Biotech company Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) is like many others in this space. It’s a clinical-stage company developing recombinant (rDNA) vaccines. It has a focus on Covid-19. And its stock has seen some wild, meme stock-style action in 2021, highlighted by a one-week period that saw VXRT stock spike 161% then plunge back below its starting point.
What sets Vaxart apart from most of the biotech companies it competes with is syringes. More correctly, a lack of syringes. Instead of a needle, Vaxart’s vaccines are delivered in pill form.
While VXRT stock experienced massive price fluctuations through the first 5 months of the year, since early May it has been stable with a recovery that is slowing gaining steam. Currently trading near $9, shares are up 40% from the start of the year. Vaxart hasn’t yet landed an approved Covid vaccine. But the Delta variant is proving that vaccination is likely to be an ongoing effort, meaning there is still opportunity there.
Vaxart has other oral vaccines in the pipeline including versions for norovirus and influenza. So is now the time to hop on the VXRT bandwagon?
There’s Vaccine Hesitancy, But There’s Also Needle Hesitancy
One of the central arguments to the Vaxart approach is that a lot of people strongly dislike needles. They can cause pain and extreme stress.
Dr. C. Meghan McMurtry is an associate professor of psychology at Canada’s University of Guelph. She wrote in the New York Times: “About one in four adults and two out of three children have some fear of needles, and adults may find their fears too shameful to share. This is a substantial public health problem, because a body of research shows that around one in 10 adults are so afraid of needles that they will delay or avoid vaccinations.”
Delaying or avoiding vaccination is prolonging the pandemic. Not all vaccine refusers are avoiding the shot because they fear needles. But a substantial number are. And with children under 12 the next big age group that remains to be vaccinated in the U.S., fear of needles is a serious issue.
Even once the pandemic is under control, it appears that mutations like Delta will mean ongoing booster shots are required. Fear of needles will be a problem for the foreseeable issue.
That is a huge opportunity for Vaxart. Success with its oral Covid-19 vaccine — which recently received Food and Drug Administration approval to begin phase II clinical trials — would be a huge catalyst for VXRT stock.
Oral Vaccines Have a Practical Application As Well
Catering to a group that avoids needles is one thing. However, there are also a practical reasons for developing an oral Covid-19 vaccine.
The Covid-19 vaccines released to date have had very stringent temperature requirements for transportation and storage, some requiring specialized freezers. That was a challenge at first in parts of North America, but in areas of the world like Africa where temperatures are extreme and infrastructure often lacking, this becomes a big problem. In addition, there have been shortages of syringes and of people trained to administer needles.
With an oral vaccination — a pill — these issues go away. Vaxart says its tablets are stable at room temperature, eliminating the challenges with transportation and storage. In addition, there is no special equipment or specialized training needed at clinics where the pills would be distributed.
Bottom Line on VXRT Stock
Will Vaxart achieve the Holy Grail of a pill-based rDNA vaccine for Covid-19? If the company manages to pull it off, early February’s $23.33 close will likely end up looking like a practice run for VXRT stock. With the vaccine candidate just scheduled to enter phase II clinical trials in the second half of the year, patience is required.
This Portfolio Grader B-rated stock is not without risk. Vaccine candidates fail during testing all the time, and underwhelming phase I trial results sank VXRT in February. However, its stock price has stabilized and is trending in the right direction. And in its latest quarter, Vaxart reported it still has $198.9 million in cash and equivalents to keep the lights on while it waits for its oral Covid-19 vaccine to work its way through clinical trials.
Remember, even if the company doesn’t succeed on the Covid-19 front, the company has other oral vaccine candidates in various stages of development in the pipeline.
On the date of publication, neither Louis Navellier nor the InvestorPlace Research Staff member primarily responsible for this article held (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
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