Shares in AstraZeneca, the British drugs firm that is developing a vaccine with Oxford University, rose slightly on Friday but continue to trade below levels of early November, as questions emerged about the way it announced the results of its phase 3 trial earlier in the week.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) needs to evaluate coronavirus vaccines and their immune responses based on more than just a press release, Kate O’Brien, WHO’s director of immunisation vaccines and biologicals, said on Friday.
AstraZeneca is likely to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its vaccine using a lower dosage, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Thursday, amid questions over the results of its late-stage study.
The results of its phase 3 trial were hailed by large parts of the British media. But the questions about the data from the trial have raised the possibility that early approval of the vaccine may be delayed somewhat. Britain has pre-ordered large amounts of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but has also placed orders for other vaccines.
The shares in rival drug groups that are leading the race to be the first to secure regulatory approval for their vaccines have mostly risen in recent days.
Shares in Moderna of the US, which last week announced the results from its phase 3 trial of its vaccine, continued to climb this week and have soared since early November.
Shares in BioNTech – the German company which is developing a vaccine with Pfizer of the US and which reported hugely promising results over two weeks ago from its advanced results – rose by a further 3.5% in Frankfurt trade on Friday and are sharply higher from the start of the month. Pfizer shares have risen since early November.
Meanwhile, Capital Economics said figures for the eurozone-wide economy in the past week signal "a sharp contraction" in the current quarter, but that Germany has "held up fairly well".
"It now looks as if the most vulnerable members of the population – particularly the elderly – will be vaccinated by around April next year, which would allow governments to begin removing their containment measures," it said. "Crucially, we don’t think that authorities will wait until the population as a whole has got close to herd immunity before re-opening the economy," the economists said, seeing eurozone GDP recovering its pre-crisis level in the first quarter of 2022.
On the outlook for the British economy, Capital Economics said the news of the vaccines means "we now think that by the middle of the decade the economy won’t be much smaller than if the Covid-19 crisis had never happened".
"Admittedly, there are two big risks . . . an uncooperative no-deal Brexit and a substantial early fiscal tightening. But provided the politicians don’t mess it up, we think the [UK] economy should do better than most think," it said.
• Additional reporting Reuters