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Here's where the world stands in the fight against COVID-19

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Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani breaks down the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. I want to spotlight two companies here working on vaccine candidates in the race to control and combat the coronaviruses pandemic. We got updates from both Novavax and Johnson & Johnson in terms of key efficacy data for their respective vaccine candidates, both showing promising results, but some questions remain over whether or not they will be effective against those variants that we've seen reported, including that South African variant. For more on the data itself, I want to bring on Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani to break that down for us. Anjalee?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Thanks, Zack. Yeah, so we've got some great news out of those two companies, Novavax noting that its vaccine is 89.3% effective, as well as Johnson & Johnson today, with 66% overall. Now, important to point out that if you break it out by region, Johnson & Johnson says that its vaccine is 72% in the US for its phase three trial. Novavax's data is for its UK trial, so while it's encouraging news, we don't specifically know what it will be in the US. Important to note that one of the interesting distinctions is Johnson & Johnson, with a single shot, it holds more hope for more global distribution. Meanwhile, Novavax, still a two shot dose.

But we did get some interesting information about the efficacy against the South African strain. Johnson & Johnson said that its vaccine held up to 57% in South Africa, and Novavax, which was a first with official data against the strain, saw its vaccine at 60% effective. So it is still promising news against these strains.

But we're now at a point where these boosters may be necessary, either specifically against the strains-- as you can see, the B.1.1.7 from UK, B.1.351 from South Africa, and the P.1 strain from Brazil, all three are officially in the US, more than 379 cases of that first UK strain already confirmed. But it is more virulent, but it does seem to be holding up against the vaccines. The other two are where the concern is right now.

We saw Moderna's lab results show that the mRNA technology too, despite its 94% efficacy rate, was also weaker when faced with the South African strain. So while we do see those numbers drop, experts like Dr. Fauci are saying that all these numbers are still good enough.

But now, let's turn to our attention to address the distribution and the vaccination process. We've been seeing daily reports of struggles with coordinating the 64 jurisdictions, that include states, tribal nations, and territories, to get those vaccinations out with things like jumping the line, connections making it easier, as well as some struggles and getting those doses out, whether it's missed appointments, or just poor coordination at the state level.

We have states like Washington doing really well. Globally, we've seen smoother roll outs in the UK and Israel. So it is possible. Vaccine expert Dr. Arthur Caplan has this to say for a solution.

ARTHUR CAPLAN: What we should have is the state offering appointments, and letting people choose, rather than putting the burden on the individual to go find out when can they go, what's the eligibility. So that has to be fixed. I think we could fix that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So as you can hear, hope there. But Pfizer and Moderna are now under pressure to make sure that their supply is going to meet the demand of these appointments. The federal government is holding two to three days of vaccine supply to ensure that there's some predictability for states to be able to ensure a smoother rollout.

But in the manufacturing and pharma world, while we're hearing of these struggles for vaccinations, they pretty much are applauding the efforts, saying that while it is a pretty complex process to develop vaccines, it's not like pills, where there's a formula, it just goes through the manufacturing line. This requires growing biological products, so the yield increases as they start to ramp up and make more, which is why experts did expect a slow ramp up, because of that process, saying that it is very complex.

So the idea of just invoking, say, the Defense Production Act, and asking other companies to just jump on board is going to be pretty difficult. Vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez has this to explain about what the process is.

PETER HOTEZ: It's more of a production schedule, x numbers of doses per month. And it's not like all of a sudden, we're going from zero to 1.2 billion, right? It's maybe 80 million doses a month, and then that's gradually revved up.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: All told, experts did predict of this sort of issue, as we know, that demand is far outsizing supply at this point. And there are signs that at least companies are going to be working with each other. We know that Sanofi offered and is working with Pfizer to produce 100 million doses, largely geared towards the European rollout. We also have heard Novartis is looking to partner with companies to help make it, and there are larger contract manufacturing options and capacity still there.

But of course, the balance is, right now, not over investing, in that experts have told me that's something that these pharma companies have to weigh, because while the demand is so high right now, they will not need that in the future. So there's that balancing act. But we also know that the Biden administration is talking about invoking the Defense Production Act for accessories that are going to be needed, like the syringes, the vials, et cetera, and ensuring that the low dead space syringe, which is useful for extracting an additional dose out of the Pfizer vaccine, is going to be available. So we get an expansion on that supply.

Meanwhile, we also know that vaccine sites are going to be rolled out through FEMA, which has already committed $1 billion of worthy sites, and has disbursed 200 staff members throughout these 64 jurisdictions. Back to you guys.