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How Will the U.S. Glut of Coronavirus Vaccines Affect Manufacturers?

By Brian Orelli, PhD and Keith Speights - May 11, 2021 at 6:20AM

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The government is having issues with giving away its excess supply.

With all the orders for coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer (PFE 3.77%) and BioNTech (BNTX 1.11%)Moderna (MRNA -0.37%), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -1.10%)AstraZeneca (AZN 3.08%), and Novavax (NVAX 2.80%), the U.S. government has more than enough doses to vaccinate the country's entire population.

In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on April 12, contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss what the government might do with those extra doses and the challenges the government faces in giving them away.

Brian Orelli: We've talked a lot on this show about the glut of vaccines that the U.S. is going to have, basically the government ordered from almost every company that was designing COVID-19 vaccines, and then I think so far every phase 3 trial has been successful, so the U.S. government is going to have more vaccines than it can use. Obviously the solution is to donate the extra to other nations that can't afford the vaccine, but an article in Vanity Fair pointed out that this is easier said than done. Apparently the manufacturers insisted on having "For U.S. Only" in the contracts, and the Trump administration didn't push back enough to get them removed. The reason why the manufacturers did that is because it protects them against lawsuits. The U.S. has really strong protections for vaccines during pandemics, and those don't count once it gets beyond our borders, but the clauses keep us, the U.S., from exporting it's extras. How do you see this playing out?

Keith Speights: I suspect, Brian, that the template that we should look at for what's going to happen going forward is to look at what the U.S. did with the governments of Canada and Mexico. With both of these other countries, the U.S. has loaned, and they used that word, loaned, doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine. I think the reason why they use that term loan, by the way, helped them get past some of the legal issues. They've loaned doses, it's not like they're going to give them back more than likely, but they've loaned doses to both Canada and Mexico. But both the Canadian and Mexican governments had to negotiate contracts that indemnify AstraZeneca. That's what cleared the way for the shipment of this excess surplus of vaccines to these other two countries.

I suspect that that's going to be essentially the same process that's followed with other countries going forward. Look, everyone, even including the drugmakers, everyone wants to these vaccines to be given to as many people across the board as possible, and if the U.S. has excess supply, shifting those extra doses to other countries makes sense, but on the other hand, you can't blame the drug makers from wanting to make sure that they're not opening themselves out to big lawsuits here. They have that agreement in place with the U.S. and they don't want the legal exposure. Honestly, you can't blame them for that from running a business, they're trying to protect their shareholders and their companies, but I think they'll find loopholes just like the U.S. found with Canada and Mexico, and I think that's what we're going to see going forward.

Orelli: I think this is really important for the protection of the U.S., because if the pandemic is raging elsewhere then it's going to create new variants, and eventually it's going to create variants that are no longer protected by the current vaccines, and we're going to end up with the same problem. It's really important that not only the U.S. get vaccinated but the whole world get vaccinated, because every time that the coronavirus replicates it has a chance of creating a new variant that could be one that's not protected by our current vaccines.

Speights: Exactly, and I do suspect that other governments will take the same approach that Canada and Mexico did. I think they'll negotiate some language and if they need to use the word loan, they'll use the word loan, but they'll do whatever they need to do to get their hands on these vaccines.

Brian Orelli, PhD owns shares of Novavax. Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Moderna, Inc. Stock Quote
Moderna, Inc.
$171.18 (-0.37%) $0.63
Pfizer Inc. Stock Quote
Pfizer Inc.
$50.11 (3.77%) $1.82
Johnson & Johnson Stock Quote
Johnson & Johnson
$165.30 (-1.10%) $-1.84
AstraZeneca PLC Stock Quote
AstraZeneca PLC
$66.64 (3.08%) $1.99
Novavax, Inc. Stock Quote
Novavax, Inc.
$41.47 (2.80%) $1.13
BioNTech SE Stock Quote
BioNTech SE
$160.35 (1.11%) $1.76

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