Pfizer reports their Covid-19 vaccine, in conjunction with BioNTech, so far appears 90% effective. With 94 people in the clinical trial having gotten Covid-19 so far, that means people in the control group receiving the placebo were about 10 times as likely to get the virus as someone who had received the vaccine.
The drug maker could reach milestone of 2 months since the second dose for half of trial participants in order to apply for Emergency Use Authorization next week. They report no ‘serious’ side effects in the trial. That’s great news, great progress. And it means we should have great optimism for travel.
We can only expect 50 million doses before the end of this year. It’s a two dose regiment, so that’s enough for 25 million people. Access will initially be highly restricted. And even for people who get it right away, protective immunity will still be a couple of months off.
- Let’s assume an Emergency Use Authorization in December
- And first shots in January, second shots 3 weeks later, and another week to experience protective immunity.
Pfizer expects to have 1.3 billion doses in 2021, much of it backloaded in the year. But it’s a great sign that the second half of the year is going to be normal for people in the Western World.
There are other vaccine makers we’re hopeful to have drugs from, such as Moderna, Astrazeneca, and Novavax. We don’t know yet how efficacious those will be. Assuming some of those are approved too that’ll mean a lot more doses more quickly, but if there’s real differential in effectiveness it may matter a lot which vaccine you get since presumably you won’t be able to get more than one for a period of time.
Summer 2021 is likely to look a lot better than the U.S. looks today. 90% effectiveness taken by half of people would even be enough to stop wearing masks. But since it’ll be perhaps six months before most of us in the U.S. can get the shot we may still see quite a bit of vaccine tourism, trips to the Mideast for access to one of the Chinese vaccines right away.
It’s going to take a long time until the whole world has access, so many countries will need to worry about people with Covid-19 entering for quite some time. And that means that border reopening will take some time after the vaccines begin to be widely available and there will likely be cumbersome procedures such as proving vaccination (or continued testing). There are still open questions about effectiveness in reducing infectiousness and preventing severe cases. But there’s a path to normalization, not to mention layered onto better treatments like monoclonal antibodies which should receive FDA approval soon.
On a discounted present value basis we should be enthusiastic today about travel, and about once again engaging with the rest of the world. I’m thrilled at the prospect of visiting my family in Australia, and new family members that are currently on the way. Much of the pessimism over a vaccine has hinged on far lower rates of effectiveness, the need for far more people to take it as a result. The results being shared today are significant.
This is also great news for airlines and hotel businesses and cruises too. It’s great news for their ability to pay back debt, and even to raise more. And it takes the need for additional government support off the table. That doesn’t mean they will stop asking for handouts. And it doesn’t mean their vassals in Congress won’t work for it. But any justification is gone, they’ve got plenty more revenue on the way soon and better prospects that will mean continuing to access capital markets without real impediments. Airlines also have plenty of heads up about when travel might return, they can scale their employment levels accordingly on their own.
Even though this is still far from over, let’s take a moment to thank the scientists. As much as we criticize government response to the pandemic, the biomedical response has been incredible.