Moderna, BioNTech Plunge As Key Officials Argue Against Covid Booster Shots

Vaccine stocks Moderna (MRNA), BioNTech (BNTX) and Pfizer (PFE) toppled Monday after a bevy of scientists argued against Covid booster shots.


Clinical studies don’t support the benefit of boosting Covid vaccinations, the scientists said in a paper published in a medical journal called The Lancet. The group includes outgoing vaccine experts with the Food and Drug Administration, Marion Gruber and Philip Krause. Gruber and Krause are reportedly leaving due to frustration over the Biden administration’s plan to launch booster shots on Sept. 20.

Instead, the scientists proposed getting shots out to unvaccinated people. In the U.S., roughly 47% of eligible people are unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The limited supply of these vaccines will save the most lives if made available to people who are at appreciable risk of serious disease and have not yet received any vaccine,” they wrote. “Even if some gains can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated.”

In midday trading on today’s stock market, BioNTech stock tumbled 6.3%, near 327.30. Moderna stock skidded 5.3% near 425.70. Pfizer stock dipped 2.4% near 44.65.

Vaccine Stocks Dive

The White House’s Covid task force recently announced its plan to begin booster shots for recipients of the messenger RNA vaccines beginning Sept. 20.

The announcement left the FDA and CDC scrambling as their outside advisory groups and the agencies themselves have yet to examine the booster data. Those are key steps to launching booster shots. The FDA’s advisory committee will discuss the benefits and risks of boosting with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot on Friday.

Vaccine stocks BioNTech and Pfizer hit high points in mid-August, but have mostly dropped off since then. Pfizer stock is now sitting on a floor at its 50-day moving average and BioNTech stock is making a move toward that line, according to

The move on Monday interrupted a recent run for vaccine stock Moderna.

Boosting For Immunocompromised People?

There could be some benefit to offering booster shots for people who didn’t mount an effective immune response to their first shots, the scientists wrote. There is a possibility though that they would also have a similarly weak response to a booster dose.

So far, the authorized vaccines remain effective in avoiding Covid that is severe enough to require hospitalization and death, the scientists wrote. The vaccines may appear to be less effective now as the first people to receive Covid shots in late 2020 and early 2021 were elderly or immunocompromised.

Boosting could be appropriate if the virus mutates to the point that the vaccines are no longer effective. Experts say the virus mutates in unvaccinated people whose immune systems aren’t prepared to fight the virus. This gives the virus more chances to replicate and, thus, create new mutations.

But there could also be risks “if boosters are widely introduced too soon, or too frequently,” they said. This is especially true for the mRNA vaccines, which carry an increased risk of heart inflammation, and the Johnson & Johnson shot. Officials warn against an immune condition tied to the J&J injection.

Lofty Sales Expectations For 2021

Vaccine stocks had been rising as the companies are counting on big sales of Covid shots in 2021.

For the year, Pfizer expects to report $33.5 billion in sales of its Covid shot. That accounts for about 42%-43% of the company’s total revenue projection.

In its second-quarter earnings release, BioNTech said it expects to deliver 2.2 billion Covid vaccine doses this year. But it didn’t provide a sales outlook.

Moderna said it had signed agreements for $20 billion worth of Covid vaccine doses in 2021.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.


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