COVID-19 Vaccine Update – The EU’s Vaccine Woes Worsen and Is Unlikely to Improve Anytime Soon

EU Vaccine News

As the EMA readies to review the AstraZeneca vaccine on 29th January, there was some bad news for EU member states.

AstraZeneca has issued a warning to EU member states to expect limited supply of the vaccine near-term.

The EU has ordered up to 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with up to 100 million due within the 1st quarter.

Last week, the FT reported that AstraZeneca may only deliver less than half of the 100 million doses. That means that less than 25 million would receive full protection by the early part of the 2nd quarter.

It was also reported that there was deep satisfaction within the EU Commission even though the vaccine had yet to be approved.

With the EU having made significantly smaller Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. vaccine orders, the shortfall will raise further concerns over the Eurozone economy and its recovery.

Less than 50 million doses would barely make a dent in inoculating the more than 440 million population.

The bad news followed Pfizer Inc’s cut back in supply to the EU earlier in the month.

Vaccination rates across the EU remain woefully short. The latest news will continue to leave vaccination rates on the lower side that will add further pressure on governments to contain the virus by other means.

Vaccinations Rates

According to the Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker, the EU’s vaccination rate stood at 1.79 doses per 100 people as at 22nd January.

This continued to fall well short of the UK, the U.S and leading nations in the Middle East.

As at 22nd January, Israel had the highest vaccination rate of 37.14 doses per 100 people.

The U.A.E came in a distant second, with a vaccination rate of 21.76 doses per 100.

Bahrain ranked 3rd, with a rate of 9.71 (19th January), with the UK coming in 4th with a rate of 8.76 doses per 100.

With Joe Biden’s drive to vaccinate 100 million in 100 days, the U.S vaccination rate climbed to 6.04 as at 22nd January.

Looking across the EU, France was amongst the worst performers, with a vaccination rate of just 1.49.

Germany also trailed the front runners in the EU, with a rate of 1.81 doses per 100 people.

Spain and Italy had performed somewhat better, with rates of 2.51 and 2.17 respectively.

When considering the fact that these 4 member states are the worst affected, the numbers should have been better.

A lack of supply and currently low rates are a bad combination for the EU. This raises the prospects of even more restrictions to hurt the region’s economy.

For a full breakdown of vaccination rates by country, please visit Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker page here.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, there were a total of 98,750,103 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,116,438 related deaths.

By geography, the U.S had reported 25,390,042 cases and 424,177 COVID-19 related deaths.

India reported 10,640,544 cases, with Brazil reporting 8,755,133 cases.

Sitting behind Russia (3,677,3520) remained the UK (3,583,907).

France (3,011,257), Italy (2,411,854), Spain (2,603,472), and Germany (2,125,261) reported a combined 10,151,844 cases.

Looking Ahead

The reported AstraZeneca supply constraints make Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine availability all the more important.

A single dose vaccine would certainly ease the strain on the EU that will now have to maintain containment measures for longer.

The EU will be able to order up to 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This would cover close to the entire EU population should a single dose vaccine receive approval.

For the EU, however, a lack of supply by AstraZeneca and Sanofi troubles mean that the entire population would not receive a vaccine for some time.

The EU had preordered 300 million doses from Sanofi, which won’t be ready until later this year at the earliest.

As the markets respond to supply issues, we can expect focus on vaccination rates, infection rates, supply to become greater near-term.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine News

News hit the wires this week that late clinical trial results will be available within the coming weeks.

With the U.S FDA ready to review the vaccine, single dose vaccines could be available within the U.S this quarter.

The easier to transport vaccine means that governments would be able to ramp up vaccination rates. For governments lagging behind, the biggest advantage will be the fact that it is a single dose vaccine.

Approvals would need to be given, however, for distribution of the vaccine. A slow moving EMA could see the EU fall further behind its peers.

It’s worth noting that the EU had secured enough vaccine doses to cover 183.5% of the population.

While Johnson & Johnson may be able to ease the pain, it will be some time before vaccination rates hit appropriate levels.

An Economic Recovery in the Waiting. COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Suggest a Longer Wait for Some

Economic Recovery

Following the 2nd quarter economic meltdown of 2020, major economies rebounded in the 3rd quarter.

A reopening of borders and businesses spurred the recovery. Many hoped that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic had passed.

Going through the 4th quarter, however, conditions deteriorated rapidly once more.

The number of COVID-19 cases soared across the U.S, Europe, and beyond.

Amidst the doom and gloom, the Chinese economy provided a glimmer of hope.

Last week, 4th quarter GDP numbers impressed. While a spike in new COVID-19 cases in China muted the impact of the stats on riskier assets but the recovery was plane to see.

Other economies, have been less fortunate.

Those most at risk of an extended period of contraction are economies most dependent upon consumption and tourism.

For now, the global financial markets appear to be signaling a more uniform global economic recovery through 2021.

The latest COVID-19 numbers, vaccination rates, and containment measures paint a different picture, however.

The Economic Calendar

Next week, 4th quarter GDP figures are due out of the U.S, Germany, and France to name but a few.

Looking at the forecasts, the U.S economy is projected to grow by 4.4% in the 4th quarter.

It’s a different story for France and Germany, however.

Extended lockdown periods through late 2020 will likely lead to another sizeable quarterly contraction.

Economists have forecasted the French economy to contract by 3.2% and Germany’s by 4.6%.

Relative to the 2nd quarter of 2020, the contractions are relatively mild. By historical standards, however, these are quite dire forecasts.

Vaccinations Rates

According to the Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker, the U.S vaccination rate was 5.23 doses per 100 people as at 20th January.

With President Biden’s aim of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days, this is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks. The numbers have already picked up from quite dire levels just last week. As at 10th January, the U.S had had a vaccination rate of just 2.44 doses per 100 people.

While other countries face supply issues, this has not been the case for the U.S. To put it into perspective, 48% of shots distributed to states in the U.S have been administered. In numeric terms, 17.18 million doses have been administered.

Much will now depend on whether the U.S President meets his 100 million target or needs to reintroduce lockdown measures.

At the time of writing, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S sits at 24,998,975, with the total number of deaths hitting 415,894.

Any acceleration in new cases and the U.S government may have little choice but to contain the spread. With labor market conditions still in dire straits, this would have painful consequences for the U.S economy.

The only goods news is that the Democrats now control both houses. Delivering fiscal support should be easier. Bringing unemployment back to pre-pandemic levels, however, is likely to be a far more difficult task.

Elsewhere, a number of governments have made strong progress in driving vaccinations. This bodes well for more rapid economic recoveries. These nations are few and far between, however.

Israel continues to lead the charge, with a vaccination rate of 32.56 doses per 100 as at 20th January. The U.A.E remains ranked 2 in terms of vaccination rates. (20.11 doses per 100 as at 19th Jan).

As at the 20th January, the UK is also at the top end of the table, with a vaccination rate of 7.59 doses per 100.

The EU

For the EU, however, the slow authorization of COVID-19 vaccines and apparent bad planning has been reflected in the figures.

EU wide, the vaccination rate stood at just 1.51 doses per 100 people as at 20th January. When considering the fact that the total number of COVID-19 cases is more than 10 million, this remains a concern.

Not only are we likely to see economic divergence globally but also within the EU.

Germany’s vaccination rate stood at 1.56 doses per 100 as at 20th January. By contrast, France’s vaccination rate was just 1.07.

Italy and Spain were amongst leading EU member states with rates of 2.07 and 2.21 doses per 100. These rates are also on the lower end for developed nations, however.

For a full breakdown of vaccination rates by country, please visit Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker page here.

Supply and Demand

Since the approval of vaccines in the U.S, Europe, and beyond, supply has become a focal point.

Back in December, we had highlighted supply as a key consideration as governments procure vaccines.

Some governments have been able to secure enough vaccines to inoculate 100% of their populations.

Others will barely touch the surface and will have to wait.

When considering the vaccination rates today and the need for 2 doses, it could be a long wait.

Some governments will undoubtedly be wanting to avoid going into another winter once this winter season passes.

Until there are more vaccine options and greater supply, however, this remains a credible risk for some.

As things stand, therefore, we continue to see Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca as two key players in the fight against the global pandemic.

Johnson & Johnson is key due to its goal to deliver a single dose vaccine. AstraZeneca remains key due to is affordable and easy to transport vaccine, not to mention manufacturing capabilities.

Government agencies including the EMA will need to authorize the use of these vaccines more hastily to support a speedier economic recovery.

The markets can then begin to look to developing economies that have continued to struggle since the beginning of the pandemic. Failure of the likes of Europe to catch up with the U.S and even the UK, could lead to an economic decoupling.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, there were a total of 97,384,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,085,507 related deaths.

By geography, the U.S had reported 24,998,975 cases and 415,894 COVID-19 related deaths.

India reporting 10,611,719 cases, with Brazil reporting 8,639,868 cases.

Sitting behind Russia (3,655,839) remained the UK (3,505,754).

France (2,965,117), Italy (2,414,166), Spain (2,412,318), and Germany (2,090,161) reported a combined 9,881,762 cases.

Looking Ahead

Existing vaccine providers are going to need to materially increase supply in order to support the bullish outlook towards the economic recovery.

Market sensitivity to reports of any supply constraints will likely build in the current quarter. Failure to ramp up vaccination rates coupled with supply constraints would have an even more material impact on risk sentiment. All of this is before considering a continued rise in new cases and further extensions to lockdown measures.

For now, the pressure will be on the likes of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to deliver.

A marked increase in supply from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. would also be welcome.

At some point, however, the focus may well shift to how well or how badly governments have performed.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – Some EU Member States Break Ranks

EU Vaccine News

Following the EMA’s decision to bring forward the review of the AstraZeneca vaccine, EU member states are looking to get ahead in placing orders.

Over the weekend, news hit the wires that the Irish government was in talks to secure delivery of the yet to be authorized vaccine.

Pfizer Inc. supply issues experienced across member states has resulted in bid to secure supply from elsewhere.

Ireland expects to receive more than 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. By receiving the vaccine ahead of the EMA recommendation and EU Commission authorization, it would mean that the vaccine could be administered immediately upon authorization.

Last week, the EMA had indicated that upon recommendation, the vaccine would be widely available by mid-February.

Ireland would therefore be around 2-weeks ahead of other EU member states. More importantly, Ireland may also avoid jostling with other EU member states for supply.

Having seen Britain go it alone on the vaccine front and approve the AstraZeneca vaccine late last year, Britain’s vaccination rates are well ahead of any of those seen across the EU.

Vaccinations

According to the Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker, Ireland’s vaccination rate stood at 1.90 doses per 100 people as at 13th January.

While well short of the likes of the Israel, the U.A.E and even the UK and the U.S, its well ahead of many other EU member states.

To put it into perspective, the EU has a vaccination rat of 1.41 doses per 100 people as at 19th January.

Italy and Spain had rates of 2.01 and 2.08 doses per 100 as at 19th January.

By contrast, however, France had a vaccination rate of just 0.90 doses per 100. The numbers from the Netherlands were even more alarming. As at 19th January, the Netherlands had a vaccination rate of just 0.45 doses per 100 people.

With the broad spread of rates, it is not wholly surprising that some EU member states are looking to jump the gun in securing vaccine supply.

