Britain's AstraZeneca shares may struggle if vaccine falls short

AstraZeneca will struggle to come close to candidates Moderna, BioNTech, and Pfizer according to investors and analysts
Britain's AstraZeneca shares may struggle if vaccine falls short

AstraZeneca test tubes used in research and development in a laboratory. Picture: PA

AstraZeneca has some tough acts to follow when it rolls out final-stage test results for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and the British drugmaker’s shares price may take a hit if it falls too far short of its competitors.

Clinical-trial results this month for other inoculations, including the shot called BNT162b2 being developed by Pfizer of the US and BioNTech of Germany and the other from US pharma firm Moderna, showed those shots to be about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic infection. The University of Oxford said earlier this week that key findings from the last phase of tests in its trial with AstraZeneca are expected in the coming weeks.

AstraZeneca will struggle to come close to other candidates, according to investors and analysts, and its stock price may take a hit if it falls too far short. Daniel Mahony, a health-care fund manager with Polar Capital in London, said he is looking for around 90% efficacy from AstraZeneca.

“Disappointing would be anything less than 80%,” he said. “If the data are disappointing there must be something in the share price and so the stock will be weak.”

The EU and the US have spent billions in pre-ordering vaccines from the leading contenders in the race Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna which have published Phase 3 trials, and others, including AstraZeneca, which have yet to report their findings. 

Britain has also spent big in pre-ordering a number of vaccine candidates, but has until recently focused much on the AstraZeneca-Oxford candidate.        

In the US on Friday, New Jersey’s health commissioner said she expects the state to get a Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech in late December. The two companies plan to file for an emergency use authorisation to the US regulator that could allow the shot to be used in the US next month.

Meanwhile, the EU could pay over €8.4bn to secure hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine candidates being developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac of Germany, an EU official involved in the talks has said. 

The EU has agreed to pay €15.50 per dose for the Covid-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, according to the official.

That would mean an overall price of up to €3.1bn for 200m doses, rising to €4.65bn if another optional 100m doses are purchased under the deal, the official said. The pricing information, previously undisclosed, confirms the EU is paying less per dose than the US for an initial supply of that vaccine. 

The deal includes an insurance for EU countries to get compensation if the companies divert doses to the US. The EU has separately agreed to pay €10 per dose for an initial supply of 225m doses of the vaccine candidate from CureVac, a discount from the €12 the company set as the price for the shot, the official said. 

  • Reuters, Bloomberg, Irish Examiner staff

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