A vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech startup BioNtech has been shown to be strongly effective in protecting against the coronavirus, the companies revealed yesterday. Preliminary data—the first from late-stage trials in the US—showed volunteers who received the two-shot regimen experienced 90% fewer cases than those receiving a placebo. The news was met with significant—but cautious—excitement; public health officials have previously warned a potential vaccine may only be 60%-70% effective.
The treatment relies on mRNA technology (see 101), which prompts the body to replicate a protein similar to the virus's infamous spike protein. A resulting immune response then fights both the new protein and, if present, the coronavirus. It would mark the first use of mRNA vaccines for clinical use of any kind.
The companies have already committed to
producing 100 million doses for the US, with up to 20 million possible by the end of the year, pending approval. An FDA request for emergency use authorization is expected this month. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the timing was not related to the election.
Also yesterday, the FDA granted emergency authorization to Eli Lilly's antibody treatment, for use in cases at high risk of becoming severe.
The announcement comes as the US passed 10 million total reported COVID-19 cases. The country is averaging nearly 110,000 cases per day, and around 950 deaths. See rolling averages here and here.
In related news, Housing Secretary Ben Carson tested positive for COVID-19, while Utah issued a statewide mask mandate.
Two of three major US stock indices jumped yesterday on the news of Pfizer's promising vaccine data, with the Dow rising 835 points (3%) followed by the S&P 500 (1.2%). The tech-heavy Nasdaq went in the opposite direction, tumbling 1.5%. The split reflected investor outlook on what a potential vaccine would mean for the US economy—industries decimated by social distancing and other virus-related restrictions rose, while areas that have boomed under the shift to working from home dropped.
Cruise lines, airlines, and entertainment stocks dominated the gains: Carnival Cruises rose 39%, United Airlines jumped 19%, and AMC Entertainment gained 51%. On the flip side, quarantine superstar Zoom fell 17%. The Russell 2000—which measures the country's smallest publicly traded companies—rose more than 4% to its highest level in two years.
Defense Secretary Fired
President Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper yesterday, elevating counterterrorism chief Christopher Miller to acting secretary. The move comes days after the presidential election and was anticipated by many, with Esper falling out of favor with the president over the summer. There appeared to be no singular incident, though observers have referenced Esper's promotion of impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander
Vindman, opposition to using active-duty troops to respond when summer protests turned violent, and disagreement over reducing US forces stationed in Germany.
The departure of high-level officials following an election is not unusual, though Esper's removal follows other notable departures. Bonnie Glick, a top official at the US Agency for International Development, was let go Friday, while Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, resigned. CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray are also rumored to be on the way out.
Editor's note: Yesterday we incorrectly said the Georgia senate runoffs will be held Jan. 8. They are in fact scheduled for Jan. 5.
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from a 200-million-year-old lake in what is now the United Kingdom (More)
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Business & Markets
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Politics & World Affairs
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Death at the U
ESPN | Paula Lavigne, Elizabeth Merrill. In 2006, Bryan Pata—a 280-pound football standout at the University of Miami—was killed execution-style, with a single shot to the side of the head. More than a decade later, his family desperately seeks resolution in the case. (Read)
Wikipedia's Indian Culture War
WIRED UK | Omer Benjakob. Using editing as a weapon, the world's largest open-source encyclopedia has become a proxy battleground for India's increasingly violent culture wars. (Read)
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Historybook: Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther born (1483); US Marine Corps is founded (1775);
Singer and actress Jane Froman born (1907); "Sesame Street" debuts (1969); Bill Gates introduces Windows 1.0 to public (1983).
"If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act."
- Bill Gates
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