Ireland is certainly not amongst the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time of writing, Ireland had a total of 176,839 total COVID-19 cases and 2,708 related deaths.

While well below the numbers reported from the likes of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, there is some urgency globally to secure more vaccines.

New strains of the coronavirus have proved significantly more virulent and as a result could have a significant impact on economic conditions.

Germany has already announced an extension to its lockdown. Merkel also talked of a possible need to shut down borders in order to protect the country from new strains.

Without an adequate vaccine supply and vaccination drive, the impact of the new strains could be devastating.

COVID-19 numbers from the UK had certainly sent a warning to neighboring countries over the holidays.

Global Numbers

Leading the charge geographically, by vaccination rate, continues to be Israel.

As at 19th January, Israel had a reported vaccination rate of 29.78 doses per 100, up from 25.91 as at 17th January.

The U.A.E continued to trail Israel in 2nd place, with a rate of 19.21 doses per 100.

Sitting behind Bahrain in 3rd was the UK, with a vaccination rate of 7.07 doses per 100. This was up from 6.45 doses per 100 as at 17th January.

Looking at the numbers, A marked increase in vaccination rates is going to be needed to support a speedier economic recovery.

Further extensions to existing lockdown periods could begin to hit the prospects of a 2nd quarter recovery.

While we see economic divergence globally, stemming from marked differences in vaccination rates, the same is likely within the EU.

For the Eurozone economic outlook, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands will need to materially ramp up vaccinations.

It will be interesting to see whether the issue is raised during the ECB press conference tomorrow. How does the ECB see growth when considering the divergence in vaccination rates across member states?

For a full breakdown of vaccination rates by country, please visit Bloomberg Vaccination Tracker page here.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, there were a total of 96,625,755 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,065,698 related deaths.

By geography, the U.S had reported 24,806,964 cases and 411,486 COVID-19 related deaths.

India reporting 10,596,442 cases, with Brazil reporting 8,575,742 cases.

Sitting behind Russia (3,612,800) remained the UK (3,466,849).

France (2,938,333), Italy (2,400,598), Spain (2,370,742), and Germany (2,071,473) reported a combined 9,781,146 cases.

Looking Ahead

The AstraZeneca vaccine remains the key to bringing the pandemic under control near-term. This is largely due to an expected abundance of supply.

When considering the current vaccination rates, however, there is one other factor to consider.

Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc., and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are 2-dose vaccines. This means that another round of vaccines is going to be needed for effective protection against the virus.

When considering current vaccination rates, some of the more adversely affected nations may not be anywhere 50% vaccinated before the 2nd quarter.

This is yet another factor for the markets to consider in terms of any economic recovery.

The availability of a single dose vaccine may not be far off, with Johnson & Johnson set to release data imminently. In all reality, however, supply constraints could limit the availability of a single dose vaccine beyond U.S borders.

Johnson & Johnson Numbers

Johnson & Johnson had previously projected to deliver 12 million doses by the end of February and 100 million doses by the end of June.

According to recent reports, however, Johnson & Johnson may a number of months behind.

That suggests that 1 billion doses by the end of 2021 may also be an ambitious target.

Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and China’s two vaccines will be key near-term. Ultimately, however, it will likely be a single dose vaccine that brings an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Availability across the globe is going to be needed, however, for the pandemic to truly come to an end.

As we have seen in the early days of the COVID-19 vaccines, richer nations have cornered much of the vaccine supply.

This will also need to change for the number of new cases across the globe to begin falling.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – China’s Sinovac Comes under Scrutiny

Sinovac

This week, clinical trials of China’s Sinovac vaccine delivered particularly disappointing results.

In Brazil, late-stage clinical trial results showed that Sinovac had an efficacy rate of 50.4%. Sinovac had announced previously announced an efficacy rate of 78%.

The sizeable difference between the two sets of results has raised questions over China’s data.

While the efficacy rate sits just above the WHO’s 50.0% threshold, there will likely be the need for a more detailed review for the vaccine to be accepted.

A large number of countries are reliant upon the Sinovac vaccine, having failed to make timely orders of the more effective vaccines available at present.

Brazil, is among countries that have placed orders with Sinovac.

With a larger percentage of healthcare workers in the U.S refusing to take the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, governments may face a harder task convincing its populations to take the Sinovac vaccine.

Such differences in results could raise concerns over vaccine safety, in particular.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, there were a total of 92,767,845 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,986,696 related deaths.

By geography, the U.S had reported 23,616,345 cases, with India reporting 10,512,831 cases.

Brazil reported the 3rd highest, with 8,257,459 cases, followed by Russia (3,471,053) and the UK (3,211,576).

France (2,830,442), Italy (2,319,036), Spain (2,176,089), and Germany (1,980,861) reported a combined 9,306,428 cases.

Looking Ahead

As a result of Brazil’s clinical trial results, we can expect Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc., and AstraZeneca to come under pressure to deliver more doses worldwide.

On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson provided some positive news to ease the strain, however.

As clinical trials continue, the firm’s chief scientist provided a positive view of the single dose vaccine.

The company’s chief science officer also announced that the single shot vaccine remains on target for rollout in the 1st quarter. Clinical trial data is due out later this month or in early February.

Johnson & Johnson has set a goal of 1 billion doses of the vaccine to be manufactured this year. There were reports, however, that Johnson & Johnson has experience manufacturing delays that would impact the 2021 target.

With China’s numbers now in question, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine may also begin to draw greater interest.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – Vaccination Rates and the Road Ahead

U.S Vaccination Rates

Sentiment towards the available COVID-19 vaccines has been mixed across the U.S.

Over the weekend there were reports of frontline healthcare workers refusing the vaccine. The numbers refusing are far from small, with some reports indicating that as many as 80% are refusing the vaccine in some centers.

The refusal to receive the vaccine comes as the U.S continues to fight an uphill battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Bloomberg, the U.S has administered 8.02m doses of the vaccine since 14th December. To-date. at least 272,429 recipients have completed the 2-dose regimen.

In all reality, however, the number of vaccinations is low relative to the number of distributed shots.

At the time of writing, Bloomberg reported that 36% of the shots distributed to states have been administered.

Having achieved the target distribution of 20 million doses by the early part of this month, the next goal must be to ramp up the vaccination rate.

At the time of writing, Nevada had the lowest vaccination rate at 23.8%, with Connecticut the highest at 71.8%.

Looking at a number of the more adversely affected states, the number of vaccinations administered are just not enough.

California and Florida had reported vaccination rates of just 31.7% and 44.0%, with New York at 45.9%.

For a full state-by-state breakdown of vaccination rates, please click here.

Concerns over the speed of availability of the vaccine has led to skepticism and an unwillingness to vaccinate in the U.S.

This is in spite of the continued spike in new COVID-19 cases across the U.S.

Global Vaccination Rates

On a global basis, Bloomberg has reported that a total of 25,839,924 vaccines have been administered as at 10th January.

Per 100 people, the U.S has vaccinated 2.44 doses per 100 people.

Elsewhere, the numbers do vary significantly.

Across the EU, number of vaccines administered are particularly disappointing when considering the reintroduction of lockdown measures.

France has reportedly administered just 93,000 doses, which translates to 0.14 per 100 people.

Germany and Spain have done marginally better, with 0.64 and 0.60 vaccine doses administered per 100.

Leading the 4-most adversely affected, however, is Italy, with 1.04 doses administered per 100 people.

Looking at the UK, 2,000,000 doses have been administered, which is equivalent to 2.99 doses per 100 people.

From the weekend, news hit the wires that the UK government plans to open mass vaccination centers in England to ramp up the daily vaccination rate.

This does bode well for Britain and its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking further east, Israel leads the charge, by doses per 100 people, in the fight against the pandemic. As at 10th January, Israel had administered 20.08 doses per 100 people, translating to 1,817,000 doses.

The U.A.E came a distant 2nd, with 10.11 doses per 100 people.

Bahrain was also a front runner, with 6.01 doses administered per 100 people, though the population size is significant smaller.

Figures were not available for Brazil and India that sit behind the U.S as the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Economic Recovery

In terms of nations bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, once vaccination rates exceed infection rates, we can expect economies to begin reopening.

Looking at the global numbers, we continue to expect marked divergence in economic recoveries.

Vaccination rates across some advanced economies remain significantly low, suggesting longer than expected containment measures.

The longer that governments need to maintain containment measures, the greater the economic fallout.

This suggests that EU member states may well lag the U.S, the UK, and parts of the Middle East.

We will need more figures, however, to get a fuller picture. From Asia, China’s low vaccination rate of just 0.64 per 100 people, as at 8th January, has not impeded the economic recovery.

China is an anomaly, however, with the government having managed to curb COVID-19 infection rates.

This is not the same story for the U.S, the UK, the EU, and other parts of the world.

We would therefore need to see a marked increase in vaccination rates across the the U.S and the EU at a minimum to support a sharper global economic recovery.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, there were a total of 90,693,444 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,943,171 related deaths.

By geography, the U.S had reported 22,917,334 cases, with India reporting 10,467,431 cases.

Over the weekend, the U.S hit another record high number of new cases. On Saturday, the U.S had reported 278,920 new cases, which sits well above the national daily vaccination rate.

Brazil reported the 3rd highest, with 8,105,790 cases, followed by Russia (3,401,954) and the UK (3,072,349).

France (2,783,256), Italy (2,276,491), Spain (2,050,360), and Germany (1,929,353) reported a combined 9,039,460 cases.

Looking Ahead

As governments look to ramp up vaccination rates, availability of doses will become a factor.

At present, the UK is one of few nations that has access to AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines.

For the EU, approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine may be pivotal in its fight against the COVID-19 vaccine.

Other parts of the world have begun to accept China’s COVID-19 vaccines, while waiting on delivery AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer Inc., and Moderna Inc.

Some governments were too slow in placing orders, resulting in lengthy lead times.

The number of doses that China’s two vaccine producers will be able to manufacture are low, however.

Sinovac will reportedly be able to produce just 300 million doses per year. Sinopharm, by contrast, is looking to produce more than 1 billion doses this year.

With the Chinese government having pledged to support Africa and LatAm, more is needed, however.

It, therefore, becomes all the more essential that a 1 dose vaccine is made available. This would ease manufacturing capacity pressures and materially increase the number of people protected from the coronavirus.

Johnson & Johnson

As things stand, Johnson & Johnson remains the front runner in delivering a much-needed single dose vaccine.

According to recent reports, the vaccine could be available as early as next month.

Safety, efficacy, and production capacity will be key considerations along with cost. For nations lagging behind in the fight against the pandemic, a single dose vaccine would certainly ease the pain.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – U.S Vaccination Rates Should be of Concern

The Latest

Late last year, the global equity markets found further upside, supported by the rollout of multiple vaccinations.

Unprecedented progress by global pharmas towards COVID-19 vaccines has given governments a choice of 5 vaccines to date.

A 6th vaccine is expected shortly, with Johnson & Johnson expected to be the next pharma to deliver a vaccine.

While the availability of multiple vaccines is certainly a positive, availability of vaccines and vaccination rates remain key to bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, the U.S government published the best and worst vaccination rates across U.S hospitals.

When considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S economy and beyond, low vaccination rates should be of some concern.

