A Major Breakthrough in Vaccine Development
Pfizer and BioNTech said their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective, blowing away experts’ expectations. After conducting trials with the first 94 individuals infected with COVID-19, the results of the vaccine’s efficiency were impressive, to say the least.
Such high efficiency points out that many infections happened among people who received a placebo instead of the vaccine. The trial, which included around 44,000 volunteers, was conducted as a part of a first study to find out whether the vaccine was effective on 32 participants that were infected.
Pfizer held discussions with the regulators in the United States and decided to alter the study plan, which concluded in collecting data from 94 people, said the drugmaker’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development Dr. William Gruber.
“It gives you more power and more confidence,” said John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.
“When you triple the numbers and you get a large difference between them, it’s much more likely to be real.”
However, scientists warned that many matters remain to be resolved, such as whether the vaccine is able to cure those with severe symptoms, for how long can it prevent the infection, and how older people will react to it.
The drugmakers are expected to share their data for peer review with other scientists, which represents a crucial step in assessing the quality of the results. Furthermore, the required safety data will not be available until late November.
“These are really encouraging, but they are the earliest of results possible,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Stocks Scream Higher on Improving Risk Sentiment
All industries, excluding healthcare, traded in the green, with oil, insurance, media, and travel registering sharp spikes. European stocks also raced higher despite a rising number of new COVID-19 cases in the old continent.
Pfizer’s announcement represents a “first major step back to normality” for the nations that were battered by the pandemic, said Paul Craig, portfolio manager at Quilter Investors.
“However, this vaccine is not a silver bullet. Many of the issues facing developed economies now are structural and a vaccine is not going to prevent the large scale unemployment we are likely to see as a result of the lockdowns of earlier this year,” Craig said.
Dow Jones and S&P 500 components also jumped on the news, with airline and other travel-related stocks being one of the biggest beneficiaries. Banking stocks benefited from the vaccine news, with JPMorgan Chase climbing 13.5% and Bank of America gaining 14.2%, while Citigroup moved up by 11.5%.
Airline and travel companies were among the biggest gainers, with British-American cruise-operator Carnival Corp. skyrocketing 39.3%, Southwest Airlines soaring 9.7% and the Walt Disney Company climbing 11.9% as investors speculated the vaccine may ease some concerns and result in a higher number of tourists and international travelers.
The declines among tech stocks also affected the broader market toward the end of the session, preventing the Dow and S&P 500 from closing near their intraday highs. On the other hand, the news weighed on stay-at-home stocks, with Zoom Video declining by 17.4% and Amazon slipping 5.1%. Netflix lost 8.6%, while Teladoc Health fell 13.7%.
Pfizer share price climbed 7.69% while shares of BioNTech closed the day 13.91% in the green.
The largest stock indices, including Dow Jones and S&P 500, surged higher on extremely positive initial results relating to the vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, but scientists remained cautious as many questions are yet to be answered about the vaccine.