What happened

Shares of the COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Ocugen (NASDAQ:OCGN), and Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) are all moving in the wrong direction today. Specifically, Pfizer's stock is down by approximately 4%, Ocugen's equity is in the red by 5.64%, and Vaxart's shares are underwater by a hefty 8.7%, as of 12:23 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.

What's weighing on these COVID-19 vaccine stocks today? On Sunday, the White House's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that the preliminary data regarding the severity of the omicron variant was "encouraging." While this version of the novel coronavirus appears to be more transmissible than delta, the first batch of data seem to indicate that omicron might be less virulent. Dr. Fauci did warn, however, that more data are required to draw any firm conclusions about the pathogenicity of this variant. 

A researcher holding a tray of COVID-19 vaccines.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

If omicron is indeed less deadly than its predecessors yet spreads more easily, this variant might turn out to be great news from a public health standpoint. The bad news for vaccine makers like Pfizer, Ocugen, and Vaxart, though, is that a milder form of the novel coronavirus may significantly undercut demand for jabs.

Pfizer, for its part, expects COVID-19 vaccine sales in come in at around $29 billion next year. So any major drop off in demand might seriously dampen its top-line projections for 2022.

Ocugen has yet to get its COVID-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin approved in the territories where it holds co-commercialization rights, due to a variety of regulatory delays in both Canada and the United States. So, if omicron does turn out to be less virulent, the pandemic could effectively be over before the biotech gets its vaccine approved in North America.

Vaxart is roughly in the same boat as Ocugen. Vaxart is developing an oral COVID-19 vaccine, which only recently entered a mid-stage trial. Top-line data from this trial is due out in early 2022. As this orally administered vaccine probably won't be market ready until 2023, Vaxart's COVID-19 vaccine may arrive too late to ever generate significant revenue for the company.  

Now what

Are any of these three biopharma stocks a contrarian buy on this news? Pfizer's stock should still beat the broader market in 2022. The pharma giant offers an above-average dividend yield, it is flush with cash, and its COVID-19 vaccine should still be a huge moneymaker for the company in 2022.  

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.