While the U.S government has enforced containment measures, there has been no enforcement on vaccinations.

To make matters worse, limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines have added to a slow rate of inoculation across the country.

According to the U.S government, the number of vaccines administered have fallen well short of the 20 million that the Trump administration had projected before the end of 2020.

Supply and demand have both contributed to the lower rate of vaccinations across the country.

All of this ultimately means that the vaccination of phase 1 groups a, b and c will take far longer than initially predicted.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 86,834.916, with the total number of related deaths rising to 1,875,520.

In the U.S, the total number of cases now stands at 21,578,606, with 356,620 related deaths.

The total number of cases in the U.S is double that of India’s 10,375,478, which is the 2nd most affected nation.

Across the 4 most adversely affected EU member states, the total number of cases stood at 8,658,967, with 230,551 related deaths.

The Outlook

An introduction of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to the U.S and a successful end to Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trials would ease supply issues.

This won’t address issues that governments face in terms of demand, however.

For those that don’t fall within priority groups, the bigger question is whether the slow rollout will further delay mass vaccinations.

With many nations now going through the winter months, vaccinations would need to be completed before next winter.

This gives governments as little as 9-months before seasonal changes kick and raise the prospects of another pickup in new cases.

From a market perspective, bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic before the summer would support a strong economic recovery.

A post-summer end, however, could result in a slower pace of recovery or even bring into doubt a recovery.

Looking at the U.S, U.S labor market conditions remain woeful. Failure to take control of Operation Warp Speed would weigh heavily on consumption.

At some point, therefore, we could see a greater influence of vaccination rates and supply on the global financial markets.

Daily vaccination rates and new daily COVID-19 cases will need to be monitored near-term. At a minimum, we will need to see an improving trend between daily vaccinations and new daily cases

No Enforcement at Federal Level

Across the U.S, more than 200,000 new COVID-19 cases are being reported each day. At the current rate of spread, the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered fall short of the number of new daily cases.

Less than 10% of the U.S population have caught the COVID-19 virus to date. The number of new cases would, therefore, likely continue to spike.

Such an eventuality would have a far more material impact on the U.S economy and labor market conditions.

It is, therefore, in the best interest of the U.S government to enforce vaccinations. Particularly in more adversely affected U.S states.

Until now, there has yet to be any talk of enforcement at federal or even state level…

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – The WHO Authorizes the Use of the Pfizer Inc. Vaccine

The Latest

Over the holidays, the World Health Organization approved the emergency use of the Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

Having been the first vaccine to receive approval by the FDA, the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. was also the first to receive WHO emergency validation.

The validation is significant as it now allows countries to accelerate approval processes to begin administering the vaccine.

As a result, UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization can also begin to procure the vaccine for distribution.

The WHO’s review of the vaccine found the vaccine to meet the WHO safety and efficacy standards.

Additionally, the WHO also requested that other vaccine developers come forward for validation.

COVID-19 cases continue to surge globally as countries struggle to contain the spread of the virus.

Adding to the urgency is the new strain from the UK that is considered more virulent.

While the validation is good news, the Comirnaty vaccine raises logistical and pricing issues. For many countries, the AstraZeneca vaccine will likely be a more viable option. More importantly, AstraZeneca has also engaged vaccine producers across the world to meet global demand.

The World Health Organization’s approval for emergency use of the AstraZeneca vaccine will therefore be a key step in combatting the virus.

Following the UK’s approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, India reportedly approved the vaccine on Friday. Argentina has also approved the emergency use of the vaccine.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 84,349,523.

In the U.S, the total number of cases has risen to 20,614,554, with the total number of related deaths rising to 356,401.

Behind the U.S, India has seen the total number of cases rise to 10,303,409, with Brazil reporting 7,700,578 cases in total.

For France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the total number of cases stood at 8,461,804, with 224,611 related deaths.

Across the United Kingdom, the total number of cases stood at 2,542,065, with 74,125 related deaths.

Governments expect the numbers to rise following the holidays, however.

What’s next?

Other countries are expected to complete COVID-19 vaccine review processes in the coming weeks.

With France, Germany, Italy, and Spain reporting a combined 8,461,804 total number of cases, more than Brazil, the EMA approvals are key.

Following the EMA’s approval of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine last week, news hit the wires late in the week that the EMA needs more data from AstraZeneca.

In terms of production capacity, price, and logistics, there will certainly be pressure on EMA approval.

From Russia, Sputnik V is also in high demand, with Russia’s vaccine reportedly approved by Argentina. Russia is already delivering the vaccine to countries including Algeria, Bolivia, Guinea, and Serbia.

India and Brazil, however, are reportedly delaying the use of Sputnik V until the completion of more trials.

Concerns over the safety of the Sputnik V vaccine, however, has meant that the West remains reluctant to consider the vaccine.

China’s vaccine has also received a cold reception. Late last week China’s health authorities approved the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for general use. While the West has yet to show interest in the Sinopharm vaccine, the nations within the Middle East have begun to use the Sinopharm vaccine.

In spite of skepticism, successful clinical trials of both China’s and Russia’s vaccines would give governments an ever-widening number of vaccines to choose from.

The good news is that Johnson & Johnson should also be delivering clinical trial data this month.  A 4th vaccine from the West, coupled with China and Russia’s vaccines, would deliver an even wide choice.

Johnson & Johnson currently remains the front runner to deliver the first single-dose vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – Production now in Focus after the AstraZeneca Approval

The Latest

There has been plenty of vaccine news over the holidays as efforts continue to deliver more effective COVID-19 vaccines.

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford vaccine received approval in the UK this week, which was key in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHRA approved the 2-dose vaccine that will require a 2nd dose to be administered 4-12 weeks after the first dose.

It wasn’t long ago that AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford hit the news wires for all the wrong reasons.

With dosages now cleared up and the ability to store the AstraZeneca vaccine at fridge temperatures, mass vaccination is far simpler across the UK and beyond.

More importantly for the UK, there is also greater control on production and distribution, with the vaccine produced in the UK.

In addition to the Pfizer Inc. and Monero Inc. vaccines, the UK expects to receive an estimated 530,000 doses next week.

In the UK, a total of 616,933 people received the vaccine between 8th and 20th December. The government has ordered 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine and 100 million AstraZeneca doses.

Other vaccines that are also available including Russia’s Sputnik V, which is being considered across other geographies.

What’s next?

While AstraZeneca has received UK approval, receiving FDA and EMA approval from the U.S and the EU will be key.

Before the availability of the vaccine, AstraZeneca had promised not to make a profit from the vaccine. With low storage and transportation costs, each dose is estimated to be £3-£4. This is significantly lower than Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines.

For this very reason, the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine makes up the lion’s share of the doses that COVAX has secured.

Production numbers and approvals will now be the next area of focus for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Poorer nations will be reliant upon the AstraZeneca vaccine to end the spread of the virus.

For Johnson & Johnson, a one-dose vaccine could be in circulation by February, according to reports. As clinical trials continue, it will come down to the numbers and safety. The head of Operation Warp Speed delivered the optimistic view, while also stating that the AstraZeneca vaccine could receive FDA approval by April.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 83,060,556. The total number of U.S cases has risen to 20,216,991, with the total number of related deaths rising to 350,778.

Behind the U.S, India saw the total number of cases rise to 10,267,283, with Brazil reporting 7,619,970 cases in total.

For France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the total number of cases stood at 8,316,294, with 221,846 related deaths.

Across the United Kingdom, the total number of cases stood at 2,432,888, with 72,548 related deaths.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – AstraZeneca/Oxford Uni Vaccine Approval Imminent

The Latest

Over the weekend, news hit the wires that the UK will begin to roll out the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine from Monday. With access to both the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccines, the UK government intends to vaccinate 2 million people within the next 2-weeks.

The news, published by the Telegraph, also stated that India also plans to approve the vaccine by next week.

In the UK, a total of 616,933 people reportedly received the vaccine between 8th and 20th December. The government has ordered 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine and 100 million AstraZeneca doses.

The news hit the wires following the Malaysian government’s increased order. Last week the Malaysian government announced that it placed a 6.4m dose order with AstraZeneca. In addition, the Malaysian government was also negotiating with both China and Russia to obtain further doses.

Malaysia is currently battling a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The identification of more virulent strains of the virus has led to governments ramping up vaccination orders.

Combined with a 12.8m dose order from BioNTech/Pfizer Inc., the government has secured enough doses to vaccinate 40% of the Malaysian population.

The Malaysian government expects to have sufficient doses to vaccinate 83% of the population once vaccine orders have been placed with China and Russia.

What’s next?

As governments ramp up vaccine doses, expectations are for economies to begin reopening once the “most-at-risk” have been vaccinated.

Across the EU, the UK, and the U.S this could happen before the end of January. Timelines remain key to forecasting any economic recovery.

The markets will be anticipating combined fiscal and monetary policy measures to kick start economic recoveries.

Some nations will lag the developed nations, however. Poorer nations will have less access to COVID-19 vaccines, while other nations were late in placing orders.

We can therefore expect some economic divergence that will not only impact the bourses but also the respective currencies.

The game-changer, from a vaccine perspective, remains a single-dose vaccine. To date, Johnson & Johnson is out in front in the running to deliver a single-dose vaccine. Clinical trial results are expected to be available by the end of January. If the vaccine proves to be effective and safe, Johnson & Johnson would then submit a EUA to the FDA in February. Submissions to other health regulators would be made in parallel, according to the Johnson & Johnson website.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 80,728,962. The total number of U.S cases has risen to 19,433,847, with the total number of related deaths rising to 339,921.

Behind the U.S, India saw the total number of cases rise to 10,188,392, with Brazil reporting 7,465,806 cases in total.

For France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the total number of cases stood at 8,102,402, with 214,174 related deaths.

Across the United Kingdom, the total number of cases stood at 2,256,005, with 70,405 related deaths.

COVID-19 Vaccine Review – Pre-Orders, Approvals, and Prioritizations

With a number of nations in the process of delivering vaccines to high priority recipients, the focus is now shifting to the timelines.

Key considerations for governments as well as the global financial markets include:

  • Preorders: Vaccine costs means that some governments are unable to order enough vaccine doses until cheaper options are available. This means that only a small percentage of some populations will receive vaccines, leaving the remainder exposed.
  • Vaccine availability: This not only includes dose production capacities but allocation by country.
  • Vaccine approval: While a number of nations have approved COVID-19 vaccines, the large majority have yet to do so.
  • Prioritization: As has been the case in the UK and the U.S, government agencies will need to prioritize vaccine recipients. There need to be enough doses to vaccinate the most vulnerable. Any shortfall will raise doubts over whether the pandemic can be brought under control.

Pre-orders

A number of countries were swift in pre-ordering COVID-19 vaccines from pharmas. Governments had placed orders well in advance of any clinical trial results.

In viewing pre-order numbers, richer nations pre-ordered from multiple pharmas. Governments also ordered in excess of total populations in some cases. The excess orders were likely made to ensure sufficient doses, with the availability of vaccines likely to be staggered.

BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. was the first to receive emergency approval, with Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca next in line.

