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Why New COVID Strains May Mean More Revenue for Pfizer and Moderna

By Adria Cimino - Mar 5, 2021 at 6:00AM

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Booster shots are on the horizon.

The biggest challenge for vaccine makers right now is handling new coronavirus strains. In this Motley Fool Live video, recorded on Feb. 26, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and Fool.com contributor Adria Cimino discuss how Pfizer (PFE -0.15%), Moderna (MRNA 8.73%), and others are faring, how they plan to deal with new variants, and what all of this means for revenue.

Corinne Cardina: There has been a lot of different research about which vaccines, how they're holding up against different variants. Could you help us make sense around this? Some of the companies are exploring possible booster shots. Is it fair to assume that if those boosters become a reality, would it translate to more revenue for Pfizer and Moderna?

Adria Cimino: I think so. I think it can be really positive for revenue. Just a little bit of a rundown on what's going on as far as the variants. We're mainly talking about the U.K. variant, the Brazilian variant, and of course, the South African variant. Now, Pfizer and Moderna did in-vitro tests, and they say that their vaccines are working against the variants. But, of course, that was in in vitro tests. We will just have to see how things go moving forward. But still, the neutralizing activity does decline, especially facing the South African variant. Now, we have some real-world data with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 0.91%), and Novavax (NVAX 17.46%) because their trials just happened to be taking place at the time when these variants were gaining ground. Johnson & Johnson, their clinical trials showed 68% efficacy in Brazil, and 64% efficacy in South Africa. Now, those are areas where those particular variants were pretty high.

As far as Novavax, we've got some U.K. data and South African data. In the U.K., where a lot of cases are of the U.K. strain, it's 85.6% efficacious against the U.K. strain specifically. Novavax said that their vaccine candidate was 60% efficacious against the South African strain. Now, as far as possible boosters, it seems like all the main players are moving forward on this. A little bit of a rundown. Moderna is investigating a few different possibilities. They are looking at a third vaccine dose, a strain-specific booster, and then the strain-specific booster plus their vaccine that's already out there on the market. Now, what they're doing right now is they've already shipped some doses of this potential booster, and they want to start a phase 1 soon. They've shipped it to the National Institutes of Health. Now they're just waiting for the FDA to give it the OK, and then that could move forward.

On to Novavax. Novavax is also studying a booster or combined vaccine. Now, they started looking into this in January. They plan on choosing a candidate soon, and then starting trials in the second quarter. That's another one that we could expect that would be to market pretty quickly. Pfizer just recently said it's testing a third dose of its actual vaccine. The idea would be that you would get your initial Pfizer vaccine, the two doses, and then you would get a third dose later on. They plan on testing this in people who were participating in the phase 1 trial. Then they're going to get some data on that to see if that would work -- the idea of just boosting the immune system, just flooding it with antibodies. We'll see how that goes. Finally, there's also AstraZeneca (AZN 1.05%). AstraZeneca is working on an update to their vaccine because they had -- you probably heard of the different reports about how AstraZeneca's vaccine didn't really hold up very well to the South African strain. So, they're doing an update on that. We'll just be following that to see what's to come of it. Going back to the idea of revenue, I think that this could be really good because for instance, Moderna said in the past that their vaccine could be protective for at least a year, maybe even two years. The idea would be if you could have a booster between that, that would be more revenue for the company.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
MRNA
$147.66 (8.73%) $11.86
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
PFE
$53.91 (-0.15%) $0.08
Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
JNJ
$181.09 (0.91%) $1.63
AstraZeneca PLC Stock Quote
AstraZeneca PLC
AZN
$67.40 (1.05%) $0.70
Novavax, Inc. Stock Quote
Novavax, Inc.
NVAX
$55.29 (17.46%) $8.22

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