Weeks after the initial release of the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)-BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX), a variant strain of coronavirus known as B.1.1.7 has been discovered in the U.K. and other parts of the world, including the U.S. This variant strand has its own distinct genetic makeup and accounts for roughly 60% of all coronavirus case confirmations in London recently.
While this strand among other distinct strains, including one found in South Africa, are still being tested, it appears the B.1.1.7 transmits 50% to 70% faster than other coronavirus variants in the U.K., creating concern for a new spike in confirmed cases, as well as whether the new vaccine will provide protection against this new variant.
The inability to protect against the virus would surely lead to extended business closures and economic distress, putting more pressure on several real estate sectors already struggling to stay afloat. Here's what real estate investors need to know.
What we know right now
Viruses mutate frequently. The coronavirus in particular experiences small mutations and variations about every two weeks. The big difference between this mutation when compared to ones in the past is the type of amino acid that's changed.
Right now, scientists are working to determine if the vaccine will be able to protect against this variant strand. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "the virus would likely need to accumulate multiple mutations in the spike protein to evade immunity induced by vaccines or by natural infection." This means the current variants being discovered aren't resulting in significant enough mutations to change the effectiveness of the current vaccine. However, these small mutations of the virus will likely continue to surface until the virus is controlled either by vaccination or natural immunity.
How this impacts investors
If what scientists say about the vaccine still offering immunity to new variant strands is true, investors can expect very little change to policies regarding mandatory closures or continued economic strain beyond what we see today.
What may inhibit the speed of recovery more than mutated stands of COVID-19 is the number of professionals who are considered priority to receive the vaccine refusing to get vaccinated. Concerns over potential and unknown side effects for the vaccine are resulting in as much as 80% of healthcare workers and staff declining vaccinations at this time.
Economic recovery largely depends on how quickly the spread of the virus is mitigated. Failed efforts to social distance and close businesses means the vaccine is the greatest sign of hope for an end to the current pandemic.
The Millionacres bottom line
Real estate investors should be ready for another volatile year, despite hope for a resurgence of economic activity after the introduction of the vaccine. Immunity and defense against the virus may take far longer than many hoped or expected.