Pfizer and Biontech’s Covid-19 vaccine overdelivers

In the end Pfizer and Biontech need not have played it safe. Final readout of the pivotal trial of their Covid-19 vaccine BNT162b2 has shown 95% efficacy, in line with the 94.5% cited at the first interim analysis of their rival Moderna’s mRNA-1273. First interim readout had shown BNT162b2 to be “more than 90% effective”, the vagueness widely assumed to be down to the companies’ desire not to overpromise on the final result. While the important thing now is that both projects are similarly efficacious, investors will note that one of the eight Covid-19 infections in BNT162b2-treated volunteers was severe, versus none in the five cases seen with mRNA-1273, and will point to the different time frames the two trials use for determining efficacy. Only a long-term readout will enable like-for-like comparisons – for safety and efficacy alike. Despite the positive result Biontech did not recover Monday’s losses this morning, presumably owing to a possible convenience advantage for mRNA-1273, which was said to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures for 30 days, versus seven days previously. The Moderna trial is itself very close to its final readout, which will be triggered by 151 Covid-19 infections.

Company Biontech/Pfizer Moderna
Project BNT162b2 mRNA-1273
Pivotal study NCT04368728 Cove
Dosing Day 0 & day 21 Day 0 & day 28
Readout timing Day 28 Day 42
Enrolment 43,538 30,000
Cases in active cohort 8 (1 severe) 5 (0 severe)
Cases in placebo cohort 162 (9 severe) 95 (11 severe)
Efficacy 95% 94.5%
Manufacturing capacity 2020 50m doses 20m doses
Manufacturing capacity 2021 1.3bn doses (250m in H1) 500m to 1bn doses
Source: company announcements & Evercore ISI.

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