Nov 10, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus won't disappear, even with a vaccine

Illustration of an animated hovering coronavirus cell surrounded by empty vaccine syringes.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Pfizer yesterday took a giant step toward a COVID-19 vaccine, reporting that its vaccine candidate was effective in over 90% of uninfected clinical trial patients.

Reality check: It's a giant and welcome development, but the pandemic will be with us long after vaccine distribution begins.

The Pfizer vaccine is not a silver bullet. Its efficacy is much higher than the 50% threshold set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but could still leave tens of millions of vaccinated Americans at risk.

This means that many pandemic protocols are likely to remain in place, either by law or by habit, and some businesses already are preparing for this new normal — including startups that developed new products and services during the pandemic.

  • Sid Satish is CEO of Gauss, a Silicon Valley computer vision company that originally focused on surgical bleeding. This year it developed an at-home rapid COVID test, and Satish tells Axios that he expects "rapid testing will be a long-term necessity as a risk reduction method."
  • Seth Sternberg is CEO of Honor, a provider of tech-enabled senior care services, who tells Axios that he expects its pandemic-related spend to keep paying dividends, as services like care-provided screenings will continue to be needed.

By the numbers: Pfizer expects to have 50 million doses available by year-end and 1.2 billion doses available during 2021.

  • Each regimen requires two shots, so halve those figures to determine the number of people who can be treated.
  • The U.S. government already has purchased 100 million doses, with an option to purchase another 500 million. That could theoretically cover America's 255 million adults, and most of those under 18 (although Pfizer just began testing on teens and no vaccine developer has yet enrolled kids).
  • And this is just for the Pfizer vaccine. Three others are in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S.

The bottom line: Investors yesterday flipped the pandemic trade, buying into areas like travel and selling off work-from-home names like Zoom, but the future is most likely to be a mixture of the old and the new.

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