Johnson & Johnson Is Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine That Requires a Single Dose

Johnson & Johnson Is Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine That Requires a Single Dose

Korin Miller                              January 18, 2021
Photo credit: Stefan Cristian Cioata - Getty Images
Photo credit: Stefan Cristian Cioata – Getty Images – From Prevention

 

While Pfizer and Moderna both have COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S., other vaccine candidates are still in the works, including a single-dose option from Johnson & Johnson, which has about 45,000 people enrolled in ongoing phase 3 clinical trials. According to early data just released by the company, this vaccine also shows major promise.

Interim phase 1/2a data were published on Jan. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the results show the company’s vaccine candidate created an immune response in patients for at least 71 days—the full length of time measured in the study so far.

The vaccine was also “generally well-tolerated” in study participants, Johnson & Johnson said in a press release. While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine also has plenty of differences. Here’s what we know so far, plus what lies ahead.

How does the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine work?

Johnson & Johnson has an andenovector vaccine, which uses double-stranded DNA to promote an immune response in the body. This technology works differently than the mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which both use single-stranded RNA.

In the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, researchers added a piece of genetic material from the novel coronavirus’ spike protein (the piece that latches onto human cells) into another virus, Adenovirus 26, which was modified so it has the ability to enter cells but not reproduce inside of them. Adenoviruses are common viruses that usually cause cold-like symptoms, but because the one used in the vaccine was altered and cannot replicate, it can’t make you sick. (Other COVID-19 vaccines, including Oxford and AstraZeneca’s candidate, uses similar adenovirus technology.)

When you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the modified adenovirus carrying a piece of the spike protein latches onto the surface of your cells. It’s pulled inside, where the modified virus travels to the cell nucleus, home to its DNA. The adenovirus then puts its DNA into the nucleus, the spike protein gene is read by the cell, and it’s then copied into messenger RNA (mRNA).

After that, the mRNA leaves the nucleus and serves as a set of instructions for other cells, so they begin making spike proteins. Those are then recognized by your immune system, and your body reacts by producing antibodies to the perceived threat (even though no threat exists).

Your immune system cells then remember how to fight the distinct piece of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, so if you come into contact with it in the future, your body will have the capability to fight it more efficiently.

This technology is unique but Johnson & Johnson has a lot of experience with it, as it’s already been used for its Ebola vaccine. “They’ve given hundreds of thousands of doses of this similar vaccine,” which has had no major safety issues, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

While it’s still being tested, Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may only require one shot rather than two. Its trials so far have found that giving both one or two doses of the vaccine spurred an effective immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 in study participants, but nothing is set in stone until phase 3 clinical trials are complete and the company has enough data to support its single dose.

How effective is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?

It’s not entirely clear at this point. Published data from the early stage trials found that more than 90% of people who were vaccinated developed neutralizing antibodies (which are expected to stop SARS-CoV-2 from infecting your cells) 29 days after they received the first dose of the vaccine. Two months after the first dose, all participants had developed neutralizing antibodies, which stayed put for at least 71 days.

What are the side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?

According to the data so far, it may cause “mild-to-moderate side effects typically associated with vaccinations,” similar to those expected from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This includes cold-like symptoms, like a headache, body aches, pain at the injection site, and a fever—a normal sign that the body’s immune response is being primed.

How is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine stored?

One of the biggest perks of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is its durability. Because it doesn’t harbor delicate mRNA like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (which need to stay frozen), it’s much less fragile and can stay stable in a normal refrigerator (36–46°F) for up to three months.

“That’s a big advantage,” says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. Safely storing the other available vaccines, particularly the Pfizer vaccine (which needs to be kept at a frigid -94°F), presents challenges for the average doctor’s office or pharmacy, as most locations don’t have specialty freezers that reach those temperatures.

When will it be granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA?

“It’s too soon to say because we don’t have phase 3 clinical data yet,” says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

However, he’s hopeful, because “the phase 2 clinical trial results look strong.” Dr. Russo agrees that “as of right now, there are no major concerns with the safety signals.”

