Pfizer, BioNTech , and Moderna ( MRNA 1.74% ) have seen their shares rise over the past few months because of their work to develop vaccines against COVID-19. Moderna, which started off the year with a share price of $19.50 has seen its stock climb more than 608% year to date to $138.
CVS Health ( CVS 0.98% ) is probably not the first company you think of when you think of a "coronavirus" stock, but it will be one in 2021, and unlike Moderna, it's long been profitable.
What's coming for CVS?
The pharmacy and health benefits provider will serve as a place where consumers can get their coronavirus vaccine, just as it currently serves those in need of COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Both initiatives will drive additional traffic to the company's stores.
In its third-quarter earnings call, Larry Merlo, the outgoing CEO and president of CVS, said that 70% of those tested for COVID-19 at its retail locations were not previously CVS customers, and 40% of those tested at business sites in its Return Ready program were not returning CVS customers. Management is confident that some of those people will come back for more typical pharmacy and healthcare-related reasons -- and that's bound to help the company.
On top of that, once the vaccine is distributed more widely and more people are protected against coronavirus infection, CVS pharmacy and retail business will pick up because more people will go back to regular doctor's visits. That translates to more prescriptions being filled and more crowded brick-and-mortar stores.
The company is riding the first wave of vaccinations
CVS Pharmacy and competitor Walgreens Boots Alliance ( WBA 4.28% ) have entered into agreements with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to be official vaccination program providers for communities and to participate in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.
Long-term care facilities had the option to choose which pharmacy they wanted to distribute the vaccine to workers and residents. CVS was chosen by more than 40,000 facilities, more than any other vaccine provider.
CVS said it will begin administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in nursing homes beginning Dec. 21, and have added that it likely will be able to use Moderna's vaccine by Dec. 28.If all goes well, Moderna's vaccine candidate will receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval after a committee meets today, Dec. 17, to discuss the vaccine's trial data. The FDA has said in other documents ahead of Thursday's panel that it was inclined to give Moderna's candidate, mRNA-1273, emergency use authorization.
CVS says it expects to vaccinate roughly 2 million people in long-term care facilities. In the case of Pfizer's or Moderna's two-shot vaccinations, the company can charge Medicare $16.94 for each initial dose and then $23.39 for the second, which would mean the company stands to make $90 million in revenue alone for its participation in the program.
The publicity the company is getting will help it too, especially once the vaccine is available to the general population at its more than 9,900 retail locations. The company said it will set up in-store vaccinations on an appointment-only model.
The company was already in a strong position
While COVID-19 certainly had an adverse effect on CVS's core pharmacy business, the company has done okay this year because of its diversified revenue streams. It operates three segments -- pharmacy services, retail, and healthcare benefits. Its pharmacy services revenues were down 1% in the third quarter, but retail revenues were up 6.9% year over year and healthcare benefits revenues were up a reported 8.8% year over year.
Through nine months, the company's revenue was $199 billion, up 4% year over year. The company is on track for its 10th consecutive year of revenue growth and second straight year of net income growth. It's hard not to like CVS's trailing 12 months operating margin of 4.85%, which is above average for a pharmacy company.
Look at it as a buying opportunity
Shares in CVS, despite what is turning out to be a good year, are down nearly 7% year to date, while Moderna's stock is up more than 600%. Both companies should thrive next year, but it's easy to see that CVS stock is underpriced and due for an adjustment, with a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 11, compared to 82 for Walgreens. (Moderna, with no current net income, doesn't yet have a P/E ratio). The vaccine hoopla around Moderna, on the other hand, may have driven the stock up past a price it will be able to maintain, at least in the short term.