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Are Coronavirus Vaccine Boosters Inevitable?

By Brian Orelli, PhD and Keith Speights - May 10, 2021 at 9:35AM

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The variants could turn one-time sales into annual revenue.

Moderna (MRNA 2.47%) says it is developing vaccines against the coronavirus variants "out of an abundance of caution." But as contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss in this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on April 12, the need for vaccines against the variants appears inevitable.

Brian Orelli: In Moderna's press release, it says, and I'm quoting here, "Out of an abundance of caution, Moderna is also pursuing a clinical development strategy against the emerging variants," which we already knew that. But I just found it curious. First off, with the coronavirus variants, have we reached a point where we're doing this just in case it's needed? Then do you want to give us a timeline on the potential booster shots in advance?

Keith Speights: Obviously Moderna doesn't think that we're beyond that point of moving forward out of an abundance of caution. It is kind of funny the wording they use in some of their press releases, but aside from that wording, putting it aside, I think the drug makers are legitimately continuing to explore the best approach to providing protection against new variants.

As for the timelines for potential booster shots, for Moderna, the National Institute of Health, NIH, is testing a booster dose of a modified version of Moderna's vaccine. They expect to be fully enrolled in this study by the end of April. So just a few weeks from now. Moderna has publicly stated that it expects to have a booster shot available by the end of 2021. Moderna has gone on the record projecting when they think they'll have this booster shot available.

It's a little different story with Pfizer (PFE -1.07%). Pfizer and BioNTech (BNTX 0.82%) are testing a third dose of their existing vaccine. In late February, the two companies said that they were also talking with regulatory authorities about the potential for advancing a modified version of their vaccine that specifically targets these variants in the clinical testing. But I haven't seen an update from Pfizer or BioNTech on this testing effort, haven't seen any specific timelines about the booster shots from either company.

I think though that just based on what we do know, I think that Pfizer could be a little ahead of Moderna with the testing of a third dose of its existing vaccine and probably a little behind with testing of a modified vaccine that's specific to these variants. So we'll just see how this plays out.

Brian Orelli, PhD has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
$175.41 (2.47%) $4.23
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
$49.58 (-1.07%) $0.54
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
$161.67 (0.82%) $1.32

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