Pfizer and Moderna Won’t Get a Shot in the Arm From Toddlers

Up to two Covid-19 snapshots may soon be approved for the tiniest Americans. But investors in vaccine makers, which have been hurt amid a widening sell-off in the biotech sector, could not breathe easier.

Some worried parents are delaying a full return to normal until their little ones are vaccinated. One could therefore be forgiven for thinking that there could be a large national market for the Pfizer PFE. 0.39%

– BioNTech BNTX 2.43%

and rival Moderna,

mRNA 3.69%

both are applying for permission from the US Food and Drug Administration this month for children under the age of five.

But outside of the free zones, there probably won’t be many long lines at pediatricians’ offices this summer. And even if it wasn’t, the population start in question isn’t very large: 25 million children under the age of 5 compared with more than 300 million Americans have received at least one vaccine. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, the vaccination rate among 5-11 year olds is just 29%, compared with 67% of the US eligible population.

Even with the pandemic raging, absorption declines with age – a trend that is not surprising since the virus has more severe consequences for the elderly. For example, the absorption capacity of adolescents is markedly better than that of children, with 59% of those 12 to 17 years of age being fully immunized. That number rises to 91% among people over 65.

There are good reasons to believe that the proportion of children under 5 will be the smallest. According to a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 18% of parents with children under the age of 5 said they would get a Covid-19 vaccine for their child as soon as a vaccine is available. Nearly 40% of parents with young children said they would “wait and see” before vaccinating their children, while 27% said they “definitely won’t” vaccinate their children against Covid-19.

Anxiety levels for younger children can also be much lower than for older children, simply because the sense of pandemic urgency is lower than when vaccinations were approved for group 5. -11 years old in October. Daily mortality was five times higher at that time.

Even if we generously assume that toddlers get vaccinated at the same rate as that larger group, the total market for Pfizer and Moderna would be somewhere between 5 million and 6 million babies. While we don’t know the exact prices the companies will charge, the total market size in the US will amount to several hundred million dollars, compared with tens of billions of dollars in global orders for the adult population. Fort.

“This is not a guideline for companies,” said Will Sevush, healthcare strategist at Jefferies.

Moderna and BioNTech, whose market share is more sensitive to news about vaccines than Pfizer, are both down about 40% this year and could react to any FDA decision on children’s vaccines. When Moderna received FDA approval for the boost in late March, the company’s stock surged as much as 5.2%, but the stock quickly gave up that gain in the ensuing days amid the turmoil. the biotech industry declined further. Pfizer has a more diversified drug portfolio and its own pandemic-related revenue stream through its antiretroviral drug Paxlovid. So far, its shares are down just 10% year-over-year, beating the broader stock market.

Any stock rally after FDA approval can be viewed with skepticism, but there could be a longer-term payback for Covid-19 if Moderna’s new backstop — finds a way more fully targeting the Omicron variants — approved for sale in the fall.

Vaccine makers will need more than toddler jabs to revive investor interest.

Children under the age of 5 in the US are still ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccine after efforts to bring it to market failed. WSJ’s Peter Loftus explains what we know about vaccines and when they may be available. Photo compilation: Todd Johnson

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