Covid vaccine stocks BioNTech (BNTX) and moderna (MRNA) surged Friday after a new study suggested an additional benefit of the updated ommicron targeting boosters over the original shots for older people.
Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech measured the amount of virus-blocking antibodies capable of handling the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. People over the age of 55 who received the updated booster injections had four times as many antibodies as those who received the original vaccine series.
So far, the uptake of the new boosters has been slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a quarter of people age 65 and older have received one of two so-called bivalent booster shots that target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, as well as the ancestral tribe. About 10% of all adults have received the updated boosters.
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope this updated data will encourage people to look for a bivalent Covid-19 booster once they qualify to maintain a high level of protection against the widespread ommicron BA. 4 and BA..5 sub-lines,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla in a written statement.
In today’s stock market, vaccine stocks jumped. The Moderna share led the way, rising 7.4% to 158.41. Shares of BioNTech rose 6.2% to 154.31, while shares of Pfizer rose 1.4% to 47.22.
Vaccine Stocks: Increase in Antibodies
Researchers divided the participants into two groups. Recipients of the bivalent booster previously received the original booster injection 10-11 months ago. The second group received another dose of the original booster about seven months after their previous dose.
In people 55 and older, recipients of the bivalent booster had a 13.2-fold increase in antibodies targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. In comparison, people in the same age group had a 2.9-fold increase in antibodies one month after receiving the original vaccine.
In people aged 18-55 years, the bivalent booster led to a 9.5-fold increase in antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech did not make a comparison for that age group after receiving the original vaccine. So the benefit for younger adults is less clear.
Today, the BA.5 sub-variant still leads business in the US, accounting for over 39%. But BA.4 accounts for less than 1% of all cases. Meanwhile, the newer BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 sub-variants are rising in the case rankings. Together, they generated about 35% of cases in the past week, according to the CDC.
Booster use will be important for vaccine stocks. Analysts are currently forecasting huge revenue declines in 2023.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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