Aug 29, 2022 - Podcasts

Omicron boosters are right around the corner

The first updated coronavirus vaccines will be available as soon as the week after Labor Day. These will target the dominant strain of COVID-19 that's circulating in the U.S., in hopes of providing better protection than the vaccines we have now.

  • Plus, the world's top economic experts say volatility is here to stay.
  • And, women’s sports are commanding bigger rights deals than ever.

Guests: Axios' Adriel Bettelheim, Neil Irwin, and Sara Fischer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Erica Pandey, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Monday, August 29th. I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: the nation’s top economic experts say volatility is here to stay. Plus, women’s sports are commanding bigger rights deals than ever. But first, Omicron boosters are around the corner. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Omicron boosters are coming

The first updated coronavirus vaccines will soon be available in the U.S. These will target the dominant strain of COVID 19 that's circulating, in hopes of providing better protection than the vaccines we have now. Axios Senior Healthcare Editor, Adriel Bettelheim, has the details. Hi, Adriel.

ADRIEL: Hi, nice to be with you.

ERICA: So Adriel, what makes these new vaccines different from what we've already seen?

ADRIEL: Well, the predominant makers, uh, Moderna and Pfizer have tailored these to specifically target the Omicron sub variants, BA four and BA five, that account for most of the cases in the United States. The original vaccines, which worked very well against hospitalization and death early in the pandemic, don't do as good a job fighting omicron simply because the virus has evolved, and that's, that's sort of where the US pandemic response is now, they're emphasizing speed to keep up with the changing virus.

ERICA: So let's get into logistics here – when and how will these vaccines be made available?

ADRIEL: We're expecting kind of a big week. We think that the FDA is going to issue an emergency authorization for both the Pfizer and the Moderna for people aged 12 and up, this week. And the CDC, their outside vaccine advisors, are also due to meet Thursday and Friday to review how the vaccine should work. In addition, the federal health department, HHS is having a meeting about the future of COVID in a time when the government won't be footing the bill for shots and other countermeasures. So that'll be interesting, because eventually, insurers and other health providers are gonna have to pay for this.

ERICA: Will these be for everyone? Are the nation's coronavirus authorities gonna encourage all of us to go get these?

ADRIEL: I think they're going to encourage those who are vulnerable, older folks, to stay current with the boosters. And you know, it's, it's gonna be interesting because they're sort of skipping some of the regulatory steps, because they're confident in the mRNA shots and how they performed earlier in the pandemic. So the question here is, you know, are you keeping up with the goal of, of staying current with the virus's mutations? Some people worry that this approach risks dampening enthusiasm for the shot, but, uh, the indications are that this should work. You know, time will tell.

ERICA: And zooming out a little bit, Adriel, we've watched this virus mutate in front of our eyes – will we be seeing this sort of updated COVID vaccine on the regular?

ADRIEL: There's a lot of research and a lot of speculation about how they do this going forward. Uh, whether they piggyback COVID onto flu shots you know, right now they have moved very quickly, uh, they were supposed to deliver these shots, uh, October and November. And now they're, they're presumably gonna be rolling them out before mid-September, soon after Labor Day. But, I think in, in the long run, they- a lot of the public health authorities we speak to want to see this kind of become an annual thing, like the flu shot possibly in conjunction with flu shots and other respiratory diseases.

ERICA: Axios Adriel Bettelheim. Thanks for your expertise.

ADRIEL: Thanks so much.

Economic volatility is here to stay

ERICA: The economic policy symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming ended this weekend. That’s the gathering where every August, some of the world's leading central bankers, economic policymakers and thinkers come together to talk about global economic issues of the day. Axios’ Neil Irwin was there, and he sent us this dispatch of his top takeaways.

NEIL IRWIN: This year we heard a- a few things that are really worth taking away for everyone who's just trying to live their lives in the modern economy. The first theme that I heard over and over was that inflation is way too high and that central bankers are going to do whatever it takes to try and bring it down. We heard that first in Jay Powell's speech, the federal reserve chair, on Friday morning. And, uh, we heard it over and over from the European Central Bank, other central bankers there – they see this as a crisis. They see this as something that they will do whatever they need to do to prevent high inflation from becoming entrenched, from becoming a new normal. So that's one big theme that means higher interest rates going forward.

