What happened

Shares of Alpha Pro Tech, Ltd. (APT -0.35%), Co-Diagnostics, Inc. (CODX 0.89%), and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (INO 10.54%) are all poised for another monstrous day. In pre-market trading Thursday morning, Alpha Pro Tech's shares jumped by 28.7%, Co-Diagnostics' stock popped by 16%, and Inovio Pharmaceuticals' equity added another 16.2% to its recent tally. 

So what

All three of these names have been skyrocketing this year in response to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Shares of the protective apparel company Alpha Pro Tech are now up by 232% for the whole of 2020 due to surging demand for its face masks. Co-Diagnostics' stock has appreciated by a whopping 1,370% this year, thanks to its molecular diagnostic kit for SARS-CoV-2. And Inovio Pharmaceuticals' shares are set to breach the 200% gain mark for 2020 as a result of its experimental vaccine candidate, INO-4800, indicated as a preventative measure against this deadly respiratory ailment. 

A tiny globe wearing a face mask with the word "coronavirus" written on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Are these jaw-dropping moves in these three healthcare stocks justified? Alpha Pro Tech and Co-Diagnostics are both on track to experience a sizable financial windfall from this global pandemic. How much of a windfall remains to be seen, but there is a solid fundamental reason behind their surging share prices this year. That said, it's basically impossible to predict how this story plays out.

The U.S. government is now estimating that anywhere between 70 million to 150 million Americans could become infected with this virus once everything is said and done. If that line holds true and this virus doesn't subside as summer rolls in, Alpha Pro Tech and Co-Diagnostics might evolve into bona fide jackpot stocks (stocks that produce life-changing gains due to an unexpected turn of events).   

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is much harder to forecast, however. The company does have some stiff competition in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. What's more, the most optimistic estimate has a vaccine being available for widespread use in 18 months from now. A more typical time frame to trial an experimental vaccine of any kind, though, is anywhere from four to eight years.

That's not a knock against Inovio Pharmaceuticals, but simply the harsh reality of vaccine development in general. Rushing an unproven vaccine out the door to combat an emerging pandemic, after all, could have serious unintended consequences. In short, investors might want to take a cautious approach with this name in the wake of its recent rally.