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Pfizer Shares Active Ahead of FDA Vaccine Approval, Dividend Boost

Pfizer extended its dividend payout run to 329 consecutive quarters Friday as the drugmaker prepares for FDA approval of its breakthrough coronavirus vaccine.

Pfizer Inc.  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report shares were active in early Friday trading after a panel of experts advising the Food & Drug Administration endorsed its coronavirus vaccine and the drugmaker boosted its quarterly dividend. 

Pfizer said it would pay a first quarter dividend of 39 cents per share, up 3% from its previous level and the 329th consecutive quarterly payout for the so-called dividend aristocrat. The decision follows a host of positive headlines for Pfizer, which, along with its German partner BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report, has developed a coronavirus vaccine with a 95% efficacy rate and hopes to have 1.3 billion doses available next year.

“Our commitment to returning capital to shareholders is strong and the dividend increase reflects our continued confidence in the business and in our scientific pipeline,” said CEO Albert Bourla. “It also reinforces that our focus on creating meaningful value for patients benefits all our stakeholders."  

Pfizer shares were marked 1% lower in early trading Friday, against a 0.4% decline for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, to change hands at  to indicate an opening bell price of $41.29 each, a move that trims the stock's six-month gain to around 33%.

The dividend boost comes as the FDA moves towards its Emergency Use Authorization approval later today, following a 17-4 vote endorsement for the BNT162b2, messenger-RNA vaccine delivered by a panel of experts yesterday.

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The FDA said Friday it will "rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization" and has also notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed "so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution."

Pfizer said last month that BNT162b2 reached a 95% efficacy rate across all age and race demographics and based on a total case cohort of 170 and reiterated their aim of having 1.3 billion doses available next year and 50 million doses before the end of the year.

Pfizer also said it would be ready to distribute the vaccine 1.'within hours' of approval by the FDA, with the Centers for Disease Control taking the final decision on allocation at both a state and national level.

Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government's vaccine effort run by the Department of Health and Human Services, expects to distribute around 6.4 million doses of BNT162b2 initially, with the aim of releasing around 40 million before the end of the year.