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Coronavirus update: U.S. braces for third wave; Moderna manages vaccine expectations

Anjalee Khemlani
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read

A dire outlook for the U.S. has returned amid what experts are calling a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 40 million reported cases globally and 1.1 million deaths, the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down. In Ireland, a lockdown has been reimposed, as other pockets of Europe weigh similar restrictions again.

In the U.S., more than 8.2 million cases and more than 220,000 deaths have been reported to-date. While the rate of deaths has slowed, there is still concern for some of the most vulnerable populations, where increasingly asymptomatic cases are being reported. Meanwhile the case count has already hit more than 60,000 daily, with all regions of the country affected.

Fargo, North Dakota, became the first city in the state to mandate mask-wearing, as experts reiterate the need to double down on effective strategies to curb the spread of the virus.

Yahoo medical contributor Dr. Dara Kass recently said, “I think that the cases are going up because we’re not really seeing a coordinated response that respects this virus, but also keeps our economy and our populations moving forward.”

Blood samples from volunteers participating in the National Institutes of Health-funded Moderna COVID-19 vaccine third phase clinical trail wait to be processed in a lab at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Miami. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez)
Blood samples from volunteers participating in the National Institutes of Health-funded Moderna COVID-19 vaccine third phase clinical trail wait to be processed in a lab at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Miami. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez)

With no national strategy and different states and cities implementing their own rules, experts warn a repeat of surges from earlier this year is likely.

Dr. Leo Nissola, an immunotherapy scientist at Parker Institute in San Francisco, told Yahoo Finance, “Things are not looking pretty.”

“The most difficult phase of the epidemic is ahead of us,” he said.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on treatments and vaccines to help return the world to a sense of normal.

In his most recent public appearance, Moderna (MRNA) CEO Stéphane Bancel set expectations for the company if it doesn’t meet its original endpoint in November. Both Moderna and Pfizer (PFE), with BioNTech (BNTX), have targeted November to get interim results — which means at least 53 people are infected in the clinical trial group. If the majority of those are from the placebo group, the company could apply for emergency use authorization.

Bancel detailed the sobering timeline at a Wall Street Journal event, saying that if they miss the November date, it could push an authorization of the vaccine into early 2021 instead of by the end of the year. But Moderna will still be on track to produce doses of the vaccine by the end of the year in preparation.

In anticipation of a vaccine by the end of the year for high risk and vulnerable populations, the government signed contracts with both CVS (CVS) and Walgreens (WBA) last week to provide clinical professionals to help administer the vaccine at long-term care facilities. They would have vaccines for both staff and residents.

To that end, CVS also announced Monday it would be hiring 15,000 technicians — largely on a temporary basis with potential to become full time— in anticipation of the public rush when a vaccine is available for the broader market.

Meanwhile, what happens to antibody and other treatments in clinical trials remains to be seen. Immunic (IMUX), which is working on an oral treatment for COVID-19, received about $29 million in a venture loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Ambroise Fayolle, EIB vice president in charge of innovation and lending in Germany, said the drug, which is Phase 2 clinical trials, “May reduce the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients, thereby relieving the burden on health systems, patients and families alike."

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