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Visualizing One Year of Fluctuating Covid-19 Vaccine Stock Prices

The coronavirus is reshaping the global economy in a lot of different ways, and it’s placed a spotlight on how pharmaceutical companies make money. After all, 1 in 5 Americans is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But a detailed look at the stock market performance of top vaccine stocks raises questions about whether they are still worth investing in.

Top vaccine stocks

  • Novavax is easily the biggest winner in a portfolio of Covid-19 vaccine companies, returning +1,192% from a year ago and topping out in February at $319.93 per share.
  • Other Covid-19 vaccine companies have seen positive share price results over the last 12 months, including Moderna (+341%), BioNTech (106%) and Johnson & Johnson (+31%).
  • Not all Covid-19 vaccine makers are seeing outstanding shareholder returns, including Sinovac which is exactly flat at $6.47 over the last year.
  • These movements in stock value should be placed in the broader context of a stock market that is high by historical standards, not to mention business models that rely on more than just the production of a single vaccine.

We found the data for our visual at Yahoo Finance. We charted the last 12 months of stock price changes in percentage terms, and we marked the highest prices reached for several major companies intimately involved with the manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The result is an interesting portrait of the market’s reaction to the key companies most closely tied to helping the world resolve Covid-19 once and for all.

The most obvious standout among the portfolio of Covid-19 vaccine makers is Novavax. On April 1, 2020, Novavax stock opened at just $14.18 per share. It then sharply skyrocketed throughout the summer peaking in mid-August at around $180 per share, before dropping back down and shooting back up in the fall to a high of $319.93. In total, over the last 12 months, shareholders have experienced a net gain of +1,192%. That’s because unlike most of the other companies in our visual, Novavax went from being a relatively unknown pharmaceutical company on the East Coast to a major contender with a highly effective Covid-19 vaccine.

Other vaccine makers have also seen positive returns on their stock, but none anywhere close to Novavax. Moderna boasted excellent returns for shareholders, topping +340% in year-over-year growth, followed by BioNTech at +106%. Johnson & Johnson saw a total increase of +31% in value, peaking at $169.42 per share in January. It remains to be seen how the latest federal guidance to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will impact the company. And at the lowest end of the scale, Sinovac remained steady, closing at exactly the same price of $6.47 from where it started 12 months ago.

It helps to put some of these stock price movements into context. In general, the broader stock market is close to an all-time record high. Over the last 12 months, the S&P 500 is up +56.3%, beating half the companies in our visual. The price for a share of Slack is up +69.8%, and Zoom is up an eye-popping +158%. And don’t forget, Gamestop is still up +3,527% from a year ago.

There are a couple other caveats to keep in mind about the stock price movements for these major pharmaceutical companies. Covid-19 vaccines are still only a portion of many of these companies’ portfolios of products. Johnson & Johnson for example makes a lot of different medical and consumer products, including well-known brands like Neutrogena and their now infamous baby powder. And finally, many companies manufacturing the Covid-19 vaccine are sensitive to the perception that they are making money off the pandemic. That’s why the most expensive vaccine costs only about $40, and the U.S. federal government’s stated policy is to provide vaccines at no cost to consumers. In short, big pharma stock prices are up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these companies are gouging consumers during a lethal pandemic.

Want to help fight the coronavirus right now? Donate to the WHO’s Covid-19 Response Fund. Many health insurance companies are also covering the cost of getting the Covid-19 vaccine, so check out our health insurance cost guide if you don’t have coverage yet.

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