Johnson & Johnson’s phase 3 clinical trial is expected to wrap up by mid-February. If everything checks out, the company can apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Russo says. Once the FDA grants its approval, it’s possible that the vaccine could be authorized sometime in March.

In August, the company signed a $1 billion contract with the federal government, pledging to produce 12 million doses of its vaccine by February and 100 million doses by the end of June. However, The New York Times reports production may be about two months behind schedule.

Will you get to choose which COVID-19 vaccine you get?

At this point, that doesn’t seem likely. “In this initial phase of vaccinations, there’s probably not going to be much of a choice for people,” Dr. Adalja says. Rather, the health department or agency administering the vaccine will make the decision, mostly based on which vaccine is readily available in a specific area.

But a lot of this really comes down to what the data will say. “Exactly how effective is this vaccine?” Dr. Schaffner says. “If there’s a noteworthy difference, that might change things.”

Almost a third of recovered Covid patients return to hospital in five months and one in eight die

Almost a third of recovered Covid patients return to hospital in five months and one in eight die

Sarah Knapton                           January 17, 2021
Paramedics transport a patient from the ambulance to the emergency department at the the Royal London Hospital - Barcroft Media 
Paramedics transport a patient from the ambulance to the emergency department at the the Royal London Hospital – Barcroft Media

 

Almost a third of recovered Covid patients will end up back in hospital within five months and one in eight will die, alarming new figures have shown.

Research by Leicester University and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found there is a devastating long-term toll on survivors of severe coronavirus, with many people developing heart problems, diabetes and chronic liver and kidney conditions.

Out of 47,780 people who were discharged from hospital in the first wave, 29.4 per cent were readmitted to hospital within 140 days, and 12.3 per cent of the total died.

The current cut-off point for recording Covid deaths is 28 days after a positive test, so it may mean thousands more people should be included in the coronavirus death statistics.

Researchers have called for urgent monitoring of people who have been discharged from hospital.

Study author Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at Leicester University, said: “This is the largest study of people discharged from hospital after being admitted with Covid.

“People seem to be going home, getting long-term effects, coming back in and dying. We see nearly 30 per cent have been readmitted, and that’s a lot of people. The numbers are so large.

“The message here is we really need to prepare for long Covid. It’s a mammoth task to follow up with these patients and the NHS is really pushed at the moment, but some sort of monitoring needs to be arranged.”

The study found that Covid survivors were nearly three and a half times more likely to be readmitted to hospital, and die, in the 140 days timeframe than other hospital outpatients.

Prof Khunti said the team had been surprised to find that many people were going back in with a new diagnosis, and many had developed heart, kidney and liver problems, as well as diabetes.

He said it was important to make sure people were placed on protective therapies, such as statins and aspirin.

“We don’t know if it’s because Covid destroyed the beta cells which make insulin and you get Type 1 diabetes, or whether it causes insulin resistance, and you develop Type 2, but we are seeing these surprising new diagnoses of diabetes,” he added.

“We’ve seen studies where survivors have had MRS scans and they’ve cardiac problems and liver problems.

“These people urgently require follow up and the need to be on things like aspirin and statins.”

The new study was published on a pre-print server and is yet to be peer reviewed. However experts described the paper as “important”.

Commenting on the study on Twitter, Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operational research unit at University College London said: “This is such important work. Covid is about so much more than death. A significant burden of long-term illness after hospitalization for Covid.”

Last year, researchers at North Bristol NHS Trust found that three quarters of virus patients treated at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital were still experiencing problems three months later.

Symptoms included breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches, leaving people struggling to wash, dress and return to work.

Some patients say they have been left needing a wheelchair since contracting the virus, while others claim they can no longer walk up the stairs without experiencing chest pain.

In December, the ONS estimated that one in 10 people who catch coronavirus go on to suffer long Covid with symptoms lasting three months or more.

