The path to COVID-19 vaccination

The path to COVID-19 vaccination

Ryan Strachan

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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The impact of COVID-19 on the world and its inhabitants will be told for years to come. As at Monday, January 18, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 23,556,676 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States of America, with 392,641 deaths since the reporting of the first case on January 3, 2020. Globally, the WHO reported 93,805,612 confirmed cases and 2,026,093 deaths.

Since November 2019 we have experienced unprecedented economic, psychological, and physical damage. Global business travel, once the bastion of free enterprise, has been reduced to a whimper of its former self. On Wednesday, April 9, 2020 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported a 96 per cent fall in the number of people travelling by aeroplane compared to the corresponding day in 2019. The TSA screened 95,000 people at airport checkpoints, relative to the 2.3 million a year before.

Social distancing has impaired the entertainment and tourism sectors, and one of the effects is likely to be an adjustment to risk assessment and classification. Simply put, it is likely that some of the aforementioned sectors will have higher hurdles to climb in accessing financing. It is interesting to note that, while the USA's stock markets have eclipsed pre-COVID-19 levels after their March/April 2020 implosion, the Jamaica Stock Exchange is yet to recover. That may present an investment opportunity for those so minded.

These challenges, including millions of job losses and a second wave of economic lockdowns, have combined with tragic deaths of noteworthy individuals to give new meaning to the phrase “hindsight is 20/20”.

In response to the above, and unprecedented pressure on world economies and health care systems, the US Department of Health and Human Services embarked on 'Operation Warp Speed' — the US Government's programme to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Some nine and a half months into the race for life, we have 93 vaccines under development, with two approved for usage. Vaccines developed by publicly traded companies Moderna (NYSE: MRNA) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) are the two makers of those approved.

In a bit of a collision of my worlds, we opened client positions in PFE on the back of its existing product base, profitability, financial ratios, and the likely demand for the aforementioned vaccine. We sidestepped MRNA because of its unprofitability.

Back to the race, in November 18, 2020 it was reported that the Pfizer/BioNTech (NASDAQ: NBTX) Phase 3 study indicated a vaccine efficacy rate of 95 per cent in participants without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (first primary objective) and also in those with and without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (second primary objective), in each case measured from seven days after the second dose.

On January 12, 2021 Generation 2000 (G2K) staged the opening sensitisation session concerning the COVID-19 vaccination and its implications for Jamaica in response to dialogue in the public space. The main concerns pertained to (1) the speed of vaccine development; and (2) the safety thereof.

Concerning (1), given the implications of COVID-19 on economic activity, public health, mental health, and Government tax revenues, it is no surprise that Operation Warp Speed has, to date, received federal funding of US$10 billion; thus, removing the absence of capital as an obstacle in the process of research and development. Dr Ernestine Watson, president of the Pharmaceutical of Society of Jamaica, in her address at G2K's forum, spoke to the history of vaccine development and enlightened the audience on the many rigours, safeguards, tests, and trials within the process of gaining approval.

There are also substantial safety concerns and conspiracy theories surrounding the speed of development. The counter is that the vaccine development process is as safe as they come and getting the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assign a vaccine emergency use authorisation is no minor feat, and should further placate concerns regarding the due diligence process. To this end, G2K's other featured speaker, Shauna Chin, duly vaccinated against COVID-19, attested to the routine application and lack of side effects in her case.

We are all a witness to the biggest vaccination campaign in history. Bloomberg reports on January 18, 2021 reveal the administration of 42, 224,141 vaccine doses to date in 51 countries. Further, billions more doses are expected to be delivered in 2021.

All considered, my intention is to be vaccinated at the soonest time possible, and I believe you should seriously consider joining me.

Ryan Strachan is a stockbroker and the president of Generation 2000 (G2K), the young professional affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or president@g2kja.com.


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