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Pfizer and BioNTech report strong covid-19 vaccine data

Damien Conover, CFA  |  10 Nov 2020Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Pfizer (PFE) and partner BioNTech (BNTX) reported favorable phase 3 data on covid-19 vaccine BNT162b2, with an efficacy rate of over 90per cent and no major safety issues observed at an interim analysis.

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We are increasing the vaccine’s probability of approval to 90 per cent from 60 per cent in our model, supporting sales projections of EU€13 billion in 2021. The more favorable outlook increases our fair value estimate for BioNTech to UA$65 from US$56, but the update has only a small impact on Pfizer’s valuation, as the vaccine’s economics are split between the partners, and we expect competition from other vaccines to erode its demand and pricing power by 2023. Nevertheless, the quick development of the vaccine reinforces the firms’ innovative power and Pfizer’s wide moat along with BioNTech’s positive moat trend.

With the vaccine’s efficacy over 90 per cent and no major safety issues observed, we believe the regulatory agencies are likely to authorise it for emergency use in late 2020, followed by full approval in 2021 pending supportive final data. The US Food and Drug Administration has said it would need at least 50 per cent efficacy to approve a covid-19 vaccine, and BNT162b2 clearly passes this threshold. Further, the lack of major safety issues should reassure regulators and the general public. With manufacturing ramping up, the firms expect to produce up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

The vaccine should engender strong goodwill for the companies, but because of the likely heavy competition, we view it as only moderately helpful for valuation. With strong competitors like Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and many more, we expect the pricing power of the vaccines to be low, especially with several companies receiving government funding and stating a commitment to low pricing. However, we expect the quick development of vaccines to enable the biopharma industry to gain goodwill with governments and help in discussions around any drug pricing reforms.

Morningstar healthcare strategist Karen Anderson delivered a presentation on 'The Race for the Covid-19 Vaccine' at last weeks' Morningstar Individual Investor Conference. Attendees can view the session here. Anderson has also written extensively on the subject:

Damien Conover, CFA, is an associate director for Morningstar.

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