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By Marshall L. Stocker, Ph.D., CFACo-Director, Portfolio Manager Emerging Markets Team, Eaton Vance Management

Boston - On the day that the first COVID-19 vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), let's review the latest health policy responses and the bearish or bullish developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health policy responses

  • All 16 and 17 year olds in England are to be offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, August 23.
  • Classrooms in England will receive air quality monitors to help combat COVID. CO2 levels will be measured to determine if each classroom has enough fresh air.
  • Authorities extended a COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney, Australia until the end of September. A night curfew in the city's worst-affected suburbs was also introduced and citizens must wear a mask at all times when outside their homes, except for one hour a day when exercising.
  • In the U.S., most insurers are phasing out cost-sharing waivers for COVID-19 treatments.
  • CDC has warned older adults and travelers in COVID high-risk groups not to take cruises, even if they are vaccinated.
  • Only about 60% of the nation's nearly 1.5 million nursing home employees are vaccinated. President Biden said that all nursing home employees must be vaccinated by September 30 or lose federal funding.

Bearish virus developments

  • A new Oxford University study found that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine halved after four months.
  • A CDC study found that effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at preventing infections among nursing home residents dropped to 53% from about 75% after the rise of the Delta variant.
  • An NIH study found that convalescent plasma therapy does not prevent disease progression in a high-risk group of outpatients.
  • The New York Times reported that those clear plastic barriers at points of service might be worse than no barrier at all by giving people a false sense of security. Aerosols get around the barriers. The barriers may also redirect concentrated aerosol at other customers.
  • Northern Ireland is reporting its highest daily new case counts since the pandemic began despite 86% of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Bullish virus developments

  • Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine received full FDA approval on Monday, August 23.
  • AstraZeneca will seek regulatory approval of its antibody cocktail after a study showed the drug significantly reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19. This would be the first long-acting drug that is not a vaccine that has demonstrated prevention of the disease in a clinical trial. The drug could be suitable for patients for whom a vaccine is not recommended. It offers up to a full year of protection and is delivered by intramuscular injection.
  • The CDC said the Delta wave may be nearing its peak across the Northeast based on a forecast indicating new cases may peak in the first week of September.
  • China says there were no new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 for the first time since July, when the latest Delta outbreak began in Nanjing.

Economic developments

  • Toyota said it would cut production by 40% in Japan next month because of a shortage of semiconductors, highlighting the severity of the prolonged chip shortage.

Source of all data: Eaton Vance Research as of August 23, 2021 unless otherwise specified.