Looking at pre-orders across the most adversely affected nations, the numbers are quite telling:

  • The U.S: 700 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 100 million.
    • Moderna Inc.: 100 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 500 million.
  • The EU: 700 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 300 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 400 million.
  • India: 500 million doses.
    • AstraZeneca: 500 million doses.
  • Japan: 290 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 120 million.
    • Moderna Inc.: 50 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 120 million.
  • The UK: 145 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 40 million.
    • Moderna Inc.: 5 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 100 million.
  • Brazil: 100 million doses.
    • AstraZeneca: 100 million.
  • Indonesia: 100 million doses.
    • AstraZeneca: 100 million.
  • China: 100 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 100 million.
  • Canada: 96 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 20 million.
    • Moderna Inc.: 56 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 20 million.
  • Australia: 43.8 million doses.
    • Pfizer Inc.: 10 million.
    • AstraZeneca: 33.8 million.

While the number of pre-orders is on the higher side, it is worth noting, however, that more than 1 dose is required for effective inoculation.

This means that, for the U.S, there are sufficient doses to vaccinate the entire population. This is not the case for many of the above countries, however.

Vaccine and Population Coverage

Assuming that each nation eventually receives all pre-ordered vaccines from the three leading pharmas, vaccine coverage is as follows:

Canada: 127.7% coverage.

Japan: 114.6% coverage.

The UK: 108.7% coverage.

The U.S: 106.6% coverage.

All other governments have pre-ordered vaccine doses that fall short of total population numbers.

Australia (87.6%) and the EU (78.2%) currently fall short but will likely be in a position to bridge the gap as more vaccines become available.

Other nations, however, will likely be in for a long wait. For poorer nations, a cost-effective, single-dose vaccine is needed. As importantly, will be storage requirements for the vaccines. Poorer nations, for instance, may not be able to store and distribute the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine.

Amongst the most adversely affected COVID-19 nations, two nations stand out in terms of population coverage.

These are Brazil, which has pre-ordered doses to vaccinate 23.9% of the population, and India. The Indian government has pre-ordered enough doses to vaccinate just 18.5% of the population.

From the numbers alone, a clear divide exists across the globe and, more importantly, suggests that the pandemic will remain for some time to come.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

Mindful of the above vaccine to population coverage figures, it is worth noting the latest COVID-19 cases.

At the time of writing, the total number of COVID-19 cases stood at 74,526,806, of which 52,363,010 have recovered. Total COVID-19 related deaths currently stand at 1,655,044.

By Country:

  • The United States: 17,392,618 has reported cases, which accounts for almost a quarter of all cases worldwide. Total deaths stand at 314,577, accounting for almost one-fifth of total deaths. Total population: 331.0m.
  • India: 9,951,072 reported cases, with 144,487 related deaths. Total population: 1,380.0m.
  • Indonesia: 636,154 reported cases, with 19,248 related deaths. Total population: 273.5m.
  • Brazil: 7,042,695 reported cases, with 183,822 related deaths. Total population: 212.6m.
  • Japan: 184,042 reported cases, with 2,688 related deaths. Total population: 126.5m.
  • The UK: 1,913,277 reported cases, with 65,520 related deaths. Total population: 67.9m.
  • Canada: 481,630 reported cases, with 13,799 related deaths. Total population: 37.7m.
  • Australia: 28,081 reported cases, with 908 related deaths. Total population: 25.5m.

While easier to consider for the above nations, vaccine allocation across the EU is a more complicated matter.

Some nations are more adversely impacted than others, these being France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It is therefore more likely that these nations would receive a greater allocation than the likes of Estonia, which has only reported 19,271 cases.

For France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the total number of reported cases stands at 7,487,259, with 198,935 related deaths. Combined population: 256.3m.

Other Adversely Affected Nations

  • Russia: 2,734,454 reported cases, with 48,564 related deaths. Total population: 145.9m. Unlike most other nations, however, Russia has developed its own Sputnik V vaccine. Vaccinations have commenced countrywide and Sputnik V is likely to be made available to other nations. Countries such as India are reportedly considering sizeable orders.
  • Turkey: 1,928,165 reported cases, with 17,121 related deaths. Total population: 84.3m.
  • Argentina: 1,517,046 reported cases, with 41,365 related deaths. Total population: 45.2m.
  • China: 86,777 reported cases, with 4,634 related deaths. Total population: 1,439.3m.

When considering the total number of reported cases and deaths and effective containment measures, there is a reason for some nations to hold back from 100% population coverage.

Australia, amongst a number of other nations, were effective in preventing a far higher number of cases. Vaccinations in major cities, as opposed to rural areas, would likely deliver adequate protection against the virus.

For countries, such as Brazil and India, however, the COVID-19 numbers suggest that far greater coverage is needed.

A lack of vaccine coverage should therefore be a concern until cheaper alternatives are available.

Other Pharmas / Vaccines

A number of other pharmas are in the midst of clinical trials, with vaccines likely to be available early next year.

These include Johnson & Johnson, which has been playing catch up in the last few months. From Russia and China, there are also two vaccines that are drawing international interest:

Sputnik V: The Gamaleya Research Centre, which has developed the Sputnik V vaccine has announced up to 2-years of immunity against COVID-19. This is far greater than those of BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and Modena Inc. that are likely to offer up to five months of immunization. Additionally, the vaccine has a reported efficacy rate of 91.4%.

While countries such as the U.S may refrain from ordering Russia’s Sputnik V, Brazil, India, and other adversely affected countries will likely benefit.

Sinopharm: China produced, there are reports that as many as 1 billion doses of China’s vaccine will be available next year. China is not solely reliant upon domestic vaccines and has pre-ordered the WHO-backed COVAX and 100 million Pfizer Inc. doses. The UAE is currently administering the Sinopharm vaccine.

Vaccine Approvals

The next step in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic is for government agencies to approve vaccines.

To date, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UK, and the U.S have approved the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine. As previously mentioned, other vaccines are already being administered, though more approvals are needed.

Later today, the FDA is also set to review the Moderna Inc. EUA, with emergency approval anticipated following the review findings earlier in the week.

The EU has also had to bring forward its review timelines, with the EMA set to review the Pfizer Inc. vaccine on 21st December. This had been originally diarized for mid-January.

In the UK, AstraZeneca is also expecting emergency approval. As was the case with the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, other nations will likely follow. An MHRA emergency approval could be given this week or next.

For India, completion of the Sputnik V clinical trials will then allow the review process to begin.

Vaccine Prioritization

As pharmas begin to deliver vaccines across the world, government agencies have had to prioritize vaccine recipients.

The general trend has been to prioritize the most vulnerable. These include front line workers, such as 1st respondents and care home facility workers, and elderly patients.

A number of key agencies have announced the following priorities:

UK: The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (“JCVI”): The UK’s “JCVI” announced that the first priorities should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems.

U.S: The CDC’s phase sequence leaves adults with high-risk medical conditions and the over 65s in phase 1c.

In phase 1a are healthcare personnel and LTCF residents, with phase 1b including essential workers.

The EU: The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control provided guidance on prioritization earlier this month. As was the case with the U.S and the UK, healthcare workers, the elderly, and persons with certain comorbidities form the priority groups. Due to likely shortage, however, groups will likely become smaller.

Supply Chain and Production Targets

As more nations approve the COVID-19 vaccines, the pressure will mount on pharmas to produce more doses to meet demand.

Beyond AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, more vaccine options are going to be needed to bring an end to the pandemic.

Key through the remainder of this year and the 1st quarter of next year, however, will be the vaccination of high priority groups.

Success in vaccinating the most at risk in a timely manner will then bring forward the timelines to vaccinate general populations.

We can expect further priorities to be issued, which will likely be dependent upon the vaccination process in the coming months.

Countries may have pre-ordered sufficient doses for total population coverage. These counties will need to receive these orders, however, to bring the virus under control.

Assuming that there are no adverse effects from vaccines becoming available, the focus will remain on production, distribution, and new vaccines to market.

Once mass inoculation is in process, an end to the pandemic will be in sight.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – FDA and the Moderna Inc. Vaccine Review Next Up

The Latest

With the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine rolling out across the U.S, Moderna Inc. was also in focus in the early part of the week.

The FDA reported that reviewers found Moderna Inc.’s vaccine to be safe and effective ahead of the FDA decision on the EUA submission.

On Tuesday, the FDA affirmed Moderna Inc.’s high efficacy rate, declaring the vaccine to be 94.1% effective.

The Moderna Inc. approval process is a material one, with Moderna Inc. continuing to estimate the production of 20 million doses over the remainder of the year. When considering the fact that only 2-weeks remain before the end of the year, 20 million doses is a high number.

More impressively, Moderna Inc. is also aiming to 1 billion doses annually, with the support of Italian healthcare solutions provider Lonza.

On Thursday, the FDA is scheduled to meet in order to decide on whether to approve Moderna Inc.’s EUA.

In contrast to the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine, however, the Moderna Inc. vaccine has yet to be approved elsewhere. The U.S will, therefore, be the first to administer the Moderna Inc. vaccine.

From the UK, news of allergic reactions to the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. allowed the FDA to advise hospitals and healthcare centers to prepare for any adverse allergic reactions.

With the Moderna Inc. vaccine also an mRNA vaccine, the previous advice could also be issued.

What’s next?

For the U.S, assuming that the FDA approves Moderna Inc.’s vaccine, another large scale vaccination project will get underway.

The combined doses of BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s vaccines will come much closer to the CDC’s phase 1a priority group.

This would then allow the vaccination of phase 1b and 1c groups before the end of the winter.

Other nations that had pre-ordered the Moderna Inc. vaccine included Japan (50 million), the UK (5 million), and Canada (56 million). Canada is reportedly expecting to receive 168,000 doses of the vaccine before the end of the year.

For the EU, however, the EMA was not scheduled to review the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. until mid-January.  Pressure has reportedly risen on an EU vaccine approval, however, as member states reintroduce lockdown measures. This week, news has hit the wires that the EMA plans to review the vaccines by 23rd December. Approval would mean that high priority groups could begin receiving vaccinations before the end of the year.

According to the EMA website, the CHMP is now due to hold an exceptional meeting on 21st December.

Once the CHMP recommends marketing authorization of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine, the EU Commission will then fast track its decision-making process in order to grant marketing authorization in all EU and EEA Member States within days

Vaccine doses are in short supply, however, so mass vaccinations are not to be expected until late into the 1st quarter, at the earliest.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 73,803,320. The total number of U.S cases has risen to 17,143,779 with the total number of related deaths rising to 311,068.

Things are not much better in other parts of the world, as new cases continue to spike.

This continued rise in new cases has led to a reintroduction of lockdown and containment measures.

For this very reason, the EMA has revised its vaccine review timetables to be more aligned with other developed economies

Other Pharmas

With the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine now in circulation and Moderna Inc.’s vaccine imminent, there will be a need for more, however.

To ease production capacity pressures, a single dosage vaccine remains out of reach at present. Pricing pressures also mean that many governments will not be able to vaccinate entire populations.

Therefore, the race for a cost-effective, single-dose vaccine will continue.

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are also hoping for their vaccine to receive approval British before the end of the year.

According to news reports, the UK drug regulator, the MHRA, is due to approve the vaccine. There is some uncertainty, however, on whether the MHRA will approve the 1-and-a-half dose or 2 dose vaccine. Efficacy rates were 92% and 62% respectively.

