mRNA type vaccine is the leading type of COVID vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. mRNA stands for messenger-RNA is a different approach to how vaccines work in our body. Typically, a vaccine introduces a weakened or inactive form of the virus in our body to elicit an immune response. This response creates antibodies which then attacks the foreign virus. An mRNA makes what is called a “spike protein” which is the outer layer of the virus and unique enough to serve as an identifier to a certain virus. When the mRNA vaccine is injected into the body, it instructs the cells in our body to create a replication of the “spike protein” similar to the virus, triggering the human immune system to create antibodies against it. Because the body has experience fighting the virus, if the COVID-19 virus or similar mutations enter the body, the immune system is triggered to produce antibodies to fight the virus.
Although the technology has been around for a while, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech is the first to complete all stages of clinical trials. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine costs about USD$19.50 per dose and requires two doses within a one month period to be fully effective. This brings the total cost of vaccination to around USD$39.00 per treatment. Pfizer/BioNTech price is a discounted price for the first 100 million dosses, while the US government has expressed interest in purchasing an additional 500 million dosses over the next 24 months at a price that is still being negotiated. The Moderna vaccine, a similar 2 dose alternative is priced between USD$32.00 and USD$37.00 and has already sold 100 million units in the US.
The efficiency of the virus, referred to in the virology field as efficacy, of the Pfizer/BioNTech virus is around 95% while Moderna is slated to be around 94.5%. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine however requires cold storage solution throughout the supply chain as it needs to be kept in -70C or -94F temperature. The Moderna vaccine on the other hand can be stored in 2C or 36F temperature, which most cold storage freezers are able to accommodate. The Moderna vaccine has a longer shelf life compared to Pfizer/BioNTech lasting almost 5 months longer in storage comparatively.
Although there are other vaccines out there, the efficacy of those vaccines are questionable given the variance in results of the efficacy data being released by the vaccine manufacturers. Although Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and other vaccine manufacturers are looking to create alternatives, most consumers are making the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine a preferred choice.
The trend does not seem to be shifting with a majority of consumers likely to make Pfizer/BioNTech their preferred choice if available and affordable. Sinovac, a cheaper alternative, is looking to be a more affordable choice for countries unable to afford more expensive mRNA vaccines. Although the coronavirus vaccine makes up only a fraction of Pfizer’s revenue, the experience gained by the Pfizer/BioNTech partnership in developing and manufacturing the mRNA vaccine could be significant in the vaccine industry. The mRNA is a potential candidate for a vaccine against certain types of cancers and BioNTech research capabilities could make it a leader in the USD$20 billion cancer vaccine space.