$1,000 Invested In 4 Of The 5 Vaccine Developers Back When WHO Declared COVID-19 An Emergency Yielded Returns

Zinger Key Points
  • Shares of vaccine developers soared in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with buoyancy spilling into even the next year for some.
  • Most of these stocks have pulled back notably from their COVID-19-vaccine-catalyzed peaks.

The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2019 in China and spread to the rest of the globe in early 2020.

Since then, the virus has caused more than 6.8 million deaths.

The urgency and the severity of COVID-19 forced biopharma companies to expeditiously develop a vaccine to counter the threat. Moderna, Inc. MRNA and BioNTech SE BNTX, a small German biopharma that forged a partnership with U.S. pharma giant Pfizer, Inc. PFE, used mRNA technology. This technology uses a genetic material present in the viral protein to stimulate immunity to the virus. Johnson & Johnson JNJ, AstraZeneca plc AZN and Novavax, Inc. NVAX conducted their own COVID-19 vaccine research.

See also: Best Biotech Stocks Right Now

WHO Wakes Up To Threat: As COVID-19 spread, Geneva-headquartered World Health Organization was forced to act. On Jan. 30, 2020, WHO Director-General Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

Big Pharma, Biotechs Make Beeline: Vaccine development has a long gestation period. It typically takes five to 10 years to develop a vaccine using traditional technology, which relies on live viruses in their weakened form.

Shakeout Became Inevitable: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, named later as Comirnaty, was the first to receive emergency use authorization in December 2020 after just 11 months of development. Moderna was the next to get FDA’s green light.

Novavax, which started strong, was saddled with development delays. J&J received authorization for its vaccine but reports of side effects led the FDA to restrict and pause the use of the vaccine. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which it developed in collaboration with Oxford University, found success in developing and under-developed countries but did not make it to the U.S.

Returns From COVID Vaccine Stocks: COVID-19 vaccine stocks skyrocketed in 2020 amid the development timeline as investors began discounting massive returns from the investment in vaccine research. Later, companies with failed programs saw their stocks deflate. As the pandemic threat slowly began to dissipate in the second half of 2021, the rally seen in the stocks of even successful vaccine developers moderated.

Here’re the three-year returns from a $1,000 invested in each of the vaccine stocks on Jan. 29, the day ahead of WHO declaring COVID as a global emergency:

  • Pfizer: +38.4%
  • BioNTech: +358%
  • Moderna: +821%
  • J&J – +21%
  • Novavax: +65%

Incidentally, most of these stocks have pulled back notably from their COVID-19-vaccine-catalyzed peaks. Novavax ran up to as much as $331.68 on Feb. 9, 2021, before retracing much of its gains. At Friday’s close, the stock was at $11.28, according to Benzinga Pro data.

The caveat here is all the gains cannot be attributed to the vaccine effect. Moderna, for one, could be on the cusp of getting approval for its respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, also developed using mRNA technology.

Next: Johnson & Johnson Reports Mixed Q4 Earnings, Issues FY23 Guidance Edging Higher Than Street Consensus

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