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This Week In The Economy: Vaccine ‘Mix And Match’ Approved, Another Debt Limit Warning, and More

Moderna, J&J COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Approved, Prep Begins For Vaccinating Kids

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week announced it is approving booster shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines.

The FDA amended the emergency use authorizations for Moderna’s vaccine to allow a single booster administered at least six months after the initial two jabs for those:

  • 65 years of age and older.
  • 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19.
  • 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to the coronavirus.

For J&J, the FDA said a single booster dose may be administered at least 2 months after the first single-shot regimen to individuals aged 18 years and older.

The FDA also amended the EUA to allow the mix and matching of COVID-19 booster dose in eligible individuals if their initial vaccination was with a different COVID-19 vaccine.

For example, for those who got the one-shot J&J vaccine, they can now get a Moderna or Pfizer booster dose at least two months after being vaccinated.

In another example, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine recipients who fall into one of the authorized categories (65 years of age and older, at high-risk of severe COVID-19, or with a job that has frequent exposure to the coronavirus) may receive a booster dose of Moderna, Pfizer, or J&J vaccines at least six months after completing their vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control endorsed the FDA’s decision on booster shots. “Available data right now show that all three of the COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized in the United States continue to be highly effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant,” it said.

Looking ahead, the CDC and FDA’s independent advisory committees will be meeting on October 26 and November 2–3, respectively, to decide if they should recommend Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5–11.

In anticipation of that potential development, the White House this week published its plans to make the vaccines widely available for that age group.

“The start of a vaccination program for children ages 5–11 will depend on the independent FDA and CDC process and timeline, but our planning efforts mean that we will be ready to begin getting shots in arms in the days following a final CDC recommendation,” the White House said.

The administration said it has:

  • Procured enough vaccine to inoculate the country’s 28 million children ages 5–11 years old.
  • Will make vaccinations available at doctors’ offices across the country — more than 25,000 pediatric offices and other primary care sites in total.
  • Partnering with the Children’s Hospital Association to work with over 100 children’s hospital systems to set up vaccination sites in November and through the end of the calendar year.
  • Work with states and local governments to make vaccination sites available at schools and other trusted community locations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide full funding to states to support vaccination operations and outreach
  • The administration will also make vaccine supply available to health centers and rural health clinics across the country.

Speaking at the weekly press briefing of administration and public health officials, the White House’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients said the federal government is incorporating best practices and applying lessons learned over the past nine months.

“As soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA, we will begin shipping millions of doses nationwide,” he said.

Speaking at the same briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky highlighted a CDC study published this week that found that two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was 93% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations among those aged 12–18 years old.

“This evaluation reinforces the importance of vaccination to protect young people and adolescents from COVID-19,” she said.

Walensky said the United States’ ended last week with a seven-day daily average of cases was about 75,500 cases per day, a decrease of about 16% over the prior week. The seven-day average of hospital admissions was about 6,000 per day, a drop of about 11% from the prior week. And the seven-day average of daily deaths were about 1,200 per day, a decrease of about 3% from the previous week.

“ Vaccination remains the best public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce the likelihood of new variants to emerge,” she said.

The CDC reported that as of October 21th, 498,702,405 total doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed to states. Of this week’s overall number, 411,010,650 shots have been administered. Of the doses administered, 219,624,445 Americans have received at least one shot (66.2% of the entire population), and 189,924,447 have been fully vaccinated (57.2%). Of the fully vaccinated, 11,607,334 have received a booster shot, 6.1% of that group.

Worldwide, 6,795,880,469 doses have now been administered, but the divide remains between the haves and have-nots:

Globally, there have now been 242,033,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,922,065 fatalities. The U.S. now has 45,289,095 confirmed cases, and there have been 733,385 fatalities.

India has 34,142,441 confirmed cases. Of that number, 182,548 are active and there have been 453,076 fatalities. The data shows 53% of India’s population has received at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 22% are fully vaccinated.

