Vaccine stocks were muted Tuesday after test results from researchers indicated the omicron variant might elude some of the protection provided by Pfizer‘s (PFE) Covid shot.
In the test, omicron infection led to a 40-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies, compared with the first iteration of the virus roughly two years ago. Researchers with the Africa Health Research Institute pitted the blood of people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNTX) shot against the variant.
These are the first tests gauging the effectiveness of an approved/authorized Covid vaccine against the new variant. Omicron contains numerous mutations to its spike protein, which vaccines mimic to induce an immune response.
The decline in immunity is “robust, but not complete,” said Alex Sigal, according to Bloomberg. Sigal heads up research at the Africa institute’s lab.
In after-hours trading on the stock market today, vaccine stocks remained relatively unchanged. Pfizer stock rose a small fraction near 51.80. BioNTech stock fell about the same amount, near 302.50. Moderna (MRNA) stock rose 0.2% near 283.
Vaccine Stocks: Targeting Omicron
The trick with omicron lies in changes to its spike protein that might make it unrecognizable to virus-blocking antibodies generated by vaccines. So, there are a smaller number of the antibodies to try and stop the virus from infecting cells and replicating.
But initial reports suggest omicron might lead to less severe cases of Covid. Vaccine stocks fell on Monday following that initial analysis.
BioNTech has said it needs two weeks to determine whether the vaccine will still target omicron-induced Covid. The company says if necessary it could reconfigure the shot within six weeks. The Food and Drug Administration has indicated it will review omicron-targeting vaccines and drugs on a speedier basis.
Representatives of BioNTech and Pfizer didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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