Covid-19 Update: Operation Warp Speed

08/14/2020 9:15 am EST

Focus: HEALTHCARE

Al Brooks, MD

Professional Trader, Author, Lecturer, Brooks Price Action, LLC and Brooks Trading Course

Al Brooks examines the government’s attempt to have 300 vaccine doses produced by January 2021.

In the first, second and third Covid-19 updates this week, we discussed vaccines, the math behind Covid-19 and the effect of obesity on the health outcomes from the Coronavirus. Here we look into Operation Warp Speed.

Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is our government’s attempt to have 300 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine available in January 2021. It also is trying to accelerate the development of other countermeasures, including treatments and diagnostics.

This is a summary of the Operation Warp Speed (OWS) partnership:

OWS is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the Department of Defense (DoD). OWS engages with private firms and other federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It will coordinate existing HHS-wide efforts, including the NIH’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, and work by BARDA.

As of July 31, the Federal government has reached deals to rapidly develop a vaccine with the following six companies: AstraZeneca Plc. (AZN), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Moderna Inc. (MRNA), Novavax Inc. (NVAX), Pfizer Inc. (PFE),  Sanofi SA (SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK).

A vaccine will probably not be the end of the pandemic

To listen to the politicians, all we need is a vaccine. That is rubbish. If the vaccine is as effective as the measles vaccine, then that is true. The measles vaccine is 97% effective at totally preventing the disease, and you do not need booster shots every year. But there has never been a vaccine against any coronavirus that is that effective.

Remember, the FDA will approve vaccines that are only 50% effective. They do not require them to protect for a year and they do not require them to completely prevent symptoms.

Dr. Fauci said he would be happy with vaccine that prevents Covid-19 in only 50% of vaccinated people and creates immunity that lasts only a few months. He is telling us what we should realistically expect. Therefore, I doubt that a vaccine will work as well as those for measles, polio, chicken pox, and many other diseases. It probably will not eradicate the virus.

Consequently, treatment will be very important. I have been saying that it will be more important than a vaccine if the vaccine does not work well, especially in the people who need a vaccine the most. Those are the elderly and others with a limited immune response. Treatment will get a lot more coverage once the vaccines start to come out and everyone becomes disappointed that they did not live up to the hype from the politicians.

Vaccines plus social distancing wash hands clean surfaces

Huge profit potential for drug makers

Why are so many companies working on vaccines and treatments?

Do you believe that more than 100 companies are working on a vaccine or a treatment because they want to help humanity? I know you don’t. No for-profit company has that for its business model. They want to make a fortune for their shareholders, and many of the biggest shareholders are the people who run the company.

With so many companies spending so much, what do you have to conclude? That there is a huge fortune to be made for all of them.

Why did so many get started so early? Because they are in the business. Their medical experts understood in January that billions of people would likely get infected. These experts told the leaders of the companies. These leaders trusted the medical experts and reacted immediately and aggressively to the virus. Because of their action, the companies will make a fortune.

Incidentally, our medical experts also knew this in January and told our political leaders, but our leaders refused to believe them. Because of their inaction, we will have hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.

The drug companies also knew that immunity to coronaviruses typically lasts only months. Therefore, Covid-19 would be here for many years and possibly decades. That means vaccines and treatments will be needed for decades. Billions of customers, and many will likely need many vaccinations and/or treatments. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to make unimaginable profit.

The drug companies are betting on repeat customers

But if they can prevent the infection with a vaccine or cure it with a treatment, doesn’t their profit end in a year once they have eradicated the disease? It would if that were true. But it cannot be true or else there would not be so many companies spending so much on this.

They are telling you what Dr. Fauci implied this week and what makes sense to me as a physician. This virus isn’t going away for many years. These companies are expecting lots of repeat business and not a one-and-done sale.

The vaccine companies likely believe that each customer might buy as many as 10 or more vaccinations over the next decade. If a billion people do this and each company makes only $10 per injection, that is $100 billion dollars in sales over the next decade.

Also, a huge number of people cannot produce enough antibodies to prevent the infection. This is especially common in the elderly and people with other medical problems. They will get sick with Covid-19 and need treatment. And the treatment will be very expensive. If a person needs to receive manufactured antibodies, that person would get them through an IV. The drug company might make more than $1,000 per treatment. And, there might be lots of repeat customers who catch Covid-19 every few years.

A depressing but realistic outcome

After an infection or a vaccination, a person should have enough immunity to prevent a second infection. But for how long? If it turns out that the immunity to this coronavirus is like that to other coronaviruses, we may end up needing two or three vaccinations a year forever.

But there’s a hitch. We all are getting old, and older people have less ability to produce antibodies after infections or vaccinations. Therefore, what might happen is that once we are in our 70’s or 80’s, it could become standard to check our blood level of antibodies six months after our last immunization. If the level falls below what the CDC has determined is needed to prevent an infection, then what? Then getting further vaccines might be useless.

Many of these people will get Covid-19 one or more times after they stop getting the vaccines. But if there is a good treatment, like with IV antibodies, hopefully most will not get very sick and will quickly recover. This is especially true if they are diagnosed early, before they are very sick.

I find this depressing, but unless the vaccines turn out to be much more effective and durable (provide immunity for a year or more) than what appears currently likely, might be our future for the next decade. Vaccines until we are 80, then a Covid-19 infection every year or two, requiring several days in the hospital and IV antibody treatment. Or, if we are really lucky, maybe they will develop a pill or a shot that cures the disease.

Al Brooks’ earlier special reports on the Covid-19 pandemic:

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