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Covid vaccine stocks jump as new variants emerge

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Covid vaccine makers’ shares rose Monday as new variants of the virus emerge in the U.S. ahead of the rollout of updated shots this fall.

Shares of Novavax closed more than 13% higher. Moderna‘s stock closed more than 9% higher. Shares of BioNTech, which jointly develops Covid vaccines with Pfizer, closed more than 6% higher. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s stock ended around 1% higher. 

It’s been a rocky few months for those stocks as sales of Covid shots and treatments plummet in the U.S.: Shares of all four companies are down more than 20% for the year. But Wall Street’s enthusiasm for Covid vaccine makers is getting a fresh boost with the upcoming launch of brand-new shots this fall and the emergence of new variants of the virus. 

That includes EG.5, also known as “Eris,” which is now the dominant Covid strain in the U.S. Health experts told CNBC that Eris may be slightly better at evading immunity from previous vaccinations and infections, but the variant isn’t expected to be more severe. 

Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax have also said that their new shots, which are designed to target a related omicron subvariant called XBB.1.5, should provide protection against Eris. 

But it’s unclear how well the new shots will protect against a new omicron strain of the virus called BA.2.86, which has been identified in very small numbers in the U.S., U.K., Denmark and Israel.

Last week, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are tracking that strain because it has 36 mutations that distinguish it from the currently-dominant XBB.1.5 variant.

So far, there is no evidence that BA.2.86 spreads faster or causes more serious infections than previous versions. But the emergence of BA.2.86 could potentially increase demand for vaccines and treatments that will likely provide some degree of protection against the highly mutated variant.



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