AstraZeneca share price slides despite positive trial results

Shares at Cambridge-based pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) have slid over 1% on Monday morning despite the news that their coronavirus vaccine, in collaboration with Oxford University, has proven to be up to 90% effective in interim trial data.

Initial results showed the first half dose is able to provide 70% protection against the virus, but a secondary full dose of the vaccine saw immunity rise to 90% – suggesting that the dosage of the first jab primed the immune system significantly from just half of the full dose.

Additional data also indicated that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine helps to prevent the spread of coronavirus in asymptomatic patients, after researchers reported a drop in transmission amongst those with no symptoms.

Clinical trials so far show the vaccine to be safe, with only minor complaints of sore arms and fever among patients – not unusual after immunisation of any kind. A database of more than 24,000 volunteers across the UK, Brazil and South Africa found no major concerns.

While the 70% effectiveness results may have left investors feeling disappointed, following last week’s news of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs providing up to 95% protection, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is far cheaper to produce and to store than its trans-Atlantic counterparts – needing only normal refrigerator temperatures.

The UK government has already pre-ordered 100 million doses in preparation for a mass rollout as soon as the vaccine is widely available, while AstraZeneca has pledged to provide 3 billion doses for global use over the course of next year.

“The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by [the virus],” said Oxford’s Professor of Immunology, Sarah Gilbert.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also welcomed the “incredibly exciting news”, and despite the additional safety checks before the vaccine can hit the market, he has hailed the “fantastic results” as an early victory against the pandemic.

Nevertheless, shareholders appear to have taken news of the 70% efficacy at face value, with AstraZeneca shares slipping 1.76% to 8,171.00p at midday, following on from a week-long downward trajectory of 3.96% – likely a reaction to competitors’ vaccines speeding ahead.

The company has a P/E ratio standing at 22.4, with a prospective dividend yield over the next 12 months of 2.6%.