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Race for a COVID-19 vaccine continues, here's what you need to know

Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani joins The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the latest on what companies like Moderna, Sorrento, BioNTech, Lilly and Amgen are doing in the race to COVID-19 vaccine.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: A bunch of big names are announcing new details this morning around COVID vaccines. I want to bring in Yahoo Finance health care reporter Anjalee Khemlani. Hey, Anjalee. So let's start with what these vaccine companies are doing right now. Bring us up to speed.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Sure. So the big news this morning from BioNTech, which we know is working with Pfizer to develop the vaccine, is that they're acquiring a manufacturing plant from huge pharma company Novartis in Germany, and that's to help ramp up the production of the COVID vaccine candidate. They're saying that it could be operational by the first half of 2021, with an output annually of 750 million vaccine doses.

And as we know, this number is so important as we're looking to, you know, a lot of experts saying that this could be a seasonal event. Meanwhile, Moderna out with some news. It's nearly done with meeting that 30,000 participant limit for the phase III trial that it's in, and with possibly getting those efficacy results as early as November, possibly October, but more likely November, CEO Stephane Bancel has said.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Anjalee, we're getting some new details out of treatment companies like Eli Lilly and Sorrento.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's correct. Sorrento is now entering phase I trials of its antibody treatments, and that just piles on to what Eli Lilly is also doing, as well as Regeneron. So Eli Lilly also out with some news on what it's doing with a partnership with Amgen, again, on manufacturing, just really pointing to the sort of unprecedented need and the demand on these companies for their products. So it's now in the treatment space. Antibody results, we got the clinical results yesterday from Eli Lilly, and that sort of helped spur, Amgen has said, this positive data that they've seen is helping boost that relationship.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And also, we saw a lot of drama yesterday dipping into today, this controversy over masks, the race to the vaccine between President Trump and the director of the CDC. Any new things to report there?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So as we saw yesterday, there was a Senate hearing in which CDC Director Robert Redfield did say two sort of key things. One was that masks are very helpful in protecting individuals against the virus. He went so far as to say it could protect even more than a vaccine.

And then he also went on to sort of give a timeline and answer to the Senators' questions about what we could see in terms of widespread use of a vaccine. And falling in line with what we've heard from health experts, which is Q2, you know, at earliest in 2021, and possibly Q3 by the end of the full dosing, especially when you're looking at these two-dose vaccines.

Later that day, President Trump conflicted those, saying that, you know, Robert Redfield is confused and misunderstood the questions, and that, you know, the US-- the federal government was ready to go with vaccines as soon as they would be ready, and masks are not, in fact, as important as vaccines. So this sort of, you know, back and forth, it has been seen since the beginning of the outbreak and really is something that continues to undermine sort of public confidence in the efforts of these health experts. But definitely, you know, some-- some criticisms of what's going on there.