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Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The same countries that have struggled to obtain coronavirus vaccines will also have to wait longer for new treatments, the WSJ reports.

Why it matters: These pills could keep unvaccinated people out of the hospital if taken soon after a person becomes infected with the virus.

Between the lines: Pfizer and Merck, the companies developing the treatments, have licensed their formulas so generic companies can sell them at a much lower price. 

  • But low-income countries may still struggle to pay the generic prices, and generic manufacturers still need several months to ramp up production. 
  • For the pills to work, they need to be administered within days after a person develops symptoms. But many low-income countries also have inadequate testing systems, which will make it difficult to catch cases early enough.

The bottom line: The Omicron variant is probably about to drive a new wave of COVID cases around the world, but the most vulnerable parts of the world won't have access to these treatment options any time soon. 

  • Yes, but: If Omicron causes less severe disease — which some scientists believe will be the case — that would make the scenario much less dire.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
24 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 55 mins ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.

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