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Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech Fall After Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Data

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Shares of Pfizer, Inc. (PFE - Free Report) and its Germany-based partner, BioNTech (BNTX - Free Report) declined 3.3% and 13.7%, respectively on Monday after rival coronavirus vaccine maker, Moderna (MRNA - Free Report) released first interim data from a phase III study on its mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.

The phase III COVE study on mRNA-1273 demonstrated a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%, which was higher than “more than 90%” efficacy achieved by Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162b2 coronavirus vaccine candidate, which uses the same mRNA-based technology. Pfizer/BioNTech released first interim data from their phase III study last week. Per FDA’s guidelines, a vaccine will be considered effective if it is at least 50% effective.

Pfizer’s stock has declined 4.7% this year against 1.1% increase for the industry.



In Moderna’s study, 95 participants were infected with COVID-19 compared to 94 participants in Pfizer/BioNTech’s study. Importantly the first analyses of COVE study identified 11 severe cases of COVID-19, a secondary endpoint of the study, all of which occurred in the placebo group and none in the mRNA-1273 group.  Pfizer and BioNTech are still measuring data on severe COVID-19 cases. The strong reduction of severe COVID-19 cases gives Moderna’s vaccine a slight edge over Pfizer’s.

Additional safety and efficacy data continue to be assessed and the companies will release final data in some time. The efficacy percentage may vary once the full data is available. While Moderna plans to file an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the FDA in the coming weeks, Pfizer/BioNTech plan to do so by end of this month.

Importantly, Moderna also said its vaccine has an even longer shelf life than previously expected. The vaccine candidate is now expected to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures for 30 days, up from the previous estimate of 7 days. However, Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be stored at extremely low temperatures for it to be used for a longer time. This could give Moderna’s vaccine a distributional advantage over Pfizer’s. This probably led the stocks of Pfizer and BioNTech to decline on Monday.

Experts remain sceptical till they see the final data of both the companies as there are many unanswered questions like how long the immunity from the vaccine may last, their efficacy in elderly patients and at-risk patients, their efficacy in various ethnic groups and so on

Nonetheless, vaccines of both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have demonstrated high end efficacy and are better than investor expectations. They have set the bar quite high for COVID-19 vaccine makers like AstraZeneca (AZN - Free Report) /Oxford University, J&J, Sanofi/Glaxo and others  who are using other technologies/platforms for their vaccines.

Both Pfizer and BioNTech carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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