U.S. stocks pared their gains Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer could deliver only half the expected doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine next month because of supply chain issues.
Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, had hoped to roll out 100 million vaccines before the end of 2020. Now it aims to deliver 50 million, as well as a billion doses in 2020, the Journal reported. The vaccine was granted emergency-use authorization in Britain on Wednesday. Pfizer’s stock slumped 1.7 percent after the news of the vaccine delay.
“Scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected,” a company spokeswoman told the Journal. “And it’s important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was somewhat later than the initial projection.”
Stocks had advanced, with the S&P 500 index and tech-heavy Nasdaq again flirting with record territory, before Pfizer’s announcement. By close, the Dow Jones industrial average had gained 0.29 percent to 29,969 after hitting an intraday high, and the Nasdaq had advanced 0.23 percent to 12,377. The S&P 500 inched down 0.06 percent to 3,666.
The prior good sentiment had been fueled by breakthroughs in Congress’s stimulus negotiations and a better-than-expected jobs report. The number of new weekly jobless claims fell for the first time in weeks on Thursday, with the Labor Department reporting 712,000 first-time unemployment claims in the week that ended Nov. 28.
Despite the drop-off, the economy remains deeply scarred by the pandemic, and more damage could be coming, Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said in comments emailed to The Washington Post.
“There’s real concern that the economy might yet stall or even contract during this anxious time of transition to the widespread availability of vaccines,” Hamrick said. “The severe economic toll stemming from the prolonged pandemic taken on individuals’ employment and incomes, and the loss of employers, could linger for quite some time.”