Overall, roughly 186,000 people in private households in England in the week beginning November 22 were living with Covid-19 symptoms that had persisted for between five and 12 weeks, the most up-to-date ONS data shows.

In the end, you have to trust the government when it comes to the vaccine, don’t you?

Chicago SunTimes

In the end, you have to trust the government when it comes to the vaccine, don’t you?

I intend to get vaccinated because it’s the right thing to do. As an old codger, I owe it to the younger generation to set a good example.

“I’m ready to roll up my sleeve and say ‘I still believe’ in this country,” writes Phil Kadner. “Just tell me where and when to show up.”  Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times.

 

Do you trust the government with your life? That’s what this comes down to.

I am trying very hard to answer “Yes” to that question, although everything in my life’s experience says, “Are you crazy?”

I am speaking about the COVID-19 vaccine.

I have decided I will get the vaccinations — two shots — when they become available to me. I think. Ask me again tomorrow and I may not be so sure.

But right now, I intend to get vaccinated because it is the right thing to do. As an old codger, I owe it to the younger generation to set a good example and I have always wanted to be the fellow in the disaster movie who says, “Leave me behind. You get to safety youngsters. I’ll hold them off.”

Okay. That might not be the right quote here. But I think you understand my intent.

Just tell me where to show up for the big moment.

That’s the thing that’s bugging me. No one seems to know how this is going to work. Once the medical people get their shots and the people in nursing homes get theirs, and the first responders, and the teachers, what’s the plan exactly?

As an old guy with some medical conditions that put me at high risk, I should be pretty high up on the list to get vaccinated. But is someone going to call me on the phone and say, “Get your sleeve rolled up, stand away from the door, we’re coming in,” or what?

Will I get an email saying, “Congratulations, you have won a free COVID-19 shot, all you have to do is agree to the five pages of terms and conditions and your vaccine will arrive in the mail?”

Just tell me what’s next.

Are we all going to get in our cars and form a line at the vehicle emissions testing site? I’m willing to do that, but there must be many toilet facilities nearby because old codgers need to make frequent pit stops, if you know what I mean? In fact, watching those miles-long car lines for vaccinations in Florida, I could think of little else.

I keep hearing that COVID vaccine shipments are getting lost and vials are being taken out of the freezer and forgotten, which I find worrisome. I don’t want to get a dose of the vaccine that has lost its potency.

Speaking of potency, I heard on the TV news that someone is thinking of diluting the doses, splitting them in half, so more people can be vaccinated. Did anyone actually test this stuff or are people at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control just playing games with us?

I can’t help thinking that rich people, public figures, celebrities and other folks of influence are going to end up getting the vaccine before the rest of us.

Hearing that NFL and NBA players are getting tested repeatedly for COVID-19 before games while millions of other Americans are told testing is unavailable may have something to do with that.

I mean, there’s always somebody happy to use the road shoulder to cut around the rest of the traffic in a construction zone. Special rules for special people.

We have to trust the government here. But the incompetence, the finger-pointing between state and national governments, the lack of accountability, are troubling.

It’s not easy, even for someone who has been an advocate of national health care for many years, to say this will all work out in the end. I mean, the end has arrived for hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them trusted the government. Many of them died because they did not.

I’m ready to roll up my sleeve and say “I still believe” in this country. Just tell me where and when to show up. As for you youngsters out there who are afraid, just stand behind me. It’s going to be all right.

See. I got my disaster movie moment after all.

Contact Phil Kadner at philkadner@gmail.com

Biden to yank Keystone XL permit on first day of presidency

Biden to yank Keystone XL permit on first day of presidency

Lauren Gardner and Ben Lefebvre                     January 17, 2021
The Keystone XL Pipeline: Everything You Need To Know | NRDC

President-elect Joe Biden will rescind the cross-border permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, three sources confirm to POLITICO.

