As Covid-19 mutation Omicron wreaks havoc with winter holiday travel plans and life in general, two news stories that broke within the past week are furthering signs of social and medical promise of the likes only glimpsed during the early days of our vaccine rollout.
Firstly, the feature film “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” is today expected to eclipse the $1 billion worldwide box office threshold, a feat only accomplished by 47 other films in global cinema history. See here for Kim Renfro’s Insider article, “Only 47 Movies Have Ever Hit $1 Billion at the Box Office — Here They Are,” and here for Variety article, “‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Becomes Biggest Movie of the Year Worldwide,” by Maane Khatchatourian and J. Kim Murphy. The irony has been noted that today is Christmas Day, 2021, which not only brings to both Sony (the parent company of Columbia Pictures) and Marvel Studios a welcome financial achievement. but a social milestone that proves audiences will still attend movie theaters based on a film’s authentic drawing power.
On the heels of the release of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” came two other milestones: It was reported that the FDA had approved the first antiviral to treat Covid-19. See here for December 22 FDA press release, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Oral Antiviral for Treatment of COVID-19.” The antiviral is manufactured by Pfizer and called Paxlovid, of which the U.S. has so far ordered 10 million units and for which President Biden expressed his idea to make the oral medication free of charge for every U.S. citizen.
The Pfizer study claims an 89% effectiveness rate in preventing hospitalization or death resulting from a Covid-19 diagnosis.
Two days later, on Christmas Eve, it was reported by CNN that the FDA had also authorized a second antiviral, Merck’s Molnupiravir. See here for “FDA Authorizes Second Antiviral Pill to Treat Covid-19,” by CNN correspondents Jamie Gumbrecht, Amanda Sealy and Jacqueline Howard.
The CNN report, however, noted a clear distinction of the newest drug: The prescription medication, which can be taken at home, is designed to stop the progression of COVID-19 from mild to severe symptoms in people at high risk. In data presented to an FDA advisory panel in late November, the drug was shown to prevent 30% of infections from progressing – far fewer than Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid, which the FDA authorized on Wednesday.
Each of the above news items are important for different reasons. The sociological message punctuated by the success of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is difficult to deny. In our current phase of the pandemic, where entertainment events are again closing down due in large part to the highly-contagious Omicron variant, the “Spider-Man” grosses reflect a willingness on the part of many to follow various mask and vaccination mandates for the sake of returning to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.
On the medical front, the world has become aware that further progress is being made.
We remain as a global entity in an era of uncertainty. The promise we are witnessing is on several fronts, and hastily advancing.
We enter a new year with some hope.
Thank you for reading.