The Financial Express

Of Biden and Pfizer's vaccine  

| Updated: November 13, 2020 22:26:57

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Of Biden and Pfizer's vaccine   

The world witnessed two exciting developments this week---victory of Mr Joe Biden in the highly-charged US electoral battle and 90 per cent effectiveness of coronavirus vaccine researched by the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTECH.

Barring millions of Republicans at home and a few staunch admirers outside the US, the world overwhelmingly has welcomed Mr Biden's victory over incumbent US President Donald Trump.

The global stock markets were no exception as those experienced an instant uptrend. But the vaccine news triggered a massive surge in prices of equities. Crude oil prices also went up by 10 per cent. Though the full picture of the vaccine is not available until now, it has given rise to euphoria in the stock markets. The stocks of the tourism and travel industry, which is the worst-hit by the pandemic, surged. The rise in Pfizer stock prices was an obvious development. The drug/biotech companies that are in an advance stage in Covid vaccine production have also seen some rise in their share prices.

But the vaccine news proved to be a bane for the companies that were basking in profit during the Covid crisis. The stocks of several such companies saw erosion in their prices. Zoom Video Communications' share prices lost 12 per cent as the vaccine news broke. 

How did the people here react to the news about Mr Biden's win and vaccine efficacy?

As far as Mr Biden's victory is concerned, the people, in general, were happy. During the last four years, they developed a strong dislike for Mr Trump for his anti-immigrant, racist and anti-Muslim statements and actions. None, however, knows for sure how the upcoming change in the US would benefit Bangladesh. The latter stands to benefit from certain policy changes that Mr Biden is sure to initiate soon after his takeover of the US presidency.  He is committed to taking the USA back to trade multilateralism and climate initiative.

The people, at the first instance, were thrilled by the Pfizer's vaccine news. But the excitement did evaporate when it dawned on them that this particular vaccine would remain beyond their reach. The US citizens will be the top priority recipients of the vaccine that is expected to seek the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approval later this month or early next month. The countries that have made advance purchases come next.  Bangladesh is not on the list of those countries.

So, those who are wanting to be vaccinated against the coronavirus at the earliest will have to wait for many more months, it seems. If not the one to be marketed by Pfizer, Bangladesh will procure a limited number of doses of the vaccine now being developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford. The Serum Institute of India, which will be producing the AstraZeneca vaccine will deliver the same to the Beximco Phrama under a contract signed earlier.

Besides, Bangladesh could not also afford the Pfizer's vaccine because of its high cost and preservation and transportation problem.  According to a report published in the UK daily The Telegraph, the MRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine, which tricks the body into making antibodies, will be expensive ( nearly 30 British pounds for two doses) and difficult to carry and store. The vaccine will have to be kept in dry ice (minus 78-degree centigrade).

If successful, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be made of common cold virus inserted with coronavirus spike protein, will be cheaper (2.23 British pound for a single dose) and easier to preserve (between 02-degree to 08-degree centigrade). 

So, Bangladesh has made a better choice. However, luck would largely depend on the successful development of the vaccine by the AstraZeneca.


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