What happened

Shares of Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) surged 109.8% in January, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, adding onto the colossal 1,530% gain the stock made across all of 2020.

So what

Essentially a penny stock at the start of last year, Vaxart vaulted to the forefront of investor consciousness on the premise that it could develop an effective oral vaccine for COVID-19.

Prescription bottle and pills

Image source: Getty Images.

So far, both of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA require patients to receive two injections, and both must be stored and shipped at extremely cold temperatures. They also have relatively short shelf lives.

Many members of the public would doubtless prefer to receive their vaccination via a pill. Moreover, Vaxart's tablet is shelf-stable at room temperature, which removes some major logistical hurdles to distribution.

Now what

Shares of the stock really took off again toward the end of the month as the biotech was preparing to update the market on how its phase 1 vaccine candidate was performing. Unfortunately, based on that update, it doesn't appear that Vaxart's pill will meet the goal of being a one-dose solution.

VXRT Chart

VXRT data by YCharts

According to the report released just days ago, subjects given a single dose of Vaxart's vaccine didn't produce neutralizing antibodies for the coronavirus. However, study participants who took two doses 29 days apart did produce them, so there is still hope for the biotech company's candidate. 

Obviously, much more will be learned as the candidate advances through later-stage clinical trials that measure its actual efficacy in preventing COVID-19. But the prospect of taking two pills a month apart still seems preferable in many ways to getting one or two jabs with a needle.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.