Just in case you were wondering if the market is counting on a coronavirus vaccine in the nearer term, wonder no longer. (Expectations, for the moment, look to a vaccine by January, if I can judge by comments I’m seeing.)
News from Pfizer (PFE) and partner BioNtech that an early stage vaccine candidate had passed trials for safety and had produced antibodies against the virus was enough today to turn an early flat performance into a modest gain. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was essentially flat at 10 a.m. before moving to a 0.70% gain by 10:31. As of noon New York time the S&P 500 was up 0.60% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average showed a small 0.24% gain. The NASDAQ Composite was ahead a stronger 0.82% and the Russell 2000 small cap index was off 0.84%. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) was higher by 1.14%. (For the day, the S&P 500 closed up 0.50% while the Dow fell 0.30%. The NASDQ continued to power ahead giving 0.95% on the session.)
The Pfizer/BioNtech trial of a vaccine using a messenger RNA platform was tested on 45 healthy adults divided into several groups. There were no severe side effects in the study. Some patients had pain at the injection site and a low-grade fever after the second injection. One of the patients who got the single high dose experienced severe pain where he received the shot. While it took two shots, the vaccine candidate produced significant levels of antibodies to the virus.
Yesterday, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released guidance for a vaccine winning approval. Besides safety, the FDA said that a vaccine would have to show the ability to protect against the disease and not just the production of antibodies.
In other words, Pfizer/BioNtech have a way to go.
But one of the reasons that the market cheered is that the partnership with Pfizer gives this effort the ability to quickly ramp up vaccine production. If the vaccine is successful, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses by the end of this year and potentially more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
The companies are now evaluating at least four experimental vaccines. An efficacy trial of the most promising candidate could begin as early as this month and involve as many as 30,000 patients.
Other coronavirus news today has taken some of the starch out of the market. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,878 new virus cases on Wednesday, a record for the state. Florida announced that 15% of people being tested for the virus are testing positive. That’s up from an already shocking 14.5% positivity rate on Monday.