The Global Financial Markets

On Tuesday, Moderna Inc.’s share price slid by 5% on the day. The slide came in spite of the FDA’s likely imminent approval.

This week, AstraZeneca’s share price also hit reverse on news of plans to purchase Alexion for $39bn…

While Pfizer Inc. also saw its share price fall on Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson’s stock price rose by 1.01%.

Having lagged the front runners, Johnson & Johnson is now the main contender to deliver a 3rd vaccine to the U.S.

Both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines will need approvals, however, to have any viable chance of bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the major indexes, the continued progress towards multiple vaccines has allowed the markets to look beyond the latest COVID-19 numbers for now.

Key in the coming weeks will be the timelines for approvals, however, and production estimates.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – Pfizer Inc. Approval Imminent Amidst a Virus Surge

The Latest

On Thursday, U.S FDA advisors had voted 17-4 in favor of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. mRNA vaccine. The vaccine vote was for the FDA approval to be inclusive of 16 and 17-year-olds. Some FDA advisors were reportedly uncomfortable including the lower age bracket, however, which resulted in 4 votes against.

Over the course of the week, a continued rise in new COVID-19 cases and 3,000 related deaths each day mounted pressure on the FDA for rapid approval.

The markets had anticipated an FDA approval in a matter of days.

On Friday, however, the FDA notified BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. that it plans to authorize the use of the mRNA vaccine in the U.S.

There were reports, following the panel vote on Thursday that White House pressure was needed to force a swift FDA response to the panel vote.

Trump was back on Twitter on Friday, this time targeting the FDA.

It was another big week on the vaccine front. With an FDA green light now imminent and the UK already in vaccination mode, Canada’s health regulator also approved the Pfizer Inc. vaccine in the week.

Canada joined Bahrain, Britain, and Saudi Arabia as the first nations to approve the vaccine, with the U.S likely to be next to join a rapidly growing list.

What’s next?

For the U.S, the federal government’s vaccine distribution program will begin within 24-hours of approval. Known as Operation Warp Speed, the government will liaise with Pfizer Inc. to deliver the vaccine to the most vulnerable by the early part of next week.

As the FDA readies to formally approve the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. EUA, the FDA is also due to review the Moderna Inc. vaccine next week.

There will be mounting pressure for more rapid review times as other pharmas begin to complete clinical trials.

With around 21 million healthcare personal and approximately 3 million long-term care facility residents (“LTCF”), Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. will not have sufficient doses produced to vaccinate phase 1a recipients this year.

Following BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.’s supply chain issues, the U.S is now reportedly due to receive just 6.4 million doses this month. That falls well short of the 24 million phase 1a recipients prioritized by the CDC, let alone the 330 million U.S population.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 71,414,262. The total number of U.S cases has risen to 16,290,412, with the total number of related deaths rising to 302,727.

Things are not much better in other parts of the world, with new cases continue to spike in the winter months.

This continued rise in new cases will place additional pressure on other nations to catch up with Britain and the few others that have already approved the vaccine.

For the EU, the EMA is not due to review the vaccine for another month…

Other Pharmas

With the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine now being delivered and orders mounting, Moderna Inc. is next.

Last week, news of Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine showing inadequate immune response in clinical trials was a blow.

This comes off the back of issues raised over AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s clinical trial parameters. With AstraZeneca having kicked off a global clinical trial just weeks, hopes are that a 3rd vaccine could be approved in early January.

With the pressure to deliver an effective vaccine building, news hit the wires on Friday of AstraZeneca joining Russian scientists in a bid to improve efficacy rates. British and Russian scientists are reportedly planning to see whether combining the respective shots would deliver better results.

Clinical trials are due to start at the end of the year. AstraZeneca will also be combining its vaccine with the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. vaccine, with clinical trials set to start in January.

Based on the latest news, Johnson & Johnson is also aiming to deliver a vaccine in early 2021.

Expectations are that inoculations beyond high priority recipients would begin towards the end of the 1st quarter. This would be aligned with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca’s conclusion of clinical trials and regulatory approvals.

The Global Financial Markets

While country approvals of BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine are positive, too few countries have approved the vaccine to-date.

Production capacity issues also mean that countries will not receive enough doses to vaccinate entire populations.

This leaves countries and economies at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic for longer than would be liked.

Once there are 3 to 4 effective vaccines available in the market place, however, conditions should improve.

An end to the winter flu season coinciding with widely available COVID-19 vaccines would allow governments to begin to fully reopen economies.

We should then see a more meaningful economic recovery, supported by both fiscal and monetary policy measures.

Some nations will lag, however. Delays in ordering vaccinations and the high price of the BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. vaccines means that some nations will have to wait.

These economies will suffer for longer before any recovery can begin in earnest.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – It’s All Eyes on the FDA and BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.

The Latest

It’s a big day on the COVID-19 vaccine front, with the FDA scheduled to review BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.’s mRNA vaccine later today.

Lagging behind the UK approval that came last week, there will be plenty of pressure on the FDA to give the approval.

COVID-19 cases across the U.S continues to rise as U.S states make their way through the winter months.

Approval would mean that BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. will be able to begin distributing vaccines as early as the weekend.

Unfortunately, supply chain issues have meant that vaccine production for the year will be as much as 50% lower than initially forecasted.

This means that the continued rise in new COVID-19 cases across the U.S is unlikely to abate anytime soon.

What’s next?

Assuming that the FDA approves BioNTech/Pfizer Inc.’s EUA, the U.S government is due to receive 25 million doses by the end of the year.

That just covers 12.5 million of more than 330 million people living in the U.S.

When considering the CDC’s high priority vaccine recipients, the number of vaccines is not enough to cover the first priority group.

This will leave doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and EMT and hospital staff at risk, not to mention the most vulnerable.

With prioritization ultimately sitting at the state level rather than the Federal level this will leave the most adversely affected states vulnerable to further spikes.

Based on the sheer numbers, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca will need to also be in a position to ease demand pressures.

The CDC’s phase sequence leaves adults with high-risk medical conditions and the over 65s in phase 1c.

In phase 1a are healthcare personnel and LTCF residents, with phase 1b including essential workers.

To put it into perspective, the CDC also provided estimate numbers of vaccine recipients within the phase 1a category:

  • Healthcare personnel – Approx. 21million.
  • Long-term Care Facility Residents (LTCF) – Approx. 3 million.

A total of 25 million BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. doses are not enough to cover healthcare personnel, let alone LTCF and phase 1b and phase 1c recipients.

With Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca also delivering vaccines, the reality is that a single dose vaccine is needed.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 69,381,422. Conditions in the U.S and parts of Europe have continued to deteriorate. The total number of U.S cases has risen to 15,824,444.

India and Brazil have reported a total of 9,767,371 and 6,673,118 cases respectively, sitting behind the U.S as the worst affected.

France (2,324,216), Italy (1,770,149), Spain (1,725,473), and Germany (1,245,729) are also in desperate need of a vaccine. For the EU, however, vaccine reviews are not due until next month.

Other Pharmas

While BioNTech/Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. are leading the race, there is a desperate need for more vaccines.

In reality, there is not only the need for more vaccines but single-dose vaccines.

This week, Johnson & Johnson announced that results from clinical trials will be released earlier than previously expected.

More good news is going to be needed for there to be a credible threat to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trust issues mean that vaccines from countries such as China and Russia would unlikely be considered for review.

This leaves the door ajar for the rest of the major pharmas to deliver. These include but are not limited to the following:

U.S Headquartered

Mateon Therapeutics: Listed on OTCMKTS (“MATN”) and headquartered in California.

Merck & Co.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“MRK”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Moderna Inc.: Listed on the NASDAQ (“MRNA”) and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Pfizer Inc.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“PFE”) and headquartered in New York City. (Pfizer Inc. has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech SE)

Sorrento Therapeutics: Listed on the NASDAQ (“SRNE”) and headquartered in California. Currently trailing many of the front runners in the race for an effective vaccine.

Talem Therapeutics: This is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ImmunoPrecise Antibodies USA. Its parent company, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals: Listed on the NASDAQ (“TNXP”) and headquartered in New Jersey.

Europe Headquartered

AstraZeneca: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“AZN”) and headquartered in Cambridge, England and Sodertalje, Sweden.

GlaxoSmithKline: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“GSK”) and headquartered in Brentford, England.

Grifols, S.A: Listed on the Bolsa de Madrid (“GRF”) and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

Asia Headquartered:

GC Pharma: Listed on the Korea Stock Exchange (“006280”) and headquartered in Yongin, South Korea.

The Global Financial Markets

Progress by the leading pharmas continues to support riskier assets. Hopes of other pharmas completing successful trials have also provided support.

Clinical trial results, however, will need to deliver impressive numbers for a global end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Failure for other pharmas to begin rolling out vaccines will test support for riskier assets.

The sheer numbers needing vaccines on the front line mean that other high priority recipients remain exposed. Therefore, a credible threat remains to the likes of the EU and beyond that have fallen behind Britain, and possibly the U.S, on approving effective vaccines for circulation.

Pfizer Begins UK Rollout; Markets Reverse Midday, Hit Record Highs

After opening the day in the red, markets reversed midday and hit fresh record highs as the UK began its vaccine rollout with doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s offering.

News Recap

  • The Dow Jones gained 104.09 points, or 0.4%, to close at 30,173.88 and hit an intraday record of 30,246.22. The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,702.25 and closed over 3,700 for the first time ever. The Nasdaq also closed at a record and climbed 0.5% to 12,582.77. The Russell once again outperformed all the indices and closed 1.40% higher.
  • Pfizer began to roll out its COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K. and boosted optimism of an economic reopening in 2021. The U.K. ordered enough vaccines for 20 million of its residents to start getting.
  • The U.S. FDA said Pfizer’s vaccine provides some protection after the first dose, also adding that it found no safety concerns. It could be approved by the weekend.
  • Pfizer (PFE) shares rose 3.3% on this news and reached their highest level in about two years. BioNTech (BNTX), which partnered with Pfizer on the vaccine, also rose 1.8%.
  • Investors sharply monitored stimulus negotiations on Tuesday as well. At this point, legal immunity for businesses and aid for state and local governments are holding up the deal. However, Democrats and Republicans apparently have found consensus in some areas such as PPP loans.
  • Republican and Democrat leaders said Monday that Congress is trying to extend government funding for an additional week to try and strike a deal on the new stimulus before the end of the year.
  • More than 14.8 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S.’s seven-day-average daily infection rate is also at an all-time high.
  • Several states and cities have reimposed stricter measures as a result of the spike in cases. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that New York City could lose indoor dining next week among other more severe restrictions if hospitals become overwhelmed.
  • Dow Inc. (DOW), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and 3M (MMM) were among the Dow leaders, rising more than 1% each. Energy led the S&P 500 higher, popping more than 1.5%.

In the short-term, there will be optimistic days where investors rotate into cyclicals and value stocks, and pessimistic days where there will be a broad sell-off or rotation into “stay-at-home” names. During other days like Tuesday’s session, there will be a broad rally due to optimistic catalysts.

