The Vaccine Wars

The current pandemic seems to have a new glimmer of hope, now that various pharmaceutical companies have now rolled out experimental vaccines for COVID-19. These vaccines have been hailed as a Hail Mary for the current situation the world finds itself in, with the companies promising their vaccines to be without any prospective side effects, and some of them even awaiting to receive approval from the FDA in the USA for emergency distribution. But this glimmer of hope can turn into an ugly commercial battle between these pharma companies on a global scale.

Companies like Moderna and Pfizer have developed their own vaccines which they claim to possess no particularly peculiar side effects. Even Oxford has been in the race for quite some time, and had displayed positive results in the past few months for the early stage development for their vaccine.

However, even before these vaccines have had any approval from the FDA for emergency distribution, they seem to be gaining commercially based upon the companies’ stock prices, which have shot up heavily whenever some particular claim has been made by each organization regarding their own vaccinations.

When the news of a potential vaccine developed by Pfizer hit the market, the stock prices of companies that have thrived on the premises of the ongoing pandemic like Zoom took a significant hit, and all the companies in the Food and Beverage, Aviation and Travel industries saw a surge in their stock prices, since this glimmer of hope resulted in people thinking that things might finally go back to normal.

Furthermore, this competition hasn’t been restricted to peripheral sectors. Even in the pharma industry itself, the companies that have developed their respective vaccines have been locked in a competitive war amongst themselves.

On the announcement made by Moderna that their preliminary trials showed a 95% success rate for their vaccine on November 16th, their stock price shot up by an obscene amount of more than 398% during midday trading. Furthermore, when it made the claim that its vaccine can be stored in lower temperatures for preservation which was between the ranges of 2-8 degrees Celsius (even at room temperature) as compared to Pfizer’s -70 degrees Celsius, their stock prices shot up by 5%, whereas Pfizer’s shares slipped by 4%.

This doesn’t stop here. These companies have already received deals from the US Government for the emergency distribution of such vaccines, and since the governments across the world are desperate for a vaccine, the bargaining chips have ever been so in the favour of these companies.

Moderna announced that it has confirmed a deal with the US Government for a 100 million doses, with the option of asking for 400 million more. The deal has been valued at $1.5 billion, with the company rewarded the amount once it has delivered the 100 million doses for emergency distribution.

Pzifer on the other hand, has also entered a deal with the US Government for the provision of 100 million doses with the option of asking for 400 million more for a value of $1.95 billion in July under the Immunization drive launched by the US Government for reducing the COVID-19 case count that has been the highest in their country.   

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. These companies have only signed deals with the US Government, and not the governments of the other countries. And the possibility of getting a deal with any such governments will depend upon the vaccines’ durability in regards of ease in storage and distribution to combat the pandemic.

In the case of India, the Moderna vaccine is a cheer for all Indians, since it has a higher efficacy rate as compared to that of the Pfizer and can be stored in room temperatures for longer periods. But the problem still arises: It’ll be quite long before India and other governments can receive the vaccine for them to distribute amongst their population.

The case is similar with countries that possess limited amounts of colling equipment like coolers and freezers with the public, as well as commercial cold storage warehouses possessed by both the government and organizations that require cold storages for their own products.

And the competition between these companies won’t dwindle down in the future. True, they are making available something the world can’t get enough of, but it is has been highly improbable for two companies to not exploit a market that will literally pay anything for what they have been selling and that these two companies will work as a unit for distributing vaccines along the world without amassing absurd amounts of profits.

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