Coronavirus Briefing: Vaccine optimism, GOP's stimulus and MLB in crisis

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

This week's Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,202 words and will take you 6 minutes to read.

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.


The Science

  • Both Moderna/National Institutes of Health and Pfizer/BioNTech launched the pivotal trials needed to determine whether their COVID-19 vaccines work on larger groups.

  • 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 In the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration rescinded HCQ’s emergency use authorization last month.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. 

The Takeaway

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.


Doctor preparing a vaccine for an injection
Source: Getty

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.

The Takeaway

An accelerated vaccine was always going to be a hard sell to the American public. It’s important not to sugarcoat that reality.


Source: Getty

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.

  • 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.

The Takeaway

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.


Source: Getty

The relief 

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.

  • 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 Takeaway

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.


Source: Getty

The rest

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • A cat has become the first animal to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.


Cue the music

Thanks for reading. Look for the next edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing on August, 5. Stay well, everybody.

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