A major announcement from the United States on November 9 has completely lifted our hopes and spirits! Since March, scientists around the world have been working tirelessly towards creating an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. And now, drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech have come out with a very positive result. The vaccine developed by the two companies was found to be 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase-3 trials.
We saw that the announcement made a ripple effect across the world, with the stock markets reaching new highs. Let us dive deep into the details of the vaccine, and recent developments surrounding it.
- Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine Trials
- What Happened After the Announcement?
- Will the Vaccine be Available in India?
- Will a Vaccine Solve All Our Problems?
Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine Trials
US-based Pfizer Inc and Germany-based biotechnology firm BioNTech had begun their collaboration in March 2020. Their partnership is aimed at co-developing and distributing a potential Covid-19 vaccine. Here are some important facts about the recent Phase-3 trials of the potential vaccine:
- The Phase-3 trials of the vaccine involved 44,000 participants in six countries. Half of them were administered with the vaccine, and the other half were given a placebo- a pill with no effect (like a sugar pill). A participant would not know if he got the vaccine or the placebo, thus helping to analyse the psychological effects.
- As per Pfizer’s interim analysis, the vaccine is 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in participants who had no prior history of a SARS Cov-2 infection. However, Pfizer had not disclosed how many participants from the total number were used to formulate this interim analysis. In this sample, it is not clear how many had received the vaccine, and how many had received the placebo.
- Pfizer has stated that protection against the virus is achieved 28 days after the injection of the vaccine.
- The announcement made on November 9 offers the first compelling evidence that a vaccine can prevent Covid-19. Pfizer’s report from Phase-3 trials is being welcomed by other scientists around the world. It also puts Pfizer-BioNtech ahead of the other vaccine makers.
- Pfizer is planning to approach the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for emergency authorization of the vaccine later this month. Meanwhile, the Phase-3 trials will continue until there are 164 Covid-19 cases among the volunteers. This final analysis will confirm the actual percentage of effectiveness of the vaccine.
- An important factor to be noted is that experts in the field are yet to receive an answer on how much protection the vaccine offers, and for how long it would last. So, we can say that this announcement is being taken with “cautious optimism”.
What Happened After the Announcement?
Ever since Pfizer made the statement on Nov 9, we can see that important decisions are being taken at a very rapid pace. According to a statement from Pfizer, the company has plans to globally produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
Reports have also stated that many countries have already made deals with the drugmaker and have plans to hoard the vaccine. The US Government has signed a $1.95 billion (~Rs 14,474 crore) deal with Pfizer to buy 100 million doses. According to Alex Azar, the US Health Secretary, their government would begin vaccinating Americans in December. This is only possible if Pfizer submits the initial positive data from its vaccine trials to the USFDA, as soon as possible.
On the day of the announcement, Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria made a very calculated move. As per a regulatory filing, 1,32,508 Pfizer shares were sold by the CEO at a price of $42 per share. This means that he had sold $5.6 million of his shares in the company. This has raised many eyebrows as almost 62% of his entire stock in the company was sold right at the peak. Several questions have also been raised regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine after this high profile stake sale.
Will the Vaccine be Available in India?
Our Indian Government is now in discussions with Pfizer to make the vaccine available in our country. So far, the American firm does not have a distribution pact with any Indian company. It has been reported that India would soon sign an agreement with the US drugmaker. However, India has some significant hurdles to overcome to ensure that we can obtain Pfizer’s vaccine.
In a statement made on November 10, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the Managing Director of Biocon, stated that the Pfizer vaccine is unlikely to make its way to India. The reason that she had put forth was that the vaccine requires an ultra-cold chain of minus 70 degrees. This means that the vaccine has to be stored and transported in an ultra-cold facility. Currently, India does not have the necessary logistical support to conduct such a highly specialized task. The cost of the vaccine in India may also become very high due to this reason.
Around the same time, we had also received some positive statements from Snowman Logistics. The company has found an opportunity to improve its business, by creating a super-cold storage facility for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. Sunil Nair, the CEO of Snowman Logistics, has stated that they will come up with a technology to address these requirements. On November 10, the share price of Snowman Logistics saw a surge of 14% in an intraday movement to Rs 40.95.
Last month, Apollo Hospitals had announced that they are ready to administer 10 lakh doses of the Covid-19 vaccine per day. Today, the company’s CEO, Sunita Reddy, has said that they have the cold storage chain ready for the Pfizer vaccine.
Will Vaccine Solve All Our Problems?
Scientists have yet again proved to become a worthy opponent in the fight against a deadly virus. We have finally received an amazing update from the vaccine makers. A very effective vaccine would hopefully be available all over the world soon. The news from Pfizer had also created a very positive sentiment around the global markets. We also saw our stock market indices reaching new highs.
Our Indian companies are also preparing to create a possible technology to store and transport the vaccine. All the issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would soon be countered. Although a vaccine would not immediately turn around the world economies, it gives hope that there will be a brighter future going ahead. As Indians and as human beings, in the face of a problem such as Covid, we will come back much stronger. The economic conditions could become more stable, and more importantly, things are finally looking very optimistic!
Let us look forward to the latest updates surrounding the vaccines, including many others from India and around the world. We must also be aware of how our country is planning to further gear up to make the vaccine available for all citizens. And as intelligent stock market participants, identify which all sectors will benefit from the announcement of a vaccine.