The move is billed as one of Biden’s Day One climate change actions, according to a presentation circulating among Washington trade groups and lobbyists, a portion of which was seen by POLITICO. The decision was not included in incoming chief of staff Ron Klain’s Saturday memo outlining Biden’s planned executive actions during the first days of his presidency.

Two lobbyists confirmed that Biden plans to yank the project’s permit on Inauguration Day, a development first reported by CBC News. It’s the latest development in a decade-long fight over the controversial pipeline and solidifies a campaign promise the Canadian government had hoped was negotiable.

“The only question has always been whether labor can stave off the death sentence,” said one oil and gas lobbyist who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “And they never had a chance.”

A Biden transition spokesperson declined to comment.

Canada’s ambassador to Washington Kirsten Hillman would not confirm reports. “The Government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project,” she said in a statement to POLITICO on Sunday evening. “Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan. It will also contribute to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness.”

Rescinding Keystone XL would negate one of President Donald Trump’s own first actions in office and kill a project that had become a political totem in the fight between climate activists and the oil industry. Despite many analysts saying the boom in U.S. shale oil made new sources of Canadian crude less important, TC Energy has fought years of legal challenges against it obtaining the needed state permits that would all it to build the pipeline.

The reaction: TC Energy announced Sunday that Keystone XL would achieve net-zero emissions across operations once it begins running in 2023. A spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on Biden’s executive order plans.

Environmentalists applauded the decision. “President-elect Biden is showing courage and empathy to the farmers, ranchers and tribal nations who have dealt with an ongoing threat that disrupted their lives for over a decade,” said Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, a grassroots group focused on scuttling the project.

Canada-U.S. relations: TC Energy first proposed the $8 billion pipeline in 2008, saying the 1,200-mile project was crucial to deliver crude from Western Canada to refineries in the Midwest. The Obama administration in 2015 denied a cross-border permit for the pipeline, however, saying the oil it would deliver would exacerbate climate change.

Keystone XL was one of the few issues on which Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed. The Liberal government had planned to continue to advocate for the pipeline.

During a congratulatory call with Biden on November 9th, Trudeau told the incoming president he looked forward to joining forces to fight climate change while co-operating on energy projects like the Keystone XL.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney bet Biden would not cancel a project already under construction when he announced in March that his government had taken a $1.1 billion stake in Keystone XL. Preliminary construction started last fall in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

The provincial government openly mulled a legal intervention last year into a court case that had put pipeline construction on hold and reportedly hired American lobbyists to make its case in Washington.

Stef Feldman, a policy director for Biden’s campaign, told POLITICO in May that the Democrat would “proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good.”

What’s next: In a statement Sunday night, Kenney vowed to work with TC Energy “to use all legal avenues available to protect” Alberta’s interest in the pipeline.

New Yorker reporter’s footage provides ‘clearest view yet’ of Capitol rioters inside Senate chamber

New Yorker reporter’s footage provides ‘clearest view yet’ of Capitol rioters inside Senate chamber

Tim O’Donnell                       January 17, 2021

Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and contributing writer for The New Yorker, captured what appears to be the “clearest” footage yet of the deadly riot at the United States Capitol earlier this month.

Mogelson attended (in a journalistic capacity) President Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, which preceded the pro-Trump mob’s march to and breach of the capitol. He followed the rioters into the building and filmed a group that entered the empty Senate chamber. They began taking photos of documents in the room as part of a self-declared “information operation.” One man said he was attempting to find something that he could “use against these scumbags,” while another said he thought Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) “would want us to do this.”

In a later scene, Mogelson witnessed Jake Angeli, otherwise known as Q Shaman, sitting in Vice President Mike Pence’s chair, as a lone Capitol Police officer tried unsuccessfully to get him to move. He also gathered footage from outside the Capitol, including a large crowd aggressively forcing its way into the building, as well as a man telling people around him to “start making a list, put all those names down” and “start hunting them down one by one.”

The New Yorker notes that although the footage was “not originally intended for publication, it documents a historic event and serves as a visceral complement to Mogelson’s probing, illuminating” written feature. Read the full report here and watch the complete footage here.