In the mid-term and long-term, there is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel. Once this pandemic is finally brought under control and vaccines are mass deployed, volatility will likely stabilize, while optimism and relief will permeate the markets. In fact, CNBC personality Jim Cramer said that beating COVID-19 would feel like “the end of prohibition.” Stocks especially dependent on a rapid recovery and reopening such as small-caps should thrive.

Markets will continue to wrestle with the negative reality on the ground and optimism for a future economic reopening. More positive vaccine news seemingly trickles in by the day despite discouraging COVID-19 news, economic news, and political news. While short-term downside pressure could certainly persist based on days where bad news outweighs good news, due to this “tug of war” between sentiments, any subsequent move downwards would likely be modest in comparison to the gains since the bottom in March and since the U.S. election at the start of November. It is truly hard to say with conviction that another crash or bear market will come. If anything, the mixed sentiment could keep markets trading relatively sideways.

Therefore, to sum it up:

While there is long-term optimism, there is short-term pessimism. A short-term correction is very possible. But it is hard to say with conviction that a big correction will happen.

The analysis of this morning will showcase a “Drivers and Divers” section that will break down some sectors that are in and out of favor. Dear readers, do me a favor and let me know what you think of this segment! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

Driving

Materials (XLB)

The materials sector, as represented by the XLB ETF , has been one of the largest beneficiaries of the vaccine rally. Investors have been so bullish on materials and any resulting vaccine prospect, that the XLB ETF briefly touched its 2020 high in November. However, since then, it has traded relatively sideways. Some things in this chart are concerning for me.

Cyclical sectors such as materials are set to be the biggest winners from an economic reopening in 2021. However, ever since peaking at $72.41 a share, the ETF’s volume has plummeted and has stayed very low. There are simply not enough strong fundamentals to justify calling this a BUY. I question the formidability of a short-term rally in materials. If anything, the sector could pull back somewhat, or stay in a sideways pattern. For the materials ETF to come back, exceed its 52-week high, and pierce that $72 resistance level, a COVID-19 vaccine must be proven to be safe and especially scalable. The 2021 economic outlook must also be positive. If this happens and a near-term economic slowdown can be somewhat averted, then materials could benefit.

But for the time being, there is too much uncertainty to make a conviction call. Therefore, this is a HOLD for the short-term. However, I am considerably more bullish on materials in the long-term.

Diving

US Dollar ($USD)

The world’s reserve currency, the US dollar, is still hovering around its two-year low, and has plunged in excess of 12% since March. Since the election alone, the dollar index has also declined approximately 4%. I have been calling this dollar weakness for weeks despite the low level and expect the decline to continue.

Further illustrating the dollar’s decline has been its performance relative to emerging markets. Just compare the performance of the iShares MSCI Emerging Market ETF (EEM) relative to the Invesco DB USD IDX Bullish ETF (UUP) since January.

Many believe that the dollar could fall further as well due to a multitude of headwinds.

If the world returns to relative normalcy within the next year, investors may be more “risk-on” and less “risk-off.” Which means that the dollar’s value will decline further.

Additionally, because of all of the economic stimulus combined with record low-interest rates, the dollar’s value has declined and could have more room to fall. Do not forget that the Fed plans on holding interest rates this low for at least another two years. For the dollar’s value, rates remaining this low for two years is an eternity.

As the world’s reserve currency, this plunge in value is concerning both in the short-term and mid-term for the US economy. A declining dollar means the strengthening of other foreign currencies- and this has already been happening. Since Nov. 2, the New Zealand dollar has surged 7%, the Australian dollar has climbed 5.5%, the Korean won has advanced 4%, and the Chinese yuan has risen 2.5% – and this may not be the end either.

The plunge of the dollar has been so severe that it is currently trading below both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Furthermore, its 200-day moving average is considerably higher than its 50-day, further illustrating the sharp decline.

While the dollar may have more room to fall, according to its RSI, it is comfortably in oversold territory. This MAY be a good opportunity to buy the world’s reserve currency at a discount. But I just have too many doubts on the effect of interest rates this low, government stimulus, strengthening of emerging markets, and inflation to be remotely bullish on the dollar’s prospects over the next 1-3 years.

For now, where possible, HEDGE OR SELL USD exposure.

Thank you for reading today’s free analysis. I encourage you to sign up for our daily newsletter – it’s absolutely free and if you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe with just 2 clicks. If you sign up today, you’ll also get 7 days of free access to the premium daily Stock Trading Alerts as well as our other Alerts. Sign up for the free newsletter today!

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

Thank you.

Matthew Levy, CFA
Stock Trading Strategist
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care

* * * * *

All essays, research, and information found above represent analyses and opinions of Matthew Levy, CFA and Sunshine Profits’ associates only. As such, it may prove wrong and be subject to change without notice. Opinions and analyses were based on data available to authors of respective essays at the time of writing. Although the information provided above is based on careful research and sources that are believed to be accurate, Matthew Levy, CFA, and his associates do not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the data or information reported. The opinions published above are neither an offer nor a recommendation to purchase or sell any securities. Mr. Levy is not a Registered Securities Advisor. By reading Matthew Levy, CFA’s reports you fully agree that he will not be held responsible or liable for any decisions you make regarding any information provided in these reports. Investing, trading, and speculation in any financial markets may involve high risk of loss. Matthew Levy, CFA, Sunshine Profits’ employees, and affiliates as well as members of their families may have a short or long position in any securities, including those mentioned in any of the reports or essays, and may make additional purchases and/or sales of those securities without notice.

 

Is Gold Bullish Again?

Gold was a safety hedge in an uncertain world. There is no surprise we saw a massive sell-off with Covid vaccines being announced. Both vaccines are still waiting on final FDA approval. The real game-changer however could be Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine which only requires one shot and no special refrigeration outside that already widely required for current vaccines. Johnson & Johnson are expected to have interim data on its vaccine sometime in January which could mean emergency use authorization as soon as February.

So overall the vaccine news is still very promising. However, the damage to the economy is already done and it will take years to recover after COVID. Despite massive stimulus key economic data is very weak.

Middle-term setup

Gold was unable to rally even with a weak dollar. It seems last week metal finally rebuilt its correlation with the greenback. MA200 turned out to be a buyers zone. But is it a jerk reaction or gold is trying to start a new wave to the upside?

Formation of higher low or kind of base formation is needed to have confidence in buying gold. However, we already can identify a bullish setup:

  • Cycles point we are close to the bottom and new rally.
  • The seasonal indicator is turning to the upside.
  • The valuation model shows gold is undervalued.

Technical analysis

With that in mind let’s have a look at the technical picture. Gold used to follow flagging formations. We had three similar patterns on the weekly chart during the last two years and it played very well. There are early signs gold is getting ready for the next wave up with another flagging formation.

The metal reached the Fibo retrace zone that is also near MA200 along with the 2012 bounce highs as support. Technically till gold holds above this zone, there are chances to test 2400 and 3000 in extension given enough time. This is not something that will happen in a few weeks – this trend will likely take place over months, and even years. Breaking below mentioned range is a trend change.

Will Gold rally if the Dollar goes up?

Let’s not forget the huge government debt and potential asset bubble. Gold and Dollar are both means of safe haven. Definitely, under certain circumstances (like mentioned above) they can move in one direction.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – AstraZeneca Leaves the Door Ajar for Other Pharmas

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford

At the start of the week, yet more good news greeted the markets on the COVID-19 vaccine front.

AstraZeneca, teamed with the University of Oxford, announced an efficacy rate of 90% from phase 3 trials.

The devil was in the details, however. Efficacy rates varied depending upon the dosage regimen chosen. The average efficacy rate from the combined regimens was actually 70%.

While this was a particularly weak result, one dosage regiment did deliver a 90% efficacy rate. The dosage regimen would require a half does and then a full dose at least one month apart.

Of greater significance was the reported cost of production of the vaccine. Having already stated that there would be no profits derived from the vaccine, the vaccine is reportedly cheaper than a British cup of coffee.

By comparison, AstraZeneca’s dose is reported to cost around $2.50. Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine is expected to cost around $20 per dose and Moderna Inc.’s between $15 and $25.

Perhaps of even greater significance is the fact the vaccine can be stored at between 36F and 46F.

For Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., the vaccine needs to be stored at particularly low temperatures that increase storage and transportation costs. Storage temperatures of as low as -90F for Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine also raise questions over global delivery.

Back in the Press but for the Wrong Reasons

Following the positive results from earlier in the week, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are back in the press. This time around, however, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Questions have been raised over the vaccine trial methodology. Reports have surfaced that the dosage regimen delivering an efficacy rate of 90% excluding trial participants over the age of 55.

This means that AstraZeneca only included the “most at risk” in the 2nd dosage regiment that resulted in an efficacy rate of just 62%.

Also of concern is the fact that the efficacy rates varied by such a large degree depending upon dosage regimen. A half dose followed by a full dose delivered better results that raised further question markets over clinical trial parameters.

In terms of credibility, things couldn’t get much worse for the partnership. The more effective half dose/full dose regimen was actually in error.

The loss of credibility and lack of trial data for the over 55s in the 90% efficacy rate dose regimen raises too many unknowns for government agencies such as the FDA to approve a EUA.

It’s therefore unsurprising that AstraZeneca has seen its share price fall from a Monday high £83.24 to a Wednesday low £78.00. That’s a 6.3% slide peak to trough in response to the negative news. On Wednesday, AstraZeneca ended the day at £78.08.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide stood at 60,719,957. The U.S alone accounted for 13,137,692 cases, with India accounting for 9,266,705.

Looking at the most affected EU member states, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany had a combined 6,257,334 total number of cases. Back in mid-September, the 4 member states had a combined total of less than 1 million.

When you include the UK’s 1,557,007 total cases the total number of cases gets much closer to the 10 million mark.

Containment measures across the EU member states and the UK, however, should see the number begin to plateau.

For now, it is a different story for the U.S, which has yet to reintroduce nationwide containment measures.

When considering the U.S numbers, both Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. will likely be inoculating the U.S before many other nations.

Looking Ahead

The markets are now in wait-and-see mode, as the FDA prepares to review clinical trial results on 10th December.

Between now and then, updates on production capacity and logistics will be watched closely.

There is one other factor for the markets to consider, however.

Governments have preordered from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. and other pharmas. When considering the size of orders from both the U.S and from the EU and Japan, it may take some time for vaccines to reach other countries.

This could lead to a global economic decoupling, which would raise questions over the market optimism of a 1st quarter economic rebound.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense have reportedly ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine. An option for an additional 500 million doses is also available.

The EU has reportedly pre-ordered 200 million doses of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine.

Pfizer Inc. has reportedly announced plans to produce 50 million doses by the end of this year. The company then has a target of producing 1.3 billion doses for next year.

Pre-orders for Pfizer Inc. alone, alongside manufacturing targets, certainly suggest the need for 2 or even 3 other vaccines.

With AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford vaccine trial results now in question, the door is now ajar for the likes of Johnson & Johnson and Novavax to play catch up.

As mentioned earlier, once the emergency approvals are in place, vaccine production will be the next area of focus.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – AstraZeneca Releases Trial Results

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford

Following impressive phase 3 clinical trial results from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca was in the spotlight today.

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford released phase 3 clinical trial results today.

