High bar set by rivals means AstraZeneca’s vaccine results disappoint investors

Research into a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has revealed that it is effective at stopping people developing symptoms.

Following a large trial of the drug, overall results showed that the vaccine offers 70% protection from the disease, but following the continuation of the trial, that number could rise up to 90% effectiveness. The vaccine is also cheaper to produce and easier to transport and store – making it a leading candidate to send across the world.

The news follows the announcement’s from fellow vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, whose alternatives showed 90-95% protection from coronavirus. All three vaccines are now with the regulators, with more news expected before the end of the year.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: “The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by SARS-CoV-2. We will continue to work to provide the detailed information to regulators. It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort which will reap benefits for the whole world.”

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, said: “Today marks an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic. This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency. Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”

Industry reaction

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “AstraZeneca has been on a disappointing slide this morning, as the efficacy rates for its vaccine fell short of its rivals. With the bar set high by Pfizer and Moderna, even though the late stage trials were better than expected, AstraZeneca’s shares didn’t get a booster shot after it said efficacy results came in on average at 70%.

“However, depending on the doses given and the time frames between them, efficacy was as high as 90% and the vaccine is being sent for immediate regulatory approval. Regulators have already been crawling all over the data on a rolling basis so it’s hoped it’ll get the green light fast.

“It has though added to the overall positivity washing around the financial markets about a faster end to the pandemic, with several options for health services around the world. AstraZeneca has promised to distribute the vaccine at cost while the pandemic lasts and it’s also likely to face fewer logistical hurdles in the roll out as it can be stored long term at normal fridge temperatures.

“So although the breakthrough is not going to end up boosting profits in the short term, it has got long term potential and this breakthrough will add to expertise in vaccines that AstraZeneca has lacked in the past.”