Brazil remains in third place with 21,697,341 cases at time of writing and 604,679 deaths. The United Kingdom is in fourth with 8,630,076 cases and 139,444 fatalities. Daily cases of coronavirus in the UK continue to rise — now going past 50,000 — and hospital admissions are rising closer to 1,000 a day,

Russia is fifth with 8,168,305 confirmed cases and 228,453 deaths. Turkey remains in sixth place with 7,772,574 cases and 68,472 dead.

France is in seventh place with 7,202,840 cases and 118,300 fatalities. Iran is in eighth place with 5,833,525 cases and 124,763 deaths.

Spain moves up to ninth with 4,993,295 cases and 87,082 deaths. Colombia is in tenth place with 4,986,249 confirmed cases and 126,959 fatalities.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Sends Congress Another Warning Over Debt Limit

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week urged Congress to provide more long-term certainty over the federal government’s ability to borrow and pay its debts.

“The increase in the debt limit signed into law last week provides a high degree of confidence that Treasury will continue to be able to finance the operations of the federal government through December 3, 2021,” Yellen said in a letter to lawmakers.

“However, it is imperative that Congress act to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will satisfy all its obligations,” she added.

Yellen described the recent vote to increase in the debt ceiling as “only a temporary reprieve,” and that Treasury will soo need to resort to extraordinary measures again to avoid defaulting.

Supply Chain Disruptions Dampening Economic Activity

The significant delays, disruptions and materials scarcity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been in the headlines in recent weeks, with those problems interfering with economic activity and causing prices to soar.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, published this week, noted that several districts reported the pace of growth slowed earlier in October, “constrained by supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and uncertainty around the Delta variant of COVID-19.”

The report said the spike in input costs was widespread across industry sectors, fueled by product scarcity resulting from supply chain bottlenecks.

“Outlooks for near-term economic activity remained positive, overall, but some Districts noted increased uncertainty and more cautious optimism than in previous months,” the Fed said.

Supply chain issues are definitely impacting the manufacturing sector, with a separate Fed report this week showing U.S. industrial production contracted by 1.3% in September, with manufacturing output falling 0.7%.

“The production of motor vehicles and parts fell 7.2%, as shortages of semiconductors continued to hobble operations, while factory output elsewhere declined 0.3%,” the Fed said.

In a speech this week, Randy Quarles — the Fed’s Vice Chair for Regulation — noted that “supply constraints are particularly evident in interest-sensitive parts of the economy, such as residential investment and vehicle sales, limiting the scope for additional monetary accommodation to stimulate activity in those sectors.”

The impact is also being felt in the housing market, where the rising cost of building materials is pushing up prices and affecting affordability.

The Census bureau reported this week that privately‐owned housing starts in September were 1.6% below August’s level. Single‐family housing starts in September virtually unchanged from August.

Building permits granted in September dropped 7.7% compared to August, with single‐family authorizations down 0.9%. Privately‐owned housing completions fell 4.6% compared to August, with single‐family housing completions unchanged.

Meanwhile, existing-home sales rebounded by 7% in September from August, sales decreased 2.3% from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors reported this week.

“Housing demand remains strong as buyers likely want to secure a home before mortgage rates increase even further next year,” the NAR said.

The supply of available homes continues to shrink, with housing inventory down 0.8% from August and declining 13% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a 2.4-month supply at the present sales pace, down 7.7% from August and down from 2.7 months in September 2020.

The median existing-home price for all housing types was $352,800, up 13.3% from September 2020 ($311,500). This marks 115 straight months of year-over-year increases.

Fed Board Governor Christopher Waller in a speech this week described supply constraints as “widespread,” creating a dramatic headwind for economic growth.

As for the jump in consumer and wholesale prices, Waller said the next several months will be critical for assessing whether the high inflation numbers are transitory. “If monthly prints of inflation continue to run high through the remainder of this year, a more aggressive policy response than just tapering may well be warranted in 2022,” he said.

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