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Post: Coronavirus Update: Report finds Americans with long COVID losing billions in wages, as Moderna sues Pfizer and BioNTech over mRNA patents

Some 16 million Americans of working age have long-term COVID and as many as 4 million are not working as they struggle with their symptoms, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. 

Using data gathered by the Census Bureau in June, the report found the annual cost of lost wages is equal to about $170 billion a year and could be as high as $230 billion.

“These impacts stand to worsen over time if the U.S. does not take the necessary policy actions,” the researchers wrote.

Source: Brookings Institution

The pace at which the economic burden will grow depends on three factors, according to the report: the availability and accessibility of improved treatments that help move long COVID patients from severely ill to mildly ill; whether vaccines help in preventing long COVID; and whether repeat infections carry additional long-COVID risk.

 “To give a sense of the magnitude: If the long Covid population increases by just 10% each year, in 10 years, the annual cost of lost wages will be half a trillion dollars,” the authors wrote.

The news comes as U.S. known cases of COVID are continuing to ease, although the true tally is likely higher than reported given how many people are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.

The daily average for new cases stood at 91,400 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 14% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 9% at 39,071, while the daily average for deaths is down 3% to 460. 

Cambridge, Mass.–based Moderna Inc.

surprised investors by revealing early Friday it is suing Pfizer Inc. 

 and German partner BioNTech SE 

 for infringing patents relating to its mRNA platform on which the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines are based.

The suit was to be filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the Regional Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.

“This groundbreaking technology was critical to the development of Moderna’s own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax,” the company said in a statement. “Pfizer and BioNTech copied this technology, without Moderna’s permission, to make Comirnaty,” said the statement, referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company was seeking to protect the technology that cost it billions of dollars in investments in the decade leading up to the pandemic.

Read now: Dr. Fauci’s advice has always been simple and on the mark

The move marks a reversal of Moderna’s stance in 2020 that it would not enforce patents while the pandemic continued, he said. The company will not pursue vaccine patents used in the 92 low- and middle-income countries in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market commitment but expects Pfizer and BioNTech to respect its IP rights now. 

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• North Korea on Friday said the latest fever cases detected in its border region with China were tested to be influenza, not coronavirus infections as initially feared, the Associated Press reported. The report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency came a day after the North said it locked down unspecified areas in the province of Ryanggang after four people had fevers that were suspected to indicate COVID-19. North Korea maintains it has had no confirmed coronavirus cases since Aug. 10, when leader Kim Jong Un declared a widely disputed victory over the virus, just three months after the country acknowledged an omicron outbreak.

In North Korean state media reports, Kim Jong Un’s sister suggested the dictator himself had contracted Covid-19. The statements came as the country declared victory against the virus, three months after reporting a surge in cases. Photo: KCNA/Reuters

• Tennis star Novak Djokovic will miss the 2022 U.S. Open due to his vaccination status, MarketWatch’s Weston Blasi noted. Djokovic announced the news on Twitter on Thursday morning while saying he will “keep in good shape and positive spirit and wait for an opportunity to compete again.”

• The U.S. government is suspending 26 flights by Chinese airlines from the United States to China in a dispute over antivirus controls after Beijing suspended flights by American carriers, the AP reported. The Transportation Department said Beijing violated an air-travel agreement and treated airlines unfairly under a system that requires them to suspend flights if passengers test positive for COVID. U.S. regulators suspended seven flights by Air China Ltd.

from New York City and a total of 19 flights from Los Angeles by Air China, China Eastern Airlines Ltd.
China Southern Airlines Ltd.

and Xiamen Airlines Ltd. , according to the Department of Transportation. It said that was equal to the number of flights United Airlines
American Airlines

and Delta Air Lines

were required to cancel under Beijing’s “circuit-breaker” system.

• Macau’s economy contracted by 39.3% in the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, data showed Friday, Reuters reported. Tourist arrivals fell 27.5% from a year earlier as the city was impacted by the COVID pandemic, which forced lockdowns of the city’s casinos and other entertainment outlets.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 599.4 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.48 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 94 million cases and 1,043,110 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 223.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.4% of the total population. But just 108.2 million have had a first booster, equal to 48.4% of the vaccinated population.

Just 21.4 million of the people 50 years old and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 33.2% of those who had a first booster.

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