Woman arrested in Capitol attack: ‘I listen to my president’

Woman arrested in Capitol attack: ‘I listen to my president’

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas-area real estate agent who is facing charges for allegedly being part of the pro-President Donald Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week said she’s a “normal person” who listened to her president.

Jenna Ryan, 50, is accused of “knowingly” entering or remaining in the restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in a Washington federal court.

Matt DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas office, confirmed that Ryan had turned herself in and that her Carrollton apartment was searched Friday. No personal telephone for Ryan was available, and court records didn’t list a lawyer for her as of Friday.

Ryan shared photos and videos on social media, including a video in which she says, “We’re gonna go down and storm the Capitol,” in front of a bathroom mirror, according to the FBI criminal complaint.

The agent who signed the complaint also noted that Ryan live-streamed a 21-minute Facebook video of her and a group walking toward the Capitol.

“We are going to (expletive) go in here,” Ryan said in the video as she approached the top of the stairs on the west side of the Capitol building. “Life or death, it doesn’t matter. Here we go.”

She then turned the camera to expose her face, the complaint noted, and said, “Y’all know who to hire for your Realtor, Jenna Ryan for your Realtor.” Nearly halfway through, Ryan appears to have made it to the front door, chanting, “USA, USA” and “Here we are, in the name of Jesus.”

In an interview with KTVT-TV in Fort Worth, Ryan said she hoped that Trump would pardon her.

“I just want people to know I’m a normal person, that I listen to my president who told me to go to the Capitol, that I was displaying my patriotism while I was there and I was just protesting and I wasn’t trying to do anything violent and I didn’t realize there was actually violence,” Ryan said.

Ryan is the third person in FBI’s Dallas region of northern, northeastern and near western Texas to be named in criminal complaints, DeSarno said.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Jr. of Grand Prairie, another Dallas suburb, was released to home confinement Thursday after a prosecutor alleged the former fighter pilot had zip-tie handcuffs on the Senate floor because he planned to take hostages.

Troy Anthony Smocks, 58, of Dallas, was arrested Friday after a criminal complaint was filed in Washington accusing him of “knowingly and willfully transmitting threats in interstate commerce.”

Court documents allege that Smocks used social media to post threats on Jan. 6-7 regarding the riots. The threats included that he and others would return to the U.S. Capitol Tuesday with weapons and form a mass so large that no army could match them. He threatened they would “hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are,” specifically threatening Republicans not allied with them, Democrats and “and Tech Execs,” according to a court affidavit.

Smocks could not be reached for comment, and no attorney for him is listed in court records.

Also Friday, the first Houston-area resident to be accused of participating in the riot was arrested. In a criminal complaint filed in Washington, the FBI accuses Joshua Lollar, 39, of Spring, of being the spearhead of a group trying unsuccessfully to break through a line of Washington Metropolitan police officers into the Capitol.

Lollar was charged with violent entry, unauthorized presence in a restricted area and impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder. He remains in federal custody pending a Tuesday detention hearing. No attorney for him is listed in court records.

The post-Trump Republican Party has been gutted in almost every way imaginable

The post-Trump Republican Party has been gutted in almost every way imaginable

Jim VandeHei                               January 15, 2021

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.

  • They lost their congressional power.
  • Their two leaders, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, are hamstrung by corporate blacklisting of their election-denying members.
  • The GOP brand is radioactive for a huge chunk of America.
  • The corporate bans on giving to the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted against election certification are growing and virtually certain to hold.
  • The RNC is a shell of its former self and run by a Trump loyalist.
  • Democrats crushed them in fundraising when they were out of power. Imagine their edge with it.
  • Sheldon Adelson, the party’s biggest donor, died Monday.
  • The NRA is weaker than it has ever been, after massive leadership scandals.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once controlled by rock-ribbed Republicans, also gave to Democrats in 2020.
  • Rank-and-file Republicans are now scattered on encrypted channels like Signal and fearful of Big Tech platforms.

