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US stocks drop as virus fears add to volatility

Analysts cited comments from Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel as a source of worry as he said that existing Covid-19 vaccines would have trouble countering the Omicron variant.

November 30, 2021 / 10:56 PM IST
Dow Jones (Shutterstock)

Dow Jones (Shutterstock)

Wall Street stocks dropped early November 30 as markets weighed worries over the latest COVID-19 variant ahead of economic data and congressional testimony by top policymakers.

Analysts cited comments from Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel as a source of worry. Bancel told the Financial Times that existing Covid-19 vaccines would have trouble countering the Omicron variant.

On Monday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that the variant could slow the recovery of the US economy and labor market and also heighten uncertainty regarding inflation.

Powell is due to testify later Tuesday in Congress, along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.6 percent at 34,899.50.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.6 percent to 4,627.43, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.3 percent to 15,737.17.

Stocks have been volatile following news of the latest variant, plunging on Friday but partially recovering those losses on Monday as investors bet vaccines and emerging therapeutics would mitigate the hit from Omicron.

Markets are due to receive an update on shoppers' sentiment later Tuesday when the Conference Board releases its consumer confidence data for November and the National Retail Federation reports on holiday sales.
AFP
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