How contagious the Delta variant of Covid-19 is will be shown in data to be released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, according to reports of a memo leak from the CDC. The new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spreads twice as easily as the original virus and can be carried even by vaccinated people, although the vaccination protects against severe symptoms.
The rise in Delta-induced Covid cases prompted President Joe Biden to announce vaccination incentives and mandates on Thursday, and is expected to support the strong sales of Covid vaccines and drugs reported by manufacturers such as
(ticker: PFE) and
While shares of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer were slightly higher in trading on Friday, shares of vaccine specialists Moderna (MRNA) and BioNTech (BNTX) are slightly lower on the CDC news. Inventories of other vaccine and drug manufacturers, such as
Johnson & johnson
(LLY) – were lower. Gilead lost about 2%.
On Tuesday, the CDC relaunched its recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors, even if they have been vaccinated. Data supporting this recommendation will be released on Friday and is expected to show that the Delta variant of the virus is present in the nose and mouth at levels more than 1,000 times the original virus. So even if vaccinated people are protected from its symptoms, they can still spread Delta, which is more contagious than the common cold and on par with the most communicable diseases like chickenpox.
The number of Covid cases has increased over the past month, due to the new variant and the large number of people who have not been vaccinated. On Thursday, Biden said the number of unvaccinated is around 90 million in the United States. About 90% of new cases of Covid turn out to be the Delta variant. But vaccines still offer strong protection against symptoms: more than 97% of patients hospitalized for Covid these days had not been vaccinated.
Covid vaccines and drugs had been seen as a short-term opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry. But variants of the virus – and people’s refusal to get vaccinated – make the war on Covid a long-term business. Pfizer,
(AZN) and other vaccine makers have reported good quarters recently and are preparing to provide booster shots as round one immunity appears to not last forever. Gilead’s June quarter sales of its drug Covid Veklury were also strong.
Write to Bill Alpert at [email protected]