Could Pfizer and Moderna face their worst case scenario? Remember for a year. At the time, no one knew if any of the COVID-19 vaccines in development would actually work. Fortunately, several of them did.
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) (along with partner BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX)) and Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) have never experienced the worst case when their vaccines fail miserably. These companies have continued to generate billions of dollars from the sale of their vaccines and hope to make much more money.
However, there are some new study results that could only reduce the amount of recurring benefits these vaccines will bring. Could Pfizer and Moderna face their second worst scenario?
A healthcare worker giving a man an injection.
IMAGE SOURCE: IMAGE ACQUISITION.
Could PfizerThe worst case scenario for Pfizer and Moderna was that their COVID-19 vaccines would not work. The second worst scenario may be that your vaccines work too well.
Ali Ellebeda, an immunologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, led a team of scientists who tried to determine how long the protection provided by messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines would last. His discoveries were recently published in the journal Nature.
The key finding from this research was that Pfizer-BioNTech can provide immunity for years. And while the Moderna vaccine was not included in the study, Ellebedy believes that it is likely to provide a similar lifespan due to a similar mRNA approach.
This recent finding has important financial implications for Pfizer and Moderna. If your vaccines provide protection against COVID-19 for years, companies will not sell nearly as many doses of the vaccine in the future as they will in 2021 and 2022.
Could Pfizer However, don’t dismiss the prospect of these vaccine stocks too quickly. You need to keep in mind several things about the results published in the wild.
First, the study by Ellebedy and his team was really small – only 41 participants were included. And the lymph node samples, which were key to the team’s findings about the possible longevity of mRNA vaccines, were collected from just 14 people.
The researchers were also unable to prove that no COVID-19 vaccine provided immunity for years. Instead, they extrapolated the observation that immune system cells were trained to fight SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at least 15 weeks after the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech. The Ellebeds and the team argued that memory cells likely last for years because the response took months.
More importantly, these findings may be debatable due to the emergence of coronavirus variants. Although mRNA vaccines provide immunity against a strain of virus that has been prevalent in the United States for years, this does not mean that it will be against new strains.
Bad news can be good news
There was reason for optimism about the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines against newer variants, including the highly contagious Delta variant. Studies have found that mRNA vaccines produce neutralizing antibodies against emerging variants. A study by Public Health England found two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be 88% effective against Delta.
Is this good news for vaccine recipients, potentially bad news for Pfizer and Moderna’s hope of generating strong recurring benefits from their vaccines? There’s no need. There is other bad news for those vaccinated that could be good for companies.
Could Pfizer The Israeli Health Ministry recently announced that based on real world data, Pfizer-BioNTech appears to be only 64% effective against the Delta variant. This is far less than the 94% effectiveness of the vaccine reported in May.
For one thing, Pfizer doesn’t seem concerned that its vaccine is ineffective against the deadly new variant. However, lower efficiencies increase the likelihood that governments will want booster doses and new versions of variant vaccines.
Pfizer and Moderna want their vaccines to be highly effective, but they also expect booster doses to be needed at least once a year. This is the best case for both companies. And this is a scenario that seems more likely due to recent data from Israel.
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