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COVID-19 Vaccine and Developments
The virus situation continues to improve materially with reductions in both new confirmed cases and positivity rates since December 2020
The virus situation continues to improve materially with reductions in both new confirmed cases and positivity rates since December 2020 despite a third wave sweeping through Europe (hopefully mitigated by North Hemisphere summer conditions) and South and Central Asia, including India. In the U.S., the number of new daily COVID-19 cases fell from a peak of c.250,000 to c.50,000, the first time since October 20201.
Pfzier-BioNTech was the first vaccine tested in a large clinical trial to be approved in December 2020 by U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency2. There are now 13 vaccines currently approved by at least 1 country3. 7 of the 13 vaccines have been approved by more than 10 countries4 (refer to the table below), with efficacy rates ranging from c.50-95%5:
The number of doses forecast to be manufactured of the 7 vaccines in 2021 is over 9 billion, equating to c.60% of the world’s population4. Nevertheless, there have been some concerns in relation to the vaccines, such as reduced vaccine efficacy to mutations of SARS-CoV-2, and the reports of blood clots being experienced by some patients that have received the AstraZeneca vaccine5. Several countries have placed the use of AstraZeneca on hold while waiting for more results of studies.
The continuation of vaccine rollouts has positively impacted the number of new cases. Recent data released in the US indicates that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective at preventing illness, as well as asymptomatic infection. The U.S. announced that eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations will be expanded to 90% of the U.S. adult population by mid-April6. However, high levels of demand for a limited supply of vaccines have increased tensions between countries across the world. In January, the E.U., a major exporter of COVID-19 vaccines, announced that any E.U.-based manufacturers must seek authorisation from the national government prior to exporting.
The first intervention by the E.U. off the back of this ruling occurred in March, with Italy blocking a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to be delivered to Australia7. In tandem with E.U.’s third COVID-19 wave, a spike in cases and increasing domestic demand for vaccines in India resulted in India’s Government halting exports from the Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer8. Serum Institute is forecast to produce the greatest number of AstraZeneca vaccines at 425 million doses in 20213, and was supposed to export 90 million doses of AstraZeneca over March and April9. The interdependent nature of the global vaccine supply chain, where vaccine production can require more than 200 individual components manufactured in different countries10 may pose a risk to the effective production and distribution of vaccines across the world, particularly considering the backdrop of increased political tensions.
We will continue to monitor the current COVID-19 situation and will adjust our portfolios as needed.
1. U.S. Daily Cases (The COVID Tracking Project, as at 11 March 2021).
2. The UK has approved a COVID vaccine (Nature, as at 3 December 2020).
3. COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker (as at 30 March 2021).
4. Vaccine manufacturing (Launch & Scale Speedometer, as at 26 March 2021).
5. How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines? (Statista, as at 2 February 2021).
6. Biden vows to expand vaccine access as CDC chief raises alarm (Financial Times, as at 30 March 2021).
7. Italy blocks shipment of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia (Financial Times, as at 5 March 2021).
8. Serum Institute of India (as at 30 March 2021).
9. Asian countries scramble for vaccine supplies after India export curbs (Reuters, as at 30 March 2021).
10. What it will take to vaccine the world against COVID-19 (Nature, as at 25 March 2021).
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