According to today’s press release:

  • Two dosing regimens were used in clinical trials carried out in the UK and Brazil.
  • One dosing regimen (n=2,741) showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose and then followed by a full dose at least one month apart.
  • The second dosing regimen (n=8,895) showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.
  • Combining both dosing regimens, the trials delivered an efficacy rate of 70%.
  • Importantly, there were no reported hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease.

While the clinical trial results were less impressive than those of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca does have an edge.

The vaccine does not require similar refrigerated temperatures as those of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.

Combined with the group’s non-profit pledge, lower transportation costs will likely make the vaccine more accessible to developing economies.

As we had previously reported, AstraZeneca has already commenced the manufacturing of the vaccine in Australia. The decision to begin manufacturing before any clinical trials came in response to Pfizer Inc.’s first set of results.

The Latest COVID-19 Numbers

At the time of writing, the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide stood at 59,078,540. The U.S alone accounted for 12,589,088 cases, with India accounting for 9,140,312.

Looking at the most affected EU member states, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany had a combined total of 6,070,406 cases. Back in mid-September, the 4 member states had a combined total of just 829,289 COVID-19 cases.

When you include the UK’s 1,512,045 total cases and consider the rest of the EU, the numbers aren’t too dissimilar to that of the U.S.

Both have faced similar issues as a result of allowing freedom of movement inter-state and across borders.

Containment measures are back in effect, however. Even the U.S administration has handed the reins to each state to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

With winter now upon both the U.S and Europe, a vaccine cannot come fast enough.

Looking Ahead

For now, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech look to remain ahead in the race to deliver a vaccine. The FDA is reportedly scheduled to review Pfizer Inc.’s EUA submission next month. By that time, Moderna Inc. will have also likely made its submission.

From the weekend, there were reports that Pfizer Inc. would be able to begin delivering the vaccine just days later.

While that is certainly positive news, a more worldwide inoculation would likely take longer, however.

That would mean that border restrictions globally would not come to an end as soon as the vaccine is available in the U.S.

While governments have placed their orders with the front runners, the rate of production will become a key consideration.

This may give AstraZeneca an edge going into the New Year. Much will depend on output numbers, however, and whether there are any manufacturing issues faced by the leading pharmas.

The race has, therefore, heated up and the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Medicago, Novavax, and Sanofi are facing a widening gap… Failure to deliver phase 3 clinical trials by the end of the year could leave the task of a global inoculation in the hands of the 3 front runners.

The Market Reaction

At the time of writing, AstraZeneca’s share price was down by 1.56% to £8,187.00. By contrast, however, riskier assets found support on expectations of an available vaccine by mid-December.

The weaker efficacy rates than those of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. contributed to the pullback.

While the efficacy rates are lower, AstraZeneca could enjoy a wider distribution network. As previously mentioned, the vaccine can be transported at higher temperatures that reduce transportation costs.

For investors, however, the non-profit pledge does offset the effect of the likely lower transportation costs on the bottom line.

With a number of major players trailing the front runners at present, any positive reports from the likes of Novavax would be well received.

Novavax is developing a vaccine that can be transported at temperatures of between 35F and 46F. This could become a deciding factor once the winter has passed. Phase 3 clinical trials are due out in the 1st quarter of next year.

COVID-19 Vaccine Update – The Numbers are Impressive but the Markets Need More

Pfizer Inc. Delivers Again

Following positive 3rd phase trial results last week, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech were back in the news on Wednesday.

Off the back of impressive trial results from Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. filled in some missing pieces of the jigsaw.

The American-German partnership announced an efficacy rate of 94% for the over 65s’.

This was another big success story for the pharmas, who are now likely to deliver multiple vaccines globally.

The availability of multiple-vaccines should address logistical issues, including refrigerated transportation to warmer climates.

In addition to addressing the age vulnerability issues, Pfizer Inc. also stated that there had been no safety issues in the clinical trial phases.

Side effects reportedly included fatigue and headaches among a small number of volunteers. More importantly, however, side effects amongst the aged were on the milder side.

The FDA

Following the announcement, Pfizer Inc. is now due to submit a request for an emergency approval from the FDA.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s Presidential Election loss, the good news for the FDA is that there will no White House pressure to jump the gun.

On the FDA website, the FDA makes the following statement:

“We are committed to expediting the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but not at the expense of sound science and decision making. We will not jeopardize the public’s trust in our science-based, independent review of these or any vaccines. There’s too much at state.”

The statement is apt considering the speed at which both Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have completed 3rd phase trials.

At this point, however, there have been no reports of any major safety issues to suggest that the FDA will decline either or both.

That then brings manufacturing capacity and distribution into the picture.

While both have similar efficacy rates, Moderna Inc. has the edge over Pfizer Inc. on the logistics front.

The Moderna Inc. vaccine can be distributed at significantly higher temperatures, making it more cost-effective and easier to transport.

We continue to wait on the likes of AstraZeneca who, in partnership with the University of Oxford, are likely to be next in line to deliver clinical trial results.

The 2nd Wave

Since the weekend, new COVID-19 cases continued to surge across Europe, the US, and beyond.

In the U.S, the total number of cases has risen to 11,873,863. That has taken the total number of cases worldwide to 56,569,692.

COVID-19 related deaths have also continued to rise, with the U.S reporting 256,262 deaths. That sits at just below 20% of 1,354,890 COVID-19 related deaths worldwide.

Things have got so dire that even U.S states are reintroducing containment measures in a bid to curb the spread. This has gone against the wishes of outgoing President Trump, who has continued to press for normal life to continue.

One other curveball for the markets and for the pharmas is the fact that the number of reinfections is also rising.

Reinfections suggest some sort of mutation in the virus that could limit the effectiveness of the current vaccines in clinical trials.

When looking back at the difficulties in suppressing HIV, it was its ability to mutate that contributed to such a lengthy search for effective treatment and a way to suppress the virus.

The Race Participants

As the race continues to heat up to deliver an effective vaccine worldwide, Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. are the front runners.

AstraZeneca is a close 3rd and then there are a number of pharmas likely to deliver clinical trial results later this year and in the first quarter of next year.

As at 12th November, 670 drugs and vaccines were in development, targeting the coronavirus.

The figures are made available by statista.com and Pharma Intelligence.

Looking at the top pharmas in the race in more detail:

U.S Headquartered

Johnson & Johnson: Listed on the NYSE (“JNJ”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Mateon Therapeutics: Listed on OTCMKTS (“MATN”) and headquartered in California.

Medicago: and is headquartered in Quebec, Canada.

Merck & Co.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“MRK”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Moderna Inc.: Listed on the NASDAQ (“MRNA”) and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Novavax: Listed on the NASDAQ (“NVAX”) and headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.

Pfizer Inc.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“PFE”) and headquartered in New York City. (Pfizer Inc. has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech SE)

Sorrento Therapeutics: Listed on the NASDAQ (“SRNE”) and headquartered in California. Currently trailing many of the front runners in the race for an effective vaccine.

Talem Therapeutics: This is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ImmunoPrecise Antibodies USA. Its parent company, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals: Listed on the NASDAQ (“TNXP”) and headquartered in New Jersey.

Europe Headquartered

AstraZeneca: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“AZN”) and headquartered in Cambridge, England and Sodertalje, Sweden.

GlaxoSmithKline: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“GSK”) and headquartered in Brentford, England.

Grifols, S.A: Listed on the Bolsa de Madrid (“GRF”) and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

Sanofi: Listed on the CAC40 (“SAN”) and headquartered in Paris, France.

Asia Headquartered:

GC Pharma: Listed on the Korea Stock Exchange (“006280”) and headquartered in Yongin, South Korea.

As indicated above, the U.S pharmas make up the lion’s share of companies in the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Road Ahead

The key considerations for the likes of the FDA and the markets remain the same for now.

In addition to efficacy rates, other vaccine attributes include:

  • Safety: Side effects are a key consideration and any safety concerns would delay approval by government agencies. At present, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech are accumulating safety data for the FDA. These numbers may well have a greater impact on the global financial markets than the efficacy numbers released earlier this month.
  • Effectiveness: While the latest efficacy numbers were impressive, more information on effectiveness is required. In particular, effectiveness where severe cases of COVID-19 are present.
  • Consistency in manufacturing: With the global COVID-19 pandemic raging on, pharmas will need to provide evidence that the vaccine can be mass-produced. Additionally, pharmas will also need to have the right logistics plans to deliver vaccines to facilities, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies.
  • Durability: Some vaccines work for longer than others. For an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the durability would most likely need to be similar to that of the flu shot. Anything less and the vaccine would likely be ineffective in immunization for the winter months.

With the above in mind, Pfizer Inc. looks to have ticked the safety box, for now, leaving Moderna Inc. to follow. That will then shift the focus to manufacturing and then distribution.

There is some talk of production and the availability of a vaccine by the end of the year. On these timelines, it would therefore be safe to say that an effective vaccine would be available at the end of the first quarter, at the earliest.

Looking at the U.S equity market moves on Wednesday, concerns over the timelines need to be addressed.

The Front Runners

  • Pfizer Inc. (“PFE”) and BioNTech SE: Awaiting safety and manufacturing consistency data for emergency FDA approval.
  • AstraZeneca (“AZN”) and the University of Oxford: There have been reports of AstraZeneca’s vaccine being as much as 7 times less expensive than Pfizer’s. While Pfizer and BioNTech are currently leading the race, this could give AstraZeneca the edge, particularly across the emerging markets.
  • Moderna Inc. (“MRNA”): Experts are continuing to suggest that Moderna will deliver similar results to that of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech. Clinical trial data could be out as early as this week. Reuters reported last week that the Swiss government has started a rolling review of its vaccine. This is to ensure a quick approval can be given should it deliver positive results. Swissmedic is also reportedly viewing vaccines under development by AstraZeneca and Pfizer & BioNTech.

Trailing Big Names

  • Johnson & Johnson: Phase 3 clinical trials are continuing and are taking place in a number of geographies. Johnson & Johnson began its phase 3 clinical trials back in September. J&J had to put trials on hold following a serious medical event. Trials resumed in late October, however. Trailing Pfizer and a number of others, Johnson & Johnson reportedly received additional funding to ramp up its clinical trials. Partnered with the U.S government, the U.S government has reportedly committed an additional US$454m to support phase 3 trials.
  • Medicago: Last week, Medicago released phase 1 trial results. 100% of subjects who received the trial vaccine developed significant antibody and cellular immune responses after two doses. With no safety concerns, the pharma is due to enter phase 2/3 clinical trials before the end of this year. Reuters also reported last week, that Medicago will use a booster from GlaxoSmithKline in its bid to develop an effective vaccine.
  • Novavax: While trailing the majority of the front runners, Novavax is expected to release phase 3 clinical trials from the UK in the 1st Unlikely its peers, Novavax is looking to deliver a dual vaccine. In addition to a COVID-19 vaccine, the company is looking to also include a flu vaccine. For the Novavax dual vaccine, storage of between 35F and 46F means that transport is far simpler and cheaper. One final advantage that Novavax reportedly has over its peers is production capacity.

Sanofi / GlaxoSmithKline: The partnership received a US$2.1bn funding commitment from the Trump administration to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. Their first results are expected in early December, with late-stage trials to begin before year-end. Along with Johnson & Johnson, Medicago, and Novavax, the vaccine currently trails Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

COVID-19 – Updates on Vaccine Trials are coming. Is Pfizer Still out Ahead?

