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Vaccines remain the key as coronavirus second wave anxiety mounts among investors

There are more than six vaccines in late-stage trials currently

AstraZeneca -
All we want by Christmas is... a vaccine

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new support measures for businesses and workers have underlined how quickly this country and others need to find a fix for COVID-19.

But it’s not just politicians, investors too have started to question whether coronavirus might turn out to be something far more serious than six months of disruption.

Increasingly, eyes are turning to October and November when first datasets from the number of COVID-19 vaccine and treatment trials underway are set to be released.

How important this is likely to be was underlined earlier this month by UBS, which estimated that about 40% of the US market’s gains since May have been driven by the assumption that a vaccine for COVID-19 would be available by the end of the year.

There are more than six vaccines in late-stage trials currently and upwards of 30 in earlier stages of development says the World Health Organisation including Russian and Chinese variations.

Already there have been warning signs, with AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) and Oxford University having to halt the trial of their new vaccine temporarily due to illness in a patient in the UK.

Trials of the Astra/Oxford vaccine have resumed everywhere except the US, but it has been a setback for what was seen as one of the brightest hopes, certainly among UK politicians.

Equally keenly anticipated are programmes underway from Pfizer and Moderna.

Pfizer, which is working with German firm BioNTech has stated previously it might produce 100mln doses by the end of this year and 1.3bn by end 2021, though it too has reported mild side effects in some trial participants.

Moderna’s candidate entered the final stage of trials on 30,000 volunteers in the US in July and expects to complete enrolment in September.

The biotech has produced enough doses for the trials and remains on track to deliver 500mln and potentially up to 1bn jabs per year, beginning in 2021, but unile its rival it has never commercialised a vaccine,

Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, meanwhile, are expected to have data available in November for their respective vaccines.

Results of trials for treatments will also become available towards the end of 2020, notably the WHO-sponsored SOLIDARITY trial, which is testing Gilead Sciences anti-viral remdesivir and IFN beta-1a therapies in combination and as monotherapies.

If a vaccine is approved how it will be distributed is another potential hurdle.

The World Health Organization has set up a mechanism so that vaccines are distributed equally and fairly around the globe but its target is “to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021". 

Airline trade body IATA has also suggested 8,000 jumbo jets would be needed to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine globally and that is just for a single dose.

Delivering COVID-19 vaccines would be the 'mission of the century'. for the world’s freight industry, according to IATA.

Craig Erlan, Senior Market Analyst at OANDA Europe, says it is likely to be a difficult few months ahead or investors as COVID-19 uncertainty rises.

“The economic data, particularly in Europe, is already highlighting weaknesses in the hugely important services sector and with Covid cases rising and governments being forced to re-impose restrictions, that's unlikely to change.

“Of course, there is one obvious thing that could change all of that, a vaccine.”

“Trump remains as determined as ever to have something to dangle in front of voters in time for the November election, something that is becoming increasingly challenging.

"Even if one ticks all the boxes, widespread distribution won't be available until spring next year. Still, an announcement and roadplan would certainly buoy investors. November could be very interesting.”

Quick facts: AstraZeneca

Price: 7920 GBX

LSE:AZN
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £103.93 billion
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