The coronavirus pandemic has now been raging for eight solid months, and it's fair to say the public is tired of having to work from home, socially distance, and wear masks in public. Worse yet, hospitals and healthcare systems across the country are rapidly getting overwhelmed as a second wave of the outbreak takes hold -- right in time for winter.
For this reason, an effective coronavirus vaccine is essential right about now. Last week, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) unveiled some encouraging news in that regard. The pharmaceutical giant announced its mRNA vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing coronavirus infection based on initial results of its phase 3 trial.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 16, Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), another top contender in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, announced similarly positive preliminary results from its phase 3 trial. It says its COVID vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing infection by triggering an immune response. That level of vaccine efficacy actually surpasses infectious disease experts' expectations.
Not only that, but initial clinical trial results indicate the vaccine is safe. While some trial participants have experienced minor side effects like body aches, no serious health concerns have been flagged or reported so far.
Similar formulas; different storage requirements
The news that Moderna's vaccine works well isn't surprising given that it uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, similar to the vaccine Pfizer developed. But Moderna's vaccine has one key advantage over Pfizer's: It doesn't need to be stored at quite as cold a temperature. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius, but since no other vaccine in circulation has similar requirements, medical offices and pharmacies generally don't have the capacity to store medications at that temperature right now.
Moderna's COVID vaccine, on the other hand, can be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius. That will still require medical offices and pharmacies to invest in proper storage. But that temperature isn't unheard of in the grand scheme of storing vaccines. Other existing vaccines, such as the one that fights chickenpox, already have that same requirement.
Furthermore, once transported and ready for distribution, the Moderna vaccine can be kept for 30 days in a refrigerator. By contrast, Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine can last only five days.
The impact on real estate investing
Moderna's news could impact real estate investors in a number of ways. For one thing, despite less-stringent storage requirements than Pfizer's cocktail, Moderna's vaccine will still result in an uptick in cold storage demand, so those real estate investment trusts (REITs) could be worth buying into immediately.
Secondly, if Moderna's vaccine is rolled out quickly, society may be able to get back to normal faster than previously expected. That could, in turn, prevent more retail closures -- closures that are putting shopping center and mall REITs in jeopardy -- and also help revive the hotel industry, which has been sluggish since the pandemic began.
Of course, Moderna's vaccine, like Pfizer's, still needs to obtain emergency-use authorization from the FDA. From there, there won't be enough vaccine doses to immunize everyone immediately. While healthcare workers, first responders, and other priority patients may be in line for a vaccine late this year or in early 2021, the general public shouldn't expect to get a coronavirus vaccine until spring 2021 at the earliest. But if this timeline does happen, it could not only be a lifeline for real estate investors but also save the country from a dangerous pandemic that otherwise does not appear to want to let up.