What to watch: Conservatives hold power in the courts and state legislatures, two foundational pieces to rebuilding their party. But they likely will face a raging internal war over policies and political leaders as they grapple with a post-Trump world — whenever that might be.

Biden, labor secretary nominee vow to boost union membership

Reuters

Biden, labor secretary nominee vow to boost union membership

Kuttner-Labor Sec 111320.jpg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said his labor secretary nominee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, understands that unions built the American middle class and will encourage unionization.

 

“Marty understands, like I do, that the middle class built this country and unions built the middle class,” Biden said. “He sees how union workers have been holding this country together during this crisis.”

Biden said he had considered nominating former Democratic presidential rival Senator Bernie Sanders to the post but they both agreed it was important to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.

Walsh, 53, who was elected mayor of Boston in 2013, has backed both a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.

A past president of the Laborers’ Union Local 223, which he joined at 21, and the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council, Walsh told reporters he saw opportunities to expand workers’ rights and union membership.

“We can defend workers rights, we can strengthen collective bargaining. We can grow union membership. We can create millions of good paying jobs with investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and in high-tech manufacturing, along with the workforce training to help get those people into those good jobs,” he said.

Union membership in the United States has been declining for decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 7.1 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union in 2019, compared with 7.5 million workers in the private sector. The union membership rate declined over the year in the private sector by 0.2 percentage point to 6.2%, compared to around 20% in 1983.

The Polar Vortex Could Unleash the Coldest Air of the Season Next Week

The Polar Vortex Could Unleash the Coldest Air of the Season Next Week

Kelly O’Sullivan                        
Photo credit: RyersonClark
Photo credit: RyersonClark. From The Pioneer Woman
Get out your parkas, people!

Most of the country has enjoyed a relatively mild winter so far, but those cozy temperatures won’t last long. AccuWeather reports that the polar vortex could cause a “major shift in the weather pattern” during the second half of the season. In other words, it’s about to get very chilly.

While the phrase “polar vortex” sounds dramatic, it’s actually nothing out of the ordinary. This meteorological term describes the big mass of cold air that constantly hovers around the Arctic, spinning counterclockwise like a hurricane. The polar vortex usually remains above the North Pole, but occasionally it weakens. When that happens, it moves south and circulates above the United States—bringing a whole lot of Arctic air with it.

Photo credit: Courtesy of AccuWeather
Photo credit: Courtesy of AccuWeather

 

Meteorologists who have been monitoring the polar vortex predict that’s exactly what’s about to happen over the next few weeks. Oh, and it gets worse: The blast of cold air will pack some extra “shock value” because it’s following several weeks of “well-above-average temperatures” across the northern half of the U.S.

“The anticipated waves of Arctic air will have their cold tasks cut out for them at first, but once the pattern gets rolling, a major surge in heating demand is expected, and winter storms and lake-effect snow that become intertwined in the cold blasts can hit travel and daily activities hard in parts of the Midwest and East,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel.

So, when should you plan to bundle up? The initial rush of freezing air is forecasted to sweep the country before the end of the month.

“An Arctic cold front is expected to move through the northern Rockies and northern Plains on January 18-19 then the eastern and south-central parts of the U.S. between January 20 and 21,” Dave said. “Even though temperatures may remain above average in the wake of the leading edge of the cold air, it will bring a 10- to 20-degree Fahrenheit drop as the front passes through.”

Yes, he really did say an “Arctic cold front” is coming. Happy 2021!

Bitter Cold Means Chaos as Global Energy Systems Show Strain

Bitter Cold Means Chaos as Global Energy Systems Show Strain

Rachel Morison                           January 15, 2021

In Asia, extreme cold prompted record-high power demand and a scramble for natural gas to keep the lights on in China, Japan and South Korea. In Sweden, a utility is paying for hotels for its customers after heavy snow brought down sections of the power grid cutting supplies while French households were advised to delay doing their laundry to save energy.

