The bear market weighed on stocks in general this year. Even some of the healthiest companies. But some stocks actually fell for a particular reason: They disappointed investors. They've dropped to bargain prices, but certain players may not stay at these levels for long.

Teladoc Health (TDOC 0.11%) and Novavax (NVAX 2.89%) are among the stocks that crashed this year. They're each heading for annual losses of more than 70%. Both of these healthcare stocks represent potential recovery stories. But which one is a better buy now? Let's find out.

The case for Teladoc

Investors didn't like Teladoc's news earlier this year. The telemedicine leader reported two billion-dollar goodwill impairment charges. They were linked to the 2020 purchase of chronic care specialist Livongo. This indicates Teladoc paid too much for the company.

But recent news has been better. Teladoc's loss narrowed in the most recent quarter. This is an important point because investors have worried about Teladoc's ability to reach profitability. Teladoc also has eased another concern: By continuing to grow visits and revenue in the double digits, it's showing it isn't a pandemic-only stock.

The telemedicine market is growing in the double digits. Teladoc is sure to benefit for two reasons. First, it's a market leader. The company has about 76 million members.

Second, Teladoc's strengths in whole person care -- from physical to mental health -- should help it attract new clients. And speaking of that, there's plenty of growth potential in the U.S. alone. The market includes a total of 298 million insured lives.

Today, Teladoc shares are trading for their cheapest ever in relation to sales. This looks like a great opportunity to get in on this recovery story.

The case for Novavax

Investors initially bet on Novavax as a company that could win the coronavirus vaccine race. That's why the shares soared more than 2,700% in 2020. But the company's regulatory submissions fell behind due to manufacturing issues. And Novavax's vaccine entered the market at least a year after rivals'.

Novavax's late market arrival meant it didn't benefit from the first big wave of vaccine demand. As a result, sales disappointed.

Still, Novavax should continue to generate vaccine sales in a post-pandemic market. Countries including the U.S. have authorized its vaccine for use as a booster in adults. That's positive news.

Even better, Novavax may have an edge when it comes to addressing the long-term vaccine market. The biotech company is developing a combined coronavirus/flu candidate. This sort of product could easily win over those who go for annual flu shots. This could be a big victory for Novavax. The candidate is about to enter phase 2 studies.

It's hard to determine Novavax's value using traditional valuation measures. That's because it's not yet clear how much the vaccine will generate annually in a post-pandemic world. But the company's 90% drop could make it a tempting buy for an aggressive investor who will hold on for the long term.

Telemedicine or coronavirus vaccines?

So, which of these companies makes the better recovery story buy right now? I'm optimistic about the long-term prospects of both companies. But Novavax may face a more difficult path than Teladoc in the coming year.

The new year will be one of transition for coronavirus vaccine makers. Experts expect a shift from pandemic to endemic. And companies will begin selling vaccines directly to drug distributors instead of to governments. Investors will also get an idea of how many people may go for annual coronavirus boosters.

Novavax might struggle to compete with market leaders Pfizer and Moderna in this evolving environment. And that could weigh further on the stock.

Teladoc, on the other hand, has demonstrated progress in its quest for profitability. Revenue and visits also are growing. So, 2023 may be a year of recovery for Teladoc. And that's why this healthcare player is the better buy right now.