For a second successive Monday morning, the world awoke to heartwarming Covid vaccine news.
At the start of the week, Massachusetts based biotechnology firm Moderna Inc, declared that its vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing Covid infections. The news is a welcome boost for a global audience weary of the devasting effect that the pandemic has had on its economies and health.
The Moderna breakthrough follows last Monday’s announcement from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech that their own covid vaccine had proved to be 90% successful in stage 3 trials. On the back of the Pfizer results, markets soared with the Dow and S&P both reaching record heights last week. With a successful vaccine within reach, and an end to the stay-at-home, socially distanced reality of the pandemic in sight, there was a huge rotation from growth to value stocks. The FANG internet platform companies which have enjoyed astronomical growth this year and become regarded as a smart defensive option were sold off last week as part of a general rotation of investment into travel and leisure companies like hotels (PK), cruise liners (RCL), and airlines (JETS), whose stocks have all traded at rock bottom prices since February.
Moderna’s, mRNA-1273 candidate vaccine’s results come from a stage 3 trial on 30,000 volunteers. The treatment consisted of two injections taken four weeks apart and uses a genetic molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA. Encoded in that molecule are instructions for building a single coronavirus spike protein. When a vaccinated cell releases copies of the spike protein, the immune system learns to make antibodies against it.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease scientist hailed Moderna’s results as “stunningly impressive. An emphatic validation of experimental mRNA technology, which the Pfizer treatment also uses. The data speaks for itself.”
This week’s vaccine news should give even greater cause for celebration in the global markets. Unlike the Pfizer candidate, Moderna’s vaccine doesn’t need to be kept at freezing temperatures. It can be stored in standard refrigerator temperatures for up to 30 days, and will be durable for up to 6 months for shipping. All of which mean it will be a more viable candidate for a far greater number of countries around the world that the Pfizer option.
Both Pfizer and Moderna could now file for emergency use authorization from the FDA to roll out their vaccines within a few weeks. The further good news is that these are just the first two of dozens of vaccines currently in stage 3 trials around the world. AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University, and Johnson and Johnson will broadcast the results of their phase 3 trials shortly, while countries from Russia to China are earnestly trialing their own candidates.
While all these treatments still need to overcome several steps of approval, mass production, and worldwide roll out, the markets at least are clearly starting to plan for a post covid world.