The extreme, widespread cold took markets by surprise. The spikes in energy demand during the bitter winter, coupled with weak wind generation, power plant closures and liquefied natural gas tanker delays highlighted the shortcomings of global energy systems in weather conditions that are only set to get more volatile.

There could be more to come. A relatively rare weather phenomenon with the potential to disrupt the polar vortex — the winds that usually keep cold air contained in the far north — is threatening to send an Arctic blast across North America, Europe and Asia from late January.

“The distortion of the polar vortex appears to be prolonging the severe winter conditions in some northerly areas and potentially Europe,” said David Thomas, independent adviser and former head of LNG at Vitol Group. “It may not be over just yet. Several companies are feeling the pain and the elevated power prices must be hurting large consumers.”

The extreme conditions left some energy traders and utilities flat-footed, sending prices for electricity, fuel and vessels to record highs.

In Asia, LNG spot rates jumped 18-fold from last year’s lows and helped send European gas prices to a 12-year peak. Britain’s national grid was forced to issue numerous appeals for generators to increase output as low wind generation coincided with the cold snap and pushed wholesale electricity prices for peak periods to more than 1,000 pounds ($1,367) a megawatt hour.

European gas markets like the U.K. and Spain, which don’t have large amounts of gas storage, and are more dependent on the “incredibly tight global LNG market are more exposed if below normal temperatures are sustained,” said James Huckstepp, manager for EMEA gas analytics at S&P Global Platts.

Lights Out

China is struggling to keep the lights on after some of the lowest temperatures since 1966 boosted domestic demand just as manufacturing ramped up after the pandemic. Ice is also wreaking havoc on grid infrastructure, while the frigid weather disrupted transport and delayed LNG tankers at Qingdao.

Big industrial users are first in line to have electricity supplies cut, followed by commercial buildings, in order to keep supply safe for residential consumers.

Meanwhile in Japan, its utilities have asked consumers to conserve electricity, and the government has ordered independent producers to boost output to maximum capacity.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. bought several cargoes of low-sulfur fuel oil for oil-fired power plants that are utilized only when gas-fed facilities have been maximized. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has begun speaking to refiners and urged them to help supply local utilities with LSFO supplies.

Wrap Up Warm

Earlier this week, the French grid operator issued a red alert for high power demand and appealed to households to put on a jumper rather than turn the heating up. Electricite de France SA advised customers to delay doing their laundry while power demand was high.

Parts of northeastern Sweden got the biggest snow dump since 2012, with 60 centimeters in just one day, according to the nation’s Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. The storm overwhelmed grids and has left many thousands of customers without power this week.

EON SE is paying for hotel rooms for Swedish customers as it struggles to restore power supplies that have been down since Jan. 11. Vattenfall AB, the Nordic region’s biggest utility, hired a helicopter to clear snow and ice from power lines, using a long pole to shake snow off cables or a grip claw to lift trees from the line.

In Spain, the government is considering ways to intervene in the electricity market when there are sharp price increases, as happened when demand surged during the cold spell that blanketed Madrid in a rare snowfall. Some consumer bills in the regulated market are linked to wholesale prices that are at the highest in a decade.

With natural gas shortages, power plants in Iran are burning low-grade fuel oils that create toxic smog, or switching off entirely, triggering blackouts.

Pakistan is facing a gas shortage, too, despite running its two LNG terminals at full capacity in January. The Asian nation has cut gas supplies to industries and limited flows to compressed natural gas stations to a few days a week as residential demand more than doubled compared to the summer and was higher than in previous winters.

How cold the rest of the winter gets is likely to be the key driver for whether higher energy prices will be sustained.

Even if temperatures ease, the impact of tighter LNG supplies is likely to be felt into the summer and to feed into other markets. As north Asia, the biggest consumer of LNG, restocks supplies that demand will support price benchmarks throughout 2021. What was expected to be a finely balanced summer just a month ago, is now looking increasingly tight, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd.