Still doubting whether the biopharma industry can save mankind from the pandemic, after all? Two COVID-19 vaccines have advanced to the final stage of clinical testing this week, stoking hope that we’ll see a viable shot by the late fall or early winter.
The vaccines entered phase 2/3 trials, which will test them among tens of thousands of people. The progress is cause for "cautious optimism," Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday. And in an otherwise ambiguous time, that’s welcome good news.
This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,202 words and will take you 6 minutes to read.
Both companies’ CEOs have reiterated a timeline for year-end launches.
- Several other vaccine candidates, among them shots from AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Johnson & Johnson, are poised to join them in phase 3 shortly.
- On the treatment front, Renal and Urology News’ Jody Charnow reports on a study showing that hydroxychloroquine actually lowered death risk in treating coronavirus. In the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration rescinded HCQ’s emergency use authorization last month.
- The increased psychological, social and economic uncertainty from the pandemic may contribute to an increase in stress cardiomyopathy, Cardiology Advisor’s Morgan Meissner tells us.
- Rheumatic disease may increase risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, notes Emily Pond of Rheumatology Advisor.
- A new coronavirus mutation spreads more quickly than the previous one but is not associated with increased risk of death.
While the light at the end of the vaccine tunnel is one reason to remain positive, the all-important curve is not flattening. This is no time to let our social-distancing guard down. Hey, even President Trump has come around. Wear the masks, people.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over
We’ve learned that the vaccines induce an antibody response at least as good as natural infection, an indicator that COVID-19 is not an outlier like HIV, and that they are safe enough to scale up into large trials. Despite the recent progress, though, there are some caveats.
- If the crisis’ endgame runs through the biopharma industry, don’t look for it to be an abrupt end. The first coronavirus vaccine, if it arrives soon, isn't likely to be a knockout punch, Axios warns us.
- The problem, explains The Atlantic, is that a vaccine is not likely to offer complete protection, meaning any shot’s availability will only mark the start of a long, slow ramp-down.
- Nor will it be available immediately to the general public. Dr. Fauci told MarketWatch Saturday that frontline health workers would be first in line to get a vaccine.
- If we’re still battling COVID-19 in the fall, healthcare professionals will find themselves battling two respiratory infections at once, yet another complicating factor.
- MM&M’s Alison Kanski reports that lawmakers grilled vaccine makers on Capitol Hill to ensure their products are affordable.
An accelerated vaccine was always going to be a hard sell to the American public. It’s important not to sugarcoat that reality.
MLB’s reality check
We gawked at the cardboard cutout fans, even chuckled when Fauci’s first pitch was "juuust a bit outside!" Major League Baseball’s opening weekend gave fans that small taste of "mom and apple pie" that we all craved. Now, whither the boys of summer?
- The first crisis for the fledgling season came in the form of the news everyone had dreaded, a team outbreak among the Miami Marlins.
- Pending what happens with other baseball teams, Dr. Fauci said Tuesday the games don’t need to stop yet, and the commissioner insisted the season is still on-track.
- But the outbreak and, reportedly, further positive tests among Miami players, prompted the league to postpone the team’s games through Sunday.
- Some have said the league’s plan, which diverges from the so-called bubble approach being pursued by the MLS and NFL, was doomed to fail, despite the best of intentions. Given that teams are traveling, players could be picking up the virus in their home communities, then unwittingly infecting support staff, essential workers and anyone else with whom they come in contact.
- Now, the entire delayed season may already be in jeopardy.
MLB’s crisis is a crisis for the entire country. Like life, baseball is a contact sport off the field. Is this a microcosm of our own struggles to outmaneuver a virus that refuses to be outsmarted by even the most ambitious plan? Most people felt a shortened sports season was better than none at all, but that’s no excuse to sacrifice safety.
Unfortunately, the economic curve (you know, the one that we didn’t want to flatten) isn’t cooperating. The hockey-stick economic rebound we all hoped for didn’t materialize. With millions laid off and losing their health benefits due to the pandemic, Congress is seeking to pass a fifth bill to mitigate the economic and human damage.
- Senate Republicans released a $1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal this week, laying out unemployment benefits, stimulus for state and local governments, as well as other forms of aid.
- McKnight’s Long-Term Care News surveyed healthcare providers’ reaction to the stimulus plan, and it’s mixed.
- One of the most "hotly contested" parts of the package, notes Amy Novotney of McKnight’s Senior Living, is likely to be Republicans’ wish to lower weekly unemployment benefits to $200 from the existing $600.
- Dems support a $3 trillion package that would continue the $600-per-week payments. It’s just one of a number of expected policy fights.
The bill faces a tough road ahead. Given that supplemental unemployment benefits run out this Friday, it’s unlikely the parties will agree on a package by then, leaving many people in the lurch.
- Five months into lockdown, virtual meetings are a fixture. PRWeek’s Steve Barrett says there can no longer be excuses for not having your work-from-home setup properly in place.
- People Management asks whether WFH will indeed become the new normal. Businesses should proceed with care.
- Also in People Management, Francis Churchill reports on research suggesting sexism is manifesting itself in "new and insidious ways" since the move to remote working.
- The pandemic has not been kind to advertising and marketing services holding companies. Omnicom’s Q2 organic revenue plunged 23%, according to Campaign.
- Employers’ hiring confidence is starting to improve as lockdown measures are eased, per a study reported by People Management.
- The recent spike sent the number of U.S. coronavirus cases over 4 million as of last Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data, a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over - not that we needed one (well, maybe some did).
- Epidemiologists explaining when they’ll feel comfortable doing normal things again has become a bit of a meme.
- A cat has become the first animal to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.
Cue the music
- Yer Blues, the Beatles
- All Right Now, Free
- Ramblin’ Man, the Allman Brothers Band
- You Know I’m No Good, Amy Winehouse
Thanks for reading. Look for the next edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing on August, 5. Stay well, everybody.