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Vaccine Stocks: CDC Authorizes Mix-And-Match Covid Boosters, But Moderna Dives


Vaccine stocks tumbled Friday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized a mix-and-match strategy for Covid booster shots.




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The move came with the authorization of booster shots for all recipients of the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) vaccine and for at-risk adults who received the Moderna (MRNA) vaccination series. Last month, the CDC authorized the booster shot from Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX). Now, eligible people can choose their booster from among the three.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted all three shots remain highly effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death due to Covid.

“These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from Covid-19,” she said in a written statement. “The evidence shows that all three Covid-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given.”

But on today’s stock market, Moderna stock toppled 3.8% to 326.54 after receiving a sell rating from Deutsche Bank. Fellow vaccine stock BioNTech tumbled 2.8% to 278.34. Pfizer and J&J stocks both tiptoed a fraction into the green.

Vaccine Stocks: Heterologous Boosting OK

The CDC decision follows unanimous endorsements from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices late Thursday.

Committee members backed the mix-and-match strategy — a process known scientifically as heterologous boosting — to help prevent side effects in some populations and to ease supply issues in areas that might not have access to all three shots.

For example, women between the ages of 18-49 are more susceptible to a blood-clotting condition in the aftermath of a J&J shot. Conversely, boys and men between 12 and 30 years old have a heightened risk for a heart inflammation condition known as myocarditis after receiving the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

All adults who received the J&J shot are eligible for a booster two months after their first shot. People age 65 and older, and adults who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or work/live in high-risk settings can get a booster six months after their Moderna shots.

Vaccine stocks, though, have trended mostly sideways this month on worries a Covid pill from Merck (MRK) will undercut immunizations.

Unanimous, But Still Uneasy

Despite the unanimous vote late Thursday, some of the CDC’s advisors were uneasy with some of the booster recommendations.

Dr. Sarah Long says she doesn’t believe recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots under the age of 50 need a booster shot. Similarly, Dr. James Loehr said many recipients of the Moderna shots don’t need a booster, but will get one anyway.

Meanwhile, Dr. Helen Talbot said she would prefer the J&J vaccine be a two-dose primary series — like the shots from vaccine stocks Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. But Dr. Doran Fink, of the FDA, noted J&J’s vaccine is only authorized as a one-dose shot.

Talbot also said she hopes the clinical considerations, written recommendations accompanying each vaccine, would steer young women away from the J&J shot.

Dr. Wilbur Chen noted there are other tools to deal with the pandemic. Outside products from vaccine makers, companies like Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN), Eli Lilly (LLY) and Vir Biotechnology (VIR) make antibody treatments. Merck and others also are working on antiviral pills.

“We’re not going to vaccine ourselves” out of the pandemic,” Chen said.

But Walensky, the CDC director, noted the importance of initial Covid vaccinations. More than 65 million people are unvaccinated, “leaving themselves — and their children, families, loved ones and communities — vulnerable,” she said in her written statement.

Pfizer Unveils Vaccine Data In Kids

Also Friday, Pfizer posted documents ahead of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee meeting that show its Covid vaccine was almost 91% effective in children ages 5-11.

Pfizer estimated the Covid vaccine in children could prevent 33,600 cases per million. Meanwhile, the company expects 21 cases of myocarditis per million in the same age group as a possible side affect from the vaccine.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.

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