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Moderna, CureVac, other vaccine stocks jump as new human bird-flu cases reported in U.S., Australia

By Eleanor Laise

Stock gains are an 'overreaction' to avian-flu news, analysts say

Vaccine-related stocks moved sharply higher Wednesday as new human bird-flu cases were reported in the U.S. and Australia.

CureVac N.V. shares (CVAC) were up 25% Wednesday, while Moderna Inc. stock (MRNA) gained 14% and BioNTech SE's American depositary receipts (BNTX) were up more than 10%.

A new human case of bird flu has been identified in a Michigan dairy-farm worker, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. This is the second U.S. human bird-flu case this year. Similar to the case earlier reported in Texas, the patient only reported eye symptoms, the CDC said.

The Michigan case comes on top of Australia's first human case of H5N1 bird flu, reported Tuesday by the health department in the southeastern state of Victoria. The case was in a child who picked up the infection in India and was sick in March but has since made a full recovery, the health department said.

There is no evidence of human transmission in Victoria, the health department noted, adding that the chance of additional human cases is "very low" because the virus does not easily spread between people.

The risk to the general public remains low, according to the CDC, but the agency is keeping close watch on the situation and working with states to monitor people exposed to animals. At least nine U.S. states have confirmed bird-flu cases in livestock, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of an ongoing pandemic flu-vaccine trial, Moderna is testing vaccines for H5 influenza - part of the same group as the viruses currently causing outbreaks, a spokesperson told MarketWatch.

CureVac, meanwhile, recently launched a new phase 1/2 avian-flu vaccine study with GSK PLC, Chief Executive Alexander Zehnder said on the company's earnings call in April. GSK's American depositary receipts (GSK) were up 2.4% Wednesday afternoon.

Both the CureVac and Moderna bird-flu vaccine efforts remain in relatively early stages, Leerink Partners analyst said in a note Wednesday. The day's stock moves are "likely an overreaction to headlines," the analysts wrote, "similar to trading around novel subtype emergence with COVID-19."

Other vaccine-related stocks moving higher Wednesday included Novavax Inc. (NVAX), up 5%, and Pfizer Inc. (PFE), up 3%.

-Eleanor Laise

This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.


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05-22-24 1547ET

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