Giulietta Talevi Companies editor & columnist
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

You can just picture it: Donald Trump, smarting terribly from his electoral defeat, a repetitive strain injury in both thumbs after days of furious tweeting, now gnashing his teeth in incandescent rage at the news that the UK has stolen a march on the world’s greatest economic superpower with the imminent rollout of a Covid vaccine.

Now that’s warp speed, folks!

Indeed, following the news that the UK government has approved a vaccine produced by Germany’s BioNTech and US firm Pfizer for use from as soon as next week, US drug regulators were “summoned” to the White House on Tuesday “to explain why they were not ready to do the same”, writes The New York Times here.

Poor Donald. Poor regulators.

But why did the UK approve the vaccine first?

Because, the article explains, “the two countries vet vaccines differently. American regulators painstakingly re-analyse raw data from the trials to validate the results, poring over what regulators have described as thousands of pages of documents.”

Should that, then, make Britons nervous? Is the vaccine safe?

That issue is the subject of this Bloomberg Q&A with Sam Fazeli, a contributor who covers the pharmaceutical industry for Bloomberg Intelligence.

How on earth was it possible to produce a vaccine so quickly? Fazeli writes: “The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines may seem brand new, but they are the culmination of more than a decade of work that started during the SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and MERS [Middle East respiratory syndrome] outbreaks.”

The truth is, vaccines were developed against MERS but were never needed. Still, scientists learnt a huge amount from working with that virus, which is from the same family as the one that causes Covid-19, he says.

As for safety, says Fazeli: “Yes, there have been side effects. But they have been the type that are totally expected after a vaccination, such as fever, headaches and muscle or joint aches, which only last for a couple of days. I have to say, I am glad I see side effects. They are the results of an immune reaction.”

These side effects are a sign that the vaccine is doing its job, he says. “Frankly, I can’t wait to get two days of side effects so that I can regain my freedom.”

Swinging out of the EU

The UK’s vaccine approval is also a rare spot of good news for Britain which, besides Covid, still has the spectre of a no-deal Brexit (remember that?) to deal with.

In case you were wondering about the progress, or otherwise, of Brexit talks, the race is on to seal a deal this week.

The key sticking points, writes the Financial Times, remain “in the areas of ‘level playing field’ conditions for business, EU fishing rights in UK waters and how any trade deal might be implemented, according to participants”.

And finally, with new Covid restrictions in SA looming, there’s one, er, event you probably want to avoid for a while yet — a big ole swingers party.

According to this Guardian article, 41 people tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a swingers convention in New Orleans.

Admittedly, with only 250 attendees, “Naughty in N’awlins” was about a tenth (!) the size of previous events, and attendees were tested for Covid before arriving (50% already had antibodies). They even refrained from installing a dance floor.

But, said organiser Bob Hannaford: “You see, I saw Footloose, so I knew that you couldn’t really outlaw dancing.”

No, alas. Still, take it, um, easy out there.

*Talevi is the FM's Money & Investing editor.

This is a roundup of the best Covid-19 news from the web, brought to you in today’s FM lockdown newsletter.

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