The 2nd Wave

COVID-19 continued to spread over the weekend, with the total number of COVID-19 cases standing at 54,328,752 at the time of writing.

While there are reportedly 37,871,087 who have recovered, there have been 1,318,278 related deaths.

The U.S and India continue to have the largest number of cases, with the U.S reporting 11,226,038 cases. Additionally, the U.S also has the largest number of COVID-19 related deaths, currently at 251,256.

Things also continue to be bleak across Europe, with France nearing 2 million cases after having overtaken both Italy and Spain.

While the total number of cases in Italy and Spain sit at 1,492,608 and 1,144,552 respectively, the UK has also seen a jump in new cases. At the time of writing, the total number of new cases stands at 1,344,356.

With the winter months rapidly approaching, the race towards an effective COVID-19 vaccine has intensified.

More cases and more COVID-19 related deaths are anticipated, in spite of governments introducing containment measures.

For the U.S, the headline figure will likely get far worse before any effective vaccine is widely available. The outgoing administration continues to leave the economy open, in spite of new daily cases sitting at record highs.

As a result, market sentiment and updates from the pharmas on when a vaccine is likely to be available remain key to risk sentiment.

The Race Participants

Pharmaceutical companies in the race to deliver an effective COVID-19 vaccine are vast in number. Some have progressed more than others, however, and are therefore of greater interest to governments and the global financial markets.

The companies are shown in the chart below:

statistic_id1119090_top-companies-by-covid-19-treatment-vaccines-in-development-2020

While the companies listed above were trialing 60 different drugs and vaccines. There are many more in trial phases, however. As at 12th November, 670 drugs and vaccines were reportedly in development, targeting the coronavirus.

The figures are made available by statista.com and Pharma Intelligence.

Looking at the top 10 companies listed above and a few more in more detail:

U.S Headquartered

Johnson & Johnson: Listed on the NYSE (“JNJ”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Mateon Therapeutics: Listed on OTCMKTS (“MATN”) and headquartered in California.

Medicago: and is headquartered in Quebec, Canada.

Merck & Co.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“MRK”) and headquartered in New Jersey, USA.

Moderna Inc.: Listed on the NASDAQ (“MRNA”) and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Novavax: Listed on the NASDAQ (“NVAX”) and headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.

Pfizer Inc.: Listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“PFE”) and headquartered in New York City. (Pfizer Inc. has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech SE)

Sorrento Therapeutics: Listed on the NASDAQ (“SRNE”) and headquartered in California. Currently trailing many of the front runners in the race for an effective vaccine.

Talem Therapeutics: This is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ImmunoPrecise Antibodies USA. Its parent company, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Tonix Pharmaceuticals: Listed on the NASDAQ (“TNXP”) and headquartered in New Jersey.

Europe Headquartered

AstraZeneca: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“AZN”) and headquartered in Cambridge, England and Sodertalje, Sweden.

GlaxoSmithKline: Listed on the London Stock Exchange (“GSK”) and headquartered in Brentford, England.

Grifols, S.A: Listed on the Bolsa de Madrid (“GRF”) and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

Sanofi: Listed on the CAC40 (“SAN”) and headquartered in Paris, France.

Asia Headquartered:

GC Pharma: Listed on the Korea Stock Exchange (“006280”) and headquartered in Yongin, South Korea.

As indicated above, the U.S pharmas make up the lion’s share of companies in the race to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Clinical Trials

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech SE spurred a global equity market rally, with their impressive phase 3 clinical trial results.

As the week wore on, however, greater awareness led to some apprehension over what lies ahead.

While Pfizer announced an efficacy rate of more than 90%, there are a number of other important considerations. As importantly, there is also some way to go before an effective vaccine is available worldwide.

Other Vaccine Considerations

In addition to efficacy rates, other considerations include:

  • Safety: Side effects are a key consideration and any safety concerns would delay approval by government agencies. At present, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech are accumulating safety data for the FDA. These numbers may well have a greater impact on the global financial markets than the efficacy numbers released earlier this month.
  • Effectiveness: While the latest efficacy numbers were impressive, more information on effectiveness is required. In particular, effectiveness where severe cases of COVID-19 are present.
  • Consistency in manufacturing: With the global COVID-19 pandemic raging on, pharmas will need to provide evidence that the vaccine can be mass-produced. Additionally, pharmas will also need to have the right logistics plans to deliver vaccines to care facilities, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies,
  • Durability: Some vaccines are effective for longer than others. For an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the durability would most likely need to be similar to that of the flu shot. Anything less and the vaccine would likely be ineffective in immunization for the winter months.

So, as clinical trial data begins to hit the news wires, the markets will also need to begin focusing on the other considerations. For emergency approvals to be given by the likes of the FDA, safety requirements must be met as a minimum.

While Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE are currently out in front, a number of other pharmas are likely to release results imminently.

The World Health Organization has listed more than 200 vaccines in the works, with 48 currently in clinical evaluation. The WHO’s overview of COVID-19 candidate vaccines is available to download here.

The Front Runners

  • Pfizer Inc. (“PFE”) and BioNTech SE: Awaiting safety, duration, and manufacturing consistency data for emergency FDA approval.
  • AstraZeneca (“AZN”) and the University of Oxford: There have been reports of AstraZeneca’s vaccine being as much as 7 times less expensive than Pfizer’s. While Pfizer and BioNTech are currently leading the race, this could give AstraZeneca the edge, particularly across the emerging markets.
  • Moderna Inc. (“MRNA”): Experts are continuing to suggest that Moderna will deliver similar results to that of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech. Clinical trial data could be out as early as this week. Reuters reported last week that the Swiss government has started a rolling review of its vaccine. This is to ensure that a quick approval can be given should it deliver positive results. Swissmedic is also reportedly viewing vaccines under development by AstraZeneca and Pfizer & BioNTech.

Trailing Big Names

  • Johnson & Johnson: Phase 3 clinical trials are continuing and are taking place in a number of geographies. Johnson & Johnson began its phase 3 clinical trials back in September. Trials had to be put on hold following a serious medical event. Trials resumed in late October, however. Trailing Pfizer and a number of others, Johnson & Johnson reportedly received additional funding to ramp up its clinical trials. Partnered with the U.S government, the U.S government has reportedly committed an additional US$454m to support phase 3 trials.
  • Medicago: Last week, Medicago released phase 1 trial results. 100% of subjects who received the trial vaccine developed significant antibody and cellular immune responses after two doses. With no safety concerns, the pharma is due to enter phase 2/3 clinical trials before the end of this year. Reuters also reported last week, that Medicago will use a booster from GlaxoSmithKline in its bid to develop an effective vaccine.
  • Novavax: While trailing the majority of the front runners, Novavax is expected to release phase 3 clinical trials from the UK in the 1st quarter. Unlikely its peers, Novavax is looking to deliver a dual vaccine. In addition to a COVID-19 vaccine, the company is looking to also include a flu vaccine. For the Novavax dual vaccine, more favorable storage requirements mean that transport is far simpler and cheaper. One final advantage that Novavax reportedly has over its peers is production capacity.
  • Sanofi / GlaxoSmithKline: The partnership received a US$2.1bn funding commitment from the Trump administration to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine. The first results are due out in early December, with late-stage trials to begin before year-end. Along with Johnson & Johnson, Medicago, and Novavax, the vaccine currently trails Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

What Lies Ahead

We can expect plenty of updates in the coming weeks and we will see plenty of movement in the respective stocks.

Pharmas trailing, in the event of further positive news, will likely come under further pressure.

For Pfizer, safety results, manufacturing, and durability results will be in focus near-term. For Moderna and AstraZeneca phase 3 clinical trial results will be in focus. With AstraZeneca commencing vaccine production ahead of approvals, favorable results could give them an edge.

Trailing pharma/government partnerships may also announce further investment commitments to bridge the gap.

Johnson & Johnson Q3 Sales Grow 1.7%, Upgrades 2020 Profit Forecast

Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive manufacturers of healthcare products, reported a 1.7% increase in the third-quarter sales to $21.1 billion on rising demand for its cancer drugs despite the estimated negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which is well-known for consumer products like Band-Aids, said its EPS increased 101.5% to $1.33 in the third quarter of 2020 and adjusted EPS rose 3.8% to $2.20.

Johnson & Johnson forecast full-year 2020 adjusted profit between $7.95 to $8.05 per share, improved from its prior range of $7.75 to $7.95 per share.

Profit more than doubled to $3.55 billion in Q3, from a year earlier when the company had recorded “other expenses” of $4.21 billion. On an adjusted basis, the company earned $2.20 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of $1.98 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv, Reuters reported.

This comes just after the company said that it has paused clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine candidate due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.

Johnson & Johnson’s shares fell about 2% to $149.15 in pre-market trading on Tuesday; however, the stock is up about 4% so far this year.

Executive comments

“Our third-quarter results reflect solid performance and positive trends across Johnson & Johnson, powered by better-than-expected procedure recovery in Medical Devices, growth in Consumer Health, and continued strength in Pharmaceuticals,” said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

“Our world-class R&D team is working tirelessly to advance the Phase 3 trials of our COVID-19 vaccine and to uphold the highest standards of transparency, safety and efficacy; while other dedicated teams provide ongoing support to hospitals and patients as they return to sites of care, and ensure patients and consumers have the medicines and products they need. This resilient mindset, combined with our strategic capabilities and execution excellence, increase our optimism for continued recovery in 2020 and strong momentum entering into 2021.”

Johnson & Johnson stock forecast and analyst comments

Eight analysts forecast the average price in 12 months at $167.25 with a high forecast of $175.00 and a low forecast of $158.00. The average price target represents a 10.15% increase from the last price of $151.84. All those eight equity analysts rated “Buy”, none rated “Hold” or “Sell”, according to Tipranks.

Morgan Stanley target price is $170 with a high of $204 under a bull scenario and $110 under the worst-case scenario. SVB Leerink reiterated an “outperform” rating on shares of Johnson & Johnson in July. Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Johnson & Johnson from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating and set a $150 price target. Stifel Nicolaus lowered from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating. Bank of America reissued a “buy” rating. At last, Credit Suisse Group reissued a “buy” rating on shares of Johnson & Johnson in September.

“Litigation liability has been more than reflected in Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shares, in our view, creating a meaningful valuation disconnect vs. the S&P. Pharma-driven acceleration is poised to drive the multiple higher in 2020 led by blockbuster franchises, pipeline launches and easing comparables,” said Michael Cyprys, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.

“Momentum in MD&D and Consumer segments should drive a more balanced growth profile which is less reliant on Pharma.”

Upside and Downside Risks

Upside: 1) Pharmaceutical growth accelerates to HSD sustainability. 2) Opioid and talc litigations are settled. 3) MD&D growth accelerates – highlighted by Morgan Stanley.

Downside: 1) Litigation overhang persists / legal liabilities are greater than anticipated. 2) Pharma pipeline is unable to offset biosimilar and competitive risks. 3) COVID-19 impact to MD&D is more severe. 4) Turnarounds in Consumer and MD&D fail to materialize or slower than expected.

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