Stocks of Covid vaccines BioNTech (BNTX) and Modern (MRNA) jumped on Friday after a new study suggested an added benefit of updated omicron targeting boosters over the original injections for the elderly.
Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech measured the amount of virus-blocking antibodies capable of handling the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. People over 55 who received the updated booster shots had four times as many antibodies as those who received the original series of vaccines.
So far, adoption of new boosters has been slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a quarter of people aged 65 and older have received one of two so-called bivalent booster shots targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron as well than the ancestral stock. About 10% of all adults have received the updated boosters.
“As we head into the holiday season, we hope this updated data will encourage people to seek out a bivalent Covid-19 booster as soon as they are eligible to maintain high levels of protection against omicron BA. 4 and widely distributed BA .5 sublineages,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a written statement.
In today’s stock market, vaccine stocks have surged. Moderna stock led the way, jumping 7.4% to 158.41. BioNTech stock jumped 6.2% to 154.31 while shares of Pfizer rose 1.4% to 47.22.
Vaccine stocks: increase in antibodies
The researchers divided the participants into two groups. Recipients of the bivalent booster had previously received the initial booster 10 to 11 months ago. The second group received another initial booster dose about seven months after the previous dose.
In people aged 55 and older, recipients of the bivalent booster had a 13.2-fold increase in antibodies targeting omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. In comparison, people in the same age group had a 2.9-fold increase in antibodies one month after receiving the original vaccine.
In people aged 18 to 55, the bivalent booster caused a 9.5-fold increase in antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech did not provide a comparison for this age group after receiving the original vaccine. Thus, the benefit for young adults is less clear.
Today, the BA.5 subvariant still tops the U.S. cases, accounting for more than 39%. But BA.4 accounts for less than 1% of all cases. Meanwhile, the new BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants are climbing the case rankings. Together, they generated about 35% of cases over the past week, according to the CDC.
The use of boosters will be important for vaccine stocks. Analysts are currently expecting huge sales declines in 2023.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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