THE PANDEMIC has made us obsessive about figures. The number of covid-19 cases; the grim statistics on fatalities; and the progress of the deadly virus across regions, states, districts and villages have all been of frightening fascination since early 2020. As every new wave of the pandemic hit different parts of the world, the figures have had a way of overwhelming individual tragedies. The numbers were always too big, not least in India.
But in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years, where the tragedy of lost lives and economic ruin still deepens, come a set of figures that can only be described as grotesque: the revenues accrued by the leading developers of a new kind of vaccine to fight the virus. The top earners are Pfizer and Moderna, whose revenues have rocketed in the first half of this year with their messenger RNA or MRNA vaccines that were produced in record time and have turned the vaccine business on its head. Market caps of even relatively unknown companies with covid-19 vaccines have zoomed, as have their revenues and profits. As for the marquee names, it has been a dream run that is unlikely to end any time soon. In July, Pfizer raised its forecast of sales for the year by 30 per cent to US $33.5 billion. That has turned out to be an extremely conservative estimate; that figure was surpassed in the first half of this year itself with the company reporting overall revenues of $33.6 billion, a 68 per cent jump over the tally for the same period last year.
The case of Mode RNA is more spectacular. It had no approved product in its portfolio before the pandemic struck. Now its market cap is an astronomical $149.7 billion, pushing a number of Big Pharma companies into a black hole. For the first half of this year, Moderna’s total revenue zoomed to $6.3 billion from just $75 million in the corresponding period of 2020.
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‘America's original social distancer'
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND LOCKDOWNS MADE DAVID GESSNER, PROFESSOR OF CREATIVE WRITING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON, REVISIT HENRY DAVID THOREAU—THE 19 TH CENTURY AMERICAN NATURALIST, ESSAYIST, POET AND PHILOSOPHER WHO LIVED IN ISOLATION FOR TWO YEARS STARTING 1845. THOREAU SPENT HIS TIME GROWING HIS OWN FOOD, CONTEMPLATING AND WRITING. HIS STAY IN THE WOODS BY THE WALDEN POND IN CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS, RESULTED IN HIS MOST-KNOWN WORK, WALDEN—A BOOK THAT DESCRIBES THE ACT OF LIVING DAY TO DAY AND IS CONSIDERED A CLASSIC ON NATURE WRITING AND INDIVIDUALISM. GESSNER COMPARES THOREAU’S SELF-IMPOSED ISOLATION TO HIS OWN FORCED SECLUSION DURING THE PANDEMIC IN HIS BOOK QUIET DESPERATION, SAVAGE DELIGHT TO CONCLUDE “JUST HOW INTENSELY RELEVANT THOREAU IS TO OUR TIMES”. EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK:
In absence of robust framework and infrastructure, segregation of domestic hazardous waste remains a distant dream for most Indian cities
States must contend with several production hurdles before they can roll out fortified rice as part of the Union government's plan to fight malnutrition
‘Reality is not as fixed as people like to think'
Humans pride themselves on the fact that they cannot just see and perceive what is around them but also analyse their observations and form definite conclusions. However, this ability to understand reality is not foolproof, say researchers from the University College of London, UK, in a recent preprint paper published in the online repository PsyArXiv. Through a series of experiments, the researchers have determined that people are often akin to mistaking their imagination for real-life perception. DAKSHIANI PALICHA speaks to lead author of the study NADINE DIJKSTRA about the potential implications of their findings. Excerpts:
The fading mirage of a TRIPS waiver
A year later, the proposal to lift WTO’s intellectual property blocks to making COVID vaccines has not inched forward
Many hues of haldi
Turmeric plays a prominent role not just in our kitchens, but in many auspicious rites and rituals as well
The pandemic years have witnessed a boom in the production and export of the humble underground stem called turmeric, along with a renewal of interest among the scientific community in the spice’s therapeutic qualities, especially against COVID-19. VIBHA VARSHNEY reports why inclusion of the household herb in our daily diet is a healthy idea
With the world having lost 14 per cent of its coral reefs in just one decade, a marine devastation seems imminent. But there may be some hope yet
The abnormally high rainfall in the final month of the rainy season has added to India's monsoon agony
BEYOND 100 DAYS
The national rural employment guarantee programme financially empowers village panchayats, thus making them an effective self-governing system