Vaccine stocks rose Friday despite reports health officials are pushing back on President Joe Biden’s plan to begin rolling out Covid boosters on Sept. 20.
The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they need more time to review booster data. In fact, they may only have time to recommend boosters for some recipients of the Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine, according to the New York Times.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky made their case on Thursday in a meeting with Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s pandemic coordinator, the Times said. Woodcock, Walensky and other federal health officials have publicly backed the booster strategy.
Zients has reportedly said the White House will follow the advice of government scientists.
Vaccine Stocks Rise Despite Booster Pushback
Less than a month ago, the White House announced its plan to start offering Covid booster shots on Sept. 20 for people who received their second shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least eight months ago. Vaccine stocks widely dipped on the news.
The White House announced its plan before advisors to the FDA and CDC could parse through the data and make a recommendation to their full agencies. Complicating matters, the FDA’s top vaccine veterans — Drs. Marion Gruber and Philip Krause — recently announced their departures this fall. Stat News reported the departures are partly due to frustration with the booster shot plan.
Some experts say it’s more important to get shots to people who are eligible but unvaccinated. As of Friday morning, the CDC says roughly 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated. More than six in 10 people, 62%, have gotten at least one shot. Of adults, roughly one-quarter haven’t had a single dose.
So, vaccine stocks still have a long runway ahead of them in terms of getting shots in arms.
Officials Start Reviewing Booster Data
Now, officials are scrambling to review the booster data. Pfizer and BioNTech began submitting data to the FDA on Aug. 25 in the hopes of gaining full approval for their booster shot. Moderna just took that step on Wednesday. Officials are still waiting on data from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), which uses another technology and a one-shot vaccine.
A multitude of studies show that immunity against the virus that causes Covid wanes over time. But the jabs are still effective against severe illness requiring hospitalization or death. Early tests show booster shots generate a fresh wave of antibodies, which is promising as the delta variant sweeps the globe.
An advisory committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 17 to discuss booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. If successful there, the plan would still need backing from the full FDA, a panel of experts at the CDC and then the full CDC. And that’s just for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
Vaccine Stocks Have High Ratings
Vaccine stocks Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have high ratings, according to IBD Digital. All three reached fresh highs last month, but have since tapered off.
Moderna and BioNTech both have perfect Relative Strength Ratings of 99. This puts the vaccine stocks in the top 1% of all stocks in terms of 12-month performance. Pfizer stock has a middling RS Rating of 79.
Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter at @IBD_AGatlin.
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