Seonhwa Lee—McMaster Honours Human Behaviour 2024
With decreasing trend in infection cases and lighter restrictions following the expedite development of effective vaccine supply, it seemed like the world was finally coming back to normal. This hope is now shattered with the recent emergence of omicron, the new variant of COVID virus. At this time of inflection, what is the future of major vaccine companies?
Engaging Variant and Booster Vaccines
Omicron varies from other COVID viruses in its numerous mutations in the spike protein, which the vaccine aims to mimic to produce antibodies. In fact, studies were conducted by Pfizer and BioNTech to see a significant decrease in the number of virus-targeting antibodies in omicron (1). They also found evidence to support the efficacy and efficiency of booster shots in increasing the production of antibodies as well (1). Booster shot is injected after an individual has received one or two previous doses of regular vaccine against COVID depending on the type.
The Canadian government had authorized companies producing viral vector-based vaccines such as Janssen and AstraZeneca for adults over 18 years of age, and mRNA vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech (2-5). mRNA vaccines were given full approval to give children over 5 (Pfizer-BioNTech) and 12 (Moderna) with reduced dose, and Spikevax by Moderna was especially approved as a booster shot in November (4-6). Pfizer and BioNTech is also planning to drop their new vaccine adjusted to target omicron in March 2022 depending on the need, as well as 4 billion more of their current Comirnaty vaccine supply (1).
Aside from vaccines, companies are also striving to develop pills to cure. Pfizer is in the lead among major companies with their two-pill antiviral named Paxlovid, which showed outstanding efficacy by dropping hospitalization and death by 89% (1). Paxlovid is used to treat relatively mild symptoms in unvaccinated individuals and the above-mentioned result was when patients took the pill within three days of symptoms (1).
Merck also dropped a one-pill antiviral called Molnupiravir less impact than Paxlovid by reducing hospitalization and death by 30% when taken within five days after symptoms first appeared but is still clearly in lead compared to other companies (1).
Progress on making the most effective vaccine or cure is a key factor in the inevitable competition among these pharmaceutical companies.
Side Effects and Post-Pandemic
Despite the fact that all types of vaccine currently used by countries are authorized and approved for its “safety”, current vaccines are suspected of possible side effects spanning from light redness and swelling to serious hear inflammation (7).
Once confirmed cases decrease again and the pandemic gets closer to the end, the corporates will likely have a decreased stock value and maybe change the price to directly target the public with COVID products remaining on the market and focusing more on regular products they had before the virus; if they are still authorized despite the side effects with no immediate threat.
- Gatlin A. Is Pfizer stock a buy as omicron partially eludes its Covid vaccine? [Internet]. Investor’s Business Daily. 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.investors.com/news/technology/pfizer-stock-buy-now/
- Canada H. Government of Canada [Internet]. Canada.ca. / Gouvernement du Canada; 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines/janssen.html
- Canada H. Government of Canada [Internet]. Canada.ca. / Gouvernement du Canada; 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines/astrazeneca.html
- Canada H. Government of Canada [Internet]. Canada.ca. / Gouvernement du Canada; 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines/moderna.html
- Canada H. Government of Canada [Internet]. Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine – Canada.ca. / Gouvernement du Canada; 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines/pfizer-biontech.html
- Canada H. Health Canada authorizes the use of the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot [Internet]. Canada.ca. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2021/11/health-canada-authorizes-the-use-of-the-moderna-spikevax-covid-19-vaccine-as-a-booster-shot.html
- Gatlin A. Is moderna stock a buy or sell as shares Yo-Yo on the omicron threat? [Internet]. Investor’s Business Daily. 2021 [cited 2021Dec11]. Available from: https://www.investors.com/news/technology/mrna-stock-buy-now/