The other big theme we heard was, uh, was the idea that this volatility we've seen in the economy the last couple of years, with the pandemic, with the supply disruptions, with the war in Ukraine, may not just be a one time phenomenon. That we may be in a world where we're gonna keep getting shocks like this, that really affect everybody, that disrupt, uh, commerce, in a way that we're not really used to from the last few decades. And if that were to be the case, that's a big deal. And that really has big implications for how you can plan how, how the economy looks in the decades ahead. So those are the two things we heard a lot of from the policymakers gathered in Jackson Hole – it was quite a gathering and, and really an important moment for the world economy.

ERICA: Neil Irwin is Axios’ chief economic correspondent.

In a moment: record-breaking audiences for women’s sports means big bucks behind the scenes.

Women’s sports are commanding bigger rights deals

Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo.

The WNBA playoffs are underway – and today, women’s sports like basketball and soccer are commanding bigger and bigger audiences. Take last month’s UEFA Women’s Soccer Championship - which broke a record with more than 87,000 people in attendance. And that’s translating to record ad dollars, too.

Axios’ Sara Fischer has been tracking this, and she sat down with Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo for more.



NIALA: So Sarah, this is mostly in basketball and soccer. So can we talk about numbers? Can you put that 87,000 in context for us in comparison to men's soccer?

SARA: Well that 87,000 didn't just break the women's record. It also broke the men's record for UEFA championships. So that gives you a sense of how big it's gotten in Europe. And in the U.S. obviously there's been huge milestones for women's soccer. You know, the equal pay fight was a huge victory earlier this year. That's bringing record amounts of fandom and viewership.

Basketball's another place where we're just seeing huge milestones. Earlier this year, ESPN said that the NCAA's championship for basketball was already one of the highest, I think since 2004, in terms of ratings and that sports across the board for women's coverage at ESPN was really, really high. But the fandom in 2011, for example, ESPN's last contract, it just wasn't as big. I think the challenge, though, is that a lot of these contracts for airing these sports, they were brokered a long time ago, and so the rights deals weren't as big. I think in the future, they're gonna boom.

NIALA: Can you give us a sense of how much these rights deals matter in terms of money when it comes to sports?

SARA: I mean, it's a huge disparity between men's and women's sports. So lemme give you an example. That 11 year deal that ESPN struck in 2011. So it expires, I believe in 2023. As a part of that deal, ESPN paid 34 million dollars to be able to air, not just the NCAA women's basketball championships in sports, but also 28 other sports. There was an independent audit that the NCAA commissioned to understand, okay, are we missing the real value of women's basketball here? And what that audit found is that actually women's basketball alone should probably be commanding upwards of 112 million in rights. And so think about that Delta, Niala. 34 million is what's being paid now for women's sports. It comes to show that women's sports have been undervalued. Women have been underpaid in sports for so long, but it does feel like the tide is beginning to turn.

NIALA: And what does that say then about the growth of not just women's sports, but how much that translates into ad dollars?

SARA: It's a huge opportunity for brands. Disney earlier this year said they sold out of their ad dollars for the NCAA women's champions that they air across ESPN channels. And brands care because brands have audiences that skew both male and female, right? It also matters because I think audiences care now about women's sports in a different way. It used to be that women's sports commanded a lot of attention for things like gymnastics or tennis. But now there are audiences for sports that were traditionally perceived as just basically being for men like basketball, like soccer. Now that these sports are becoming bigger and more commercialized, there's a ton of athletes that young women can watch on TV, that they can look up to, that, that they can aspire to, And that's a really awesome opportunity, not just for the sports industry, but for America.

NIALA: Sarah Fisher covers media for Axios and is the author of our media trends newsletter. Thanks, Sarah.

SARA: Thank you, Niala.

ERICA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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