Covid vaccine shares BioNTech (BNTX) and Modern (mRNA) rose on Friday after a new study suggested an added benefit of the updated omicron targeting boosters over the original shots for older people.
Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech measured the amount of virus-blocking antibodies capable of dealing with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. People older than 55 who received the updated booster shots had four times as many antibodies as those given the original vaccine series.
So far, the uptake of the new boosters is slow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a quarter of people age 65 and older have received one of the two so-called bivalent booster shots targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron as well as the ancestral strain. 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 a Covid-19 bivalent booster as soon as they are eligible to maintain high levels of protection against the widely circulating omicron BA.4 and BA .5 bottom lines,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a written statement.
On today’s stock market, vaccine shares rose. The Moderna share led the way and rose 7.4% to 158.41. BioNTech shares rose 6.2% to 154.31 while shares of Pfizer rose 1.4% to 47.22.
Vaccine stock: Increase in antibodies
Researchers divided the participants into two groups. Recipients of the bivalent booster previously received the original booster shot 10-11 months ago. The second group received a second dose of the original booster approximately seven months after the previous dose.
In subjects aged 55 years and older, recipients of the bivalent booster had a 13.2-fold increase in antibodies targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron. In comparison, people in the same age group had a 2.9-fold increase in antibodies one month after administration of the original vaccine.
In people aged 18-55, the bivalent booster led to a 9.5-fold increase in antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech did not provide a comparison for that age group after receiving the original vaccine. So the benefit for younger adults is less clear.
Today, the BA.5 subvariant still leads cases in the United States, accounting for more than 39%. But BA.4 accounts for less than 1% of all cases. Meanwhile, the newer BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 sub-variants are climbing the case rankings. Together, they generated about 35% of cases in the past week, according to the CDC.
Booster use will be important for vaccine stocks. Analysts currently expect huge declines in sales in 2023.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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