Shares in ride-sharing service Lyft rose by about 3% in after-hours trading Tuesday. This was after it said it had just recorded its busiest week since the start of the pandemic. The last week of February presented the most ride volume since March 2020, the company said. Lyft noted that the average number of daily trips taken on the ride-sharing platform rose 4% month-over-month from January to February.
Fed Begins to Worry About Rates
The Fed is starting to worry about the bond market and its effect on an economy still hurt by the pandemic. As bond yields spike amid fears of inflation, Fed governor Lael Brainard said this: “The speed of those moves [in bond prices] caught my eye.” It was the first bond “anxiety” expressed by a Fed official, though no action is likely soon.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 114,857,764 Infected Worldwide
- 268,616,411 Vaccines Given Globally
- 2,551,338 Deaths
- 28,719,860 Infected in the U.S.
- 78,631,601 US Vaccine Doses Administered
- 516,616 Deaths in the U.S.
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U.S. stocks closed weaker on Tuesday. The tussle between bulls and bears continues following Monday’s jump. The S&P 500 seems trapped in a range between 3,800 and 3,900. A close above or below these levels will be important for the future direction of the market.
The key will be whether central bankers step up to push interest rates back down. Higher rates will kill off the ongoing early recovery from the pandemic.
It was interesting to note that Germany’s DAX hit a record high. That was after comments from ECB members who are pushing back against the rise in bond yields there.
In the U.S., Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard is also pushing back. Brainard said she would be concerned about any “disorderly conditions or persistent tightening” in financial conditions.
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Yours in Health & Wealth,